Thursday, 20 March 2008

Drowned in ink

“I wish people would drown themselves in ink and let me alone,” wrote Edward Elgar to his daughter. This is quoted in a lively review by Hugh Wood of several books on Elgar in today’s Times Literary Supplement.

The anniversary year came and went with a couple of special issues in the consumer glossies, some new recordings and a flurry of concerts (although a glance at the events pages of the Elgar Society’s web site reveals a healthy selection at any time). There was no major new biography, but the books mentioned in Wood’s article look at Elgar’s world and his music from a number of different viewpoints. It was satisfying for us to read his conclusion that Diana McVeagh’s Elgar the Music Maker was “one thoroughly good result of this Elgar year.”

“Diana McVeagh has been a devoted Elgarian all her life and her previous book on the composer was written, as already mentioned, more than fifty years ago,” Wood continues. “This is neither a biography nor a technical analysis, but McVeagh has hit on the perfect way of combining the best features of both. No biographical fact appears unless it is directly related to Elgar’s music; no piece is discussed without consideration of its context…There is no superimposition of alien theories or of special interests, and there are no perverse reinterpretations. The last few pages deal with Elgar’s posterity and end with a beautifully balanced study of Elgar’s personality. This is a worthwhile, useful book; and in five years’ time when the other four are forgotten, it will still be bought and read.”

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