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Edward William Elgar

Edward William Elgar (1857-1934)

Composer

Born in Worcestershire, Elgar was almost entirely self-taught and harboured early ambitions to become a professional solo violinist before focusing on composition. Throughout his twenties and thirties his musical activities were largely confined to the Midlands, and it was not until the premiere of the Enigma Variations (1899) (a series of musical portraits depicting close friends and colleagues, based on an original theme) and the great oratorio The Dream of Gerontius (1900) that he achieved national recognition. He was knighted four years later, and his Land of Hope and Glory (originally a march without any words) has assumed the status of a second National Anthem.

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In many respects Elgar epitomised Edwardian reserve but his music was Romantic in style, especially in the Cello Concerto. Though his music is often viewed as quintessentially English, it also displays significant European influence: early visits to Paris and Leipzig imprinted themselves on his musical personality, although he spent the majority of his life in his beloved Malvern countryside which suffused so much of his music.


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