Barenboim not only understands this music, but obviously loves it, and this is a performance that shows him and his orchestra [with their supple strings and burnished brass at, or near, their best] . . . This is a self-recommending issue.
. . . a vivid recording . . . this is a sensationally invigorating performance . . . Barenboim makes space for the murmuring trio, music that Elgar said should sound "like something you hear down by the river". It's as delicate as the adagio that follows is sumptuous.
. . . enthralling . . . Wagner looms large and the music is conceived in broad, deeply emotional paragraphs . . . it is music that Barenboim clearly loves.
. . . richly nuanced, with fire and drama in the scherzo and finale, and a deep sense of resignation in the great adagio. . . Barenboim encourages exquisite woodwind detail in the reflective development section of the opening movement, obeying the composer's instructions of nobility and simplicity. He scotches the view that Elgar is for home consumption only.
. . . a remarkable achievement . . . The first movement is allowed to unfold at its own pace, lasting almost 20 minutes, but that is followed by a lightning-quick scherzo, with Barenboim putting enormous faith in the fabulous articulation of the Staatskapelle strings. The finale, too, is immensely purposeful . . .
Barenboim not only understands this music, having learnt it as a very young man during his Elgar apprenticeship with Sir John Barbirolli, but obviously loves it. This is a performance that shows him and his orchestra at or near their finest . . . the real joy here is to have a top European orchestra playing this music with such conviction.
Barenboim's long association with, and love for, Elgar has effectively made it part of his musical DNA. He understands its particulars and, to put it simply, he knows how it goes . . . playing that is as exciting as it is nuanced and which can turn on a sixpence because Barenboim and his players "read" each other so well . . . He has mastered the long and difficult first movement chronicling the turbulence of an era -- indeed of life in general -- in which tiny oases of peace and tranquillity open up as if recalling happier times . . . there isn't a tempo, a turn of phrase or a rubato anywhere that I would take issue with. More importantly, the whole feels thoroughly integrated and gloriously spontaneous. This is up there, you'll have gathered, with the very finest that the gramophone has yet given us of this great -- and finally, I hope, universally celebrated -- symphony.
. . . luminous . . . playing that is as exciting as it is nuanced . . . [the recording balance] is exemplary, the ear constantly arrested by telling details so often absorbed into the overall richness of Elgar's soundscape . . . it is Barenboim's command of transition, of ebb and flow, storm and stress, that carries all before it . . . [Barenboim's fiercely dynamic approach to the scherzo] feels like a conscious distraction from the fearful and the gradual winding-down into the great slow movement is marvellously achieved . . . [and so the finale is upon us, where] you instinctively know that something wondrous this way comes . . . Barenboim and his orchestra ease us so gently into this revelation that the climax when it comes sings all the more gloriously . . . there isn't a tempo, a turn of phrase or a rubato anywhere that I would take issue with. More importantly, the whole feels thoroughly integrated and gloriously spontaneous. This is up there, you'll have gathered, with the very finest . . .
This is a hugely impressive Elgar recording, Daniel Barenboim brilliantly controlling and conveying all the themes, drama, turmoil and composure of this great symphony.
Barenboim takes the opening "Andante" at a leisurely gait . . . and then moves into the "Allegro" section with a gently flowing transition, building nicely the melodic central themes . . . the second-movement "Allegro", which acts as a scherzo, shows the conductor at his most energetic . . . The third-movement "Adagio" returns us to the unhurried mood of the beginning, with Barenboim producing some lovely moments of quiet, deeply felt solitude and serenity . . . I found myself admiring the conductor's strict interpretation of the score . . . The sound is clear and natural, smooth and well balanced. It places easily among the best work Decca engineers have done. Big crescendos come across with ease, with a wide dynamic range and plenty of impact . . . the realism is evident in every note.
. . . [Barenboim's] sense of architecture is imperious, hiding moments that surprise, even disconcert: Take the little snaps of arrogance in the scherzo, or the way the harp-blessed beauty at the finale's core blushes as it arrives, as if trying to remember how to be grand. Yet Mr. Barenboim never lets you forget that Elgar's was a world riven with unease . . .
Tapping into its Englishness -- a delicate balance of emotion and reserve -- is tricky, but Barenboim and the Berliners are persuasive . . . The spirit of hope and charity is built into the symphony's beautiful opening theme . . . Barenboim restricts the motto to perfectly muted lighting at the outset. Then, bathed in the Staatskapelle's lustrous strings and girded by swells of brass, he coaxes the melody to proudly bloom in all its English glory . . . Barenboim and his Berlin players serve up a surprisingly English cup of tea.
The opening march is a coiled spring; once the "Allegro" begins it has a surging, sometimes explosive energy. Barenboim sets subtly different tempos for passages . . . but he also pushes round corners at which other conductors linger . . . the Staatskapelle Berlin's players sustain it convincingly. The detail is always audible, even through the glowing full orchestra -- the harp especially is a pleasure . . . the orchestra is crisp, and the transition to the third movement -- which, for all its expansiveness, never wallows -- is beautifully judged . . . Barenboim has here made this symphony his own.
Arguably -- and it's a big claim -- we've had no finer realisation of this great work . . . the fine detail, impetus and phrasing make this a CD to hear over and over . . . no Elgarian should miss this.
. . . there was always a Wagnerian in Barenboim waiting to come out. And he approaches Elgar now almost as part of the "Ring". He's had 40 years to develop that flowing sense of the luminously eerie which so suits Wagner . . . Barenboim has mastered the feeling well . . . much of the slow movement and its barely audible conclusion is a deeply felt hush here. It dreams and evokes. Even better is the middle of the finale, where the motto theme, now accompanied by harps, becomes a swaying heartfelt consolation licked by tiny cries of pain . . . [Barenboim] gets it just right here . . . there is many an insight here . . . [Barenboim] has a fine, aggressive timpanist to punctuate important moments . . . and hammer things home viciously in the second . . . [the sound picture from the Staatskapelle is] up close, warm, and a touch dry.
Barenboim's reading of the first has plenty to recommend it, especially in the symphony's inner movements: The scherzo rushes by with a snarling bite and withering intensity, while the Adagio has the sort of sweep and epic grandeur which nearly rises to the level of the Second Symphony's . . . The point and polish of the Staatskapelle's woodwinds are a joy throughout, as is the subtlety and enveloping richness of the orchestra's strings.
. . . [Barenboim's reexamination of the two symphonies] has resulted in readings that far surpass their 1970s forebears . . . [Elgar 1]: Arguably -- and it's a big claim -- we've had no finer realisation of this great work. As much is suggested as soon as the opening processional has faded away, and the fine detail, impetus and phrasing make this a CD to hear over and over . . . no Elgarian should miss this.
Barenboim's long-evolving symbiosis with Elgar's music -- and this symphony in particular -- is effortlessly communicated to his wonderful Berlin orchestra. Intuition and spontaneity
belies unfamiliarity and Elgar's very particular brand of "Sturm und Drang" and his deep and abiding nostalgia for happier times is thrillingly, and luminously, conveyed.
To some it might be unconvincing, but to me, it is precisely its ambivalence that convinces. The vision from the podium is unique; the playing it draws is peerless.
Marshalling his Berlin players' virtuosity, he finds extra levels of impulsiveness and cragginess . . . This is a sensationally invigorating recording.
Barenboim's Berliners return Elgar's great symphony to its rightful place in the central European mainstream. Unmissable.
. . . Barenboim plumbs the depth of the score without impeding the flow of the music.