A possibly unique and certainly unusual feature of Edward Elgar's compositional career is that in old age he raided his teenage notebooks for material, orchestrating, revising, and fleshing out what he found. Thus the Nursery Suite title and "Music to a Child's Play" subtitle do not indicate the presence of children's music, although the beautifully evocative short orchestral pieces here would be ideal for introducing classical music to children. "Music to a Child's Play" refers to the delightful The Wand of Youth; the "child's play" was an imagined but unrealized play by Elgar's siblings, directed at their parents. The pair of suites (there is no larger work from they are extracted, but they have separate moods and would be equally effective played separately or together) includes not only generally described scenes but more abstract titles. Sample the second melody in the Serenade from the first suite for a fine example of Elgar's considerable and underrated melodic gift during his early years. The Nursery Suite, premiered in 1930 and dedicated to the future Queen Elizabeth II, among others, had less specific but similarly youthful origins. The two intermezzi are short pieces from the early part of Elgar's career; the Salut d'Amour, Op. 12, was a love letter of sorts to the composer's wife. Throughout, the Hallé Orchestra, with Elgar bred in the bone, has the precision necessary to get the lightness in this music; you can hear it from the very first notes in the first Wand of Youth suite. This is underrated music, not much played outside Britain, and essential listening for anyone previously avoiding Elgar as too ponderous.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|The Wand of Youth (Music To A Child's Play): Suite No. 1, Op. 1a|
|The Wand of Youth (Music To A Child's Play): Suite No. 2, Op. 1b|