by Ben Hogwood
If you’re reading this in the UK you will have noticed the sharpness in the air, an unmistakeable sign that summer is giving way to autumn.
At this time of year my musical thoughts often turn to late Elgar (above), and four works in particular that unwittingly depict the changing of the seasons with a striking clarity. Those four pieces are, in order of publication, the Violin Sonata in E minor Op.82, the String Quartet in E minor Op.83, the Piano Quintet in A minor Op.84 and the Cello Concerto in E minor Op.85.
Each piece – in a minor key – was written at Brinkwells (above), a thatched cottage in Sussex where Elgar had spent the previous summer with wife Alice and daughter Carice. The Violin Sonata was completed in summer 1918:
Immediately after the composer began the String Quartet, finished just before Christmas 1918:
Spring 1919 saw the completion of the Piano Quintet…
…before the Cello Concerto, one of his crowning glories, was completed in time for an October 1919 premiere:
They are the last four major compositions completed by Elgar – and you can listen to complete recordings of each one on this Spotify playlist: