Artistic Temperaments: An Elgar Exploration

SUNDAY 19 FEBRUARY – part of the Artistic Temperaments Festival, 17-20 February

David Owen Norris hosts an afternoon exploring the life and work of Edward Elgar, one of England’s greatest and most well-known composers.

The troubled but ultimately triumphant ten-year mission of Robert Walker and David Owen Norris to solve the mystery of Elgar’s unfinished piano concerto.

Sir Edward Elgar never finished his Piano Concerto, which he intended as a gift for Alice Stuart-Wortley, his ‘Windflower’, who was such an inspiration to him. But he left us many sketches, including a complete slow movement and a marvellous solemn cello tune for the very opening. There wasn’t enough to make a complete piece though, until David Owen Norris showed there was another source of material.

In November 1929, Elgar went into the small Queens Hall armed only with a record producer and a bucket of hot wax, to record five piano improvisations. A lifetime later, the BBC suggested that Owen Norris should reproduce them by ear. When he did so, he realised that the fourth improvisation was an extended version of the concerto slow movement. So the concerto had been in Elgar’s mind that day, and the material of the improvisations was probably intended for it.

The whole story is told in John Bridcut’s film Elgar & the Missing Concerto, which will be shown during the Discovery Afternoon. It ends with an acclaimed live performance of the concerto from Owen Norris and David Lloyd-Jones with the BBC Concert Orchestra.

The film will be preceded by the therapeutic dances the young Elgar composed for the Powick Asylum, performed by a full band of Southampton students; and by performances of some of the 1929 Improvisations and the great Concert Allegro.

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