Robert Walker’s performing realisation of Elgar’s Piano Concerto from the composer’s sketches, drafts and recordings, performed by David Owen Norris and the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by David Lloyd-Jones, is accompanied by a supporting programme of Elgarian arrangements and revivals featuring the BBC Singers.
Alongside the Third Symphony Elgar was also sketching his Piano Concerto. Elgar actually began his Piano Concerto in 1913, twenty-one years before his death. While we can never know just how he would have put this Concerto together, we do know WHAT he would have put in it. What was needed was someone with the insight to see how it could fit together to make a great piece. To do this takes a musician of considerable knowledge and discrimination and it is good to be able to welcome composer Robert Walker’s performing edition of Elgar’s Concerto. This has been developed through several performances over a number of years, in association with the pianist David Owen Norris, who plays it here. Walker knows Elgar so well that they sound exactly like the real thing.
Until now, all we had heard of the Piano Concerto was a version of the slow movement. Robert Walker’s realisation of the third movement uses Elgar’s shorter and more tantalising sketches to flesh out a recorded improvisation by Elgar himself, a brilliant Rondo. This splendidly Elgarian concerto allows us to hear Elgar’s themes in a convincing setting. It’s as close as we can come to hearing how Elgar himself might have brought it to a conclusion.
The supporting programme is full of rewarding surprises, featuring the revival of conductor Anthony Collins’s heartfelt Elegy for Edward Elgar, based on a theme from the slow movement of Elgar’s Third Symphony, and itself a remarkable connection with the language of late Elgar. (Collins knew Elgar at first hand, having played viola in the LSO on many occasions under the composer’s baton.) Three choral works, in which the BBC Singers join the programme, include the world première recording of Anthony Payne’s strikingly idiomatic orchestration of Elgar’s music for the unveiling of the Queen Alexandra Memorial outside Marlborough House, ‘So Many True Princesses’, dating from 1932. They also sing ‘Immortal Legions’ from the 1924 music for Pageant of Empire and the enchanting Spanish Serenade (‘Stars of the summer night’).
The programme is completed by Haydn Wood’s idiomatic orchestrations of four Elgar songs – as affecting orchestral miniatures – and a final delightful arrangement, Henry Geehl’s orchestration of Elgar’s late piano piece, Adieu, which Elgar himself approved. Of the seven works recorded, four are world première recordings and four are presented for the first time in stereo.
A milestone CD for all Elgarians.
“What’s not in question, is the dashing conviction exhibited by David Owen Norris, who enjoys splendid backing from the BBC Concert Orchestra under David Lloyd-Jones.”
“Excellent Abbey Road sound and balance enhance the attractions of a bold release, which inquisitive readers should certainly try and sample for themselves.”
Andrew Achenbach, The Gramophone, May 2005
“The recording quality is outstanding ... This is an important record, which all Elgarians will wish to hear, and I commend it with enthusiasm.”
Robert Matthew-Walker, International Record Review, March 2005
Sir Edward Elgar/Robert Walker
World premiere recording
Sir Edward Elgar
Suite of Four Edward Elgar Songs (orch. Haydn Wood):
Rondel, Queen Mary’s Song, The Shepherd’s Song, Like to the Damask Rose
Adieu (Orch. Henry Geehl)
So Many True Princesses (Orch. Anthony Payne)
Stars of the Summer Night
The Immortal Legions (from ‘Pageant of Empire’)
Anthony Collins Elegy in Memory of Edward Elgar
BBC Singers & BBC Concert Orchestra
David Lloyd-Jones (conductor)
David Owen Norris (piano)
Recorded at Studio No.1, Abbey Road, London
18-19 October 2004