Elgar: Symphony No 2 in E flat major, Op 63; Carissima; Mina; Chanson de matin, Op 15 No 2

Reviewed on Mon 13 Mar, 2017

You may not agree with every interpretative decision, but such is the communicative zeal and astonishing composure on show that both brain and heart are fully engaged throughout.

Here's a memorable companion release to this team's stimulating take on Elgar's First Symphony (reviewed by Ivor Solomons on 16 March 2015). Drawing searingly committed and immaculately honed playing from his Merseyside band (the violas and cellos outstandingly fine), Vasily Petrenko masterminds a reading of giant sweep and abundant temperament, generously studded with newly-minted observation. You may not agree with every interpretative decision, but such is the communicative zeal and astonishing composure on show that both brain and heart are fully engaged throughout. In Petrenko's hands the mighty opening movement really takes wing, distilling an intrepid ardour, tender vulnerability and questing spirit that never fail to move to the marrow. The ensuing Larghetto has enormous concentration and tingling hush to commend it, while the scherzo is razor-sharp yet minutely flexible. The finale, too, unfolds with great dignity and refulgence of tone, its towering climax superbly clinched in the context of what is a pleasingly unhurried yet shrewdly purposeful conception. The sound is most impressive, if lacking just that last crucial ounce of bloom. The fill-ups are charming, not least Mina (a winsome portrait of the composer's pet cairn terrier). Now, I wonder whether Petrenko will turn his attention to Anthony Payne's masterly elaboration of Elgar's sketches for the Third Symphony?
–Andrew Achenbach