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Elgar, Edward, Sir


Distinguished Catholic composer; b. Broadheath, near Worcester, England, June 2, 1857; d. Worcester, Feb. 23, 1934. He received most of his musical training from his father, organist at St. George's Catholic Church in Worcester, but was self-taught in composition. After producing several cantatas and orchestral pieces, he emerged as a major musical figure with the "Enigma" variations (1899) and The Dream of Gerontius (1900), an oratorio setting of Cardinal J. H. newman's poem. Like Gerontius, his Biblical oratorios The Apostles (1903) and The Kingdom (1906) are affirmations of a deep religious faith in an age of skepticism. They contain many striking passages characterized by excellent vocal and instrumental scoring, richly imaginative (if traditional) harmonies, and magnificent texts, and they are especially effective in depicting states of contemplative tranquility. Like his other extended works, they are criticized mainly for excessive length. His liturgical music consists of a few early motets written for the Worcester church, where he succeeded his father as organist in 1885. Besides the "Enigma" variations, his best-known orchestral works are the distinctively English "Pomp and Circumstance" marches and the Violin Concerto. He was knighted in 1904, received the Order of Merit in 1911, and was awarded honorary degrees by several English and American universities.

Bibliography: d. mcveagh, Edward Elgar: His Life and Music (London 1955). p. m. young, Elgar, O.M.: A Study of a Musician (London 1955). d. e. tovey et al., Music and Letters (London 1920) 16.1 (Jan. 1935) 139, a memorial issue. n. slonimsky, ed., Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (5th ed. New York 1958) 430432. h. c. coles, Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. e. blom, 9 v. (5th ed. London 1954) 2:909928. b. adams, "The 'Dark Saying' of the Enigma: Homoeroticism and the Elgarian Paradox," 19th-Century Music, 23 (2000) 218235. s. lindley, "This Is the Best of Me ," Organ, 79 (2000) 136138. c. e. mcguire, "Elgar, Judas, and the Theology of Betrayal," 19th-Century Music, 23 (2000) 236272. b. newbould, "'Never Done Before': Elgar's Other Enigma," Music and Letters, 77 (1996) 228241. a. payne, "Being Elgar," Tempo, 204 (1998) 23; Elgar's Third Symphony: The Story of the Reconstruction (London 1998). a. p. simco, "Interpreting Elgar's Enigma Variations, " Percussive Notes: The Journal of the Percussive Arts Society, 37/1 (1999) 4648. p. m. young, Elgar, Newman, and 'The Dream of Gerontius': In the Tradition of English Catholicism (Aldershot, Eng. 1995).

[r. m. longyear]

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