Friday, 31 January 2014

The Music of Edward Elgar

I first met Elgar's quintet for piano and string quartet during a concert many years ago at Boxgrove Priory in Sussex (flanked by three of my four sisters). For me, it was love at first hearing and I have always found the quintet to be special ever since that evening long ago. The work, written in 1918 after the devastating Great War, positively aches with nostalgia for a vanished age – a vanished age both musically and socially. The recording by the Goldner String Quartet with Piers Lane strikes me as well-nigh ideal, with excellent tempos, good recording quality and an admirable balance with the piano centred within the quartet. Maybe Elgar's finale is not quite up to the standard of the first two movements but, then, finales rarely are.

As an Englishman living only an hour or so from Elgar Country in Worcester and Malvern, I always have the impression Elgar's music speaks to me directly, though I am not an uncritical admirer of his output. I love the violin concerto and the cello concerto. In the right mood, I love both the symphonies. The Introduction & Allegro is superb, as are the Enigma Variations and many of the short pieces Elgar wrote, especially those for violin – his instrument – and piano. The music of the Dream of Gerontius is often terrific, but I really cannot stomach the words (poem by Cardinal Newman). All those Holy Marys and Holy Spirits get on my nerves; I'd probably enjoy the work sung in Finnish or Hebrew where the text would pass me by.

No comments: