"I always said God was against art and I still believe it." Edward Elgar
Edward William Elgar
Sir Edward William Elgar (1857–1934) was an English composer, among whose best-known compositions are orchestral works including the Enigma Variations, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, concertos for violin and cello, and two symphonies.
Life and Music
- Elgar's father owned a music shop and was a church organist who taught his son piano, organ, and violin; apart from this instruction, Elgar was basically self-taught as a musician.
- At the age of 16, the composer became a freelance musician and for the remainder of his life never took a permanent job. He conducted locally, performed, taught, and composed, scraping by until his marriage to Caroline Alice Roberts, a published novelist of some wealth, in 1889.
- In 1899, Elgar composed one of his best-known works, the "Enigma" Variations, Op. 36, which catapulted him to fame. The work is a cryptic tribute to Alice and to the many friends who stood behind the composer in the shaky early days of his career.
- Elgar's most fruitful period was the first decade of the twentieth century, during which he wrote some of his noblest, most expressive music, including the first four of his Pomp and Circumstance Marches; the first of these, subtitled "Land of Hope and Glory", became an unofficial second national anthem for the British Empire.
- Elgar suffered a blow when Jaeger (the "Nimrod" of the "Enigma" Variations) died in 1909. The composer's productivity dropped, and the horrors of World War I deepened his melancholic outlook.
- In 1919 Elgar wrote the masterly Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, whose deep feeling of sadness and impending loss surely relates to the final illness of his faithful Alice, who died in 1920.
- In the early 1930s, Elgar set to work on a third symphony, left unfinished at his death in 1934.
Did you know?
Edward Elgar and the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini both had bushy moustaches!
Elgar: 15 facts about the great composer
The 20th Century's best moustache? Maybe, but there's far more to Edward Elgar than that - find out exactly what with our handy gallery of facts about the great man.
Elgar with an iPhone? Whatever next? Four new portraits showing the composer in a different light have appeared in Malvern
Two vocal works found in the British Library will be performed at the composer's birthplace museum on his 156th birthday
Find out more about Elgar's Violin Concerto in B minor. Watch and listen to different recordings and download your favourite.
Find out more about Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius. Watch and listen to different recordings and download your favourite.
Music from the young Elgar for an asylum band. Classic FM Drive Featured Album, 24 March 2014.
An all-American performance of some British classics. Drive Featured Album, 21 January 2013.
Head of #TeamElgar, Margherita Taylor makes a pilgrimage to the composer's birthplace - take a look at how she got on
With HMV possibly being rescued thanks to Hilco, we take a look back at the golden era of the famous record shop, label, recording studio and factory
Often thought of as the most jingoistic of English composers, Elgar - argues David Mellor - is also the most German
Jane Jones discovers what Elgar got up to before all that pomp and circumstance.
Top Elgar Pieces
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