During 1897, Elgar first became acquainted with A J Jaeger, the Novello's employee who
became Nimrod of the Enigma Variations. From the start, they were frank in
their exchange of views. In October 1897, Elgar, who by this time already had a number of
comparative successes under his belt, wrote to Jaeger bemoaning the lack of financial reward he
had received for his works. To those who knew Elgar, such melancholic moods were not
uncommon and perhaps not to be taken too seriously, although they did reflect the parlous
financial existence of a composer at that time.
Within ten days of his letter to Jaeger, Elgar sent Novello's a short piece for violin and piano
which he called Evensong, although he suggested to Novello's that they might prefer
the name Vespers. In the event, believing that French titles sold better, they published
it as Chanson de Nuit. Elgar no doubt regarded it as little more than a pot boiler, a
quick way of earning much needed funds, although the work contains a depth of sincerity and
emotion not commonly found in pot boilers then or since.
In March 1899, shortly after completing the orchestration of the
Enigma Variations, Elgar sent Novello's another short piece for violin and piano.
He claimed to have recently rediscovered and completed it, having originally intended it as a
companion piece to Evensong. He therefore suggested to Novello's that they publish it as
Chanson de Matin, which they did.
In January 1901, Elgar sent Novello's orchestral arrangements of the two works. This helped
accelerate their rising popularity and it is in this form that they are usually heard today.
Chanson de Matin in particular retains a wide public affection out of all proportion to
the effort it must have taken Elgar to produce it. But, while there is no denying the direct appeal
of its pure melody, it is Chanson de Nuit that is in many ways the better, more carefully
constructed composition. It has, however, largely been eclipsed by the popularity of the