Sir Edward William Elgar, Baronet Elgar

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dulcinea
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Sir Edward William Elgar, Baronet Elgar

Post by dulcinea » Mon Oct 28, 2013 3:05 pm

I turned on my computer, and the ENIGMA VARIATIONS was on. Later in the afternoon I turn on the MUSIC CHOICE CLASSICAL MASTERPIECES station, and it's the Du Pre version of the Cello Concerto. Now I am not listening to anything because I'm so sad. Elgar wrote such melancholy music! Was he a depressive like Chaykovsky, managing to include a painful touch of pathos even in his most exultant music?
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John F
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Re: Sir Edward William Elgar, Baronet Elgar

Post by John F » Mon Oct 28, 2013 4:19 pm

Elgar had his moods, no question, but he wasn't socially or creatively handicapped by them, as far as I know. And I'm really surprised that you describe "Enigma Variations" as melancholy. To my ears there's not a melancholy variation in the bunch. Elgar is celebrating his friends and his friendship, and the exuberant finale is a self-portrait, E.D.U. stands for Elgar himself.

The Enigma Variations and Elgar's music in general has a range of moods, like that of Mozart, Beethoven, you name them, but they don't necessarily reflect the composer's mood at the time of writing. Indeed, there's plenty of evidence to the contrary. You mention Tchaikovsky. Where's the "painful touch of pathos" in "Nutcracker"?
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Re: Sir Edward William Elgar, Baronet Elgar

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Oct 28, 2013 4:34 pm

John F wrote:Elgar had his moods, no question, but he wasn't socially or creatively handicapped by them, as far as I know. And I'm really surprised that you describe "Enigma Variations" as melancholy. To my ears there's not a melancholy variation in the bunch. Elgar is celebrating his friends and his friendship, and the exuberant finale is a self-portrait, E.D.U. stands for Elgar himself.

The Enigma Variations and Elgar's music in general has a range of moods, like that of Mozart, Beethoven, you name them, but they don't necessarily reflect the composer's mood at the time of writing. Indeed, there's plenty of evidence to the contrary. You mention Tchaikovsky. Where's the "painful touch of pathos" in "Nutcracker"?
Even the Sixth Symphony only has one "pathetic" movement, and IMO it is a series-of-gloomy-chords failure at conveying sadness, while the preceding movements are not failures in conveying a wide variety of other moods.

I was sure this was going to be one of those threads by Dulcinea in which she wonders why more is not made of the topic composer. I was all set to jump in with appreciation, when I rarely express such for the B Team, so to speak. Elgar's violin concerto, even more than his cello concerto, manages to "find the groove" of avoiding identification with any school of 20th century music while at the same time avoiding any sense of cliché for not being of such a school. That it has that going for it in addition to simply being a beautiful composition represents a rare achievement.

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Re: Sir Edward William Elgar, Baronet Elgar

Post by karlhenning » Tue Oct 29, 2013 10:35 am

John F wrote:The Enigma Variations and Elgar's music in general has a range of moods, like that of Mozart, Beethoven, you name them, but they don't necessarily reflect the composer's mood at the time of writing.
As if composers had no greater wit than to report in the music only what they are feeling on any given day . . . .

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dulcinea
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Re: Sir Edward William Elgar, Baronet Elgar

Post by dulcinea » Tue Oct 29, 2013 1:55 pm

Far from the first time, you have missed my point.
Elgar has been described as the personification of the buoyant optimism of the Edwardian Era. His three symphonies, however, are very moody, and in some moments even remind me of Mahler. As for the 5th Pomp and Circumstance, unlike the triumphant trios of the 1st and the 4th, and the jaunty happy trio of the 3rd, its trio tune is very sad and poignant, which makes me think that he had in mind the loss of his much beloved wife and the dead of the Great War.
Maybe he is not melancholy all the time, but he does melancholy unusually well.
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Re: Sir Edward William Elgar, Baronet Elgar

Post by John F » Tue Oct 29, 2013 3:28 pm

Nobody would deny that Elgar's music is sometimes "sad and poignant," though since he never finished a third symphony, leaving only sketches which were cobbled into a symphony by Anthony Payne, that hardly belongs in the discussion. But you started the thread by saying that "Elgar wrote such melancholy music!" after saying you had been listening to the Enigma Variations as well as the cello concerto, and comparing him with Tchaikovsky. If my response missed your point, then what was your point?

