Elgar-Payne: Symphony No.3 enters repertoire(October 1998)
The Elgar-Payne Symphony No.3, given its first performance in February, looks set to rapidly establish itself in the concert repertoire. The work was unfinished at the composer’s death in 1934, but Anthony Payne’s masterly elaboration of the symphony from Elgar’s sketches has given it new life. With such a high profile premiere, the NMC recording of the symphony (NMC D053) with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Andrew Davis has rapidly captured the public imagination and has sold over 25,000 copies. Anthony Payne’s detailed detective work and creative decision-making in reforging the symphony can be explored on an NMC documentary disc (D025M), and in his recently published Faber & Faber book.
In the half year since its premiere over 40 performances have been scheduled worldwide by leading internationally-acclaimed orchestras over coming seasons.
The US premiere takes place on 20 November with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Andrew Davis, and performances by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Davis and the National Symphony in Washington under Leonard Slatkin are scheduled for March next year. In the UK nearly every major city hosts a performance this season including Glasgow (24 September), Birmingham (25 September), Bristol (10 October/27 January), Liverpool (24 October), London at the Barbican (25 November), Manchester (17 December) and Cambridge (29 January). International performances have been programmed as far afield as Brussels, Ljubljana, St Petersburg, Hong Kong and Winnipeg.
The tumultuous public reception which greeted the Third Symphony in London, with a standing ovation for Anthony Payne, was a heartfelt endorsement for the Elgar family’s decision to authorise a performable elaboration of the sketches from an expert Elgarian before the floodgates opened with the expiry of their copyright protection in 2004. Their decision may have appeared to countermand the dying composer’s own wish that the work never be completed, but as Paul Driver proposed in the Sunday Times: "The dying Elgar feared that no amount of "tinkering" could salvage his efforts, but he had not reckoned on this tinkering; nor on Payne’s capacity for imaginative leaps - not only to find the closing visionary tableau of loudening and fading, but on a bar-to-bar level... What music-lover would want to be without the new Elgar 3?"
"All scruples and reservations, moral and practical, are swept aside by the magnificent, and magnificently Elgarian, score that Payne has produced. His patient, brilliant reconstruction has saved a great work from oblivion... I had to keep reminding myself that this is Elgar-Payne, not pure Elgar, so masterly is Payne’s combination of inspired guesswork, intuition and creative empathy. He has understood." David Cairns, Sunday Times
"Every bar smacks of the authentic Elgar, through the sombre opening Allegro, a gentle Allegretto that brings Falstaff to mind, an Adagio of often profound beauty and to a finale in which powerful march-like themes die away to a quiet, resigned close. Payne has caught the composer’s instantly recognisable orchestral palette to perfection..." BBC Music Magazine
"Any idea that Elgar, at the age of 75, was a spent creative force is belied by the symphony’s virile opening gestures. The music moves urgently in a series of arches, starkly harmonised and with a raw, modal feel, conjuring up the sensation of some monolithic standing stone, windswept and awesome." Daily Telegraph
"At its heart lies an Adagio of eerie imagination and power. [It] combines the long-breathed warmth of the slow movement of the First Symphony with the dark, funereal quality of its equivalent in the Second - but it rises to a different plane altogether. Peppered with wistful viola, unsettling chord progressions and mutterings on bass clarinet and muted trumpets, it has a halting, visionary quality." Financial Times
"In the finale, while again the ideas are fresh, the Elgar work that comes immediately to mind is his symphonic poem Falstaff. In the symphony there is a defiant swagger such as the knight displayed in his moments of bravado, but the dreams are shattered (as Falstaff’s were) and the symphony ends spectrally, as if in visionary peace." Daily Telegraph
"Payne has intuited himself into Elgar’s very soul, coaxing moments of private reverie that recall parallel passages in the first two symphonies... How will [the audience] remember the piece - as Elgar, or as Payne? Can one really think of it as both? And, since Payne’s act of homage is a compelling artistic entity in its own right, does its authorship really matter anyway? I have certainly never heard a "completion" that works better, nor one that hints at what might have been with greater emotional exactitude." The Independent
The Boosey & Hawkes score of Symphony No.3, the NMC recording of the complete work and the accompanying documentary disc, and the new Faber book are available from all good music, record and book retailers or via our mail order service.
> Further information on Work: Symphony No.3
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