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Elgar: Enigma Variations

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

George Hurst, Conductor

Naxos Records, 1997

George Hurst, my much-loved teacher, and a mentor to generations of British-trained conductors going back to the late 1950s, conducts this landmark recording.  He held posts including Music Director of the BBC Northern Orchestra (now the BBC Philharmonic), Principal Conductor of the RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. 

 

This disc captures the lively, vibrant sound of this quintessentially British orchestra, of which George was de facto Principal Conductor in the late 70s (when he also founded the renowned, and now disbanded, Bournemouth Sinfonietta).

Tempi are generally brisk, and much closer to Elgar's own recordings than many other c20th conductors.  Note the sweep and swagger of the Finale and the fluid tempo of 'Nimrod', achieving a Wagnerian build of 'endless melody' towards an overwhelming climax.  These, along with many other features, are elements I preserve in my own interpretation of the piece, and this recording reminds me of George's teaching of this work to me as a rather green 17-year-old many years ago at the Canford Summer School of Music.