The finest Elgar concerto since… the finest Elgar concerto

It’s the Lebrecht Album of the Week, a rare five-star find.

We’ve omitted the soloist’s name from the sample text below to keep you guessing:

In this live concert with the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle, ****** is more languorous and, one suspects, more herself. The opening phrases are so leisurely you can imagine half the orchestra taking an illicit sip of tea from an under-chair flask, knowing there is plenty of time before they have to come in. But her tempo is immediately convincing and musically coherent. It pays off with a transcendent pair of inner movements in which beauty is never defeated by melancholy, and the tremors of an old man’s regrets are laid to rest with a blessing.

So who?

Click here to find out.


Or here.

And here.

The cellist in the picture is Beatrice Harrison, who gave the first performance of the concerto outside London.

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  • Thanks for the heads up, Norman. I relish major recordings like this one, but hadn’t noticed it before. I bought it in a hurry.

  • As a cellist, I’ve never found her playing very exciting. It’s good, honest playing, but a little too basic and sleepy sounding. I’d rather listen to Steven Isserlis play the Elgar any day.

      • Was just finishing the 3rd movement when I posted the comment (I subscribe to a music streaming service). I’ve heard the whole thing now, and while I do admire aspects of her playing, I couldn’t help thinking how I’d rather hear one of the Berlin Phil cellists playing it!

          • Andrew, you are absolutely right – I was listening to the 2010 recording! Sorry to get your hopes up about its availability. I will eagerly await its release.
            I still stand by my comments on her playing in general, though. There’s a 2014 video of her Elgar on The Berlin Digital Concert Hall if you’re a subscriber.

  • Since Norman includes a photo of Beatrice Harrison, I will remind everyone of what Norman wrote back in August this year about the 4 cd set “Elgar Remastered”, which focuses on Harrison’s recordings of the Elgar concerto with Elgar conducting.

    Here is what Norman wrote then:

    “I was moved almost to tears by hearing a two-eared take of the first recording of the cello concerto with Beatrice Harrison as soloist, emotionally more reserved than modern performers and consequently more powerful at peak moments. The alternative takes are no less compelling and Harrison repeats the adagio in a cello-piano version, accompanied by a member of the royal family, HRH Princess Victoria. Oh, yes, this is epic stuff.”

    There is a long history of women cellists playing Elgar. It did not start with Du Pre.

  • Beatrice Harrison did NOT give the first performance of the Elgar Concerto outside London. John Barbirolli always thought that he did, but in fact his performance in Bournemouth was the third outside the metropolis. Who gave the first and second? the answer will be found in my forthcoming article in the Elgar Society journal. The early days of the Elgar Cello Concerto have ‘inspired’ more tosh, rubbish and sheer invention than perhaps any other work. My article attempts to clear some of the mists of myth…

    • I’ve long understood that Felix Salmond gave the first London performance and also the first outside London, with the Halle in Manchester. I’m not sure finding out who gave the second outside London is worth a subscription to the Elgar Society journal.

      • On second thought, if Barbirolli gave the third performance outside London and Beatrice Harrison performed it before he did, most likely the second outside London was by Harrison. Such weekend fun this is! As long as it’s free.

        • Mind you, if Salmond with the Halle was actually the second outside London, then Harrison at the Three Choirs Festival would have been the first. Yes, I think so. Salmond first in London, and then Harrison first outside London, with Salmond second and Barbirolli in Bournemouth third.

  • When Beatrice Harrison first performed the concerto in Vienna she wrote to Elgar that they were not able to continue the performance until they had repeated the slow movement, such was the reception!

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