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Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Complete Works for Wind Quintet (1878-89)
CD1 [48:47]
Harmony Music No. 5 [27:32]
Intermezzos [8:00]
Harmony Music No. 1 [4:04]
Adagio cantabile 'Mrs Winslow's Soothing Syrup' [3:45]
Andante con variazioni 'Evesham Andante' [5:04]
CD2 [51:51]
Six Promenades [14:06]
Harmony Music No. 2 [10:20]
Harmony Music No. 4 'The Farmyard' [12:02]
Four Dances [11:40]
Harmony Music No. 3 [3:23]
Athena Ensemble (Richard McNicol, flute; Sebastian Bell, flute; David Theodore, oboe; Roger Fallows, clarinet; Robert Jordan, bassoon)
rec. Church of St Augustine, Kilburn, London, 1978. ADD
CHANDOS CHAN 241-33 [48:47 + 51:51]



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.

Rob Barnett


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