|You Asked ...|
A Selection of Readers Questions
edited by Tom Kelly
Last Updated : 28 December 2007
Readers are invited to send their questions about Elgar, or comments or additions to these
replies, by e-mail to
Tom Kelly at:
The Editor reserves the right to edit any correspondence, and the views expressed are not
necessarily those of the Editor or of the Elgar Society.
MARCH OF THE MUGHAL EMPERORS
From Benno Koch
I am looking for a CD with”March of the Mughal Emperors”.
Would you please advise me about CDs this march is on, and where I could get a copy?
Reply by Tom Kelly
The March of The Mughal Emperors comes from Elgar’s Opus 66 – an Imperial Masque grandly titled The Crown of India. It was a commissioned work and performed on stage in 1912 to celebrate the visit of the King- Emperor (George V) and Queen Mary to the Delhi Durbar in December 1911. Elgar took some of the music as an orchestral suite for concert performances.
You can get the March as one of a collection of marches in splendid modern sound by James Judd on a Naxos CD at bargain price - see http://www.elgarfoundation.org/trolleyed/2/49/50/index.htm
If you want more of the Crown of India – 6 items including the March – there is another bargain CD conducted by Alexander Gibson - see
SONG “THE SNOW”
From Kay Macintosh
The Emmanuel Singers & Encounter Ensemble are performing "The Snow" with other of Elgar's music. What is the story behind this song and why it was written etc
Reply by Tom Kelly
“The Snow” Opus 26/1 is dedicated to Mrs E B (Harriet) Fitton of Malvern a fine pianist who frequently played with Elgar in local concerts and musical evenings. (One of her musical daughters – Isabel, who was learning the viola with Elgar - is immortalized as “Ysobel” in the Enigma Variations.)
It is one of 2 part-songs written for commercial publication in 1894 to words by Elgar’s wife Alice. The other song is Fly, Singing Bird, (op 26/2) and Elgar sold the copyright for 12 guineas.
We know “The Snow” best today in the original published version for female voices – SSA – and accompaniment of piano and 2 violins. At Novello’s request Elgar had simplified this version prior to publication by removing the “ad lib” part for a fourth instrument and also some “difficulties” in the other parts which Novello’s thought might deter purchasers. Elgar hoped it would be performed by string groups – not just 2 violinists – as this would mean more sales of the accompanists’ parts. In later years, Elgar orchestrated the song (in 1903), approved a 4 part version including male voices by E J Pointer (1909), and finally revised it himself for just 2 female voices (in 1932).
The song of 3 verses is an Andantino moving from E minor to E major and a climax in G major before returning to E minor. Michael Kennedy describes it as “a lovely setting, epitomizing Elgar’s way of undermining our emotional defences”. Although an unusual combination, the accompaniment is very effective in conveying the fall, whirl, and thaw of snow and in shaping both the tender and impassioned moods of the song.
It is not known for sure when and where the song was first performed. Elgar pressed Novello’s to have the parts published by May 1896 so that they could be available for the school summer term. WH Reed tells us that the song was performed by “Miss Hyde’s Society” in March 1896, and we know that Elgar included the song as one of 10 of his shorter works performed at the Royal Albert Institute Windsor, before Princess Christian, in April 1897. The orchestral version was premiered at the Queen’s Hall London in March 1904.
ELGAR’S FOOTBALL CHANT
From : Anthony Bateman
Anthony Bateman asked about Elgar's interest in football and the 'football chant' he sketched about Wolverhampton Wanderers' Bill Malpass, and about references to the football chant in a book by Dorabella Penny or of any other sources.
Reply by Tom Kelly,
The source of this story is Dora Penny who was a great friend of Elgar and immortalized by him in the ‘Dorabella’ variation of Enigma Variations. Her step-mother was a longstanding friend of Alice Elgar who had married Dora’s clergyman father.
The Elgars first visited the Penny’s in Wolverhampton in 1895 – shortly after Rev Penny’s second marriage - and then frequently thereafter. Dora lost contact with the Elgars after her marriage to Richard Crofts Powell in 1914.
Dora’s account of Elgar’s interest in Wolverhampton Wanderers is given right at the start of her book (pages 1-4). Elgar asked about going to a Wolves football match on the occasion of his very first meeting with Dorabella (and first visit to the Pennys) on Friday 6 December 1895. Elgar kept up an interest in the Wolves team, and particularly “Malpas” a “famous member” of the team at that time, and went to matches on subsequent visits to Wolverhampton.
