In This Article Edward Elgar

  • Introduction
  • Reference Resources
  • Journals
  • Collections of Essays
  • Source Studies
  • Correspondence and Writings
  • Style and Technique

Music Edward Elgar
by
Charles Edward McGuire
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0070

Introduction

Edward Elgar was one of the most renowned and important composers at the beginning of the twentieth century and remains an extremely popular composer today. Several compositions, including the Variations on an Original Theme, op. 36 (“Enigma”), Cello Concerto, and two symphonies remain staples of the international concert repertoire. Even listeners who do not know the name Elgar will recognize at least one of his tunes: the trio section to the first Military March (“Pomp and Circumstance”)—known throughout Britain as the patriotic and nostalgic tune “Land of Hope and Glory” and throughout North America as the tune all university students march to upon graduation. Elgar’s music, to some, grants an easy sense of comfortable nostalgia: a peaceful, prosperous time just before World War I, and identification with the rustic and pastoral green hills of England. To others, Elgar’s music represents Great Britain at the height of its Empire, with all of the problems of jingoism and cultural superiority this implies. Most all agree, though, that Elgar himself was a complex figure, and many try to map such personal complexity into his music itself. The present bibliography provides an introduction to most aspects of Elgar scholarship. It aims to be inclusive and thorough while acknowledging that Elgar scholarship itself is not necessarily so. There are currently three separate traditions of writing about Elgar in existence, which sometimes coexist uneasily: the amateur Elgarians, enthusiasts of Elgar’s music who publish mostly biographical and composition-specific studies within the Elgar Society Journal (see Journals) and the occasional monograph on a particular composition; the critics, predominantly newspaper music critics and professional writers trained in fields other than music who concentrate on Elgar’s correspondence and biography; and the professional academics (with or without a university affiliation), who usually mix elements of social history, biography, and music analysis to concentrate on a particular composition or theme within Elgar’s work. While the borders of these three areas are permeable, the reader will notice that the great number of amateurs and critics tend to engage in only certain works, leaving others unexplored. Thus, this bibliography includes many entries annotating sources for the Enigma Variations and the oratorios, and relatively few for most other works, as few exist. The bibliography does not feature many reviews or short discussions of Elgar in works devoted predominantly to other subjects; the interested reader may wish to consult Hodgkins 1993 (see Reference Resources) for a longer (non-annotated) list. For reasons of space, individual essays within collections devoted to Elgar are not annotated, though the collections themselves are. The one exception to this, Porter 2001 (see Nationalism and Imperialism), is present because it represents a critical side in an ongoing debate about Elgar and imperialism. Articles from the Elgar Society Journal (see Journals) are also not annotated for the same reasons.

Reference Resources

The items in this section can be split into three categories: descriptive lists of Elgar’s compositions, research bibliographies, and the Elgar Complete Edition, which is an attempt to publish scholarly, edited editions of all of the music of Elgar. The lists are more narrative than analytical, though the occasional analytical detail does come through. Porte 1921, an extremely subjective approach to the music of Elgar, includes narrative descriptions designed like concert program notes; Newman 1922 is similar, but only discusses works Elgar composed up to 1906. McVeagh 2007 is the most comprehensive of the three and contains biographical information as well. All are interesting works—the authors spent years and even decades contemplating Elgar’s music. The reference resources range from Hodgkins 1993, which is a simple, though comprehensive, bibliography that is extremely useful for tracking down all of the pre-1993 sources to any composition by Elgar, to the specialized Kent 1993, which includes an annotated bibliography and information about compositions geared toward the researcher. Somewhere between these two sources is Craggs 1995, more detailed than Hodgkins 1993 and easier to use than Kent 1993. The material within Edward Elgar is a combination of these two categories, as it contains detailed lists of compositions and other information, geared entirely toward the enthusiast. The Elgar Complete Edition (Anderson and Pickard 1981–1993) is meant to encompass all of Elgar’s published compositions as well as arrangements, fragments, and sketches. This edition—now projected to include forty-three volumes—has a long and storied history. Work on the series was undertaken originally by Novello (Elgar’s principal publisher within his own lifetime) in 1981, which published thirteen volumes before ending the project in 1993. In 2000, the Elgar Society formed a trust to continue the publication of the series and worked for some years with Novello to produce two additional volumes. In 2007, the Elgar Society took entire responsibility for the publication of the scores and in the ensuing years has published an additional three volumes.

