Siegfried Idyll Richard Wagner
No other composer expresses England and Englishness quite like Edward Elgar
Elgar was born in 1857 at a cottage in Lower Broadheath, a few miles from Worcester which is now the home of the Elgar Birthplace Museum in the shadow of the Malvern Hills.
The Malvern Hills dominate the landscape, standing in three counties Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, rising to 1394 feet at the highest point - the Worcestershire Beacon.
The area hasn't changed much since Elgar's day. The narrow roads still wind up and down the hills, the neat Edwardian villas continue to hug the hillsides and every spring the daffodils always bloom in abundance. It's easy to see what inspired him to write, as he once said: "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.’
Elgar's father was a piano tuner who also owned a music shop in nearby Worcester. Elgar learn the piano and violin from his father and inherited his love of the countryside from his mother. Elgar's close friend Billy Reed later said it was this pastoral passion that gave Elgar's music its essential Englishness.
Elgar composed some fine works in his 30s, including Chanson de Matin, but it wasn't until he was in his 40s that he found fame and fortune with the Enigma Variations.
The Elgar family moved to nearby Worcester shortly after Edward was born. His father's music shop is no longer here, but a statue of the great composer stands on the High Street opposite the cathedral.
Elgar wanted to study music seriously but his father couldn't afford the fees, so at the age of 15, he became a solicitor's clerk. He hated it but his stint in an office convinced him that music was his destiny.
It wasn't just the countryside that could inspire Elgar to compose, a pretty girl could, too! Elgar met his future wife Alice when she was a pupil of his and gave her Salut d'Amour in 1888 as an engagement present.
Alice and Elgar married in 1889, not in Elgar's beloved countryside, but Kensington, west London. The young couple lived on Avonmore Road for a year while Elgar tried to make his name in the capital, without success.
They returned not to Worcester but to nearby Malvern where Elgar wrote his Enigma Variations shortly after the move back to his home county.
Elgar dedicated the Enigma Variations - there are 14 - 'to my friends pictured within' and he composed the work at his new Malvern address: 37 Alexandra Road. The house is called Forli and Edward and his wife Alice - lived here until 1899.
The house isn't far from the slopes of the Malvern Hills where Elgar would often walk. One such walk with his good friend Arthur Troyte Griffith inspired Variation VII, called 'Troyte', when the pair got caught in a thunderstorm and had to rush to a nearby house for cover.
Towards the end of their time at Forli, Elgar rented another property, Birchwood Lodge, a quiet little spot not far away. Here, with its views of the Malvern Hills, Elgar completed Caractacus, the Dream of Gerontius and his Sea Pictures.
Caractacus was inspired was a local legend. At the southern tip of the Malverns you'll find one of Elgar's great inspirations, British Camp. An iron age fort that, legend has it that it was once the base of the British chieftain Caractacus who fought against the Roman invasion in the first century. Elgar came here often, but it was his mother who suggested he write a piece about the story. The result was, of course, Caratacus, a work that Elgar was particularly fond of, especially the third scene which begins the 'woodland interlude' a piece clearly inspired by his beloved Malvern hills.
In 1899 Elgar and his wife Alice moved to 'Craeg Lea', a house in Malvern Wells whose name is an anagram of Elgar's, Alice's and their daughter Carice's initials. The new house gave Elgar spectacular views across the Severn Valley to Bredon Hill (pictured) that may well have influenced some of his best-known works - the overtures Cockaigne and In the South, his oratorio The Apostles - and the first two Pomp and Circumstance Marches
Elgar left Craeg Lea for Hereford (pictured) in 1904. By this time, he was Britain's greatest living composer and he was knighted the following year. In wrote a succession of masterpieces, he violin and cello concertos, in the next 16 years, until the death of his wife Alice in 1920.
From Hereford, Elgar moved to London for a while before heading back to the countryside and the village of Fittleworth on the Sussex Downs (pictured) where he composed his Cello Concerto.