Elgar, O.M.: A Study of a Musician

By Percy M. Young | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX
THE SYMPHONIC COMPOSER

To prove the greatness of a work of art is a task as hopeless as it would be tedious; but, like the candidate who failed in geometry, I think I can make the greatness of [these] appear highly probable.

D. F. Tovey on Elgar's Falstaff ( Essay in Musical Analysis, iv. p. 3)

WHATEVER OPINIONS are held regarding the quality of Elgar's first symphony one fact is indisputable. It was the first English symphony to live. From the middle of the nineteenth century until 1908, the year in which this work was first produced at Manchester, the byways--as well as the highways--of English music were littered with the emaciated corpses of countless symphonies. It is not, perhaps, generally realised how industrious were native composers. That so many works were so proudly welcomed may stand as a warning to those critics whose charity to new music outstrips judgment. In 1867 Sullivan "Irish" symphony, played at the Crystal Palace under Manns, gave rise to hopes of a new symphonic master. The first of Cowen's six symphonies came in 1869. In 1872 Sterndale Bennett's G minor symphony fetched "the warmest demonstrations of applause" at a Philharmonic Society concert. In 1885 Ebenezer Prout conducted his third symphony at the Birmingham Festival. From about this time until Elgar's emergence in the field Stanford and Parry--eventually with seven and five symphonies respectively to their credit--held a new monopoly. Two colourful composers, both Scotsmen, with an eye on newer developments in Europe, were Mackenzie and William Wallace. The latter was the first British composer to go over to the manner of the Lisztian tone poem. But from all this welter of ambitious composition not one single piece has survived.

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Elgar, O.M.: A Study of a Musician
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 9
  • Illustrations 11
  • Preface 13
  • Part One 17
  • Chapter I - Greenings and Elgars 19
  • Chapter II - Edward 30
  • Chapter III - "Passed with Honours" 39
  • Chapter IV Mr. Elgar 51
  • Chapter V - "Splendid Saga-Ing" 66
  • Chapter VI - Dr. Elgar 78
  • Chapter VII - Sir Edward 96
  • Chapter VIII - The Professor 124
  • Chapter IX - Order of Merit 150
  • Chapter X - "The Spirit-Stirring Drum" 168
  • Chapter XI - ". . . and All Remote Peace" 189
  • Chapter XII - Master of the King's Musick 205
  • Chapter XIII - Three Score and Ten 225
  • Chapter XIV - Unfinished Symphony 239
  • Chapter XV - The Man Himself 248
  • Part Two 261
  • Chapter XVI - In Search of a Style 263
  • Chapter XVII - Music for Orchestra 273
  • Chapter XVIII - Music for Voices 294
  • Chapter XIX - Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam 307
  • Chapter XX - The Symphonic Composer 326
  • Chapter XXI - Chamber Music 345
  • Chapter XXII - Incidental Music 354
  • Chapter XXIII - Unfinished Opera 360
  • Chapter XXIV - Epilogue 376
  • Musical Examples 383
  • Appendix - Inscriptions by Elgar in G. R. Sinclair's "Visitors' Book" 398
  • Index of Works 402
  • Bibliography 426
  • Sources & Acknowledgments 429
  • General Index 431
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