First recording with a professional orchestra of Elgar’s Powick Asylum Music.
It was in January 1879 when the 21-year-old Elgar was appointed Bandmaster at the Worcester County and City Lunatic Asylum in the nearby village of Powick. Elgar’s ensemble had its origins in a brass band, founded with instruments bought out of asylum funds. The enlightened doctors in charge of the asylum were in no doubt about the therapeutic effects of music upon the patients who enjoyed dancing. Elgar became involved in teaching the players in the band, writing dance music for the weekly Friday entertainments and conducting the band which consisted of members of the Asylum staff. These made up a rather eccentric orchestra of piccolo, flute, clarinet, two cornets, euphonium and bombardon, up to eight violins, occasional viola, cello and double bass with piano, a maximum of 19 players.
The music for Powick opens with a charming, Schubertian Menuetto, which Elgar originally composed for flute and string quartet. This is its first outing in the Powick orchestration. Over the six years of his Bandmastership Elgar composed four sets of Quadrilles, a set of Lancers and five Polkas. A delightful
addition to this CD is the first recording of A Singing Quadrille where Elgar mainly uses well-known nursery rhymes. The work remains only in sketch score but it has been edited by Andrew Lyle for the Elgar Complete Edition which we have used, also for the recording of the Powick music. To quote Barry
Collett on Elgar’s Powick Music: “In summary – lost masterpieces, no...but surely works to be enjoyed and treasured alongside the great masterworks in the same way as the German Dances and Ländler of Schubert, Haydn and Beethoven.” In our view, the music is never less than delightful!