The Music Makers is frequently criticised on two counts.
Firstly, Elgar took as his libretto a poem by Arthur
O'Shaunessey whose works were then in fashion but now seem
curiously dated. And secondly, Elgar includes a number of
quotations from his earlier works (Sea Pictures, The Dream of
Gerontius, The Enigma Variations
and both symphonies), leading
to accusations that the work lacks originality and inventiveness.
Both criticisms are ill-founded. Whatever the past and current
views of O'Shaunessey, there is no doubting that Elgar felt a
strong affinity with the words of the poem, identifying himself
with the 'dreamer of dreams' in the first line of the poem. And
accepting the autobiographical links Elgar saw in the work, what
should be more natural than that he should recall his earlier
career through a series of quotations from those works.
Fortunately, the public does not slavishly follow the critics.
The work achieved an immediate popularity, receiving frequent
performances in the years following its composition. And while
its initial popularity may have declined somewhat, the work is
still performed regularly if infrequently, with the quotations
adding a certain novelty value to what is undoubtedly a mellow
and heartfelt work.