Iain Farrington

Pianist, organist, composer, arranger

Edward Elgar - Concert Allegro

for Piano and Chamber Orchestra

In 1901, Edward Elgar (1857-1934) was asked by the pianist Fanny Davies to compose a ‘wee little Elgar’ for a forthcoming recital. Davies was persistent despite Elgar’s apprehension, and he eventually composed for her a one-movement work, the Concert Allegro. Elgar gave it his opus 41, directly following on from the Cockaigne Overture, with which the Concert Allegro shares many features. At its premiere in St James’s Hall, London, the new work had a mixed reception, with some blaming Davies for her performance, and others for the structural weaknesses in the piece. Elgar took back the manuscript for revision (an uncharacteristic move) with Davies making various criticisms in her accompanying letter. Neither Novello nor Schott would publish the work, and despite subsequent performances by Davies, Elgar never produced a final score. He then gave the score to the conductor Anthony Bernard, suggesting Bernard orchestrate the piece. This was never done and the manuscript was feared lost, until its rediscovery in 1968.

Although containing essentially a complete work, the surviving manuscript shows many alterations, with bars crossed out as well as some additions. Notably, the title page is altered to ‘for pianoforte + orchestra’, and throughout the manuscript are markings for ‘pf’ and ‘orch’. Elgar obviously toyed with the idea of making the work into a mini concerto. This arrangement for piano and chamber orchestra adds a new orchestral role to Elgar’s original piano piece. As the musical material is complete, the process was one of deciding on the finished form, and orchestrating those passages marked by Elgar to make a suitable accompaniment to the piano part. Virtually no composition or reorganisation of material was required.

Available to hire or purchase from Aria Editions here

Instrumentation: Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Trumpets, Trombone, Timpani, Violin I, Violin II, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Solo piano

Listen to an extract of a performance of the arrangement here