For the fallen
EDWARD ELGAR (1857-1934)
The Spirit of England, Op. 80*
A Voice in the Wilderness (Une Voix dans le Désert) Op.77 +
Grania and Diarmid Op. 42^
ARNOLD BAX (1883-1953)
Sir Mark Elder, conductor
Rachel Nicholls, soprano *
Hallé Choir/Madeleine Venner, choral director *
Joshua Ellicott, narrator +
Jennifer France, soprano +
Madeleine Shaw, mezzo soprano ^
Halle CDHLL7544 @ £13.25*
The Sunday Times “Elder emphasises the elegiac melancholy of Elgar’s ostensibly “patriotic” works. The pieces may be shavings from the master’s workbench, but they enhance the conductor’s continuing Elgar edition with playing that surpasses the Hallé’s heyday under Barbirolli.”
Gramophone “[A Voice in the Desert] soprano Jennifer France is in radiant voice and narrator Joshua Ellicott’s refreshingly natural delivery of the English text most empathetic. Complete with superior production values, exhaustive booklet-notes and full texts, this stimulating collection deserves every success.”
About this recording ….
Hallé’s award winning series of recordings of works by Elgar couples his last great choral work with a fascinating collection of works which similarly remember the departed.
The largely overlooked The Spirit of England is arguably Elgar’s last great choral work. Thematically linked to The Dream of Gerontius the work sets texts from WWI poets and was premiered in sections during 1916 and 1917. In tone it is close to the melancholy of the Cello Concerto and Britten referred to its music as displaying “a personal tenderness and grief” as well as “genuine splendour”.
The melodrama (spoken words with musical accompaniment) of A Voice in the Wilderness movingly depicts the contrasting moods of the desolate and subdued Western Front by night and the soaring, aspiring lines given to a war-time Belgian peasant girl.
The remaining two works on the album present works inspired by Irish literature. Grania and Diarmid was a play based on tales of Irish mythology. Elgar’s music for the play, a story of tragic entangled love, was described by playright W.B. Yeats as “wonderful in its heroic melancholy”.
Bax’s rarely performed orchestral work In Memoriam is subtitled ‘An Irish Elegy’. It reflects the composer’s passionate interest in, and love for, Ireland, her literature and her tragic early twentieth century history – including the Easter Rising of April 1916 and the subsequent execution of some of its leaders which deeply shocked Bax. The resultant music contracts outbursts of anger with episodes featuring melody of profound sadness and lyricism.