Mark Elder / Hallé Orchestra

Elgar, Bax: For the Fallen

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This group of live recordings by the Hallé Orchestra delivers neglected pieces by Edward Elgar, along with Arnold Bax's orchestral requiem In Memoriam. That work, unperformed until 1998, pertained not directly to World War I but to the Irish Easter uprising of 1916, and Elgar's Grania and Diarmid, Op. 42, composed in 1901, consists of incidental music for a play co-written by William Butler Yeats. The heft of the program comes at the beginning, in a pair of works that capture a moment when artists realized that the Great War would bring calamity. The Spirit of England, Op. 80, is a three-part cantata whose lack of renown may be due to its potboiler title. In fact, it is a somber, elevated work composed over several years by Elgar as the war deepened (and his own sympathy for Germany disappeared), and finally premiered in full in 1917. There are echoes of The Dream of Gerontius in the work, but sample "To Women", which has a consoling quality unusual in Elgar's work. In places he approaches Impressionist harmonies. A Voice in the Wilderness, Op. 77, is a melodrama, a setting of a spoken text by Belgian poet Emile Cammaerts that evoked the devastation wrought by German troops on the small kingdom at the beginning of the war. Released in 2017, this album is an unusual entry in the group of releases commemorating the centenary of the war, and the performances could not be more idiomatic. The Hallé Choir is as mighty as could be desired, and it is balanced by a group of fine younger Wagnerian soloists.

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