Searching for Elgar


Some months ago, German documentary makers Axel Fuhrmann and Axel Brueggemann contacted me about appearing in their latest project, a film about Elgar and Land of Hope and Glory. They perhaps thought I would be an Elgar expert, having inherited the royal post which he so cherished. But I knew there was a huge gap where my Elgar knowledge ought to be.

There followed a long period of reading up on the subject. It has been a total pleasure. Few composers have been so sensitively and acutely written up as Elgar, with marvellous biographies by Michael Kennedy and Jerrold Northrop Moore, plus a host of charming monographs on just about every little feature of the great man’s life (I haven’t got through all of these yet…).

This being television, the film crew wanted to show me doing Elgar-like countryside things in the back garden. The new, looming skyscrapers of Elephant and Castle may have given the game away that this wasn’t Worcestershire. My minutes in front of the camera wielding an apple-picker and secateurs gave me new admiration for Monty Don and his friends; there’s only so many times you can prune a hosta. Elgar was also a great dog-lover, so my own dog’s sudden appearance on camera, chasing the next door cats, was much appreciated. “Now, can you just ask your dog to do exactly the same again?”

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer