Author Topic: Walking with Elgar  (Read 18259 times)

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Elgarian

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Walking with Elgar
« on: April 20, 2009, 06:51:42 AM »
There's a thread already, called 'Elgar's Hillside', which is devoted generally to his music, but I wanted to take a different approach. All my life, I've associated Elgar's music with landscape; there's a kind of symbiosis between the two. I can't hear his music without it evoking landscape images; I can't walk in Elgar country without hearing his music. The origins of this, I think, don't lie (as you might expect) with seeing Ken Russell's film as a lad; no - they lie further back: with Rupert Bear, and Nutwood.

As a child I was haunted by Alfred Bestall's illustrations of Nutwood in the Rupert books. I think the origins of my love of landscape painting lie there, but so does the origin of my love of Elgar's music. I had no idea, back then, that Bestall's illustrations might be based on a real place, though it turns out that, when asked, he described the Nutwood landscape as a sort of amalgam of the Kentish Weald and the countryside around the River Severn, near Hereford: Elgar country. One of the Rupert Annuals carried endpapers showing 'The Nutwood Hills'. Take a look:

http://www.hamerauctions.co.uk/posters/20.jpg

So it's not surprising that when I scraped together enough pocket money to buy my first Elgar LP (Malcolm Sargent's Enigma Variations on HMV Concert Classics), I was drawn more than anything else to the picture on the LP sleeve, showing a view from the Malvern Hills; though even then, I didn't consciously recognise it as the inspiration for the Nutwood Hills. I just longed for the place, without having any real knowledge of where it was, and it was only later that I saw the connection.

Since then, of course, I've walked the Malvern Hills any number of times; but the magic has never died, and the connection with the music is, if anything, even more intimate. Here's a recent photo (which makes an interesting comparison with Bestall's picture):



I've no idea how many others out there make these kinds of links. This is a long way from 'pure' music. But I do know that to stand on the British Camp on the top of the Herefordshire Beacon, listening to Caractacus on headphones as the sun sets, is to experience the music in a way that even Elgar himself couldn't have contemplated - except that of course, as he said, it was 'in the air all around us, and I just take what I want'.



So that's what I'd like this thread to be about, if there's any interest in such a thing - a compilation of tales, experiences, images, of pottering about in Elgar country; bits of biography, music, topography, photography - or what have you. And here's a start.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2009, 06:53:14 AM by Elgarian »

Offline knight66

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2009, 10:47:35 AM »
A very evocative post, thanks. I especially like your second photograph. I am not sure whether you are wanting to confine the thread to Elgar associated material and musings. That might make for thin contributions. We have a member here who has for a very long time advocated Elgar to the point where, even those who like his music are turned off. This campaign to raise Elgar to 'Greatest Composer' status was not smiled upon by most posters. A shame, for now here, Elgar's music is not taken seriously in the way it deserves.

I love a deal of his music and although I live within easy striking distance of Elgar Country, I have not experimented in tying the landscape to his music, though do sometimes think about Bredon Hill in connection with the settings of the poem. By contrast, having visited Finland, I often found my mind filled with Sibelius as I travelled around.



My recollections of Elgar are much more often tied to specific performances I attended or took part in. Another association I hear in my head is when wandering round Gloucester Cathedral, I can hear RVW Tallis Fantasia.





This time last year I spent five days wandering the ruins of Petra in Jordan. On one day I was on my own and wore my iPod. I had a good range of music; but bizarrely the music that fitted best and made the hairs rise on my neck was the music from Gladiator! No genuine connection with the landscape, but it fitted.





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Elgarian

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2009, 11:44:03 AM »
Enjoying the photos - thank you. I do find, myself, that it's hard to listen to Sibelius without Finnish landscapes coming to mind: firs, windblown snow; wide expanses of cold water like your photo. And the Tallis Fantasia is peculiarly polarised, I find. It can fit perfectly with ecclesiastical imagery as you show in your picture; but it also evokes (for me), visions of wild, bleak outdoor landscapes - high moors, or windswept grassland - equally well.

I'm happy to extend the 'walking' to other musical companions; it's just that my own walks are likely to be Elgar-centric.

We have a member here who has for a very long time advocated Elgar to the point where, even those who like his music are turned off. This campaign to raise Elgar to 'Greatest Composer' status was not smiled upon by most posters. A shame, for now here, Elgar's music is not taken seriously in the way it deserves.

That's a shame (and strange, too); but I've no wish to defend his music, nor to make 'greatest' claims for it; indeed, I wouldn't be equipped to justify any such claims. My intention is to enjoy celebrating the man and the music and the landscape in the only way I can. If I do so in a minority of one, that's OK.

So, continuing the walk a mile or two beyond the northern tip of the Malverns, there's a small cottage (it has an extension or two now) called Birchwood Lodge, where he composed much of Gerontius and a significant part of Caractacus. He rented it as a kind of retreat; there was more surrounding woodland then, I guess, and he always said that the little 'woodlandy' bits of Caractacus were inspired from the time he spent at Birchwood.

