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Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) 'Rediscovered works for violin' Marat Bisengaliev (violin); Benjamin Frith (piano). Black Box BBM1016 [67:57]



Romance Op. 1
Chanson de matin Op. 15 No.2
Chanson de nuit Op. 15 No. 1
La Capricieuse Op. 17
Salut d'amour Op. 12
Etude-Caprice (trans/arr. W.H. Reed)
May Song
In Hammersbach (from the Bavarian Highlands No.2)
(Five) Etudes Characteristiques for solo violin Op. 24

In his youth Elgar practised hard at the violin and actually cherished ambitions of becoming a professional virtuoso. He had his first lessons with his father and by the age of nine he was sitting next to his father in the second violins in the orchestra of the Worcester Glee Club. By the age of twelve, Elgar was also a proficient violist. In 1876, when he was nineteen he began a long arduous career as a violin teacher, an occupation he hated. In 1877 he travelled to London for a series of lessons with Adolphe Pollitzer who, like Joachim, Ernst and Auer, had studied with Joseph Böhm. This twelve-day visit cost Edward £7-15-9 of which £3-12-6 was spent on the rail fare. At one lesson Pollitzer asked Elgar which study he had prepared and was astonished when Edward replied - "All of them!"

"Do you compose?" asked Pollitzer. "I try", replied the budding composer.

Thereafter Pollitzer saw whatever Elgar had with him and in due course gave him an introduction to August Manns director of the orchestra at the Crystal Palace.

Pollitzer discerned exceptional musicianship in Elgar and pleaded with him to return for a full course of lessons. Elgar did so intermittently travelling up and down from Worcester, living on two bags of nuts a day. But finally, he came to realise that his tone was not full enough to realise his ambition of becoming a soloist and so he gave up the idea and therefore the lessons.

However, during his time with Pollitzer he composed solo violin studies himself to stretch his technique. In 1878 he composed the outline of an Étude-caprice (on this disc) which W.H. 'Billy' Reed completed over sixty years later. The same year Edward wrote his five Études Characteristiques for solo violin (that conclude this programme) and dedicated them to Pollitzer. They are less melodies than exercises for the violin: crossed strings, double-stopping and difficult arpeggios etc. They present almost insurmountable technical hurdles. In fact even Yehudi Menuhin whose interest was strong enough to request a copy of the music; baulked at the idea of performing them in public. On this album virtuoso Marat Bisengaliev throws them off with seemingly effortless ease.

Bisengaliev gives relaxed and polished silken performances of these charming tuneful little works; salon pieces which must have been immensely popular around the turn of the century. In fact Schotts made a fortune out of Salut d'Amour which Edward sold to them for perhaps £5. This little gem is also included (in a rather too cool reading) together with such other well-known favourites as Chanson de matin and Chanson de nuit. La Capricieuse was once a fairly popular repertoire piece, counting Heifetz among its champions. By 1901 Elgar's reputation secured him payments of 50 guineas for pieces like the delightful May Song. Carissima, written for small orchestra in 1913, soon appeared in his own arrangement for violin and piano and it was the first Elgar work that the great man conducted in a recording studio. Late in life, in 1932, he submitted the Adieu and Serenade to publishers Keith Prowse in sketch form. The publishers commissioned arrangements for violin and piano from Joseph Szigeti no less!

Elgar often disparaged the piano but his writing for the instrument as accompaniment to these violin pieces is equally assured as Benjamin Frith's sympathetic and unobtrusive, but beautifully controlled and phrased playing demonstrates.

The packaging for this CD is excellent - tasteful design and typography on beautiful substantial white art paper. Martin Anderson's notes are authoritative and entertaining.


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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