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Anyone familiar with David Briggs’s masterly organ transcription of Mahler’s Third Symphony will need little encouragement to investigate his re-working of Elgar’s first two symphonies. Recorded live on Worcester Cathedral’s majestic Tickell Organ, the immediate impression is one of absolute fidelity to tone, temperament and ripe Edwardian sentiment of the broad, big-boned nobility of the First and complex, darker-hued Second. Briggs matches the First’s variegated moods with a radiant, if somewhat forensic, precision, retaining authenticity and accent with athletic ease, but offering little of fresh insight. The more emotional Second fares better: the colossal funeral march at its core is brilliantly described, the restless Scherzo evoked in a fevered swell of exposed nerve-endings, the conflicted Lento-Allegro conclusion realised with searing and soulful honesty. Briggs’s own excellent notes include revealing thoughts on the art of transcription.

MICHAEL QUINN Read the full review on Agora Classica

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