At Elgar’s request, Dora sent Elgar a local press report of a Wolves match in February 1898. This said of one move involving Malpas that “he banged the leather for goal”. The phrase caught Elgar’s fancy and he sent back a letter on 12 March 1898 setting the phrase to 3 bars of music (vocal line and two stave accompaniment ) and adjusting the words to read “we bang’d the leather for goal” with a sforzando on ‘goal’. There is a copy of the opening of the letter - and the music – pasted into the book over page 5.
The book which contains the Malpas story is EDWARD ELGAR. MEMORIES OF A VARIATION by Mrs. Richard Powell (i.e. Dora’s married name). It was first published in 1937 and a revised and enlarged second, then third edition, in the late 1940s by Methuen. A fourth edition was also published by Scolar Press, Aldershot, in 1994 revised and edited by Claud Powell with an addendum by Jerrold Northrop Moore. Second-hand copies – mainly of the earlier editions - are quite readily available (try Abebooks.co.uk).
I’m not sure that just 3 bars of music would be counted a “chant” – indeed it seems that Elgar treated the extract in the style of a recitative from Caractacus.
Later on football fans did adopt Elgar tunes for their chants. For example Leicester City fans have long sung the trio tune from Pomp and Circumstance March No 1(and best known as “Land of Hope and Glory”) to words beginning “We hate Nottingham Forest…”!
CORONATION ODE AND ORIGINS OF LAND OF HOPE AND GLORY
From Lucy Campion
I am rather confused as to the date of the premiere of Elgar's Coronation Ode. The web page says 2nd October 1902 but the Coronation of King Edward was August 1902. Was it used for the actual Coronation or as part of the celebration? Also, am I correct in saying that “Land of Hope and Glory” was written without words as Pomp and Circumstance No 1, and then words were written for it and that it became the Coronation Ode finale, and then a new set of words was written for Clara Butt which is the most commonly heard version today?
Reply by Tom Kelly
The story is rather complicated. A full account is given in an article by Yvonne M Ward in The Elgar Society Journal of July 2004 (vol13 No5 pp13-26) if you have access to it. You can get a copy of the Elgar Works vocal score of Coronation Ode with a programme note by John Norris from the Elgar Birthplace Museum – see http://www.elgarfoundation.org/trolleyed/4/24/43/index.htm. A snip at £5.95 plus postage!
Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901.Elgar was specifically asked by the Master of the King’s Music (Sir Walter Parratt) in March 1901 “to set to immortal music” verses by Arthur Benson. Elgar took up the task of a Coronation Ode (CO) to be performed at Covent Garden at the same time as he was working on a sketch of what became the Pomp and Circumstance March No1. Benson agreed to add verses to suit Elgar’s plans for the work.
The orchestra only version of PC1was performed first in Liverpool on 21 October 1901 (along with PC2). The idea of setting the Trio section to words was said to have come from the new King (by Elgar in 1927!). But since King Edward heard PC1 for the first time only in February 1902 that seems unlikely. More likely is Clara Butt’s story that she suggested it to Elgar when they sat together at a concert including PC1 in November 1901.
In December 1901, Elgar debated with his editor at Novellos, Jaeger, whether the Trio tune should be set to verse. Jaeger said it would be “downright vulgar” because the “drop to E and bigger drop afterwards” were “impossible” for a choir. Elgar was not deterred and composed a setting as the Finale - section Vll - in CO and also as solo song with orchestra - with different words. The words in both versions were written by Arthur Benson at Elgar’s request to fit the tune rather than Elgar composing a tune to fit words already written by Benson.
In 1902 Benson also suggested – to correct an oversight - adding some new verse material to refer to Queen Alexandra. Elgar set these new verses as what is now Section lll of Coronation Ode - “Daughter of Ancient Kings”.
The Coronation of King Edward Vll was due to take place on 26 June and CO was intended to be given a State Performance 4 days after the Coronation ceremony on 30 June. In the event both were postponed because the King was ill with appendicitis. The Coronation eventually took place on 9 August 1902. So CO was performed first at the Sheffield Festival on 2 October and had its first performance in London on 26 October. Elgar conducted both performances. King Edward heard the CO first at a concert on 25 June 1903.
“Land of Hope and Glory” had already been performed as a solo song on 21 June 1902 by Clara Butt at the Royal Albert Hall.
The words in the Coronation Ode version are as follows:
Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,
How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?
Truth and Right and Freedom, each a holy gem,
Stars of solemn brightness, weave thy diadem.
