LABELS: Channel Classics
WORKS: Complete Songs for Voice & Piano, Vol. 2
PERFORMER: Amanda Roocroft (soprano), Konrad Jarnot (baritone), Reinild Mees (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CCS SA 28610
Elgar’s songs remain a neglected area, so this second volume of a complete edition adds usefully to our knowledge. But the songs themselves often disappoint. Musically, they occupy the borderline where the drawing-room ballad meets the art song, and are often a cut above the run of the mill. But Elgar’s choice of poetry, some of it pretty awful, rarely seems to have inspired him to give of his best.
There are some exceptions. The unusual orientalisms of the 1914 Arabian Serenade would make it a fine encore piece. ‘Through the Long Days’ (1885) is not far below Brahms. But what possessed the great composer to set the dreadful text to ‘The Chariots of the Lord’ (1910), apart from a financial incentive, is unclear from his torpid setting. The King’s Way (1914) borrows the big tune from Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4 and is effective if, frankly, vulgar.
Though distinctly mixed in quality, the songs are finely done here. Konrad Jarnot mispronounces ‘angel’ as ‘angle’ at one point, but his striking baritone is always neatly and eloquently employed. Amanda Roocroft brings an equally persuasive approach to both text and notes, and accompanist Reinild Mees is excellent throughout. George Hall