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2.110527 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - ENGLAND: Worcester and the Malverns (NTSC)

A Musical Tour of Worcester and the Malverns
With music by Edward Elgar


Churchyard, Claines • Elgar’s Birthplace, Broadheath Portraits of Elgar’s Friends

The country churchyard of Claines, in Worcestershire, with its typical lych-gate, a place often visited by Elgar, is followed by a portrait of C.A.E., the composer’s wife Caroline Alice, and a view of the relatively humble house in which Elgar was born in 1857, at the village of Broadheath, near Worcester. Other portraits include those of the composer’s friend and chamber music companion H.D.S.P., Hew David Steuart-Powell, a photograph of Elgar with a group of friends, of the cellist Basil Nevinson, portrayed in Variation XII, of Richard Baxter Townsend as an old man in some amateur theatrical performance and of William Meath Baker, a country gentleman. There are also scenes of the Malvern Hills and landscape.

Music   Elgar: Enigma Variations –
             Theme and Variation 1. (C.A.E.) Andante
             Variation II. (H.D.S.P.) Allegro
             Variation III. (R.B.T.) Allegretto
             Variation IV. (W.M.B.) Allegro di molto

The theme of the Enigma Variations is followed by a variation for Elgar’s wife, for the amateur pianist Steuart-Powell, for the writer Richard Townsend and the land-owner William Meath Baker. [Recommended recording for all music in this programme: Naxos 8.554161]

Malvern Hills • Portraits of R.P.A., Ysobel and Troyte

Views of the landscape at Malvern lead to portraits of Richard Arnold, son of the poet Matthew Arnold, a musical amateur, and of Isobel Fitton, a family friend and amateur viola-player.

Music  Elgar: Enigma Variations –
            Variation V. (R.P.A.) Moderato
            Variation VI. (Ysobel) Andantino
            Variation VII. (Troyte) Presto

The friends depicted in the sixth and seventh variations are Richard Arnold, with the theme in the bass, and the viola-player Isobel Fitton, who is allowed a viola solo. Troyte is the ebullient architect Troyte Griffith, aptly portrayed.

Sherridge • Leigh Sinton and Landscape • Malvern Hills

A fine 18th century country-house is shown, in its idyllic setting. Sherridge, near Malvern, was the home of Winifred Norbury, a keen amateur and co-secretary of the Worcestershire Philharmonic Society. The image of Beethoven, superimposed on the evening view of the countryside, is suggested by a conversation between Elgar and his friend and publisher Jaeger, in which the composer praised the inimitable achievement of Beethoven in slow movements.

Music   Elgar: Enigma Variations –
             Variation VIII. (W.N.) Allegro
             Variation IX. (Nimrod) Adagio

Winifred Norbury offers a delicate contrast to Troyte, to be succeeded by the hunter Nimrod, a name suggested by a translation of the name of Elgar’s publisher and supporter Jaeger.

Priory Park and Church, Malvern • River Wye, Hereford

The Perpendicular exterior of Malvern Priory is belied by its Norman interior. The church was founded in the late 11th century and there remains the gateway of the old priory, where the 14th century poet William Langland is thought to have been educated. The cathedral town of Hereford, some thirty miles distant from Worcester, is near the River Wye. The cathedral’s tower dates from the 14th century but much of the building survives from the reconstruction started in the late 11th century. A portrait of G.R.S., Dr Sinclair, organist of Hereford Cathedral, is shown, with his dog, Dan.

Music  Elgar: Enigma Variations –
            Variation X. (Dorabella) Intermezzo
            Variation XI. (G.R.S.) Allegro di molto

Dorabella is Dora Penny, a friend and neighbour of the Elgars in the country, and she is followed by a portrait of the organist of Hereford Cathedral Dr Sinclair, or more precisely of his dog, Dan, falling into the river and paddling ashore.

