Elgar, Edward William
It has been the lot of every great composer to become at some time in his life the target for a fire of conflic ting opinions; and this point has now been reached by Elgar, who in his early thirties was unable to procure a hearing in the metropolis of his own country. Those who know him best describe him as a man of conservative nature, yet definite and decided opinions, and sincere character, free from the thirst for publicity for its own sake, composing because he has something to say in music, which f he cannot leave unsaid. His style is individual, and is characterized by a certain noble gravity and dignity, that is felt even in his lighter works, such as the orchestral variations, and the marches, Pomp and Circumstance. This seriousness is a natural outcome of the mind whose oratorio scores bear the dedicatory letters A. M. D. G. (To the greater glory of God). A certain writer, in emphasizing the religious inspiration of the oratorios, calls attention to the interesting fact that Malvern is the place where The Vision of Piers the Plowman was written, and declares that The Dream of Gerontius should stand in the same rank as Dante's Divine Comedy, and Michelangelo's Last Judgment. Theodore Thomas pronounced it the most important oratorio of recent times. Mr. Joffe, in the International Year Book for 1902, quotes of it: "Scarcely since Wagner's death has there been any musical work so sincere, so fine or noble, so delicately graduated, so exquisitely poetical," and himself says, " it is a work full of striking individuality, though written by a deep student of Wagner, and technically even the score of Die Meistersinger does not overshadow this new score." Robert J. Buckley, in his excellent book, Sir Edward Elgar, says: " What Wagner did for opera, from the point at which it was left by Mozart and Weber, Elgar is doing for oratorios from the point at which it was left by Handel and Mendelssohn, and as many believe, with equal inspiration." In the orchestral field, Elgar is ranked with the best of the modern European composers. Professor Edward Dickinson, in his study of the History of Music, says that Elgar's compositions "indicate a technical knowledge of the highest order in counterpoint and orchestration, as well as a prolific vein of melody." As Elgar was almost entirely self-taught, his work exemplifies what may be called the inductive method in musical composition, from forty years' handling of the instruments. The power to apply this method in music has been seen in some few of the German composers, but not in Elgar's English predecessors.
Personally, Elgar is described as a vigorous, active and enthusiastic man, fond of books and outdoor sports, modest and unassuming in manner; tall, with the stoop of the constant student in his shoulders, and strong, clear features, with an unaffected dignity that would become " a barrister or a member of Parliament." The composer was knighted in 1904 and received the degree of Doctor of Music from Dunelm, and of LL.D. from Leeds the same year, and since then has had conferred upon him the title, Professor of Music, Birmingham University. Oxford also bestowed upon him the degree of Doctor of Music in 1905 and the Western University of Pennsylvania, at Pittsburg, conferred upon him the degree of LL.D. in 1907. Beside the works already mentioned, there are the following: Romance for violin and orchestra; for violin and piano, an allegretto, a sonata, a serenade lyrique, and a gavotte; numerous pieces and a few exercises for violin with piano accompaniment; and etudes characteristiques for violin; sursum corda, for strings, brass, and organ; sonata and twelve voluntaries for organ; part-songs, two quartets for strings; and a quintet for wind-instruments. For small orchestra, Dream Children, two sketches; a minuet; and salut d'amour; for string orchestra, a serenade. For full orchestra, two concert overtures, Cockaigne, and Falstaff ; Sevillana and other pieces; also incidental music to Grania and Diarmid, and a Spanish serenade for chorus and orchestra. There is also a "pendant" to the Cockaigne overture, said to show the " reverse of the joyous picture" of the overture proper. Of Elgar's numerous songs, it will be sufficient to name the following: Weary Wind of the West, My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land, Like to a Damask Rose, A Song of Flight, The Pipes of Pan, Queen Mary's Song, and In the Dawn.