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For The Fallen: Elgar & Bax

CDHLL7544
£12.99

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The latest release in 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.

Previous Elgar choral releases of The Dream of Gerontius (CD HLD 7520), The Kingdom (HLD 7526) and The Apostles (CD HLD 7534) were universally acclaimed, winning numerous awards, including a Gramophone Award for each release.

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.

For The Fallen: Elgar & Bax

Reviews

The spirit of England is Elgar’s lost masterpiece, a choral work of eloquence and power that yields little or nothing to the much more celebrated Dream of Gerontius. It’s a setting for soprano, chorus and orchestra of three poems by Lawrence Binyo that are themselves as compelling as the Music. The Fallen contains lines we have all known since childhood: ‘They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old …’ A successful performance needs a dramatic soprano able to do justice to what, ironically, is a very Wagnerian solo part. And in Rachel Nicholls, an Isolde of renown, we get one. Conductor Sir Mark Eder supplies real power and momentum where he receives stalwart support from his choir and orchestra. Album of The Week, David Mellor, Mail on Sunday

In this selection of rarely performed works Elgar responds with sombre dignity in his choral triptych The Spirit of England, which includes a setting for Binyon’s “For the Fallen”, and an unusually effective piece of melodrama in A Voice in the Wilderness. Alongside, Bax’s In Memoriam commemorates those who died following the Easter rising of 1916 in Ireland – a grand elegy sympathetically performed, like each work here, by Mark Elder and the Hallé. Richard Fairman, Financial Times