How did Elgar help Poland during World War I?
At On July 6, 1915, Sir Edward Elgar stepped onto the conductor’s podium at Queen’s Hall in London to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra (one of the best orchestras in the world) in a grand and patriotic composition he came from to write.
One of his famous Pump and circumstance steps, presumably? Not exactly. The room was called Poland – the Latin word for Poland – and Elgar had written it for a special concert for the benefit of the Polish Victims Fund. Founded in response to First World War, the fund was intended to help Poles caught up in the bloody conflict between Russian and German forces in Eastern Europe.
White and red ribbons, the Polish national colors, draped the program booklets and inside were messages from the great Polish pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski, including Polish fantasy on original themes for piano and orchestra was one of the works featured in the concert. Paderewski had co-founded the Polish Victim Relief Committee a few months earlier and had donated more than $ 2 million of his own money to the relief efforts.
Why did Elgar compose Poland to help the Poles?
But what was an English composer doing when he wrote a piece to boost the morale of the Poles? Wouldn’t this work be better done by Polish composers? Several had tried. Zygmunt Stojowski, for example, produced the cantata Prayer for Poland the same year as Elgar’s Poland, and Paderewski later wrote the patriotic hymn Hey, White Eagle.
But when war broke out in 1914, Poland was a hopelessly divided territory, not an independent sovereign country. Ruled by a combination of Austro-Hungarian, Prussian and Russian authorities, his young men were drafted into the three armies for war purposes, often facing their Polish compatriots in combat. Writing patriotic music for a nation that hadn’t existed as a legal entity for over a century seemed an impossibility as Europe tore itself apart.
Yet Elgar did. But why? The key was a connection he had with Polish expat Emil Młynarski. Since 1910 Młynarski had been principal conductor of the Scottish Orchestra (now the Royal Scottish National Orchestra) and knew both Elgar and conductor Thomas Beecham. Like many Polish exiles, Młynarski had a strong desire to see his homeland reunited and greatly contributed to the war effort. He instructed Elgar to write Poland for the Relief Fund concert in London, where a movement of his Poland Symphony would also be included. According to Elgar academic Jerrold Northrop Moore, it was Młynarski who suggested the Polish national melodies – the Warsaw, With smoke from fires and the Dąbrowski Mazurka (which became the Polish national anthem) – which Elgar included in the 14-minute “symphonic prelude”
he ended up writing.
As a patriot himself, Elgar had no difficulty understanding the plight of oppressed peoples and had also written Carillon for Belgium in wartime the previous year. As Poland progressed, he inserted other musical quotes from Paderewski Polish fantasy and a Chopin Nocturne (Op. 37, n ° 1) – ‘connecting the two biggest names in Polish music’, as Elgar puts it.
Made Poland again to be executed?
Dedicated Elgar Poland in Paderewski, as the leader of the Polish victim relief effort. Although the new work was successful at the time, Poland is largely overlooked these days, and rarely gets a concert release. Paderewski himself admired him, however. “I have heard your noble composition twice,” he wrote, declaring himself “deeply touched by the grace of your friendly thought and deeply moved by the exquisite beauty of your work.”
Elgar himself thought enough about Poland to register an abridged version in 1919 for the HMV company. By this time, Paderewski, a musician turned statesman and politician, was prime minister of his newly liberated country, and Poland had become a nation again.
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