Edward Elgar: Violin Concerto in B minor

Despite the status that Elgar’s Cello Concerto has acquired since its premiere, there is a case to be made for proposing that it was in fact the Violin Concerto that was truly the composer’s favourite among his own works.

Many accounts suggest that he was writing for his friend and muse, Alice Stuart-Wortley, whom some claim was the great true love of his life. It is also worth noting that Elgar was writing here for his own instrument. He prided himself on the way in which he had plied his trade as a player for many years, rising up through the practical ranks of real musicians. If the festival orchestras of Victorian England were his coal face, then the violin was his pick axe.

The dedication on the work’s front page reads ‘Herein is enshrined the soul of ...’. This mystery figure was long thought to be Alice Stuart-Wortley, but if the five dots were not substitutes for letters, as often thought, but Morse code, they could be ‘H.E.’, for Helen Elgar, Elgar’s sister. And Helen Elgar’s nickname in her family? Only ‘Dot’!

Recommended Recording

Nigel Kennedy (violin); City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Simon Rattle (conductor). EMI classics: 5034172. 

Illustration: Mark Millington