EDWARD ELGAR (1857-1934): String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 83 (arr. string orch. David Matthews [b.1943]), Miniatures arr. for Cello and Strings: Chanson de Matin, Op. 15/2, Chanson de Nuit, Op. 15/1, The Wild Bears from Wand of Youth, Suite No. 2, Nimrod from Enigma Variations, Op. 36, Romance, Op. 62, Sospiri, Op. 70, Mazurka, Op. 10/1, Pleading, Op. 48, In Moonlght, Salut d’Amour, Op. 12, Adieu (arr. string orch. Donald Fraser [b.1947]).
Catalogue Number: 02X043
Description: Elgar's superb String Quartet is a good deal less well known than it should be, as one of the three major chamber works that he produced, along with the Cello Concerto, in a brief late flowering of his compositional muse, having been all but silenced by depression, illness, and the tragedy of the First World War up to this point, and subsiding into silence thereafter. Matthews has performed a most valuable service by enriching the textures of the work, which is quintessential Elgar; the music didn’t "need" this treatment, but so completely idiomatic is Matthews' approach that the work now sounds like a fitting companion piece to the Introduction and Allegro or the Serenade for Strings, and deserving of similar popularity. The Quartet is substantial, in three movements, and as well as its obvious relation to the Introduction and Allegro (which Matthews highlights by preserving solo string textures at several points), there are points of contact with the Cello Concerto and fleeting reminiscences of characteristic Elgarian gestures in other works including the symphonies and "Enigma" variations. Fraser's suite of eleven short pieces arranged for cello and strings is more of a novelty item, but Elgar at his most inconsequential - and none of these pieces is exactly that - still sounds like Elgar, and thus worth listening to. If nothing else it provides an opportunity to hear nicely done transcriptions of little pieces that don’t get many outings, and a useful reserve of Elgar encores for cellists after the aforementioned concerto. The pieces range from attractive standalone "light" miniatures to slightly gratuitous transcriptions of significant works like Nimrod from the Enigma variations, for those of you who like that sort of thing, but nothing is less than warm-hearted and thoroughly enjoyable. Raphael Wallfisch (cello), English String Orchestra; Kenneth Woods.