Symphony No.3 [Elgar’s sketches elaborated Anthony Payne]
So Many True Princesses Who Have Gone [Orchestrated Payne]
Pomp and Circumstance March No.6 [Completed and orchestrated Payne]
Adrian Partington Singers [Princesses]
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Recorded 1-2 July 2007 in Brangwyn Hall, Swansea
Reviewed by: Peter Joelson
Reviewed: January 2008
CD No: CHANDOS
CHSA 5057 [CD/SACD]
Duration: 70 minutes
“If I can’t complete the Third Symphony, somebody will complete it – or write a better one – in fifty or a hundred years”. Elgar then contradicted himself by saying that the work was “all bits and pieces … no one must tinker with it”. Commissioned by the BBC in 1932 with George Bernard Shaw’s support, Elgar’s Third consisted of a few pages of full score and many sketches by the time of the composer’s died in 1934. W. H. Reed included facsimiles of these in his book “Elgar as I Knew Him” (1936). With the copyright drawing to a close, the Elgar family commissioned Anthony Payne through the Elgar Will Trust to realise a completion. It is now nearly ten years since the premiere of the work was given by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sir Andrew Davis.
Many performances of Payne’s Elaboration have taken place since, and this is the fourth recording of it (the previous ones being from Andrew Davis, Paul Daniel and Colin Davis). There is no doubt that we have a composition that is a fine and effective piece, one both dramatic and moving, with startling imaginative writing and echoes of Elgarian pieces written long before, appearing as if ghosts from the past.
Richard Hickox plays the bold opening magnificently and grabs the listener’s attention, after which is heard an exquisite passage during which the second violins answer the firsts in echo; a more song-like second subject was apparently inspired by one of Elgar’s many Muses, Vera Hockman. The coda draws all the themes together effectively. The second movement, a scherzo, doffs its cap to the light music for which Elgar won acclaim. Here Hickox is suitably elfin-like and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’s wind-players shine. The theme is derived from Elgar’s incidental music to “Arthur” (1923).
“So Many True Princesses Who Have Gone” was written for the unveiling in 1932 of a statue to Queen Alexandra who had died in 1925. The original brass band parts are lost and the piece existed only in a chorus and piano version, which Payne has orchestrated and was first performed at the Aldeburgh Festival 2002 and previously recorded by David Lloyd-Jones (Dutton). It is touchingly performed here and well sung.
Elgar had intended there to be a Sixth Pomp and Circumstance March. The sketches for it were found in the library of the Royal School of Church Music and also in the British Library, together providing material to assemble and orchestrate and requiring Payne to add passages. This was first performed at the Proms in 2006 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under dedicatee Sir Andrew Davis. It follows the same structure as the other marches. If not quite up to level of the best of them, ‘No.6’ has some felicitous touches, none more so than towards the end where Payne harks back to the First March.
The SACD layer of this disc was auditioned for review. The higher resolution pays dividends in the more accurate string sound, greater dynamic range, and less tiring listening. For the most part the recording is excellent; there are a few instances where it becomes murky and some details are lost in the clouds, but it does have wonderful depth. However, the violin conversations in the first movement are not as clearly separated and effective as they are for Paul Daniel (an SACD of his Naxos version is available from Hong Kong).
Nevertheless, with excellent booklet notes by Anthony Burton, this is a handsome conclusion to Hickox’s cycle of Elgar’s ‘three’ symphonies and good to have Payne’s three Elgar pieces – so far! – on one release.