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Understanding the Music: Elgar - Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36, Enigma Variations
Born in Broadheath, England, in 1857, Edward Elgar was the leading English composer of his generation. His father had a music shop in nearby Worcester where he studied music available in the shop and taught himself to play a wide variety of instruments.
He was largely self-taught as a composer. Throughout the 1880s and the 1890s his style matured as he composed for local musical organizations. Slowly, through his early works, his reputation spread beyond Worcester. His first big success came with the Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma) in 1899. In 1901 his success was confirmed by the first two Pomp and Circumstance Marches. In July of 1904, he was knighted by King Edward VII.
He concentrated next on symphonic work. The Symphony No. 1 in A flat was performed in Manchester, England in December 1908 and was received with tremendous enthusiasm. A Violin Concerto in B minor followed in 1910.
In the years prior to World War I (1914) his major works included a Symphony No. 2 in E flat, The Music Makers, for contralto, chorus and orchestra, and Falstaff, a symphonic study. Saddened by World War I, Elgar produced only a few works during that time, including settings of three war poems by Laurence Binyon The Spirit of England (1915-17). Throughout the 1920s and until he died in 1934, Elgar lived in virtual retirement, content to live the life of a country gentleman in Worcestershire, working on some musical projects and emerging for occasional commitments.
- Enigma Variations
- In the South
- Pomp and Circumstance
- Concerto in E minor for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 85
- Introduction and Allegro for String Quartet and String Orchestra, Op. 47
- Serenade in E minor for String Orchestra, Op. 20
- Symphony No. 1 in A-flat major, Op. 55