Monday, 17 September 2012

Sir Mark Elder’s Elgar enters UK Classical Charts at No.4

Sir Mark Elder has always been a great Elgarian and is, of course, the Vice-President of the Elgar Society.

The excellent news is that Sir Mark and The Hallé Orchestra and Choir’s recording of The Apostles, their latest release in their Elgar cycle, has entered the UK Classical Charts at No.4.

CD HLD 7534 (2CD)
Sir Mark and the Hallé Orchestra and Choir have enjoyed great success with their previous Elgar choral recordings of The Dream of Gerontius which took an Award in 2009 and The Kingdom, which received the 2011Gramophone Award in the choral category. Sir Mark’s recording of The Kingdom was described by the Gramophone as ‘a Kingdom to stand alongside the classic Boult recording’.

It is a pity that The Dream of Gerontius has always tended to overshadow Elgar’s two great choral works since, in many ways The Apostles and The Kingdom have finer moments. Indeed, Sir Adrian Boult once heard a great friend of Elgar’s defend The Kingdom by saying to a critic of it ‘My dear boy, beside The Kingdom, Gerontius is the work of a raw amateur.’ Something of an overstatement perhaps but surely meant as a strong defence of The Kingdom.

The seed to write a choral work around the Apostles was sown right back as far as Elgar’s childhood when his teacher, Francis Reeve, at Littleton House School on the edge of Worcester, spoke about the Apostles as ordinary men that ‘…before the descent of the Holy Ghost (were) not cleverer than some of you here.’ It was very much with the image of the Apostles as ordinary men that Elgar conceived his great work. Even Judas is portrayed as misguided rather than iniquitous.
It was not until 1902 that Elgar started work on The Apostles. Initially The Apostles and The Kingdom were intended as a single work but such was the scope of his vision, and the pressures to deliver the new work in time for the 1903 Birmingham Festival, that it eventually became two works, with Part 3 of the Apostles becoming The Kingdom.  A planned third choral work, provisionally called The Last Judgment, intended to be the final part of a triptych, was never written.

The first performance of The Apostles was on 14th October 1903 at Birmingham Town Hall. Interestingly most of the players in the Festival orchestra, conducted by the composer, were members of the Hallé Orchestra.

Perhaps with such terrific advocacy as brought by Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé, these two great choral works will now get the attention and recognition they deserve.

Full details of Elgar's Apostles performed by the Hallé Orchestra and Choir can be found at this link:

All Elgar releases from the Hallé Orchestra can be found at this link:

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