Elgar Project

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1. THREE MOTETS: OFFERTORY: AVE VERUM : OP. 2 NO.1;

2. ALLELUIA VERSE: AVE MARIA GRATIA PLENA, OP. 2 NO. 2;

3. HYMN: AVE MARIS STELLA, OP. 2 NO. 3.

These three motets date from 1887, the first of them was written especially for the funeral of Elgar’s one-time employer the solicitor William Allen. It was not until 1902 and 1907 that they were revised for publication by Novello & Co. The most significant revision was to the final cadence of No.1 which was extended by six bars not only to overcome a ‘commonplace’ ending but also to allay any worries that Elgar may have had over a remark he made on the manuscript that the piece resembled Stainer’s setting of the hymn ‘Love Divine’ in The Daughter of Jairus. In each of these motets Elgar sets the texts mellifluously with secure part-writing and a certain degree of rhythmic finesse.

4. O SALUTARIS HOSTIA IN E B.

Elgar made this the first of two simple choral settings of this hymn in c. 1880, it was later published in two editions from the press of Alphonse Carey in Newbury edited by A.E. Tozer: Modern Music for Catholic Choirs (1889) and The Complete Benediction Manual (1898). Elgar dedicated the piece: ‘To my Father – with affection.’

5. HYMN TUNE IN F: DRAKE’S BROUGHTON ‘HEAR THY CHILDREN, GENTLE JESUS’.

This is dated 21st July 1878 and it acquired its name when it was published in The Westminster Hymnal in 1898. At the time of composition Elgar sketched an incomplete variation on the melody for wind quintet, but in 1930 he used it again in the first movement of The Nursery Suite.

6. HYMN TUNE IN G: ‘NOW WITH THE FAST DEPARTING LIGHT.’

The text is a translation of the Compline hymn Te lucis ante terminum by Edward Caswell set to an entirely original tune by Elgar which appeared as No.89 in the collection of hymns printed for St. George’s by Hubert Leicester.

7. HYMN TUNE IN C: ‘PRAISE YE THE LORD ON EV’RY HEIGHT.’

This is also from the Leicester collection (No.63) and there are two versions of Elgar’s tune: the present version which is dated 6th October 1878 and another in the key of D major. In 1929 he revised it for the part-song ‘Good Morrow – A simple carol for His Majesty’s happy recovery.’ to words by George Gascoigne.

8. THE TE DEUM IN F OP. 34

This was composed for the opening service of the 1897 Three Choirs Festival held in Hereford Cathedral under the direction of the dedicatee Dr. George Robertson Sinclair who considered the setting to be ‘very very modern.’

Several writers have viewed the Te Deum as one of the less successful works of Elgar’s formative period, yet it shows the gestation of a number of elements that were to become significant features of his mature style. Superficially, the structure of the Te Deum is dominated by a ritornello built on a quasi-Baroque rhythmic motif known as the figura corta (q.v. the first movement of J.S.Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G). This is worked sequentially and also in a more fragmented manner with quite fluent moments of melodic counterpoint which are characteristic of his mature style as are the dynamic rhetoric and the expressive nuances. Since the Te Deum was performed in the context of the service of Matins according to The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, Elgar paired it with a setting of The Benedictus which is not included in this recording.

9. OFFERTORY : INTENDE VOCI ORATIONIS MEAE, OP. 64.

This was composed in 1911 for the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary. Much of the texture is characteristic of Elgar’s stylistic maturity in the way that the vocal parts are often drawn from the instrumentally conceived foundation. Some writers have suggested somewhat tenuous thematic parallels with elements of the Symphony No. 2.

10. HYMN TUNE IN E B: ‘HAIL QUEEN OF HEAVEN THE OCEAN STAR.’ ATTRIB. ELGAR.

This tune is set to Hymn No.119 in the Leicester collection where it is dated ‘May 19 1878’ and stems from Henri Friedrich Hemy’s Easy Tunes for Catholic Choirs. It is possible that the mellifluous part-writing and extensive use of first inversion chords may indicate harmonisation by Elgar.

