Donald Hunt completes his trilogy of Complete Edition volumes covering Elgar’s part-songs with a volume devoted to the best known: Elgar’s set of six songs From the Bavarian Highlands. The songs, with words provided mainly by his wife Alice, were composed during the early years of their marriage and reflect holidays spent together in Bavaria. Many regard them as the culmination of the first phase of Elgar’s career as a composer when, before succumbing to the pressures of his status as a national figure, he was still able to relax and compose at will, a freedom which comes over in the music.
Despite their familiarity and superficial simplicity, the works present a similar challenge to those in Dr Hunt’s previous two volumes. Although published as a self-standing version, the arrangement for SATB and piano was obviously intended to serve as the vocal score for the version with full orchestra, while Elgar appears to have limited his revisions in the two-voice arrangements to the vocal lines. This leads to an expectation that in all musical respects the vocal staves of the two SATB arrangements should be identical, as should the accompaniment to the two versions with piano. The editorial challenge was to decide which of the numerous minor differences were intended by Elgar and, of those which we concluded were intentional, which was his preferred reading.
A further challenge arose with the orchestral full score. The manuscript gives the impression of an unfinished score, lacking detailed articulation in places. Our supposition is that Elgar intended to leave the task of completing the articulation to his engraver, confirming its full implementation to his satisfaction when he came to check the proofs. This opportunity never arose as the full score was not published until comparatively recently. More surprisingly, the same shortcomings are to be found in the published vocal score which was presumably prepared in some haste to make it available for the choir to use at the work's first performance in 1896. These deficiencies have been put right in this Edition by extending the articulation from earlier passages to the remainder of the work where this appears to have been Elgar's intention while, for the orchestral parts of three of the songs, we have the published full scores of the Three Bavarian Dances to guide us.
Predictably, the curiosities come in the lesser-known arrangements. In the SS version of ‘The Dance’, the words ‘Quaff the bright brown ale, my treasure’ are replaced by ‘Light of heart and foot, my treasure’. Was the reference to ‘bright brown ale’ really too strong for the female choirs for which the SS version was intended?
The volume, which comes complete with the customary apparatus of detailed source descriptions, commentaries and an introductory foreword, can be obtained through all good book stores and specialist music shops, or directly from the publisher. For details, visit the How to Purchase page.
Series I : Choral Works
- Publication date : 21 November 2016
- Publisher : Elgar Works
- ISBN : 978-1-904856-02-3 (hardback)
- Editor : Donald Hunt
- Number of pages : xxxvi + 236
- Page size : 350 mm x 250 mm (portrait)
- Binding : cloth (hardback)
- Number of illustrations : 10 (monochrome)
- Contents :
- The complete full scores, re-originated in their entirety, of the song cycle From the Bavarian Highlands for SATB chorus, with both orchestral and piano accompaniments;
- Elgar’s arrangement of the first four songs in the set for 2-voice choir with piano accompaniment;
- A scholarly foreword recording the history of Elgar's composition of the works;
- An additional note on Elgar's compositional method;
- A comparative description of all known source material;
- A comprehensive commentary detailing editorial decisions and amendments;
- A range of facsimiles illustrating significant features of the work's development.