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Edward William Elgar (1857-1934)

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Elgar: Caractacus & Severn Suite

Elgar: Caractacus & Severn Suite


Elgar:

Caractacus, Op. 35

Judith Howarth (soprano), Arthur Davies (tenor), David Wilson-Johnson (baritone), Alastair Miles (bass) & Stephen Roberts (bass)

Severn Suite, Op. 87


Re-issued from a 1992 recording, when Richard Hickox was Associate Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, this Elgar’s Caractacus has much to offer.

The piece itself, which Elgar composed for the 1898 Leeds Festival, exudes his power of invention and luminous skills at orchestration, foreshadowing his next project, the masterful ‘Enigma’ Variations.

A Gramophone review affirmed that ‘There can be nothing but praise for Richard Hickox’s fluent, sensitive direction and the enthusiastic, full-blooded backcloth provided by the LSO. Bouquets, too, for the London Symphony Chorus whose terrific unanimity of attack, sensitivity to dynamics and wonderfully true intonation are something to marvel at. In the title-role David Wilson-Johnson makes a nobly sonorous showing, a pure-toned Judith Howarth is touchingly vulnerable as Caractacus’s daughter, Eigen, and Arthur Davies sings with unaffected sincerity in the part of Orbin, her minstrel lover. A typically ripe, wide-ranging Chandos recording into the bargain.’

“The fine 1992 Richard Hickox recording (coupled with Severn Suite) is a welcome reissue. As Michael Kennedy says, the pastoral scenes are truly Elgarian.” Sunday Times, 28th August 2016

“Another classic Hickox recording from the early ‘90s; an uneven work, but well worth hearing when done as brilliantly as this.” MusicWeb International, 2nd November 2016

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Chandos 241 - The Hickox Legacy - CHAN241-58

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Elgar: Cello Concerto

Elgar: Cello Concerto


Elgar:

Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85

Paul Watkins (cello)

Introduction & Allegro for strings, Op. 47

Elegy for strings, Op. 58

Pomp and Circumstance Marches Nos. 1-5, Op. 39


Paul Watkins is the cello soloist in a recording that showcases some of Elgar’s most popular works. He is accompanied by the BBC Philharmonic and Sir Andrew Davis, a conductor steeped in the English music tradition.

Elgar studied the violin from a young age, and had some early hopes of making a career as a soloist. Consequently, he wrote for the strings of the orchestra with a special understanding and flair, not least in a handful of works for strings alone. The showpiece among these is the Introduction and Allegro, written in 1904, for the newly formed London Symphony Orchestra to be included in an all-Elgar concert. The premiere performance was conducted by the composer.

Elgar started writing his Pomp and Circumstance Marches in 1901 in the wake of his national successes with the Enigma Variations and The Dream of Gerontius. The Marches vary considerably in mood. The First March gained worldwide fame largely due to the trio melody, which Elgar considered ‘a tune that comes once in a lifetime’, and the Second displays a certain air of urgency with its brazen horn calls and jaunty trio. Also on this disc is Elgar’s intimate and restrained Elegy for Strings.

The Cello Concerto in E minor, written in 1918 – 19, was the last major work Elgar completed. Its mood is often described as ‘autumnal’, and highly reflective of the ageing composer’s own state of mind. At the time of writing it, Elgar was concerned about the failing health of his wife and about his own waning popularity; he was deeply disturbed, too, by the horrors of the First World War. Paul Watkins writes of his experience of recording this work: ‘It is a privilege to have the opportunity to add my voice to the many different interpretations of this iconic work. I prepared for this recording by using my experience as a conductor: in other words, to study Elgar’s masterful score as deeply as possible, and to realise how intimately the solo cello is linked to the orchestra throughout. In this respect I feel fortunate to have been working with Sir Andrew Davis. He is the most natural and intelligent interpreter of Elgar I know.’

“Poetic pianissimos, abrupt explosions, finely tapered phrases: each of Watkins’s expressive details immediately reach the listener...There’s also perfect rapport between soloist, conductor and orchestra. Watkins’s ten years of conducting experience comes into play here...time and again the ear is moved and beguiled by Watkins’s quiet ache or varied colours or the orchestra’s sheen and fleet panache.” The Times, 6th April 2012 ****

“Watkins' account seems the best to have appeared on disc for years. It has intensity, presence and warmth, which never topples over into sentimentality, and Davis and the BBC Philharmonic accompany with panache; the exchanges in the scherzo are wonderfully deft. The rest of disc is equally fine.” The Guardian, 5th April 2012 *****

“Watkins writes in the booklet that he found it “daunting” to record Elgar’s Cello Concerto...but he rises superbly to the challenge. His playing — of exceptional beauty, refinement and technical address — is all the more remarkable given that he is no longer a full-time soloist.... With Davis, one of the most experienced of all Elgarians, as his conductor, this is a valedictory account of the composer’s last important orchestral work” Sunday Times, 22nd April 2012

