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Edward Elgar and His World

Edward Elgar and His World

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Edward Elgar and His World
    Book Description:

    Edward Elgar (1857-1934) is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating, important, and influential figures in the history of British music. He rose from humble beginnings and achieved fame with music that to this day is beloved by audiences in England, and his work has secured an enduring legacy worldwide. Leading scholars examine the composer's life inEdward Elgar and His World, presenting a comprehensive portrait of both the man and the age in which he lived.

    Elgar's achievement is remarkably varied and wide-ranging, from immensely popular works like the famousPomp and CircumstanceMarch no. 1--a standard feature of American graduations--to sweeping masterpieces like his great oratorioThe Dream of Gerontius. The contributors explore Elgar's Catholicism, which put him at odds with the prejudices of Protestant Britain; his glorification of British colonialism; his populist tendencies; his inner life as an inspired autodidact; the aristocratic London drawing rooms where his reputation was made; the class prejudice with which he contended throughout his career; and his anguished reaction to World War I. Published in conjunction with the 2007 Bard Music Festival and the 150th anniversary of Elgar's birth, this elegant and thought-provoking volume illuminates the greatness of this accomplished English composer and brings vividly to life the rich panorama of Victorian and Edwardian Britain.

    The contributors are Byron Adams, Leon Botstein, Rachel Cowgill, Sophie Fuller, Daniel M. Grimley, Nalini Ghuman Gwynne, Deborah Heckert, Charles Edward McGuire, Matthew Riley, Alison I. Shiel, and Aidan J. Thomson.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3210-1
    Subjects: History, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Permissions and Credits
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Of Worcester and London: An Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xxii)

    By all rights, 1912 should have been the crowning year of Edward Elgar’s career, his long progress from provincial obscurity to fame and riches consummated at last. In this year Elgar and his wife, Alice, whose faith in her husband’s genius had been vindicated so spectacularly, moved into Severn House, an elegantly appointed home in London designed by the fashionable architect Norman Shaw. As they took possession on New Year’s Day, Sir Edward and Lady Alice Elgar may have reflected on how far they had come since 1890, when an earlier attempt to gain a foothold in the metropolis met...


    • Measure of a Man: Catechizing Elgar’s Catholic Avatars
      (pp. 3-38)

      In the back of the nave of Worcester Cathedral is the Elgar Window, a memorial to the composer Edward Elgar. This window is an adornment the cathedral holds with pride: besides the requisite postcards, pamphlets, and Pitkin guides for sale in the gift shop, signs pointing the way to the window are attached to the walls of the cathedral itself, greeting visitors as they enter from the north door. The window, designed by Archibald Nicholson, was the result of an appeal by Ivor Atkins (friend of Elgar’s and longtime organist of Worcester Cathedral) and the dean of the cathedral, William...

    • Elgar the Escapist?
      (pp. 39-58)

      One of the more serious charges that can be brought against Elgar is that his art is escapist. This criticism can be targeted in several ways. Most obviously, Elgar was committed to a late-Romantic expressive idiom, to overall monotonality (his works usually begin and end in the same key), and to diatonicism as a basic point of tonal reference. These factors meant that during the first two decades of the twentieth century Elgar’s music began to lag behind “progressive” developments in European music. More specifically, some of the literary themes that interested Elgar point to a desire to forget the...

    • Elgar and the Persistence of Memory
      (pp. 59-96)

      “I am self-taught in the matter of harmony, counterpoint, form, and, in short in the whole of the ‘mystery’ of music,” declared Edward Elgar in a 1904 interview published inThe Strand Magazine. The composer then laid the necessity for self-tutelage at the feet of his humble birth: “When I resolved to become a composer and found that the exigencies of life would prevent me from getting any tuition, the only thing to do was to teach myself. . . . I read everything, played everything, and heard everything I possibly could.”¹ Elgar’s claim is characteristically flamboyant and self-dramatizing, but...

    • “The Spirit-Stirring Drum”: Elgar and Populism
      (pp. 97-124)

      Cultural tourists in the South Midlands, tired perhaps of trawling for edification around the well-trodden circuit of Shakespearean sites in and around Stratford-upon-Avon, are now invited to follow a similar but less familiar itinerary. The Elgar Route, devised and promoted by Worcester City and Malvern Hills District Councils, links together forty-eight different locations with various Elgarian associations along a tour signposted throughout southwest Worcestershire. Bounded on the western side by the Malvern Hills, on the eastern by the River Severn, and radiating outward from Worcester cathedral in the northeast corner, the route offers a condensed historical geography of Elgar’s life...


