The Organ

ELGAR: Sacred music for choir and organ

Picture of Elgar CD cover with the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea directed by Ian Curror
Noel Charles, organ

Creature Music CD ELGAR 1

Readers will have learned, through Brian Hick's pieces in the February issue of The Organ and the January/February edition of Musical Opinion, of the existence of this music, the manuscripts of which were bought 'on spec' at a Bond Street auction house many years ago by the rock musician Manfred Mann. Here they are on CD, and this collection of early hymn-tunes, sacred church settings and other items is not only fascinating in itself but also of supreme importance to Elgar lovers.

For examples, the three Opus 2 pieces are recorded here complete, as is the Te Deum Opus 34 no 1 and the Offertory written for the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911, O Hearken Thou - the work is sung here, in accordance with Elgar's Catholicism, in Latin - but was sung in English at the Coronation. In addition, there are simple hymn-tunes and a setting of the Creed from 1873 - Elgar was 16 - based on themes from three Beethoven symphonies, as well as a Gloria based upon Mozart's F major Violin Sonata K547!! Also included is the relatively late part-song Angelus Opus 56 no 1.

The largest work is the Te Deum, but many will want to hear the remarkable settings of the Creed and the Gloria, both sung in Latin. This music is worth hearing, and if it may not add very much to our understanding of Elgar's genius, it certainly adds to our understanding of his artistic growth and as such is most valuable. The choir is recorded in excellent sound, and if the purist may cavil at female voices being used in Catholic sacred music - Elgar would never have had a mixed choir in mind - I was enthralled by this record which has considerable interest. The final hymn-tune O Perfect Love appears to be Elgar's version of a tune by Alice Stewart Wortley - Elgar's 'Windflower', the hidden dedicatee of the Violin Concerto, and one of the greatest loves of his life.

Robert Matthew-Walker