Elgar: Symphony No 2 in E flat major, Op 63; Serenade for Strings in E minor, Op 20

Reviewed on Fri 06 Jul, 2018

... a first movement of churning emotions depicted through 17 changes of metronome markings, including a long stretch of a sagaciously felt development tranquil in mood with gossamer pianissimos from muted strings.

“The spirit of the whole work is intended to be high and pure joy; there are retrospective passages of sadness”. So said Elgar to the Chairman of Novello in a letter about Symphony No 2 that only came to light in the mid-1980s. But his own fervid recording of 1927 suggests that Elgar the enigma was being enigmatically misleading. Edward Gardner isn’t misled. He immediately cuts through the subterfuge, honing in on a first movement of churning emotions depicted through 17 changes of metronome markings, including a long stretch of a sagaciously felt development tranquil in mood with gossamer pianissimos from muted strings. Then to a slow movement overwhelming in its tragic grandeur; but a lamentation to whom? Edward VII or Alfred Rodewald? Or – within the gripping intensity of Gardner’s conception – a profoundly subconscious outpouring about Elgar himself? Whatever, it’s the soul of a great symphony revealed here in its total greatness. And don’t imagine that the Serenade is just an add-on. It isn’t, not in this equally suitable interpretation.
–Nalen Anthoni