ALBUM TITLE: Elgar
WORKS: Part songs: Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands; My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land; Evening Scene etc
PERFORMER: Cambridge University Chamber Choir/ Christopher Robinson; Iain Farrington (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570541
Elgar’s part-songs – or choral-songs, as he called them – were money-spinners for his publishers, but clearly labours of love for the composer. They include such daring experiments in harmony and texture as There is Sweet Music and Owls, and one of his most personal statements in the magnificent Go, Song of Mine; and they’re all written with a wonderful ear for sonority. Under the experienced Christopher Robinson, the young singers of the Cambridge University Chamber Choir make the most of this treasure-trove, with secure pitching, clear enunciation, and a bright, well-balanced sound. In a similar selection on Chandos, Paul Spicer’s professional Finzi Singers offer a wider range of dynamics and colours, but individual voices sometimes intrude. And in song after song Robinson’s more flowing tempos enhance the expressiveness of Elgar’s eloquent lines and harmonies. While the Finzis offer a complete disc of part-songs, the Cambridge choir include the early From the Bavarian Highlands, a gloriously tuneful souvenir of idyllic German holidays. Next to Elgar’s colourful orchestral version (well-recorded by Richard Hickox on Chandos), the original piano-accompaniment can seem a bit tame. But Iain Farrington brings the part to life with great skill, and the piece has a highly enjoyable feeling of relaxed music-making among friends.