Illustrated Fun facts about Edward Elgar

classic music music portrait explained

He may be the best moustache of the 20th Century and many more! Here are fun facts about Edward Elgar illustrated with my doodle drawings. You will discover that this man will still be unknown without Caroline, his enigma Variations are still a mystery, he was a modern man for recording his work and he also did chemistry in his free time...

edward elgar art print in black and white ink drawing


Recording sessions

elgar recording session gramophone pump circumstancesFrom 1926, Elgar starts to records his own works and take gramophone seriously ! He already recorded with the acoustic-recording, but the introduction of electrical microphones in 1925 turned the gramophone into a Home studio !

He is the first composer to explore this technology and capture on disc his major orchestral works : the Enigma Variations, Falstaff, the first and second symphonies, and the cello and violin concertos.

He also record the Violin Concerto with the young Yehudi Menuhin prodigy, and Pomp and Circumstance March with the Elgar's voice asking the London Symphony Orchestra musicians to :

"play this tune as though you've never heard it before."


Edward elgar and the "Enigma Variations"

edward elgar and the enigma variations

The original name of this work is "Variations on an Original Theme", Elgar dedicated the 14 works to his friends pictured within.

All the variations are numbered and got an Acronym, generaly the acronym of the person wich is dedicated the variation : here is the enigma unveiled witht he 14 variations, codename and full name description :



1 - L'istesso tempo to "C.A.E." 

elgar-salut d'amour wife caroline love
Caroline Alice Elgar, Elgar's wife. He also wrote "Salut d'amour" song as an engagement present. She gave him a poem!






2 - Allegro "H.D.S-P."

Hew David Steuart-Powell. :  A well-known amateur pianist and a great player of chamber music. Friend of number 12 B.G.N

3 - Allegretto "R.B.T."

Richard Baxter Townshend, author of the Tenderfoot series of books. He is the brother-in-law of number 4 W.M.B.

4 - Allegro di molto "W.M.B."

William Meath Baker, squire and benefactor of several public buildings in Fenton. Brother-in-law of number 3 R.B.T. and uncle of number 10 Dora Penny.

5 - Moderato "R.P.A."

Richard Penrose Arnold, son of poet Matthew Arnold, and amateur pianist.

6 - Andantino "Ysobel"

Isabel Fitton, a viola pupil of Elgar. This variation is an 'exercise' for crossing the strings, a difficulty for viola beginners.

7 - Presto "Troyte"

Arthur Troyte Griffith, an architect and Elgar's friend.

8 - Allegretto "W.N."

Winifred Norbury, one of the secretaries of the Worcester Philharmonic Society. During a walk outdoor, Griffith (number 7) and Elgar were caught in a thunderstorm. They both found shelter in the house of Winifred (number 8).

9 - Adagio "Nimrod"

Nimrod (Old Testament reference : Jäger being German for hunter):  Augustus J. Jaeger. He was a music editor by the London publisher Novello & Co, close friend of Elgar's, giving him useful advices.

When Elgar was very depressed and about to give it up his music, Jaeger visited him and encouraged him to continue.

10 - Allegretto "Dorabella"

Dora Penny, a friend who was afflicted of "stutter", the variation parodied stutter by the woodwinds.

11 - Allegro di molto "G.R.S."

elgar-is a dog lover bulldog englishGeorge Robertson Sinclair, the organist of Hereford Cathedral. But the song is about his great Bulldog Dan, story of the dog falling down into a river, paddling upstream and barking on landing.

12 - Andante "B.G.N."

Basil George Nevinson, a cellist who played chamber music with Elgar.

13 - Moderato " * * * "

Lady Mary Lygon, a sponsor of a local music festival. Asterisks take the place of the name of the lady who was on a sea voyage. Drums suggest the sound of the distant liner and clarinet quotes a phrase from Mendelssohn's "Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage".

14 - Allegro "E.D.U."

Elgar himself ! His wife nicknamed him Edu, from the German Eduard.


Pomp and circumstance marches

bbc prom on the night edward elgarThis is THE "graduation march" played at ceremonies across the United States. And it's a patriotic English song better known as the "Pomp and Circumstance March #1", played every year at the BBC proms in the Royal Albert Hall.




Edward Elgar mustache on a 20 Bank note

edward elgar banknote 20 poundsBefore 2010, you could've see Edward Elgar's face on a standard £20 banknote in the UK, but it's over now. Scottish philosopher Adam Smith took the place, well shaved without mustache.

Love at first note

elgar love at first sight caroline

She took up piano accompaniment lessons from Edward Elgar. He was violin teacher at Worcester High School at this time.

They fell in love, and became engaged to her young teacher, much to the disapproval of her Anglican family :

- He was a poor tradesman and from a lower social class
- He was eight years her junior

- He was a devouted Roman Catholic.

Edward Elgar's wife Caroline

edwar elgar wife of genius carolineElgar had the chance to met the woman that was to become his wife : Caroline Alice Roberts, in 1886. She was to become a hugely dominant force behind Elgar's creativity.

She actually worked as as his business manager, social secretary and musical critic !

The care of a genius is enough of a life work for any woman - Caroline Alice Elgar

Chemist Dr Elgar and his hydrogen machine

edwar elgar try chemistry inventionSir Edward Elgar was also a keen amateur and did try some experiments in the barn in his back garden : chemistry.

He spent hours in his shed trying little experiments with the culminating invention of the Sulphuretted Hydrogen generator :

A device for synthesising hydrogen sulphide, the gas that smell rotten eggs...


Sir Edward elgar - Knight of the British Empire

sir edward elgar knight british empireElgar was knighted by King Edward VII in 1904. Honoured but not thrilled by this recognition, it's more a great achievement and recognition for his wife Alice.

A poor salesman and lower social class Roman Catholic can be knoght though.



Matrix - Clubbed to Death

edward elgar matrix song clubbed to death enigma variationIf you have listened to the Enigma Variations (number 2), you may have a thrill while watching Matrix :

The first 30 seconds of the Matrix song "Clubbed to Death", wich continues with electronic music variations.

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