Lost Elgar masterpiece found in autograph book – and heard for the first time in 100 years

6 March 2019, 13:17 | Updated: 28 March 2019, 09:20

Lost Elgar masterpiece found in autograph book
Lost Elgar masterpiece found in autograph book. Picture: Getty/Caters

By Helena Asprou

The quintessential English composer is one of the most iconic names in classical music – and now his ‘Andante’ melody for strings has finally come to light.

Sir Edward Elgar has written some of the most spectacular pieces in classical music history – and now one of his melodies has been heard for the first time in 100 years after being found in an autograph book.

Composed in 1924, the ‘Andante’ melody had originally been scribbled by Elgar on a sheet of manuscript paper, which he signed clearly with his name.

But for more than a century, it was hidden within the pages of a small black autograph book once owned by Lydia Tabb – a Barnardo’s charity fundraiser.

Although the six-bar tune is believed to have been scored for a string quartet, experts say it could be an overture for one of Elgar’s great masterpieces.

Among his best-known compositions are the majestic Pomp and Circumstance Marches, the Enigma Variations, his passionate Cello Concerto and beautiful choral works, including The Dream of Gerontius.

Already boasting an incredible repertoire spanning many decades, there’s no doubt that this latest discovery from the composer is exciting news for the world of classical music.

Dating from 1923, the leather-bound book contains 69 signatures – from Prime Ministers Herbert Henry, Stanley Baldwin and Winston Churchill – as well as iconic authors HG Wells and Rudyard Kipling.

Even the likes of Charlie Chaplin, future King George VI and First World War figure, Marshal Ferdinand Foch have penned their names in the book.

Elgar's manuscript was hidden in an autograph book
Elgar's manuscript was hidden in an autograph book. Picture: Getty

Speaking about the discovery, auctioneer Richard Winterton said: “Elgar is widely regarded as one of this country's greatest ever composers. There can't be many people who don't know some of his music, even if they aren't necessarily aware that he wrote it.

“Unfolding this musical manuscript tucked away inside an autograph book – which was already loaded with impressive signatures – I could not believe what I was seeing.

“Not only is it signed and dated by Elgar but there are several lines of complicated musical notation. It was clearly a short melody, written down yet never played. Perhaps never heard aloud for almost 100 years.”

Matron Lydia Tabb, the original owner of the book, was born in 1897 and dedicated her life to fundraising for children’s charity Barnardo’s, before she passed away in 1983.

Her book of autographs featured in Richard Winterton's Library Sale at The Lichfield Auction Centre in Staffordshire on 26 March and has now been sold.