Elgar – Cello concerto in E min., Op. 85

The Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music 2008

Elgar – Cello concerto in E min., Op. 85 (original version)
Raphael Wallfisch’s new recording is based on a new urtext edition (there are, apparently, no fewer than four alternative autograph sources for the solo part).

The edition used here is marked as carrying Elgar’s final instructions in every detail. Only a single note has had to be corrected (and that all but inaudible), but there are many differences in detail (dynamics, articulation, note lengths). There is also evidence available as to the composer’s wishes concerning phrasing in the two recordings he conducted himself with Beatrice Harrison as soloist; and in two cases there are striking tempi changes (based on Elgar’s own practice): in the appassionato section of the slow movement and at the end of the main quick section of the finale. But none of this would be effective were the soloist and conductor here not passionately involved in the music as they feel it. After the commanding opening flourish, Wallfisch and Dickins set off very gently indeed, and the cello and the orchestral strings sing their song with touching restraint. The whole movement is infused with subtle delicacy of feeling which carries through to the quicksilver Scherzo, played by Wallfisch with scurrying brilliance. Yet orchestral tutti are contrastingly full-bodied, and the solo timbre is equally rich in the passionate interruptions and in the tenderly expressive Adagio. The finale unleashes the music’s energy joyously, with more brilliant solo playing; but the return to the intensity of the slow movement has a heartfelt elegiac feeling, before the abrupt surge to the coda. The recording is spacious, richly realistic and ideally balanced and, with its enterprising couplings, this CD is very desirable indeed.

Bridge – Oration: Concerto elegiaco (for cello & orchestra)
… The works is superbly played by Raphael Wallfisch, movingly accompanied by the RLPO, sensitively directed by Richard Dickins. The recording is beautifully balanced, and of the highest quality. The ocupled Elgar and Holst performances are no less distinctive.

Holst – Invocation for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 19/2
… It is a highly attractive and lyrical piece, with a big central climax, finely realised here, and a valuable addition to the catalogue. … the new version is in every way admirable, with some touching solo playing from Wallfisch, and it is splendidly recorded.

Tim Homfray – The Strad July 2006

Elgar Cello Concerto: … this is a fine open-hearted performance by Raphael Wallfisch, soulful in all the right places and elsewhere fizzing with energy and purpose: this is a reading that always knows where it’s going.
Bridge Oration: Wallfisch plays with authority and great emotional depth.
Holst – Invocation: Holst’s Invocation of 1911 is a strikingly lyrical work, long neglected … Wallfisch is a worthy advocate. The recorded sound is warm and clear.


This must be one of the most melancholic interpretations of the Elgar concerto on disc. The Scherzo seems more nervous than playful and the finale marches with a grim purposefulness; an especially fragile and tender Adagio offers brief solace.