ELGAR The Music Makers. The Spirit of England (Davis)

Sir Andrew Davis

Both soloist and conductor have already given us notable versions of The Music Makers - for Naxos (12/06) and Teldec/Warner (2/95) respectively - but there's a wholly idiomatic sensibility, collaborative zeal and unity of vision that mark out this sumptuously engineered Chandos newcomer as something rather special. Certainly, Sarah Connolly's delivery of the closing lines (‘Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers / And a singer who sings no more') distils an aching intimacy not matched since Janet Baker's sublime contribution on Boult's recording (EMI/Warner, 5/67) - and what reserves of tender compassion she brings to ‘But on one man's soul it has broken / A light that doth not depart' (track 6, from 1'12"), where the strains of ‘Nimrod' pay moving reminiscence to Elgar's beloved friend and tireless champion, August Jaeger.

Likewise, Andrew Davis's gloriously pliant conducting evinces total conviction. To hear him and his painstakingly prepared BBC forces at their raptly intuitive best, listen from 1'32" on track 8 (‘O men! It must ever be / That we dwell, in our dreaming and signing, / A little apart from ye') with its devastatingly poignant intertwining of themes from Enigma, the Violin Concerto and The Apostles. Make no mistake, anyone who has ever fallen under the spell of the fears, hopes and dreams that stalk this deeply vulnerable, touchingly autobiographical creation will derive copious rewards here.