Elgar’s love of things German found expression beyond his large-scale symphonic music. Take, for example, his suite of six partsongs From the Bavarian Highlands, inspired by an 1894 holiday he and wife Alice took in the region. Wanting to evoke their happy memories of Bavarian singing, dancing (and drinking), Alice provided her husband with some suitably folkloric verse set to music. It seems appropriate, then, that the Bavarian Radio Chorus should record this attractive musical souvenir, along with a good selection of Elgar’s other secular choral music.
Howard Arman elicits warm, empathetic yet disciplined singing from his forces who obviously understand the cultural background of the music. It is a pity, however, that the sung texts are not included in the accompanying booklet. Though the chorus’s English pronunciation is sound, the poetic nature of the texts, often requiring rapid-fire delivery, together with a tendency towards soft, unvoiced consonants, make immediate comprehension challenging.
Apart from Bavarian gemütlichkeit, the chorus enthusiastically engages with the wide variety of emotions expressed in this repertoire. The male chorus shines in a stirring account of The Reveille and the vigorous opening of Five Partsongs from the Greek Anthology, while the full choral complement negotiates the impassioned but treacherous chromaticism of Go, Song of Mine courageously. Pianist Max Hanft and violinists Radoslaw Szulc and Julita Smoleń provide nuanced support as required; all three contributing to a jaunty but charming Spanish Serenade.
This Bavarian tribute to Elgar is a timely reminder that his music’s appeal reaches beyond the bounds of the former Empire with which he had such an uneasy relationship.
Works: Partsongs, From the Bavarian Highlands
Performers: Chor des Bayerishchen Rundfunks/Howard Arman
Label: BR Klassik 900522