Elgar CD review

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE REVIEWS A RARE ELGAR COLLECTION



ELGAR THE HILLS OF DREAMLAND: Rudge / Neven / BBC Concert Orchestra / Wordsworth (Somm Recordings SOMMCD 271-2) ***



This collection of orchestral songs is a mixed bag but one whose items are consistently well performed by soloists and orchestra under Barry Wordsworth. The Song Cycle Op.59 (1909) was written for a memorial concert to Elgar's friend A.E.Jaeger – the man commemorated as Nimrod in the Enigma Variations – and are obviously deeply felt and in the composer's most eloquent melancholy mode, affectingly sung by the baritone Henk Neven. The romantic song Wind at Dawn – the original 1888 piano version of which won Elgar a fiver in a competition – is a mystical romantic piece passionately delivered by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge. The tub-thumping jingoism of Follow the Colours (1914) is of historical interest only but the complete incidental music to Grania and Diarmid finds Elgar on top form. There's a bonus disc of songs with Nathalie de Montmollin (soprano) and Barry Collett (piano) that's an acquired taste – some pretty dire ditties here.

Norman Stinchcombe

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