Elgar, Sir Edward (William)

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Elgar, Sir Edward (William)

Elgar, Sir Edward (William), great English

composer; b. Broadheath, near Worcester, June 2, 1857;d. Worcester, Feb. 23, 1934. He received his earliest music education from his father, who owned a music shop and was organist for the St. George’s Roman Catholic Church in Worcester, and then took violin lessons from a local musician. He rapidly acquired the

fundamentals of theory and served as arranger with the Worcester Glee Club, becoming its conductor at the age of 22. He accepted a rather unusual position for a young aspiring musician with the County of Worcester Lunatic Asylum at Powick, where he was for several years in charge of the institution’s concert band. He was also engaged in various other musical affairs. In 1885 he succeeded his father as organist at St. George’s. He married in 1889 and moved to Malvern, where he stayed from 1891 to 1904. During these years, he conducted the Worcestershire Phil. (1898–1904). In 1905 he accepted the position of Peyton Prof, of Music at the Univ. of Birmingham, and in 1911–12 served as conductor of the London Sym. Orch. He then settled in Hampstead. His wife died in 1920, at which time he returned to Worcester.

Elgar’s first major success was with the concert overture Froissart (Worcester, Sept. 9, 1890). His cantata The Black Knight was premiered at the Worcester Festival (April 18, 1893) and was also heard in London at the Crystal Palace (Oct. 23, 1897). The first performance of his cantata Scenes from the Saga of King Olafat the North Staffordshire Music Festival (Oct. 30, 1896) attracted considerable attention. He gained further recognition with his Imperial March (1897), composed for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. From then on, Elgar’s name became familiar to the musical public. There followed the cantata Caractacus (Leeds Festival, Oct. 5, 1898) and Elgar’s great masterpiece, the oratorio The Dream ofGerontius (Birmingham Festival, Oct. 14, 1900). He began to give more and more attention to orch. music. On June 19, 1899, Hans Richter presented the first performance of Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme (generally known as the Enigma Variations) in London. This work consists of 14 sections, each marked by initials of fancied names of Elgar’s friends; in later years, Elgar issued cryptic hints as to the identities of these persons, which were finally revealed. He also stated that the theme itself was a counterpoint to a familiar tune, but the concealed subject was never revealed by the composer. The success of the Enigma Variations was followed (1901–30) by the composition of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches, the first of which became his most famous piece through a setting to words by Arthur Christopher Benson, used by Elgar in the Coronation Ode (1902) as Land of Hope and Glory; another successful orch. work was the Cockaigne Overture (London, June 20, 1901). Elgar’s 2 syms., written between 1903 and 1910, became staples in the English orch. repertoire. His Violin Concerto, first performed by Fritz Kreisler (London, Nov. 10, 1910), won notable success; there was also a remarkable Cello Concerto (London, Oct. 26, 1919, Felix Salmond soloist, composer conducting). About 1909 Elgar began sketching a piano concerto, but the score was never finished. Some measures were used in the finale of his uncompleted 3rd Sym. In the 1950s a pianist uncovered what was pur-ported to be the full sketch of the concerto’s slow movement. In the 1990s Robert Walker converted Elgar’s sketches, with added material of his own, into a piece for piano and orch. he titled Fragments of Elgar, which was premiered in Dartington in 1997. Elgar’s sketches for his 3rd Sym. (1933) were realized by Anthony Payne in 1998.