Tho' thy way be darkened, still in splendour drest,
As the star that trembles o'er the liquid West.
Throned amid the billows, throned inviolate,
Thou hast reigned victorious, thou has smiled at fate.
Land of Hope and Glory, fortress of the Free,
How may we extol thee, praise thee, honour thee?
Hark, a mighty nation maketh glad reply;
Lo, our lips are thankful, lo, our hearts are high!
Hearts in hope uplifted, loyal lips that sing;
Strong in faith and freedom, we have crowned our King!
The verses set in the song version of Land of Hope and Glory are as follows:
Dear Land of Hope, thy hope is crowned.
God make thee mightier yet!
On Sov'reign brows, beloved, renowned,
Once more thy crown is set.
Thine equal laws, by Freedom gained,
Have ruled thee well and long;
By Freedom gained, by Truth maintained,
Thine Empire shall be strong.
Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,
How shall we extol thee, Who are born of thee?
Wider still and wider Shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty, Make thee mightier yet
God, who made thee mighty, Make thee mightier yet.
Thy fame is ancient as the days,
As Ocean large and wide
A pride that dares, and heeds not praise,
A stern and silent pride
Not that false joy that dreams content
With what our sires have won;
The blood a hero sire hath spent
Still nerves a hero son.
Of course the Prommers sing only the middle verse of the song version when the Trio tune comes along at the Last Night of The Proms.
From : Geoff Sansome of the Friends of Claines Church wrote
CLAINES CHURCH YARD and the WHINFIELDS OF SEVERN GRANGE
I am very interested in any of Elgar’s actual accounts or recollections of Claines and was wondering if you had original sources for the reference on the website that "Elgar wasn't so interested in plainsong, but studied harmony from many sources - particularly Beethoven (at an early age he took scores from his father's music shop to his grandparent's graves at Claines Churchyard to study them), as well as Mozart and Schumann, to name two."
Likewise I have come across several references to Elgars link with the Whinfield family, of Severn Grange, Claines and was wondering if there was any documentation around this one.
The image of Elgar –his pockets stuffed with bread and cheese – studying scores in the church yard is a familiar part of the legend of his early efforts to teach himself music.
The earliest accounts of Elgar’s musical self education come from interviews Elgar gave in the period from 1900 when he was in his 40s and was recalling events of nearly 30 years earlier. An interview by Rudolph de Cordova published in “The Strand Magazine” of May 1904 (and reprinted in Christopher Redwood’s “An Elgar Companion”(1985)) quotes Elgar as saying that
“In studying scores the first which came into my hands were the Beethoven symphonies. Anyone can have them now, but they were difficult for a boy to get in Worcester 30 years ago. I, however, managed to get two or three, and I remember distinctly the day I was able to buy the Pastoral Symphony. I stuffed my pockets with bread and cheese and went out into the fields to study it. That was what I always did”.
The references to Claines church yard date from some years later. Elgar’s wife Alice records in her diary for 12 August 1910 entry a visit to Claines churchyard where she “Saw his relatives’ tomb & where he used to sit reading scores, years ago”.
Alice Elgar also wrote more about the visit, and Elgar’s recollections, in a letter to Alice Stuart Wortley (Windflower as Elgar nicknamed her) that “E. and I have just been out to a fine old Church and seeing the tomb of 'Helen Leslie' - early last century but E. used to think it a pretty name and used to walk out of the town with a Score - perhaps Pastoral Symph. - & sit on the stone and read it -“
So there is sufficient corroboration of the story as a whole. But Beethoven is the only composer whose scores we can say with confidence that Elgar recalled having devoured with his hunks of bread and cheese in Claines churchyard.
WHINFIELD FAMILY of SEVERN GRANGE
The friendship of the older Edward Whinfield with Elgar, and the musical activities at Severn Grange, were certainly an important part of Elgar’s early musical life in Worcestershire. This was acknowledge by Elgar when he returned to visit the next generation of Whinfields in 1910 having just finished orchestrating his violin concerto.
