Elgar: Symphony No 1 in A flat major, Op 55; Introduction and Allegro, Op 47

Reviewed on Wed 05 Apr, 2017

The scherzo fairly bounds along, and tears really do spill from the ensuing Adagio, which is suffused with a songful warmth and tender intimacy that never fail to move to the marrow.

Edward Gardner presides over a dashingly articulate, enviably integrated and deeply-felt account of Elgar's mighty A flat major symphony featuring the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the very top of its game. Of the expansive opening movement Gardner proves himself a master. Right from the outset bass-lines stalk with reassuring purpose and solidity, the main Allegro ideally combines swagger and thrust (such splendidly snapping trombones and tuba in particular), while Gardner and his acutely responsive colleagues extract every ounce of fragrant poetry and tumbling fantasy from the gorgeously dappled dialogue at the movement's heart. The scherzo fairly bounds along, and tears really do spill from the ensuing Adagio, which is suffused with a songful warmth and tender intimacy that never fail to move to the marrow (try from the Molto espressivo e sostenuto at 8'42” to the close). The finale, too, possesses sinewy vigour, nostalgic glow and giddy cumulative excitement to spare. A terrific Elgar 1, then, and it's preceded by a marvellously flexible, ardent and exhilaratingly lithe Introduction and Allegro, where the Doric String Quartet's superb contribution conjures up memories of Allegri Quartet's on Sir John Barbirolli's legendary Sinfonia of London account from 1962 (EMI/Warner Classics). Chandos's SACD sound is handsomely ripe and true. All told, a genuine treat!
–Andrew Achenbach