Notes and Editorial Reviews
Childhood-related but mature and attractive music, well performed and recorded.
Bryden Thomson had something of a reputation for slowish tempi, savouring the music a little too much as he went along. I find this less irksome in his performances of Bax, for example, than some reviewers, and it is not too much in evidence here. He is often faster than Boult; only rarely is he slower.
The Slumber Scene (track 6) is one exception: here, at 4:27, he is exactly a whole minute slower than Boult’s 3:27. EM, who has already reviewed this recording – see review – also noted that Thomson takes whole minute longer over this movement than Handley – at least, I think he meant to say that Thomson was slower, not
Not recalling that I had thought this movement at all slow in my first run-through, I let several days elapse before listening carefully to the Boult version, fully prepared to think his timing too rushed. It was no such thing – he captures the spirit of the piece perfectly. Having put on the Boult recording in order to check the one track, I just couldn’t resist playing the whole thing. This is a wonderful recording and EMI should urgently consider reissuing it, perhaps more appropriately coupled – the music and performance are even worthy to sit alongside the Enigma Variations. I note that JQ welcomed its most recent appearance on EMI British Classics with enthusiasm.
Then I played the Thomson again and derived equal pleasure from it. At first I thought the recording not quite as full as the Boult – EMI’s ADD sound is very good for its age – but that is an aural delusion resulting from the fact that the EMI transfer is at a slightly higher rate: turn up the Chandos a notch and the illusion disappears. Both performances and recordings deliver plenty of power where it is need.
Did Thomson’s Slumber Scene sound too slumberous? Only marginally – heard on its own, without comparison, it’s perfectly fine. I’ve said so often that tempo indications don’t always tell the full story that it’s time that I got it into my own noddle. I do think, however, that the March which begins the second suite (tr.8) is a touch slow at 4:58 against Boult’s 4:26.
The Nursery Suite and Dream Children also receive fine performances – the latter from Norman del Mar, always idiomatic in English music – well recorded. At its new price, this recording is very welcome. In the absence of the Boult (temporary, I hope) this will do very nicely.
If you enjoy these pieces, you will probably react favourably to Elgar’s other piece of childhood-related music, The Starlight Express, Op.78 - not to be confused with the West End musical of that name; there’s a wonderful budget-price Vernon Handley version on Classics For Pleasure 5859072.
-- Brian Wilson, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
The Wand of Youth Suite no 1, Op. 1a by Sir Edward Elgar
Norman Del Mar
Written: 1907; England
The Wand of Youth Suite no 2, Op. 1b by Sir Edward Elgar
Written: 1908; England
Nursery Suite by Sir Edward Elgar
Norman Del Mar
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1931; England
Dream Children, Op. 43 by Sir Edward Elgar
Norman Del Mar
Written: 1902; England
Featured Sound Samples
The Wand of Youth Suite no 1: VII: Fairies and Giants
The Wand of Youth Suite no 2: VI: The Wild Bears
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