Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Nursery Suite (1931) [20.49]
Mazurka, Op.10/1 [3.16]
Gavotte, Op.10/3 [3.42]
Salut d’amour, Op.12 [3.49]
Chanson de nuit, Op.15/1 [4.13]
Chanson de matin, Op.15/2 [3.16]
Dream children, Op.43 [7.59]
Sérénade lyrique (1899) [4.31]
Carissima (1914) [4.06]
May-Song (1901, orch 1928) [3.51]
Rosemary (that’s for remembrance) (1882, orch 1915) [3.58]
English Symphony Orchestra/William Boughton
rec. Great Hall, Birmingham University, 8-9 June 1995
NIMBUS NI 7029 [63.55]
This disc is a collection of miniatures, since even the Nursery Suite is basically a collection of picturesque short movements in Elgar’s lighter vein. It seems strange however that we are given only the first and third of the Op.10 set of three ‘characteristic pieces’ – as in others of Boughton’s Elgar recordings for Nimbus, the omission of the Serenade mauresque seems odd since there would have been plenty of room for it on the CD.
The date of the Nursery Suite would imply that this is the only work on this disc that belongs to the period of Elgar’s later years, but some of the material in fact dates back as far as 1878. Nevertheless much of the music really was composed in the late 1920s, and it is fascinating to find that Elgar could still conjure up the freshness and innocence of style which marked out so many of his early miniatures. Was there ever another composer who moved so easily between the realms of ‘serious’ and ‘light’ music? The most popular of the movements, The wagon passes, inspired Anthony Payne in his completion of the finale of Elgar’s Third Symphony, the original sketches for which date shortly after the completion of the suite. Was Elgar in his turn inspired in his depiction of a wagon approaching and receding by Ravel’s use of the same device in his orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an exhibition, first performed a few years earlier? Ravel’s programmatic use of the device was one of his innovations; Mussorgsky’s piano original does not suggest that the cart approaches before it recedes. It was deservedly the one piece in the Nursery Suite which became immediately popular. Boughton is nicely characterful, not only here but in the other movements too, and the final Dreaming is properly impassioned.
The other tracks in this collection range from the perhaps over-familiar - such as the Chanson de nuit, Chanson de matin and Salut d’amour - to the almost totally unknown. Boughton is extremely affecting in the second of the two little Dream children, giving a beautifully nuanced reading at a very slow speed; he is less distinctive in Chanson de matin and Salut d’amour, although his strings play with plenty of feeling and the climax of Salut d’amour is properly weighted. The Gavotte and Mazurka are lightweight pieces which Boughton dispatches somewhat briskly; he shows more feeling in Rosemary and May song, as well as in a beautifully slow and felt Chanson de nuit which concludes the disc.
This is really a very worthwhile survey of the lighter Elgar, and the performances are up there with the best. The recording is naturally resonant but has plenty of presence, and David Threasher’s booklet notes are a model of their kind.
Paul Corfield Godfrey
A very worthwhile survey of the lighter Elgar. The performances are up there with the best.