Armistice Declared, But No Celebration for Elgar
Donald Macleod on the effect of the Armistice in Great Britain in 1918 and how Elgar's life was permanently changed.
By the end of the Great War, Sir Edward Elgar couldn't compose any music to celebrate peace, disillusioned as he was by the whole period, which Donald Macleod explores in conversation with Terry Charman from the Imperial War Museum.
By 1918, Elgar had stomach problems and was continually unwell, finally being operated on to remove his tonsils. Compared to what hundreds of thousands were enduring in the trench warfare of the first world war, this was no great thing, but Elgar was 61 and not in great shape. Once installed with his wife in a rustic thatched cottage in West Sussex to recuperate, his creativity started to flow again, in particular sketching out a germ of a theme on his piano entitled "?", which would later become part of his Cello Concerto. There were also more rustic pursuits, including gardening and fishing, but then came an official request from the Ministry of Food for a new war work, Big Steamers. When the Armistice was signed, with his Land of Hope and Glory proving ever popular, Elgar did not feel inclined to compose any work in celebration of peace. Many of his friends had died, and his life was dramatically changed for ever.
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