Elgar: The Crown of India (excerpts); A Voice in the Desert; Piano Concerto (slow movement); Polonia; The Spanish Lady Suite

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COMPOSERS: Elgar
LABELS: Classico
WORKS: The Crown of India (excerpts); A Voice in the Desert; Piano Concerto (slow movement); Polonia; The Spanish Lady Suite
PERFORMER: Margaret Fingerhut (piano), Mette Christina Østergaard (mezzo-soprano), Peter Hall (narrator); Munich SO/Douglas Bostock
CATALOGUE NO: CLASSCD 334
There’s very little vintage Elgar here – though plenty of curiosities. ‘Hail, Immemorial Ind!’ (from the ‘Imperial Masque’ Crown of India) is a rare example of Elgar with a faintly oriental accent, while Polonia shows him forging symphonic links for a chain of Polish resistance songs. The fragmentary slow movement from the Piano Concerto and the Suite from the unfinished opera The Spanish Lady will be of interest to Elgar devotees; just don’t expect revelations comparable with the Elgar-Payne Third Symphony. The real discovery here is the song ‘The Wind at Dawn’: a beautiful piece of early Elgar, which, as Lewis Foreman says in his notes, would make a very effective sixth ‘Sea Picture’ – hard to believe this is its first recording. It makes a valuable counterbalance to the pompous March from The Crown of India: Elgar the true poet rather than the Bard of Empire. The playing of the Munich SO is capable, though hardly fiery, and the Spanish Lady dances could do with a lot more panache. Mezzo-soprano Mette Christina Østergaard is more than capable, though her English pronunciation is very Danish. Recordings are clean but hard-edged – unmistakable studio sound. Stephen Johnson

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