Alice Elgar recorded in her diary for on 11 August 1910 that
'E & A (arrived at) Severn Grange at 4.20. Found Mr & Mrs Whinfield very nice & pleasant. E. pleased to see it all again & able to tell them things about the house they did not know. Old Mr W. used to consult him where to put pictures & things - garden wonderful but damp. . . '
Alice Elgar’s letter to Alice Wortley was actually written from Severn Grange on 12 August 1910. She refers to the house as “about 2 miles from Worcester & he used to come here & steep himself in art & music from about 20 yrs. old till after we were married & left the neighbourhood. The son of the old music lover now reigns here& they are very nice. The garden is most extraordinary, planted with every rare shrub & tree & so grown up that it seems to me more like a Maeterlinck fantasia than any English place”
As Alice indicated, Elgar had been a frequent visitor to Severn Grange in earlier years. The Whinfields were good (and wealthy!) amateur musicians and Edward W Whinfield was Chairman and President of Elgar’s Worcester Amateur Instrumental Society. Elgar used to come and play music with friends such as the pianist Mrs Harriet Fitton from Malvern, while he was living in Worcester with his sister Lucy and her husband, Charles Pipe.
The musical evenings at Severn Grange seems to have involved a small string orchestra performing Handel Concerti Grossi as well as chamber music of duos and trios in which Elgar played violin. Edward Whinfield was acknowledged by Elgar with the dedication of the Serenade for Strings (1892).
Robert Anderson (“Elgar” (1993)) summed up Elgar’s connexion this way - “E W Whinfield was the head of an organ-building firm who made his home, Severn Grange near Claines, a musical centre for the neighbourhood. The young Elgar was a leading light there till the time of his marriage. As a lover of books and pictures, Whinfield did much to foster Elgar's own interests, giving him various seminal volumes as well as print collections”. For example, Whinfield senior gave Elgar a set of volumes by Ruskin including “Sesame and Lilies” from which Elgar took his famous “best of me” quotation for the “Dream of Gerontius”.
The Elgar diary records in 26 April 1889 a visit before the Elgars married and moved to London – “Mr Whinfield’s for the last time – 3 to 10”. In fact the Elgars visited the Whinfields together in autumn 1890 after the Worcester Three Choirs Festival. In a letter of 19 September 1890, Edward Whinfield lamented that Elgar’s departure had left them “musically like Hamlet, without a Hamlet”.
There is quite a lot of family history material on the internet about the Whinfields. Littlebury’s Worcestershire Directory of 1879 confirms that Severn Grange was owned by Edward Wray Whinfield, Esq. The 1881 Census (available on the Internet at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/census/) shows him as aged 54 and having been born in Felgrave, Buckinghamshire, England about 1827. His wife Ellen was then aged 51 and came from Lathbury in Buckinghamshire.
Earlier censuses suggest that the Whinfields arrived in Claines Parish in the 1860’s. In 1871 there were 3 sons – Arthur Henry, Herbert Edward, and Walter Granville – who were all born in Lincolnshire. Edward Whinfield was still alive – and listed as a landowner - in Claines in 1901 and Ellen is also listed in that census. The sons Herbert and Walter - by then in their 30s -had both gone into the church. In the 1901 Census the oldest son, Arthur Whinfield – now aged 38 - is listed as living at Severn Grange and as having the occupation of “organ builder”.
I was grateful to you for suggesting that the business link of the Whinfields was to the organ builders, Nicholsons then of Worcester (and now of Malvern).
From : Rowena Hardwick
SOL-FA VERSION OF SONG “THE SNOW”
I am looking for a copy of The Snow by Elgar for SATB in sol-fa. Can you help?
You can get this part-song arranged for 4 mixed voices,SATB, by John Pointer from Music Room at http://www.musicroom.com/se/ID_No/018029/details.html. Accompaniments for two violins and pianoforte, and violin parts, are published separately. Other versions, for example for 3 parts SSA, are available from the same source.
These are all in musical notation. I have not yet come across a sol-fa version.
I’ll let you know if anything turns up which would better suit your specification.
From : Janet Elgar
Relative of Sir Edward Elgar?
My name is Elgar. How may I find out if there is any connection with Sir Edward Elgar?
To find out whether you are one of the same branch of the Elgars as the composer Edward, you would need to research your family tree backwards into the nineteenth century. Unless you have Worcestershire or Kent ancestors, however, a connection is unlikely.
Elgar had a daughter Carice but she died childless in 1970 ending the direct line of descent.
The closest connections today could be to Elgar’s brother known as Frank (actually his full name is Francis Thomas) born 1 October 1861 in Worcester. Frank had 3 children and died on 7 June 1928 and is buried in Astwood cemetery in Worcester. I will try to find out if any of those children were sons and passed on the Elgar name to children of their own.
Otherwise the next possibility is a link to Edward’s father, William Henry Elgar, who was born 21 September 1821 at Charlton-in-Dover in Kent, and died in Worcester on 29 April 1906. Although two of William Henry’s sisters had children their names would not have been Elgar. There was a younger brother Henry, Edward’s uncle, but he died unmarried and childless in Worcester in 1917, and another brother - also Edward - who died age 21 in 1850.
