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Mr Bean and Elgar

A compilation of recordings from the 1970s -
reviewed by

'... a technical mastery that any world soloist might envy.'

Elgar - Violin Concerto - Violin Sonata - String Quartet - Piano Quintet Concert Allegro. © 2004 EMI Records Ltd

This CD is mainly and rightly EMI's celebration of Hugh Bean's playing career. A pupil of Albert Sammons as long as he was around (till 1957), Bean was admirably imbued with the Elgar tradition, so that concerto and chamber works are instinctively idiomatic. A leader of orchestras for so much of his professional life, Bean shows a technical mastery that any world soloist might envy. Countless times he must have accompanied the concerto and known he could effortlessly outmatch those attempting it. The first time, for instance, I heard the concerto live was in 1957, when Heifetz celebrated the Elgar centenary with merciless cuts and a performance as superficial as it was brilliant.

Bean is very different. His respect for Sammons was unbounded, and he was well aware he had made one of the finest recordings of the concerto available. Henry Wood's accompaniment, however, was all over the shop, so that dear old 'Timber' perpetuated a mockery of his avowed love for the work. Before tackling this CD, my main anxiety was again the conductor, as the worthy Groves was often less than inspired and might occasionally plod. Not so here. The combination of Bean and Elgar, or indeed that well-known virtue of British orchestras not to look at the conductor, has galvanised him and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra into a performance at once sensitive and passionate. Bean's profound understanding of the work can be taken for granted; his fiery brilliance is evident at the start of the finale [listen -- CD1 track 6, 0:00-1:21].

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Copyright © 18 August 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK


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