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The Cockaigne overture, with its broad tunes, street band that is less than expert, mocking urchins and momentary calm of a church, was a glowing tribute to the London Elgar never really took to his heart but that Barbirolli always held dear and would proudly show off to friends ready to wander its byways with him. His 1963 performance with the Philharmonia glows with warmth and vitality [listen -- track 1, 1:40-3:06]. The luxurious tunes are kept taut and alive, while all sections of the orchestra are on virtuoso form.

In 1965 Jacqueline du Pré was at her best, groomed for mastery in the careful hands of William Pleeth. Not yet had she experienced the understandable astonishment of a Rostropovich, who recognised the genius but not its need for discipline. Nor had the uncritical adulation of colleagues and concert audiences allowed the sort of interpretative licence that undermined her youthful poise until disease finally silenced her. Sir John was well aware of her staggering powers, but was able to tame her to a performance that remains unrivalled after all but forty years [listen -- track 3, 3:02-4:25]. This CD version has yet more immediacy than the original LPs, so that every nuance within every note of the solo part is somehow wondrously alive. In these naughty times it is a version to be dearly cherished, and a cooperation between conductor, soloist and the players of the LPO that could hardly be bettered [listen -- track 5, 10:27-12:11].

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Copyright © 12 January 2005 Robert Anderson, London UK


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