ELGAR: THE HILLS OF DREAMLAND – ORCHESTRAL SONGS: BBC CONCERT ORCH (2CD)
Barry Wordsworth, BBC Concert Orchestra, Henk Neven, Kathryn Rudge, Nathalie de Montmollin
The Hills of Dreamland takes its title from a line in Elgar’s well-known setting, beautifully still and beseeching, of Arthur L Salmon’s Pleading. Historically the least regarded part of Elgar’s output, his songs contain a treasure-trove of vocal gems and here receive performances of insight, imagination and emotional directness.
The Op.59 Song Cycle is an exemplary case in point, by turns quietly radiant, touchingly nostalgic and achingly melancholic. Two settings of poems by Elgar’s wife – the richly orchestrated The Wind at Dawn and celebratory The King’s Way (which borrows a tune from his Fourth Pomp and Circumstance March) – show Elgar at his most evocative and ebullient.
Sombre and powerful, The Pipes of Pan boasts colourful imagery and driving rhythmic energy, The River and The Torch wholly Elgarian in their wonderful sonorities.
A first recording of the orchestral version of the marching song Follow the Colours shows Elgar at his most patriotic.
The complete incidental music for a 1901 staging of WB Yeats’ Grania and Diarmid offers a rare opportunity to experience the full gamut of Elgar’s moving and dramatic evocation of a timeless tale of love in the ancient Irish myth.
A Bonus Disc of recordings made under the auspices of the Elgar Society showcases soprano Nathalie de Montmollin and pianist Barry Collett in a collection of piano-accompanied songs. It includes first recordings of the piano version of ‘Winter’ from The Mill Wheel (with its churning left-hand patterns and a text by the composer’s wife) and the world-weary tread of Muleteer’s Serenade, setting words from Cervantes’ Don Quixote.
Song Cycle, Op. 59
1. Oh, soft was the song (No. 3)
2. Was it some golden star? (No. 5)
3. Twilight (No. 6)
4. The Wind at Dawn
5. The Pipes of Pan
Two Songs, Op. 60
1. The Torch (No. 1)
2. The River (No. 2)
Pleading, Op. 48
Follow the Colours: Marching Song for Soldiers
The King’s Way
Incidental Music to Grania & Diarmid
1. Incidental Music
2. Funeral March
3. Song: There are seven that pull the thread
CD 2 – Elgar Society Bonus CD
Like to the Damask Rose
The Shepherd’s Song
Dry those fair, those crystal eyes
The Mill Wheel: Winter
As I laye a-thynkynge
Queen Mary’s Song
In the Dawn