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Charles Edward McGuire's new book about Elgar's oratorios
is investigated by ROBERT ANDERSON


Portia was doubtless right that the quality of mercy is not strain'd; but there are moments when the grapes of wrath, as any American knows, must be brought out of store and purposefully trampled. The music examples in McGuire's book are a disgrace to any publisher, setter or author. The capricious behaviour of accidentals suggests at times a half-hearted attempt to align Elgar with Schoenberg, and it becomes a matter of congratulation to find an example without a howler to bring it shame. Some examples are direct reproductions from Elgar scores, where the problem is different: there the scale is so miniscule that a magnifying glass is essential. The perpetrator of the music examples is unfortunately anonymous; otherwise I would offer at once a few gratis hours of basic instruction in defence of a great composer. There is much to be learnt from the book: McGuire's first lesson must be that there no longer exists in publishing houses the traditional pride to produce, with a team of readers at least as much acquainted with Latin and Greek as the modest Shakespeare, texts of scrupulous accuracy. The author is now sole arbiter, and therefore McGuire must take full responsibility for such forlorn characters as St Ludimilla, Hicox, McVeigh, Northrup Moore, Temperly, Beethoven and his Engendi, the Johna by Lennox Buckley wandering disconsolate in search of their true identity. Such errors throughout the book are legion, and I can produce for the author at any time my selective list.

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Copyright © 29 December 2002 Robert Anderson, London, UK


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