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Sir Edward Elgar

Edward Elgar

Born: 1857 Died: 1934

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 summers' days, he would take manuscripts into the countryside to study them. Thus there 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. In many ways, his years as a young Worcestershire violinist were his happiest. He played in the first violins at the Worcester and Birmingham Festivals, and one great experience was to play Antonin Dvorak's Sixth Symphony and 'Stabat Mater' under the composer's baton. Elgar was thrilled by Dvorak's orchestration and this remained an influence on his own style for more than a decade.

At 29, through his teaching, he met (Caroline) Alice Roberts, a Major-General's daughter (shades of Gilbert and Sullivan) and an author of verse and prose fiction. He married her three years later against the wishes of her family, giving her as an engagement present the short violin and piano piece Salut d'amour. The Elgars moved to London to be closer to the centre of British musical life, and Edward started composing in earnest. The stay was unsuccessful, however, and they were obliged to return to Great Malvern, where Edward could earn a living teaching.

During the 1890s Elgar gradually built up a reputation as a composer, chiefly of works for the great choral festivals of the Midlands. The Black Knight, King Olaf (1896), The Light of Life and Caractacus were all modestly successful and he obtained a long-standing publisher in Novello and Company.

In 1899, at the age of 42, his first major orchestral 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 British composer of his generation. This work is formally titled Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma). The enigma is that although there are thirteen variations on the 'original theme', the 'enigma' theme, which Elgar said 'runs through and over the whole set' is never heard. The following year saw the production in Birmingham of his choral setting of Cardinal Newman's poem The Dream of Gerontius. Despite a disastrous first performance, the work was established within a few years as one of Elgar's greatest.

Elgar is probably best known for the Pomp and Circumstance Marches (1901). Shortly after their composition, Elgar was asked to set the first march to words by A C Benson as a Coronation Ode to mark the coronation of King Edward VII. The suggestion had already been made (allegedly by the future King himself) that words should be fitted to the broad tune which formed the trio section of this march. Against the advice of his friends, Elgar suggested that Benson furnish further words to allow him to include it in the new work. The result was Land of Hope and Glory, which formed the finale of the ode and was also issued (with slightly different words) as a separate song.

Between 1902 and 1914 Elgar enjoyed phenomenal success, made four visits to the USA including one conducting tour, and earned considerable fees from the performance of his music. Between 1905 and 1908 Elgar held the post of Professor of Music at the University of Birmingham. His lectures there caused controversy owing to remarks he made about other English composers and English music in general; he was quoted as saying 'English music is white -- it evades everything'. His Symphony No. 1 (1908) was given one hundred performances in its first year. However, with the advent of World War I, his music fell out of fashion, and after the death of his wife in 1920 he wrote little of importance. Shortly before her death he composed the magnificent, elegiac Cello Concerto. This suggests that Alice Elgar was the main influence behind his successes, achieving her own ambition through the man of her choice. A fine biography of her has been written by Percy M. Young.

At the end of his life Elgar began work on an opera and accepted a commission from the BBC to compose a Third Symphony. His final illness prevented its completion but the sketches have since been elaborated into a successful symphony in the style of Elgar by the composer Anthony Payne.

The house in Broadheath where he was born is now a museum devoted to him. There is a statue of him at the end of Worcester High Street, facing the cathedral, only yards from where his father's shop once stood.

Featured Items (See Related Items.)

Displaying 1-7 of 7 items.


Edward Elgar : Five Unaccompanied Part Songs : SATB divisi : 01 Songbook : Edward Elgar : 072325r

Edward Elgar : Five Unaccompanied Part Songs

Review: Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet, OM, GCVO was an English composer. Several of his first major works, including the Enigma Variations and the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, were greeted with acclaim. He also composed oratorios, chamber music, symphonies, instrumental concertos, and songs. He was appointed Master of the King's Musick in 1924. Elgar's part songs, written in 1914 to be sung by choirs of all levels. Includes op. 71, 72 and 73 for SATB with divisions. Piano for rehearsal only.

