Apart from the recent Davis recording of the 1st Symphony with the Dresden Staatskapelle on the Profil label (an absolute blinder) this is the best recording of the work in my view. Barbirolli’s interpretation of the 2nd Symphony was also the best on disc for many years. Although over-shadowed by the remarkable 1st, it is nonetheless a great symphony, worthy of regular performances.
Those of us who heard Vladimir Ashkenazy’s masterly performance with the Sydney Symphony last year can attest to this. Of course, the Philharmonia was the better English orchestra at the time. However the Halle orchestra players respond to Sir John Barbirolli in their own special way and play as if the devil were behind them. The interpretation is all. The lovely Serenade for Strings is always welcome. Norman Del Mar directs it well, with considerable sensitivity.
Perhaps the recording is a little too reverberant, but that really is a minor problem. Of special interest in this recorded collection is the recording of In the South. Long regarded by Elgar buffs as the best performance ever recorded. If great Elgar playing is what you are after, you can’t go wrong with this excellent re-issue.