Magazine article Gramophone

Elgar: The Wand of Youth-Suite No 1

Magazine article Gramophone

Elgar: The Wand of Youth-Suite No 1

Article excerpt

The Wand of Youth--Suite No 1, Op 1a; Suite No 2, Op 1 b. Chanson de nuit, Op 15 No 1. Nursery Suite. Salut d'amour, Op 12 Halle Orchestra / Sir Mark Elder Halle (F) CDHLL7548 (71' * DDD)

Childhood, that most enduring of Victorian inventions, played an important role in Elgar's life as a composer. We find it in the exquisite orchestral miniatures Dream Children, Op 43, which Elgar produced in 1902, the two Wand of Youth suites of 1907 and 1908, the charming children's fantasy The Starlight Express, Op 78 (1915), and the Nursery Suite (1930). Elgar's three suites, which are the principal focus of this recording, also remind us of his indebtedness to the precedent of the French orchestral suite, a form highly prevalent in the Parisian Lamoureux and Colonne concerts and famous for such composers as Bizet (especially Feux d'enfants), Saint-Saens, Massenet and Chabrier with their glittering examples of colourful orchestration.

In the Wand of Youth suites, played here with great delicacy by the Halle under Mark Elder's affectionate and careful direction, there is no shortage of orchestral invention. We also experience more unusually that curious chemistry of youthful ideas (many of them dating from the late 1860s, the 1870s and early 1880s, well before the onset of Elgar's public career) cast in the adult clothing of the mature composer. It was an impression he clearly wanted to relate by assigning 'Op 1' to both suites. Many of the simple melodies are deeply affecting--the beautiful 'Serenade', the second subject of 'The Little Bells' (which turns up in The Starlight Express), 'Fairies and Giants' and the delicious modality of 'The Tame Bears'. …

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