<<< << -- 3 -- Alistair Hinton ELGAR AND ENGLISHNESS
Mr Standford claims that it is 'much easier to call Elgar quintessentially English than to dispute it'; not only does he omit to tell us why he thinks this but he also implies that most people actually do this. I very much doubt it. The fact that Elgar 'did rise during a period of fervent patriotism', whilst undoubtedly true, seems to have little significance in his best work; even the six Pomp and Circumstance marches represent it more in their titles and the 'circumstances' of their composition than in their music (and, in any case, it was not beyond Walton to create the most wonderful parody of all that this was supposed to represent in an 'imperial march' of his own, at which Elgar, had he lived, would possibly have giggled gleefully!). The reference to 'Victoria and Albert's flag' seems more suggestive of a patriotism imported from the Germany of their origin than a native 'English' one, so Mr Standford's association of this with Elgar when describing him as 'English in that he was completely committed to his belief in England' may perhaps be taken to mean an England proud of its Germanic values. If so, I would not be especially inclined to think that it 'is why some still celebrate him here'. Where, in any case, is the evidence that Elgar 'was completely committed to his belief in England'? After all, he had trouble enough believing in himself some of the time.
As an aside, I cannot help but wonder what Mr Standford means by 'uneasily competent listening' (except, perhaps, something which a symphony by Walford Davies would be unlikely to deserve); who is the accused here? -- the listener, Henry Walford Davies or both? ...
No -- it seems to me that the principal 'Englishness' in Elgar is in his exalted position in the history of English music as by far the most important composer from that country since Purcell. But Elgar was born 150 years ago, so does he still speak to English audiences (and those elsewhere) today with the same relevance as was the case in the early part of the last century? Well, he was still working on his Third Symphony as recently as ten years ago and it became almost as great an instant success as his First, so one may presume so ...
Copyright © 5 August 2007
Alistair Hinton, Bath UK
'ELGAR AND ENGLAND' BY PATRIC STANDFORD
ALISTAIR HINTON: 'THE BOTTOM OF MY LIS(Z)T??'
'INTERVAL TALK' WITH ALISTAIR HINTON
ALISTAIR HINTON ON MUSICAL CHARLATANRY
PATRIC STANDFORD'S PROVOCATIVE THOUGHTS
EDITOR'S INBOX - READERS' EMAILS
MISCELLANEOUS ARTICLES ABOUT CLASSICAL MUSIC