Avoiding the hoar frost of routine
Just this morning I was reminded of how few performances these days avoid what Wilhelm Furtwängler described as "the hoar frost of routine". Driving back from a game of tennis I switched on the car radio in the middle of a BBC Radio 3 broadcast of Elgar's Cockaigne. Within a few bars it was obvious that something special had happened in the recording studio. The orchestra were playing with passion, the sound was magnificent, and the white-hot interpretation had comprehensively thawed any hoar frost.
The conductor was Georg Solti, the orchestra was the London Philharmonic, and the recording dated from the 1970s. That Cockaigne is magnificent; but I must confess to being more ambivalent about some of Solti's other heart-on-sleeve Elgar, including his 1972 LP of the First Symphony seen above. It might not be my desert island disc of that particular work. But I am quite happy to return to it again and again as it passes the "hoar frost free" test effortlessly.
An American view on Elgar here.
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