Performers: Roland Wood bar, Orchestra of Opera North, Huddersfield Choral Society/Martyn Brabbins
Catalogue Number: Hyperion CDA68254
In this world of Brexit disarray, Elgar’s 1898 setting of a rather jingoistic text about the conquering of the Druid king Caractacus by the Romans takes on an ironic character to say the least. Imperialist sentiments aside, Elgar’s score shows a deepening of the creative vein that would lead to his Enigma Variations, while lacking the mastery of dramatic pace and melodic inspiration of The Dream of Gerontius.
Nonetheless, it is a pity that apart from the Imperial March, the rest of Caractacus is hardly known, for it contains much that is appealing. Scene III opens with a charming “woodland interlude” and also has a rapturous love duet between Eigen, the king’s daughter and Orbin, her betrothed.
Martyn Brabbins delivers a persuasive Caractacus with committed singing and playing from his forces. Roland Wood (whose attractive baritone is perfect for the title role) and Alastair Miles as Claudius are worthy successors to Robert Tear and Peter Glossop in Sir Charles Groves’ insightful 1977 recording.
Elgan Llyˆr Thomas brings clarity and ardour to the role of Orbin while Elizabeth Llewellyn sings Eigen with a wide, romantic tone that at times borders on the over-exuberant. The scale and colour of this historical pageant are well captured by the Hyperion engineers. Elgar lovers should not miss this significant release.