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Sir Edward ELGAR (1857–1934)
The Music Makers, Op.69, Ode by Arthur O’Shaughnessy for contralto solo, chorus, and orchestra (1912)1 [36:47]
The Spirit of England, Op.80, Three poems by Laurence Binyon for tenor or soprano solo, chorus, and orchestra (1915–17)2 [25:05]
- The Fourth of August [6:53]; To Women [5:51]; For the Fallen [12:21]
Dame Sarah Connolly (mezzo)1
Andrew Staples (tenor)2
BBC Symphony Chorus; BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis
rec. Watford Colosseum, 14 and 15 April 2018. DSD.
Texts included
Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from Also available in mp3, 16-bit and 24-bit surround and on SACD.

Lest we forget
Details after review
Timothy Ravalde (organ)
Chichester Cathedral Choir/Charles Harrison
rec. June 2018, Chichester Cathedral. DDD.
Texts included
Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from
SIGNUM SIGCD562 [64:53]

The Elgar recording, available from early October as a download and released on SACD in early November 2018, is Chandos’s apt contribution to the centenary celebrations of the end of World War I. Sir Andrew Davis proves the ideal interpreter of these two somewhat neglected works, though he had never conducted The Spirit of England before the concert which immediately preceded this recording. It’s usually performed by a soprano soloist, or by a combination of tenor and soprano; this appears to be the only recording with the tenor throughout.

The Signum recording spreads its net much wider to cover the theme of remembrance. What they have in common is the short extract from Elgar’s Spirit of England on Signum in the form of part of the third movement, the setting of Laurence Binyon’s well-known, though never time-worn words, ‘They shall grow not old’. Like Elgar, all the composers here were affected by WWI, some more directly.

Recorded in Chichester Cathedral, the CD is released in support of the charity Combat Stress, so many will buy it as a donation. They will not be disappointed with their purchase; the music is all worth hearing in its own right and the performances are good in a typically Anglican Cathedral way. Listening to it on a gloomy late afternoon in October not only made me think about the message of the music, it took me back over 60 years to Evensong in Blackburn Cathedral and almost as far back to Sunday evenings in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

I know that there are many who abhor the words of ‘I vow to thee my country’ – several of my friends turn almost apoplectic at hearing them, and Holst himself disliked the jingoistic way in which they came to be regarded – but they are hardly inappropriate to the theme of sacrifice and the human frailty which leads to the futility of war. If you dislike them intensely, download the album or rip the music from the CD and discard that one track. The mp3 and 16-bit lossless versions cost £7.99, the 24-bit £12; even the latter is slightly less than the price of the CD. The recording, in 24-bit format, is as unobtrusively apt as the performances and the sepia cover shot of the Sussex Territorials marching off.

No other collection matches this, but it may inspire you to investigate further, in which case both Stanford and Parry are beginning to receive the attention they deserve. I haven’t yet heard the new recording of the latter’s Songs of Farewell (1913-15) with other works by Parry from New College Choir on their own label (Novum NCR1394), but the Tenebrae recording directed by Nigel Short on Signum which includes them, with music by Elgar, Holst, Vaughan Williams, etc., is very good (SIGCD267 – review). Like the new recording, it can be downloaded, with pdf booklet, in 16-bit (£7.99) or 24-bit sound (£9) from

Another fine all-Parry recording containing the coronation anthem I was glad, the Evensong canticles, Songs of Farewell and ending with Jerusalem is now download only or on CD from the Hyperion archive service (CDA66273 – DL Roundup September 2012/2: from

Elgar himself took some time to warm to The Music Makers, though he eventually took to it. conducted it at the Three Choirs Festival in 1927 and recorded it the same year. It’s easy to spot the self-referring scissors-and-paste passages1, notably but not solely the theme and ‘Nimrod’ from the Enigma Variations and ‘Praise to the Holiest’ from The Dream of Gerontius, but they fit well enough into the context of the new work, as do the self-quotations in Spirit of England (Gerontius again).

Sarah Connolly has recorded The Music Makers before, a fine achievement in 2006 for Naxos (8.557710, with Sea Pictures review). The problem is that many (most?) of those who would be attracted to this recording will already have Janet Baker’s classic Sea Pictures (Warner 2564607600, with Cello Concerto). Baker’s own Music Makers is tied up with The Dream of Gerontius, a work with which I have never been able to come to terms (Warner 3919782, download only). The fact that it’s a coupling for Gerontius also rules out Sarah Connolly’s Chandos recording of Sea Pictures for me, however good (CHSA5140, 2 CDs: Recording of the Month – review review).

That leaves Sir Mark Elder’s Hallé recording of The Music Makers on their own label, with Jane Irwin as mezzo soloist for my comparative version, as downloaded in lossless sound, with pdf booklet, from (CDHLL7509, with Froissart, Dream Children and Bach’s BWV537 orchestrated: Recording of the Month – review). Again, I found the rest of that programme here more enticing than The Music Makers. If, however, you choose to download either the Hallé or the new Chandos, you can single out the other work(s) and leave what you don’t want, though the Chandos Spirit of England, less than half the music, costs more than half the amount.

