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Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Edward Elgar - The Collector's Edition
The Masterpieces – The Greatest Artists
The symphonies, concertos, orchestral, choral, chamber and piano music plus CD30: Elgar conducts Elgar
Full contents list at end of review
rec. London,. Liverpool, Manchester, 1963-1990. (CD30: 1929-1933) ADD/DDD
EMI CLASSICS 5036032 [30 CDs: 1904:17]



It is nearly a hundred years since Elgar wrote Carissima especially for recording by The Gramophone Company, the predecessor of EMI. It followed that recording in January 1914 with many more, by Elgar and others, giving the present company a wonderful array of past treasures from which to choose in compiling this amazing bargain box. The booklet says that the box was issued in association with the Elgar Society and the Elgar Foundation. It names as “associates” for the edition Jerrold Northrop Moore, Andrew Neill and the late Anthony C. Griffith. Not only must they have had tremendous pleasure in being able to pick from such a rich variety of works and recordings, but they have done so remarkably well. What we have here effectively is all of Elgar’s major works, apart from the Third Symphony - a special case, and many of the minor ones, in performances and recordings which overall do full justice to them and in many cases are unequalled.
 
Although the booklet is some 31 pages long, it contains only a detailed tracklist and two photographs of the composer. There is no explanation of how the works or recordings were chosen and no notes about them or texts for the vocal works. This is regrettable, and the lack of an index showing which works are on which CD is especially annoying, but at the price at which the box is retailing the potential purchaser may well feel that they can afford as companions to it a copy of one of the several major books about Elgar, especially those by Jerrold Northrop Moore.
 
In general the choice of what to include seems to have been to go for those by Sir John Barbirolli where possible, with Sir Adrian Boult as the next favoured choice. This means that we have Barbirolli’s “The Dream of Gerontius” and the Cello Concerto and Sea Pictures with Du Pré and Baker – versions which you may well have already but their inclusion does show a determination to go for the best. For many works, including the “early” choral works and the chamber works, the EMI archives did not offer much choice, but only in the case of the church music and Organ Sonata No 1 has this meant the inclusion of versions which might be regarded as being not wholly adequate in terms of performance or recording. The final CD is of Elgar as performer, well transferred and as usual giving particular pleasure. It is perhaps regrettable that the 1914 recording of Carissima is not included there although the work itself is there on CD11 in a neat and affectionate performance by the Northern Sinfonia under Sir Neville Marriner.
 
No two Elgarians are likely to agree as to whether the best choices have been made from the available material. Personally I should have taken Boult, or better still the composer himself, rather than Barbirolli as first choice. However, even when Barbirolli is most inclined to linger where the composer pushes on, the results usually justify it. His wonderful ear for textures and phrasing ensures that the listener is always transfixed even where they may find the basic tempo or approach unconvincing. For me that is the case for example with the Enigma Variations. Conductors such as Elgar, Monteux and Oramo all stress the urgency of the inspiration whilst Barbirolli in contrast draws attention to the sheer beauty and inspiration of each part of the work. It is a version which I look forward to listening to again as a complement to what are still my preferred recordings.
 
The majority of the recordings in the set are very well known, and many are thirty or forty years old. They are all included in transfers which show them to their best advantage. Hearing them in succession shows what an amazing job EMI did in the 1960s and 1970s not only in ensuring that even Elgar’s less fashionable works were recorded but in doing so with such well chosen performers. Even if you have some of these recordings already or have these works in other versions I strongly urge buying this box. It must surely be not just the bargain of the month but of the anniversary year and, for keen Elgarians, even the decade.
 
John Sheppard

see also review by Rob Barnett
(Bargain of the Month October 2007)

 
Full details
CD1 [67:54]
Symphony No. 1 in A flat Op. 55, Introduction and Allegro
Philharmonia Orchestra, Allegri Quartet, Sinfonia of London/Sir John Barbirolli

CD2 [65:40]
Symphony No. 2 in e flat Op. 63, Serenade
Philharmonia Orchestra, Allegri Quartet, Sinfonia of London/Sir John Barbirolli

CD3 [63:30]
Falstaff: Symphonic Study in C minor Op. 68
Cockaigne (In London Town) - Concert Overture Op. 40
Froissart - Concert Overture Op. 19
Hallé Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, New Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli

CD4 [73:17]
Variations on an Original Theme 'Enigma' Op. 36, Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 - 5, Serenade in E minor Op. 20
Philharmonia Orchestra, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Sinfonia of London/Sir John Barbirolli

CD5 [53:55]
Sea Pictures Op. 37, Cello Concerto in E minor Op. 85
Dame Janet Baker, Jacqueline du Pré, London Symphony Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli

CD6 [74:36]
Violin Sonata in E minor Op. 82, Violin Concerto in B minor Op. 61
Hugh Bean, David Parkhouse, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Charles Groves

CD7 [69:33]
Nursery Suite, Severn Suite Op. 87, Suite from The Crown of India Op. 66, Coronation March Op. 65
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Charles Groves

CD8 [62:29]
Organ Sonata [No. 1] in G Op. 28, The Wand of Youth - Suite No. 1 Op. 1a, The Wand of Youth - Suite No. 2 Op. 1b
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley

CD9 [52:51]
Three Bavarian Dances, Chanson de nuit Op. 15 No. 1, Chanson de matin Op. 15 No. 2, Fantasia and Fugue in C minor Op. 86, Overture in D minor
In the South (Alassio) - Concert Overture Op. 50
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult

