Sir Edward William Elgar
Elgar, (Sir) Edward (William)
During the 1914–18 war Elgar wrote several patriotic works, including the recitation with orch. Carillon, the symphonic prelude Polonia, and the Binyon settings The Spirit of England. He also wrote incidental mus. for a children's play, The Starlight Express, and a ballet The Sanguine Fan. In 1918–19 he wrote 3 chamber works, a vn. sonata, str. qt., and pf. quintet, and a vc. conc. These were to be his last major works. In 1920 his wife died and for the last 14 years of his life he wrote hardly anything that was not concocted from earlier sketches. In this last period he prod. incidental mus. for 2 plays, Arthur and Beau Brummel, a 5th Pomp and Circumstance march, the Nursery Suite, and the Severn Suite. He was at work on a Ben Jonson opera, The Spanish Lady, and a 3rd sym. at the time of his death. In 1923 he returned to live in Worcestershire and often appeared throughout the country as cond. of his own works. He became Master of the King's Musick in 1924 and was created a baronet in 1931. He was the first great composer to realize the possibilities of the gramophone and from 1914 to 1933 made many recordings of his own mus. which are important historical documents, the most celebrated being that of the vn. conc. made in 1932 with the 16-year-old Menuhin. KCVO 1928. GCVO 1933.
Elgar's greatness as a composer lies in his ability to combine nobility and spirituality of utterance with a popular style. Side by side with his large-scale works are dozens of lighter pieces distinguished by melodic charm and fine craftsmanship. Learning entirely by the practical experiences of his youth, he became one of the supreme masters of the orch., but his command of choral effects in his masterpiece The Dream of Gerontius is no less wonderful. His harmonic language derives from Schumann and Brahms coloured by the Wagnerian chromaticism endemic to his generation, the whole being lightened by a gracefulness akin to Bizet and Saint-Saëns. Like his personality, his mus. veers from extrovert warmth and geniality to a deep introspective melancholy. His prin. works are:THEATRE (incl. recitations): Incidental mus., funeral march, and song for Grania and Diarmid ( Yeats and Moore), Op.42 (1901); The Crown of India, masque, Op.66 (1902–12); Carillon, Op.75, reciter, orch. (1914); incidental mus. for The Starlight Express ( Blackwood and Pearn), Op.78 (1915); Une voix dans le désert, Op.77, reciter, sop., orch. (1915); The Sanguine Fan, ballet, Op.81 (1917); Le drapeau belge, Op.79, reciter, orch. (1917); incidental mus. to Arthur ( Binyon) (1923); incidental mus. to Beau Brummel ( Matthews) (1928).ORCH.: Froissart, Op.19 (1890), Serenade for str. in E minor, Op.20 (1892); Sursum Corda, Op.11 (1894); Imperial March, Op.32 (1897); Enigma Variations, Op.36 (1898–9); Pomp and Circumstance Marches, Op.39, No.1 in D major, No.2 in A minor (1901), No.3 in C minor (1904), No.4 in G major (1907), No.5 in C major (1930); Cockaigne, Op.40 (1900–1); In the South (Alassio), Op.50 (1904); Introduction and Allegro for str., Op.47 (1905); The Wand of Youth Suites Nos. 1 and 2, Opp. 1a and 1b (1907 and 1908 respectively); sym. No.1 in A♭ major, Op.55 (1907–8); Elegy for str., Op.58 (1909); vn. conc. in B minor, Op.61 (1909–10); Romance for bn., Op.62 (1910); sym. No.2 in E♭ major, Op.63 (1903–11); Coronation March, Op.65 (1911); Suite, Crown of India, Op.66 (1912); Falstaff, Op.68 (1902–13); Sospiri for str., hp., org., Op.70 (1914); Polonia, Op.76 (1915); vc. conc. in E minor, Op.85 (1918–19); Empire March (1924); Severn Suite, Op.87, brass band (1930), for orch. (1932); Nursery Suite (1931).VOICES & ORCH.: The Black Knight, cantata, Op.25 (1889–93); Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands, Op.27 (1896); The Light of Life (Lux Christi), oratorio, Op.29 (1895–6, rev. 1899); Scenes from the Saga of King Olaf, cantata, Op.30 (1894–6); The Banner of St George, ballad, Op.33 (1896–7); Caractacus, cantata, Op.35 (1898); The Dream of Gerontius, Op.38 (1899–1900); Sea Pictures, song-cycle, mez., orch., Op.37 (1897–9); Coronation Ode, Op.44 (1902); The Apostles, oratorio, Op.49 (1901–3); The Kingdom, oratorio, Op.51 (1901–6); 3 Songs with orch., Op.59 (1909–10); The Music Makers, choral ode, Op.69 (1902–12); The Spirit of England, Op.80 (1915–17).PART-SONGS & CHURCH MUSIC: Ave, verum corpus, Op.2, No.1 (1887); Ecce sacerdos magnus, ch., org. (1888); My love dwelt in a northern land (1889); Spanish Serenade, Op.23 (1891, with orch. 1892); Te Deum and Benedictus, Op.34 (1897); The Sword Song, from Caractacus (1898); To her beneath whose steadfast star (1899); Weary Wind of the West (1902); 5 Part-Songs from the Greek Anthology, Op.45 (1902); Evening Scene (1905); 4 Part-Songs, Op.53 (1907); The Reveille, Op.54 (1907); Angelus, Op.56 (1909); Go, Song of Mine, Op.57 (1909); O hearken thou, offertory, Op.64 (Coronation 1911); Great is the Lord (Psalm 48), Op.67 (1912); Give Unto the Lord (Psalm 29), Op.74 (1914); 2 Choral Songs, Op.71 (1914); Death on the Hills, Op.72 (1914); 2 Choral Songs, Op.73 (1914); The Wanderer and Zut, zut, zut (1923).CHAMBER MUSIC: Promenades for wind quintet (1878); Harmony Music, wind quintet (1879); Allegretto on GEDGE, vn., pf. (1885); Salut d'Amour, Op.12, for pf. solo, for vn. and pf., for orch., and in many other arrs. (1888–9); Liebesahnung, vn., pf. (1889); La Capricieuse, Op.17, vn., pf. (1891); Very Easy Melodious Exercises in the 1st Position, Op.22, for vn. (1892); Études caractéristiques, Op.24, vn. (1882–92); Chanson de Nuit, Chanson de Matin, Op.15, Nos. 1 and 2, vn., pf. (later orch.) (No.1 pubd. 1897, No.2 pubd. 1899); vn. sonata in E minor, Op.82 (1918); str. qt. in E minor, Op.83 (1918); pf. quintet, Op.84 (1918–19).SHORT PIECES FOR SMALL ORCH.: Cantique, Op.3 (1912 orch. of 1897 organ solo Adagio solenne); Rosemary (1914 orch. of 1882 pf. solo); Sevillana, Op.7 (1884); Salut d'Amour, Op.12 (1888); 3 Bavarian Dances, Op.27 (Nos. 1, 3, and 6 of From the Bavarian Highlands) (orch. 1897); Minuet, Op.21 (1899 orch. of 1897 pf. solo); Chanson de Nuit; Chanson de Matin, Op.15, Nos. 1 and 2 (1901 orch.); Sérénade lyrique (1899); Dream Children, Op.43 (1902); Carissima (1913); Minuet (Beau Brummel) (1928); Mina (sketched for pf. 1932, orch. 1933).SOLO SONGS: Through the long days (1885); The Wind at Dawn (1888); Queen Mary's Song (1889); Like to the Damask Rose (1893); Shepherd's Song (1893); Rondel (1894); After (1895); Love Alone Will Stay (incorporated into Sea Pictures as In Haven) (1897); Pipes of Pan (1900); In the Dawn; Speak, Music (1902); Land of Hope and Glory (1902); Pleading (1908); The Torch; The River (1909–10); The Fringes of the Fleet (1917); and many more.PIANO: Rosemary (Douce Pensée) (1882, orch. 1914); May Song (1901, orch. 1928); Concert Allegro, Op.46 (1901); Dream Children, Op.43 (1902); Skizze (1903); In Smyrna (1905); Echo's Dance (from Sanguine Fan) (1917); Sonatina (1889, rev. 1930); Adieu (1932); Serenade (1932).ORGAN: 11 Vesper Voluntaries, Op.14 (1889–90); Sonata in G major, Op.28 (1895); Sonata No.2, Op.87a (arr. by Atkins of Severn Suite) (1932–3).TRANSCRIPTIONS FOR ORCH.: J. S. Bach: Fugue in C minor (Elgar Op.86) f.p. London 1921; Fantasy in C minor, f.p. Gloucester 1922; Handel: Overture in D minor, f.p. Worcester 1923; Chopin: Funeral March from Pf. Sonata in B♭ minor, 1933.UNCOMPLETED: sym. No.3, Op.88 (begun c.1932); The Spanish Lady, opera, Op.89 (begun c.1932); pf. conc., Op.90 (sketches date from 1909).
