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Elgar: The Banner of St. George Import


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Audio CD, Import, 1987
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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: EMI Records
  • Run Time: 59 minutes
  • ASIN: B000IYTJTQ
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,305,077 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews

1-2. The Banner of St. George, Op. 33, Scenes 1, 2 and Epilogue~~~3. Great is The Lord-Psalm 48~~~4. Te Deum~~~5. Benedictus.

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Elgar did indeed write plenty of first-rate music before leaping to fame with the Enigma Variations in 1900; Caractacus and the organ sonata are obvious cases in point. The Banner of St. George (from 1897) is not really among them; yes, it is a solid work displaying first-rate craftsmanship and some good ideas, but it is still some distance away from his later masterpieces. Any committed Elgarian will need to have it, of course, but although there is plenty to enjoy I suspect that this is a work of mostly special interest. Now, it was composed as a celebratory work for Victoria's diamond jubilee and the music does indeed suffer from stretches of slightly off-setting, empty patriotism, but it is really only in the epilogue that Elgar steps over the line. There are some good melodies and the gentler pastoral episodes are very fine, superbly scored and very atmospheric.

The Te Deum and Benedictus dates from the same year and inhabits the same jubilatory mode. Its opening in particular is extremely effective, rhythmically powerful, brilliantly scored and quite exciting; it is a downward turn from there, of course, but it is a work still worth hearing. Elgar's later setting of Great is the Lord is the best work on the disc, even though I am not sure it counts as an unqualified masterpiece either. The performances are pretty good - Hickox was a first-rate Elgarian of course, and he draws committed playing from the London symphony Chorus and the Northern Sinfonia; a little rough around the edges at times, and even Hickox cannot really make a convincing case for the weaker parts of these works. The woolly, distanced, claustrophobic sound is a substantial drawback, but this disc still deserves a modest recommendation (there are other versions of the shorter works out there that I haven't heard, but they simply have to have better sound than this) - don't expect another Gerontius or even a Caractacus, however.
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