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Edward Elgar (1857–1934)
Elgar composed the suite From the Bavarian Highlands after a seven-week holiday in Garmisch in 1894 with his wife Alice, who wrote the poems for these ‘six choral songs’. The work may be heard as a sequence of musical picture-postcards; delightful ones which have unfailingly pleased singers and audiences since their first performance on 21 April 1896, given by the Worcester Festival Choral Society. It is perhaps the most gay and intimate of the major scores for voices and orchestra – including The Light of Life, Scenes from the Saga of King Olaf and Caractacus – appearing prior to The Dream of Gerontius of 1901. ‘The Dance’ is also available separately for SS and for SATB and piano, and ‘Lullaby’ for SA and piano.
The brief, little-known Minuet for small orchestra Op. 21 belongs to the select group of Elgar’s pieces ‘in olden style’. Other and more familiar examples may be found in the first Wand of Youth suite and in the Severn Suite. It was first published in 1897 for piano, the version for strings with optional wind, horns and timpani being issued by Joseph Williams two years later. Elgar thought well enough of the Minuet to record it with the New Symphony Orchestra in 1929 for HMV, and the music is indeed characteristic: of his Handelian manner in the pastoral trio and, in the plaintive cadences of the outer sections, even looking forward to the more nostalgic moments of Falstaff.