Edward Elgar

English composer (1857-1934)

Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Bt. (2 June 185723 February 1934) was an English composer. He was Master of the King's Musick from 1924.


  • My idea is that there is music in the air, music all around us, the world is full of it and you simply take as much as you require.
    • In conversation in 1896, quoted in R J Buckley Sir Edward Elgar (London: Bodley Head, 1905), p. 32.
  • The enigma I will not explain – its "dark saying" must be left unguessed, and I warn you that the apparent connection between the variations and the theme is often of the slightest texture.
    • Elgar's programme note to the Enigma Variations, quoted in Simon Mundy Elgar (London: Omnibus Press, [1980] 2001) p. 64.
  • I always said God was against art and I still believe it. Anything obscene or trivial is blessed in this world and has a reward – I ask for no reward – only to live & to hear my work.
  • People who talk of the spread of music in England and the increasing love of it, rarely seem to know where the growth of the art is really strong and properly fostered: some day the press will awake to the fact, already known abroad and to some few of us in England, that the living centre of music in Great Britain is not London, but somewhere further North.
    • Letter to Canon Gorton, organizer of the Morecambe Music Festival, published in The Musical Times, July 1903.
  • Play it like something you hear down by the river.
    • Diana M McVeagh Edward Elgar: His Life and Music (London: J. M. Dent, 1955) p. 163.
    • On the trio of the second movement of his Symphony No. 1.


  • His range is so Handelian that he can give the people a universal melody or march with as sure a hand as he can give the Philharmonic Society a symphonic adagio, such as has not been given since Beethoven died.
  • The aggressive Edwardian prosperity that lends so comfortable a background to Elgar's finales is now as strange to us as the England that produced Greensleeves and The Woodes so wilde. Stranger, in fact, and less sympathetic. In consequence much of Elgar's music, through no fault of its own, has for the present generation an almost intolerable air of smugness, self-assurance and autocratic benevolence.
  • Elgar is not manic enough to be Russian, not witty or pointilliste enough to be French, not harmonically simple enough to be Italian and not stodgy enough to be German. We arrive at his Englishry by pure elimination.
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