Death on the Hills
sets a translation of some grim words by the Russian poet Maykov, concerning Death stalking a village looking for victims. In the second half of the song, the three upper parts sing ‘with a thin and somewhat veiled tone’ some repetitive lines representing the villagers. In the midst of this enter the basses, representing Death. They have not sung for seventeen bars, and their entry, although only marked mezzo forte, can be chilling if sung with the correct intensity. Although by no means the longest of Elgar’s part-songs, he told one of his friends that it was ‘one of the biggest things I have done’.
from notes by Geoffrey Hodgkins © 1998