Elgar at the piano
A concert overture for full orchestra.
Approximate Length : 22 minutes
First Performance :
Date : 16 March 1904
Venue : Elgar Festival, Royal Opera House,
Covent Garden, London
Conductor : the composer
Orchestra : Hallé Orchestra
Dedicated to : Leo Schuster, music lover,
friend and supporter of Elgar

Shortly after the first performance of The Apostles, the Elgars took a holiday on the Italian Riviera, an area Elgar later came to love. He was in good spirits and became inspired by the beauty of the area and its sense of history to write this work. It is a lively, cheerful piece, episodic in character with structural similarities to Cockaigne. It owes much of its appeal to rapid fluctuations in mood.

It begins with an exuberant, leaping theme not unlike the opening of Richard Strauss' Don Juan, but the work soon moves on to its first main episode : a somewhat strident, forbidding theme reflecting the former Roman domination of the area (echoes of Respighi's Pines of Rome here). The central section of the work is dominated by a typically Elgarian theme, similar to the lovers' theme in Cockaigne, suggesting the unbounded joy of nature and wide open spaces. Shortly before the final recapitulation comes the second main episode. Taking some geographical liberties, Elgar imports a Neapolitan love song, a tender melody played by solo viola, which is probably the best known part of the work.

The work had its enthusiastically received premiere at a three- day festival of Elgar's music staged at Covent Garden on 14-16 March 1904. It continues to be performed regularly if less frequently than Cockaigne.

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