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Elgar the Music Maker

Elgar the Music Maker

Diana McVeagh
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Elgar the Music Maker
    Book Description:

    "The new Diana McVeagh book on Elgar is first-rate," wrote Gerald Finzi of her earlier study of the composer, published in 1955. In the completely new Elgar the Music Maker she harvests five decades of thoughts about his music, scrutinizing the biographical details that have since been discovered and using them to assess the ways in which they affect the compositions. Diana McVeagh explores Elgar's complex personality and his compositional methods, his style and his relationship to his contemporaries, yet it is the music - still played, recorded, loved and discussed as much as ever- that remains her prime focus. Each of Elgar's works is discussed, balancing information and appraisal, from his juvenilia to his unfinished Third Symphony. Diana McVeagh provides a compelling and accessible companion to the music of one of England's greatest composers. Musicians, scholars and CD collectors alike will find much to enjoy in Elgar the Music Maker. Diana McVeagh is the author of the highly acclaimed Gerald Finzi: His Life and Music (2005); of the entries on Elgar and Finzi for The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980, 2001); and of the Finzi entry in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004).

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-536-9
    Subjects: Music, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. CHAPTER ONE The Making of an Enigma 1857–1899
    (pp. 1-44)

    Elgar never received a composition lesson in his life. The fact that his father kept a music shop has often been seen as a social disadvantage: being born into trade certainly contributed to the chip on his shoulder. But should not the emphasis be on music shop, for what better environment could the penurious young composer have had than the music, scores, books, and instruments all around him? The shop formed his private library, his laboratory, and familiarized him with the ways of publishers. He learnt by listening and doing.

    Edward William Elgar was born in 1857 in a cottage...

  6. CHAPTER TWO To the Greater Glory of God, 1899–1909
    (pp. 45-111)

    The Variations were the first of Elgar’s great orchestral works. He was at the time ‘possessed’ by the idea of composing a symphony to commemorate General Gordon of Khartoum. He proposed it for the 1899 Three Choirs Festival, and it was announced in the press. But even after the success ofCaractacusearlier that month he was not certain enough of himself to embark on a symphony. The grand theme he sketched for it on 20 October 1898 became the Committal inThe Dream of Gerontius.The same day he wrote dismally to Jaeger, ‘I have to earn money somehow...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Symphonist 1907–1915
    (pp. 112-158)

    At the end of 1906 Elgar was again plagued by ill-health. In December he and Alice left England for two months in Italy, spending time in Naples, Capri and Rome. In Capri he went to have his hair cut. The barber was playing a mandoline, so Elgar took up a violin, then a guitarist arrived, and the three played together. He wrote down the trio but left it unfinished. Another visit to the States (2 March to 27 April) was primarily to conduct. In New York he gave the American première ofThe Kingdom, then went on to Chicago and...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Music of Wartime 1914–1920
    (pp. 159-184)

    When war broke out on 4 August 1914, the Elgars were on the west coast of Scotland. He had almost agreed to compose the last part of his oratorio trilogy, and was taking a long holiday before starting work. When he returned home he put that idea aside, and within weeks was sworn in as a special constable.

    His first musical reaction was to compose on 6 September a ‘Soldier’s Song: The Roll Call’, which Clara Butt sang on 10 October 1914. But he must later have found this an inappropriate response, and withdrew it. Then, as Belgium was overrun,...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Last Years 1920–1934
    (pp. 185-200)

    As a young man Elgar arranged much music, from Handel’sAriodanteoverture in 1878 to Wagner’sGood Friday Musicin 1894, scored for whatever local group he was involved with. Before radio and gramophone, the dissemination of orchestral works was mostly through arrangements or the domestic pianist. Brahms composed his Haydn Variations for two pianos and for the orchestra. In the present day, Howard Ferguson did the same for his Partita. Often the motive was the publishers’ financial reward.Salut d’amourwas arranged for every imaginable combination – and some unimaginable. Karg-Elert’s transcriptions of Elgar’s symphonies for piano are remarkable in...

  10. 6 Coda
    (pp. 201-208)

    Elgar died on 23 February 1934. He left sketches for the unfinished third oratorio, a piano concerto, the operaThe Spanish Lady, and a third symphony.

    All his life Elgar loved music in the theatre. But nothing came of his Rabelais ballet, nor yet of the ‘Opera in 3 Acts’ heading in a 1909 sketchbook. Later he contemplated, though never began, a Hardy opera, even aLear. Among many other librettos, he was offered and refused aPilgrim’s Progress.Then Barry Jackson (1879–1961) of the Birmingham Repertory founded a Drama Festival at Malvern; the first, in 1929, was dedicated...

  11. List of Works
    (pp. 209-226)
  12. Index of Music
    (pp. 227-232)
  13. Index of Names
    (pp. 233-240)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 241-241)