Thursday, January 12, 2017

Anthony Payne's Completion of Elgar's Symphony

It is not uncommon for music to be left unfinished, whether a composer abandons a work, or whether death prevents completion. After receiving a commission from the BBC to write his Symphony No. 3, Elgar began sketching out his ideas. It wasn’t long after this, however, that he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died, leaving his final symphony unfinished. But what ever happened to the sketches the composer left behind?

During the 1970s, composer Anthony Payne came across the sketches that Elgar left behind. He spent years studying the sketches and compiling what he thought may be the symphony Elgar sought to write. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the BBC commissioned Payne to complete a symphony based on these sketches. The work was premiered in 1998.

What is your opinion of the symphony? Do you think it was wrong of Payne to take the liberty of writing Elgar’s work based on these sketches? Or do you think by completing the deceased composer’s work, he helped to carry on Elgar’s legacy and give voice to something Elgar was never able to finish?

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