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Essential Elgar

"Quintessentially English" is how many listeners view Sir Edward Elgar (1857–1934), probably due to the "pomp and circumstance" of the rousing Land of Hope and Glory chorus, part of the flag-waving climax of the Last Night of the Proms. But there was much more to this composer…Read more…

Behind the tweeds and the handlebar moustache, Elgar was never that comfortable as an establishment figure of the British Empire. A prickly character, he often felt an outsider.

It's interesting to view his music through a European lens. An early work like In the South has all the thrust and sweep of Richard Strauss. Before the outbreak of the Great War, Elgar's music was arguably better received in Germany than at home. His publisher, AE Jaeger – immortalised as "Nimrod" in the Enigma Variations – was German and it was the great German conductor Hans Richter, about to tackle Elgar's First Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra, who announced: "Gentlemen, let us now rehearse the greatest symphony of modern times, written by the greatest modern composer – and not only in this country."

Much of Elgar's music is deeply personal. There’s a sense of nostalgia and loss in the Violin and Cello Concertos and the Piano Quintet, while each of the Enigma Variations depicts one of the composer's dear friends… plus Dan, the bulldog!

[Due to geo-blocking restrictions, some tracks might be unavailable in certain territories.]

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