Elgar (1857 - 1934)
: June 2, 1857, Worcestershire, England
: February 23, 1934, Worcestershire, England
Sir Edward William Elgar was an English composer, many of whose works have entered the British and international classical concert repertoire. Among his best-known compositions are orchestral works including the Enigma Variations, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, concertos for violin and cello, and two symphonies. He also composed choral works, including The Dream of Gerontius, chamber music and songs. He was appointed Master of the King's Musick in 1924.
The fourth of seven children, he lived mostly in Worcester, in the family apartment over his father’s music shop. At 15, his basic schooling over, he went to work in a solicitor’s office, but quit a year later and declared himself a freelance musician. Elgar then became assistant organist to his father, eventually assuming the position (1885-89). On a few trips to London in 1878-79, he took advanced violin lessons, and regularly went to hear concerts. He freelanced as a violinist in Worcester, taught students, and played bassoon in a wind quintet.
During the 1890s, Elgar moved to London to establish himself as a composer, and saw his overture Froissart published. The real breakthrough came in 1899, when his Enigma Variations received its first performance, in London. Its success catapulted Elgar to the forefront of English music. Through 1900, Elgar wrote the first two Pomp and Circumstance marches. The famous trio melody for No. 1, with the lyrics “Land of Hope and Glory,” becomes a worldwide symbol of England and the British Empire.
Many important compositions followed, including the First Symphony (1908), which was wildly successful, receiving more than 80 performances in its first year.
In 1923, Elgar retired to Worcester. He increased his recording activity, conducting most of his orchestral works for the Gramophone Company. He died in 1934, and is buried in St. Wulstan's Church, Little Malvern, next to his wife.