Hard on the heels of Nikolaj Znaider's outstanding account of the Elgar concerto with Colin Davis and the Dresden Staatskapelle, released by RCA last month, comes another exceptional recording of the work, the latest addition to Mark Elder and the Hallé's Elgar series. The performances are very different: where Znaider's wonderfully secure, measured performance has a steely, virtuosic edge, Thomas Zehetmair's playing is more passionate and openly expressive. It takes more risks interpretatively, which occasionally don't come off, so there is an edge of danger. Zehetmair's approach is arguably closer to the heart of Elgar's deeply personal work than Znaider's, and though it is hard to choose between the two versions, the Hallé disc's two extra tracks might just tip the balance in its favour. Elder opens with a luminous account of the prelude to the oratorio The Kingdom, floating its "New Faith" with transcendent beauty, and follows the concerto with an authentic rarity – the arrangement with chorus that Elgar himself made of the Prelude and Angel's Farewell from The Dream of Gerontius, creating his own Prelude and Liebestod. Gerontius as Tristan and the Angel as Isolde? Now there's a thought.
Elgar: Violin Concerto; etc | CD review