Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Charles Kaufmann: 'Elgar vs SCT: King Olaf vs Hiawatha'

[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)]

Charles Kaufmann, Director, The Longfellow Chorus, writes:

Hello, All,

In March 2012, The Longfellow Chorus performed Elgar's Longfellow cantata, "Scenes from The Saga King Olaf," (1896). From the title, one gets the impression that SCT was inspired in part from this composition to compose his "Scenes from The Song of Hiawatha," (1898). For our March 2012 performance of Olaf, we were able to draw from the contemporary annotated edition of King Olaf as provided to us by the Elgar Society. I am wondering if anyone is taking a cue from the Elgar Society and thinking of offering scholarly editions of SCT's works in the future. Certainly, he deserves this -- as Elgar noted, "he was far and away the cleverest fellow going." 

What is lacking, of course, in SCT scholarship is a collected works edition. So much has been lost and neglected. Several of us possess manuscripts salvaged from publishing houses and libraries which seem to care little for what they possess.

In any case, Olaf was a poem in which Longfellow seemed to try to rival the more popular, and darker, poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. Elgar was taking a bold chance when he set Olaf to music. SCT could not risk such a thing.

We have posted a text subtitled version of excerpts from our 2012 performance of Elgar's King Olaf as a You Tube play list. Our current project with SCT's Hiawatha and other SCT music will provide an interesting contrast:

Charles Kaufmann
The Longfellow Chorus
PO Box 5133
Portland, ME 04101

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