  • Anderson, Robert, and John Pickard, eds. Elgar Complete Edition. 21 vols. Rickmansworth, UK: Elgar Society Editions, 2007–.

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    The editors of this edition present scores with a brief scholarly apparatus to contextualize the composition of the work. The volumes include facsimiles of sketches and/or fair copies and detailed lists of corrections and emendations made to the scores for publication. The edition consists of six separate series, and (at the time of writing) twenty-one volumes have been published of the projected forty-three.

  • Craggs, Steward R. Edward Elgar: A Source Book. Aldershot, UK: Scolar Press, 1995.

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    Craggs’s volume contains a detailed chronology of Elgar’s life and a discography of recordings by Elgar of his own music, as well as a chronological listing of Elgar’s compositions and a non-annotated bibliography divided by composition and subject. It is tightly organized, logical, and easy to use.

  • Edward Elgar—Website of the Elgar Society, Elgar Birthplace, and Elgar Foundation.

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    This website is a clearinghouse of information on Elgar’s biography, Elgar’s music, and current performances of Elgar’s works. It is designed by and for lovers of Elgar’s music and consequently overwhelmingly positive. Discussions of music are more descriptive than analytical, and there is no scholarly apparatus (footnotes or citations). As a quick source of information it is excellent.

  • Hodgkins, Geoffrey. “Elgar: A Bibliography.” Music Review 54.1 (1993): 24–62.

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    This is the most comprehensive bibliography of Elgar’s own writings and writings on Elgar available up to 1993, arranged in easily understood categories. Hodgkins does not annotate his entries and does not include cross-references. For the individual looking to establish the historiography of a particular Elgar topic, this bibliography is essential.

  • Kent, Christopher. Edward Elgar: A Guide to Research. Garland Reference Library of the Humanities 1017. New York and London: Garland, 1993.

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    Kent’s extremely useful volume contains four parts: a chronological list of Elgar’s compositions; an annotated bibliography of select resources; an annotated handlist of Elgar documents at major archives; and a series of indexes cross-referencing the first three resources. The chronological list contains information regarding premieres, publication dates, and page-number references of discussions of each composition within the Elgar literature up to 1993.

  • McVeagh, Diana M. Elgar the Music Maker. Woodbridge, UK: The Boydell Press, 2007.

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    This volume contains some biographical information, but is focused on a brief discussion of each of Elgar’s completed works. While the book contains a specific analytical point of view constructed on the author’s more than five decades of consideration of Elgar and his music, it does not consider (or cite) many of the works on Elgar that have been published since 1990.

  • Newman, Ernest. Elgar. 3d ed. Music of the Masters. London: J. Lane, The Bodley Head Ltd., 1922.

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    Newman was one of the most highly regarded music critics of his day, and his annotated index of Elgar’s compositions discusses the composer’s major works to 1906, arranged into categories (early compositions, cantatas, oratorios, songs and miscellaneous works, and instrumental works). An appendix discusses Elgar and program music.

  • Porte, John Fielder. Sir Edward Elgar. London: Kegan Paul, 1921.

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    Porte discusses Elgar’s compositions by opus number and gives narrative descriptions for each, as well as some information (when known) regarding the first performance of and critical reaction to the compositions. The short annotated bibliography at the end is interesting, since Porte is not afraid to criticize his contemporaries and their discussions of Elgar. Reprinted in 1970.

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