Magazine article Gramophone

Elgar: Piano Quintet

Magazine article Gramophone

Elgar: Piano Quintet

Article excerpt

Elgar Piano Quintet, Op 84 (a). Sea Pictures, Op 37 (b) (both orch Donald Fraser) (b) Rodolfus Choir; (b) English Chamber Orchestra; (a) English Symphony Orchestra / Kenneth Woods Avie (F) AV2362 (60' * DDD)

It's a brave soul who decides to reorchestrate Sea Pictures, one of Elgar's most miraculously scored, ineffably touching and entrancingly interwoven achievements. This arrangement by British-born and now Illinois-based Donald Fraser (b1947) employs SATB choir, backed by a string quartet and full string section (following the example of Elgar's Introduction and Allegro). For all the sterling efforts of the ECO and Ralph Allwood's marvellous Rodolfus Choir under Kenneth Woods's sympathetic lead, I do miss a personal dimension--that directness of communication, intimacy and vulnerability that a Janet Baker or Sarah Connolly can bring to the texts--to say nothing of the myriad flecks of detail and dappled chiaroscuro that illuminate Elgar's original canvas.

I'm altogether more taken with Fraser's scoring of the Piano Quintet, which was sparked by an encounter with Peter Donohoe's imposingly 'orchestral' alliance with the Maggini Quartet (Naxos, 9/97; for what it's worth, I'd bestow a similar epithet upon John Bingham's contagiously combustible and thrillingly majestic partnership with the Medici Quartet--Meridian, 6/86). …

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