- Symphony No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 55
- In the South ("Alassio"), concert overture for orchestra, Op. 50
- In Moonlight (Canto popolare), song for voice & piano
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Though one might have at first doubted it possible, the happy truth is that this is a greater performance of Elgar's "First" then we had dared hope, a truly great "First" to stand above those by Solti, Haitink, and Previn and alongside any by Boult or Barbirolli in the postwar canon. How do Mark Elder and the singularly named Hallé -- formerly Manchester's Hallé Orchestra -- accomplish this miracle? By passionately believing in the inherent greatness of the music. This is a "First" full of power, lyricism, and nobility, a "First" of striding themes and heroic developments, of racing energy and magnificent rhetoric, of shattering climaxes and blazing codas. At all points, Elder is in command of the performance, sculpting balances, controlling tempos, and shaping huge structures of sound, but always aiming for emotional expressivity. And Hallé plays with a brilliance and a virtuoso brio that has to he heard to be believed. Their soloists are first class, their blend clear, their colors warm and lush, and their ensemble strong and supple. But, as has already been noted, the best thing about the performance is the absolute conviction that suffuses it. Here the listener is compelled to assert that Elgar is surely one of the great European symphonists of the fin de siècle, a symphonist fit to stand beside Mahler, Sibelius, Nielsen, and Rachmaninov. The concert overture "In the South" receives as persuasively romantic a performance and the concluding song -- "In Moonlight" with mezzo-soprano Christine Rice and Elder at the piano -- is a lovely and aptly chosen treat: "In the South" takes one of its themes from the song. The Hallé's studio digital sound is rich and lustrous.