ELGAR: Violin Concerto / Cockaigne Overture

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Edward Elgar (1857 - 1934)

Violin Concerto, Op. 61

Overture: Cockaigne (In London Town), Op. 40
The image of Sir Edward Elgar as an Edwardian gentleman,happier at the race-course or with his dogs than in the concert hall or with musicians issadly deceptive. Popularly associated with the heyday of British imperialism, through hisall too well known Pomp and Circumstance marches and other occasional celebrations ofEmpire that have lasted less well, he has seemed the musical epitome of a period inBritish history that it has become fashionable to decry. The picture is a false one. InEdwardian terms Elgar was a counter-jumper, a man of relatively humble origins, son of ajobbing musician who kept a shop in Worcester, and later the husband of an imprudent ifwell connected spinster, the daughter of a Major-General in the Indian Army and nine yearshis senior. As a Catholic in a largely Protestant and strongly prejudiced community, hemust seem very much less of an Establishment figure, whatever mask he may have chosen toassume as his fame grew.

Initial recognition was slow in coming. In 1890 the Elgarsmoved to London, but the following year retreated again to the West Country, taking ahouse at Malvern, allowing Elgar to return to his earlier activities as a provincialmusician, enjoying a merely local reputation. During the last decade of the century heturned his attention largely to the writing of choral works, designed for the flourishingchoral societies of his native region and of the North of England. It was the EnigmaVariations, completed in 1899, that first established his fame in London and, therefore,nationally. The oratorio The Dream of Gerontius,which followed in 1900, was less successful at its first performance in Birmingham and thepublishers, Novello, were not particularly generous in their treatment of him, although hecame to rely on the encouragement of the German-born Augustus Johannes Jaeger, a readerfor the firm, who found in Elgar's music something much more akin to the music of his ownnative country.

The concert overture Cockaigne

was written in 1901, an evocation of London, a connotation of the title explained in anadded parenthesis, In London Town. Cockaigne, Elgar noted, was traditionally a land of alldelights, but also was identified with London and its suburbs, the supposed origin of theword Cockney to describe a native Londoner. The principal theme came to him during a visitto the Guildhall in the City of London, and this theme provided the germ of the wholework, with its second subject "lovers' theme" and a passing military band. Theoverture was dedicated to "my many friends the members of British orchestras".

At the end of the score Elgar wrote words from a favourite poem of his, the medieval PiersPlowman: "Metelees and moneless on Malverne hulles", a reflection of thematerial conditions in which he and his wife were forced to exist. Cockaigne was not offered to Novello, who had provedunhelpful in publishing scores of the oratorios, but was published by Boosey's.

By 1910, the year of the ViolinConcerto, circumstances had changed. Gerontius had become an established partof English choral repertoire: there had been honorary degrees from major universities, aknighthood in 1904, the oratorios The Apostles and The Kingdom, and in 1908 the first ofhis two symphonies. Expectation ran high when the Philharmonic Society commissioned a newviolin concerto. The work was completed in time for its triumphant first performance atthe Queen's Hall in November 1910. It was dedicated to Fritz Kreisler, the soloist on thisoccasion, and inscribed, cryptically, with the words Aqui esta encerrada el alma de…..,the inscription found on a poet's tomb in the picaresque novel Gil Bias by Lesage. This isgenerally supposed to be a reference to Alice Stuart-Wortley, Elgar's acknowledgedinspiration for the work, his Windflower, an affectionate nick-name that distinguished herfrom his wife Alice. Although Elgar himself was a violinist, he relied for technicalassistance on W.H. Reed, the young leader of the London Symphony Orchestra, who playedthrough the work with the composer at the first private hearing in Gloucester, beforeKreisler, a soloist at the Gloucester Festival, offered his own private performance of thework.

The concerto opens with a highly characteristic first theme, inits orchestral exposition, moving forward to themes identified with the Windflower. Thesoloist enters, introducing a second exposition, a reworking of the first material,developed in the central section of the movement, which relies at first on the firstsubject, before turning to the Windflower second subject, now played maestoso. The firstsubject opening figure is played in descending sequence by the soloist in introducing therecapitulation of this sonata-form movement.

The slow movement, the part of the concerto that Elgar wrotefirst, moves from the key of B minor to B flat major. Here the solo violin adds its ownelement to the ingenuous first theme announced by the orchestra, which also proposes themodal second theme, shifting in key to a mysterious D flat major in music of wonderfullyricism.

The final Allegro molto opens with an introduction of ominousexcitement, leading, after ornamental brilliance from the soloist, to the announcement ofthe first theme, echoed and developed by the soloist. The gently romantic second subject,marked cantabile e vibrato, is introduced by the soloist and this thematic material, andthat of the introduction to the movement, re-appear, as the music is developed, leading toan initially accompanied cadenza, into which the orchestra softly intrudes in conclusion.

The final section of the movement echoes the introduction, culminating in a version of theprincipal theme, in violin triple stopping and marked nobilmente, a favourite direction inElgar's music, bringing to an affirmative end a major addition to the violin repertoire, aconcerto that goes far beyond any merely insular tradition.

Dong Suk-Kang

Hailed for his artistry, virtuosity and charismatic presence onstage, the Korean violinist Dong-Suk Kang enjoys an international career as a soloist withmajor orchestras, at festivals and in solo recital. He first came to the attention of theconcert-going public when he won both the San Francisco Symphony Competition and theMerriweather Post Competition in Washington, D.C., and subsequently went on to winimportant prizes in several international competitions, among them the Montreal, the CarlFlesch in London and the Queen Elizabeth in Brussels.

The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Katowice(PNRSO)

The Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra of Katowice(PRNSO) was founded in 1945, soon after the end of the World War II, by the eminent Polishconductor Witold Rowicki. The PRNSO replaced the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra which hadexisted from 1934 to 1939 in Warsaw, under the direction of another outstanding artist,Grzegorz Fitelberg. In 1947 Grzegroz Fitelberg returned to Poland and became artisticdirector of the PRNSO. He was followed by a series of distinguished Polish conductors -Jan Krenz, Bohdan Wodiezko, Kazimierz Kord, Tadeusz Strugala, Jerzy Maksymiuk, StanislawWislocki and, since 1983, Antoni Wit. The orchestra has appeared with conductors andsoloists of the greatest distinction and has recorded for Polskie Nagrania, Etevna and NVCThorofon Schallplatten.

Adrian Leaper Adrian Leaper was appointed Assistant Conductorto Stanislaw Skrowaczewski of the Halle Orchestra in 1986, and has since then enjoyed anincreasingly busy caree
Item number 8550489
Barcode 4891030504899
Release date 12/01/1999
Category Romantic
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Kang, Dong-Suk
Kang, Dong-Suk
Composers Elgar, Edward
Elgar, Edward
Conductors Leaper, Adrian
Leaper, Adrian
Orchestras Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
Producers Jankowska, Beata
Jankowska, Beata
Disc: 1
Cockaigne (In London Town) Overture
1 Allegro
2 Andante
3 Allegro molto
4 Cockaigne (In London Town) Overture
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