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 Label Catalog #
    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
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099996892
    2008 Decca 4758206
    2008 SOMM 73
    2007 LPO 16
    2007 Rhino
    2007 EMI Classics 3821512
    2007 EMI Classics
    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