Martyn Brabbins / Elizabeth Llewellyn / Alastair Miles / Christopher Purves / Elgan Llyr Thomas / Roland Wood

Elgar: Caractacus

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Edward Elgar was a classic late bloomer, and the expansive Caractacus, somewhere between a cantata and an oratorio, counts as an early work even though it was premiered when the composer was 32. It has not often been recorded. Caractacus was a British chief, of the Catuvellauni tribe, who in the first century C.E. carried out guerrilla warfare against the invading Roman legions. Captured and turned over to the Romans by a nearby queen into whose realm he had fled, he was sentenced to death in Rome but persuaded the emperor Claudius to let him live. The story has the virtues and faults you would expect, with a rather tedious libretto among the latter. The big picture is that the work, performed at the Leeds Choral Festival in 1898 and thus rendered here with a sense of familiarity by the Huddersfield Choral Society and the Orchestra of Opera North under Martyn Brabbins, appeared just before Elgar scored his breakthrough with The Enigma Variations. His youthful enthusiasm for Wagner is still there, but he is showing strong signs of adapting it to a language of his own. Among these signs is a profusion of pastoral material (sample the forest music at the beginning of Scene III), pleasantly rendered here. Brabbins gets the most out of a strong cast of singers including baritone Roland Wood, rising to the imposing title role. Recommended for Elgar enthusiasts.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Caractacus Op. 35
1 05:50
2 05:51
3 02:32
4 02:35
5 02:45
6 02:56
7 04:27
8 02:24
9 07:08
10 04:45
11 03:22
12 01:50
13 01:08
14 03:32
15 01:32
16 05:18

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Caractacus Op. 35
1 02:24
2 02:11
3 02:09
4 04:11
5 03:51
6 07:03
7 01:10
8 04:45
9 00:35
10 02:32
11 02:25
12 04:50
blue highlight denotes track pick