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Thread: Favorite Enigma Variations?

  1. #31
    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    It's de rigueur around here to act like repertoire such as this was done the best only in recordings before 1975, and that none since then are worth considering. If you subscribe to this philosophy, you need read no further. Barbirolli, Boult, and Monteux are justly famous and extremely satisfying. And of course Elgar's own is worth a listen, ancient and acoustically dim though it is.

    For those looking for something newer, I'm surprised Colin Davis/LSO from 2007 hasn't come up. It received superlative reviews when it came out, and I find it to be a superbly refreshing account, distinctive without being too idiosyncratic, and worth a place on the shelf of any devoted Elgarian such as myself.

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  3. #32
    Senior Member Simplicissimus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knorf View Post
    It's de rigueur around here to act like repertoire such as this was done the best only in recordings before 1975, and that none since then are worth considering. If you subscribe to this philosophy, you need read no further. Barbirolli, Boult, and Monteux are justly famous and extremely satisfying. And of course Elgar's own is worth a listen, ancient and acoustically dim though it is.

    For those looking for something newer, I'm surprised Colin Davis/LSO from 2007 hasn't come up. It received superlative reviews when it came out, and I find it to be a superbly refreshing account, distinctive without being too idiosyncratic, and worth a place on the shelf of any devoted Elgarian such as myself.
    That’s the one for me, too. After admiring and acquiring Colin Davis/LSO live recordings from 2001 of Elgar’s symphonies, I was naturally interested in this Enigma Variations, and it doesn’t disappoint. I love this piece performed live, and this live recording worked out splendidly. On my system, it is a real sonic treat, and the playing is exciting and just perfect.

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  5. #33
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    I'm not enough of an Enigma connoisseur to have a favorite, but I will say that in the early '70s I unwisely sat in the front row of a Solti/CSO tour concert, and the wilder variations blew me out the back wall of the hall. :-)

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  7. #34
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    I find myself liking so many recordings of the work. I even love the widely hated Bernstein recording - I could almost say "especially love" - and I very much like the Czech Stowkowski recording mentioned earlier. I don't know the LSO Live Colin Davis recording but his account with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks (the one coupled with a fine Vaughan Williams 6) is very good. I'm trying not to mention the various Barbirolli and Boult recordings (or the Monteux), so I will only also mention Oramo (with the CBSO) and Solti (Chicago SO). Is it a work that a conductor can go wrong with?
    Last edited by Enthusiast; May-14-2020 at 15:03.

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  9. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    Is it a work that a conductor can go wrong with?
    On recordings, not likely. Unless you're Roger Norrington who applies his ill conceived HIP practices to Enigma and destroys the beauty of the sound by removing vibrato in the strings and then coldly play the whole work in an uncaring manner.

    In performance, I played it more than once with conductors who should never have taken it up. They don't realize just how difficult some of it is. Variation II is a real challenge for string sections; if the tempo is too fast it's unplayable by less than first-rate orchestras and sounds like hell. But that hasn't stopped those conductors who want to play it at the "correct" tempo.

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  11. #36
    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    About 16 months ago I did one of the blind comparison series on the Enigma Variations...
    Blind Comparison #3 - Enigma Variations

    The 5 selections were...
    A - Eugen Jochum / London Symphony (studio)
    B - Gennady Rozhdestvensky / Royal Philharmonic (live, Proms)
    C - Pierre Monteux / London Symphony (studio)
    D - Simon Rattle / Berlin Philharmonic (live, Digital Concert Hall)
    E - Mark Elder / Halle (live?)

    The Monteux was a favourite of the majority with many having good things to say about the Rozhdestvensky.

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  13. #37
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    On recordings, not likely. Unless you're Roger Norrington who applies his ill conceived HIP practices to Enigma and destroys the beauty of the sound by removing vibrato in the strings and then coldly play the whole work in an uncaring manner.
    I must search out that Norrington.

  14. #38
    Senior Member Simplicissimus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca View Post
    About 16 months ago I did one of the blind comparison series on the Enigma Variations...
    Blind Comparison #3 - Enigma Variations

    The 5 selections were...
    A - Eugen Jochum / London Symphony (studio)
    B - Gennady Rozhdestvensky / Royal Philharmonic (live, Proms)
    C - Pierre Monteux / London Symphony (studio)
    D - Simon Rattle / Berlin Philharmonic (live, Digital Concert Hall)
    E - Mark Elder / Halle (live?)

    The Monteux was a favourite of the majority with many having good things to say about the Rozhdestvensky.
    Fascinating. That was before I started following, so I'm going to go back and take this all in. As I mentioned in #32, this is a work that I love to hear live, so I would be prejudiced in favor of the live performances, I think. The Rattle/Berlin Phil is especially intriguing in comparison with my favorite, the 2007 live Colin Davis/LSO.

  15. #39
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    You know, there some people who feel that Bernstein's is the best recording of Enigma ever made? I don't agree, but it is quite special - very moving at times. Makes me wish he had recorded the two symphonies. My favorite Enigma on record: Slatkin/LPO on RCA
    Bernstein’s recording is an example of what can work well in a one-off live performance gets tiresome on repetition.

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  17. #40
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    92DD0078-F23F-4AF4-8311-3CE2031C381A.jpeg

    Of course this guy knew a bit about how they should go too.

  18. #41
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Bernstein’s recording is an example of what can work well in a one-off live performance gets tiresome on repetition.
    I have so many CDs and explore new music so much that I don't worry too much about a recording that gets tiresome on repeated listens. I can listen often until it does and then go to it once a year or even once a decade. I think of recordings as being like live performances these days.

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  20. #42
    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    92DD0078-F23F-4AF4-8311-3CE2031C381A.jpeg

    Of course this guy knew a bit about how they should go too.
    I won't dispute that Elgar's own is very much worth a listen, even in such an archaic recording. But it is worth repeating that composers are not always the best performers and interpreters of their own music. This might seem weird, but it's true. There are a variety of possible explanations for this.
    Last edited by Knorf; May-15-2020 at 17:27.

  21. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knorf View Post
    But it is worth repeating that composers are not always the best performers and interpreters of their own music. This might seem weird, but it's true. There are a variety of possible explanations for this.
    Very true!! I sometimes wonder if composers, as they conduct their own works, are hearing what they imagine, or want to hear...rather than what is actually happening, what is actually being played.

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  23. #44
    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heck148 View Post
    Very true!! I sometimes wonder if composers, as they conduct their own works, are hearing what they imagine, or want to hear...rather than what is actually happening, what is actually being played.
    Indeed. And sometimes their skill isn't sufficient to bridge the gap in the first place.

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  25. #45
    Senior Member Brahmsianhorn's Avatar
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    Regardless, I too enjoy Elgar’s own recordings of his works, particularly the symphonies.

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