The emergence of Elgar as a major composer about 1900 was all the more remarkable since he had no formal academic training. Yet he developed a masterly technique of instrumental and vocal writing. His style of composition may be described as functional Romanticism; his harmonic procedures remain firmly within the 19th century tradition; the formal element is always strong, and the thematic development logical and precise. Elgar had a melodic gift, which asserted itself in his earliest works, such as the popular Salut d’amour; his oratorios, particularly The Apostles, were the product of his fervent religious faith (he was a Roman Catholic). He avoided archaic usages of Gregorian chant; rather, he presented the sacred subjects in a communicative style of secular drama. Elgar was the recipient of many honors. He was knighted in 1904. He received honorary degrees of Mus.Doc. from Cambridge (1900), Oxford (1905), and Aberdeen (1906), and also an LL.D. from Leeds (1904). During his first visit to the U.S., in 1905, he received a D.Mus. degree from Yale Univ.; in 1907 he was granted the same degree from the Univ. of Western Pa. (now the Univ. of Pittsburgh). He received the Order of Merit in 1911, and was made a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1928 and a baronet in 1931. Elgar was appointed Master of the King’s Musick in 1924. He was not a proficient conductor, but appeared on various occasions with orchs. in his own works; during the 3rd of his 4 visits to the U.S. (1905,1906,1907, 1911), he conducted his oratorio The Apostles (N.Y., 1907); also led the mass chorus at the opening of the British Empire Exhibition in 1924. His link with America was secured when the hymnlike section from his first Pomp and Circumstance march became a popular recession march for American high school graduation exercises.


