Elgar's War Requiem

Rachel Cowgill

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6 Citations (Scopus)


While Elgar’s patriotism and sense of Empire have been treated with considerable insight in recent years, Elgar scholarship seems to have found it relatively difficult to explore objectively the religious and denominational contexts in which he lived, and their significance or otherwise for his music.1Indeed, in some cases emphasis on the former has obscured the latter, as with Jeffrey Richards’s suggestion that The Dream of Gerontius can be considered an imperialist work on the grounds of Elgar’s identification with “the idea of Christian heroism,” exemplified by General Gordon of Khartoum. Where Elgar’s Catholicism has been broached in the literature, as Charles Edward McGuire discusses elsewhere in this volume, there has been a tendency to accept without much question two tropes that emerged shortly after Elgar’s death, which can be seen at least in part to have originated from remarks made by Elgar himself: the first of these, that a crisis of faith had rendered religion no longer of significance in his life (an identity McGuire refers to as the “Weak Faith” avatar); and the second, that as an English Catholic he had learned to appreciate and operate within the codes of Protestantism (the “Pan-Christian” avatar). Justas these avatars arguably offered Elgar himself a means of appeasing his Protestant countrymen and for dulling his often sharply felt sense of other-ness within British society, they have also offered convenient strategies for his past biographers who perhaps either did not recognize the centrality of religious identity as a social dynamic in British society of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, reflecting the increasing secularization of subsequent generations, or whose view of their subject was filtered by a particular denominational position or personal belief.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEdward Elgar and His World
EditorsByron Adams
Place of PublicationPrinceton
PublisherPrinceton University Press
Number of pages46
ISBN (Electronic)9781400832101
ISBN (Print)9780691134451, 9780691134468
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameThe Bard Music Festival Book Series
PublisherPrinceton University Press

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