Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Elgar's Birthday

Simon Heffer, writing in the Daily Telegraph, reminds us of the approaching sesquicentennial, on 2 June, of the birth of Sir Edward Elgar, Bart. Sir Edward is among my favorite composers, only edged out slightly by Mozart. Elgar, as Mr. Heffer says "wrote the soundtrack" of the British Empire. Elgar had an extraordinary career "[w]ithin 25 years, he had gone from conducting the band of a lunatic asylum to being knighted by Edward VII."
Elgar's Symphony No. 2 in E-flat major (Op. 63) is a hauntingly beautiful piece of music: one of my two or three personal favorites. When out driving or alone, I often set this piece's 4th movement "Moderateo e maestoso" to play repeatedly.
I have always thought it amazing how particular pieces of music can become associated with particular passages in life, or memories, usually connected with when one was first exposed to the music. Elgar's Symphony No. 1 in A-flat major (Op. 35) is like that for me. Whenever I hear it, I'm taken back to when I first left college and started out in the real world, and all that this meant, good and bad (and classified). In any case, don't miss the 4th movement ("Lento-Allegro") of this piece.
My favorite work of Sir Edward's is his Coronation March, (Op. 65) (1911). This work, just under eleven minutes long, was prepared for the coronation of King George V on 22 June 1911, when the British Empire was at its absolute apogee. Strange music for a coronation -- although it sounds exaltant and uplifting in places, it is full of shadows and foreboding, as well it might be. Apocalypse was but a few years away -- one murderer's bullets heralding the collapse of civilization and the death of Elgar's world. So many of King George's relatives would lose their thrones, or in some cases, their lives -- as would so many of the attendees and well-wishers that day in June.

No comments: