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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Elgar, Violin Concerto, Stenhammer, Two Sentimental Romances, Triin Ruubel, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Jarvi

The music of Edward Elgar (1857-1934) covers a good deal of ground. Of course there is a lot more depth and structured flow than one hears in his "Pomp and Circumstances" music, and though he flourished in England in the Victorian period, his music is considerably more complicated and wide-ranging in its moodiness and expressiveness than that term "Victorian" might imply. If he indeed is in many ways the father of the English Modern Renaissance of composers it is primarily for his consistent excellence than necessarily  for a definitive set of stylistic roots, though  there is an aspect aspect of that which one might trace through what followed, even if the subsequent developments were perhaps more overtly innovative for the times than that they were extraordinarily beholden to him.

A major work that I have previously heard far too little is his Violin Concerto. Violinist Triin Ruubel, conductor Neeme Jarvi and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra  (SCCD016) give us a detailed and vibrant reading of the Concerto plus a bonus from Swedish Romantic Wilhelm Stenhammer (1871-1927) and his Two Sentimental Romances.

The three movement Elgar has a fertile thematic abundance, a genuine solo violin personality and orchestral-orchestrational luxuriance that has a deeply Romantic cast yet as we come to expect of much of Elgar's orchestral oeuvre a distinctive originality unique to the English master and at least for me with an added enlivenment not at first easy to put into words. There are in the developmental sections especially a particular working out, almost a sturm und drang conflicting of motifs put in poetic tonal terms. There is a weightiness to Elgar that is not the weightiness of a Wagner nor a Bruckner, rather a Romanticism transcendent and highly personal.

Elgar completed the work in 1910. The three movements on the current recording clock in at nearly 50 minutes for one of his longest works and for its devilishly complex solo part one of the most demanding of such works. The long and winding road that the music takes requires a patient concentration from the listener but pays off with a rather labyrinthine epic fullness with which it is surely gratifying to become familiar and intimate.

Triin Ruubel's performance here is ecstatically lyrical and consistently moving. Her interactions with the ever shifting orchestral carpeting so deftly and poetically provided by Maestro Jarvi and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra is something very special, subtle yet impassioned, extraordinarily well-paced and endlessly fascinating to experience.

The contrastingly brief ten minutes of Wilhelm Stenhammer's "Two Sentimental Romances" gives us a lyrical breath of fresh air after the Mandarin complexities of the Elgar. It may not precisely change your view of the later Romantic possibilities for violin and orchestra, but it is quite uplifting and appealing regardless.

The performances are top-notch and the music pretty essential. Most definitely recommended.

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