There are more people bearing the name Elgar than you might think. In the 1901 census, for example, there were 11 Elgars with the first name Edward and 6 Edward Elgers who may have been Elgars too. A good website for looking at the distribution of surnames in 1881 and 1998 is - http://www.spatial-literacy.org/UCLnames/Surnames.aspx .
Good luck with your searching. It can get very compulsive.
From : Jack D Smith
Organ Sonata - Orchestral Version
I read with interest your response to one enquiry regarding Elgar's output for organ, in which
you mentioned a re-worked version of the Organ Sonata, orchestrated by Gordon Jacob, and
tantalisingly hinted that it has been recorded by Vernon Handley.
Unlike many of your other pointers, however, there was no information as to who publishes
either the score or recording of this version, and I would be extremely grateful if you could
inform me if either (or indeed both) are available at all.
With many thanks for a most useful, informative and entertaining website,
Jack D Smith
The orchestral version of the Elgar Organ Sonata is on CD. It was first recorded by Vernon
Handley with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 1988. This has been re-issued in
2003 on the EMI Classic for Pleasure label at mid-price (7243 5 75979 2 0). You can purchase
a copy online from the Elgar Birthplace at
Gordon Jacob was first asked to orchestrate the work by music publishers (British and
Continental Music Agencies) who had acquired the rights to the original Organ sonata from its
original publisher Breitkopf & Haertel. Jacob completed the job in 1946 and the year following
it was performed for a radio broadcast by Adrian Boult and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Then
it languished apparently unheard until revived by Handley in the 1980’s. If you would like to
know more about Gordon Jacob, there is an excellent website about him and his work
The publishing rights for the orchestral version were acquired first by Fentone Music and
from them by a Dutch firm de Haske. The score is not on the de Haske catalogue but the parts
can be hired - but not purchased - from de Haske Music (UK) Ltd at Fleming Road, Corby,
NN17 4SN (phone 01536 260981 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ).
From : Cecilia Violin
Dedication of La Capricieuse
I am a violinist interested in more information on Elgar's pupil, Fred Ward, to whom he
dedicated his violin piece "La Capricieuse". I am doing research for LRSM but I have not found
anything about him besides your great website.
Thanks for you appreciation of the website
For the benefit of other readers, the website section on Elgar’s Other Music for Piano and
Violin said that Bizarrerie (1889) was composed for, but not dedicated to, another of Elgar's
pupils, Fred Ward, who, to judge by the writing of the piece, must have been a particularly skilled
violinist. Two years later, Elgar dedicated La Capricieuse (1891) to Ward, thereby rectifying the
omission of the earlier piece.
I can find in the 1891 Census for Worcester no Frederick Ward likely to be of an age to be
our man. Of course “Fred” could be a nickname – or someone who used his second name – but
that makes it very difficult to trace. But was he Frank Ward? Robert Anderson says that La
Capricieuse was dedicated to a Frank Ward one of his Worcester pupils.
Or was the dedication intended to be to Frank Webb with whom Elgar corresponded (and
whose two sisters he taught violin)?
So unless some Elgarian has a lead I have missed, I am afraid the trail ends where it begins
for Fred Ward.
There is some more history of the piece which may be of interest. Heifetz included – and
retained – La Capricieuse in his repertoire and recorded it, for the first time, in 1917 or 1918.
Elgar was one of those invited to hear these early RCA recordings of Heifetz at a special
presentation in London. A later Heifetz recording of February 1934 is available today on EMI
From : Kenneth Tomes
I understand that recordings of Elgar speaking are available. Do you have any knowledge
these, and if so, could you supply any links, and or information which may enable me to hear
or download them?
There are two examples of Elgar's voice in existence. The first is from 1927 when he was
recorded by HMV whilst rehearsing the London Symphony Orchestra in a recording of his
Symphony. The sound itself is rather indistinct, as Elgar was apparently fond of playing the
78 disc to visitors! That should be available on the EMI reissue of the Second Symphony (Elgar
Edition), from the Elgar Birthplace etc.
The other is the soundtrack taken from the film of Elgar conducting 'Land of Hope and
Glory' at the newly-opened HMV studios at Abbey Road in 1931. If that is not available, you
can see and hear the whole thing on the supplement to the DVD of Ken Russell's film about the
composer - it includes all the footage existing of Elgar. Again, the Birthplace has the
There is a slight Worcestershire burr to EE's voice - a nice, humorous sound - thank
goodness it has been preserved for posterity, even if fleetingly!
