Elgar: Sea Pictures / Sarah Connolly, Simon Wright, Et Al

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The Music Makers is the Elgarian equivalent of Bach's Magnificat: it does everything that one of the composer's choral works ought to do, but in a comparatively short span of time. So if the thought of slogging through Gerontius or The Apostles (never mind Caractacus or The Light of Life) horrifies you, but you still recognize the fact that amid the padding there's very good music waiting to be enjoyed, then The Music Makers represents the perfect pick. Granted, there's the perennial plethora of positively putrid purported poetry ("With wonderful deathless ditties," etc.), but no matter. The Bournemouth Symphony Chorus can sound unruly and ill-balanced, but not here, and Simon Wright paces the work ideally. Still a comparative rarity in the Elgar discography, this warmly engineered and vivid performance should win the piece some new friends.

Sea Pictures, Elgar's only orchestral song-cycle, is a lovely work whose history on disc can be summed up in two words: Baker/Barbirolli. It requires a soloist with a wide expressive (and dynamic) range, able to embrace the music's many moods--from the simplicity of Sea Slumber-Song, to the intimacy of In Haven, to the heroic "nobilmente" of The Swimmer. Janet Baker's beautifully focused tone and emotional sincerity continues to dominate the competition, and she even manages to make you almost forget the resemblance between the last number's refrain and "Hello Dolly"--no mean achievement. Sarah Connolly is hardly less successful. She scales down her ample voice very effectively in the gentler numbers but rides the orchestra like a Navy Seal on a mission in The Swimmer. You may find yourself fighting the urge to salute.

Wright's accompaniments are wholly sympathetic, as fine as Barbirolli's and unsurprisingly more brilliantly captured than on the old EMI release. The Bournemouth orchestra also plays very well throughout, sounding as comfortable in this music as Sir John's LSO. An excellent disc, then, particularly for those who like their Elgar in smallish doses.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8557710

  • UPC: 747313271023

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Sir Edward Elgar

  • Conductor: Simon Wright

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Sarah Connolly