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 …

Read moreElgar’s “Chanson de Matin”: Sunshine and Flowers

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 …

Read moreElgar’s Serenade for Strings: Music of Youth

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 …

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

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 …

Read moreElgar’s “Enigma Variations”: Beyond Sketches and Riddles

New Release: Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé’s “For the Fallen” Features Elgar, Bax

I can still remember, vividly, Mark Elder’s concerts with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra back in the 90s. I was a teenager at the time, and Elder was a young, up-and-coming British conductor who had risen to prominence as music director of the English National Opera. With a reputation as an “orchestra builder,” Elder succeeded David Zinman in Rochester. His programming was innovative (including concert performances of operas) and well constructed. He spoke eloquently …

Read moreNew Release: Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé’s “For the Fallen” Features Elgar, Bax

Elgar’s Second Symphony at the 2015 Proms

The BBC Proms are in full swing in London. The annual summer series, featuring over 70 concerts at Royal Albert Hall, has been a magnet for music lovers since 1895 when the British Empire stretched across the globe. It’s a joyful and inclusive cultural event that wipes away any hint of pretension. In addition to reserved seating, inexpensive standing-room tickets are sold, inspiring one conductor to describe the Proms as, “the world’s …

Read moreElgar’s Second Symphony at the 2015 Proms

Pluto, the Renewer

  When Gustav Holst finished his seven-movement orchestral suite, The Planets, Op. 32 in 1917, Pluto had yet to be discovered. By the time the distant celestial body was spotted in 1930, four years before Holst’s death, the composer had grown ambivalent about The Planets, believing that the work’s popularity had unfairly overshadowed his later compositions. Fast-forward to 2000, when conductor Kent Nagano and the Hallé Orchestra commissioned British composer and administrator of the Holst foundation Colin …

Read morePluto, the Renewer

Send this to a friend