EDWARD ELGAR  1857 - 1934

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Edward William Elgar (1887-1934), 1st Baronet OM GCVO was an English composer, many of whose works have entered the British and international classical concert repertoire. Elgar is credited with having revived the English compositional tradition. Not since the time of Purcell had an English composer achieved the notoriety that Elgar had.

Elgar’s biographer Basil Maine commented, When Sir Arthur Sullivan died in 1900 it became apparent to many that Elgar, although a composer of another build, was his true successor as first musician of the land. His work reflected the features of romanticism.

Among his best-known compositions are orchestral works including the «Enigma Variations», the «Pomp and Circumstance Marches», the «Dream of Gerontius», concertos for violin and cello, two symphonies, chamber music and songs. The continental composers who most influenced Elgar were Handel, Dvořák and, to some degree, Brahms. In Elgar’s chromaticism, the influence of Wagner is apparent, but Elgar’s individual style of orchestration owes much to the clarity of nineteenth- century French composers, Berlioz, Massenet, Saint-Saëns and Delibes.

"Portrait of Edward Elgar"

Author Rinat Kuramshin

Elgar’s best-known works were composed within the twenty-one years between 1899 and 1920. Most of them are orchestral. In 1900 there followed major work, the oratorio The Dream of Gerontius, which many consider his masterpiece. Based on a poem by John Henry Cardinal Newman, it dispensed with the traditional admixture of recitatives, arias, and choruses, using instead a continuous musical texture as in the musical dramas of Richard Wagner. The work was not well received at its first performance in Birmingham, but after it was acclaimed in Germany, it won British favour.

Elgar is probably best known for the first of the five Pomp and Circumstance Marches, which were composed between 1901 and 1930. The one and only time in the history of the Promenade concerts that an orchestral item was accorded a double encore». In his fifties, Elgar composed a symphony and a violin concerto that were immensely successful. His symphony №1 was received with tremendous enthusiasm and there were a hundred performances of it in Britain and all over Europe and in America, Australia and Russia, etc. in just over a year. His second symphony and his cello concerto did not gain immediate public popularity and took many years to achieve a regular place in the concert repertory of British orchestras. Elgar has been described as the first composer to take the gramophone seriously. Between 1914 and 1925, he conducted a series of acoustic recordings of his works. The introduction of the movingcoil microphone in 1923 made far more accurate sound reproduction possible, and Elgar made new recordings of most of his major orchestral works and excerpts from The Dream of Gerontius. In 1904 Elgar was knighted, and from 1905 to 1908 he was the University of Birmingham’s first professor of music. Between 1900 and 1931, Elgar received honorary degrees from the Universities of Cambridge, Durham, Leeds, Oxford, Yale (USA), Aberdeen, Western Pennsylvania (USA), Birmingham and London.

E. Elgar and the London Symphony Orchestra 

Notes. E.Elgar

Concerto for cello

E.Elgar and B.Harrison recording

his Concerto at HMV’s studios

University of Birmingham"

He was appointed Master of the King’s Music in 1924. In 1933 he was promoted within the Royal Victorian Order to Knight Grand Cross (GCVO). The house in Lower Broadheath where Elgar was born is now the Elgar Birthplace Museum, devoted to his life and work. Elgar’s daughter, Carice, helped to found the museum in 1936 and bequeathed to it much of her collection of Elgar’s letters and documents. Elgar’s life and music have inspired works of literature including the novel Gerontius and several plays. Elgar’s music came, in his later years, to be seen as appealing chiefly to British audiences. His stock remained low for a generation after his death. It began to revive significantly in the 1960s, helped by new recordings of his works. Some of his works have, in recent years, been taken up again internationally.

The first English composer of international stature since Henry Purcell, Elgar liberated his country’s music from its insularity. He left to younger composers the rich harmonic resources of late Romanticism and stimulated the subsequent national school of English music.

Perhaps the best-known work depicting Elgar is Ken Russell’s 1962 BBC television film Elgar, made when the composer was still largely out of fashion. This hour-long film contradicted the view of Elgar as a jingoistic and bombastic composer, and evoked the more pastoral and melancholy side of his character and music.

There are around 65 roads in the UK named after Elgar, including six in the counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Elgar had three locomotives named in his honour.

His compositions are performed by musicians at concerts in many theaters, philharmonic halls, concert halls in Russia, Great Britain and many other countries.