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Elgar, Finzi, Quilter & Vaughan Williams

English Songs
David Pike/Isabelle Trub
signum 314

Elgar: Part Songs and Choral Works
The Rodolfus Choir/Ralph Allwood
signum 315

These are discs I would not have chosen for review when making selections from the major distributors' long monthly lists. Some smaller companies, Signum included, send us their new releases in hope, often with serendipitous results; this is such a case.

Sampling both, it was good to renew acquaintance with old favourites like V W's Songs of Travel, with The Vagabond put over by David Pike lustily to start. He revives many well remembered gems, long unfashionable, which deserve revisiting, those of Finzi especially pleasing.

The Elgar choral disc was, by contrast, revelatory.

How little we know the part-songs which he supplied for England's flourishing choirs, some of them whilst working his way up to become our great symphonist.

The Rodolfus Choir represents those choirs of today at their best, with vivid performances under their director Ralph Attwood, who might also be the unnamed organist for the choral works, culminating with the splendid Give unto the Lord. Allwood's just taken on the Chapel Music for the Old Royal Naval College in the campus of my local Trinity College of Music, where I'll hope to see him make an impact.

Part of the enjoyment of the part-songs, all of them skilfully worked, is reacquaintance with the fine poetry Elgar chose to set (one, the quirky Owls, his own) put across with with commendable diction plus full texts in the booklet.

The two discs go well together, taking sections of one interspersed with those of the other; Pike's (bass-)baritone can become a little monotonous straight through for over an hour, and the choir sounds better with contrasting breaks.

So I recommend this double warmly, perhaps more for older collectors, though I guess they'll go down well for family listening.

Peter Grahame Woolf