The plaque reads: Sir Edward Elgar, who rose from obscurity to become England’s greatest composer for 200 years, was born on 2nd June 1867 at Broadheath near Worcester. Later he lived in this City where his father had a music-shop at 10 High Street.
He was organist, violinist, teacher, conductor, and self-taught composer. After 1900 his compositions won international recognition, the best known being The Dream of Gerontius, the Enigma Variations, the two symphonies, the concertos for violin and cello, and Land of Hope and Glory. He drew his inspiration from the English countryside, saying “Music is in the air all around us.”
From 1878 to 1933 he associated with the Three Choirs Festival held in Worcester, Hereford and Gloucester. The statue shows him at the age of 64 in the robes of a Doctor of Music which he often wore when conducting at these Festivals.
Well, at least we got to see the statue before the Festival is over!This morning I attended the Celebrity Organ Recital featuring Wayne Marshall, whose program began and ended with organ improvisations. That’s ad libbing, or “making it up on the spot.” The program mentioned that improvisation is much more developed on the European continent, and the English practice of just playing through the first line of the hymn as an organ introduction is thought of as inadequate.
No worries, Marshall’s improvisations were very inventive, and his constantly changing registration changes showed off the organ well. He played a huge program including the Trois danses by Jehan Alain, the Deuxième symphonie by Marcel Dupré, and the Fantasy and Fugue on Ad nos ad salutarum by Franz Liszt—the concert was over two hours long with no intermission!
I was reminded that my late husband, Carl, had always urged me to learn the Trois danses but I never did, thinking it was too difficult. Now, if ever I get the time, I might try it.
I did go to Evensong where the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis was from the Jesus service by William Mathias—a piece I had played!
Tonight’s concert was the Mozart Mass in C minor, and all the soloists were good, but the soprano, Katharine Fuge, was absolutely outstanding, the perfect Mozart soprano with a clear, flexible tone. I could have listened to her all night! Luckily she performs with John Eliot Gardiner and many other performing groups.
The second half of the program was Dmitri Shostakovich Symphony No. 12 in D minor written in 1917, one hundred years ago. It was evocative of the turmoil and uncertainty of the Bolshevik Revolution and had extremes of dynamics including an almost constant piccolo part. It was so loud at times that I was tempted to put my fingers in my ears!
The person who sat next to me pointed out the very tall piccolo player—thought to be over 7′! Ironic, isn’t it! The biggest person in the orchestra with the smallest instrument!