Elgar: Choral Songs, Opp. 53, 71 & 73; Five Partsongs from The Greek Anthology

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Choral Songs, Opp. 53, 71 & 73; Five Partsongs from The Greek Anthology
PERFORMER: London Symphony Chorus/Vernon Handley
This new recording, made in co-operation with the Elgar Society, supersedes that of Donald Hunt with the Worcester Cathedral Choir, also for Hyperion. The maturer voices of the London Symphony Chorus are far better suited to the sentiments of these late-Romantic works. More importantly, the greater number of voices that Elgar had in mind – he was writing mainly in pre-World War I days when large choirs were very popular throughout England – bring out not only the full power and majesty but also the subtlety of these marvellous songs. ‘Go, Song of Mine’, for instance, probably Elgar’s greatest part-song, is most beautifully sung with a really glorious ringing climax and I cannot remember hearing a finer rendition of the songs of The Greek Anthology. I was disappointed that ‘O Happy Eyes’ and ‘Love’ were omitted from the Op. 18 songs and some numbers are taken too fast, notably ‘The Reveille’ and ‘Serenade’. For the quieter, more introspective numbers, I prefer the smaller ensemble and extremely polished singing of the Finzi Singers on Chandos. The acoustic is, perhaps, a tad too big, sometimes risking clarity. Ian Lace