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Views And Reviews: Elgar's Pomp And Circumstance

…we hear every scintillating note of the thrusting dynamism of Elgar the imperial rabble-rouser in full flood…

Paul Serotsky writes a programme note on an unofficial English National Anthem.

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Elgar (1857-1934) – March: Pomp and Circumstance No. 1

Considering that Elgar described the Big Tune of his first Pomp and Circumstance March as something that “comes once in a lifetime”, we can take it that he was singularly proud of his creation. It’s therefore odds-on that he really did dislike the unofficial setting of the “Land of Hope and Glory” lyrics. In this respect he was kin to Holst, who similarly disapproved of “I Vow to Thee My Country” being tacked onto Jupiter’s Big Tune. I’m with Elgar. I much prefer my Pomp and Circumstance No. 1 unadulterated, although I’m comfortable with “Land of Hope and Glory” performed separately as a sort of “English National Anthem”.

It just so happens that Elgar had concentrated his consummate craftsmanship on the very bits where latter-day audiences aren’t singing at the tops of their voices, so we hear every scintillating note of the thrusting dynamism of Elgar the imperial rabble-rouser in full flood. To my mind, the scoring of the Big Tune is, comparatively, as dull as ditchwater. I wonder, was this purely by chance, or was it an inspired flash of foresight? Whatever, if you don’t know them already, here’re the words:

Land of hope and glory,
Mother of the free,
How shall we extol thee,
Who are born of thee?
Wider still and wider
Shall thy bounds be set.
God who made thee mighty
Make thee mightier yet!

God who made thee mighty
Make thee mightier yet.

© Paul Serotsky

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