This disc is a reissue of a famous performance of the Elgar violin concerto with his Introduction and Allegro, presumably recorded at the same time. (I say presumably because it was not on the initial LP and I am listening to it from the library’s stream, and so I don’t have the liner notes to confirm if it was recorded at the same time. But it’s the same personnel, so I am assuming it is from the same performance.) I have heard the concerto before, but never the Introduction and Allegro.
The Introduction and Allegro is very Elgarian and just not my thing. There was so much more interesting music being made at the time. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just very traditional and full of Elgarian sweep (for lack of better phrase). I get that it’s a challenging piece for the performers and I get that a lot of people like it – and it’s very pleasant – but it’s kind of boring.
I honestly don’t remember my first impressions of this concerto. It was one of the earlier Elgar pieces I heard, I believe. It’s understandable why it’s so famous. The soloist gets to show off. But the problem is that it’s a rather conservative piece of music for its time, compared to the stuff that is really interesting, and I’d rather hear interesting than showy, I think. That’s not to say that it’s bad, again, it’s just that it isn’t as interesting as I’d like it to be, which plagues most of Elgar’s work. But it’s part of repertoire and deservedly so. I just won’t go out of my way to listen to it.
But is this really one of the great performances of the 20th century? (That’s its reputation.) I don’t know that it is. There’s so much music out there, and to focus on some Elgar because it launched Kennedy’s career…I don’t know. I guess I just have different standards for greatness.