Of the big choral works by Edward Elgar, The Music Makers (1912) is the most personal one. It is a setting of the poem "Ode," by English (not Irish) poet Arthur O'Shaughnessy, beginning "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams," and coining the phrase "movers and shakers" along the way. The poem has had unusually deep resonances, having been quoted and even set by popular musicians. Elgar came up with an appropriately starry-sounding setting, underscoring his affection for the work (which he labored at for nine years) by quoting several pieces of his own earlier music in the score. Sir Andrew Davis at the baton and especially the BBC Symphony Chorus have the right creamy sound for this, and a major attraction is the presence of Dame Sarah Connolly in the mezzo-soprano part. Listen to her and the chorus dig into "Therefore today is thrilling." The album is rounded out by The Spirit of England, a wartime composition that is anything but personal. The chief virtue of the present performance is that it is apparently the only one in which the solo part is sung entirely by a tenor, although Elgar specifically named this as a possible interpretation. Perhaps both of these works are for Elgar lovers, but anyone should be able to enjoy The Music Makers and discover the poem's enduring appeal.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|The Music Makers, Op. 69. Ode by Arthur O'Shaughnessay for Contralto Solo, Chorus, and Orchestra|
Great hail! we cry to the comers / Oh men! it must ever be / You shall teach us your song's new numbers / Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers / We are the music makers
|The Spirit of England, Op. 80 for Tenor of Soprano Solo, Chorus, and Orchestra|