Symphony No. 3  Pomp and Circumstance March No. 6

The Sapporo Symphony Orchestra take on Elgar’s Symphony No.3 under Tadaaki Otaka’s baton with as much flair as they did in their Japanese premiere of the work in 2004.

In 1995 Anthony Payne was commissioned to complete an ‘elaboration’ of the entire symphony and completed Elgar’s original ‘sketches’ of the work in what can be immediately recognised as Elgarian style.

Payne similarly completed Elgar’s Pomp & Circumstance March in 2006, Elgar’s first large orchestral work since the Cello Concerto, pulling out all the stops in a brilliant orchestration. This is only the second recording to be made of this work.

The Japanese orchestra affirm their accolade as one of the finest orchestras in Japan in this stunning performance.

The orchestra has received high praise from critics and public alike, distinguished by its clear sound and dynamic powers of expression.




What people are saying

" … it is revelatory to hear a Japanese orchestra sounding so confident and resplendent" Classic FM Magazine 

"Payne has got the true Elgarian tone absolutely spot-on … the first recording of a non-British orchestra, the first also by a non-British conductor, and it is so good that it offers considerable competition to its predecessors … the Japanese Sapporo Symphony Orchestra … plays superbly throughout … this performance cements the work in the international repertoire, and, last of all, is extremely well recorded … Otaka has a profound grasp of the structure of Payne’s achievement … greater than that of almost all his rivals on disc" International Record Review

"anyone who still thinks Anthony Payne’s ‘elaboration’ of Elgar’s sketches creaks at the joints should make a point of hearing this performance" BBC Music Magazine

Sapporo Symphony Orchestra

Tadaaki Otaka conductor

Release date:31st Mar 2008
Order code:SIGCD118
Barcode: 635212011829

 BBC Music Magazine, July 2008

Tadaaki Otaka has a firm admiration for Elgar. ‘Like Bruckner’ is how he described the symphonies in a radio interview, and from this performance you might guess that the famously spacious Austrian symphonist had a strong bearing on Otaka’s conception. Otaka allows the music plenty of tie to breathe, but at the same time he’s good at drawing it all together. The first movement unfolds in a single expansive sweep without ever sounding hurried, while the wonderful Adagio builds to its awe-inspiring climax with a steady inevitability that strongly recalls Bruckner. Transitions are particularly well-engineered: anyone who still thinks Anthony Payne’s ‘elaboration’ of Elgar’s sketches creaks at the joints should make a point of hearing this performance.

There’s no mistaking the feeling for the music in the Sapporo Orchestra’s playing either. What I do think it lacks, however, is the nuanced emotional shading and expressive suppleness of Paul Daniel and the Bournemouth Symphony on Naxos – though Daniel can also be ‘stout and steaky’ (as Elgar splendidly put it) when the outer movements demand it. And for all his measured consistency, Otaka does sometimes tread a little ponderously. This is less true of his Pomp and Circumstance No. 6, but Richard Hickox catches more of the true Elgarian spring and swagger there. Daniel’s version of the Symphony is also better recorded: a brighter, slightly clearer sound, with more sense of space around the musicians.

Stephen Johnson

 Classic FM Magazine

Not since Deryck Cooke’s 1960s completion of Mahler’s Tenth has a musical restoration captured the public’s imagination as much as Elgar’s Third á la Anthony Payne. The catalogue already boasts four excellent accounts under Paul Daniel (Naxos), Andrew Davis (NMC), Colin Davis (LSO Live) and Richard Hickox (Chandos), the last of which, like Otaka’s version, features the Pomp and Circumstance March No.6. Even if Otaka lacks the Edwardian swagger of his predecessors, it is revelatory to hear a Japanese orchestra sounding so confident and resplendent in music that, culturally speaking, might as well come from another planet.


Julian Haylock

 International Record Review, June 2008

Assiduous Elgarians will know that this is the fifth commercially issued recording in the last 10 years of Anthony Payne’s elaboration of the surviving sketches of Elgar’s Third Symphony, a completed four-movement work that was first heard, semi-privately, towards the end of 1997. Since its public première a few months later by the BBC Symphony under Sir Andrew Davis, it has been virtually universally accepted into the repertoire.

