To collect together
Elgarís orchestral music associated
with images of childhood is an eminently
sensible idea, and it makes for an enterprising
and imaginative programme. With high
standards of playing and recording,
this Naxos disc therefore makes a welcome
entry to the catalogue.
James Judd is a skilful
and experienced conductor with an international
pedigree, and he draws some very sensitive
playing from the New Zealand Orchestra.
This is important in this repertoire,
not least in The Wand of Youth, which
is not quite as early a piece as the
Opus 1 designation suggests. The final
version of these short pieces, based
on material from the composerís childhood
and youth, is from 1907-8, contemporary
with the First Symphony, when Elgar
was fifty. And his experience as an
orchestrator shows in every bar, whether
the music be refined and delicate, or
powerful and exciting.
Judd has the measure
of these contrasts, as found for example
in the final two pieces, entitled The
Tame Bear and The Wild Bears. While
the performance of Sir Adrian Boult
(EMI) remains that touch more vivid
and the leader in the field, this new
recording gives ample satisfaction.
The same might also
be said of Dream Children, perhaps the
best music in the collection. Although
composed before the final version of
The Wand of Youth, the material is mature
rather than recycled, though Elgar still
claimed it used ideas originating from
Ďa few years backí. Be that as it may,
this is a penetrating example of Elgarís
wistful, fragile emotional outlook.
Judd secures some fine playing, and
his phrasing seems just right too.
The Nursery Suite was
one of the few works to have been completed
during the composerís final years, although
Anthony Payneís completion of the Third
Symphony has given us a new perspective
on Elgarís creative powers during this
period. Again the music-making is committed
and sensitive, completing a disc that
is a worthy addition to the Elgar catalogue.
Cookson has a different view