Elgar’s Birthplace, Broadheath • Isle of Skye • Dunvegan Castle Worcester Cathedral • Elgar Monument • Views of Hereford St Wulstan’s Church and Elgar’s Grave at Malvern

Elgar’s birthplace at Broadheath, near Worcester, is seen, with various items that once belonged to the composer. The view of Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye and the boat journey to reach the island is suggested by Variation XIII, which is said to represent Lady Mary Lygon, at the time of composition about to embark on a sea journey. The manuscript score of the Enigma Variations is seen. Worcester Cathedral contains a window in memory of Elgar, based on his oratorio The Dream of Gerontius. At Malvern there is an Elgar monument and the composer is buried by the side of his wife in the Catholic cemetery at Little Malvern.

Music  Elgar: Enigma Variations –
            Variation XII. (B.G.N.) Andante
            Variation XIII. (***) Romanza: Moderato
            Variation XIV. (E.D.U.) Finale: Allegro

Basil Nevinson, an amateur cellist, is given a cello solo in the twelfth variation, and the thirteenth contains a quotation from Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, a reference, it seems, to Lady Mary Lygon and her proposed voyage to Australia. The work ends with the composer himself, the initials E.D.U. representing his wife’s pet name for him, Edoo.

Landscape, Worcestershire and Malvern

The principal river of Worcestershire is the Severn, which, in its estuary, divides England from Wales. The city of Worcester is itself set on the River Severn, which flows near the ancient cathedral.

Music  Elgar: Serenade for Strings, Op. 20 – I. Allegro piacevole

Elgar’s Serenade for Strings was first performed in 1892 by the Worcester Ladies’ Orchestral Class and had its first professional performance in England in New Brighton seven years later, after a hearing in Antwerp in 1896. The work seems to have owed much to Elgar’s wife. The opening viola rhythmic figure has an important part to play in unifying the first movement.

Landscape, Worcestershire • Elgar Country • Alfrick Church Elgar’s Birthplace, Broadheath

The green countryside of Worcestershire, with its rolling hills, was where Elgar felt most at home. The village of Alfrick, with its typical church, lies on the road from Worcester to the country town of Bromyard, at the foot of the Malvern Hills.

Music  Elgar: Serenade for Strings, Op. 20 – II. Larghetto

Pride of place in the tripartite second movement of the Serenade for Strings is given to a particularly effective melody that emerges soon after the beginning of the Larghetto.

Upton-on-Severn and Sherridge

Upton-on-Severn is a little town with 18th century houses and an inn that seems to have featured in the novel Tom Jones, by the 18th century English novelist Henry Fielding. Halftimbering is a common feature of domestic architecture in the West of England. The house at Sherridge, Leigh Sinton, was the residence of Elgar’s friends, the Norburys.

Music  Elgar: Serenade for Strings, Op. 20 – III. Allegretto

The Serenade for Strings ends with an Allegretto in which there are reminiscences of what has gone before.

London: Buckingham Palace • Horse Guards Parade Victoria Memorial • Tower Bridge • Big Ben • Houses of Parliament

It is appropriate that Elgar’s best known march, Pomp and Circumstance No. 1, should be accompanied by pictures of the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, of Horse Guards Parade, and of the Victoria Memorial. Tower Bridge, which crosses the River Thames near the Tower of London, is as well known a sight as the clock and bell-tower over the 19th century Houses of Parliament at Westminster.

Music  Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, Allegro con molto fuoco

Elgar’s first Pomp and Circumstance March was first heard in Liverpool and was dedicated to its amateur, but proficient first conductor, Elgar’s friend, the cotton-broker Alfred Rodewald, and to the Liverpool Orchestral Society that he had founded. It is now generally associated with the words ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, written by A.C.Benson as part of the Coronation Ode of 1902.


The country town of Ledbury lies on the main road from Worcester to Hereford, some sixteen miles distant from the former. Most notable is the 17th century market-house, with its chestnutwood columns, and its two 16th century inns. Half-timbering is a characteristic of domestic architecture in the West of England.

Music  Elgar: Salut d’amour

Elgar wrote his Salut d’amour (Liebesgruss) in 1888 for his wife. Originally a piano piece, it was orchestrated by the composer and is familiar from a multitude of other arrangements and transcriptions.

Keith Anderson

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