Elgar Complete Edition

Volume 28
The Overtures

We are pleased to announce the publication in late February 2014 of the twenty-sixth volume in the Complete Edition: Vol.28, the volume containing Elgar's Overtures. It is the first of the volumes to be edited by Sarah Thompson, our Edition-funded research student at Bristol University and is primarily taken up with Elgar's three renowned overtures: Froissart, Cockaigne and In the South (‘Alassio’). Bearing in mind how well known these three overtures are, their editing has proved unexpectedly challenging. The original full score and parts for both Cockaigne and In the South were completed in haste for looming premières, resulting in numerous discrepancies which needed to be resolved before publication in this volume. Froissart followed a more complex evolution. Elgar produced two autograph full scores before this work's première at the 1890 Three Choirs Festival. But Novello engraved only the string parts for the Festival's use; publication of the full score and other parts did not follow until 11 years later. Annotations on the later of Elgar's two autograph scores, including the Novello plate number, show that this was used as the basis for the published full score but there remain substantial differences between the two, notably in the trombone part, pointing to the likelihood of another source, probably a late proof, now lost. Again quite a challenge in addressing the differences, including some which proved to be not fully resolvable.

    As ever, however, it is in the volume's Appendix that the points of particular fascination are to be found. Although the fragmentary works rarely import significance for Elgar's musical reputation, they inevitably hold greater uncertainties and the potential for discovery. The current volume contains just three overtures left unfinished by Elgar. Their names are familiar from Elgar's correspondence, but what little music he wrote for each remains hidden in his sketchbooks ... well, almost.

    The first two - the Lakes and Scotish [sic] overtures - were begun almost concurrently in the early 1880s, Elgar recording progress in his letters to Charles Buck. But the dating of the sketches coincides only approximately with that of the correspondence. We therefore decided late in the day not to distinguish the sketches, labelling them simply 'Two Overture Fragments' to reflect the uncertainties in their precise identification.

    The third incomplete overture, City of Dreadful Night, was intended as a successor to Cockaigne and sketches for it date from the first years of the twentieth century. Elgar labelled four sketches to show their intended use in this overture, but editorial work for this volume has established a musical overlap with other, unlabelled sketches on the same and adjacent sketchbook pages, approximately doubling the amount of material Elgar seemingly composed for the overture. While still far too little to attempt a completion, it gives a significantly fuller insight into the work. Of potentially greater interest, we now know that sketches and phrases conceived for City of Dreadul Night ended up not only in In the South and the Second and Third Symphonies, but also in The Music Makers and the 'Coliseum Masque' (The Crown of India).

    The volume, which comes complete with the customary apparatus of detailed source descriptions, commentaries and an introductory foreword, can be obtained through all good book stores and specialist music shops, or directly from the publisher. For details, visit the How to Purchase page.

Series IV : Orchestral Works

Publication History

  • Publication date : 28 February 2014
  • Publisher : Elgar Works
  • ISBN : 978-1-904856-28-3 (hardback)

Detailed Description

  • Editor : Sarah Wheatcroft
  • Number of pages : xxxiv + 268
  • Page size : 280mm x 432mm
  • Binding : cloth (hardback)
  • Number of Illustrations : 15 (monochrome)
  • Contents :
    • The complete full scores, re-originated in their entirety, of Elgar's three completed overtures : Froissart; Cockaigne; In the South ('Alassio');
    • An appendix containing all known sketches of the unfinished works The Lakes overture, Scottish overture and Cockaigne overture No.2 (City of Dreadful Night)
    • A scholarly foreword recording the history of Elgar's composition of the works;
    • A comparative description of all known source material;
    • A comprehensive commentary detailing editorial decisions and amendments;
    • A range of facsimiles illustrating significant features of the work's development;
    • Composer's note recording the forces required.

Return to :

What is the
Elgar Complete Edition?
A Short History of
the Complete Edition
How to Purchase from
the Complete Edition
the Complete Edition
The Full Edition,
volume by volume
Our Latest Volume Subscription Form Who is
the Complete Edition?
Our Mission Elgar Complete Edition index Welcome page index