Work: Pomp and Circumstance, Op. 39 no 1
About This Work
Like so many of his countrymen during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, British composer Edward Elgar was ardently patriotic. Combined with his natural militaristic turn (he had, after all, married the daughter of an army general)
and love of ceremony, this patriotism made Elgar perfectly suited to author a long and distinguished line of Marches; ultimately, these would take a place not only in the traditional occasional music of his own country, but also in that of Britain's sister-nations across the Atlantic. The five Pomp and Circumstance marches, published collectively as Opus 39 but actually composed over a period of almost thirty years, are without a doubt the best known of his pieces in this peculiarly British genre. Though their collective title, drawn from a line in Shakespeare's Othello describing "the pomp and circumstance of glorious war," clearly allies them with the British military tradition, the musicality and variety (and even charm) of these five pieces render them enjoyable sans any nationalist association.
The first in the set, in D major (1901), earned Elgar his knighthood; it was later adapted into the Coronation Ode and given the well-known lyrics "Land of Hope and Glory." The famous trio section is as recognizable as the Union Jack, now virtually ubiquitous at high school and university graduation ceremonies. If one can put aside its over-familiarity, this is a very beautiful theme; as the composer himself described it in very unceremonious language, "I've got a tune in my head that's going to knock 'em dead!"
-- All Music Guide
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