Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Edward ELGAR

Five Quadrilles - La Brunette
Polka - Maud
Five Quadrilles - Die Junge Kokette
Polka - Nelly
Five Quadrilles - L'Assomoir
Polka - La Blonde
Five Quadrilles - Paris
Polka - Helcia
Set of Lancers - The Valentine
Polka - Blumine
Fugue in D minor for oboe and violin

rec Corby Festival Hall
Rutland Sinfonia/Barry Collett

This is unassuming stuff representing the popular dance music of the time. The music was written for the asylum band conducted by Elgar at Worcester City and County Lunatic Asylum several miles outside Worcester in the hinterland of the Malverns. The music was to be played by members of staff rather than inmates. The end-result is best represented as a pot-pourri of Beethoven, Komzak, Haydn, Strauss and Schubert. Lancers, Polka and Quadrilles echoed around the dance halls of Britain and the purveyors of such music were only marginally less successful than the balladeers of those times. The band at Elgar's disposal comprised flute, clarinet, two cornets, euphonium, three or four first violins and similar seconds with a smattering of viola, cello and bass plus piano. Treatment through music is far from uncommon now. No doubt this music (though rather mechanistic and roboticly cheerful) helped lighten the fate of the inmates. To round out the disc there is a Fugue and a Duett - two pieces with Bach-like characteristics. They date from 1883 and 1887. The Rutland Sinfonia seems in creaky form but the result feels authentic. Barry Collett and his Rutlanders have embarked on rare Elgar before. There is a Pearl CD of his wartime music (SHE CD 9602). All in all a fascinating disc for the Elgarian marking the one day a week he spent at the asylum during the period 1879-1884; otherwise of limited attraction.

Rob Barnett

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