THE GREAT HALL, UNIVERSITY OF EXETER
Written in the summer of 1919, the Cello Concerto represented, for Elgar, the angst, despair and disillusionment he felt after the Great War, and an introspective look at death and mortality. He had been deeply saddened by the war, was suffering from a painful chronic ear condition, and the recent deaths of several old friends had made him acutely aware of his own advancing years. It signified Elgar’s farewell to the way of life as he had known it. “Everything good and nice and clean and fresh and sweet is far away – never to return” he wrote. Dvořàk broke new ground with his Eighth Symphony, a work, as he explained, meant to be “different from the other symphonies, with individual thoughts worked out in a new way.” The music is steeped in the flavour and atmosphere of the Czech countryside.
Within the music are sounds from nature, particularly hunting horn calls, birdsong and dramatic fanfares that suggest non-musical images. The symphony has often been described as a “ sunny” work, but it is much more than that. There are passages of drama, exhilaration, happiness and nostalgia. Overall it is a work that evokes a wide range of human emotions and is yet profoundly optimistic. Schumann’s Overture, Scherzo & Finale – a kind of informal symphony with no slow movement – is a unique, light and joyous work written during his creative flurry of 1841.
Schumann Overture, Scherzo & Finale
Elgar Cello Concerto
Dvořàk Symphony No.8