Elgar: Enigma Variations; Dream Children; Sonatina

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Enigma Variations; Dream Children; Sonatina
PERFORMER: Ashley Wass (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570166
For all their undeniable charm,


Elgar’s piano compositions are few

and mainly slight, often better-known

in other instrumental guises. So in

one sense Ashley Wass’s recital seems

an opportunity missed, since he omits

Elgar’s one moderately major original

piano work, the Concert Allegro, and

his most individual, In Smyrna. But

the principal focus of this disc is the

composer’s solo piano arrangement of

the Enigma Variations, and unlikely

as it might seem the music sounds

surprisingly effective in this form.

One misses, of course, the sustaining

power of strings in ‘Nimrod’, but

Wass characterizes all the variations

sharply (his tempo for ‘GRS’, the

Bulldog Dan variation, seems a mite

ponderous) and brings out all the

available keyboard colour on which

Elgar must have been relying. Nor

does his playing lack for orchestral

splendour of tone when called for, as it

is throughout the finale, for instance.

For the rest – delicacy of touch,

subtlety of pedalling, and Elgar’s melodic grace go quite far to make

Carissima, May Song, Dream

Children and the rest very palatable

as piano miniatures. This is salon

music of a very superior kind; and

the little Sonatina for the composer’s

niece Mary Grafton is a tiny gem.


Calum MacDonald