Songlist: The Shower, The Fountain, Death on the Hills, Love's Tempest, Serenade

More details
5033b | Songbook $19.95 | SATB divisi add item to cart English Choral Arrangements


Edward Elgar : Five Unaccompanied Part-Songs - Op. 71, 72, 73 : SATB : 01 Songbook : Edward Elgar : 752187440758 : 0853604606 : 14037203

Edward Elgar : Five Unaccompanied Part-Songs - Op. 71, 72, 73

Review: Elgar's part songs, written in 1914 to be sung by choirs across England. Includes Op. 71, 72 and 73 for SATB with divisions. Piano for rehearsal only.

More details
2975b | Songbook $15.95 | SATB add item to cart


Edward Elgar : Five Unaccompanied Part-Songs for TTBB : TTBB : 01 Songbook : Edward Elgar : 884088444587 : 0853602530 : 14011859

Edward Elgar : Five Unaccompanied Part-Songs for TTBB

Review: Part-Song for Men's voices. The words from the Greek Anthology translated by Alma Strettell. Includes piano part for rehearsal purposes.

Songlist: After A Dusty Mile, Feasting I Watch, Yea, Cast Me From The Heights of the Mountain, Whether I Find Thee, It's Oh To Be a Wild Wind

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7237b | Songbook $11.95 | TTBB add item to cart Male Voice Arrangements


Edward Elgar : The Early Part-Songs 1890-1891 : SATB : 01 Songbook : Edward Elgar : 884088446949 : 0853603251 : 14010100

Edward Elgar : The Early Part-Songs 1890-1891

Review: A collection of Elgars's early works for unaccompanied mixed voice choir.

Songlist: O Happy Eyes, Love, My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land, Spanish Serenade

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7360b | Songbook $9.95 | SATB add item to cart English Choral Arrangements


Edward Elgar : The Later Part Songs : SATB divisi : 01 Songbook : Edward Elgar : 884088439569 : 085360357X : 14018659

Edward Elgar : The Later Part Songs

Review: Unaccompanied poetry settings from the period 1902-1925, for SATB with divisions. Includes piano part for rehearsal purposes.

Songlist: Evening Scene, Weary Wind of the West, The Prince of Sleep

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7326b | Songbook $11.95 | SATB divisi add item to cart English Choral Arrangements


Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge : Choral Music of Edward Elgar : 00  1 CD : Richard Marlow : Edward Elgar : 49262

Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge : Choral Music of Edward Elgar

Review: Richard Marlow's final recording as director of the Trinity College choir (Cambridge, England)! The choral works of Edward Elgar are gems of the English Romantic tradition. Under the direction of Marlow, the choir of Trinity College was the first mixed choir in a Cambridge college. As an adult mixed choir, they have the distinctive, clear English sound we admire, but with the power that only mature voices can produce. Highly recommended!

Songlist: Give Unto the Lord, Ave vernum, Ave Maria, Ave maris stella, Light out of darkness, Intende voci orationis meae, Good Morrow, Te Deum, Benedictus, I sing the Birth, Doubt not, Fear not, Light of the world, They are at rest, Great is the Lord (Psalm 48)

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8995c | 1 CD $16.95 add item to cart Mixed Choirs CDs


Finzi Singers : Elgar - Part Songs : 00  1 CD : Paul Spicer : Edward Elgar : 9269

Finzi Singers : Elgar - Part Songs

Review: The Finzi Singers seem to know just what is required of them, bringing their imaginative style to some of the best partsongs. The programme is arranged chronologically until the last five pieces, which form a kind of encore-group or coda to the recital. From Op. 18 to Op. 73 is quite a journey. In years, it goes from 1890 (the date of My love dwelt in a Northern land, from Op. 18) to 1914: most of Elgar's creative life lies between. The imaginative freedom and technical assurance of the 1914 settings are attributes hard won in the period that divides these compositions from the easier charm and geniality of the early sets. Yet, returning to those, one finds a very characteristic strength, whether of melody, harmony or phrasing.

Songlist: O Happy Eyes, Love, My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land, Yea, Cast me from Heights of the Mountains, Whether I Find Thee, Aver Many a Dusty Mile, It's Oh! to be a Wild Wind, Feasting I Watch, There is Sweet Music, Deep in My Soul, O Wild West Wind!, Owls (An Epitaph), The Shower, The Fountain, Death on the Hills Op. 72, Love's Tempest, Serenade, How Calmly the Evening, Weary Wind of the West, Wvening Scene, The Prince of Sleep, Go, Song of Mine Op. 57

More details
6893c | 1 CD $15.98 add item to cart English Choral CDs

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