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Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Air de Ballet (1881) [2:40]
Sevillaña, Opus 7 (1884) [4:25]
Salut d'amour, Opus 12 (1888) [3:26]
Three Bavarian Dances, Opus 27 (1896) [12:47]
Minuet, Opus 21 [1897) [4:25]
Chanson de Nuit, Opus 15 No. 1 (1897) [4:02]
Chanson de Matin, Opus 15 No. 2 91899) [3:52]
Sérébade Lyrique (1899) [5:00]
Three Characteristic Pieces, Opus 10 (1899) [12:23]
May-Song (1901) [3:26]
Canto Popolare (1904) [4:20]
Pleading, Opus 48 (1908) [2:31]
Carissima (1913) [3:58]
Rosemary (1915) [3:17]
Mina (1932) [4:33]
SACD Bonus Tracks: Falstaff, Opus 28: Two Interludes (1913) [4:29]
BBC Concert Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
rec. Watford Colisseum, 2017
Reviewed in stereo

In common with his great contemporary Jean Sibelius, Elgar composed short 'character' pieces alongside the larger compositions such as oratorios and symphonies on which his reputation has come largely to rest. In fact these miniatures also played an important role in his development as a composer during the 1880s and 1890s, as this interesting compilation issued by Dutton readily shows.

Since Elgar is a great composer, it is likely that we can expect everything he writes to be of more than passing interest. And it is true that even the slightest among the compositions gathered here offers many subtleties: wistful turns of phrase, skilful touches of orchestration, even memorable tunes. And the BBC Concert Orchestra has much experience in performing this lighter repertoire, while the conductor David Lloyd-Jones is a notable Elgarian. All this makes for a compelling combination, that is well recorded too.

Some of this music is well known, such as Salut d'amour, the Three Bavarian Dances, Chanson de Nuit and Chanson de Matin. And the Canto Popolare, taken from the middle section of the concert overture In the South, was one of several money-spinners that Novellos encouraged the composer to arrange from that score. What is also of interest here is the inclusion of several works that are much less well known, but thoroughly rewarding. Among these are a few first recordings: the Introduction to the third of the Three Characteristic Pieces, and the beautifully tender Mina, a product of Elgar's final years, which was composed as a tribute to his much loved cairn terrier. Also new to the catalogue is the opening item on the programme, the Air de Ballet from 1881, which may well have been his earliest orchestral composition, written for the ensemble at the Powick Lunatic Asylum, where Elgar's experience of composing and arranging larger ensemble music developed in so many important respects.

These performances are nicely shaped. The various solos skilfully presented, and the recording is crisp and clear. The SACD issue includes two bonus items, the interludes from the symphonic poem Falstaff, which reveal how well the composer could integrate his charming earlier style into his more substantial masterworks.

Terry Barfoot


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