Edward Elgar: Idle Thoughts

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Of late, people have tried to reclaim Elgar from the charge of Edwardian bombast, pomp and circumstance, the sun never setting on the Empire, etc., etc. But for me, something seems to happen to Elgar when he gets near a symphony orchestra, and we get the characteristic brass, middle strings and regular visits to the kitchen – notably cymbals and rolling kettles, and before long we have settled into some plangent melodic wandering.

I have really tried, but I find it very, very hard to stay in the same room as an Elgar symphony or indeed anything orchestral he ever wrote. And don’t get me started on the choral works! Now, the chamber music is, or seems to me to be an entirely different man.

I’ve always felt that if composers could be likened to food, Elgar would be suet pudding, or maybe spotted dick with thick, lumpy custard.

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