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Elgar: The Fringes Of The Fleet / Higgins, Williams, Lester, Rock, Meikle, Guildford Philharmonic

Tom Higgins, Roderick Williams, Guildford Philharmonic
Release Date: 11/09/2009 
Label:  Somm   Catalog #: 243  
Composer:  John AnsellSir Edward ElgarEdward GermanJohn Ireland,   ... 
Performer:  Duncan RockRoderick WilliamsNicholas LesterLaurence Meikle
Conductor:  Tom Higgins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



ELGAR Fringes of the Fleet 1,2,3. Inside the Bar 2,3. Big Steamers 2,3. Elegy for Strings 1. IRELAND The Soldier 1,2. Blow Out, You Bugles 1,2. GERMAN Big Steamers 1,2. Read more class="COMPOSER12">ANSELL Overtures: Plymouth Hoe; Windjammer 1. WOOD The Isles of Mountains and Glens 1. March: Elizabeth of England 1 1 Tom Higgins, cond; 1 Guilford PO; 2,3 Roderick Williams, 3 Nicholas Lester, 3 Duncan Rock, 3 Laurence Meilke, 3 Gareth John (bar) SOMM SOMMCD 243 (61:26 Text and Translation)


The major offering in this compilation of light British music is the first recording since Elgar’s own 1917 acoustic discs of his Fringes of the Fleet , a setting for four baritones and orchestra of four poems celebratory of matters nautical-military, drawn from the eponymous collection published in 1915 by Rudyard Kipling. Elgar penned the work as a morale-boosting contribution to the home front during World War I; it proved so hugely popular at its June 11, 1917, premiere that Elgar swiftly added a fifth poem from the collection, this one for four baritones a cappella , and then recorded the lot. Kipling, however, displeased that the works were being performed in popular music halls, and also possibly reacting to his son’s recent death in action, succeeded in preventing further performances. The works then languished, largely forgotten, until conductor Tom Higgins edited and produced a new edition of them in 2009.


On this CD, Higgins has added his own arrangement for a cappella baritone quartet of an Elgar setting from 1918 of an earlier Kipling poem, Big Steamers , along with arrangements for orchestra of another setting of the poem by Sir Edward German (1862–1936) and of two songs by John Ireland (1879–1962). The program is filled out with the famous Elgar Elegy and popular overtures and marches by John Ansell (1874–1948) and Haydn Wood (1882–1959). All of the orchestral pieces are deservedly staples of the British “light” music repertoire and the annual Last Night of the Proms concert, works with jaunty, spirited tunes in the fashion of the Folk Song Suite of Vaughan Williams. (Given the album theme, one wonders why Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs was not chosen for inclusion instead.) Soloist Roderick Williams, the assisting baritones, conductor, and orchestra all acquit themselves handsomely; the recorded sound is top-notch; and, miracle of miracles, texts are provided for all the poems even though this is an English-language-only CD. The booklet also includes reproductions of three photos of the world premiere performers of the Elgar Fleet songs in costume. This appears to be the only available recording of the Elgar vocal works and the Ireland and German pieces. It is self-recommending for all Elgarians and offers unabashed fun for everyone else. Warmly recommended to seafaring folk and landlubbers alike.


FANFARE: James A. Altena

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This superb disc of music from the First World War period opens with John Ansell’s Overture Plymouth Hoe. Light-hearted and jaunty, the piece draws upon popular nautical melodies, has a moving and lyrical middle section and ends with a rousing inclusion in Rule Britannia – a most appropriate and promising start to the CD.
 
