Old-timers will recall this set being issued amongst
those LPs in the first Chandos harvest circa 1979. In fact it
first saw the light of day as RCA Red Seal RL24144 in May 1978.
After that it appeared in digitally re-mastered form as Chandos
CBR1014/5 (2 LPs) and CBT1014/5 (2 audio-cassettes). Then in
1992 it was reissued on CD in Chandos’s Collect series as CHAN6553
(vol. 1) and CHAN 6554 (vol. 2).
Over the years I suspect it has seen good service
for Chandos. Anything by Elgar is likely to sell well no matter
how early ... and this music is very early. We are talking about
the wind ensemble music of a composer in his early thirties.
For all the fanciful titles this is music that is typically
affable and adeptly balanced, Mozartean cheeriness is transported
to the late nineteenth century occasionally interspersed with
a bubbling Dvořákian bonhommie. In this music Elgar rarely
strikes the sparks of something original. Listen though to the
first of the humorous and whimsical Intermezzos. This
is well worth sampling (tr. 5 CD1) for its pre-echoes of Enigma.
You can hear a similarly rebellious humour in the Somniferous
movement from Six Promenades (CD2 tr. 4). Several
movements have a Tchaikovskian jackanapes cheekiness as in the
Hell and Tommy episode (CD2 tr. 6). Overall this
is unassuming music written primarily to entertain a group of
wind-players on long gone Sunday afternoons in Worcester. Elgar
knocked these pieces off in the organ loft at St George’s Roman
Catholic Church during the sermon. They are laid out for an
unusual wind quintet of two flutes, oboe, clarinet and bassoon,
the latter played by Elgar.
It is fitting that the Athena made the first and
so far only recording. It was they who broadcast the music in
1976 for a series of BBC broadcasts shortly after the parts
came to light in the British Library.
These will appeal to Elgarian completists and to
anyone who has a weakness for apple-cheeked wind music, gamely
recorded and with hardly any artefacts of analogue origins.
Then there’s the added bonus that this is at 2-for-1 price.