DRAMATIC Opera : The Spanish Lady, op.89 (unfinished; sketches date from 1878; 15 excerpts orchestrated by Percy M. Young; BBC, London, Dec. 4, 1969). INCIDENTAL MUSIC TO: Crania and Diarmid, op.42 (Yeats and Moore; Dublin, Oct. 1901); The Starlight Express, op.78 (Black-wood and Pearn; London, Dec. 29, 1915); King Arthur (Binyon; London, March 12, 1923); Beau Brummel (Matthews; Birmingham, Nov. 5, 1928, composer conducting). MASQUE: The Crown of India, op.66 (1902–12; London, March 11, 1912; as a suite for Orch., Hereford Festival, Sept. 11, 1912, composer conducting). B a l l e t : The Sanguine Fan, op.81 (London, March 20, 1917). ORCH.: Introductory Overture for Christy Minstrels (Worcester, June 12, 1878, composer conducting); Minuet-grazioso (Worcester, Jan. 23, 1879); Suite in D major for Small Orch. (1882; 1st complete perf., Birmingham, March 1, 1888; rev. as 3 Characteristic Pieces, op.10 [1899]: No. 1, Mazurka, No. 2, Serenade mauresque, and No. 3, Contrasts: The Gavotte A.D. 1700 and 1900); Sevillana, op.7 (Worcester, May 1, 1884; rev. 1889); Salut d’amour (Liebesgruss), op.12 (1888; London, Nov. 11, 1889); Froissart, concert overture, op.19 (Worcester, Sept. 9, 1890, composer conducting); Serenade in E minor for Strings, op.20 (1892; 1st complete perf., Antwerp, July 23, 1896); Sursum corda for Strings, Brass, and Organ, op.ll (Worcester, April 9, 1894); Minuet for Small Orch., op.21 (orig. for Piano, 1897; orchestrated 1899; New Brighton, July 16, 1899); Chanson de matin, op.15, No. 1, and Chanson de nuit, op.15, No. 2 (orig. for Violin and Piano, c. 1889–90; orchestrated 1901; London, Sept. 14, 1901); Imperial March, op.32 (London, April 19, 1897, A. Manns conducting; for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee); Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma Variations), op.36 (1898–99; London, June 19, 1899, Richter conducting); Serenade lyrique for Small Orch. (London, Nov. 27, 1900); Pomp and Circumstance, 5 marches for Sym. Orch., op.39: No. 1, in D major (1901), No. 2, in A minor (1901; Liverpool, Oct. 19, 1901, A. Rodewald conducting), No. 3, in C minor (1904; London, March 8, 1905, composer conducting), No. 4, in G major (London, Aug. 24, 1907, H. Wood conducting), and No. 5, in C major (London, Sept. 20, 1930, H. Wood conducting); Cockaigne (In London Town), concert overture, op.40 (London, June 20, 1901, composer conducting); Dream Children, 2 pieces for Small Orch., op.43 (London, Sept. 4, 1902; also for Piano); In the South (Alassio), concert overture, op.50 (1903–04; London, March 16, 1904, composer conducting); Introduction and Allegro for String Quartet and String Orch., op.47 (1904–05; London, March 8, 1905, composer conducting); The Wand of Youth, 2 suites for Orch., comprising the last revision of his music for a children’s play composed c. 1867: Suite No. 1, op.lA (London, Dec. 14, 1907, H. Wood conducting) and Suite No. 2, op.lB (Worcester, Sept. 9, 1908, composer conducting); Sym. No. 1, in A-flat major, op.55 (1907–08; Manchester, Dec. 3, 1908, Richter conducting); Elegy for Strings, op.58 (London, July 13, 1909); Concerto in B minor for Violin and Orch., op.61 (1909–10; London, Nov. 10, 1910, Fritz Kreisler soloist, composer conducting); Romance for Bassoon and Orch., op.62 (1910; Herefordshire Orch. Soc., Feb. 16, 1911); Sym. No. 2, in E-flat major, op.63 (1903–10; London, May 24, 1911, composer conducting); Coronation March, op.65 (Westminster Abbey, London, June 22, 1911; for the coronation of King George V); Carissima for Small Orch. (1913; 1st public perf., London, Feb. 15, 1914); Falstaff, symphonic study in C minor with 2 interludes, op.68 (1902–13; Leeds Festival, Oct. 1, 1913, composer conducting); Sospiri for Strings, Harp, and Organ, op.70 (London, Aug. 15, 1914, H. Wood conducting); Carillon, recitation with Orch., op.75 (London, Dec. 7, 1914, composer conducting); Polonia, symphonic Prélude, op.76 (London, July 6, 1915, composer conducting); line Voix dans le desert, recitation with Orch., op.77 (1915; London, Jan. 29, 1916, composer conducting); Le Drapeau beige, recitation with Orch., op.79 (London, April 14, 1917, H. Harty conducting); Concerto in E minor for Cello and Orch., op.85 (London, Oct. 26, 1919, Felix Salmond soloist, composer conducting; later arranged as a viola concerto by Lionel Tertis; Hereford Festival, Sept. 6, 1933, Tertis soloist, composer conducting); Empire March (Wembley, April 23, 1924, composer conducting); Severn Suite for Brass Band, op.87 (London, Sept. 27, 1930; also for Orch., 1932; 1st public perf., Worcester, Sept. 7, 1932, composer conducting); Nursery Suite (London, Aug. 20, 1931, composer conducting; also arranged as a ballet, Ninette de Valois, by C. Lambert; London, March 21, 1932, Lambert conducting); Mina for Small Orch. (1933); Sym. No. 3 (unfinished; sketches, 1933; realization by Anthony Payne, 1998). CHAMBER : Promenades for Wind Quintet (1878); Romance for Violin and Piano, op.l (1878; Worcester, Oct. 20, 1885); Harmony Music for Wind Quintet (1879); String Quartet, op.8 (1887; MS destroyed); Violin Sonata, op.9 (1887; MS destroyed); Allegretto on GEDGE for Violin and Piano (1888); Liebesahnung for Violin and Piano (1889); La Capricieuse for Violin and Piano, op.17 (1891); Very Melodious Exercises in the 1st Position for Violin, op.22 (1892); Etudes caracteristiques pour violon seul, op.24 (1882–92); Sonata in E minor for Violin and Piano, op.82 (1918; 1st public perf., London, March 21, 1919); String Quartet in E minor, op.83 (1918; 1st public perf., London, May 21, 1919); Quintet in A minor for Strings and Piano, op.84 (1918–19; 1st public perf., London, May 21, 1919).

