Elgar: Symphony No 1; Introduction and Allegro CD review – notable for its clarity

Doric Qt/BBCSO/Gardner

Edward Gardner definitely puts refinement before moment-by-moment impact in his first venture into Elgar on disc. His treatment of the Introduction and Allegro – with the Doric Quartet joining the strings of the BBC Symphony Orchestra to provide the solo group – is notable more for its clarity and carefully graded textures than for its bracing athleticism, though it does finally deliver a real punch in the peroration.

Gardner adopts a similar slow-burn approach to the First Symphony, too, which works better in the first and last movements than it does in the central pair, where the scherzo seems rather under-energised and the Adagio lacking in depth. Where he does score heavily, though, is in the closing pages of the finale, where, because he has controlled the pacing of the movement so skilfully, the return of the motto theme that opened the symphony really does carry the weight – the “great charity and a massive hope in the future” – that Elgar imagined. Even Daniel Barenboim’s otherwise outstanding recent Decca recording can’t make that wonderful resolution anything like as convincing as Gardner does.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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