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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67593
Recording details: July 2006
Westminster Abbey, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Summerly
Engineered by Simon Eadon & David Hinitt
Release date: February 2007
Total duration: 6 minutes 39 seconds

'The Abbey Choir … give an excellent account of themselves, the trebles especially singing with the confidence of professional musicianship and with voices in fine, generous bloom. In some of the short, quieter pieces, such as They are at rest and Ecce sacerdos magnus, they achieve a standard as near perfection as any. And Robert Quinney is a tremendous asset: an organist who puts his technical skill to imaginative use, sometimes … to vivid effect. Recorded sound is both clear and spacious, and the authoritative booklet contains some evocative period photographs' (Gramophone)

'The Westminster Abbey Choir delivers its organ-accompanied programme with beautiful tonal colour and blend' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The most impressive items are Great is the Lord and Give unto the Lord, two powerfully expressive large-scale anthems composed just before the First World War. Their texts allow Elgar to explore a wide range of choral and organ effects in the service of some vividly graphic word-painting, which Westminster Abbey Choir bring to life with obvious relish' (The Daily Telegraph)

'James O'Donnell never lets a detail pass or an effect count for nothing; likewise the Westminster Abbey Choir. Rarities, such as the Queen Alexandra Memorial Ode of 1932, receive equal care and attention … above all, this disc projects Elgarian grandeur and dignity' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Every work on the disc receives a convincing performance. James O'Donnell has chosen the tempi carefully, allowing the music enough space to breathe in the Abbey's generous acoustic whilst managing to avoid any sense of dragging. The choir sings well throughout and almost without fail produces a well-blended sound. Robert Quinney's accompaniments are colourful and exciting … highly recommended' (Cathedral Music)

'The Choir of Westminster Abbey, directed by James O'Donnell, does great service in a programme ranging from his naive early pieces for his local Catholic Church, to Coronation music and an Ode, written for the unveiling of Queen Alexandra's memorial in 1932, one of his last pieces. Beautiful singing and sound quality from Hyperion' (Liverpool Daily Post)

'These choral works can be judged as small masterpieces' (ClassicsToday.com)

Queen Alexandra Memorial Ode
First line:
So many true princesses who have gone
composer
1932; edited by Jonathan Wix with an organ part by Robert Quinney
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Written for the unveiling of the Queen Alexandra Memorial outside Marlborough House on 8 June 1932, this was the formal elegy by the Poet Laureate and Master of the King’s Musick. Elgar’s setting of Masefield’s words was scored for chorus and military band and it was heard in the open air accompanied by the band of the Welsh Guards.

For Elgar it closed an era more effectively than almost any of his other works. In 1902 he had written the Coronation Ode for Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, but it took the orchestration by Anthony Payne in 2004 to reveal how the Memorial Ode returns to the world of that piece, celebrating its final close.

Among the choristers at the unveiling was Sir David Willcocks who (in conversation with Andrew Neill) recalled the occasion:

I remember it was a fine day and we were in cassocks and surplices. I was from Westminster Abbey but the choirs taking part, if I remember rightly, were the choirs of St Paul’s Cathedral, The Chapel Royal and Westminster Abbey. We were stretched out in a semi-circle and I happened to be on the end of the row. After the performance I said to one of the St Paul’s boys: ‘Elgar seems to be looking in our direction’; and of course the chap said: ‘No, he was looking at us the whole time.’ Elgar has that all embracing gaze, and I remember feeling that I was in the presence of a great person. Of course he had great charisma.

The Ode was not published and the manuscript short score remained forgotten in the Royal Library. In 1975 when I first researched this work and was supplied a photocopy from Windsor the full score and parts could not be traced and they are still missing. One is aware that reconstructions of the original band scoring are afoot but none has yet been heard and it is good to have this performing edition by Jonathan Wix with organ accompaniment by Robert Quinney.

from notes by Lewis Foreman © 2007

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