Tag Archives: Enigma Variations

Edward Elgar 6.2.13 Thought of the Day

“My idea is that there is music in the air, music all around us, the world is full of it and you simply take as much as you require.”–Edward Elgar

Elgar in 1919, by William Rothenstein

Elgar in 1919, by William Rothenstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Edward William Elgar was born on this day in Broadheath, near Worcester, England in 1857.  Today is 156th anniversary of his birth.

He was the fourth child born to William and Ann Elgar. William Elgar ran a music shop and tuned pianos in Broadheath. A trained violinist, he taught all his children — The Elgars had a total of seven children — piano, violin and the basics of music theory. By  eight young Edward was tagging along with his father as William went to the richer houses of the county to tune their pianos. The little boy would play for the gentry while his father fixed the piano. He also started to compose at an early age.

It is a remarkable fact that Elgar was very largely self-taught as a composer – evidence of the strong determination behind his original and unique genius.[www.elgar.org]

Although he wanted to go to Germany to study at the Leipzig Conservatory his family couldn’t afford it, so he  had no formal musical training. Instead, in 1872 he went to work as a clerk for a local solicitor.  He didn’t last long in the stifling office setting. He began to give lessons (piano and violin), sing in the town’s Glee Club, compose, conduct and play violin professionally. He became the conductor of the  County Lunatic Asylum (an unusual combination of instruments and talent levels) and worked with the Worcester College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen.

Slowly, and through such early works as Froissart(1890), the Imperial March (1897) and the cantatas King Olaf (1896) and Caractacus (1898), his reputation began to spread beyond the area immediately around his native Worcestershire. His first big success came with the Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma) in 1899. [Ibid]

In 1900 he was awarded a Doctorate by Cambridge. Four years later he was Knighted.

Eventually Elgar was feted all over the world; he dined with royalty, was knighted and awarded the Order of Merit.  Yet he never forgot his roots, and when he became a Baronet in1931, he chose as his title First Baronet of Broadheath. [Elgar Foundation.org]

Edward Elgar died on February 23, 1934.

It is graduation season here in the US, and nary a matriculation takes place with out the school’s orchestra pulling out Elgar’s most famous piece Pomp and Circumstance. (The part every one recognizes comes at about the 2 minute mark.)

But might I suggest a listen to his Sea Pictures, OP. 37 with Contralto Linda Finnie and The London Philharmonic

Or the fabulously layered Symphony No. 1 in A-flat major, Op. 55, Sir John Barbiolli conducting the Halle Orchestra

or his delightful Serenade for String Orchestra in E minor, Op. 20,  performed by the New Philharmonia Orchestra with Giuseppe Sinopoli  at the podium,


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