27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
A beautiful recording of an under-rated work,
This review is from: Elgar The Kingdom Op.51 (Audio CD)
Elgar's Kingdom is often damned with faint praise by critics- and occasionally just damned. It's a very different work from The Dream of Gerontius- slower, stately and psychologically understated. In terms of plot, a cursory glance might suggest that very little actually happens apart from the fiery descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples and a brief healing of a lame man. After that, Peter and John get arrested, they escape, and have dinner. And that's it- no astounding visions of heaven, no demons, just lots of devout meditation. It starts in a nondescript upper room with communal prayers, and ends with the same people praying together.
No wonder people can find it preachy and stodgy; in some ways, it's the last gasp of the Victorian oratorio tradition exemplified by the dubious delights of John Stainer's "Crucifixion" and Maunder's "Olivet to Calvary". But that's perfect for Elgar's message: the Kingdom is all about little miracles, and the effects that they have on ordinary people. The previously tongue-tied Peter gains eloquence; a lame man leaps up and walks (and scuttles off in a wonderful bit of orchestral colour), the disciples find joy in their eating together and common life. The more episodic, chorus-by-chorus structure brings out the message that the Kingdom of God usually grows by unexpected little events, not by vast flashes and revelations. It's a slightly unconventional message- but Elgar's flickering reliious faith was unconventional even while it lasted.
In this recording, the Halle orchestra play with resplendent rich tone; the soloists, while not quite as starry as in the Halle's Dream of Gerontius, acquit themselves admirably. Special mention to soprano Claire Rutter for her gorgeous aria "The Sun Goeth Down"- a classic example of the intensely meditative tone of Elgar's Kingdom- and Iain Paterson as Peter. I'll leave it to others to comment on the Halle Choir's contribution due to a personal interest. The sound is excellent, especially at the orchestral climaxes- and one would never believe it was a live recording, as the coughers in the audience are remarkbly well behaved!
In short, this is a beautiful and lovingly committed and recording of a much-underrated piece.
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Initial post: 12 Oct 2011 11:26:22 BDT
An excellent review of Elder's fine performance of The Kingdom, Mr. Price. Unfortunately, however, the Stainer and Maunder comparisons you offer are a bit misleading - they are so-called 'Cathedral' works for chorus and organ only, and hardly representative of the far greater forces of chorus, soloists and orchestra Elgar wrote for. Nor I think does 'Victorian' really identify Elgar's 'oratorios;' they were if anything post-Victorian in their unique combination of 'nobilimente' combined with a poignant, not quite fulfilled yearning that characterized so many of his works.
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