Elgar "Introduction and Allegro"

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Belle
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Elgar "Introduction and Allegro"

Post by Belle » Sat Sep 30, 2017 8:05 pm

I've always adored this beautiful work by Elgar and place it alongside Vaughan Williams' "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis". I consider these two as the ultimate English works for string ensemble:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faAacaaA-kI

Those opening chords!!!!

John F
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Re: Elgar "Introduction and Allegro"

Post by John F » Sat Sep 30, 2017 10:42 pm

I'm very fond of Elgar's Serenade for strings.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wH5xmqO-P1w

In this recording, Elgar's last, he's conducting Beecham's newly founded and superb London Philharmonic Orchestra.
John Francis

Belle
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Re: Elgar "Introduction and Allegro"

Post by Belle » Sat Sep 30, 2017 11:49 pm

It is a quite lovely work and I have it on a CD alongside the Elgar Symphony No. 2 with the London Philharmonic/Slatkin. For some reason Elgar has never seemed to achieve the popularity outside the UK that it enjoys within. I'm not so much a fan of the symphonies, to be honest, as they can be bombastic and, at times, a little pompous. But the string works are just wonderful. And other favoured works by Elgar are, of course, the "Enigma Variations" and the "Sea Pictures" (Janet Baker's version with LOS/Barbirolli in particular), particularly 'Where Corals Lie". Wasn't she a wonderful singer!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uerJBbZz0AU

Elgar composed quite a lot of music but comparatively little of it seems to have made its way onto records and CDs.

I've just discovered this supercharged, but poetic, version of the 'Introduction and Allegro" conducted by Benjamin Britten: it seems to have a yearning quality which the previous example does not. I adore it and I love the way the composer plays with tonality and modality!! And I can hear the influence of Brahms at times. The final 2 minutes are absolutely drop-dead gorgeous!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7u89h7arlU

maestrob
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Re: Elgar "Introduction and Allegro"

Post by maestrob » Sun Oct 01, 2017 12:28 pm

Image

In the early 1990's, EMI remastered Elgar's electrical recordings by pressing the original 78RPM metal masters on to vinyl records, then playing them with modern equipment and further touching up the result. The sound is spectacular for late 1920's and early 1930's recordings, and I have the original CD issue pressed on gold CDs.

Recently, Warner Classics released these CDs in a complete box set, available here for $18 or so, and I highly recommend it for those looking to acquire Elgar's complete electrical recordings.

My favorite Nimrod is by Toscanini (also coincidentally on EMI), but I couldn't find it on youtube to post here.

Elgar's symphonies inspire me, but I didn't appreciate them much until later in life. Barenboim has taught them well to his Berlin band, and the recordings are revelatory IMHO. Colin Davis has an excellent set of the three symphonies on LSO live as well.

Image

Belle
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Re: Elgar "Introduction and Allegro"

Post by Belle » Sun Oct 01, 2017 7:43 pm

I didn't know about Barenboim's interest in Elgar. And I'm intrigued by the idea of "electrical" recordings. As opposed to steam-driven? :D Of course, Elgar was alive when the gramophone was becoming more popular and sound on film had already been used some 8 years before his death. Perhaps there's a recording somewhere of his voice?

I'm intrigued by the slurring (bowing?) in this recording, conducted by the composer: it would be a lot 'cleaner' and more detached today, if I can put it that way.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaPtKoL-FsM

And there's less violin vibrato than we hear today.

The Elgar reminds me of the playing style here, recorded just 13 years later: and it has some vibrato!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_Dv2LBPw9E

maestrob
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Re: Elgar "Introduction and Allegro"

Post by maestrob » Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:30 pm

Hi, Belle.

Electrical recording using tube amplifiers and microphones was invented and patented in 1925 or 6 for records, and quickly became the new standard due to its superior sound. Superior to mechanical recording, in which a singer or instrumentalist stood in front of a huge horn while the sound was cut directly onto the master acetate using a diaphragm moving the cutting needle. Elgar did make some of those recordings of course, but when tube amplifiers were invented he immediately embarked on a project to record as many of his compositions as possible. The sound quality is excellent for the period: you may have heard the violin concerto with Yehudi Menuhin, which made that young man's career.