Sir Edward Elgar
Sir Edward Elgar
The works of the English composer Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) ushered in the modern flowering of English music. His work is characterized by brilliant orchestration and impressive craftsmanship.
Edward Elgar was born on June 2, 1857, in Worcester. His father played the organ and directed the choir in St. George's Catholic Church, was a violinist in local orchestras, and ran a music store. This musical ambience was school and conservatory for Edward, who received no formal musical education except for a few violin lessons. He served his apprenticeship as a church organist, choirmaster, and director of amateur orchestras and the band of the county mental institution. The focus of musical activity was the annual choir festival, when distinguished conductors and soloists performed oratorios by George Frederick Handel and Felix Mendelsohn, as well as newly commissioned works, with the local choir.
Elgar's earliest works were for his church choir, and in later years his most important compositions were large oratorios commissioned for choir festivals. Through these performances he became known throughout England. His first important orchestral piece was the Enigma Variations (1899). The "enigma" refers to the theme on which the variations are written, a countertheme to an unnamed and unplayed melody. There have been many conjectures about the mysterious theme, but its identity has never been determined. Each of the variations is labeled with the initials or nickname of friends of the composer, and each variation is a musical character sketch. The piece is beautifully orchestrated and written.
Elgar's choral masterpiece is The Dream of Gerontius (1900). Written to a religious poem by Cardinal Newman, it is perhaps the finest English composition of the Victorian era. It is Wagnerian in its use of leitmotivs characterizing the protagonists and situations, the rich, chromatic harmony, and the masterful orchestral writing.
Other important works by Elgar are the Violin Concerto (1910) and two overtures, Cockaigne (1910) and Falstaff (1913). His best-known piece is Pomp and Circumstance No. 1 (1901), a concert march from which the patriotic hymn "Land of Hope and Glory" was written. Its honest, brilliant tunes epitomize the optimism of Edwardian England.
Elgar was knighted in 1904 and named master of the king's music in 1924. By the time of his death on Feb. 23, 1934, in Worcester, the younger 20th-century composers had made his music seem old-fashioned. Later evaluations, however, have been more generous, and Elgar's place in music seems once again assured.
The best works on Elgar are W. H. Reed, Elgar (1939), which includes analyses of three major works; Diana McVeagh, Edward Elgar: His Life and Music (1955); Percy Marshall Young, Elgar, O. M.: A Study of a Musician (1955), a biography which emphasizes his music; and Michael Kennedy, Portrait of Elgar (1968), a study of his character. A good background study which discusses Elgar's work is Joseph Machlis, Introduction to Contemporary Music (1961).
Anderson, Robert, Elgar, New York: Schirmer Books: Maxwell Macmillan International, 1993.
De-la-Noy, Michael, Elgar, the man, London: A. Lane, 1983.
McVeagh, Diana M., Edward Elgar, his life and music, Westport, Conn.: Hyperion Press, 1979.
Moore, Jerrold Northrop, Edward Elgar: a creative life, Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Mundy, Simon, Elgar, London; New York: Omnibus Press, 1984.
Reed, William H. (William Henry), Elgar as I knew him, Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Young, Percy M. (Percy Marshall), Elgar, O. M.: a study of a musician, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980, 1973. □