Biography of Edward Elgar

Edward Elgar

Sir Edward Elgar was a nineteenth/twentieth century classical composer.

When and Where was He Born?

2nd June 1857. Lower Broadheath, Worcestershire, England.

Family Background:

Edward Elgar was the son of an organist and music seller.

Education:

Left the local school at Age 15. Self taught as a composer.

Timeline of Edward Elgar:

1880’s: Elgar taught the violin, played the organ at St. George’s Catholic Church in Worcester and composed music for local musical organisations such as the Worcester Glee Club and the County Asylum Band.

1889: He marries Caroline Alice Roberts one of his music pupils and daughter of Major-General Sir Henry Roberts.

1898: With works such as the Cantata “Caractacus”, Edward Elgar’s reputation begins to spread beyond the borders of Worcestershire. This work was suggested to him by his mother and is based on events that took place in Roman times at British Camp in the Malvern Hills.

1899: His first big hit with the public is the “Variations on an Original Theme” often known as the “Enigma variations” which were short biographical sketches of all his friends and family. The most famous of all was “Nimrod” about his best friend, the publisher August Jaeger.

Elgar Statue, Worcester
Statue of Elgar in Worcester High Street, near the site of his family’s music shop. (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1900: The Oratorio “The “Dream of Gerontius” is first performed in Birmingham Town Hall. It is based on Cardinal Newman’s Poem about a soul’s journey, but due to inadequate rehearsals it was not received well by the public.

Spetchley Gardener's Cottage
The Gardener’s Cottage at Spetchley Park, near Worcester where Elgar wrote the Dream of Gerontius (copyright  Anthony Blagg)

1901: Elgar although very depressed continues writing and premiered the first of his “Pomp and Circumstance” Marches, the first of which was to become better known as the music for “Land of Hope and Glory”.

1904: An all Elgar festival is held at Covent Garden and it was now obvious that he had arrived. He was Knighted by King Edward the Seventh in July.

1907: He plans the “First Symphony” whilst traveling in Rome.

1908: Symphony No 1″ is first performed in Manchester.

Elgar Statue, Malvern
Statue of Elgar in Great Malvern (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1909: Traveling in Venice Elgar has ideas for the “Second Symphony”.

1911: “The “Violin Concerto” is dedicated to Fritz Kreisler who gave the first performance. The Second Symphony” is dedicated to the recently deceased King Edward the Seventh.

1914-18: Elgar was deeply saddened by the First World War and produced little work at this time except for a children’s play called “Starlight Express”.

1919: He composes the Cello Concerto which although at the time was seen as outdated is now highly regarded by concert goers.

1920: After the death of his wife Caroline, who had been the driving force behind his success, he becomes a virtual recluse.

1924: Elgar is made Master of the Kings Musick.

1928: He is made a Knight Commander of the Victorian Order. He now begins composing again in earnest working on plans for an opera “The Spanish Lady” and a third symphony.

1931: He is made a Baronet.

Elgar weindow, Worcester Cathedral
Memorial window to Elgar in Worcester Cathedral. (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1933: Edward Elgar flys to Paris to conduct his “Violin Concerto” with Yehudi Menuhin as soloist. He visits Delius whilst in France.

When and Where did he Die?

23rd February 1934, Marl Bank, Worcester, Worcestershire, England of a malignant tumour pressing on the sciatic nerve.

Age at Death:

Completed Works:

Site of Grave:

1890: “Froissart”.
1896: “King Olaf”. “Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands”.
1897: “The Imperial March”.
1898: “Caractacus”.
1899: “Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma)”.
1899: “Sea Pictures”.
1900: “The Dream of Gerontius”.
1901: “Cockaigne (In London Town)”. “Pomp and Circumstance Marches No’s 1 and 2”.
1903: “The Apostles”.
1904: “In the South”.
1905: “Introduction and Allegro for Strings”.
1906: “The Kingdom”.
1908: Symphony No 1 in A Flat”.
1910: “Violin Concerto in B Minor”.
1911: “Symphony No 2 in E Flat”.
1912: “The Music Makers”.
1913: “Falstaff”.
1915: “The Starlight Express”. “The Spirit of England”,
1917: “The Sanguine Fan”.
1918: “Violin Sonata”.
1919: “String Quartet”. “Piano Quintet in A Minor”. “Cello Concerto in E Minor”.

Marriage:

1889 to Caroline Alice Roberts one of his music pupils and daughter of Major-General Sir Henry Roberts. (died 1920).

76.

St. Wulstan’s Church, Little Malvern, England beside his wife.

Elgar's Grave
Grave of Sir Edward and Lady Elgar, St Wulstan’s Church, Little Malvern 
(copyright Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:

BIRMINGHAM:

Town Hall, scene of first performances of works such as the “Dream of Gerontius” at the Birmingham Triennial Music Festival.

WORCESTERSHIRE:

Birthplace, Crown East Lane, Lower Broadheath, Worcester, WR2 6RH.
Malvern Hills.
Statue to him near his old music shop in Worcester.

Elgar the Cyclist plaque
Plaque commemorating Elgar as a cyclist in Worcester High Street.

Forli House, Alexandra Road, Malvern Link rented by the Elgars.
Birchwood Lodge, rented by the Elgars as an escape from 1893 to 1903, Malvern.
Craeg Lea, Malvern Wells where he lived from 1899 to 1904.
Worcester Cathedral.