One of the British composers enjoying great popularity today, Edward Elgar, learned his composing skills by himself, studying other composers’ scores. In the beginning, he was only moderately successful, yet over time he grew to fame even outside of his country, and Richard Strauss himself appreciated Elgar’s work. Another notable composer that Elgar met was Fritz Kreisler, to whom he dedicated his Violin Concerto in B minor. William Walton was self-taught, too, and went down in history as one of the most important British composers. Placed in the context of music composed in England at that time, Walton’s works distinguish themselves from others, with their outstanding sound, going far beyond the composing patterns and conventions of his time. Frank Bridge was known mainly as a teacher to Benjamin Britten, the latter regarded as the second in the ranks of the most famous English composers, the first place being unarguably occupied by Henry Purcell. Bridge, though unquestionably talented as a conductor and composer, did not see a vivid interest of music circles in his music till his last years. Yet throughout his life he enjoyed the reputation of a superb craftsman.
Scored for eighteen string instruments Prelude and Fugue Op. 29 was written by a thirty-year-old Benjamin Britten. Its structure is very well thought through and the whole work is uncompromising in its sound quality. Benjamin Britten composed the piece in 1943 for anniversary celebrations of an esteemed London orchestra directed by Boyd Neel, a famous British conductor and doctor. The orchestra had enjoyed a friendly collaboration with Britten for years, eagerly performing his works. Britten’s Prelude and Fugue are in stark contrast to Bridge’s romantic Suite for String Orchestra. Stylistically, Bridge is much closer to Fritz Kreisler, enjoying years-long fame for his salon pieces. In the rich and diversified oeuvre of Elgar we run into several works full of salon elegance and sentimentality too, and among them the small trinkets Chanson du matin and Chanson du nuit, as well as the composer’s expression of love for his wife: Salut d’amour.
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