According to The Oxford Companion to Music
, Edward Elgar was born at Broadheath near Worcester in 1857 and died at Worcester in 1934, aged seventy-six. He was brought up in an atmosphere of music. His father was an organist and music seller: "A stream of music flowed through our house and the shop and I was all the time bathing in it." His first real awakening to the power of the art came, however, when he caught sight of a copy of Ludwig van Beethoven
's First Symphony, a glance of the Minuet of which electrified him, so that he ran off to study it in quiet, and experienced an immediate artistic enlightenment
He graduated as a performer in ways he could hardly recall or explain, playing piano, violin, cello and double-bass, bassoon and trombone, and in one or another of his capacities taking part in all the local music-makings. From his twenty-second to twenty-seventh years he was bandmaster on the staff of a mental home, and this gave him his first experience in conducting.
An American musician, Daniel Gregory Mason, wrote of Elgar's "tenderness coupled with aspiration", and "noble plainness". These are some of the qualities that English musicians feel in Elgar. In 1904 he was knighted, in 1911 he received the Order of Merit, in 1924 he became Master of the King's Musick, and in 1931 he was created baronet.
Being a Worcester man myself, Elgar has a very special significance for me. One of my mother's favourite childhood stories is of meeting the great man himself when he visited her school, the Worcester Grammar School for Girls.
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