Clef Notes is on the road this month, traveling around the world and looking at how different composers exhibit nationalism in their music. This week, let’s stop in the United Kingdom where Edward Elgar (1857–1934) became the first English composer to really make a name for himself since Henry Purcell in the 17th century!
The son of an organist, Elgar grew up around music and learned to play violin, bassoon, and organ. He had no formal training in composition however must have been a natural because he quickly moved to prominence and will forever be remembered as one of England’s greatest composers. His Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 was written in 1901 and became the first of five marches that contained this name inspired by England’s own William Shakespeare (this phrase came from Othello). Today, most people recognize this march as the processional used during graduation ceremonies.
Elgar was a big fan of Scottish composer Alexander Mackenzie. We will look at how he used nationalism in his music next time.