The E-BNR aims to build a comprehensive & unique cross-artform guide to
the British neo-Romantic tradition,
from 1880 to the present day.
While the British Romantics of 1789-1824 have spawned a vast industry of
publishers, conferences & tourism, the later neo-Romantic traditions
remain largely neglected. The E-BNR is aimed at bringing this hidden
tradition to light.
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WHAT IS NEO-ROMANTICISM ?
Neo-Romantic artists have drawn their inspiration
from artists of the age of Romanticism or earlier.
Characteristic themes in their work include a
mystical approach to the British landscape...
ENTRY: Elgar, Edward
Sir Edward Elgar, 1st Baronet, OM, GCVO (b. 2 June 1857 – d. 23 February 1934)
was an English composer. Several of his first major orchestral works, including the
Enigma Variations and the Pomp and Circumstance Marches were greeted with acclaim.
He also composed oratorios, chamber music, symphonies and instrumental concertos.
Edward William Elgar was born in the small village of Lower Broadheath outside
Worcester, Worcestershire, to William Elgar, a piano tuner and music dealer, and his
wife Ann. Surrounded by sheet music and instruments in his father's shop in
Worcester's High Street, the young Elgar became self-taught in music. On warm
summer days, he would take manuscripts into the countryside to study them
(he was a passionate and adventurous early cyclist who learnt to cycle from the
very early age of 5). Thus there began for him a strong association between
music and nature.
He embarked on a musical career, giving piano and violin lessons. At 22 he took up the
post of bandmaster at the Worcester and County Lunatic Asylum in Powick,
three miles south-west of Worcester.
At 29, through his teaching, he met (Caroline) Alice Roberts, a Major-General's
daughter and an author of fiction. He married her three years later against
the wishes of her family. The Elgars moved to London to be closer to the centre
of British musical life, and Edward started composing in earnest. The stay was
unsuccessful, however, and they were obliged to return to Great Malvern,
where Edward could earn a living teaching.
During the 1890s Elgar gradually built up a reputation as a composer,
chiefly of works for the great choral festivals of the Midlands.
The Black Knight, King Olaf (1896), The Light of Life and Caractacus were
all modestly successful and he obtained a long-standing publisher in Novello and Company.
In 1899, at the age of 42, his first major orchestral work, the Enigma Variations,
was premiered in London. It was received with general acclaim, establishing Elgar
as the pre-eminent British composer of his generation. Between 1902 and 1914 Elgar enjoyed phenomenal success.
The following year saw the production in Birmingham of his choral setting of
Cardinal Newman's poem The Dream of Gerontius. Despite a disastrous first performance
due to poorly-prepared performers, the work was established within a few years as one
of Elgar's greatest, and it is now regarded as one of the finest examples of English choral music from any era.
Elgar is probably best known for the Pomp and Circumstance Marches (1901).
Shortly after their composition, Elgar was asked to set the first march to words
by A C Benson as a Coronation Ode to mark the coronation of King Edward VII.
The suggestion had already been made (allegedly by the future King himself)
that words should be fitted to the broad tune which formed the trio section
of this march. Against the advice of his friends, Elgar suggested that
Benson furnish further words to allow him to include it in the new work.
The result was Land of Hope and Glory, which formed the finale of
the ode and was also issued (with slightly different words) as a separate song.
Between 1905 and 1908 Elgar held the post of Professor of Music at the University of
Birmingham. His lectures there caused controversy owing to remarks he made about
other English composers and English music in general; he was quoted as saying
"English music ... evades everything".
During the First World War his romantic music began to fall out of fashion.
Edward Elgar set Laurence Binyon's poems to music as
The spirit of England: op. 80, for tenor or soprano solo, chorus and orchestra (1917), but
after the death of his wife in 1920
he wrote little of importance. Elgar lived in the village of Kempsey from 1923 to 1927, during
which time he was made Master of the King's Musick.
Elgar died on 23 February 1934 and is buried at St. Wulstan's Church in Little Malvern.
Within four months, two more great English composers - Gustav Holst and Frederick Delius - were also dead.
An era had ended.
A portrait of Sir Edward Elgar can be found on the Bank of England twenty pound note.