KEYBOARD : Piano : Rosemary (1882); May Song (1901); Concert Allegro, op.46 (London, Dec. 2, 1901); Skizze (1903); In Smyrna (1905); Sonatina (1932); Adieu (1932); Serenade (1932). Organ : 11 Vesper Voluntaries, op.14 (1889); Sonata in G major, op.28 (Worcester Cathedral, July 8, 1895).

VOCAL: O r a t o r i o s : The Light of Life (Lux Christi), op.29 (Worcester Festival, Sept. 10, 1896, composer conducting); The Dream ofGerontius, op.38 (1899–1900; Birmingham Festival, Oct. 3, 1900, Richter conducting; although commonly listed as an oratorio, Elgar did not designate it as such); The Apostles, op.49 (Birmingham Festival, Oct. 14, 1903, composer conducting); The Kingdom, op.51 (1901–06; Birmingham Festival, Oct. 3, 1906, composer conducting). C a n t a t a s : The Black Knight, op.25 (Worcester Festival, April 18, 1893, composer conducting); Scenes from the Saga of King Olaf, op.30 (1894–96; North Staffordshire Music Festival, Hartley, Oct. 30, 1896, composer conducting); Caractacus, op.35 (Leeds Festival, Oct. 5, 1898, composer conducting). OTHER VOCAL: Salve Regina (1878); Domine salvanfac (1878); Tantum ergo (1878); O salutaris hostia for Chorus (1880); Credo, in E minor (1880); 4 Litanies for the Blessed Virgin Mary for Chorus (1882); Ave, Verum Corpus (Jesu, Word of God Incarnate), op.2, No. 1 (1887); Ave Maria (Jesu, Lord of Life and Glory), op.2, No. 2 (1887); Ave Maris Stella (Jesu, Meek and Lowly), op.2, No. 3 (1887); Ecce sacerdos magnus for Chorus and Organ (Worcester, Oct. 9, 1888); My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land, part-song for Mixed Voices (Tenbury Musical Soc., Nov. 13, 1890); Spanish Serenade (Stars of the Summer Night) for Mixed Voices, op.23 (1891; with orch. accompaniment, 1892; Herefordshire Phil. Soc., April 7, 1893); Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands, 6 choral songs with Piano or Orch., op.27 (piano version, 1895; orch. version, 1896; Worcester Festival, April 21, 1896, composer conducting); The Banner of St. George, ballad for Chorus and Orch., op.33 (London, March 14, 1895; 2nd version, London, May 18, 1897); Te Deum and Benedictus for Chorus and Organ, op.34 (Hereford Festival, Sept. 12, 1897); Sea-Pictures, song cycle for Contralto or Mezzo-soprano and Orch., op.37 (1897–99; Norwich Festival, Oct. 5, 1899, Clara Butt soloist, composer conducting); To Her Beneath Whose Steadfast Star, part-song for Mixed Voices (Windsor Castle, May 24, 1899; dedicated to Queen Victoria); Weary Wind of the West, part-song for Mixed Voices (1902; Morecambe Festival, May 2, 1903); Coronation Ode for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch., op.44 (Sheffield Festival, Oct. 2, 1902, composer conducting); 5 Part-Songs from the Greek Anthology for Men’s Voices, op.45 (1902; London, April 25, 1904); Evening Scene, part-song for Mixed Voices (1905; Morecambe Festival, May 12, 1906); 4 Part-Songs for Mixed Voices, op.53 (1907); The Reveille for Men’s Voices, op.54 (1907; Blackpool Music Festival, Oct. 17, 1908); Angelus (Tuscany), part-song for Mixed Voices, op.56 (1909; London, Dec. 8, 1910); Go, Song of Mine for Chorus, op.57 (Hereford Festival, Sept. 9, 1909); song cycle with Orch., op.59, Nos. 3, 5, and 6 (Nos. 1, 2, and 4 not composed; 1909–10; London, Jan. 24, 1910, Muriel Foster soloist, composer conducting); O hearken thou, offertory for Chorus and Orch., op.64 (Westminster Abbey, London, June 22, 1911; for the coronation of King George V); Great Is the Lord (Psalm 48), anthem for Mixed Voices, op.67 (1910–12; Westminster Abbey, London, July 16, 1912); The Music Makers, ode for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch., op.69 (1902–12; Birmingham Festival, Oct. 1, 1912, composer conducting); Give unto the Lord (Psalm 29), anthem for Mixed Voices, Organ, and Orch., op.74 (St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, April 30, 1914); 2 choral songs for Mixed Voices, op.71 (1914); Death on the Hills, choral song for Mixed Voices, op.72 (1914); 2 choral songs for Mixed Voices, op.73 (1914); The Spirit of England for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch, op.80 (1915–17; 1st complete perf., London, Nov. 24, 1917, composer conducting); The Wanderer for Men’s Voices (1923); Zut, zut, zut for Men’s Voices (1923); also many solo songs.

