Elgar, Edward

Sir Edward William Elgar was an English composer better known for orchestral pieces such as the Enigma Variants, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, violin and cello concertos, and two symphonies. Elgar's father operated a music store and was a church organist who taught his son piano, organ, and violin; apart from that, Elgar was a self-taught artist. The composer became a freelance guitarist at the age of 16 and never took a regular job for the rest of his life. He scraped by until his marriage to Caroline Alice Roberts, a published novelist of some money, in 1889, conducting locally, performing, teaching, and composing. Elgar's "Enigma" Variations, Op. 36, was one of his most well-known compositions, and it catapulted him to success in 1899. The piece is a cryptic homage to Alice and the many people who helped the composer during his rocky early years.

Elgar's most productive era was the first decade of the twentieth century when he composed some of his noblest, most expressive compositions, including the first four Pomp and Circumstance Marches, the first of which, subtitled "Land of Hope and Glory," became an unofficial second national anthem for the British Empire. When Jaeger (the "Nimrod" of the "Enigma" Variations) died in 1909, Elgar experienced a setback. The composer's performance dwindled, and the horrors of World War I only added to his melancholy mood. Elgar composed the masterful Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, in 1919, with a profound sense of sorrow and imminent death that may have been inspired by his faithful Alice's final sickness, which she died in 1920. Elgar began construction on a third symphony in the early 1930s, but it was never completed before his death in 1934.


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