Elgar's classic has remained the most popular funeral piece for the past decade, according to a survey.
The position of Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro for Strings in his composing life is quite striking.
It was written after the Enigma Variations, after Sea Pictures, and after the Pomp and Circumstance Marches Nos.1–3, but before his period of self-doubt following the composition of his Symphony No.2, a time of endless soul-searching about whether he was ‘composed out’.
When it came actually to writing it in 1905, it involved a typically Elgarian method of composition. Elgar used numerous notebooks, which he kept with him at all times, for those moments when the muse struck. For this work, he dipped into his jottings and borrowed something that was dated four years earlier.
It had come from a rather bracing walk along the Cardiganshire coast, when he had heard a distant choir, and he had stashed it away for a possible ‘Welsh Rhapsody’ of some sort. In the end, the Welsh piece never came, so he borrowed the tune for this work, which features both a string quartet and a string orchestra. It was written originally for the strings section of the fledgling London Symphony Orchestra, from an original suggestion by his publisher, Jaeger.
Allegri String Quartet; Sinfonia of London; John Barbirolli (conductor). EMI classics: 5672402.