From : Laura Gordijk
A very simple enquiry
I was wondering, could you tell me how tall Edward Elgar was?
Thank you for your enquiry - I only found out the answer to this particular question
myself the other day when at Elgar's Birthplace - he was 5' 10". And the reason we know is
because it was on his passport! Hope this helps -
From : Bastian Visser
I recently heard a quite interesting piece of music and found out it belonged to Edward
Elgar and named - The Snow. I can't find it however - could you help out here? Is it like a
popular name for a piece known under another, more official name etc. etc.
Thanks a lot and kind regards
"The Snow" is the proper name of this piece and doesn't go under another name. It was
written in 1894, originally for female voices, 2 violins and piano. The words are by Elgar's
wife, Alice. Elgar orchestrated the piece in December 1903. It seems it's very popular abroad,
especially in Japan, judging by the emails I receive about this beautiful piece.
I hope this answers your query.
From : Dr. Robert Vodnoy
Elgar and depression
I am teaching a course at Valparaiso University this term on "Madness, Obsession and
Musical Genius". Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, in her book Touched with Fire, lists Elgar among
those composers who suffered from depression. I noted the use of the term depression in your
on-line biography, and am wondering if you can point me toward other sources which would
clarify the issue.
Dr. Robert Vodnoy
Many thanks for your email - you will find references to Elgar's depression in pretty well
all the published biographies, but one which is very good on this subject is Michael
Kennedy's 'Portrait of Elgar' - he is particularly at pains to draw out Elgar's melancholic
tendencies, and the part they played in his composition. Elgar apparently mentioned suicide
more than once c1905, being depressed about his work and finances.
The Kennedy book is usually easy to find - and is an excellent study of EE.
Hope this is of use.
From : Carolina McDonald
The first performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto
I was wondering if you know where, or who conducted the first performance of
the Elgar Concerto?
I believe it was in 1920, in Leeds.
The reason I ask is that I am a closed-caption editor, and I am currently
working on a film from 1997, called "Paradise Road." In it, two women have
discovered a common love of music, and one is humming the Elgar Concerto.
The other mentions how she saw the first performance of it, and then says
something like: "Felix Summond, Leeds, 1920." I just can't quite make out
the name she says, and I'm presuming it's the conductor she speaks of.
However, it could also be the place where she saw the performance. I imagine
it is accurate, but I really have no idea.
Thanks for your email. The information you're looking for is:
First Performance :
Date: 27 October 1919
Venue: Queen's Hall, London
Conductor: the composer
Soloist: Felix Salmond
Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra
I hope this helps!
From David Chandler:
"I am folk music"
My question is did Elgar really say "I am folk music" and, if so, when and where did he
say it? I've often seen these words quoted, but never with any kind of source or reference.
It would be nice to know, and I would be very grateful to anyone who can illuminate me on
Thanks for your email, and yes, Elgar did say that. This was to his old friend Troyte
Griffith, who recalled the incident in an MS of reminiscences, now held at Elgar's Birthplace
"I said to Elgar: 'What do you think about this folk music?'
He flashed back: 'I don't think about it at all. I am folk music!'"
We don't know when he said it or where, but Troyte is a very reliable source.
I hope this helps.
From Tom Arena:
I heard a snippet of this piece by chance on the Amazon website. It's wonderful.
Unfortunately, I know nothing aboyut Elgar since till now I have been a consumer of
contemporary music untill now.. Can you advise me what Elgar work this music came from? In
addition, are there other Elgar compositions in this orchestral style? There is so much on
the Amazon site, that I do not know where to start.
Thank you very much and I apologize for my ignorance about Elgar.
Very many thanks for your email about Salut d'Amour - it is a lovely piece, isn't it? He
wrote it as a token of love for his wife, Alice. It is a stand-alone work, but beautifully
crafted. If you enjoyed this piece which is in Elgar's 'lighter' vein, can I suggest you
explore a disc from EMI called 'The Lighter Elgar' - the main set of works on this CD are
with the Northern Sinfonia conducted by Sir Neville Marriner, but there are a few others
conducted by Lawrence Collingwood. It's about £8 and shd be easy to find anywhere. There are
some exquisite pieces on it, from an ebullient 'Sevlliana' written when he was in his
twenties, to his last published piece, 'Mina', which is a very wistful potrait of one of his
If you wanted to explore more serious works, could I suggest the 'Enigma' Variations? -
you will find the 'miniature' Elgar there, but also more profound utterances, as in his
famous 'Nimrod' variation. There are also humorous and skittish variations in there as well,
such as the one which depicts a bulldog called Dan falling into a river and clambering out
with a triumphant bark! I'm sure you'd enjoy it. There are dozens of recordings but the ones
to look for are by Boult, Barbirolli, Mackerras, and Monteux.
