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Thread: Elgar Symphonies

  1. #1
    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    Default Elgar Symphonies

    I have leared to love these works. Elgar has the orchestra under his little finger - this is apparent if you see the score. He isn't afraid of crazy modulations and makes the music sound so organic and British!

    I havn't yet listened to the third symphony - this was devised by someone else from small scetches Elgar left behind after his death. The controversial thing is that Elgar made his friends promise that they would never allow these scetches to be made into a third symphony. Someone screwed up bigtime!

    Does anyone have any light to shed on the issiue, and do you like the first two symphonies?
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    I agree that Elgar's symphonies sound very British, as does most of his music.

    But will anyone dare venture to identify what that "British" sound IS?

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    Senior Member Lisztfreak's Avatar
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    British sound (in my personal impression)

    Pros: Jolly, light, life-enjoying, natural, perfumed, picturesque, emotional but subtle, evocative, sensual, dark when needed but not much.

    Cons: Sometimes can be pompous, boisterous, not heavy enough, problem-free, too even.

    However, the good sides are far more numerous.
    ''Oh, the String Quartet - oh, the Divine Scratching!''

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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    For certain he was a master of orchestration - brilliant, balancing brass against the full orchestra. Hard to forget the last Enigma Variation with the organ entering with massive pedals along with everything else, yet...just a few minutes earlier we have the Dorabella variation...elsewhere one of the most effective piccolo solos ever written.

    I'm happier with Symphony No 2 than 1. No matter, it's only when you look at the scores in detail you start to appreciate his skill with the orchestra.

    I think his music was branded British - wasn't he Master of the King's Musick or something and wrote a lot of marches pointed at royalty, really - Pomp and Circumstance. But I don't think it's any more British than, say, Bantock's music - Vaughan Williams with his folk obsession is probably closer to britishness. But that's just my opinion! He's a great composer. Boult was his greatest orchestral interpreter with Barbirolli as a second.


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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Lisztfreak, I agree and identify with your subjective and qualitative description of the British sound, most musicians would use the same or similar adjectives when describing this style. The problem for us musicians (and University Music students) arises when we are asked to describe in musical terms what this style is.

    I avoided this essay topic like the plague while in school, and to this day I avoid making statements about it, because anything I say would be a partial definition that would be applicable to all kinds of other musics as well.

    To this day, I have yet to hear or come up with a good musical (technical) description of what Elgar and the British style is made of.

    And no offence to anyone who can't define it, because neither can I.

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    Senior Member Lisztfreak's Avatar
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    Quite off the topic, but I've discovered it just recently and I would like your opinion.

    Listen repeatedly to the Nimrod variation of Elgar's Enigma and to his Elegy for Strings. I think there's a discreet but existing similarity between the thematic material.
    Anyway, it seems possible, since it's said that both pieces were written in honour of Elgar's best friend, Mr Jaeger.
    ''Oh, the String Quartet - oh, the Divine Scratching!''

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    Boult was his greatest orchestral interpreter with Barbirolli as a second.
    In my opinion, Vernon Handley's recordings of the first two symphonies in the early 80s with the London Philharmonic for EMI are the best. I wouldn't be against him recording them again in pure digital, though.

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