Edward Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance Marches

For someone who claimed to pride himself on not being a part of the establishment, Elgar loved many of the trappings that came with it.

He lobbied fairly furiously for his position as Master of the King’s Music; he was a member of the Athenaeum Club, and he was not beyond pulling a few strings with his friends in high places, when the need arose.

When it came to the subject matter for his music, he loved all things establishment, too. A huge fan of chivalry in all its forms, the ‘pomp and circumstance’ of his marches’ titles comes from Shakespeare’s Othello (the ‘pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war’ from Act III, Scene 3). In his lifetime, there were five marches, with the first four, including the most famous first – the ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ march – coming between 1901 and 1907, long before the harsh realities of the First World War changed many British people’s attitudes to the pomp of war. Nevertheless, a late straggler, the fifth, followed in 1930, and the composer Anthony Payne completed a sixth from Elgar’s notes in 2006.

Recommended Recording

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Yehudi Menuhin (conductor). Virgin: 5614302.