Between them, mezzo-soprano (with contralto leanings) Kathyrn Rudge and Vasily Petrenko work wonders with Sea Pictures (1899), settings of various poets – she investing the words with much emotion and inhabiting the music with distinction and ravishing tone – ‘Where Corals Lie’ is especially touching. The Liverpool Philharmonic, tangibly captured in the recorded mix, plays with character and commitment. (No need, for once, to mention Janet Baker and John Barbirolli.)
The Music Makers (1912, inspired by Ode, 1874, from the pen of Arthur O’Shaughnessy: “We are the music makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams…”) is perhaps a Cinderella piece among Elgar’s output. Immediately following the expansive Violin Concerto and Second Symphony; maybe his inspiration doesn’t quite match those masterworks, and is weakened by self-quotations, not least from Enigma Variations and, however subtly, the above-named close-proximity predecessors. That said, this is music that only Elgar could have made and I am sure we are all sympathetic to his quotient for nostalgia. There are, to be sure, many poignant and stirring moments; whether they quite add up is another matter. Perhaps Elgar’s decision to set every syllable of O’Shaughnessy’s poem hampered his hanging the score together.
Petrenko and his RLP forces set forth with conviction, the Choir outstanding, Rudge bringing much feeling to the ‘Nimrod’ section. As for Sea Pictures, Philip Siney’s engineering captures everything vividly while remaining natural, The booklet for Onyx 4206 includes an informative note by Andrew Neill and the sung texts.