“Watkins plays with consummate artistry, his golden-toned and technically flawless contribution striking a judicious balance between classical poise and unexaggerated depth of feeling...Durable rewards guaranteed, then, and the same certainly holds true for Davis's dashingly articulate, meticulously observant and superbly musical handling [of the Marches]...for the two main offerings alone every Elgarian should investigate this release” Gramophone Magazine, July 2012

“there are times when a recording of a popular classic comes along that's so fresh, understanding and heartfelt that it demands to be approached solely on its own terms. Paul Watkins's Elgar Cello Concerto is firmly in that class. Watkins's emotional shading is individual, without it ever sounding as though he's trying to be individual.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2012 ****

“Paul Watkins is a sensitive soloist, and he and Davis clearly have a special rapport...The BBC Philharmonic strings are richly full-blooded and rhythmically taught in the Introduction and Allegro. There is a wonderful ebb and flow to the lighter passages, which radiate warmth and geniality” Graham Rogers, bbc.co.uk, 25th July 2012

“Davis, an Elgarian of perception, understands the smallest implications in the light but beautiful orchestration, ideal accompaniment to the cello. Watkins is watchful of the detail in the heartfelt opening statement...Watkins and Davis give [the finale]...a distinct dryness of utterance. Much falls into place with this approach” International Record Review, May 2012

“Watkins does so much more than just play the tunes. His range of colour and expression is tremendous, and the instrument he uses he describes in the booklet as having a “combination of burnished woody timbres and a plangent expressivity, reminiscent perhaps of an English tenor voice.”..With stunning recorded sound, what more could one ask.” MusicWeb International, June 2012

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2012

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Elgar: Cello Concerto and Falstaff

Elgar: Cello Concerto and Falstaff


Elgar:

Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85

Ralph Kirshbaum (cello)

Falstaff - Symphonic Study in C minor, Op. 68


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Chandos Collect - CHAN6607

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Elgar - Complete Works for Wind Quintet

Elgar - Complete Works for Wind Quintet


Elgar:

Harmony Music No. 1

Harmony Music No. 2

Harmony Music No. 3

Harmony Music No. 4

Harmony Music No. 5

Intermezzos

Adagio cantabile ‘Mrs Winslow's Soothing Syrup'

Andante con variazioni ‘Evesham Andante'

Six Promenades

Four Dances


Athena Ensemble

“Elgar was a slow developer, and these pieces written in his youth are hardly prophetic - but they're craftsmanlike, charming and fun. This pioneering recording stands up well.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2006 ****

“The pieces are treated to a bright and lively performance” Penguin Guide

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Chandos 241 - CHAN241-33

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Elgar: Coronation Ode & The Spirit of England

Elgar: Coronation Ode & The Spirit of England


Elgar:

Coronation Ode, Op. 44

The Spirit of England, Op. 80


“Gibson's performances combine fire and panache, and the recorded sound has an ideal Elgarian expansiveness, the choral tone rich and well focused, the orchestral brass given plenty of weight.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

“Soprano Teresa Cahill leads an excellent quartet of soloists in this recording of the Coronation Ode, and Sir Alexander Gibson draws pleasingly bold and brassy playing from the Scottish National Orchestra. The final movement, with its famous setting of Land of Hope and Glory, is especially satisfying here.” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, May 2014

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Chandos Collect - CHAN6574

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Elgar: Enigma Variations, Op. 36, etc.

Elgar:

Enigma Variations, Op. 36

Pomp and Circumstance Marches Nos. 1-5, Op. 39

Chanson de Matin, Op. 15 No. 2

Chanson de Nuit, Op. 15 No. 1

Sérénade lyrique

Salut d'amour, Op. 12

Dream Children, Op. 43

Contrasts, Op. 10 No. 3

Soliloquy for Oboe and Orchestra

(orch. Gordon Jacob)

Woodland Interlude from Caractacus

Two Interludes from Falstaff

Bavarian Dances (3)

Sospiri, Op. 70

Minuet from Beau Brummel

Burlesco from The Spanish Lady

Adieu

Starlight Express - Waltz

Sursum corda, Op. 11


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Chandos 241 - CHAN241-4

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Elgar: Enigma Variations, The Sanguine Fan, Froissart Overture

Elgar: Enigma Variations, The Sanguine Fan, Froissart Overture


Elgar:

The Sanguine Fan, Op. 81

Grania and Diarmid, Op. 42 - Incidental Music

Froissart Overture, Op. 19

Enigma Variations, Op. 36


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Elgar: From the Bavarian Highlands

Elgar: From the Bavarian Highlands


Elgar:

Scenes (6) from the Bavarian Highlands, Op. 27

O Salutaris Hostia

(three versions)

Tantum Ergo

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus

The Light of Life, Op. 29 'Lux Christi': Doubt not thy Father’s care

Light of the World


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Elgar: King Olaf

Elgar: King Olaf


Elgar:

Scenes from the Saga of King Olaf

Emily Birsan (soprano), Barry Banks (tenor), Alan Opie (baritone)

The Banner of St George


Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Bergen Philharmonic Choir, Collegium Musicum Choir, Edvard Grieg Kor, Sir Andrew Davis

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

After having recorded Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius (‘Recording of the Month’ in BBC Music), Sir Andrew Davis now turns to two of the composer’s most popular early choral works: Scenes from the Saga of King Olaf and The Banner of Saint George. The recording was made soon after a successful performance, featuring the same ‘excellent Bergen Philharmonic’ and ‘outstanding’ vocal forces: the ‘imposing’ baritone Alan Opie, the ‘high, incisive tenor’ Barry Banks, singing ‘fearlessly in some quite challenging passages’, and the American soprano Emily Birsan, who sang ‘with radiant delicacy’ (The Daily Telegraph).