CD10 [49:46]
Carillon Op. 75, Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor Op. 35, Grania and Diarmid Op. 42, Polonia Op. 76, Caractacus Op. 35, Imperial March Op. 32, Empire March (1924)
David Bell, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult

CD11 [62:28]
Beau Brummel, Dream Children Op. 43, Salut d'amour Op. 12, Minuet Op. 21, May Song, Rosemary, Romance for Bassoon and Orchestra Op. 62, Sevillana Op. 7, Sérénade lyrique, Mazurka Op.10 No. 1, Serenade mauresque Op. 10 No. 2, Contrasts Op. 10 No. 3, Carissima, Mina
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Lawrence Collingwood, Northern Sinfonia of England/Sir Neville Marriner

CD12 [77:09]
Piano Quintet in A minor Op. 84, String Quartet in E minor Op. 83, Serenade, Concert Allegro Op. 46
John Ogdon, Allegri Quartet, Music Group of London

CD13 [38:49]
The Dream of Gerontius Op. 38 - Part I
CD14 [70:40]
The Dream of Gerontius Op. 38 - Part II
Janet Baker (mezzo); Richard Lewis (tenor); Kim Borg (bass); Halle Choir; Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus; Ambrosian Singers/Halle Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli

CD15 [78:00]
The Apostles Op. 49 - Part I
CD16 [57:38]
The Apostles Op. 49 - Part II
The Apostles and the Kingdom - An Illustrated Introduction by Sir Adrian Boult (2006 remaster)
Sheila Armstrong (soprano); Helen Watts (alto); Robert Tear (tenor); Benjamin Luxon (bass); Clifford Grant (bass); John Carol Case (bass); Choir of Downe House School; London Philharmonic Choir; London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult

CD17 [72:19]
The Kingdom Op. 51
CD18 [64:05]
The Kingdom Op. 51
Coronation Ode Op. 44
Op. 51: Margaret Price (soprano); Yvonne Minton (alto); Alexander Young (tenor); John Shirley-Quirk (bass); London Philharmonic Choir; London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult
Op. 44: Dame Felicity Lott (soprano); Alfreda Hodgson (alto); Richard Morton (tenor); Stephen Roberts (bass); Cambridge University Musical Society Chorus; Choir of King’s College Cambridge; New Philharmonia Orchestra; Band of the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall/Sir Philip Ledger

CD19 [71:12]
The Light of Life (Lux Christi) Op. 29

CD20 [72:21]
The Black Knight Op. 25, Scenes from The Saga of King Olaf Op. 30 - Part I

CD21 [48:43]
Scenes from The Saga of King Olaf Op. 30 - Part II, Spanish Serenade Op. 23, The Snow Op. 26 No. 1, Fly, singing bird Op. 26 No. 2

CD22 [54:19]
Caractacus Op. 35 - Scenes I & II

CD23 [59:01]
Caractacus Op. 35 - Scene III

CD24 [46:10 ]
The Banner of St George Op. 33, Great is the Lord (Psalm 48) Op. 67, Te Deum and Benedictus Op. 34
Stephen Roberts, London Symphony Chorus, Northern Sinfonia of England/Richard Hickox

CD25 [46:10]
The Spirit of England Op. 80, Give unto the Lord (Psalm 29) Op. 74, O hearken thou (Offertory) Op. 64, Land of Hope and Glory (arr. Arthur Fagge)
Dame Felicity Lott, London Symphony Chorus, Northern Sinfonia of England/Richard Hickox

CD26 [76:10]
Ave verum corpus Op. 2 No. 1, Ave Maria Op. 2 No. 2, Ave maris stella Op. 2 No. 3, 11 Vesper Voluntaries Op. 14, Angelus Op. 56 No. 1, Give unto the Lord Op. 74, O hearken thou Op. 64,
Te Deum and Benedictus Op. 34, Organ Sonata [No. 1] in G Op. 28
Worcester Cathedral Choir, Harry Bramma, Christopher Robinson, Herbert Sumsion

CD27 [55:19]
The Music Makers Op. 69, The Sanguine Fan Op. 81
Dame Janet Baker, London Philharmonic Choir, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult

CD28 [70:40]
The Starlight Express - Incidental Music Op. 78
Valerie Masterson, Derek Hammond-Stroud, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley

CD29 [72:38]
Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands Op. 27, Pleading Op. 48 No. 1, Was it some golden star? Op. 59 No. 3, Oh, soft was the song Op. 59 No. 1, Twilight Op. 59 No. 6, The Torch Op. 60 No. 1
The River Op. 60 No. 2, The Shower Op. 71 No. 1, My love dwelt in a northern land, Five Part-Songs from the Greek Anthology Op. 45, The Wanderer (1923), The Reveille Op. 54,
4 Choral Songs Op. 53 - Deep in my Soul, Jerusalem, The National Anthem (arr. Elgar)

CD30 [76:55]
Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 - 5, The Dream of Gerontius Op. 38 - Prelude, Serenade in E minor Op. 20, Five Piano Improvisations, Salut d'amour Op. 12, Chanson de nuit Op. 15 No. 1
Chanson de matin Op. 15 No. 2, Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D Op. 39 No. 1 - Trio, Cockaigne (In London Town) - Concert Overture Op. 40
BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, New Symphony Orchestra, Sir Edward Elgar

 


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