Music we've been missing (Part 7): Elgar
England and America have everything in common, Oscar Wilde observed, except the language. He could have excepted the music, too, at least the classical stuff. I think we hear way too little music by British composers, old and new, in our concert halls.
I've already lobbied in this humble blog for a dash of Finzi, and now I'd like to make a pitch for Elgar. Sure, we get the occasional (and ever-welcome) "Enigma" Variations. And the sublime concertos receive attention periodically. But that still leaves too much of Elgar's music absent from local programs.
The Baltimore Symphony did give us the Symphony No. 1 some years ago (James Judd led the authoritative performance), but I'd say it's high time for the majestic No. 2. If that seems too risky, box office-wise (for reasons that escape me, some folks find Elgar's symphonies boring), what on earth is preventing the programming of something as bright, brilliant and just plain entertaining as the "Cockaigne" Overture?
Then there's the ultimate in Elgar euphoria --
"The Dream of Gerontius." No, I don't really expect the BSO to tackle this heady oratorio anytime soon, but I can't abandon The Dream of Tim -- I picture myself luxuriating at Meyerhoff Hall someday in this combination of high theological discourse and noble music. (Given Baltimore's historic relation to Catholicism, I would think there'd be great local interest in a work based on a poem by Cardinal Newman about a journey to heaven. Of course, like all great art, the oratorio canm speak to listeners of any -- or no -- faith.)
I hope Elgar fans out there will let me know what other works of his we should be hearing. For those fans, and for anyone who has yet to fall under the composer's spell, I offer these excerpts from the Second Symphony, "Cockaigne" and "Gerontius":