Dating from his years of ‘apprenticeship’, the two works shaped Elgar’s reputation as a leading orchestrator and most popular British composer of his time. The secular cantata Scenes from the Saga of King Olaf derives from Longfellow’s epic poem about Olaf Tryggvason, who became King of Norway in 995. While the text was heavily adapted and augmented, the use of sophisticated compositional techniques, such as extensive motivic work, resulted in music of great power and solemnity.

The ballad The Banner of Saint George is based on the story of Saint George of Cappadocia, as related by the Bristol poet Shapcott Wensley. It was commissioned by Britain’s leading publisher, Novello, and composed in only one month in 1896. Elgar overcame the prescriptive nature of the words and produced a work of lasting charm, the music rising above the material to create atmosphere, momentum, and colour.

“The Bergen orchestra plays with a keen ear for colour and dramatic flux, and the chorus...makes the narrative live and breathe in suppleness, expressive sensitivity and lusty power...three fine soloists...carry the story with great distinction, subtlety and immediacy of impact.” The Telegraph, 8th February 2015 ****

“King Olaf has been recorded in full once before, in the 1980s...Fine though that version is, Davis’s is better: it has a dramatic sweep and concern for detail that you don’t get from Handley. The Bergen orchestra and choir play and sing Elgar as though it were part of their regular repertoire, while the soloists...all cope well with what is sometimes strenuous vocal writing.” The Guardian, 5th February 2015 ****

“King Olaf is a folk-tale narrative about the Norwegian Olaf Tryggvason, in the tradition of Mahler’s Das Klagende Lied or Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, and it is splendidly performed by Davis’s Bergen forces. The soloists, Emily Birsan, Barry Banks and Alan Opie, all make positive contributions.” Sunday Times, 15th February 2015

“What a nice idea it was to have a Norwegian choir and orchestra performing English music about a Norse hero...The combined Norwegian choirs sing very well indeed in both works…[and] the Bergen Philharmonic plays with verve and distinction. Sir Andrew Davis…is just the man for these assignments.” MusicWeb International, February 2015

“I suppose it's appropriate that this Norse legend should be recorded by the Bergen Philharmonic, and under the expert guidance of ardent Elgarian Andrew Davis, they and the combined Norwegian choirs seem effortlessly at home with Elgar's music...if you're a fan of Elgar but haven't yet explored some of the choral works that are somewhat off the beaten track, then this is an ideal disc, with enthusiastically engaging performances from everyone.” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, 26th January 2015

“there's nothing stilted about Elgar's music: it crackles with confident vitality...the Norwegian choruses respond with crisp vigour and superb English diction, only faintly (and appropriately) Scandinavian-tinged. Davis's expansive conducting and the excellent Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra bring out Elgar's vivid orchestral textures” BBC Music Magazine, April 2015 *****

“It is good to have such a fine and experienced Elgarian as Andrew Davis to conduct this performance with the benefit of hindsight, as it were, recognising Elgar's emergent greatness from long experience of where it was to lead him. Davis can fasten upon the glimpses of genius and relish them, while also understanding what there is of value when Elgar is still resting upon the more conventional manner out of which he was formed.” International Record Review, May 2015

“the combined Norwegian choirs sing in faultless English, while Davis leads the Bergen Symphony Orchestra with unerring sensitivity and nuanced conducting” Choir & Organ, May 2015 *****

Presto Disc of the Week

26th January 2015

Presto Discs of 2015

Finalist

BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song Choice - April 2015

Super Audio CD

Format:

Hybrid Multi-channel

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Elgar - Music for Violin & Piano

Elgar - Music for Violin & Piano


Elgar:

Violin Sonata in E minor, Op. 82

Offertoire, Op. 11

Sursum corda, Op. 11

Salut d'amour, Op. 12

Mot d'Amour Op. 13 No. 1

Chanson de Matin, Op. 15 No. 2

Chanson de Nuit, Op. 15 No. 1

La Capricieuse, Op. 17

Canto Popolare (In Moonlight)

Sospiri, Op. 70


Lydia Mordkovitch (violin) & Julian Milford (piano)

“Mordkovitch here transformed the elusive Elgar Violin Sonata. In rapt and concentrated playing she gives it new mystery, with the subtlest pointing and shading down to whispered pianissimos.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

Penguin Guide

Rosette Winner

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Chandos - CHAN9624

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