Yo-Yo Ma Performs Elgar’s Cello Concerto

Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

When I lived in England, everyone loved and talked about the music of Edward Elgar (1857-1934). Elgar is right up there with George Frideric Handel among the island’s musical luminaries. So imagine my surprise when I moved back to America and found that very few people–even classical music lovers–had ever heard of this remarkable composer.

Elgar was a product of his time, with a career that straddled the twilight of romanticism with the dawn of modernism. Technically he falls within the period of twentieth-century music, but his style leaned more to the nineteenth-century for inspiration.

In Elgar there is a juxtaposition of innocence and pride characteristic of pre-WWI Britain, combined with the masculine beauty of the Edwardian period. Even when his music is at its most heart-breakingly sweet, it never loses the sense of manly stature. It is romanticism without gush, beauty without sentimentalism, manly pride without bravado.

Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor, written in the aftermath of the Great War, seems to embody a painful longing for a bygone age. It is a complex amalgam of melancholy and triumph, surrender and imperialism, longing and acceptance, lyricism and dissonance, ostentation and innocence. In this work, it is almost as if we can hear the mature composer longing for a return to the simplicity of an earlier era (an era that embodied the innocent charm in a work like Salut d’Amour), but with a wisdom that has been wrought through pain–a wisdom that knows that the disasters of century’s second decade can never be reversed.

I have listened to this work dozens of times (including two live performances), but it is still full of surprises me, and it still brings tears to my eyes.

In 1994, Yo-Yo Ma performed this work with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. This was Yo-Yo Ma at his best. Enjoy!

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Further Reading

Perlman Plays Brahms Violin Concerto

I recently discovered the recording of Itzhak Perlman playing Brahms Violin Concerto in D major. I was even more delighted to discover a video of this amazing performance. Perlman brings a sensitivity and passion appropriate for one of the most beautiful musical works ever composed.

My OCAMPR Workshop on Gratitude During Times of Suffering

Last week I had the privilege of traveling out to Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology which was hosting this year’s conference for The Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology, and Religion. I was asked by the OCAMPR board to present a workshop on the topic ‘Gratitude During Times of Suffering.’ My talk, which was recorded on Ancient Faith Radio, is available by clicking on the video below. It is also available for mp3 download here.