    • Early Reviews of The Apostles in British Periodicals
      (pp. 127-172)

      The success ofThe Dream of Gerontiusin Germany in December 1901 and May 1902 propelled Elgar into Britain’s national consciousness on a scale that would have seemed unimaginable just two years earlier.Gerontiussoon became a favorite with audiences at the larger English provincial choral festivals, ranking alongsideMessiahandElijahin popularity. Consequently, when it was reported in the musical press in 1903 that Elgar was composing an oratorio for the Birmingham Festival on the life of the apostles, public interest in the project was considerable. The composer, characteristically, played his part in generating publicity. An exchange of...

    • Charles Sanford Terry and Elgar’s Violin Concerto
      (pp. 173-190)

      Since its first performance on November 10, 1910, much scholarly energy has been expended on certain mysterious aspects of Elgar’s Violin Concerto in B Minor, op. 61. The significance of the dedication and the five dots that follow—Aquí está encerrada el alma de..... (Herein is enshrined the soul of.....)—and of Elgar’s particular attention to the grammatical correctness of this Spanish quotation, drawn from Lesage’s picaresque novelL’Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane, has called forth pages of speculation by Elgar biographers. Scholars have subjected the concerto itself to detailed analysis, much of it in terms of the gender...


    • Elgar’s Critical Critics
      (pp. 193-222)

      On December 6, 1905, Edward Elgar delivered the fifth lecture in his first series as Peyton Professor of Music at the University of Birmingham. Titled “Critics,” it was concerned less with individual critics (although several were mentioned by name) than with their function. In Elgar’s opinion, music criticism should be educational as much as judgmental, both for the composer, to whose work a critic should give “the final polish” and “help us [the composers], guide us and lead us to higher things,” and for the listener, for whom the critic could provide musical analyses.¹ Too often, however, critics seemed unaware...

    • Elgar and the Salons: The Significance of a Private Musical World
      (pp. 223-248)

      The Bank of England has a tradition of embellishing its banknotes with famous British public figures. Those celebrated have included an engineer (George Stephenson), an architect (Christopher Wren), a statesman (the first Duke of Wellington), scientists (Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, and Michael Faraday), writers (Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare), and social reformers (Elizabeth Fry and Florence Nightingale). In June 1999, the Bank issued a new 20-pound note, replacing Michael Faraday (who had himself replaced William Shakespeare) with its first musician, Edward Elgar.¹ Elgar is represented from the shoulders up, staring into the distance, in a drawing probably made from a...

    • Elgar and the British Raj: Can the Mughals March?
      (pp. 249-286)

      In January 1912, at the height of its imperial fervor, the British public eagerly devoured colorful newspaper reports of King George V’s visit to India the previous month.¹ This royal visit celebrated the king’s assumption of the title “Emperor of India” that had been bestowed upon him during his coronation in Westminster Abbey on June 22, 1911. The focus of the new king’s Indian sojourn was the Delhi “Durbar,” the court ceremony held in his honor in December 1911, and presented in “Kinemacolour” film to packed London picture houses the following year. A magnificent imperial occasion lasting some ten days,...

    • Working the Crowd: Elgar, Class, and Reformulations of Popular Culture at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
      (pp. 287-316)

      Opened in 1904 by the visionary impresario Oswald Stoll, the London Coliseum was arguably the most opulent of the Edwardian music halls. It had a particularly unusual feature: an enormously expensive conveyance christened the “King’s Car.” This clumsy, elephantine contraption was a lavishly decorated anteroom on wheels that ran for twenty-six yards on a series of tracks; it was designed to whisk the king and his guests from their carriages directly through a special Royal Entrance to the door of his box. Thus His Majesty would not have to mingle with—or indeed, so much as glance at—any of...

    • Elgar’s War Requiem
      (pp. 317-362)

      While Elgar’s patriotism and sense of Empire have been treated with considerable insight in recent years, Elgar scholarship seems to have found it relatively difficult to explore objectively the religious and denominational contexts in which he lived, and their significance or otherwise for his music.¹ Indeed, in some cases emphasis on the former has obscured the latter, as with Jeffrey Richards’s suggestion thatThe Dream of Gerontiuscan be considered an imperialist work on the grounds of Elgar’s identification with “the idea of Christian heroism,” exemplified by General Gordon of Khartoum.² Where Elgar’s Catholicism has been broached in the literature,...


    • Transcending the Enigmas of Biography: The Cultural Context of Sir Edward Elgar’s Career
      (pp. 365-406)

      There has been a sustained and growing interest in Edward Elgar and his music since the late 1960s, notably beyond the borders of Britain.¹ In light of the wealth of distinguished English composers since Elgar’s death, the historical question regarding the interplay between musical culture and national identity comes readily to mind. Why—before Elgar achieved international recognition—had England been viewed internally as well as on the Continent as “a land without music”?² This phrase, made popular in its German form as part of a derisive anti-English cultural chauvinism, sums up the nearly universal conceit that the English had...

  10. Index
    (pp. 409-422)
  11. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 423-426)