Biography of Elgar Edward (Sir):
Sir Edward Elgar was born in Worcester in 1857. Until the outstanding success of the 'Enigma' Variations in 1899, he was considered a 'provincial' composer - and a largely self taught one at that. His delightful Salut d'Amour, one of his earliest successes, dates from 1889, when Elgar had just turned 30: this proved to be a year of great happiness for him, for at that time he married Caroline Alice Roberts - a lady who was to mean so much to him as man and musician. It is not too fanciful to hear, in this charming piece, a musical manifestation of his love for her. In the earlier part of Elgar's career as a composer, he wrote several short pieces which became very popular indeed. Chanson de Matin is one such, the second of a pair (the other being Chanson de nuit), which carried his name far and wide before his larger orchestra works appeared. It was published in several versions at once: for string orchestra, for small orchestra, for violin and piano and so on - so it is almost impossible to say, with any degree of certainty, which was the original version. But Elgar himself was a good violinist, and it may well be that he would have played this tune through to himself on the violin, before adding a piano part and sending it off to his publishers for their consideration. In any event, it remains a beautiful theme of considerable character and style.
If Elgar waited until he was 42 before his major breakthrough, his fame spread rapidly: so much so that by the outbreak of World War 1 he was arguably the most celebrated living British composer, whose reputation had been cemented by a succession of large scale choral and orchestral works. In a curious way, the War changed Elgar - as it touched all Europeans - as his public and private utterances became more sharply defined. During the War Elgar produced, on the one hand, a series of great patriotic works, and on the other, as the War came to its end, a series of three great chamber compositions: the Violin Sonata opus 82, the String Quartet opus 83 and the Piano Quintet opus 84. The Violin Sonata in E minor was finished in September 1918. It is in three movements, of broadly similar length, and shows a major composer at the height of his powers, the music being both valedictory and forward looking. Early in 1917, Elgar and his wife felt they needed a change from living in London; they found an ideal spot, a small cottage in rural Sussex, where the three chamber works were written. Those who knew Elgar at this time have written that he was much taken with the surroundings, and would walk in the woods every day; they also suggest that the woodlands influenced his music, and in the Sonata's central Romance (Andante) it is not at all fanciful to sense an echo of those tranquil surroundings. The music is full of a quiet rapture, tinged with nostalgia, and is as typically English as are other of Elgar's more famous orchestral works. Here is an idyll, a gentle musing as a sitting by a stream, or idly playing with a straw in high summer, or examining a wild flower. In the finale, Elgar gathers his moods together - as he was to do so superbly in the String Quartet and in so doing casts a wider thematic and emotional net, the fusion of which shows a great composer at work. The first performance of the Sonata, by W.H. Reed and Sir Landon Ronald, was a triumph; two months later all three chamber works were given in the same concert in London, in which the Quartet players were Albert Sammons, W.H. Reed, Raymond Jeremy and Felix Salmond. The pianist was William Murdoch.