Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
This is by no means a "Best of" collection as, with all due respect, Edward Elgar (1857-1934) is not particularly remembered for his small scale choral work. The excellent notes by Alastair Sampson give us the contexts for these compositions which are drawn from across the composer's lengthy career. With this collection we can explore the great variety and range within Elgar's work for choir and voices. Along with more well-known works such as "Love" and "Deep In My Soul" there are early pieces such as "O Salutaris Hostia", composed for Elgar's small and very amateur choir in Worcester, that give hints of his later mature style, through to the 1928 piece "I Sing The Birth" - a work that shows Elgar's ability to adapt to more contemporary styles of 20th-century choral composition. The Rodolfus Choir have established themselves as one of the leading youth choirs in Britain, made up of young singers who have been chosen from past and present members of the Eton Choral Courses for prospective choral scholars. Many members of the Choir are choral scholars, some are at music college, and most hope to make a career in music. On this recording Ralph Allwood gets some lovely performances. often a cappella, and in the quieter pieces the control is marvellous to hear. Also of interest are the many and various texts that Elgar has used from the above mentioned "I sing the birth" by Ben Johnson to such well knowns as Tennyson, Byron, and Shelley. "Owls, an Epitaph" is a haunting poem by Elgar himself and we also get some Latin texts including "Ave Maria" and "Ave Maris Stella" that remind us that Elgar maintained his Roman Catholic faith at a time when it was still not quite the done thing. The repertoire is interesting, the singing excellent, the cover picture beautiful and the booklet notes informative so why not a ten square recommendation? For Elgar collectors this is an essential purchase and even if you have many of the pieces in your collection these Rodolphus versions are worth having. For the more general listener there are other and better collections, such as his 'Sacred Choral Works' on the budget Naxos label.
The opinions expressed in this article are
not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed
views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may
not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a
Interested in reviewing music? Find out