Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op.85, III: Adagio

English composer Edward Elgar (1857-1934) is probably most famous for his five Pomp and Circumstance Marches.

Historically, his music has been followed mostly by British listeners. For example, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches No. 1, is considered by many to be an unofficial British national anthem, and is played every year on the last night of the BBC Proms (Promenades) concerts. Its imperialistic tone appeals to enthusiastic Proms audiences and, thus, it has enduring popularity.

However, the first march is also very popular as an anthem at graduation ceremonies in North America. Being of British ancestry and still affected by those national traditions and customs, I remember being moved to tears when my older lad processed into the hall to the music during his high school graduation ceremony.

But today, I’m sharing an excerpt from one of my favourite symphonic works of Elgar’s, the third movement (Adagio) from the Cello Concerto in E Minor, Opus 85. He was well into his forties before he achieved much success, which came with the Enigma Variations. Elgar was 62 when he conducted the premiere of his cello concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra.

The concerto’s premiere was disastrous; the other conductor of the October 1919 opening night program exceeded his rehearsal time, overlapping into Elgar’s. The concerto wasn’t played again for over a year.

In the video I’ve chosen today, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason plays with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle. Kanneh-Mason became known in 2018 for playing at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in England. He also played this concerto on his third engagement with the BBC Proms, in 2019, with the City of Birmingham Symphony directed by Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla.

During England’s COVID-19 lockdown in the spring of 2020, Kanneh-Mason and his siblings played live-streamed concerts broadcast worldwide from their Nottingham family home.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video of a rehearsal by the LSO and Simon Rattle, featuring Sheku Kanneh-Mason, from his official YouTube channel:

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