There is so much to Elgar and his music and I quite envy you if you decide to explore
further. Do have a look around the Elgar website and find out about him - it has music
examples which you should enjoy. He really is a marvellous composer and had so many facets
to him - I've been enthralled by his music for about 25 years and cannot get enough of it!
Good luck, and happy listening!
From David Hall (e-mail :
Elgar and the Organ
I am preparing a lecture for WEA about the church organ, with reference to several
composers including Elgar. I would greatly appreciate it if you could answer the following
detailed questions :
- Why did Elgar write so little significant music for solo organ?
- Is the organ sonata written as a post-service voluntary or as a concert piece (a functional
composition - or an "art" composition)
- What can we infer from Elgar's use of the organ in orchestral works? (eg. are there religious
- To what extent was Elgar influenced by church music? (ie. any influence of Bachian
counterpoint, or chorale/plainsong melodies. Did he study harmony through playing the organ
singing in church choirs, or did he study orchestral scores of the Viennese classics?)
- And also any information which you think may be useful as regards to the relationship
between Elgar, the organ and the church.
Thanks for clarifying what you need to know about Elgar and the
Organ. So as not to be long-winded, I'll answer your questions
individually, since you broke your query down into separate items...
- Why did Elgar write so little significant music for solo organ?
Not a straightforward question to answer, but there are some
pointers. It's well-known that Elgar professed to not liking the
piano 'artistically' as an instrument, though his pianistic abilities
were remarkable, according to friends who heard him play. Perhaps
he felt a little bit the same way about the organ?
Having said that, his years of playing the organ regularly at St
George's Roman Catholic Church in Worcester during his 'teens
and twenties meant he knew the instrument intimately. He wrote
and arranged the music of others (Bach, Mozart et al) for use in the
Church services, providing organ accompaniment as necessary for
the choir; but as Robert Anderson says in his biography of EE, his
"organ playing days were virtually over by the time he married in
1889; but at an earlier time the instrument had been a considerable
His organ-playing was an integral part of his general self-education,
but the organ was not the instrument that he felt best carried his
musical ideas. That instrument, of course, was the orchestra.
- Is the organ sonata written as a post-service voluntary or as a
concert piece (a functional composition - or an "art" composition)?
The largest work for this instrument is the Organ Sonata in G
major, op. 28, first performed at Worcester Cathedral on 8th July
1895. According to the score inscription it took him a week to
write! It was composed to be played by a colleague, Hugh Blair, at
the American Organists Convention - so it was definitely an 'art'
composition - a showpiece for organ. It was actually written with
the 4-manual Hill organ of the Cathedral, dating from 1874, in mind.
It should be noted that it often seems to be a piece struggling to
get out of its keyboard clothes and into full orchestral dress (in fact
Gordon Jacob did make a superb arrangement of it for full orchestra
about fifty years ago - it's worth comparing the recording of this
conducted by Vernon Handley with the original organ version).
Essentially it's a virtuoso four movement piece designed to show off
the organ as well as the capabilities of the player...! It has been
commented elsewhere that to play it, you need to be a mental as
well as a physical athlete.
- What can we infer from Elgar's use of the organ in orchestral
works? (eg. are there religious connotations?)
Elgar used the organ seldom in his orchestral works - two striking
exceptions which spring to mind are :
1) Enigma Variations, where he adds the organ for a few bars in his
2) Symphony No 2 in E flat - again, the organ is added for a brief
passage in the finale, noted by one critic as having a "tummy-
wobbling effect" - you can hear it on the Handley recording of the
However the organ is not mandatory for these two pieces - it's
asked to be added where it's possible to do so - but its deep
sonority adds depth and colour to the orchestral texture. So, no
religious connotations - in these cases it's a member of the
- To what extent was Elgar influenced by church music? (ie. any
influence of Bachian counterpoint, or chorale/plainsong melodies. Did he
study harmony through playing the organ and singing in church choirs, or
did he study orchestral scores of the Viennese classics?)
