Cello Concerto in E minor
Edward Elgar

7

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The highest of 12 entries for Elgar in the Ultimate Hall of Fame. This made it up to number 2 in 2007, the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth, but slid to its lowest ever position of number 14 in the most recent countdown.

Somebody once said that the way Elgar chooses to open his Cello Concerto, with those tortured chords sounding as if they have to be excavated from the cello face, is as if Shakespeare had started Hamlet at: 'To be or not to be'. Most concertos take a little time to come to their main point. If they don't make you wait until the slow movement and many do for their crux, they at least keep the listener waiting through a short orchestral introduction. Elgar was having none of it.

Elgar came around from the anaesthetic after an operation to remove an infected tonsil with this tune already in his head, so he wasn't going to let it go to waste. He didn't and it remains one of the most English of all pieces of English music.

Gunnerside in February by Francis Hamel (2001).