Hyperion Records

Weary wind of the west
During the 1890s Elgar wrote several accompanied part-songs, including the choral suite From the Bavarian Highlands (1895); but apart from a small part-song for The Musical Times, and As Torrents in Summer in the cantata King Olaf in 1896, Elgar did not return to unaccompanied part-songs until 1902, when he accepted a commission from the Morecambe Festival. He had been involved in musical competitions before, at Madresfield near his home at Malvern, but Morecambe was a different case altogether, generally considered the finest and certainly the largest in the country at that time. The Festival president, Canon Charles Gorton (who later advised Elgar on the librettos of The Apostles and The Kingdom) persuaded Elgar to attend the Festival and to adjudicate in some of the competitions. In October 1902 he completed a part-song, Weary Wind of the West, for use as a test-piece. On 28 December Elgar sent a copy of the new song to Arthur Johnstone, music critic of The Manchester Guardian and leading advocate of Elgar on the Morecambe executive, adding: ‘You are somewhat responsible for the enclosed. Lay it amongst your crimes. The thing is not bad perhaps and there are not many partsongmongers’ harmonies. ’Twill serve.’ And serve it did, becoming enormously popular among competition choirs. It is an absolutely perfect test-piece, starting easily, giving singers time to settle, and becoming more demanding and contrapuntal in the central section as the ‘wind’ picks up; and after the climax at ‘Came with a bound to the hill’, it declines slowly around the repeated word ‘Fell’. The opening tune returns, and then just before the end Elgar gives the sopranos a top G ppp on the word ‘all’, very difficult to execute and a real test for any choir.

from notes by Geoffrey Hodgkins 1998

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