Elgar-Payne: Symphony No 3 / Daniel, Bournemouth So

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"If I can't complete the Third Symphony, somebody will complete it--or write a better one--in 50 or 500 years," Elgar told his doctor upon discovering he had inoperable cancer. It was 38 years later when Elgar's sketches captivated Anthony Payne and started him thinking about completing the symphony. Starting with partially completed movements and random scraps of paper containing musical ideas, Payne extrapolated, expanded, and completed a very Elgarian sounding symphony. To be sure, this is not the great work one would expect following Elgar's First and Second--the original and distinctive ideas are there, but Elgar had not been able to order them into their final relationship before illness overtook him. Payne was thus faced with the task of compiling and composing the development and recapitulation of the first and last movements, extrapolating the second half of the adagio, and fleshing out and expanding the scherzo.

The symphony begins with a brief, bold, seafaring introduction (sounding interestingly like Puccini) that leads to the main march tune in 12/8. The spirit of the Pomp and Circumstance marches hovers over this theme and the beautifully lyrical melody that follows. While the development lacks those unexpected flashes of genius that marked the earlier symphonies, Payne makes the inspired gesture of recalling the second symphony's ascending chromatic scale at the movement's conclusion. The scherzo reminds us of Falstaff with its tambourine-colored, gypsy dance tune, but the subsequent material is not as strong and it outstays its welcome. The adagio sounds more like Vaughan Williams than Elgar in its opening bars, and its primary mood is one of desolation, relieved by an elegiac secondary theme. The finale bristles with excitement, recalling the air of the Cockaigne Overture. The coda, which Payne had to compose with no help from Elgar, ends the symphony in glorious pageantry before fading away with a final, rather un-Elgarian stroke on the tam-tam.

Paul Daniel and the Bournemouth Symphony play with plenty of verve and swagger, making a stronger case for this work than Andrew Davis and the BBC Symphony on NMC (its premiere recording). The recorded sound is full and well detailed. At the Naxos price, those curious about Elgar's last symphony need not hesitate.

--Victor Carr, ClassicsToday.com

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8554719

  • UPC: 636943471920

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Sir Edward Elgar

  • Conductor: Paul Daniel

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra