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Elgar: The Crown of India (The Crown Of India) Double CD

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis
  • Composer: Elgar
  • Audio CD (26 Oct. 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Double CD
  • Label: Chandos
  • ASIN: B002Q1LJZQ
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 77,684 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. The Crown of India, Op. 66 (With Narration)

Disc: 2

  1. The Crown of India, Op. 66
  2. Imperial March, Op. 32
  3. The Coronation March, Op. 65
  4. The Empire March

Product Description

Product Description

Chandos are delighted to present the first complete recording of the masque The Crown of India, performed here by Clare Shearer and Gerald Finley, with the BBC Philharmonic and Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. Completed by Anthony Payne in 2008 the work conveys all the pomp and pageantry with which Elgar is associated. The work is presented on 2 CDs. Disc 1 includes the entire masque with narration, whilst Disc 2 contains only the music and Marches. The set is sold at the price of one full price CD. This recording is also the first with Sir Andrew Davis, now signed exclusively to Chandos. Sir Andrew's fascination with Elgar goes deep, including taking the symphonies all over the world. He says of The Crown of India, 'He's [Payne] done a terrific job. This is from Elgar's mature period, the time of the Violin Concerto and Sospiri. There's a 'March of the Moguls' which is the only march I know in three time and an exquisite interlude with solo violin.' The elaborate pageant and theatrical presentation, The Crown of India was first staged in 1912 to celebrate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Delhi for their coronation as Emperor and Empress of India. Elgar wrote the music as his Op.66, with a libretto by Henry Hamilton. Sadly the score was only published in a piano-vocal version and the remaining orchestral parts were destroyed in the 1960s. In 2007 the Elgar Society set about a commission for Anthony Payne to complete the orchestration of the music, with the orchestral suite and marches. Sir Andrew Davis continues to be resident in Chicago, where he has been Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Lyric Opera Chicago since 2000. His association with Chandos will see him conduct the principal BBC orchestras as well as orchestras around the world.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
By the time Clare Shearer hymns "God save the Emperor" at the close of this Imperial Masque, we have been witness to a fascinating contest between Delhi and Calcutta as to who should be India's chief city. Delhi claims right by romance and history, Calcutta by commerce and innovation. Elgar's music to 'The Crown of India' (1912) has until now been known only through the orchestral suite which the composer prepared for performance at a subsequent Three Choirs Festival, the rest of the substantial orchestral material being lost when the publisher's archive was wantonly destroyed.

Under the aegis of the Elgar Society, Anthony Payne has painstakingly re-orchestrated the entire score from the published piano reduction, and it proves to be far more impressive than many people perhaps imagined. The text, extolling the glories and benefits of the British Raj, is by Henry Hamilton: the listener will need to transport themselves back to the eve of the First World War when Britain's place in an increasingly uncertain world relied heavily upon the prestige and power of her Imperial acquisitions. Taken on these terms, and with the benefit of hindsight, there is a great deal of poignancy in the piece which comes across in this superb performance.

Sir Andrew Davis takes up the baton from Vernon Handley and Richard Hickox with this first assignment for Chandos, and directs orchestra, chorus and soloists (Clare Shearer and Gerald Finley) with immense assurance. The dialogue is spoken with impeccable clarity and a real sense of drama by Barbara Marten, Deborah McAndrew and Joanne Mitchell.

Chandos have clearly put a great deal of thought into this recording. The first disc presents the Masque in its entirity, dialogue and all.
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Format: Audio CD
This version of the Crown of India has never been recorded before to my knowledge. It is a shame that it is so rarely performed in its entirety with its wonderful solos for mezzo and baritone. It has previously been recorded as a purely orchestral piece. Thanks to Sir Andrew Davis for reviving this rare gem. His very fine and moving direction brings out the best in the orchestra and singers. Gerald Finley gives a splendid performance with wonderful tone and diction. Clare Shearer is outstanding in the mezzo aria `Hail Immemorial India'. With her full bodied powerful voice she gives an epic performance of this dramatic aria sung against the full force of the big Elgar orchestra. I would love to hear a live performance.
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Format: Audio CD
This is an excellent CD - the first disc with voice and 2nd disc without voice makes its doubly enjoyable
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have got a copy which I enjoy bought this for a friend not given it her yet. The insert. Very good on my copy
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some wonderful music, awful text 15 Dec. 2009
By Aaron Z. Snyder - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Jim D, in his review (above), succinctly describes what one gets in this two-CD set (at the price of only one CD). The text is pure blather, and it's a wonder that Elgar could stomach it, especially with his mixed feelings about empires at the time. Yes, most of the best music has been available as The Crown of India Suite; however, there are some gems that didn't make it into the suite. Case in point is the March, which is as great a march as the much better known ones. This is only the second recording of the march ever, the first being a slightly abridged version recorded by Douglas Bostock on the Classico Label nearly a decade ago. No doubt Bostock's version was the one arranged for stand-alone concert performances, and which was, at the time of this masque, rather popular. Hearing it with the choral insert (orchestrated by Anthony Payne from the piano score) makes the experience of hearing it thrilling! The other gem here, also recorded by Bostock, is the song "Hail, Immemorial Ind!" This is, in essence, an orchestrated and vocalized version of Elgar's delicate piano piece "In Smyrna". As elsewhere in the masque, if one can ignore the words, the music in its orchestral garb is gorgeous.
This CD set will, of course, appeal to the Elgar completist. However, I think there is a lot contained in the set that merits exploration by those who merely admire Elgar's work.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating footnote 1 Dec. 2009
By Jim D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Although he wrote a number of songs, and the famous oratorios, Elgar did little vocal work for the stage. So this new complete version of the 'Crown of India' masque is a bonanza for fans of British music. The text is nothing great, and was slashed by the composer even as he was setting it, but he judged some of the music good enough to arrange a concert suite; the rest has disappeared till now. This recording offers the entire masque--a paean to The Empire which none but the most fervid Elgarian will play very often--and a second disc with the music cues only (also three lesser-known marches). Anthony Payne, a specialist in completing unfinished Elgar, has produced an orchestration for the movements not used in the suite. Gerald Finley speaks his one bit of verse nicely, and can make you believe every word of his grand solo. Clare Shearer, in the great tradition of British mezzos, utters lovely sounds, and makes utter mud of her words. The orchestra and chorus, under Sir Andrew Davis, perform with conviction, and the sound is fine. Not a musicological revelation, but some fun stuff.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Middling Elgar 9 April 2010
By Lawrence Kinsley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Although it is certainly pleasing after almost 80 years following Edward Elgar's death to have a premiere recording of some of his previously unrecorded music, it must be said that in this present case there is a reason for this long neglect. In fact two reasons. The first, as this presentation's program notes mention, was that the orchestral version of the work was lost, and the various settings, save for those Elgar had already extracted for an orchestral suite, had to be reconstructed and reorchestrated from the surviving piano version made by someone other than Elgar himself. The second is that, frankly, this is a rather weak version of the Pomp & Circumstances Elgar, the imperialist trumpeter who certainly knew how to present a good tune wrapped up in a snappy step, but who throughout his career aspired to, and accomplished, much deeper, nobler, and often poignant works capable of ranking him as not only England's premiere romantic composer, but one of the greats of the last phase of that movements' musical reign. (As Shaw said of Elgar's first symphony, in works like that he was `about Beethoven's business.")

The Crown of India was essentially hack work, based on an eminently forgettable libretto by a musical hall composer and writer. Elgar to his credit cut as much of the doggerel as possible, and provided several typically pleasant, even at times faintly stirring, orchestral interludes along with a few passages for soloists and chorus, all based on a pair of stage tableaux and intended for a basically music hall setting. Other than the pieces Elgar later included in the suite he made, orchestration for this disc was made by the eminent reconstructor Anthony Paine from the piano version, on the assumption that the orchestra used in the original version was larger than the ordinary music hall variety. While sounding relatively seamless with those parts originally orchestrated by Elgar himself and found in his suite, this of course creates the problem that much of what we are hearing is really an arranger's version and not the composer's. Given that the piano version did exist, though this too had not been made by Elgar, this presentation is at least more acceptable than some other `reconstructions' we have been offered lately of the composer's uncompleted work.

