- The Apostles, oratorio for soloists, choruses & orchestra, Op. 49 - Edward Elgar - Frances Cooke - Mark Elder - Rebecca Evans - Paul Groves - Hallé Choir - Hallé - Brindley Sherratt - Alice Coote - David Kempster - Jacques Imbrailo - Richard Wilberforce - Richard Wilberforce - Hallé Youth Choir - Hallé Youth Choir
Elgar: The Apostlesby Mark Elder
A second-tier Elgar oratorio might sound like a good definition of torture to the not Elgarian inclined, but "The Apostles," composed in 1903, has its moments and is worth a listen in this fine performance even for general choral music fans. Annotator Michael Kennedy describes Elgar's oratorio style as an "[offshoot] of Bachian oratorio, sprinkled with Wagner dust," which is true enough. But the appeal of this particular work lies in something else again: the novelty of an account of Christ's crucifixion plotted through the eyes of those around him. Elgar himself selected and reworked biblical texts to create this unique and distinctively modern take on the age-old story, and he provided music to match. The oratorio, with its huge orchestra and choir, takes a while to lumber to life. But the second part is not quite like anything else in the choral repertory. The crucifixion itself is marked only by a big crescendo, the single most Wagnerian moment in the work. The rest of the action reflected through the characters of Judas (in the run-up) and Mary (after the deed is done). Elgar, believe it or not, complained that English singers were "too white" for the role of Judas, but he would have loved the performance of bass Brindley Sherratt, whose voice stands out from the rest of the cast with terrific dramatic effect. His mounting worry in the opening tracks of CD 2 really ought to be heard. The dramatic success may also be due to a restoration of the work by conductor Mark Elder, who has added some choral echo effects and the like, and engineer Steve Portnoi deserves the highest possible praise for maintaining clarity with the numerous forces involved, especially in live performances (the recording consists of a single performance in May 2012, plus rehearsals). Everybody, not just Elgar fans, try it, you'll like it.
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Performance CreditsMark Elder Primary Artist
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