Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Edward Elgar: Chanson de Matin & Chanson de Nuit

It is often the very first version of a piece of music that one hears which remains as a favourite. I recall back in 1972 buying a copy of the old Decca Eclipse Festival of English Music series. There were four LPs and I bought them with my pocket money over a number of weeks. Volume 1 contained The Wand of Youth Suite No.1, Malcolm Arnold’s English Dances and Elgar’s Three Bavarian Dances. But the two pieces that caught my teenage imagination were Chanson de Matin and Chanson de Nuit.
The two short works were originally conceived for violin and piano, but have appeared in number of incarnations. The exact date of their composition appears to be in some doubt. However, the Elgar Source Book written by Stewart Craggs gives 1897 as a probably date for the latter and 1899 for the former. There was also an orchestral version produced in 1901 and published by Novello. However, it has been suggested that these two pieces actually date from as early as the 1880’s since they bear an earlier Opus number that the Froissart Overture of 1890.
These two pieces do not attempt at profundity: they are quite manifestly salon music – ‘those pleasant trifles of which the late Victorian era produced innumerable numbers. The writer of the Decca Eclipse sleeve notes suggests that ‘such works make no demand on the intellect: their one object is to entertain, whether cast in cheerful or sentimental mood, and there can be no doubt that Elgar has succeeded here in his happy aim.’
The Decca Ellipse series were a reissue of the old Ace of Clubs mono series. Bernard Hermann on MusicWeb international notes that the original release was DECCA LW 5174 dating from 1955. There have of course been many recordings since.
However, I still rate this old version and look back fondly on what was one of my earliest introductions to Elgar’s music. Alas I understand that it is not available on CD or MP3.

YouTube has a version of the Chanson de Nuit conducted by Sir Adrian and played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the Kingsway Hall in 1954 and was later used by Decca.

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