Music by Elgar -
'... yet more immediacy than the original LPs ...'
Elgar's Cockaigne owed its title to that mediæval never-never land where work was
forbidden, rivers flowed wine, architecture was edible, it was always spring, money was earned
while sleeping, fountains gushed perpetual youth, and the town gates were made of pearl. Such
delights might more readily be associated with a London of the early twentieth century rather
than its questionable successor of the 21st. London and its orchestras was Elgar's inspiration
towards the end of 1900, hardly more than a month after the wretched Gerontius première.
It was to be 'A work to tweek a teetotaller's beak / And make a methody swear.'
John Barbirolli, Italianate in temperament and indeed when christened Giovanni Battista, was a
true Cockney because born within the sound of Bow Bells. London's squares and theatreland were his
childhood haunts from lodgings in Drury Lane, and he never lost his feeling for 'the magic,
beauty and overwhelming personality of pre-1914 London'. By contrast Elgar was essentially the
countryman, needing the dramatic shape of the Malvern Hills and soaring tower of Worcester
Cathedral to mature him to a greatness early appreciated in Barbirolli's music-making.
Copyright © 12 January 2005
Robert Anderson, London UK