Listeners unfamiliar with Edward Elgar's songs might not guess the composer on hearing them blind, for their idiom, internally quite consistent over a period of years, little resembles that of the composer's choral and orchestral standards. Roughly chronologically arranged, the songs here (this is the second volume of Elgar songs from the same performers) date back to Elgar's 15th year with The Language of Flowers (1872), which has a pleasant Mendelssohnian tune. Many of the other songs Elgar wrote during the first part of his career were intended to make a good impression at salon concerts for well-heeled music aficionados. They are harmonically unchallenging, often on fashionable Victorian and Edwardian subjects, and always closer to Schumann than to Hugo Wolf, even in some later and more personal pieces for which Elgar wrote the texts himself under the name of Pietro d'Alba (the name of his daughter's pet rabbit). The other poets include some big names (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, A.C. Swinburne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) in among some minor ones, but most of it is pleasant love poetry regardless of author. The performances are ideal, and they're enough by themselves to recommend the album to Elgar lovers. Baritone Konrad Jarnot, who is of British origin despite long residence in Germany, has diction that makes the printed texts (in English only, although this is a Dutch release) unnecessary, and both he and soprano Amanda Roocroft maintain an appealingly light, almost conversational tone and focus on Elgar's melodies rather than trying to put depths into these songs that aren't there. The intimate but perfectly clear sound is another very strong point, as is the detailed booklet essay by Lewis Foreman, also only given in English.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim