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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Turn of the 20th Century > Symphony No. 2, in E Flat Major - Elgar


Symphony No. 2, in E Flat Major

Edward Elgar
(1857-1934)



1. Allegro vivace e nobilmente.

2. Larghetto.

3. Rondo. Presto.

4. Moderato e maestoso.

Elgar's Second Symphony was composed in 1900-1911 and first performed in London May 24 of the latter year, and is dedicated "to the memory of His late Majesty, King Edward VII, with the gracious approval of His Majesty King George." Newman, the English critic and a close friend of Elgar, says that while the work is not written upon any program, "the dominant note of the poem is one of despondency, merging into hope at the end."

The first movement begins without introduction with a charming theme followed by four subsidiary themes which are skillfully treated. The second subject is given out by the cellos with a striking viola accompaniment and goes through the usual development. After a climax has been reached, a diminuendo leads to a passage for the muted strings. A very effective recapitulation of all this material brings the movement to its close.





After a short introduction for the strings, the second movement, which is somewhat in the style of a funeral march, opens with the principal theme given out in stately manner by clarinets, flutes, horn, trumpets and trombones. A passage for English horn and oboe leads to a new subject in the strings alone, followed by a motive, based upon the first theme, which, in turn, is succeeded by a new subject, given out by the horns. The development of this thematic material occupies the remainder of the movement.

A skilfully constructed Rondo takes the place of the usual Scherzo, the main theme of which is stated in the strings and woodwinds. After repetition, a new passage occurs for strings and English horn. Upon the repetition of this passage a counter melody appears in the oboe. Development of this material, during which there is a long passage for strings alone, closes the Rondo.

The first and principal theme of the last movement opens in the cellos, woodwinds and horns, and after treatment is followed by a second theme in the strings, and the third in the violins and cellos. The usual development follows and the symphony comes to a gradual and gentle close.





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