I have to admit to finding The Spirit of England a more appealing work than the introspective Music Makers; it’s both affecting and affective, as I see Davis was surprised to discover in conducting it. There are several fine versions, from Dutton (CDLX7172, with Ivor Gurney’s War Elegy, etc. – review), Somm (SOMMCD255, with Carillon, Arthur, etc. – review review), Hallé (CDHLL7544 – review links below) and an earlier Chandos offering conducted by Sir Alexander Gibson (CHAN6574, with Coronation Ode, budget-price CD or download from with pdf booklet, no texts, for £4.99 – DL Roundup August 2012/1). There’s much to be said for all these and one of them may be your preferred version if you must have a soprano soloist – soprano and tenor in the case of the Dutton.

Of these the Dutton collection of WWI music remains my benchmark, even by comparison with Sir Mark Elder (Hallé CDHLL7544, with Une voix dans le désert, Grania and Diarmid and Bax In Memoriam review). Having streamed the Hallé for my original review, I wondered if the 24-bit download from Hyperion would cast it in a different light, especially as Michael Cookson and John Quinn rated it highly, while Jim Westhead preferred the Gibson recording, which John Quinn decries in an article posted in 2014. Never say that we don’t cover all points of view! At £7.99 for 16-bit and £9 for 24-bit, both with pdf booklet, the download from Hyperion is certainly offered at a tempting price.

I did find that the more open sound made the performance more amenable, but the new Chandos is even more to my liking as an alternative to the Dutton. I still incline towards the Dutton overall, not least for the inclusion of the only recording of Ivor Gurney’s War Elegy. (Don’t overlook Signum’s recent album A Walk with Ivor Gurney, SIGCD557: Recording of the Month – review review). There’s very little in it, however, especially if you warm to The Music Makers more than I do or prefer the all-tenor version. If you must have the very well recorded SACD or 24-bit sound, there’s no alternative, though I remain, as always, perplexed as to why the latter costs so much more than the physical disc, especially in surround sound.

Followers of Elder’s Hallé recordings and of Elgar in particular will be interested to know that his recording of the two Wand of Youth suites, Salut d’Amour, Chanson de Nuit and the Nursery Suite is slated for release at the same time in early November 2018 as the Chandos Spirit of England. (CDHLL7548 [71:16], CD, or download in mp3, 16- and 24-bit with pdf booklet from At £7.99 (16-bit) or £9 (24-bit) and with performances which, on first sampling, are idiomatic, this release competes directly with Chandos’ recording of the same three suites from the Ulster Orchestra and Bryden Thompson (CHAN10422 – review review – mid-price CD, mp3 and 16-bit lossless download with pdf booklet from

This is a good place to remind ourselves of the tremendous contribution that Chandos have made to the Elgar discography. If only we the buying public rewarded them equally with interest: a fine 1973 (ADD) recording of the suite from The Starlight Express, with Michael Austin (organ), Cynthia Glover (soprano) and John Lawrenson (baritone) and the incidental music from King Arthur, performed by the Bournemouth Sinfonietta and George Hurst, originally released on Polydor, is now download only (CHAN6582 or CHAN8428). The upside is that the recording can be downloaded from with pdf booklet for £4.99 – here or here. Hurst’s generally slow tempi will not be to all tastes, but they emphasise the wistfulness of the music, especially in King Arthur, one of the very few works Elgar wrote after his wife’s death in 1920.

The Chandos complete Starlight Express is even more recommendable (CHSA5111 – review review DL News 2012/21: Recording of the Month). Complete or as a suite, The Starlight Express (1915) speaks as much of a world irrevocably lost after World War I as does The Spirit of England, while King Arthur was another collaboration with Laurence Binyon.

In summary, then, the new Chandos will do very well for The Spirit of England, but I enjoyed The Music Makers as a work much less – through no fault of the performance. The Signum, too, offers a very fine and timely anthology of the music of remembrance in time for the centenary of the Armistice. It’s also released in support of a very worthwhile charity.

1 Itemised in detail in the booklet.

Brian Wilson

Contents (Signum)
Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)
For lo, I raise up, Op.145 [8:11]
Edgar BAINTON (1880-1956)
And I saw a new heaven [4:54]
Sir Hubert PARRY (1848-1918)
Crossing the bar: Sunset and evening star [2:51]
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Greater love hath no man [5:39]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
Three Rhapsodies, Op.17/3 in c-sharp minor [7:40]
Clement Cotterill SCHOLEFIELD (1839-1904)
St Clement [3:19]
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
We will remember them: They shall grow not old (Movement 3b of The Spirit of England, Op.80) [2:10]
Sir Hubert PARRY (1848-1918)
There is an old belief (No.4 of Songs of Farewell) [3:53]
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
Turn back, O man (No.2 of Three hymns for chorus and orchestra, Op 36a) [3:59]
Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924
Verdun (Movement 3 of Sonata No.2 ‘Eroica’) [8:30]
Peter ASTON (1938-2013)
So they gave their bodies [3:42]
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
I vow to thee, my country – Thaxted [2:54]
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Te Deum in F: We praise Thee, O God [7:11]


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