The highlight of the work, other than those pieces Elgar included in his suite, is unquestionably his Crown of England March, and one wonders why the composer left it out of his orchestral suite. As for the rest, there are hints of Elgar's more graceful light presentations; and some whimsical passages akin to his Falstaff composed just a year or so later - the entire work was composed in 1911, the year before his next to last, great choral work, The Music Makers (the wartime Spirit of England being the last); and some typical bombast reminiscent of his nevertheless entrancing `Land of Hope and Glory.' Alas, as has been said, and as is certainly understandable given its originations, the Crown of India hardly lived up in total to those lofty examples. The work is further marred by the female mezzo-soprano soloist, one Clare Shearer, whose voice often seems unconnected with the music and is horribly disfigured by a vibrato wobble throughout. Ms. Shearer may have had a stronger voice at one time, but how she could have been hired for this gig surpasses understanding - did she come that cheap? Frankly I can't understand why recording companies continue to hire the possessors of such anachronistic and by today's standards terribly marred voices, akin to employing a flutist who can only play trills or a pianist arpeggios. Are there not enough currently talented singers with stronger breathing techniques available?

The baritone, Gerald Finley, only adds emphasis to this serious flaw with a much more competent performance, matched by the Sheffield Philharmonic chorus. Andrew Davis gives his usual stolid conducting of the excellent BBC Philharmonic on this Chandos presentation, with the usual excellent Chandos sound recorded in 24 bit, though one would have greatly appreciated an SACD version as well. The other reviewers here have explained the inclusion of two different versions of the composition on this 2 disc for the price of one set, so I'll just include by saying that this current work is primarily recommended for the Elgar completist only.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much appealing music, but the complete version is (artistically if not historically) worthless 19 Nov. 2014
By G.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The suite from Elgar’s Crown of India is reasonably well known, and justifiably so but the complete work is never played, and this release abundantly demonstrates why. Crown of India is an “Imperial Masque” written in 1912 for King George V’s visit to Delhi to celebrate his coronation as Emperor of India, andit was performed alongside “gymnastic equilibrists, a ventriloquist, a Russian harpist, a scene from Barrie’s The Twelve Pound Look, continental mimes, with the Tannhauser Overture as interval music.” Well, that should give you some idea. The work was written as two tableaux separated by an interlude, and consists of a dozen pieces, or “scenes”. The first tableau, “The Cities of India”, has narrators representing the cities of Agra, Delhi, Calcutta and Benares, as well as St. George, backed up by a contralto, bass, chorus and orchestra. I don’t need to say much about the text, which is absolute drivel – and that is without taking a stance on the quaintly offensive imperialism embedded in the message. It is, in brief, an awful experience that I could barely manage to sit through once.

I have, in other words, no idea why anyone would want to suffer through the whole work and its narrators. But the score Elgar provided is indeed colorful and inventive, and the suite consists of an excellent series of atmospheric, colorful and appealing impressions. That said, there is little unity or overall structure to the images; it is rather a work that should be enjoyed as a series of independent miniatures with lots of individual charm and appeal. The Crown of India suite may as such not be first-rate Elgar, but if you like Elgar at all you really should give it a try. As fillers, we get three of his marches; the Imperial March is a ceremonial piece of light music, but the Coronation March is a much more serious and striking work, surprisingly variegated in terms of color, mood and atmosphere. The Empire March is a late work and not one of his greatest, but it is enjoyable enough.

In sum, this is a very worthwhile program – although the complete Crown of India can safely be dismissed, the second disc containing the suite and the marches is very fine (and the set comes for the price of a single disc). I am, however, not completely convinced by the performance. Sure, the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus and BBC Philharmonic under Andrew Davis play very well; the textures are wonderfully realized and there is plenty of color and sensitivity. The more reflective movements are accordingly beautifully done, but I also feel that there is too little energy and momentum in the faster pieces. This becomes particularly obvious in the marches, which lack swagger and energy. The sound, though, is excellent. In the end I really don’t want to come across as too negative – this is, indeed, a very worthwhile release, but I am not convinced it is a mandatory acquisition.
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