£16 post free World-wide

 


555 sonatas 9Cds mp3 files
Only £22


 


Benjamin: Written on Skin £16

Search
What's New
Previous CDs
Concerts
Jazz
Nostalgia
Composers
Resources
Announce
Labels index


Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



CD REVIEW
RECORDING OF THE MONTH


Some items
to consider


Shostakovich 14 Petrenko


Rachmaninov #3
Prokofiev #2

 


Dunedin Consort

Peter Grimes

Hymn of Jesus: Sea Drift

Complete Mozart Edition
Mozart complete edition

Vaughan Williams Symphonies 5 & 8 £11

Weiner, Klepper, Bloch, Schulhoff £12 post free


Available again


Buy through MusicWeb for £10 postage paid World-Wide.


Musicweb Purchase button

 


Elgar: A Self-Portrait
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Overture: Froissart, op.19 [13:29]
Dream Children, op.43 [6:50]
The Music Makers, op.69 [38:41]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750), orch. Elgar
Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 537/op.86 [8:58]
Jane Irwin (mezzo)
Hallé Choir and Orchestra/Mark Elder
rec. 22-24 March 2005, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. DDD
HALLÉ CD HLL 7509 [68:24]

Experience Classicsonline

The arrival of Mark Elder in Manchester to take over the conductorship of the Hallé Orchestra has been one of the notable recent success stories of British music. And the Hallé label has been a significant element in that story, with an impressive sequence of issues dating back to 2001. This recording maintains the high standard that has been set, with a fascinating programme of music that ranges through Elgar's career, from the swashbuckling early overture 'Froissart' of 1890, via the exquisite 'Dream Children' of 1902 and the great 1912 cantata 'The Music Makers'. It concludes with the arrangement of a Bach Fantasia and Fugue that Elgar made in 1921, the year after his wife's death.

The most substantial work here is 'The Music Makers'. It is an intriguing piece, which famously quotes from a number of Elgar's earlier works - Enigma, both symphonies, the Violin Concerto, Sea Pictures and Gerontius are the main sources. Based on a visionary poem by O'Shaughnessy - later also set, interestingly, by Kodály! - it is one of the composer's hardest works to bring off, partly because of the demands it makes on choir and orchestra, but also because of its curiously episodic structure. For this reason, it is not as well represented on disc as one might expect; in addition to Elder's there are just three notable versions, chronologically by Boult, Hickox and Andrew Davis.

Boult's remains a contender, because, despite its ageing recording from 1966, it has the inestimable advantage of Janet Baker as the soloist. Hickox is nowhere near as successful; he has a fine soloist in Felicity Palmer, but he fails to make the work hang together, and the LSO Chorus is not at its best, though undoubtedly not flattered by the garish recording. Andrew Davis on Teldec fares much better, though the balance is again far from ideal.

So there was a real vacancy for an excellent modern version, and that is exactly what Elder has delivered. The orchestration, such a vital part of the work, is revealed in all its detailed glory; the Hallé Choir sing valiantly and with astonishing tonal variety; and in Jane Irwin, he has a soloist with a highly personal approach. She is direct and youthful, marking her off distinctly from Baker, Palmer and Jean Rigby (the soloist for Davis). Her voice, though not seeming particularly big, is able to carry through the big moments of the work by virtue of its perfectly focused production. She thus brings an certain brightness to a work that can sometimes seem heavy and even turgid in its textures.

But more important than all of this is Elder's grasp of the work, which is more comprehensive than any of his rivals on disc. His dramatic instinct allows him to pace the whole thing superbly, while he goes for, and achieves, really extreme dynamic contrasts. Try the almost inaudible pianissimo for 'A breath of our inspiration' (track 5) as against the massive fortissimo (track 6, 5:55) of 'The multitudes are bringing to pass the dream that was scorned yesterday' (eat your heart out Barack Obama!). Perhaps the key moment is the tingling, reckless excitement he brings to the passage that begins 'And therefore today is thrilling' - this is Elgar at his greatest, and Elder and his forces rise to the challenge magnificently.

The lesser works are treated with the same flair and sureness of touch. "Froissart' is a tribute to the age of chivalry, and, composed in 1890, is pretty well the earliest of his works to demonstrate clearly Elgar's unmistakable qualities. It has brilliant and imaginative orchestration, memorable melodies - including a particularly beautiful one for the clarinet - and a characteristic feel for harmonic colour. 'Dream Children' is a miniature for chamber orchestra in two tiny movements, based on a short story by Charles Lamb, and is a perfect foil to the more extravagant works that flank it.

And how wonderful to have a recording of the stunning arrangement of the Bach C minor Fantasia and Fugue that Elgar made when he was trying to cope with the creative paralysis that had come in the wake of Lady Elgar's death the previous year. To their enormous credit, Elder and the Hallé make no apologies for the Romantic orchestration; on the contrary, they revel in it. The recording does full justice to the harp glissandos and the rollicking brass parts, while delivering a truly grand overall sound.

If Mark Elder is indeed the most talented British conductor working today - and I have no doubt that he is - these recordings are gradually amounting to a very considerable legacy. This legacy is one of which the Hallé will, I am convinced, be as proud one day as they rightly are of that of the great Sir John Barbirolli.

Gwyn Parry-Jones


 

 

 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
CDAccord
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools




Return to Review Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.