Sir Andrew Davis – Elgar: Falstaff – Orchestral Songs – Grania & Diarmid (2017/2021) [FLAC 24bit/96kHz]

Sir Andrew Davis – Elgar: Falstaff – Orchestral Songs – Grania & Diarmid (2017/2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24bit/96kHz | Time – 01:14:12 minutes | 1,25 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © Chandos

Aside from Elgar’s fascinating and obligatory Falstaff composed in 1913 (a Symphonic Study according to the partition, but in reality a symphonic poem in the grand tradition of Strauss— about whom Elgar probably thought when he wrote his masterpiece, and the rather present solo cello cannot help but remind us of Strauss’ Don Quixote, composed sixteen years earlier), the album distinguishes itself by a few melodies with orchestra from the same Elgar, a repertoire unfortunately too often neglected and yet of breathtaking beauty (we hear, in a pinch, the Sea Pictures performed from time to time, but that’s all folks). And when you know that it’s the now very famous baritone Roderick Williams on the mic, we can only applaud the initiative of Andrew Davis and the BBC Philharmonic to feature these splendors once again. Elgar proves to us here that, far from just being a great master of large symphonic-vocal soundscapes in the form of oratorio (we obviously think about The Dream of Gerontius, The Apostles and The Music Makers), he handles the miniature with genius. Roderick Williams, one of the most beautiful voices of today’s British scene, grasps these rarities with a joy that is as rare as these pieces. The album closes on a hilarious wink, the Smoking Cantata, a cantata with a ginormous orchestration but that lasts… only 49 seconds, and whose text is limited to: “Kindly, Kindly, kindly do not SMOKE in the hall or staircase”. It’s the best British humor!

The sound quality for this wonderful orchestration is refined; the level ratios are well-judged; and the distances between the consoles are just right, in this airy piece of mixing that renders the lines exceptionally clear. Clear and enveloping reverberation never hides the discourse: the result is a rare evenness between the different families within the orchestra. The tutti certainly aren’t lacking any liveliness, thanks to the remarkably assured dynamic, and when the percussion gets going we discover a beautifully-proportioned hall, which gives the sound room to develop without constraints. Without falling into the very (too?) popular trap of ultra-proximity, and because the acoustics allow it, Chandos has produced a mix which really respects the score, the performance, and the sound scene… what a relief!

1. BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – Falstaff and Prince Henry: Allegro –
2. BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – Eastcheap: Allegro molto –
3. BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – Robbery at Gadshill – The Boar’s Head Again – Revelry and Sleep: Allegro molto –
4. BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – Revelry and Sleep: Molto tranquillo –
5. BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – Dream Interlude –
6. BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – Falstaff’s March: Allegro –
7. BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – The return through Gloucestershire –
8. BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – Interlude: Gloucestershire, Shallow’s Orchard: Allegretto –
9. BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – The new king – The hurried ride to London –
10. BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – King Henry V’s Progress: Più moderato –
11. BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – The repudiation of Falstaff, and his death
12. Roderick Williams – No. 3. O soft was the song
13. Roderick Williams – No. 5. Was it some golden star?
14. Roderick Williams – No. 6. Twilight
15. Roderick Williams – The Torch, Op. 60, No. 1 (version for voice and orchestra)
16. Roderick Williams – The River, Op. 60, No. 2 (version for voice and orchestra)
17. BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – Incidental Music
18. BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – Funeral March
19. Roderick Williams – The Wind at Dawn (version for voice and orchestra)
20. Roderick Williams – Pipes of Pan (version for voice and orchestra)
21. Roderick Williams – Pleading, Op. 48 (version for voice and orchestra)
22. Roderick Williams – The King’s Way (version for voice and orchestra)
23. Roderick Williams – Smoking Cantata