Saturday, August 11, 2007

Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

Sierra Club


My idea is that there is music in the air, music all around us, the world is full of it and you simply take as much as you require.


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Edward William Elgar (June 2, 1857 - February 231934), English composer, was born in the small Worcestershire village of Broadheath to William Elgar, a piano tuner and music dealer, and his wife Ann. Surrounded by sheet music and instruments in his father's shop in Worcester's High Street, the young Elgar became self-taught in music. On warm summer's days, he would take manuscripts into the countryside to study them. Thus began for him a strong association between music and nature. As he was later to say, "There is music in the air, music all around us, the world is full of it and you simply take as much as you require".

Having left school at the age of 15, he began work for a local solicitor, but after a year, embarked on a musical career, conducting piano and violin lessons. At 22, he took up the post of bandmaster at the Worcester and County Lunatic Asylum, a couple of miles to the southwest of Worcester. At 29, through his teaching, he met Alice Roberts, a Major-General's daughter (shades of Sullivan!) and married her three years later. (His engagment present to her was 'Salut d'amour') The Elgars soon moved to London, to be closer to the centre of English musical life, and Edward started composing in earnest.

In 1889, at the age of 32, his first major work, the Enigma Variations, was premiered in London under the baton of the eminent German conductor Hans Richter. It was received with general acclaim, establishing Elgar as the pre-eminent English composer of his generation. This work is formally titled Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma). The enigma is that although there are 15 variations on the "original theme", the original theme itself is never heard. He is probably best known for the Pomp and Circumstance march, the finale to which is used as the tune for the English national anthem Land of Hope and Glory. In recent years, however, some of his other works, such as the Cello Concerto and the Dream of Gerontius, have achieved recognition by classical music fans who regard his more popular works as less substantial. The house in Broad Heath where he was born is now a museum devoted to him. There is now a statue of him at the end of Worcester High Street, facing the cathedral, only yards from where his father's shop once stood. [This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material adapted in whole or in part from the Wikipedia article on Edward Elgar.]

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