Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

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 *
Empire March
A Voice in the Desert * **
Piano Concerto (slow movement) ***
The Spanish Lady suite
Civic Fanfare - Hereford.

Christine Østergaard (mezzo) * Peter Hall (Narrator) ** Margaret Fingerhut (piano) *** Münchner Symphoniker/Douglas Bostock
rec 19-20 April 2000, Bavaria Tonstudio, München
The British Symphonic Collection Vol. 7 CLASSICO CLASSCD334 [65.12]
 Amazon UK  Amazon USA (Graphic and links to follow)

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 borders.

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 bran-tub.

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 city.

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.


Rob Barnett


1. GORDON JACOB Symphony No. 2 204


3. BAX Symphony No. 6 254

4. BUTTERWORTH/GIPPS Symphonies 274

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 continues ….


Rob Barnett

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers : - The UK's Biggest Video Store

Concert and Show tickets


Musicians accessories

Click here to visit

Return to Index