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Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Part Songs

Four Choral Songs Op.53 (1907)
There is Sweet Music [4:45]
Deep in my Soul [4:07]
O Wild West Wind [3:30]
Owls [An Epitaph] [3:17]
Scenes from the Saga of King Olaf Op.30 (1896)
As Torrents in Summer [2:18]
The Prince of Sleep (1926)[4:55]
Two Choral Songs Op.71 (1914)
The Shower [2:39]
The Fountain [3:36]
My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land Op.18 No.3 [4:31]
Death on the Hills Op. 72 (1916) [4:07]
Two Choral Songs Op.73 (1914)
Love’s Tempest [3:01]
Serenade [2:03]
Evening Scene (1905) [3:33]
Go, Song of Mine Op.57 (1909) [4:56]
Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands Op.27 (1895)
The Dance [4:03]; False Love [3:55]; Lullaby [3:33]; Aspiration [3:02]; On the Alm [3:44]; The Marksmen [6:06]
Cambridge University Chamber Choir/Christopher Robinson
Ian Farrington (piano)
rec. Jesus College Chapel, Cambridge, 29-30 July 2007
Texts in English included
NAXOS 8.570541 [75:42] 


Experience Classicsonline

I had the enjoyable experience of reviewing Christopher Robinson’s disc of Elgar’s Sacred Choral Music not so long ago (see review). There he directed the
Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge; here he’s with the Cambridge University Chamber Choir. These two Naxos discs stake out a formidable case for Robinson’s mastery of this repertory and his acutely sensitive moulding of the various choral forces under his command.

These part-songs are not so common on disc that any Elgarian would easily or willingly pass them by. Though I’ve always found them uneven in quality, at their best they offer top-drawer Elgar – unsettling, sometimes, and deeply expressive. For the record one should note that the songs from the ‘Greek Anthology’ are not here and there is only one item from Op.18. There is no direct competition inasmuch as the Finzi Singer’s collection on Chandos [CHAN 9269] doesn’t duplicate this one exactly though there is substantial overlap. On balance I would say that their disc is the more overtly expressive in terms of performance, though this Naxos traversal of the Part-Songs lacks for nothing in terms of technical precision, blending and unanimity. And the question of emotive engagement is a pretty close-run thing.

One notices the blending of voices in Deep in my Soul, the second of the Op.53 settings which is richly voiced but not over-indulgent in terms of tempo. The Op.72 setting Death on the Hills is a fine example of a general quality – not only clarity of diction but also the precision and unanimity of entries. The most spooky of these part-songs – and possibly the spookiest thing Elgar ever wrote – is Owls and this receives a comprehensively successful performance, fully alive to the more spectral and withdrawn qualities. This is a very unusual example of Elgar setting his own poetry and its vaguely Poe-like quality will intrigue those who are unfamiliar with it. 

The set of six songs that form Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands is performed with piano accompaniment and. makes for youthful, vivid listening. These are amongst the earliest settings and their verdant and eager profile make for delightful listening. Robinson shapes them with great care and surety. 

There are full texts and a good and very helpful note from Geoffrey Hodgkins. 

Jonathan Woolf 

see also Review by Tony Haywood 



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