Elgar from the Abbey—what could be more fitting? From the regal opulence of Great is the Lord, first performed in Westminster Abbey in 1912, to the quiet devotion of the opus 2 Ave verum and Ave Maria, this varied programme is the perfect guide through Elgar’s rich choral output.
Performances on this new recording are astounding, as James O’Donnell guides the men and boys of Westminster Abbey through the grandiloquence and tenderness of this seminal music. The full gamut of Elgar’s career—from son of provincial instrument dealer to ‘composer laureate’—is represented and at every turn these performers offer new insights into the performing possibilities of these all-too-often-hackneyed works. There is also a rare performance of the long-forgotten Queen Alexandra Memorial Ode—a fitting tribute by Poet Laureate (John Masefield) and Master of the King’s Musick (Elgar) to Edward VII’s much-lamented consort.
Performances by The Choir of Westminster Abbey, under the direction of James O’Donnell and with the sympathetic organ accompaniment of Robert Quinney, are every bit as good as their previous Hyperion recordings would lead us to expect.