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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive biography of an enigmatic composer., 16 Dec. 1999
By A Customer
How did a self-taught violin teacher from a provincial English town create such masterpieces as the Enigma Variations, the Cello Concerto and the Dream of Gerontius? Jerrold Northop Moore provides an answer, drawing on primary sources that range from Elgar's musical sketches and scores to letters, diaries and contemporary reviews.
Mooore describes how Elgar shaped and reshaped each of his major works, often over a period of years, and how he managed to get them played at a time when even well-connected composers like Sullivan were overshadowed by the vogue for Brahms and other Continental musicians. He also explores Elgar's complex personality. Uneasy about his middle-class origins, Elgar often played the role of a bluff, country gentleman, but his music is more like that of a British Tchaikovsky --extravagant and restless, with a powerful emotional charge.
As Elgar's story unfolds, the whole musical life of early 20th-century Europe is conjured up. Moore traces the composer's friendships with Hans Richter, Richard Strauss, Fritz Kreisler, George Bernard Shaw and August Jaeger, the editor at Novello's who recognized and nurtured Elgar's genius.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best ever musical biographies, 17 May 2006
By 
Paul Dalheim (Beverley UK) - See all my reviews
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If, like me, your enjoyment of a composer is heightened by a knowledge of what motivated him and an understanding of the background to his work, then you must read this. It is quite simply one of the best biographies I have ever read. Not only is it a work of brilliant scholarship and painstaking research, but it is also written with warmth and affection.

The sections where the author analyses the music of Elgar are clear and informative (and not too complex for a non-specialist). The logic behind the analysis is clear and well-proven. Links between different works and links between events in Elgar's life and his music are also highlighted. One feels one understands the music better.

The biographical detail is extensive and thorough. On the strength of reading this book the first time I purchased many of the books quoted as sources by the author (e,g by W H Reed), so greatly had my appetite for Elgar been whetted.

When I reached the final pages it was with a sense of sadness. So vivid is the narrative that I really had the impression of having got to know the composer and his circle of friends. For an understanding and greater appreciation of all Elgar's music this is an essential companion. It is excellent both to dip into for reference and as a book to read through.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The landmark account of Elgar's creative development., 2 Jan. 2004
By 
Frank Beck (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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Kudos to Oxford for bringing this classic back into print! Jerrold Northrop Moore worked for more than 20 years to write this definitive biography of one of Britain's greatest composers.
Using primary sources that range from Elgar's musical sketches and scores to letters, diaries and contemporary reviews, Moore shows how a self-taught violin teacher from Worcester created such masterpieces as the Enigma Variations, the Cello Concerto and the Dream of Gerontius. What's more, Elgar managed to get them performed--at a time Continental composers dominated the nation's concert halls.
Moore describes in fascinating detail how Elgar shaped and reshaped each major work, sometimes over a period of years--the Second Symphony took almost a decade to compose. He also explores Elgar's complex personality. Uneasy about his middle-class origins, he often played the role of a bluff, country gentleman, but his music is more like that of a British Tchaikovsky--extravagant and restless, with a powerful emotional charge.
As Elgar's story unfolds, the whole artistic life of late Victorian and Edwardian Britain is conjured up. Moore traces the composer's friendships with Hans Richter, Richard Strauss, Fritz Kreisler, George Bernard Shaw and Augustus Jaeger, the editor at Novello's who recognized and nurtured Elgar's genius.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An authentic masterpiece, 2 Jun. 2014
By 
Norman Housley (Leicester United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Quite simply, the definitive biography of Elgar, by somebody who knows his life and music inside out. There is really nothing to add to what the author writes, barring some extraordinary discovery. This book, Kennedy's Portrait of Elgar and W H Reed's Elgar as I knew him are to my mind the best books about the composer.
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Edward Elgar: A Creative Life
Edward Elgar: A Creative Life by Jerrold Northrop Moore (Hardcover - Jun. 1984)
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