It would be fairer to say that Elgar was influenced by "religious"
music rather than church music. Elgar knew from an early age
masses and anthems by Haydn, Mozart, Handel &c; and of course
the Three Choirs Festival provided the best opportunity possible to
hear and play (in EE's case, the violin) in the great choral works -
Messiah, Elijah &c.
Elgar wasn't so interested in plainsong, but studied harmony from
many sources - particularly Beethoven (at an early age he took
scores from his father's music shop to his grandparent's graves at
Claines Churchyard to study them), as well as Mozart and
Schumann, to name two.
Bach and Handel were huge favourites of Elgar throughout his life -
he knew their works intimately - and you might like to look out for
his arrangement for full orchestra of Bach's Fantasia & Fugue in C
minor, which he made in 1922-1923: a virtuoso orchestral piece
which remains faithful to Bach's original, and in which Elgar took
pains to make sure details like "shakes" remained, amplified and
given new voices in the orchestra.
- And also any information which you think may be useful as regards to the
relationship between Elgar, the organ and the church.
Not enough time to deal with that properly! (whole chapters have
been written on these subjects). Suffice to say he was brought up
a Catholic, wrote much music for the Anglican Church (Te Deum &
Benedictus &c), and his greatest work ("Dream of Gerontius") is a
setting of a deeply Catholic poem by Cardinal Newman. Later in
life he lapsed from his faith, but is buried in a Catholic churchyard.
He continued to conduct his great choral works till the end of his life
("Apostles", "Kingdom") at the Three Choirs. So all in all he was a
bit of a Catholic/Anglican mixture with a good dose of agnosticism
thrown in towards the end!
From Harry Lynch (e-mail :
Hello, I am a teacher at Newman Preparatory School in Boston, MA. I am curious to learn
more about Elgar's
connection to Newman. I read that his mother was a convert to Catholicism - Newman was
responsible for many
converts during this era. A quick review of Newman correspondence did not show her name:
however my research
was hardly organized or exhaustive...can you enlighten on this point? Thank you!
Although Elgar's mother Anne (nee Greening) was not actually one of Cardinal Newman's
own converts to Catholicism, her conversion came only a few years after Newman being
into the Roman faith in 1845.
As you will probably already know, William Henry Elgar, Edward's father, took up the post
of organist at St. George's Roman Catholic Church in Worcester in the 1840's, despite him
being something of a free-thinker who disliked what he called "the playhouse mummery of the
Papist"; however the money he received for his duties must have made the Popery bearable!
Anne Elgar must have come to Catholicism partly or mostly through William's connection
with St. George's, and by the early 1850's she was going to the Superior at the church for
instruction, prior to being received into the Catholic faith. It needs to be remembered that
to decide to become a Catholic at this time was to take your courage in both hands, for
despite the Emancipation Act of 1829 the religion was still widely mistrusted, even reviled,
The Elgar children were all brought up by Anne as Catholics despite William's
(admittedly) tacit opposition.
If you want a little more background reading on the subject, Percy Young's "Elgar,
Newman & the Dream of Gerontius in the Tradition of English Catholicism" (Scolar Press,
1995) is worth reading.
From Kelly Stewart (e-mail :
I am currently researching a project for the University of Wales Centre for Advanced
Welsh and Celtic studies. I am looking, specifically, for any information that might be
available concerning Elgar's time spent in North Wales in the Town of Betyw-y-Coed. Any
information or sources you can give me would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks for your email. Some basic information on Elgar and Betws-y-coed: Elgar stayed
there in the early 1900's as it was home to a great friend, Alfred E Rodewald, a wealthy
cotton magnate who was more interested in music. Rodewald had a summer cottage called
"Minafon" at Betws-y-coed (one "t" or two in "Betws"?). Elgar and his wife stayed there in
June 1901. A further visit took place in July 1903 where Elgar spent much of his time
orchestrating "The Apostles", or viewing the Welsh countryside on his bicycle or on trips
out in Rodewald's car. Elgar's letters to his friend Jaeger stress the informality of the
cottage atmosphere, which he must have loved, and he persuaded "Nimrod" to come to stay
for a while.
Sadly Rodewald died from influenza in 1903, aged 43. Elgar was desolate. A few months
after his death, Elgar began to write some sketches of what was to become the slow movement
of the Second Symphony, in which Alice Elgar heard a "lament for dear Rodey and all human
Most of the Elgar biographies will flesh out the above, but I would recommend any of
Jerrold Northrop Moore's books - his "Creative Life", or the letters to Jaeger in "Letters
of a Creative Life".
I hope this helps and good luck with your project.