Other Music for
Piano and Violin

Elgar at the piano

    Music written for piano and violin:

    TitleYearApprox. Length
    Allegretto on GEDGE18854 mins 30 secs
    Bizarrerie 18892 mins 30 secs
    La Capricieuse 18914 mins 30 secs
    Gavotte 18854 mins 30 secs
    Une Idylle 18843 mins 30 secs
    May Song 19013 mins 45 secs
    Offertoire 19024 mins 30 secs
    Pastourelle 18833 mins 00 secs
    Reminiscences 18773 mins 00 secs
    Romance 18785 mins 30 secs
    Virelai 18833 mins 00 secs

Publishers survive by providing the public with works they wish to buy. And a struggling composer, if he wishes his music to be published and therefore reach a wider audience, must write what a publisher believes he can sell. Only having established a reputation can a composer write larger scale works in a form of his own choosing with any realistic expectation of having them performed.

During the latter half of the nineteenth century, the stock-in-trade for most publishers was the sale of sheet music of short salon pieces for home performance. It was a form that was eventually to bring Elgar considerably enhanced recognition and a degree of financial success with the publication for solo piano of Salut d'Amour in 1888 and of three hugely popular works first published in arrangements for piano and violin - Mot d'Amour (1889), Chanson de Nuit (1897) and Chanson de Matin (1899). Elgar composed short pieces for solo piano sporadically throughout his life. But, apart from the two Chansons, May Song (1901) and Offertoire (1902), an arrangement of Sospiri and, of course, the Violin Sonata, all of Elgar's works for piano and violin were composed between 1877, the dawning of his ambitions to become a serious composer, and 1891, the year after his first significant orchestral success with Froissart.

As with the works for solo piano, there is a certain similarity in most of the shorter works for piano and violin, although Gavotte makes distinctive if somewhat quirky use of pizzicato and, as it's marking of Andante Religioso suggests, Offertoire's broad, stately melody places it closer to Chanson de Nuit than to most of the other works reviewed here. But, despite their lack of depth and the inherent simplicity, the works throughout display a level of craftsmanship that one expects from the mature Elgar but is surprising in such early compositions. The mastery of form and structure, the pure, skilful and often extended melodies, the harmonic inventiveness, the encapsulation of charm without descending into sentimentality, make these pieces distinctively Elgar in miniature.

The dedications of the pieces also add to their interest, painting as clear a picture of Elgar's social circle of the time as did the selection of friends portrayed in the Enigma Variations some 10-15 years later. Reminiscences and Romance were both dedicated to Oswain Granger, a fellow local amateur musician and a grocer by profession; Pastourelle to Miss Hilda Fitton, sister of Isabel who became rather better known as Ysobel of the Variations; and Virelai to Frank Webb, another local musician and fellow member of the Worcester Amateur Instrumental Society. The Allegretto on GEDGE was written for and dedicated to the Gedge sisters, two of Elgar's pupils in Malvern; as with other composers before and after, Elgar based the piece on the notes represented by their name. Bizarrerie 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 to Ward, thereby rectifying the omission of the earlier piece.

Elgar dedicated Gavotte, arguably the least inspired of the pieces, to his long- standing friend Dr Charles Buck of Settle, Yorkshire. The previous year, Buck had encouraged his brother-in-law John Beare, a London-based music publisher, to publish Une Idylle, the first work that Elgar had succeeded in having published. It was possibly as a token of his gratitude to Buck that Elgar dedicated Gavotte to him. And it is Une Idylle that carries the most intriguing dedication - to "Miss E E of Inverness". All that is known about the young lady is that Elgar met her during a Scottish holiday he took in 1884 and took a fancy to her. But her name, whether she ever knew of the dedication, and whether Elgar would have struck up the temporary friendship had she not shared his initials remains a matter of speculation.

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