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Not content with mere rings to mark their engagement in 1888, Edward Elgar and his wife-to-be Alice exchanged artistic gifts too.
She had given him a poem that she had written a few years earlier, entitled ‘The Wind at Dawn’, although she retitled it ‘Love’s Grace’ for the occasion. Elgar immediately set it to music, winning himself a rather useful £5 in the process when he entered it into a composing competition. (Using a measure of average earnings, that’s the equivalent today of some £2,600 – not a bad day’s work for a would-be composer and his fiancée). In return, Elgar gave Alice a musical love token, entitled Liebesgruss – written in Settle, in Yorkshire.
Never one to look a gift piece in the mouth, Elgar sent a few versions to Schott’s publishers, who gave him just two guineas for it and promptly published it as Salut d’Amour, calling him mysteriously ‘Ed. Elgar’ – the hope being that if he sounded less English, it would sell more. And it did. Sadly, Elgar received only his two guineas.
Itzhak Perlman (violin); Samuel Sanders (piano). EMI classics: 4769572.
Illustration: Mark Millington