Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Turn of the 20th Century > Symphony No. 1, in A Flat - Elgar
Symphony No. 1, in A Flat
1. Andante. Nobilmente e semplice.
2. Allegro molto.
4. Lento. Allegro.
Sir Edward Elgar's First Symphony was finished and produced in 1908 in Manchester, England. Upon the composer's own authority, "it is written out of a full life experience and it meant to include the innumerable phases of joy and sorrow, struggle and conquest, and especially between the ideal and the actual in life... It is written in a cypher to which every hearer possesses a key in his own experience."
The introduction to the first movement contains the material with which the whole structure is built. The opening theme is given out in this introduction by the woodwinds and violas with staccato accompaniment in the cellos and double basses, and is then repeated by full orchestra. At its close the principal subject appears in the first violins, clarinets and bassoons, and is repeated fortissimo following a passage for the strings. After a climax and a new motive for the violins, the second subject appears in the first violins. After development of all the previous material, a new motive is heard in the strings and the second section is worked out. A recapitulation and long Coda bring the movement to a close.
The second movement opens vigorously in the first violins, followed by a fortissimo passage in the strings, which leads to a second subject for violas and clarinets. The opening figure reappears, followed by the fortissimo passage, at the end of which, the first theme is repeated. The Trio contains two themes, the first a duet for flutes, and the second for clarinets. After these themes are developed, and the recapitulation, a long Coda, constructed out of the first subject and the Trio, leads without stop into the third movement, the opening theme of which is the same subject as that which opened the second movement, but treated in different style, and also containing the opening theme of the symphony. After a second theme has stated, the first returns in the strings and after development is followed by a new subject for the first violins, with which the movement closes.
The Finale opens with a slow introduction in which is heard one of the motives in the first movement. Other themes already heard are worked over and are followed by a second subject in the clarinets, violas and cellos. This in turn is followed by an episode, which was already suggested in the introduction. The second subject, which is in march rhythm, begins softly but reaches a climax for full orchestra. A masterly working out of the principal material of the symphony follows. The second subject is again stated and reaches a majestic climax for full orchestra. The fundamental theme dominates the close of the movement.