Yet if ever a composer could be said to be ‘The’ English Composer, it would probably be Edward Elgar. If you graduated even from Beauty School in the last hundred or so years, you were shepherded into the ceremony to the Trio of March #1 in D– Land of Hope and Glory.
He was a product of late Victorian/Edwardian Nationalism and like many after World War I, came to question some of his previous assumptions. By that time however he was already looked at as the Rudyard Kipling of English music and his reputation has suffered from it since.
It can’t be said he lacked a sense of humor, his first ‘famous’ piece, the Enigma Variations, was actually an extended satire of the various musical acquaintances he had made in 20 odd years as a professional performer. But that’s not the joke, the joke is that the true ‘theme’ the variations were composed around is never played and was never disclosed and remains a subject of controversy to this day.
Elgar came to be seen as the successor to Arthur Sullivan and after an incredible surge of popularity between 1900 and 1912 he was Knighted and eventually appointed Master of the King’s Musick (where he eliminated the ‘k’, I told you he had a sense of humor).
After his wife’s death and post war loss of popularity he devoted himself to his ‘hobbies’, rooting for the Wolverhampton Wanderers and playing the ponies (“Get your ice cream. Get your Tootsie Fruitsie ice cream.”).
He also recorded and was one of the very first people to use EMI’s famous Abbey Road Studios (yes, that one). Of course it was March #1 in D, “Play this tune as though you’ve never heard it before.”
The Cello Concerto in E Minor (Op. 85) that I am featuring tonight is highly regarded by Elgarians, it has 4 Movements posted by markvogue in 5 parts. This performance is by Jaqueline DuPre conducted by Daniel Barenboim.