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Sir Edward Elgar

 

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(1857-1934)

If you would like to see a painting of Elgar, click here.

Elgar is one of the most famous British composers ever. Everyone knows his Pomp & Circumstance march no. 1 (with "Land of hope and glory") and the Nimrod from the Enigma variations. But there are so much more. There are symphonies, oratorios, chamber music, songs and instrumental music. He also wrote an opera, but it was left incomplete at his death in 1934 (together with his symphony no. 3).

As mentioned earlier, Elgar wrote in several genres. It was with an orchestral work that Elgar really got famous. The work was his Enigma variations, op. 36, in 1899. It was certainly not his first masterwork (earlier works as his Imperial march, King Olaf and Caractus are just as good), but with it he firmly established himself as Britain's greatest composer at the time. The next year came one of his greatest works, his oratorio "The dream of Gerontius", with words by Cardinal Newman. It was not a success right away, but the public soon discovered its greatness. In 1901 came maybe his most famous work ever, the Pomp & circumstance march no. 1, op. 39,1. The slow part is better known as "Land of hope and glory", and is like a second national anthem to the British. For us non-British, it's most famous as a part of the Last night of the Proms where the audience sings along with the orchestra.

Sir Edward Elgar

Elgar wrote two symphonies, and left a third incomplete at his death. Both symphonies are masterworks, and ranks among the greatest symphonies composed in this century. I am very sorry that he didn't complete his Third symphony. As you may know, Anthony Payne's realisation has been premiered with much acclaim. I have the NMC CD myself, and it's truly a magnificent work. I am not quite sure what is Elgar and what is Payne though. If you would like to see the original full score of Elgar's sketches for this symphony, then click here to see the first page. Click here if you want to see a photo of Anthony Payne

Elgar wrote several very good choral works, and it's not only "The Dream of Gerontius" who is a masterpiece. Go here to read an article about this great work. Other works are The Apostles, The Kingdom and The Light of Life.  The Kingdom and The Apostles are the first two parts in a planned series of three oratorios. Unfortunately, Elgar only wrote these first two.

Elgar did also write concertos. His Cello concerto is very beautiful, and are among the most famous and played Cello concertos ever. There are numerous recordings of this work, including one legendary. The Jaqueline du Pre recording on EMI is a legend. There are also many recordings of the Violin concerto. Here we also have a legendary recording. It's the composers own recording with the 16 year old Sir Yehudi Menuhin in1932. The sound may not be the best, but it's still a must for all Elgarians. I am rather ashamed that I still haven't got this recording.

Alice Elgar (born Caroline Alice Roberts) was Elgar's wife until her death in 1920. Elgar was very much influenced by her, and I truly believe that Elgar would not have much so much great music without her. Many people have claimed that Elgar lost his will to compose after her death.

   

It was just not Lady Elgar that was vital to Elgar. He also had a long lasting friendship with A.J. Jäger. Jäger is also among Elgar's friends portraited in Enigma Variations. He is Nimrod.

I have scanned Elgar's family tree, so click here if you are interested in seeing it.

If you would like to know more about Elgar, then the best place would be to visit the The Elgar Birthplace in Worcester. I have not had the privilege to visit it, but it's the ultimate Elgar place. All Elgarians should try to visit this place atleast once. I will try do so one day. Also, as a member of the Elgar Society, you get free entrance.

The Elgar birthplace
The Elgar Birthplace


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Copyright © 2004 Tore Frantzvåg Steenslid
Last updated:
29.04.2005