11. HYMN TUNE IN G: ‘JESUS MY LORD.’ ATTRIB. ELGAR.

This tune is set to Hymn No.159 in the Leicester collection where it is dated ‘May 20 1878’. Here again the preponderance of first inversion chords suggests that this also may have been reharmonised by Elgar.

12. HYMN: O SALUTARIS HOSTIA IN E B (ED. J.H.T.HOOKE).

This simple and largely syllabic setting of the Gregorian eucharistic hymn dates from c. 1880 and survives as an untexted two stave pencil sketch in the British Library. The verbal underlay has been completed by the editor. Although the harmonic style is based extensively on cyclic chord progressions above repeated bass notes or pedal points, a technique used extensively in Victorian hymns and part-songs, there are two distinctively Elgarian features within the first phrase: the first bar contains two consecutive diatonic dissonances, and in the fourth bar, there is a deft melodic modal inflection after an interrupted cadence in the tonic key to the chord of F minor with the third uppermost.

13. CREDO ON THEMES FROM BEETHOVEN’S SYMPHONIES 5, 7 & 9 (ED. J. OLSEN).

This assemblage dates from July 1873 in which Elgar scored a setting of the Credo Ordinary of the Mass for S.A.T.B. soli, chorus and organ using the pseudonym ‘Bernhard Pappenheim.’ It provided vital experience in the dramatic management of key relationships. For example: he begins with the Allegretto from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony transposed to F major from the original key of A minor. Then, for the most reverential central section of the text: Et incarnatus est….. he takes a plagal plunge with the Adagio of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony transposed to A b major. The Crucifuxus is set extensively to original materials which range over a wide harmonic spectrum. This is followed by an equally dramatic and harmonically appropriate gesture as he sets the triumphant Et resurrexit…. to material from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony transposed to A major from the original C major.

14. ECCE SACERDOS MAGNUS.

This motet is the Gradual proper to the Missa de Confessore Pontificale which Elgar set with professional assurance at very short notice for a visit to St. George’s by the Bishop of Birmingham on 8th October 1888 to inaugurate branches of the ‘Apostleship of Prayer ‘ and the ‘ League of the Sacred Heart ‘. The composer wrote to his Yorkshire friend Charles Buck about the occasion as follows: ‘Our Bishop has been down ….. & for the special service some special things had to be done for which we had no music… I had to set to work and compose it and copy out the parts!! Had to get it in anyhow & broke my neck doing [it].. Anyway the leading paper says, the new composition was ‘exquisite’ so I suppose ’twas good enough…’ Although it was to be Elgar’s last work for Catholic liturgical use before he left St. George’s in May 1889 a few days before his marriage, he orchestrated it in November 1893 for a performance at the church of St. Catherine of Siena in Birmingham when an extended chancel was dedicated.

15. GLORIA ON MOZART’S SONATA IN F FOR VIOLIN AND PIANOFORTE K.547.

This dates from 1880 when Elgar made a simple adaptation by replacing the violin part with a four-part choral setting of the words of the Gloria from the Ordinary of the Mass. The piano part was assigned to the organ with a few emendations.

16. ANGELUS: PART SONG OP.56 NO.1.

Dated ‘Careggi April 1909’ and dedicated to Alice Stuart Wortley this is an example of Elgar’s pan-diatonic idiom with a characteristic predominance of first inversion harmonies and occasional diatonic dissonances.

17. HYMN TUNE IN F – ‘O PERFECT LOVE’ .

This was apparently written by Elgar’s close friend and confidante Alice Stuart Wortley to Mrs. Gurney’s words in ‘ Hymns Ancient and Modern ‘. The manuscript is dated ‘June 22 1914’ and contains a few alterations in Elgar’s hand.

Christopher Kent.

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