Elgar: The Spirit of England, Op 80; A Voice in the wilderness (Une voix dans le désert), Op 77; Grania and Diarmid, Op 42; Bax: In Memoriam

Reviewed on Wed 10 May, 2017

Elgar's The Spirit of England of deeply-felt and rousing sentiments, stylistically retrospective in the first piece (‘The Fourth of August’) to The Kingdom and The Dream of Gerontius.

The Spirit of England dates from World War One. It’s of deeply-felt and rousing sentiments, stylistically retrospective in the first piece (‘The Fourth of August’) to The Kingdom and The Dream of Gerontius. Not vintage Elgar, but more than a curiosity, especially when given with the dedication that Mark Elder inspires. A Voice in the Wilderness is also from this period, using a text by the Belgian writer Cammaerts, recently issued on Hyperion; Joshua Ellicott’s English narration makes a contrast with the female French found there (with Martyn Brabbins’s magnificent Enigma Variations, reviewed by Nalen Anthoni on 4 January 2017). Arnold Bax’s In Memoriam (also on Chandos from Vernon Handley), commemorating the Easter Rising in April 1916 (London-born Bax was passionate about all things Irish), is a wonderful piece and embraces a glorious ‘big’ tune (later re-used by Bax in his score for David Lean’s Oliver Twist). Plenty to admire on this Hallé release regarding dynamic performance and recording.
–Colin Anderson