It's privately owned now, but still very recognisable:



Not a great photo I'm afraid; the weather was dull and grey on this trip.

Bulldog

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2009, 12:08:47 PM »
It's privately owned now, but still very recognisable:



Not a great photo I'm afraid; the weather was dull and grey on this trip.

On the contrary, I find it the best photo so far - lovely setting.

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2009, 07:40:25 AM »
We have a member here who has for a very long time advocated Elgar to the point where, even those who like his music are turned off. This campaign to raise Elgar to 'Greatest Composer' status was not smiled upon by most posters. A shame, for now here, Elgar's music is not taken seriously in the way it deserves.

That's not fair. I worked hard to elevate the general admiration of my favorite composer and this is what I get. Okay, I don't have the talent to promote a composer. I accept that. As everyone has seen I have been very quiet about Elgar for a long time. I keep my mouth shut and make the life of us all much easier. Perhaps Elgarian succeeds where I failed...
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Elgarian

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2009, 10:44:22 AM »
Perhaps Elgarian succeeds where I failed...

I'm not trying to persuade anyone of anything. I just enjoy writing about a landscape, and a composer, that I love. Come for a walk, 71 dB!!! Let's tell tall tales ....

We might, for example, visit Elgar's birthplace cottage, photographed just a few weeks ago:



The curious thing about the place is that although he lived there as a toddler for only a short time, he never lost his love of it, and returned to it throughout his adult life. He seems to have had some kind of agreement with whoever lived there; I remember an account where he'd gone there with someone - Herbert Howells I think. Yes, that's right. Here's what Howells recalled:

...he went through to the cabbage patch, along the path, and up to the front door; and a woman carrying a baby-in-arms came and let him in, called him "Master"...he was very nice to her...and he said to me, "Oh, do you mind first if - I want to go right up to the little room in which I was born - I want to go alone?" I said, "of course not,"...I suppose he was there about a quarter of an hour; and then he came down and said, "Come up with me now, come and see where I came into this wicked world" - this funny little sloping roof in a way awfully like the room I saw in Bonn, where Beethoven was born, except that it was probably much smaller...I remember he said, "I don't expect much from the nation, but if ever they think it worthwhile, I wish they would buy this little cottage." And he said, "It's the only wish I've got, about the nation and me."

Well, thank goodness it proved possible. I suppose it's knowing of Elgar's own love of the place that makes it so satisfying to visit; see the aeolian harp he made; the maps of his cycling expeditions; his gramophone.

Here's the website:
http://www.elgarfoundation.org/index.htm
« Last Edit: April 21, 2009, 10:45:57 AM by Elgarian »

Offline The new erato

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2009, 12:23:45 PM »
I'm not trying to persuade anyone of anything. I just enjoy writing about a landscape, and a composer, that I love.
That's the spirit! Most enjoyable!

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2009, 05:57:13 AM »
Come for a walk, 71 dB!!! Let's tell tall tales ....

Thanks for the invitation Elgarian!  :)

Elgar's music gives me these British images of course but for me Elgar is a feeling of humanism, safety, warth and timeless divine art.
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Elgarian

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2009, 07:46:03 AM »
Elgar's music gives me these British images of course but for me Elgar is a feeling of humanism, safety, warth and timeless divine art.

Humanism, certainly; warmth, surely; timeless and divine, yes, that too. Not sure about the safety. I mean, there are many of his pieces that do feel safe, and I love them for that, but I'm thinking here of things like the violin concerto - that cadenza, where he's playing with feelings very close to the edge, there. The music almost dies. And The Spirit of England? That brave defiant assertion that we may come close to despair because of the sacrifices that have been made, but even so we will remember.

But it may be that I haven't quite understood in what context you use the word 'safe'. Really interesting choice, though.

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2009, 09:17:13 AM »
Well, I find Shostakovich unsafe to name one.
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Offline drogulus

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2009, 09:52:13 AM »
That's not fair. I worked hard to elevate the general admiration of my favorite composer and this is what I get. Okay, I don't have the talent to promote a composer. I accept that. As everyone has seen I have been very quiet about Elgar for a long time. I keep my mouth shut and make the life of us all much easier. Perhaps Elgarian succeeds where I failed...

     You're right, it isn't fair and constitutes a gratuitous sneer. It's out of place here. You shouldn't have to take shit from a moderator because someone else wishes to celebrate some aspect of Elgar's music. I also find the idea that your...ah... spirited advocacy of Elgar turns people off to his music unconvincing, for what that's worth.
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karlhenning

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2009, 09:54:10 AM »
I also find the idea that your...ah... spirited advocacy of Elgar turns people off to his music unconvincing, for what that's worth.

