Elgar’s “Chanson de Matin”: Sunshine and Flowers

This week, we have explored music of the English composer Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934), from the blazing orchestral virtuosity of In the South, to the youthful charm of the Serenade for Strings. We’ll finish the week with a brief and breezy aubade—music which suggests the cheerful innocence of pastoral flowers catching the first light of dawn. Chanson de Matin (“Morning Song”) is the sunny companion to the more melancholy Chanson de Nuit. Published as Op. 15, No. 1 and …

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Elgar’s Serenade for Strings: Music of Youth

Composed in March of 1892, the Serenade for Strings is one of the earliest works of Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934). It may have been a reworking of a previously written suite. It is the music of spring, filled with youthful vitality and charm. By definition, the title “serenade” suggests music played in the evening, outdoors amid the beauty and abundance of nature. As depicted in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it also conjures up images …

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Elgar’s “In the South (Alassio)”: Music from “The Garden of the World”

From Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky to Richard Strauss, the sunny climate of Italy has been a source of inspiration for numerous composers on holiday. One of the most significant examples is Sir Edward Elgar’s blazing 1904 orchestral tone poem, In the South (Alassio), Op. 50. In November, 1903 Elgar and his wife traveled to the Italian Riviera where they planned to spend the winter. The composer was exhausted and needed to recuperate after …

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Elgar’s “Enigma Variations”: Beyond Sketches and Riddles

“A man is known by the company he keeps,” said the ancient Greek fabulist, Aesop. For Sir Edward Elgar, it was associations with a circle of friends, each with their distinct personalities and quirks, that inspired the orchestral masterwork, Variations on an Original Theme, Op.36, popularly known as the Enigma Variations. According to the story, it began on an October evening in 1898 at Elgar’s home in the Worcestershire countryside. Puffing on a …

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Change Ringing: St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol

Queen Elizabeth I described it as “the fairest, goodliest, and most famous parish church in England.”  This Christmas Eve we go to the over 900-year-old St. Mary Redcliffe in Bristol, UK to hear a spectacular example of English change ringing. The church’s fifteen bells are ordered in a series of seemingly-endless mathematical permutations, known as “changes.” This clip will give you an idea of the precision required in this type of bell ringing. With today’s …

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New Release: Rachel Barton Pine Plays Elgar and Bruch

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine just released her 36th album in January. It features Edward Elgar’s Violin Concerto in B minor alongside the First Violin Concerto of Max Bruch. Barton Pine is accompanied by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, led by Andrew Litton. She talks about the recording in this recent interview with Richmond Public Radio’s Mike Goldberg. Rachel Barton Pine dedicated the album to “the memory of a musical hero and generous friend, Sir Neville …

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Elgar’s “Nimrod”: Sir Colin Davis and the LSO

Sir Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, completed in 1899, are the musical embodiment of the idea that our lives are all shaped by a close circle of friends and acquaintances. Elgar offered the following description in 1911: This work, commenced in a spirit of humour and continued in deep seriousness, contains sketches of the composer’s friends. It may be understood that these personages comment or reflect on the original theme and each one attempts …

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