Exton is a Japanese label which is in partnership with the Sydney Symphony to bring us high-definition recordings in Super Audio CD format. This is one of several SACDs which presents conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy’s interpretations of England’s most beloved composer, Edward Elgar.
Ashkenazy and the SSO do Elgar proud. These six Pomp and Circumstance Marches are in turn swaggering, majestic, even thoughtful and troubled, and Ashkenazy is totally in tune with his material. At high volume, this SACD has tremendous depth and impact. The brass section really bites and the percussive power has to be heard to be believed.
There’s a tremendous range of expression in these six marches and these are model performances, especially of my favourite among them, the Third. That reference to the six marches isn’t a misprint. Elgar had always intended to write six marches, and left sketches for the last. Contemporary composer Anthony Payne has fleshed out these sketches to give us the missing march. The result works out as half-Elgar and half-Payne, but it complements the authentic five very well. The Pomp and Circumstance Marches dominate the disc, but
it’s also a real pleasure to have a sensitive, finely-textured performance of Elgar’s 1892 work Serenade in E minor for Strings.
The SACD reveals just how fine the SSO’s playing is. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t have an SACD player. This hybrid-disc is playable on any CD machine. But the SACD performance is particularly fine – of true audiophile quality.