Elgar at the piano

A suite in five movements for brass band or full orchestra:

1 - Introduction (Pomposo) : Worcester Castle;
2 - Toccata (Allegro molto) : Tournament;
3 - Fugue (Andante) : The Cathedral;
4 - Minuet (Moderato) : Commandery;
5 - Coda (Lento).

Approximate Length : 18 minutes
First Performance :
- Brass Band Version :
Date : 27 September 1930
Venue : National Brass Band Championships,
Crystal Palace, London
- Orchestral Version :
Date : 14 April 1932
Venue : EMI Abbey Road recording studios, London
Conductor : the composer
Orchestra : London Symphony Orchestra
Commissioned by : National Brass Band Championship
Organising Committee
Dedicated to : George Bernard Shaw,
author, playwright and friend

In 1930, Elgar was invited to write a test piece for the twenty- fifth anniversary national brass band championships at Crystal Palace, South London. The Severn Suite was the product of that invitation. As Elgar had no particular experience of writing for brass bands, the organisers suggested that Elgar produce a short score for Henry Geehl to arrange. The collaboration proved unsatisfactory, Geehl rejecting most of Elgar's ideas for the arrangement in favour of his own. More recently, a fully scored arrangement for brass band, apparently in Elgar's own hand, surfaced at auction in 1995 (when the score failed to reach its reserve price) and again in 1996.

Perhaps because of his dissatisfaction with Henry Geehl's arrangement, Elgar subsequently produced an orchestral version of the suite whose first performance he conducted at an HMV recording session in 1932. To complicate matters further, Sir Ivor Atkins, organist at Worcester Cathedral and a close friend of Elgar, also prepared an arrangement of the suite for organ, this arrangement now being more commonly known as the second organ sonata (and given the separate opus number 87a).

Elgar composed no completely original music after Lady Elgar's death in 1920, turning to his sketchbooks for tunes and fragments he had jotted down sometimes many years earlier. The Severn Suite is a particular example of this, the minuet coming from a wind quintet he had composed as long ago as 1879 for an informal ensemble he played in with his friends. The suite, particularly in the brass band version, is of interest although it is not considered to be one of Elgar's greatest works.

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