Edward Elgar


Object number
Purchase from Phillips Son & Neale — 1980-04-01


Following the extraordinary successes of the Variations on an Original Theme (‘Enigma’) op.36 in 1899, and "The Dream of Gerontius" in 1900, Sir Edward Elgar (1857–1934) was catapulted from a relatively successful career as a freelance composer, conductor and violinist into the highest musical circles in Britain. Richard Strauss hailed him the ‘first English progressivist’ in 1902; two years later he was knighted, and in 1924 he was appointed Master of the King’s Music. In many ways an outsider to the profession (he received no formal musical training following his school years), he was to become the most celebrated British composer of the early twentieth century. In 1904 – the same year as he received his knighthood – he was invited to become the Peyton Professor of music at Birmingham University, a new chair endowed by a local businessman. Although reluctant, he accepted the position and delivered a series of lectures on the state of contemporary British music between 1905 and 1906, eventually relinquishing the chair to Granville Bantock in 1908. This sketch dates from his appointment at Birmingham, and was made at his new home Plas Gywn in Hereford in 1905; it is thought that Elgar and his daughter Carice destroyed the finished portrait.