It's always great to discover a new piece by a composer you love. Ever heard of a piece called In the South by Edward Elgar (better known for his “Pomp and Circumstance” or the Enigma Variations)? Cleveland Orchestra assistant conductor James Feddeck (photo, right) told Mike Telin of clevelandclassical.com all about the work, which is on the program he'll conduct at Blossom on Sunday, Aug. 28.
Excerpts from the interview follow.
MT: The first half of the program is about virtuosity; what about the second half?
JF: The second half is entirely about description, which I think is perfect at Blossom. I just love Blossom, it’s so beautiful and serene, and the music has a whole new context when you’re in that semi-outdoor environment. So the second half really makes sense with On the Town, where we have this wonderful description of New York, and In the South. Elgar made a family vacation to Italy in the winter of 1903 or 1904, and he was so taken with his surroundings that he crafted this piece in one day. He says that the hills, the mountains, the trees and the water, all of them spoke to him. There is one point in the piece where you can hear church bells. They’re not actual bells, but he orchestrates the ringing of the bells. Elgar calls the piece a concert overture, and it’s pretty short, only about twenty minutes, but to me it’s really a tone poem because it’s totally describing this wonderful place. So as a pair, the Bernstein and the Elgar work together.
MT: It’s scored for large orchestra?
JF: Yes, and it begins very heroically, but that leads to some calm and very intimate music. There is also a very extensive viola solo in the middle, which I think is wonderful. It’s actually a song that I believe Elgar wrote to a poem of Shelley. I do think it is a wonderful piece, and the orchestra has played it only one time, and that was back in 1973 or 1974. So when I heard that fact, I said, I’m sold. We can do something new and different, but with a name like Elgar, we can trust it.