Edward Elgar

Cello Concerto in E Minor, op. 85

            It would surely be no presumption that perhaps the most common image of Sir Edward Elgar is the walrus-mustachioed, imperious figure who—like the similar picture of Lord Kitchener on the WW I recruiting posters—represents all that is Edwardian England.  In the popular imagination he might be the embodiment of Imperial Britain, the empire on which the sun never set, and more specifically, the most “English” of English composers.  This picture is indelibly enhanced by every American’s encounter, at any graduation worth the name, with Elgar’s most famous composition, Pomp and Circumstance (actually, the trio of the first of five marches by that name).  Well, it’s simply not true—or at least, a gross exaggeration.  While Elgar was Britain’s most influential composer dur

Introduction and Allegro, op. 47

            It would surely be no presumption that perhaps the most common image of Sir Edward Elgar is the walrus-mustachioed, imperious figure who—like the similar picture of Lord Kitchener on the WW I recruiting posters—represents all that is Edwardian England.  In the popular imagination he might be the embodiment of Imperial Britain, the empire on which the sun never set, and more specifically, the most “English” of English composers.  This picture is indelibly enhanced by every American’s encounter, at any graduation worth the name, with Elgar’s most famous composition, Pomp and Circumstance (actually, the trio of the first of five marches by that name).  Well, it’s simply not true—or at least, a gross exaggeration.  While Elgar was Britain’s most influential composer dur

Variations on an Original Theme (“Enigma”)

            The Variations on an Original Theme was Elgar's first significant, acclaimed work.  Given its première in 1899, conducted by the great Hans Richter, it was an immediate success, and garnered performances and praise in Europe—including from Richard Strauss.  Not bad for a composer of modest reputation who had chiefly labored far from the bustle of London.  Although he had been steadily building his reputation in provincial English cities as a well-respected composer of cantatas and the like, an orchestral work on the scale of the so-called “Enigma” Variations seemed to be without precedent.  What is clear, however, is that, at the age of forty-two, he had served his apprenticeship well, and years of experience laid a solid foundation for his most famous work—especial