- Symphony No. 3 (realiezed by Anthony Payne) - realized by Payne, Anthony
When the BBC commissioned Edward Elgar's Third Symphony in 1932, it had been more than a decade since the composer had completed a large-scale work. Elgar's creative fire seemed to have been snuffed out with the death of his wife, Alice, in 1920. He worked on the symphony on and off for about two years, leaving only rough, disjointed sketches of the work's four movements on his death in 1934, and he left explicit instructions that no one was to "tinker" with it. Although in early 1933 Elgar claimed that he considered this symphony "the strongest thing [he had] put on paper," the end product seemed to be nothing more than yet another failed effort. Then along came Anthony Payne, a gifted composer himself, who fleshed out some of the sketches for a 1995 BBC radio program, showing an almost preternatural understanding of Elgar's style and hinting at the marvelous music that might have been. Finally, with full approval from Elgar's family, Payne completed his "elaboration" of the sketches. The result is a work of astounding beauty and power that's as much a tribute to Payne's genius as it is to Elgar's. Andrew Davis and the BBC Symphony made a superb premiere recording, and now Naxos offers an equally fine budget alternative. Conductor Paul Daniel leads the Bournemouth Symphony in a sharply focused performance that abounds with nobility, swagger, and warmth. If Bournemouth's strings can't match the richness of their BBC counterparts, they play with dedication that disarms real criticism. At Naxos' rock-bottom price, those who have fallen in love with this work through Davis's recording can easily afford to hear another interpretation, and those Elgarians who haven't yet discovered this miraculous score no longer have an excuse. Urgently recommended.