Elgarís music has travelled
to the antipodes to Wellington, New
Zealand for this new Naxos release.
It is arguable whether the trip was
worth it as the performances tend to
Elgar was over fifty
when he returned to his childhood sketchbooks.
They take us to a time when he was twelve
playing fantasy games with his brothers
and sisters. From these fondly remembered
times emanated the two charming Wand
of Youth suites. In these works
Elgarís music conjures an idealistic
view of childhood, evocative of sunny
charm and of enchanting days of innocence
without care or responsibility. The
suites which are for full orchestra
are melodically and structurally simple
with really delightful orchestration.
The piece Wild Bear is sometimes
played as a separate work; often as
an concert encore. The two movements
of Dream Children were composed
in 1902 and Elgar seems to have been
using earlier material steeped in the
nostalgia of childhood.
The Nursery Suite
from 1930 is for full orchestra
in seven movements. It marks Elgarís
final return to images of childhood;
but without the same quality of invention
to be found in the Wand of Youth
suites. The composer dedicated the
work to the Duchess of York and the
Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose.
I was disappointed
with these performances. From previous
Naxos recordings I know that the British-born
conductor James Judd possesses commanding
conducting talents but these are not,
I feel, on display on this release.
The interpretations came across as mainly
lacklustre and sluggish without the
required measure of ebullience that
is virtually compulsory to make these
works sparkle into life. I would like
to point listeners who want both the
Wand of Youth suites and
the Nursery Suite in the direction
of an excellent recording by the Ulster
Orchestra under Bryden Thomson on Chandos
The proceedings are
not assisted by the sound quality which
is not up to Naxosís usual high standard.
The washed-out sound seems far too soft
and blurred around the edges. It is
as if the recording studio has had its
walls lined with thick cotton wool.
Furthermore the dynamic range is difficult
to tame and requires much volume adjustment.
not assisted by a rather washed-out
sound quality. Elgar has been far better
served in these works elsewhere in the