Elgar Complete Edition

Volume 20
Carillon; Une Voix dans le Desert;
Le Drapeau Belge; The Fringes of the Fleet

Elgar’s First World War compositions were of variable subtlety, ranging from the sublime The Spirit of England to works intended solely to capture the mood of the moment. The works in this volume, all written to support wartime morale and fundraising initiatives, clearly fall into the latter category and yet that same variability is to be found here. The three war recitations, settings of poems by the Belgian patriotic poet Émile Cammaerts, are perhaps best known through the first of the set, Carillon, an extended rousing work envisaging the victory still some years ahead, while the final work, Le drapeau Belge, is a bombastic trifle, not composed until the focus of the war had moved south from Belgium to Verdun. And yet between the two Elgar provided the sensitive and deeply moving Une voix dans le désert, an emotional world removed from its compatriots and yet still conveying the Elgarian fingerprint of a hope for the future.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the same contrast is to be found in Fringes of the Fleet, Elgar’s four sea shanties setting poems by Rudyard Kipling. While most will be familiar with one particular image of the four singers in their maritime outfits, and may know the opening and closing songs from the set (‘The Lowestoft Boat’ and ‘Sweepers’) and even the theme from ‘Fate’s Discourtesy’ in one of its various incarnations, fewer will claim familiarity with ‘Submarines', the third song of the set. It is stark contrast to the jaunty simplicity of the other songs, capturing the eerie brooding darkness of the primitive submersibles of the day, something which Elgar could only have envisaged.

Sarah Thompson’s editing of this volume has stumbled across other little known facts: that Elgar conceived an orchestral accompaniment to Une voix for strings and percussion alone until he added ad lib parts for woodwind and brass, intended for use when insufficient string players could be found, no doubt a direct consequence of the war; and Elgar’s own recording of the Fringes songs uses a more complex vocal arrangement than that of the published vocal score, with additional harmonisations and a sharing of the vocal lead, an arrangement seemingly worked out by the singers themselves.

These peculiarities and the nature of the recitations themselves have presented challenges in providing clarity without overriding the intended ambiguities in the scores. But we believe we have produced a volume which will bring a clarity to future performances, and these works to a wider audience. The volume, which comes complete with the customary apparatus of detailed source descriptions, commentaries and an introductory foreword, can be obtained through all good book stores and specialist music shops, or directly from the publisher. For details, visit the How to Purchase page.

Series III : Dramatic Works

Publication History

  • Publication date : 14 August 2019
  • Publisher : Elgar Works
  • ISBN : 978-1-904856-20-7 (hardback)

Detailed Description

  • Editor : Sarah Thompson
  • Number of pages : xlviii + 118
  • Page size : 350 mm x 250 mm (portrait)
  • Number of illustrations : 20 (monochrome)
  • Binding : cloth (hardback)
  • Contents :
    • The complete full orchestral scores, re-originated in their entirety, of Elgar's three wartime settings (Carillon,Une voix dans le désert and Le drapeau Belge) for reciter and orchestra of poems by the Belgian poet Emile Cammaerts;
    • Elgar's song-cycle Fringes of Fleet, settings for four baritones and orchestra of poems by Rudyard Kipling, taken from articles commissioned by the Daily Telegraph, together Inside the Bar, Elgar's setting of the poem by Gilbert Parker for four baritones with piano accompaniment, intended to serve as an encore to performances of Fringes of Fleet;
    • A scholarly foreword recording the history of Elgar's composition of the works;
    • A comparative description of all known source material, including the full texts of the poems, those by Emile Cammaerts in his original French and in their comparable English tranaslations as printed in the vocal scores;
    • A comprehensive commentary detailing editorial decisions and amendments;
    • An appendix containing Elgar's sketches for two further, unfinished songs in the Fringes of the Fleet cycle;
    • A range of facsimiles illustrating significant features of the work's development.

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