What you're saying now is that Elgar "does melancholy unusually well," and if that's how his music makes you feel, then fair enough. I don't feel that way when listening to much of Elgar, definitely including the Enigma Variations, especially in Elgar's own recordings, as he always took brisker tempos than later conductors have - 46 minutes for the first symphony compared with 51-54 minutes these days. And I wouldn't say that expressing melancholy well is all that unusual in classical music. Beethoven, like Mahler and Elgar, wrote funeral marches in his symphonies and sonatas. But by all means, respond in your own way.
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Re: Sir Edward William Elgar, Baronet Elgar

Post by dulcinea » Thu Nov 07, 2013 11:15 am

My first Elgar is the First Pomp and Circumstance, a very extrovert piece. I am curious to know the rest of the set, so I listen to the Barbirolli version. From Second to Fourth it's all joyful and even jaunty, until I come to the trio of the Fifth. I am all tearful because of its overwhelming sadness, which the commentary on the album box says may be a reflection of Sir Edward's grief over the loss of his wife and the decimation of the Great War. I naturally continue exploring--eventually buying the BRILLIANT set--, and am stunned and moved by how Baronet Elgar moves from the cocky COCKAIGNE OVERTURE to the heroic FROISSART OVERTURE to the majestic sadness of GERONTIUS and the Second Symphony.
The Master of the King's Music did happy music very well, which is perhaps why his moments of melancholy come across as so startling and so stunningly memorable.
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

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Re: Sir Edward William Elgar, Baronet Elgar

Post by John F » Thu Nov 07, 2013 3:29 pm

If you're still in the mood for Elgar, you might enjoy his concert overture "Cockaigne," an evocation of London. This recording on YouTube is conducted by Elgar himself.



The piece has been compared with the prelude to "Die Meistersinger" and not to Elgar's disadvantage. Elgar's conducting is the opposite of stodgy, at times he races his orchestra (the excellent BBC Symphony) off its feet. For me it's exhilarating.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cockaigne ... on_Town%29
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Re: Sir Edward William Elgar, Baronet Elgar

Post by absinthe » Thu Nov 07, 2013 5:26 pm

dulcinea wrote:Far from the first time, you have missed my point.
Elgar has been described as the personification of the buoyant optimism of the Edwardian Era. His three symphonies, however, are very moody, and in some moments even remind me of Mahler. As for the 5th Pomp and Circumstance, unlike the triumphant trios of the 1st and the 4th, and the jaunty happy trio of the 3rd, its trio tune is very sad and poignant, which makes me think that he had in mind the loss of his much beloved wife and the dead of the Great War.
Maybe he is not melancholy all the time, but he does melancholy unusually well.


I can't agree that the two symphonies (that I know quite well) are "very moody". Elgar was immersed in ceremony and the sentiments of the Edwardian era and it's probably more a reflection of his times than moodiness. He loved the military though not war, and married the daughter of a Major-General. The second symphony was dedicated to the memory of King Edward VII. Aficionados sometimes feel the Larghetto movement is an elegy to said King. To me, that movement is solemn rather than moody and the rest of the work exuberant. He immediately switches out of solemnity in the scherzo.

As for his 3rd Symphony, we'll never know. The loss of his wife was a terrible blow and all but brought composing to a halt. Commentators state the obvious - such composition as he produced afterward was different particularly his orchestration but I'm not familiar with any of his very late works.

It's clear (to me, anyway) that he composed those large works with structure fully in mind and would not have been swayed by passing moods. He'd rather not bother of a day if he didn't feel up to it. It would be worth listening to his own recordings of these symphonies if you can lay your hands on them - he takes them at quite a crack (and I'd hesitate to believe that was to accommodate the works on 78rpm records)!

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Re: Sir Edward William Elgar, Baronet Elgar

Post by Lance » Sat Nov 23, 2013 7:08 pm

I have become very fond of Elgar most lately, especially with his more "unknown" compositions. There is much to discover in EMI's "Elgar Edition," [03603, 30 CDs], which includes top-flight artists and ensembles in his best-known and some of his least known music. The composer himself recorded his music prolifically both in the acoustic- and the electrical methods. All Elgar's electrical recordings can be had on a marvelous nine-CD set from EMI [95694]. Perhaps Dulcinea would be enamoured with the less-somber Elgar by acquiring an EMI CD entitled "The Lighter Elgar" [65593[, which includes such titles as Starlight Express, Sun Dance, Dream Children, romances, etc. with conductors Marriner and Collingwood.
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Re: Sir Edward William Elgar, Baronet Elgar

Post by Ken » Mon Nov 25, 2013 5:45 am

I agree that Elgar's orchestral works are somewhat morose and even elegaic at times. I personally attribute this to Elgar being a dramatist, whose styles spanned a great spectrum of emotions -- if not only for reasons of artistic expression, then at least owing to his great talent and creativity. The best display of this is, obviously, the Enigma Variations. I get the same feeling from other British composers of his or (especially) the next generation, such as Holst or even Walton.

When I listen to Elgar's songs and his chamber music, though, I hear a much more light-hearted composer: lots of love songs, pastoral works etc. The string quartet is a wonderful, sunny work, and the Piano Quintet strikes me as very sensitive, almost intellectual. Could pass as the Brahms Quintet Part II.

I must admit to never having gotten too into Elgar's orchestral works, but I am very much beginning to enjoy his solo and chamber music.
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