CD Reviews | CTD (Briefly Noted) | JFL (Dip Your Ears) | DVD Reviews


Briefly Noted: Elgar's 'Caractacus'

available at Amazon
E. Elgar, Caractacus, E. Llewellyn, E. Llŷr Thomas, R. Wood, C. Purves, A. Miles, Orchestra of Opera North, Huddersfield Choral Society, M. Brabbins

(released on March 29, 2019)
Hyperion CDA68254 | 96'17"
Edward Elgar came to wider public attention with the premiere of the Enigma Variations. Leading up to that piece was a series of choral works, mostly about episodes drawn from medieval and ancient history. The last of them was Caractacus, the heroic British chieftain who resisted the Roman conquest of the British Isles. Ultimately, he was captured and taken as a prisoner to Rome, where an eloquent final speech convinced the emperor to lighten his sentence from execution to life imprisonment.

A personal connection brought the subject to Elgar's mind, as first his mother and then Elgar himself stayed for a time near the Malvern Hills, where local legend held that Caractacus had made his last stand. The music is of varied quality, with some embarrassing bombast in the patriotic final scene, not least because of the homespun poetry of the composer's neighbor, Henry Arbuthnot Acworth. The best parts are the colorful orchestration of the druid scenes, especially the picturesque "Woodland Interlude" leading into the third scene.

This performance, led by Martyn Brabbins with the Huddersfield Choral Society, is perhaps not ideal, as some of the vocal soloists sound a little strained. At over half the price of its only real competition, the re-released recording led by Richard Hickox, this is a lovely way to explore the lesser-known Elgar back catalog.


jfl said...

Isn't there also Charles Groves' EMI recording?

Charles T. Downey said...

But not widely available? Maybe just in the U.S. not sure.