Even diehard Elgar fans are usually unfamiliar with his piano music. As Peterborough-born pianist Peter Pettinger so aptly puts it in the liner notes of his 1985 recording of Elgar's piano music: "Trying to arrive at a definitive list of original piano music, one finds oneself on a sticky wicket." And, as Pettinger himself readily admits, part of the reason "Elgar's output for piano was small [was because] he was never fond of the instrument."
Yet here nevertheless is a full disc of 15 different works for piano by Elgar played by Pettinger, one of them in both early and late versions, some of them arrangements by the composer of his works in other medium, and many of them but not necessarily the best of them originally written for the piano. Some are very youthful works, Chantant dates from his 15th year and the original version of the Sonatina from his 22nd year; a handful were written in the composer's maturity, the Concert Allegro from 1901 and In Smyrna from 1905; and only two date from his old age, a sentimental Serenade and a nostalgic Adieu both from 1932. Only the Concert Allegro and In Smyrna have much of the characteristic grandiloquence of Elgar's orchestral and choral music, and they only partially succeed in translating that splendor into pianistic terms. By far the best-known pieces here are the transcriptions of The Dream Children, and they also contain by far the best music. Poetic and poignant, they represent Elgar at his most personal and for some his most persuasive. Pettinger is an ardent advocate for the music, and he has the rare good sense to neither over play nor over interpret music that is for the most part very minor Elgar.
Chandos' early digital sound is clean and clear, but a tad dry and hollow.