The most significant work is the first fully professional recording for over ninety years of Elgar’s Fringes of the Fleet, here in a new performing edition by Tom Higgins, in which performance practices gleaned from manuscripts and Elgar’s own 1917 recording have been added to the score. The recording also includes the additional fifth song, Inside the Bar, to words by Sir Gilbert Parker - since Kipling had, for reasons likely to do with the fact that his son had gone missing in the war, withdrawn his support for the project to the extent that he actually banned further performances. It is an excellent – if at times rather genteel - performance – Roderick Williams’s rich, powerful, resonant voice suits the piece perfectly, and he is extremely well accompanied by his fellow baritones and the orchestra. Fringes of the Fleet is followed by an arrangement for four baritones (also by Tom Higgins) of Elgar’s setting of Kipling’s Big Steamers. This is a real gem – the arrangement most attractive, and the performance impressive. Higgins has also taken it upon himself to arrange Ireland’s two songs for orchestra, which are here given premiere performances. The other premiere recording on the disc is Haydn Wood’s A Manx Overture – The Isle of Mountains and Glens - a sparkling piece, played here with tremendous vivacity and spirit. Another ebullient setting of Big Steamers, this time by Elgar’s contemporary, Edward German, precedes another nautical overture by Ansell - Windjammer (19th century slang for a sailing ship). A spry and dashing piece, it again includes folk-song references, most notably and touchingly, Shenandoah.
 
Some of the works on the disc are unremarkable, but all work well in a carefully-compiled programme of both lighter and more serious war music. This version of Fringes of the Fleet is certainly a welcome addition to the catalogue – and the disc has the further benefit of including an extremely sensitive and poignant performance of Elgar’s Elegy for Strings. All in all, well worth a listen!  

-- Em Marshall, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Plymouth Hoe by John Ansell
Performer:  Duncan Rock (Baritone), Roderick Williams (Baritone), Nicholas Lester (Baritone),
Laurence Meikle (Baritone)
Conductor:  Tom Higgins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1914; England 
Notes: "Plymouth Hoe" by John Ansell is subtitled "A Nautical Overture". 
2.
The Windjammer Overture by John Ansell
Performer:  Duncan Rock (Baritone), Roderick Williams (Baritone), Nicholas Lester (Baritone),
Laurence Meikle (Baritone)
Conductor:  Tom Higgins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra
3.
The Fringes of the Fleet by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Duncan Rock (Baritone), Roderick Williams (Baritone), Nicholas Lester (Baritone),
Laurence Meikle (Baritone)
Conductor:  Tom Higgins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1917; England 
4.
Inside the Bar by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Duncan Rock (Baritone), Roderick Williams (Baritone), Nicholas Lester (Baritone),
Laurence Meikle (Baritone)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1918; England 
Notes: For 4 unaccompanied baritones. 
5.
Big steamers by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Duncan Rock (Baritone), Roderick Williams (Baritone), Nicholas Lester (Baritone),
Laurence Meikle (Baritone)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1918; England 
Notes: For 4 unaccompanied baritones. 
6.
Elegy for Strings, Op. 58 by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  Tom Higgins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1909; England 
7.
Big Steamers by Edward German
Conductor:  Tom Higgins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: England 
8.
The Soldier by John Ireland
Conductor:  Tom Higgins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
9.
Blow out you Bugles by John Ireland
Conductor:  Tom Higgins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
10.
A Manx Overture "The Isle of Mountains and Glens" by Haydn Wood
Conductor:  Tom Higgins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936 

Sound Samples

Plymouth Hoe
The Fringes of the Fleet: No. 1. The Lowestoft Boat
The Fringes of the Fleet: No. 2. Fate's Discourtesy
The Fringes of the Fleet: No. 3. Submarines
The Fringes of the Fleet: No. 4. The Sweepers
The Fringes of the Fleet: No. 5. Inside the Bar
Big Steamers (arr. T. Higgins for vocal ensemble)
2 Songs to Poems by Rupert Brooke (arr. T. Higgins for baritone and orchestra): No. 1. The soldier
2 Songs to Poems by Rupert Brooke (arr. T. Higgins for baritone and orchestra): No. 2. Blow out, you bugles
Elegy, Op. 58
A Manx Overture
Big Steamers (arr. T. Higgins for orchestra)
The Windjammer
Elizabeth of England

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