Classic Record Collector

Judges’ remarks: “Elijah is a particularly inspired issue… meeting all the criteria for an award.”

Elijah was one of the great warhorses of the amateur choral movement during the previous two centuries, and Columbia’s decision to make a more or less complete recording in 1930 reflected the combination of commercial acumen and artistic good sense that marked out this company from its rivals. The set was issued on 15 ten-inch discs, so that purchasers could opt for their own individual selections from the great work; and, as the excellent notes accompanying this reissue observe, it remained in the catalogue until 1948, a remarkably long time for a recording from the early days of the electrical era.

Columbia engaged 26-year-old Stanford Robinson to lead the proceedings, which he did with much flair. By 1930, Robinson had already been with the BBC for six years, and he was to remain with it until 1966. Throughout this recording he demonstrates complete command of the work’s idiom; he leads the great choruses with tremendous energy and secures a distinguished contribution from the anonymous orchestra, probably the forerunner of the about-to-be-formed BBC SO. The soloists all make a strong impression. In the title role Harold Williams offers an appropriately magisterial performance, which is finely matched by the radiant soprano of Isobel Baillie and the eloquent tenor of Parry Jones, as well as the rich contralto of Clara Serena.

What especially distinguishes this first reissue in any longplaying format is the astoundingly good quality of the transfers by Andrew Rose of Pristine Sound [sic]. He has successfully managed to do away with the aural “murk” which characterises so many recordings from this period, to reveal a clear and relatively well balanced aural picture. The notes are informative. If Divine Art’s new Historic Sound label is able to maintain these first rate standards of production and repertoire, its future publications will be well worth acquiring, as is certainly the case with this excellent release.

—David Patmore