Elgar, Sir Edward
From the Pomp and Circumstance Marches to concertos for violin and cello, English composer Sir Edward William Elgar (1857-1934) left behind an impressive body of orchestral music. Elgar learned piano, organ, and violin from his father, a church organist who ran a music store; otherwise, he was a self-taught musician. While working as an unrestricted independent musician at the age of 16, the composer's career path was never really defined. He was a local conductor, performer, teacher, and composer who struggled to make ends meet until he married Caroline Alice Roberts, a well-known author, in 1889.
Enigma Variations, Op. 36, by Elgar, published in 1899, became a worldwide sensation. The piece is a cryptic ode to Alice and the numerous friends who stood by the composer through his career's first, unsteady days. It was during Elgar's most productive decade, the first decade of the twentieth century, that he wrote some of his noblest and most expressive works of music, including the first four of his Pomp and Circumstance Marches, the first of which, subtitled "Land of Hope and Glory," became an unofficial second national anthem for the British empire. It was a major setback for Elgar when Jaeger, who played "Nimrod" in the "Enigma" Variations, died in 1909. During World War I, the composer's output dwindled and his melancholy mood became more pronounced. Elgar's masterful Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85, was composed in 1919, and its profound sense of melancholy and imminent loss is undoubtedly connected to Elgar's beloved Alice's last sickness and death in 1920. Elgar began work on a third symphony in the early 1930s; it was left incomplete when he died in 1934.
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