Edward Elgar

In the South ("Alassio"), concert overture for orchestra, Op. 50

    Description by Wayne Reisig

    The British custom of retreating to Italy's sunnier climes formed the basis of Elgar's concert overture In the South. By 1904, the public was eagerly awaiting the composer's first symphony, but Elgar's self-criticism led him to put a partially completed symphony on hold. He then offered up the present work, the longest single symphonic movement he had written up to that point. In the South had grown out of a merry excursion to the Italian town of Alassio and the neighboring village Moglio. Elgar spent most of the 1904 winter working on the overture. After its premiere comparisons with Richard Strauss' Aus Italien were inevitable, but these irritated Elgar even when favorable.

    In the South paints a sunny Mediterranean postcard picture, yet is not quite as finely wrought as the Cockaigne Overture. It is fun nonetheless and shows Elgar to be a knowing hand at orchestral color. Typically, some of the musical material was of curious genesis, as will be seen. The opening theme came from an 1899 depiction of Dan the bulldog (immortalized in Enigma Variation XI) triumphant after a fight; the composer described the reoworked theme as "Joy of living (wine and macaroni)." This theme is juxtaposed with a nobilmente continuation. The second theme proper is a plaintive depiction of a shepherd grazing his flock among the ruins of an old church, the piping of his reed fulute sketched by the woodwinds. There follows a vivacious theme drawn from Elgar's delight in silly wordplay; when it was suggested that one could "roll" to and from the hillside village of Moglio, the composer toyed with the phrase "Moglio, Moglio, roglio, roglio" and applied the resulting speech rhythm to the theme. A fragment of this music yields another lively tune, which Elgar named "Fanny Moglio." The shepherd and "Fanny" themes are worked out in the development, which, in its increasing dissonances and frenetic rhythms, does suggest Strauss. The introduction of a sterner section in minor was said by Elgar to represent the conflicts and wars which peppered the Italian landscape through the ages (this puzzled Elgar's friend and reviewer Jaeger, who wondered why Italy in particular). The passage resolves back to the pastoral tune of the shepherd. Against a pedal the recapitulation commences. The sun-drenched coda features interplay of the two fragments of the opening theme and the "Fanny Moglio" theme, and, against a tympani roll, brings this agreeable travelogue to an end.

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2019
    Onyx / Onyx Classics
    ONYX 4205
    2018
    SWR Music
    SWR 19509CD
    2016
    Hyperion
    CDA 68101
    2016
    ICA Classics
    ICAC 5138
    2014
    Haenssler / Hänssler Classic
    93313
    2013
    Decca
    2013
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4791044
    2011
    Music & Arts
    CD 1257
    2011
    Exton
    EXCL00029
    2011
    Haenssler
    HAEN 93191
    2011
    Collins Classics
    RETR0007
    2011
    Regis Records
    RRC 5010
    2009
    Harmonia Mundi
    507258
    2009
    Alto
    ALC1055
    2009
    Signum UK
    168
    2009
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099996892
    2009
    EMI Classics
    2008
    Decca
    4758206
    2008
    SOMM
    73
    2007
    LPO
    16
    2007
    Rhino
    2007
    EMI Classics
    2007
    EMI Classics
    3821512
    2007
    Decca
    000894302
    2007
    Apex
    2007
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099950360
    2007
    Vista Vera
    48
    2006
    EMI Music Distribution
    52394
    2006
    Universal Classics & Jazz
    2005
    Warner Classics / Warner Music
    62199
    2005
    Regis Records
    1016
    2005
    Chandos
    5038
    2003
    EMI Classics
    2003
    Virgin
    562200
    2003
    Hallé
    7500
    2003
    Classico
    1501
    2002
    Deutsche Grammophon
    463265
    2002
    Decca
    473 249-2
    2002
    Chandos
    6652
    2001
    Testament
    1229
    2000
    BBC Music
    4401
    2000
    Virgin
    61255
    1999
    Pearl
    9951
    1999
    BBC Music
    4013
    1999
    Chandos
    8309
    1998
    Dutton Vocalion
    CDK1203
    1998
    Intersound
    2833
    1998
    Naxos
    8 553564
    1996
    ASV
    619
    1995
    London
    443856
    1994
    Sony Music Distribution
    57973
    1993
    EMI Music Distribution
    9003
    1992
    Teldec
    74888
    RCA
    60380
    EMI
    69200
    Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
    28330
    Deutsche Grammophon
    423679
    Decca
    440317
    Teldec
    18951
    Collins Records
    1269
    IMP Classics
    9121
    EMI Music Distribution
    568229
    Medici Quartet
    7001