Elder’s Soft-Edged Job

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 7

Mark Elder may be a fine operatic conductor, but his recordings of symphonic music have been far less impressive. Here’s a case in point. Vaughan Williams’ Job, while a ballet, has a strong claim to be considered his strongest orchestral work in any medium. It has everything: the pastoral element, the gorgeous, modal melodies, nobility, passion, humor, and more than a touch of the more dissonant idiom that most famously appears to such powerful effect in the Fourth Symphony. Elder’s performance only realizes these elements fitfully.

In particular, the performance comes up short whenever the music turns fast or powerful: Satan’s Dance of Triumph (indeed all of the Satan’s music) lacks punch. The vision of Satan enthroned, with the fearsome entrance of the organ, carries little impact. The robust Galliard of the Sons of Morning needs more energy. The result risks boredom, despite some gorgeous playing in the quieter moments. The Minuet of the Sons of Job and Their Wives is especially lovely, but the backwardly balanced winds and percussion only reduce the work’s impact further.

The Songs of Travel, here in the orchestral version, is a lovely cycle that ought to be played more often. Neal Davies has one of those leathery voices that make it difficult to tell if he’s actually singing on pitch, although we have no reason to suppose that he’s not. He’s not bad, heaven knows, but not great either. I had high hopes for this release, but as so often seems to be the case with discs from this source, the results were disappointing. Stick with Boult, Hickox, Andrew Davis, or David Lloyd-Jones on Naxos.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Boult (EMI/Warner)

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