EDWARD ELGAR (1857-1934)
Bostock and the Münchner Symphoniker in rare ELGAR orchestral and
vocal works - many world premiere recordings
The Crown of India March
Hail Immemorial Ind from The Crown of India *
The Wind at Dawn *
A Voice in the Desert * **
Piano Concerto (slow movement) ***
The Spanish Lady suite
Civic Fanfare -
(mezzo) * Peter Hall (Narrator) ** Margaret Fingerhut (piano) *** Münchner
rec 19-20 April 2000, Bavaria
The British Symphonic Collection Vol. 7 CLASSICO CLASSCD334
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Rare Elgar conducted by a British conductor, played by a German orchestra
and recorded by a Danish company. Nothing wrong with any of that and it goes
a long way towards demonstrating that such music has a life beyond the English
The items here, many world premiere recordings, include a liberal sprinkling
of the finest Elgar as well as a few pieces close to the scrapings of the
The three songs with orchestra can fairly be viewed as fragrant adjuncts
to Sea Pictures. They are confidently sung by a Danish mezzo of luxuriant
tone. The richness of her tone and (perhaps) her accent cloak the words.
It may be me but I couldn't pick out the words at all. Wagnerian in ambition
and grasp, these strong songs suggest a composer who could easily, in some
alternative universe, have developed in the direction of the grandest of
grand opera. If you enjoy Sea Pictures you must have this disc. The
words are printed in full in the dumpy bilingual (English and German) insert.
The sung texts are in English only.
The Crown of India March is a cracking example of the genre - proud,
resplendent, confidently swaggering - and is to be distinguished from the
March of the Moghul Emperors (part of the more familiar Crown of
India music). The Empire March is rather so-so, I'm afraid. The brief
and extremely rare Civic Fanfare - Hereford is a memento of Elgar's
success at the Three Choirs Festival and, of course, his links with the Western
A Voice in the Desert may be heard as a precursor to Bliss's Morning
Heroes. It is to a text by the Belgian poet and dramatist, Emile Cammaerts,
and is read in a translation by Tita Brand (Cammaerts' wife). It is an affecting
contemporary artefact of the Great War having been completed in July 1915
and still having power to move. It is perhaps possible 'in the mind's eye'
to transport yourself back to those days when the resoundingly narrated French
place names would have spoken of tragedy to many in Elgar's pre-Somme audience
of 1916. Polonia dates from before A Voice (May 1915) and deploys
Polish tunes in a piece written at the request of the Polish conductor Emil
Mlynarski. The conductor also provided the tunes and, at the premiere, concert
also included a movement from his own Polonia symphony (recorded complete
some years ago on Polskie Nagrania CD in tandem with his violin concerto).
It is not totally convincing but warms up towards the end with a theme which
which, presumably, Elgar would not have known: Pachelbel's Canon.
This contrasts with a jaunty, almost Tchaikovskian, upbeat melody which smacks
of an Imperial anthem.
The piano concerto movement captures a spirit of gracious Grieg-like regret
likeably and sensitively projected by Margaret Fingerhut. The movement is
(a few sketches apart) all that survives of a long-cherished project by the
composer. The movement was prepared by Percy Young in 1956 and revised for
a performance (Leslie Head and Leslie Howard) at St John's Smith Square in
1979. We must not be surprised if the completion of this work turns out to
be the next celebrity project.
It is fascinating to hear the Spanish Lady Suite. An accomplished
kaleidoscope of the lighter styles and influences are on parade: Strauss
waltzes, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, Sibelius's Valse Triste,
a touch of Adam and Verdi along the way.
The back insert track-listing is misleading, implying that tracks 1-7 are
part of The Crown of India when only the first two tracks relate.
A small cavil. The only other debit in an overwhelming list of credits is
that the strings miss by a smallish margin the ideal amplitude, depth and
sheen that would best project this music. But for that this disc would have
rated five stars rather than four and a half.
A recommendable disc, generously filled, essential to the Elgarian completist,
and superbly documented by Lewis Foreman. I predict that it will sell even
better than the Holst instalment from this series.
THE CLASSICO BRITISH SYMPHONIC SERIES Vols 1-6
1. GORDON JACOB Symphony No. 2 204
2. VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Job 244
3. BAX Symphony No. 6 254
4. BUTTERWORTH/GIPPS Symphonies
5. HOLST Cotswold Symphony 284
6. ARNOLD Symphony No. 5 294
Three more volumes to come. I hope that there will be another ten after that.
There is still plenty of territory to cover: Edgar Bainton Symphony No. 3,
Peter Racine Fricker (his five symphonies totally ignored on CD) a seemingly
deeply unfashionable composer now, Stanley Bate's Third Symphony, York Bowen
- any of his four symphonies, Frederick Cliffe two symphonies, Cecil Coles
a young Scottish friend of Holst's who was killed in the Great War, the litany