Whether you find it unconvincing or not, it is the case.  Not his "spirited advocacy" per se, but the ridiculous blather that historically accompanies it.

Offline DavidRoss

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2009, 10:26:49 AM »
     You're right, it isn't fair and constitutes a gratuitous sneer. It's out of place here. You shouldn't have to take shit from a moderator because someone else wishes to celebrate some aspect of Elgar's music. I also find the idea that your...ah... spirited advocacy of Elgar turns people off to his music unconvincing, for what that's worth.
Get over yourself.  Here's what Mike said:
A very evocative post, thanks. I especially like your second photograph. I am not sure whether you are wanting to confine the thread to Elgar associated material and musings. That might make for thin contributions. We have a member here who has for a very long time advocated Elgar to the point where, even those who like his music are turned off. This campaign to raise Elgar to 'Greatest Composer' status was not smiled upon by most posters. A shame, for now here, Elgar's music is not taken seriously in the way it deserves.
His comment is neither gratuitous nor sneering.  Yours, however, is both.

Elgarian--Welcome to GMG.  As you've probably gathered by now, and as Mike kindly warned you, there is a prior history that at best polarized members and at worst created enmity and caused some to disdain a fine composer who deserves better.  Please be assured that whatever crap ensues--like dB71's whining or drogulus's gratuitous slap at Knight--stems only from that prior history and has nothing to do with you, your love for Elgar, or the quality of your contributions here.  Just don't go trashing Beethoven or claiming that you're a genius and everyone who doesn't see things your way is an idiot and you'll get along fine--and maybe even win Elgar a new fan or two!  ;)

And for what it's worth, I agree with Don that your photo of Birchwood Lodge is a winner.
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karlhenning

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2009, 10:34:43 AM »
In honor of this thread, I'll cue Falstaff right up!

Elgarian

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2009, 10:37:00 AM »
Folks, I have nothing to do with whatever this past history is. I just want to go for walks peacefully in the countryside and chat about some good music (and maybe even some not all that good music) composed by a man I admire enormously. I can't believe there's anything controversial in that.

Please, please don't mess this thread up with an old fight. Can't we just leave it there and go on with the walks?




Elgarian

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #15 on: April 22, 2009, 10:39:16 AM »
In honor of this thread, I'll cue Falstaff right up!

That's the spirit! Thanks!

Offline drogulus

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #16 on: April 22, 2009, 10:42:15 AM »
    I merely point out that Mike "warns" Elgarian that the subject of Elgar has been poisoned by overzealous advocacy. For a moderator to take this line and pass it off as advice is insulting and inappropriate. The issue is not what you think of Elgar or 71dB, it's the behavior of moderators abusing their privilege by attacking a member in the guise of helpfulness. Please, Karl, don't attempt to defend this further. The question has nothing to do with the occasionally excessive advocacy of 71 dB.

     
Folks, I have nothing to do with whatever this past history is. I just want to go for walks peacefully in the countryside and chat about some good music (and maybe even some not all that good music) composed by a man I admire enormously. I can't believe there's anything controversial in that.

Please, please don't mess this thread up with an old fight. Can't we just leave it there and go on with the walks?





      Address yourself to Mike, Elgarian. He's very helpful. But you're right, complaining makes it worse, so no more from me.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2009, 10:44:22 AM by drogulus »
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Offline DavidRoss

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #17 on: April 22, 2009, 11:41:36 AM »
    I merely point out that Mike "warns" Elgarian that the subject of Elgar has been poisoned by overzealous advocacy. For a moderator to take this line and pass it off as advice is insulting and inappropriate. The issue is not what you think of Elgar or 71dB, it's the behavior of moderators abusing their privilege by attacking a member in the guise of helpfulness.
You are the one trying to poison this thread with inappropriate, gratuitous insults attacking another member.

Back to Elgar:  I'm not familiar with Falstaff, but turned right away to Naxos and am now playing their Lloyd-Jones stream.  And checking on Amazon I see that EMI have reissued the wonderful Angel Tortelier/Boult recording of the cello cto and coupled it with Falstaff.  Think I'll spin that treasured Tortelier disc next--it's been awhile since I last heard this piece, one of the glories of the literature and by far the finest work by Elgar that I know.
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karlhenning

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #18 on: April 22, 2009, 07:03:16 PM »
That's the spirit! Thanks!

Al vostro servizio!

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Walking with Elgar
« Reply #19 on: June 07, 2009, 02:22:47 AM »
Not his "spirited advocacy" per se, but the ridiculous blather that historically accompanies it.

Since my background is not similar to most members of this forum, I wasn't aware how narrow-minded and brainwashed  music scholars can be. They prefer living in historical lies and fear free-thinkers calling them ridiculous blatherers. The only allowed way to like Elgar is to like his cello concerto only and if yo enjoy his other works you are simply a ridiculous blatherer. I am very sorry for not being brainwashed in music schools.
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