Although there are distinguished Elgarians who do not believe that it was necessary for undertake such a completion, or believe that the result is either worthy of the great composer or approximates to what Elgar had in mind, others – including myself – feel that the decision to allow Anthony Payne to attempt such an elaboration and completion was the right one, principally because, at the time when permission was so granted, the copyright of Elgar’s works was due to expire on January 1st, 2005. After that time, of course, the sketches would have been fair game for anyone to attempt a completion – as they are now, of course – but such is the overall convincing nature of Payne’s completion that any subsequent version by another hand is rendered unnecessary. The result may not be Elgar’s Third Symphony, but the heart of what he intended, in so far as it can be divined from those sketches, resides in this completion. It is known that Elgar had a pretty clear idea of the complete work in his mind, and played it through at the piano to several friends and colleagues, all of whom thought they were hearing the entire work – although much of what Elgar actually played may have been extemporized at the time.

The unfinished nature of the work was made all the more tantalizing by the publication in the 1930s of many of the sketches, some in full manuscript score in the composer’s autograph, in W. H. Reed’s book, Elgar, as I knew him (Gollancz, London; 1936). This is not the place to go into the perceived rights and wrongs of the result, but in overall terms I believe that Payne has got the true Elgarian tone absolutely spot-on, always with the large caveat that only about half of this music is actually by Elgar – the other half is original composition by Payne as a conjectural completion of the authentic 50 per cent. Payne has published a little book on the Symphony, explaining how his realization was achieved, so those interested in the subject can learn just about everything there is to know on this fascinating project.

As this is the fifth recording, some may feel initially that it is a somewhat superfluous issue. They would be wrong. For this is the first recording of a non-British orchestra, the first also by a non-British conductor, and it is so good that it offers considerable competition to its predecessors. In the first place, the Japanese Sapporo Symphony Orchestra is of international rank and plays superbly throughout. Secondly, Tadaaki Otaka is a fine conductor, who gave memorable performances of Elgar’s major orchestral works when he was Chief Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales for ten seasons – I recall a particularly noble account of the First Symphony about 15 years ago under his baton. Thirdly, divorced from any inherent feelings of nationalism in music, this performance cements the work in the international repertoire, and, last of all, is extremely well recorded.

There is no doubt that Otaka has a profound grasp of the structure of Payne’s achievement – indeed, in some respects, greater than that of almost all his rivals on disc. This is best exemplified also by his control of the tempo relationships. Early in the first movement (in the authentic portion of the work Elgar left in full score) the second subject arrives in a more relaxed tempo than that of the opening Allegro molto maestoso, a change of speed which is, architecturally, extremely difficult (in this passage, for example, I think Sir Colin Davis does not judge the change, or relate to the tempos, ay all well). Otaka succeeds admirably in fusing these disparate ideas without any sense of awkwardness – as does Richard Hickox on Chandos – and is able to maintain the balance throughout this movement. The various climaxes here are splendidly achieved, making this the most coherently convincing movement of the four in Payne’s realisation.

In addition, I particularly admire Otaka’s handling of the largely conjectural finale, providing that the essence of this music is not necessarily the province of British conductors and orchestras. But – and it is a big but – the version by Kickox and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales is just that little bit finer, in varying degrees of interpretation and especially in terms of recording quality, to make that the best of all. Hickox delivers a reading that is not necessarily more English, but is more truly Elgarian, exemplified in very finely delineated details of interpretation and a feel for that finale’s central climax that is breathtaking, before the gradual winding down of the concluding pages.

Both Otaka and Hickox include the latest Payne realisation of unfinished Elgar, the Sixth Pomp and Circumstance March, which is by no means so convincing a completion as the Symphony. As any body of soldiers will tell you, it is next to impossible to march coherently to a band that changes tempo often. Elgar knew this instinctively – after all, his father-in-law was a major-general – and there is a sense of swagger in his marches, which, while the basic tempo of each of them can accommodate slight variation, does not permit relatively sudden changes of gear. In this realisation, Payne changes gear far too often for a genuine symphonic march, in my view at times quite unnecessarily, which Hickox follows literally, to the detriment of the overall character.

Otaka is much more successful in the March in that his changes of tempo are more subtle, almost imperceptible at times, thus making a fully coherent statement. Another disappointing feature of this March is that Payne’s orchestration lacks the touch which served him so well in the Symphony; surely, with the March material, a far more splendiferous orchestral sound and texture is required – perhaps including an optional organ part, as well. It’s all a bit too understated – so often the orchestral equivalent of water-colours, rather than that of flamboyant brilliance.

For the Symphony, it is Hickox; for the March, Otaka, although Kickox also includes Payne’s orchestration of So Many True Princesses Who Have Gone, an occasional piece of jobbery from 1932, quite well played if rather indistinctly sung. The Elgarian should have both CDs and Otaka’s account of the Symphony should be studied alongside Hickox’s by all who are fascinated by the final thoughts of this country’s greatest composer as bought to life by an exceptionally dedicated disciple.


Robert Matthew-Walker