Elgar Works for Violin & Piano
Here is big-hearted, vibrant music-making. Lydia Mordkovitch and Julian Milford bring an abundance of temperament to the sonata, but theirs is perhaps neither as engagingly characterized nor as consistently concentrated a conception as that of the admirable Midori and Robert McDonald on Sony (the most recent account to have come my way) or these newcomers’ own Chandos stable-mates, Nigel Kennedy and Peter Pettinger. Indeed, renewing acquaintance with the latter version after a period of some years has been instructive: to my ears, there’s an extra charisma and mercurial, freewheeling imagination about Kennedy’s response that really grip from start to finish. Nor is Mordkovitch’s tone production always as ingratiating or subtly variegated as that of some previous exponents on record (if her ‘scything’ manner in the coda of the first movement doesn’t unsettle you, then you’ll probably enjoy her interpretation more than I did).
The shorter items which make up the remainder of the disc receive typically fervent advocacy. Sursum corda and Offertoire are companion pieces. Both were composed in 1893-4 and share the same opus number (Op. 11) and marking (Andante religioso). When the latter work was eventually published in 1903, it was under the name of Gustav Francke, a pseudonym of Elgar’s own invention. Better known in its original guise for brass, organ and strings, Sursum corda is heard here in an arrangement by F. Louis Schneider (of which this is a first recording). The ravishing Sospiri is another highlight, though, inevitably, Mordkovitch’s La capricieuse pales somewhat next to the 16-year-old Josef Hassid’s miraculous 1940 recording. Chandos’s engineers provide glowing, slightly washy sound.
Despite my misgivings, this is a likeable issue, but I would not place Mordkovitch’s reading of the main work ahead of the formidable bevy of comparative rivals listed above.'