4 étoiles Classica
This album in Hallé’s series of recordings of works by Elgar couples his last great choral work, the largely overlooked The Spirit of England, with a fascinating collection of works which similarly remember the departed. 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 “personal tenderness and grief” as well as “genuine splendour”. Next, Elgar’s melodrama A Voice in the Wilderness movingly depicts the contrasting moods of the desolate and subdued Western Front by night and the soaring, aspiring lines by Belgian poet Emile Cammaerts, in the original English translation offered by the poet’s own English wife. Narration alternates with lines sung by the soprano voice, hence the term « melodrama ». 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 who, though English-born, spent most of his adult life in Ireland. The resultant music contrasts angry outbursts with more mellow episodes featuring melody of profound sadness and lyricism.