Two lost works by Elgar – plus two forgotten arrangements – have been recorded by the BBC Concert Orchestra, under the baton of David Lloyd-Jones, who discovered the pieces while editing the Elgar Complete Edition’s volume of Elgar’s Short Orchestral Works.
Air de Ballet and Introduction to the Gavotte were reconstructed from parts discovered in the Elgar Birthplace archive.
The arrangements – Pleading for solo violin and orchestra, originally a song for solo voice with piano, and the Canto Popolare from In the South, for chamber orchestra – were published during Elgar’s lifetime, but remain virtually unknown.
‘Only two of the four novelties are strictly “discoveries”, the others being works that we knew about without realising quite what they were,’ Lloyd-Jones told Classical Music. ‘The main one is Elgar’s first known orchestral composition, Air de Ballet. This I put together from a rather amateurish set of parts (a few by Elgar himself), which had been lurking at the Birthplace. There was no [complete] full score so I had to make one.
‘The Introduction to the Gavotte is also to be found at the Birthplace and is one of the earliest works by Elgar that was publicly performed. He discarded it [the Introduction] when he was asked by his publisher to make a suite of dances.’
Lloyd-Jones believes the version of Canto Popolare may have been mistaken for the middle section of In the South, when in fact it is ‘a considerably expanded and enriched composition in its own right. For some reason, this most attractive short piece has been very much neglected.’
The disc also includes a number of other rarely heard works and concludes with the version of Elgar’s last orchestral work Mina, which has never been recorded in the version that Elgar heard, and seemingly approved, shortly before he died. ‘The version that is usually performed was made by Haydn Wood after Elgar’s death,’ explains Lloyd-Jones.
Since 2007, 15 lost works by Elgar have been unearthed in the editing of the Elgar Complete Edition volumes.
Lloyd-Jones says there is ‘absolutely no doubt’ about the authenticity of these works. ‘Elgar’s handwriting is unmistakable and several of the autograph scores are signed by him.’
The two newly discovered works provide useful insight into Elgar’s early compositional career. Air de Ballet reveals the kernel of Elgar’s original compositional voice (compared to the perhaps imitative works for wind quintet and the Powick Asylum band he had composed over the preceding years), while the short Introduction shows a significant step forward in his compositional ambition over the following six years.
Elgar’s Short Orchestra Works by the BBC Concert Orchestra and David Lloyd-Jones (Dutton Epoch 7354) is out 9 April