October 8th, 2012


Elgar: The Music Makers

I was interrupted by other events last week, so now I want to commemorate the centennial of one of my favourite underrated orchestral works, The Music Makers by Edward Elgar, first performed in Birmingham on 1 October 1912.

I was Third (or possibly Second) Percussionist in a deserted performance of this in the Ulster Hall, Belfast, in about 1985, and really fell in love with it. It's a 40 minute long setting of Arthur O'Shaughnessy's evocative Ode:
We are the music-makers,
    And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
    And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
    On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
    Of the world for ever, it seems.
Normally people just quote the first three verses, but the whole thing goes on a bit longer; an ode of the tortured genius trying to explain why artistic endeavour is important, or at least that's how it appealed to 17-year-old me. (Though I have to say I mainly loved it for the decent and well-integrated percussion role.)

Well, it's a bit of a guilty pleasure, but I still like it, with its sweeping musical vistas, references to other Elgar works (notably the Enigma variations) and stirring artistic exhortations. Unfortunately I can't link to any decent performance - none of the YouTube videos showing parts of it does it justice. But you might want to try a version on last.fm, or other resources (such as the score) should you feel so inclined. And if you're not sure, do give it a whirl.