No steam involved! :D

jbuck919
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Re: Elgar "Introduction and Allegro"

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Oct 02, 2017 12:12 am

Belle wrote:
Sat Sep 30, 2017 11:49 pm
It is a quite lovely work and I have it on a CD alongside the Elgar Symphony No. 2 with the London Philharmonic/Slatkin. For some reason Elgar has never seemed to achieve the popularity outside the UK that it enjoys within.
Many composers have mainly a national or same-language/heritage following, and some who don't should. (I won't go any further with that because some people here actually like the composers I have in mind.) I enjoyed that performance very much Belle, and think that Elgar at his best is worthy of international acclaim.
Apologies if I have posted this before, but many years ago the Catholic school where I taught held its graduation in a church and I was asked to play the organ for the procession. Of course they wanted the Pomp and Circumstance No. 1. Since the introductory matter of that march is all but unplayable on the organ, I substituted my own fanfare as an introduction to the famous trio and an interlude between iterations of it, and a darned good one it was too. (It is not a piece where one commits a crime against art by doing such a thing.) The kids, however, were unhappy with it. They wanted nothing but the trio over and over and over again as they were used to hearing it. I said no, if you want me to do this, I'll do it my way.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Belle
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Re: Elgar "Introduction and Allegro"

Post by Belle » Mon Oct 02, 2017 1:57 am

Thanks maestrob for that explication about 'electrical' recordings. No, I haven't heard the Menuhin to which you refer.

And jbuck, I only learned very recently that an important artistic skill in organ playing is the ability to improvise. I did not know this! And it appears that the music played during communion at the Hochamt I attended many times in Vienna (and a few times at Stephansdom) was improvised. No wonder I didn't recognize it!! It must be THE most difficult of all instruments.

As an aside, and in the context of discussions on recording technology, did you know that the British opted for an inferior model to the USA when sound film was introduced in that country? The US used Vitaphone, then Western Electric, but the British patent was hugely disadvantageous to their film industry and accounts for the appallingly drummy and inferior sound quality of films made in the UK for a long time after its invention. The Europeans and English were generally skeptical about sound film, much to their disadvantage. (And I didn't read this on Wiki but in a scholarly film journal to which I subscribed - some years ago - 'Cineaste'. I still get letters from Gary Crowdus inviting me to re-subscribe.)

John F
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Re: Elgar "Introduction and Allegro"

Post by John F » Mon Oct 02, 2017 4:32 am

Belle is right that the style of string playing, solo and orchestral, changed during the 20th century, and the change can be heard in recordings. Earlier on, vibrato was reserved for expressive use, as can be heard in the prewar recordings of the Vienna Philharmonic with Arnold Rosé as concertmaster. But due notably to the influence of Fritz Kreisler, continuous vibrato became and remains the norm, except when present-day historically informed performance is the aim, and vibrato is mostly avoided.

As for the slides (portamento) between notes, those were once common as a way of changing positions in the fingering while playing legato and was rarely coordinated in an entire string section, some players fingered one way and some another, though Mahler and other composerss sometimes explicitly called for a slide as at the beginning of the 4th symphony. What you and others call "clean" string playing came in with a new generation of players led by Heifetz and Milstein. They didn't learn this from their teacher Leopold Auer, who played in the older style:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1vVlMp2YTA

Elgar's own instrument was the violin but on the recorded evidence, he accepted each orchestra's way of playing - the Royal Albert Hall Orchestra's with much portamento, the London Philharmonic with little or none.

The one area of performance in which portamento hasn't gone out of style and probably never will is operatic singing. If uncontrolled when reaching for a high note it's called scooping, but without it the singing would sound very bare.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPZlUivmU9s
Last edited by John F on Mon Oct 02, 2017 6:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
John Francis

jbuck919
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Re: Elgar "Introduction and Allegro"

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Oct 02, 2017 6:12 am

Now we are getting off topic, but portamento is also appropriate in Lieder singing and always has been. I'm sure Schubert knew about it and it is almost necessary in many passages in his Lieder. "Du liebes Kind, [komm geh mit mir]."

As for string playing, I have read that Verdi wrote passages that were intended to sound like glissandi even though he wrote out every note because the Italian orchestras were not up to the note-by-note playing. Modern orchestras of course play every single note as written, thus somewhat subverting his intention.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

absinthe
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Re: Elgar "Introduction and Allegro"

Post by absinthe » Sat Oct 07, 2017 4:53 pm

As acknowledged in posts so far the Introduction and Allegro is a fine work.

But if I may pick up on one of Belle's comments about his symphonies being bombastic he was so enthused about pomp and the military parade that it's no surprise to me. I've said my piece on the symphonies before - but what they show to me is his brilliance in orchestration particularly his handling of the full fortissimo tutti but throughout: his way of touching in orchestral colour. The second symphony is full of it. I suppose it also shows up in his Enigma Variations too, the last with organ going pretty-well full blast as well.

It also doesn't surprise me that he's little known outside the UK. Barenboim grabbing his stuff with the delicacy of an elephant trying to repair a watch doesn't help. But it's the same with many American composers (at least in the UK). I had to import everything American with the exception of Copland and Bernstein. When it comes to symphonists there's really nothing here in the UK.

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