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Composer Spotlight: Elgar

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EMI PM's Alice Benton discusses the life and works of British composer, Sir Edward Elgar

Composer Spotlight: Elgar

A name synonymous with British classical music is that of Sir Edward Elgar. Not since Henry Purcell, who died in 1675, had a British composer claimed such international recognition. The epitome of pure-blooded, late 19th century Romanticism, Elgar’s music is endlessly emotive and evocative. His mighty oeuvre is packed with stunning symphonies, dazzling chamber pieces and rousing concertos that have become symbols and icons of British music.  

From his birth in 1857 in Worchester, young Elgar was surrounded by music. His father, an organist, ran a music shop and young Elgar soon became an accomplished violinist, bassoonist, pianist, conductor, teacher, and composer. He married Caroline Alice Roberts, one of his piano students, in 1899.

Elgar’s music is characterised by hearty, rousing melodies performed by vast orchestral forces. His big break as a composer came in the form of ‘Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36’, known more commonly known as the ‘Enigma’ Variations. It is from this piece that the famous ‘Nimrod’, irrevocably associated with Remembrance Day, comes from. There is something deeply personal and intimate in the Enigma score: each movement is a musical characterisation of a member of Elgar’s friends or family. The first variation is dedication to his wife, and ‘Nimrod’, the biblical hunter, to his friend Jaegar (meaning ‘hunter’ in German).

Whilst the Enigma Variations feel warm and personal, other gems in Elgar’s oeuvre, such as the glorious ‘Pomp and Circumstance Marches’, exudes grandeur and majesty. The first of these marches contains the sublime chorus, ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, which has since become an unofficial national anthem, solidifying Elgar’s reputation as a pioneer of British classical music in the 20th century.

One of Elgar’s last notable works, the poignant ‘Cello Concerto’, is an absolute masterpiece. A mainstay in the cello repertoire, its rich, sweeping themes demand technical prowess and extraordinary dexterity from the soloist. From powerful, fiery character of the first movement to the beautiful, sentimental figures of the Adagio, Elgar’s ‘Cello Concerto’ is work of unparalleled skill and beauty.

Explore more of Elgar’s stunning works in our latest addition to the KPM Classical Series catalogue: ‘Elgar: Selected Works’.


- Alice Benton, EMI Production Music

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Genres: Music & Sound Design

Categories: Media and Entertainment, Record Labels

EMI Production Music, Thu, 04 Feb 2021 14:45:44 GMT