Hyperion Records

Vesper Voluntaries, Op 14
composer
1890

Recordings
'Organ Dreams, Vol. 2' (CDA67146)
Organ Dreams, Vol. 2
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67146  Download currently discounted
'The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 2' (HYP20)
The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 2
HYP20  2CDs Super-budget price sampler — Deleted  
Details
Movement 1: Introduction and Andante
Movement 2: Allegro
Movement 3: Andantino
Movement 4: Allegretto piacevole
Movement 5: Poco lento
Track 8 on CDA67146 [1'51]
Track 26 on HYP20 CD1 [1'51] 2CDs Super-budget price sampler — Deleted
Movement 6: Moderato
Movement 7: Allegretto pensoso
Movement 8: Poco allegro and Coda

Vesper Voluntaries, Op 14
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Edward Elgar came into contact with the organ at an early age through his father’s duties as organist at St George’s Catholic Church, Worcester, and in his typically thorough way he taught himself to play from the tutors of Rinck and Best. In 1885 he succeeded his father in the post and it was probably during this time that he began to sketch the Vesper Voluntaries. In their final form they were one of the first fruits of his, in the event ill-fated, move to London from his beloved Worcestershire. In the autumn of 1889 he and his new and adored bride Alice moved into a house in Norwood, near the Crystal Palace. Here he could hear orchestral concerts more or less daily, an important feature in the process of his growth as a composer. It was a difficult period in his development; the eventual master of the symphony, concerto and the oratorio was just beginning to emerge from the provincial writer of salon pieces and light orchestral scores. His first major choral work, The Black Knight, was already sketched out and gently simmering inside his head, while the overture Froissart had been commissioned by the Three Choirs Festival for performance in September 1890. However, in spite of a few successes, he failed to make much headway and in 1891 the Elgars moved to Malvern, where he at last found the contentment that enabled him to blossom into the composer of the ‘Enigma Variations’ and all that was to follow.

Early in January 1890, shortly after the move to London, Elgar sold the Vesper Voluntaries to the publishers Orsborn & Tuckwood for five guineas – hardly great riches but rather more generous than the terms offered by Novello & Co. at the start of their relationship with the composer – and they appeared as Book 26 of The Vesper Voluntaries for the Organ, Harmonium, or American Organ. They are designed to be played on a two manual instrument without pedals but Elgar provided indications where they could be used if available. The latent grandness of many of the ideas makes them eminently suitable for expansion onto a larger canvas. The set comprises eight voluntaries with an introduction, an interlude between the fourth and fifth numbers and a coda; although designed to be played separately the pieces make a thoroughly satisfying continuous sequence, full of characteristic melodic and harmonic touches. The use of the same theme in the introduction, interlude and coda binds the work together and Elgar already adopts the quasi-orchestral approach to organ writing which was to be such a feature of his magnificent Sonata in G major a few years later.

from notes by Stephen Westrop © 2000

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