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Elgar: Short Orchestral Works - Lloyd-Jones

Elgar: Short Orchestral Works - Lloyd-Jones

Dutton  CDLX 7354

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Elgar: Air de Ballet, Sevillaña (Scène Espagnole), Salut d’amour, 3 Bavarian Dances, Minuet, Chanson de Nuit, Chanson de Matin, Sérénade Lyrique – Mélodie, 3 Characteristic Pieces, May-Song, Canto Popolare, Pleading, Carissima, Rosemary, Mina, Falstaff

Charles Mutter (violin)
BBC Concert Orchestra
David Lloyd-Jones (conductor)

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Review by John Miller - April 13, 2018

Here is another Dutton Epoch disc (SACD Hybrid Multi-Channel format) where conductor and musical historian David Lloyd-Jones has collected and arranged chronologically Elgar’s small orchestral pieces. There are twenty such pieces/tracks, which have one type or another in their first recording:-

1. Air de Ballet – First recording (and the first small orchestral in Elgar’s set)
2. Sevillaña Op. 7 – First Recording
3. Three Characteristic Pieces Op. 10 – First modern performance and recording
4. May-Song for small orchestra – harp staves first heard in this recording
5. Canto Popolare (In the Moonlight) – 1st recording for Elgar’s own arrangement
6. Pleading - Op. 48 song. Arranged for soli instruments and small and small orchestra
7. Mina for small orchestra – Elgar adored his cairn terrier Mina and wrote a piano piece, then started an orchestral score for Mina but he was admitted to a nursing home and died in Jan 1934. Several others made completions of Elgar’s score, especially James Ainslie Murray, which was since the arrangement used, but David Lloyd-Jones has now made up Elgar’s own last arrangement, which is now first heard on this issue.
There are 2 final pieces on the SACD only, not on the CD. So the two ‘Interludes’ from Elgar’s Falstaff Op. 68 (1914) make the timing of the disc as 80:47.

David Lloyd-Jones is not only a splendid conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra in this Dutton Epoch SACD, but he writes (English only) in the booklet an extensive survey for each piece. Lloyd-Jones reports each piece’s origin and adds a host of fascinating information about its development to its final recording. For listeners this adds much understanding of Elgar’s way of making his scores, and how Elgar handled the pieces with lyrical warmth, stylistic elegance and luminous texturing.

Thirteen of the ‘small orchestra’ pieces were created before the onset of the 20th century arrived, with its insatiable demands for sheet music. Lloyd-Jones remarks that Elgar wrote a letter in 1897 saying that in one month 3,000 copies of the violin and piano violin version of ‘Salut d’ amour’ had been sold. Lloyd-Jones says that the music generated here “could be considered as representing the very essence of Elgar”. As a school-boy in Manchester, I heard all my Elgar music from John Barbirolli and the Halle Orchestra, and its essence became part of my musical life too.

The BBC Concert Orchestra and conductor David Lloyd-Jones have together produced a sound with distinct ebb and flow, and a fluidity of pulse so essential to Elgar’s style (his scores are full of extremely precise tempo fluctuations). Orchestral sound is rich and vibrant – from the heart, one might say, whether soft and sweet, tiptoeing by a baby, gloriously singing and vivid pounding rhythms – these are only a part of Elgar’s efforts to communicate with the people who listen to small orchestra entertainment.

The recordings took place in Watford Colosseum, a 1,309 seat venue in the heart of Watford, also home to the best live music and entertainment outside London. The acoustics were analysed by an acoustics company in 2009, who reported that the size and "shoebox" shape of the hall, the flat floor, and the materials used in construction, allow for pleasant reverberation and good sound quality and clarity, “such to make the hall among the best in Europe”. While the sound made by Dutton Epoch is very good in stereo, the multichannel is excellent, giving a sonic 3-D, front to back and side to side in quite a large playing area with the instrumental groups clearly depicted. Percussion instruments are clearly at the back, with a good balance and powerful, clear, deep bass. The executive producer is Michael J. Dutton and Dexter Newman the engineer.

What do you get with Dutton Epoch CDLX 7354? A complete set of Elgar’s Short Orchestra Works, including 7 of which are new in various ways, organised in historical order; David Lloyd-Jones’ fascinating detail written about each piece in the booklet (English only); BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Lloyd-Jones, providing a very fine interpretation of each piece in a grand acoustic; SACD bonus tracks of Two Interludes from Elgar’s Falstaff Op. 68 (‘Jack Falstaff, page to the Duke of Norfolk’ & ‘Gloucestershire: Shallow’s Orchard’).

This disc shows how much effort Elgar put into these short pieces, which became greatly attractive for audiences in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I’ve already made it my year’s ‘Best Record’; it could be yours

Copyright © 2018 John Miller and HRAudio.net

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Comment by breydon_music - April 22, 2018 (1 of 3)

I absolutely endorse John's comments regarding this marvellous disc and the conductor's very readable and enlightening comments in the booklet. I have had this music with me for around 50 years now on records and later CD's by Collingwood, Marriner and the young Richard Hickox. I can give no greater compliment than to say that this can hold its head high in this company. I do sometimes wonder about some of Dutton's choices for recording but this should be in anyone's collection - buy it today!

Comment by hiredfox - May 7, 2018 (2 of 3)

I agree up to a point. There are a few small but annoying technical issues with some of the orchestral playing. Other than that there is a wealth of familiar and less familiar pieces to suit most tastes ... but not all at once in one sitting. A nice recording to dip into now and again

Comment by breydon_music - May 11, 2018 (3 of 3)

Yes, you are probably right about the "dipping into". It reminded me that this sort of thing, like Strauss waltzes, was ideally suited to the LP side - about 20 minutes-ish of pure heaven and then you would put it back into its sleeve and move on to something else. Less is more!