Bavarian Dances; Three Characteristic Pieces, Op. 10; Salut d’amour, etc.
BBC Concert Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
Dutton Epoch CDLX 7354 (hybrid CD/ SACD) 80:47 mins
Today Elgar’s reputation rests almost entirely on his large-scale works. But in his own time there would have been many who happily whistled Salut d’amour who’d probably never have thought of devoting an hour to one of Elgar’s symphonies. Discs like this remind you why: Elgar had a genius (that really is the word) for charming, melodically irresistible miniatures. These are a long way from hackwork or cynical money-spinners; it’s clear Elgar believed in them and put his heart into them, and huge numbers of his fellow-Edwardians responded gratefully.
Alongside Salut d’amour are old parlour favourites Chanson de Nuit and Chanson de Matin, but also far less well known sweetmeats such as the Three Characteristic Pieces (with the final Gavotte’s brief introduction here recorded for the first time) and the exquisite Mina, a tribute to Elgar’s beloved cairn terrier, which turns out to be the last thing he completed (in piano score). Fascinating, too, to hear the Canto Popolaire, surgically extracted from the much larger In the South Overture but not sounding in the least like a ‘bleeding chunk’. And as an appetiser we have the premiere recording of Air de Ballet, probably Elgar’s first orchestral work, composed for a musical entertainment at the Powick Lunatic Asylum, where Elgar worked and had some valuable practical lessons in orchestration. It’s no masterpiece, but the fresh tunefulness is utterly characteristic, and David Lloyd-Jones treats it with the same respect and loving attention as he does everything else on this thoroughly enjoyable disc.