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Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students
A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
TODAY IS
February 23
Can You Guess? Elgar composed a piece of music that most high school students hope to hear.  Can You Guess what piece of music that might be?

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1685 - George Frideric Handel, aka Georg Friedrich Händel, was born in Halle, Saxony.

1732 - Premiere of Handel's oratorio, Esther.

1903 - Premiere of S. Rachmaninoff's Piano Preludes Nos. 1, 2, and 5, from Op. 23 and Variations on a Theme of Chopin with composer at piano.

1923 - Premiere of Ernest Schelling's A Victory BallLeopold Stokowsky conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra.

1956 - Premiere of Leon Kirchner's Piano Concerto No. 1.

1959
- Alvin's Harmonica, by the Chipmunks, was released.

1962 - Premiere of Igor Stravinsky's A Sermon, A Narrative and A Prayer.

1974 - The Way We Were, by Barbra Streisand, was released.

1999 - Ruth Gipps, English composer, died.
Sir Edward Elgar
1857-1934
Elgar Violin Concerto
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Sir Edward Elgar died on February 23, 1934.

Edward Elgar was born at Lower Broadheath, on June 2, June 1857.  His father had a music shop and tuned pianos.  Elgar, therefore, had the advantage of growing up in a thoroughly practical musical atmosphere. He studied the music available in his father's shop and taught himself to play a wide variety of instruments. 

Symphony No. 1 in A flat was first performed in December, 1908. The work was received with tremendous enthusiasm and there were 100 performances of it in Europe, America, Australia and Russia in just over a year.

The Violin Concerto in B minor followed in 1910. Dedicated to Fritz Kreisler, who gave the first performance, its last movement has a unique feature - an accompanied cadenza.  The strings are instructed that the pizzicato tremolando should be thrummed with the soft part of three fingers while the violin muses over ideas recalled from the earlier movements.

The First World War depressed Elgar deeply, and he did not produce a great deal of music  until 1918 and 1919 that his final great period produced the three chamber works - the Violin Sonata and the String Quartet, both in E minor, the Piano Quintet in A minor and theCello Concerto in E minor, his last great masterpiece. Audiences were quick to note the change - no longer the pomp and swagger of earlier days.

In 1920, Lady Elgar died and with her died much of Elgar's inspiration and will to compose. She had organised his household and ministered to his comforts. For a long time she saved him hours of drudgery, for instance by ruling bar lines on score paper. She walked miles in all weathers to post precious parcels of manuscript and proofs. In the early days of their marriage she had collaborated with him to produce such works as Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands (1896) - Elgar's settings of his wife's poems inspired by holidays spent in Germany. At times when success seemed forever to be eluding him, she never lost faith. In short, she had been the driving force behind his genius encouraging him and proclaiming his talents at every opportunity.

In 1928 he was honored as a Knight Commander of the Victorian Order (K.C.V.O). In 1933 he conducted Yehudi Menuhin in his violin concerto. 

That year he was found to be suffering from a malignant tumour which pressed on the sciatic nerve. He died February 23, 1934.
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From 16 Elgar worked as a violinist, organist, bassoonist, conductor and teacher. Many of his early works were written for St. George's Roman Catholic Church, where he succeeded his father as organist in 1885. He composed wind quintets for a local group in which he was bassoonist, also polkas and quadrilles for the band at Powick Lunatic Asylum.

Throughout the 1880s 90s his experience grew and his style matured as he conducted and composed for local musical organisations. He also taught the violin.

In 1889 he married one of his pupils, Caroline Alice Roberts, who had a dogged faith in his emerging genius.  She played a vital part in the development of Elgar's career.

His first big success came with the Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma) in 1899. Then came one of Elgar's greatest religious compositions - The Dream of Gerontius.  Richard Strauss praised Elgar as the first English progressive musician.

In 1901 Elgar produced his first two Pomp and Circumstance Marches.  By this time, Elgar's works were being performed both in Europe and in the USA In 1905, came the Introduction and Allegro for Strings.
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Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 is played at many graduations. Click here to hear a midi version of the part of the work most folks know.
Having written it, Elgar proclaimed,  "I've got a tune that will knock 'em - knock 'em flat! … a tune like that comes once in a lifetime …"