Elgar & Chivalry
The music of British composer Edward Elgar (1857-1934) has an instinctive nobility and chivalry, equally characteristic of the man. His wide reading, interests in the world of art, visits abroad and social contacts made initially through his wife's position, reinforced the simple morality of his mother's teaching.
From the concert overture Froissart to the sketches for Symphony No 3 (which was to have included music Elgar first wrote for Laurence Binyon's play about King Arthur), Elgar's creative work owes much to the chivalric ideas that permeated late-Victorian and Edwardian society. The annotations and quotations Elgar added to his scores indicate not only the breadth of his culture but also hint at the influences that may have launched his music.
Inspired by the world première of Anthony Payne's elaboration of Elgar's sketches for a third symphony, distinguished Elgar scholar Robert Anderson embarked on a voyage of rediscovery of the influences behind many of Elgar's major works. The result is Elgar and Chivalry (Elgar Editions, Rickmansworth UK, November 2002, ISBN 0 9537082 5 X, 480pp, 93 illustrations).
Robert's new book is not a biography, but an invaluable companion to the music, bringing to life the characters Elgar depicts, and helping the reader to gain a fuller understanding of the context of each work. As such, the book is set to become an essential addition to the libraries of all devotees of Elgar, while the author's informal yet authoritative style (familiar to readers of this magazine since 1999) makes Elgar and Chivalry pleasurable reading for its own sake.
Posted: 2 January 2003
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