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Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Wand of Youth Suite No. 1 [21:06] (Overture [1:42]; Serenade [1:59]; Minuet [2:06]; Sun Dance [3:04]; Fairy Pipers [3:50]; Slumber Scene [4:27]; Fairies and Giants [3:31])
Wand of Youth Suite No. 2 [18:06] (March [4:58]; The Little Bells [2:45]; Moths and Butterflies [1:59]; Fountain Dance [2:49]; The Tame Bear [2:46]; Wild Bears [2:25])
Nursery Suite [25:41] (Aubade [6:06]; The Serious Doll [3:08]; Busy-ness [2:27]; The Sad Doll [1:49]; The Wagon (Passes) [1:45]; The Merry Doll [1:49; Dreaming - Envoy (coda) [8:09])
Dream Children, Op. 43* [7:51] (Andante [3:30]; Allegro [4:21])
Ulster Orchestra/Bryden Thomson
Bournemouth Sinfonietta/Norman Del Mar*
rec. Ulster Hall, 27 June 1982; Guildhall, Southampton, July 1976 (Dream Children)
CHANDOS CHAN10422X [73:17]



Elgar was drawn to the idea of the joy and innocence of childhood all his life. As a teenager he wrote a play and some accompanying music in which he portrayed an idealised world without adults - or at least, without unreformed adults! Later he returned to these sketches for the Wand of Youth suites, and for music for another work about children and childhood – the delightful and moving Starlight Express. We find the same, and similar, material cropping up in both.
 
This Chandos Classics disc is a re-release of a 1982 Bryden Thomson recording of the Wand of Youth suites and Nursery Suite. It ends, as a bonus, with Del Mar’s 1976 rendition of Dream Children.
 
The first Wand of Youth suite contains seven contrasting movements, and the second suite, six movements, ranging in mood from the tender and gentle (Serenade, Fairy Pipers, Slumber Scene and Fountain Dance) to the bold opening Overture, Fairies and Giants and fast-flowing The Little Bells and Wild Bears. The first suite was dedicated to the organist of Gloucester Cathedral – Charles Lee Williams, and the second, which followed swiftly on the heels of the first suite, to Elgar’s childhood friend, Hubert Leicester.
 
Although these works are very delicately and sympathetically performed - particularly the charming seventeen century pastiche Minuet - they are a little on the slow side. Both Slumber Scene in the first suite, and the March in the second suite are a minute shorter than Vernon Handley’s 1989 EMI recording. The Thomson versions come across as very lovingly played, but also, by comparison, a little lacking in zest.
 
The Nursery Suite was composed to celebrate the birth of the Duchess of York’s two daughters – later to become Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret. Elgar again returned to earlier sketches he had made and incorporated them into the composition. This recording is once more slightly on the slow side, particularly in comparison to Sir Charles Groves (again on EMI). It all comes across as beautifully relaxed and tender, although a little more spirit would not have gone amiss.
 
The two short orchestral pieces Dream Children are a lovely addition. They are again works suffused with nostalgia and are here performed with wonderful poignancy and a lightness of touch.
 
All works on this disc are perfectly well performed, and it makes for a delightful compilation.
 
Em Marshall
 



 


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