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Two of Elgar's greatest hits - the Cello Concerto and the Enigma Variations - are part of tonight's celebration of his life and music.
Tonight's all-Elgar concert opens with the Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4. Elgar completed it in June 1907 and dedicated it to his friend, Dr. G. Robertson Sinclair who lived in Hereford. The Trio section is another rousing tune in the style of 'Land of Hope and Glory'. It was used by Elgar in a song called 'The King's Way' which he wrote, to his wife's words, in celebration of the opening of London street Kingsway in 1909. During World War II, the theme also acquired words: a patriotic poem by A. P. Herbert with the refrain beginning "All men must be free" was used as "Song of Liberty".
In 1882, during which Elgar was music director of the Powick Lunatic Asylum, he wrote a short piano piece called Danse Pensée. He orchestrated it in 1915 under the name Rosemary. It's essentially a waltz, although the rhythm under the surface is more complex. It's played tonight by Ashley Wass.
One of the masterpieces of the modern cello repertoire, it's strange to think now that Elgar's Cello Concerto wasn't that widely performed until a certain Jacqueline Du Pré got hold of it in 1965. The premiere recording though was made by Beatrice Harrison, with Elgar himself conducting in 1920. Tonight the cello part is played by Alisa Weilerstein.
The Ave Verum Corpus was originally written in 1887 while Elgar was organist at St George's Church in Worcester as a setting of the Pie Jesu, in memory of William Allen, Worcester attorney for whom Elgar worked as a 15-year old. Elgar arranged and orchestrated it as a setting of Ave verum corpus for publication in 1902.
The Nursery Suite is one of the last compositions by Edward Elgar. Its composition came about when Elgar mentioned to William Laundon Streeton of recording company HMV that he had lately run across a box of musical sketches from the days of his youth. Streeton suggested that, as Master of the King's Musick, he might suitably draw on them for a work to mark the recent birth of Princess Margaret. The suite was dedicated to Princess Margaret, her older sister Princess Elizabeth (the present Queen) and their mother. The choreographer Frederick Ashton used the Nursery Suite for a new ballet in 1986 for the Queen's 60th birthday gala at the Royal Opera House.
Composed in 1891, when Elgar was around 34 years old, the violin piece La Capricieuse is played tonight by Sarah Chang on violin and the pianist Sarah Rivers.
Elgar's Variations on an Original Theme for Orchestra, commonly referred to as the Enigma Variations, is a set of 14 variations on a hidden theme that is, in Elgar's words, 'not played'. Elgar dedicated the piece to 'my friends pictured within', each variation being an affectionate portrayal of one of his circle of close acquaintances. The most famous is Nimrod - a variation dedicated to his music editor Augustus J. Jaeger. After its 1899 London premiere, the piece achieved popularity and was performed internationally.
Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance March No.4
William Boughton conducts the English String Orchestra
Piano: Ashley Wass
Elgar: Cello Concerto in E minor
Cello: Alisa Weilerstein
Daniel Barenboim conducts Staatskapelle Berlin
Elgar: Ave Verum Corpus
Organ: Iain Simcock
James O’Donnell conducts the Choir of Westminster Cathedral
Elgar: Nursery Suite
Bryden Thomson conducts the Ulster Orchestra
Elgar: La Capricieuse
Violin: Sarah Chang
Piano: Sarah Rivers
Elgar: Variations on an Original Theme (‘Enigma Variations’)
Andrew Davis conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra