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Elgar Piano Music

Enigma Variations - Dream Children- Sonatina- May Song

Ashley Wass (piano)

Naxos 8.570166


If you are a committed Elgarian, you are likely to want to hear the ‘unknown' genre of his piano music and how Enigma sounds on the piano; if you suspect that Elgar's salon pieces are justifiably neglected and would never be revived without the cachet of his famous name, even the classic Naxos principle that the price of a budget disc is a small risk for music you've never heard is unlikely to persuade you.


This is of course very much a disc of two halves – the piano works are unknown, the Enigma is familiar, but not in this form. There are no surprises. Ashley Wass already has a reputation as a sensitive and assured interpreter; both interpretations and recorded quality are excellent; Naxos generally does good covers, but this one has a particularly effective and appropriate photograph.


Enigma , indeed, transfers better than one would expect, though the slower variations are hard to bring off, nor can some of the ‘special effects' such as the barking dog shaking water off himself in Variation 11 succeed as well on a piano. The piano version is also stylistically fascinating; the lighter textures (e.g. Variation 10) are extremely pianistic, but sound musically slighter for that.


The opening of the sonatina, written for Elgar's niece, is rightly advertised in the booklet as ‘charming,' and other pieces, notably the second of the Dream Children, have an unaffected immediacy. However, not even dyed-in-the-wool Elgar fans will claim they have either the power of the famous big works or the delight of the best-known lollipops.


Recordings of Elgar piano music are not exactly thick on the ground. If you want these pieces, this disc can be recommended without reservation.


Ying Chang