Born on 2nd of June 1857
Died in Worcester, Worcestershire
Died on 23rd of February 1934
Quotes from Edward Elgar
'I always said God was against '... More
Elgar was the unlikely trail-blazer for the likes of Vaughan Williams, Walton and Britten who dared to compose like him in very British idioms. For Elgar writing in his own personal style perhaps came naturally: cliché though it is, he was an outsider: a devout Catholic in a country still suspicious of this; largely self-taught, devouring musical tomes in the library of Worcester Cathedral; and a provincial, always more at home in the West Country than London.
Born in the village of Broadheath just outside Worcester on June 2 1857, his father a music shop owner and church organist, Elgar grew up surrounded by music. Lack of funds prevented him studying beyond the age of 15, but after a brief period in a solicitor’s office he left to give music lessons. Supplementing his income in local orchestras and wind bands he continued to learn, his eyes further opened on trips to Paris and Leipzig in the early 1880s.
Marriage when he was 29 and his wife Alice was 37 gave Elgar a much needed boost. Though a short period in London saw no breakthrough, Alice organised him and was a huge support. Until 1899 he was regarded as a capable but minor festival composer; in that year, however, he completed the Enigma Variations, an instant success that delighted, entertained and intrigued the public.
Land of Hope and Glory in 1901 was an even greater success. Soon Elgar was earning well from his compositions, held a chair of music at Birmingham University, made lucrative tours of the USA, and could afford a fine if still modest house - Plas Gwyn in Hereford. In 1904 he was knighted, to the delight of his wife – her family had felt she as the daughter of a General was marrying beneath her. Sadly she died in 1920, four years before Elgar won greater honour, becoming Master of the King’s Musick.
Elgar’s First Symphony (1908) was another huge hit, perhaps eclipsed by his elegiac Cello Concerto (1918) that reflected the mood of a world shattered by war.
After Alice’s death his drive to compose was greatly reduced, but he remained a great musical celebrity, chosen to open Abbey Road Studios in 1931, and conducting the great musicians of the day in his works for concerts and recordings. He died of cancer on February 23 1934, his legacy a huge body of work.
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