In a remarkable turn of events, Ofra Harnoy’s long-lost recording of Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85, has finally seen the light of day, 27 years after it was initially recorded at London’s iconic Abbey Road Studios. The story of this elusive recording is a testament to perseverance and the dedication of music enthusiasts.
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Back in 1996, cellist Ofra Harnoy embarked on a recording journey that would take her to the renowned Abbey Road Studios, where she, alongside the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by George Pehlivanian, captured a performance of Elgar’s beloved concerto. Little did she know that this recording would remain unheard for nearly three decades.
The 1996 Abbey Road sessions were completed successfully, but for reasons unknown, the recording was never edited and released. It seemed to have vanished into thin air, leaving Harnoy and her team perplexed. Over the years, they made repeated inquiries and conducted tireless searches in a quest to find the lost masterpiece. Yet, these efforts proved futile until the breakthrough discovery in 2022.
In a twist of fate, the master tapes of the long-lost recording were found in the storage of a former associate, ending the decades-long search. While the tapes had been located, the restoration process was not without its challenges.
Fortunately, detailed notes from the original recording sessions had been preserved. Andrew Keener, the original producer of the Elgar concerto, was available to provide invaluable guidance. The task of editing the tapes fell to Mike Herriott, Harnoy’s husband and manager, who undertook the meticulous work in their own home studio. The final edit and remastering, incorporating the latest Dolby Atmos technology, was entrusted to Ron Searles of Red Maple Sound in Toronto.
Andrew Keener, reflecting on the original Abbey Road sessions, shared his sentiments, stating, “The sessions at Abbey Road’s fabled Studio 1 were productive and enjoyable, fresh and uninhibited. I hope you enjoy the result.”
Over the last half-century, Elgar’s Cello Concerto has emerged as a masterpiece of late Romantic music for cello and orchestra, making the rediscovery and release of this recording all the more significant. Harnoy herself once described her connection to the concerto in an interview shortly after the 1996 sessions, saying, “I recently recorded the Elgar Concerto with the London Philharmonic. I’m very excited about this because the Elgar is one of those pieces that just wrings me dry; I always end up crying. It’s such a wonderful piece.”
Presently, the long-lost recording is available for music enthusiasts to enjoy, marking a valuable addition to Ofra Harnoy’s extensive catalog of recordings. Furthermore, this release is accompanied by the reissue of Harnoy’s 1995 recording of Edouard Lalo’s Cello Concerto in D Minor, featuring the late Antonio de Almeida conducting the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. This recording is a testament to Harnoy’s musical prowess during her exclusive artist tenure with the RCA Victor Red Seal/BMG Classics label, which is now part of Sony Classical.
Ofra Harnoy’s journey to musical excellence is as compelling as her recordings. Born in Israel, she immigrated to Canada at a young age and honed her skills under the guidance of renowned mentors, including William Pleeth, Vladimir Orloff, and Mstislav Rostropovich. Her commitment to musical growth led her to participate in master classes with esteemed figures such as Janos Starker, Pierre Fournier, and Jacqueline du Pré.
Harnoy’s career has taken her to stages across five continents, where she has enthralled audiences with her captivating performances. Notably, she has had the privilege of performing at the request of the British Royal Family, President Bill Clinton, three Canadian Prime Ministers, and multiple occasions for the Imperial Japanese family.
Her extensive discography boasts nearly 50 solo albums, showcasing her mastery over a vast repertoire. Moreover, her collaborative spirit has brought her into musical partnerships with luminaries such as Placido Domingo, Sting, Sir Charles Mackerras, Loreena McKennitt, Colin Tilney, Igor Oistrakh, Jesse Cook, Cyprien Katsaris, Claudio Scimone, Charles Dutoit, Jeffrey Tait, Anton Kuerti, and Emmy Verhey.
In conclusion, the rediscovery and release of Ofra Harnoy’s long-lost recording of Elgar’s Cello Concerto is a story of persistence and passion in the world of classical music. It not only brings a hidden gem to the forefront but also celebrates the remarkable career of an artist who has graced audiences worldwide with her exceptional talent and dedication to the art of the cello.