A collected ed. of his works, The Elgar Complete Edition, ed. by Jerrold Northrop Moore and Christopher Kent, commenced publication in 1981.


R. Buckley, Sir E. E. (London, 1904; new ed., 1925);E. Newman, E. (London, 1906); J. Porte, Sir E. E. (London, 1921);J. Shera, E.’s Instrumental Works (London, 1931); B. Maine, £., His Life and Works (2 vols., London, 1933); J. Porte, E. and His Music (London, 1933); A. Sheldon, E. E. (London, 1933); W. Reed, E. as I Knew Him (London, 1936; new ed., 1973); Mrs. R. Powell, E. E.: Memories of a Variation (London, 1937; 2nd ed., 1947; rev. ed., 1994, by C. Powell); W. Reed, E. (London, 1939);W. Anderson, Introduction to the Music of E. (London, 1949); D. McVeagh, E. E., His Life and Music (London, 1955); P. Young, E., O.M. (London, 1955; new ed., 1973); idem, ed., Letters of E. E. and Other Writings (London, 1956); idem, ed., Letters to Nimrod from E. E. (London, 1965); M. Kennedy, Portrait of E. (London, 1968; 2nd ed., rev., 1982); M. Hurd, E. (London, 1969); I. Parrott, E. (London, 1971); C. Kent, E. E.: A Composer at Work: A Study of His Creative Processes as Seen through His Sketches and Proof Corrections (diss., King’s Coll., Univ. of London, 1978); S. Mundy, E.: His Life and Times (Tunbridge Wells, 1980); G. Hodgkins, Providence and Art: A Study of E/s Religious Beliefs (London, 1982); M. De-la-Noy, E. the Man (London, 1983); C. Redwood, ed., An E. Companion (Ashbourne, 1983); D. Bury, E. and the Two Mezzos (London, 1984); J. Northrop Moore, E. E.: A Creative Life (Oxford, 1984); idem, Spirit of England: E. E. and His World (London, 1984); J. Moore, ed., E. E.: The Windflower Letters: Correspondence with Alice Caroline Stuart Wortley and Her Family (Oxford, 1989); C. Weaver, The Thirteenth Enigma? The Story of E.E.’s Early Love (London, 1989); R. Anderson, E. in Manuscript (London, 1990); R. Monk, ed., E. Studies (Aldershot, 1990); J. Northrop Moore, £. £.: Letters of a Lifetime (Oxford, 1990); C. Kent, E. E.: A Guide to Research (N.Y., 1993); R. Monk, ed., E. E.: Music and Literature (Aldershot, 1993); J. Allison, E. E.: Sacred Music (Bridgend, 1994); S. Craggs, E. E.: A Source Book (Aider-shot, 1995); P. Young, E., Newman and the Dream of Gerontius: In the Tradition of English Catholicism (Brookfield, Vt, 1995); A. Payne, E/s Third Symphony: The Story of the Reconstruction (London, 1998); J. Rushton, £.: Enigma Variations (Cambridge, 1999).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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Elgar, Sir Edward (William)

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