Notes and Editorial Reviews
Dating from his years of 'apprenticeship', these two works shaped Elgar's reputation as a leading orchestrator and most popular British composer of his time. The secular cantata Scenes from the Saga of King Olaf derives from Longfellow's epic poem about Olaf Tryggvason, who became King of Norway in 995. While the text was heavily adapted and augmented, the use of sophisticated compositional techniques, such as extensive motivic work, resulted in music of great power and solemnity. The ballad The Banner of Saint George is based on the story of Saint George of Cappadocia, as related by the Bristol poet Shapcott Wensley. It was commissioned by Britain's leading publisher, Novello, and composed in only one month in 1896. Elgar overcame the prescriptive nature of the words and produced a work of lasting charm, the music rising above the material to create atmosphere, momentum, and color.
What a nice idea it was to have a Norwegian choir and orchestra performing English music about a Norse hero. The combined Norwegian choirs sing very well indeed in both works, and the Bergen Philharmonic plays with verve and distinction. Sir Andrew Davis is just the man for these assignments.
– MusicWeb International
There's nothing stilted about Elgar's music: it crackles with confident vitality...the Norwegian choruses respond with crisp vigor and superb English diction, only faintly (and appropriately) Scandinavian-tinged. Davis's expansive conducting and the excellent Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra bring out Elgar's vivid orchestral textures.
– BBC Music Magazine