Sir Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85 was his last notable work, and is a cornerstone of the solo cello repertoire. The piece was composed during the summer of 1919 at Elgar's secluded cottage named "Brinkwells" near Fittleworth in Sussex, where during previous years he had heard the sound of the artillery of World War I rumbling across the Channel at night from France. In 1918, Elgar composed three chamber works, which his wife noted were already noticeably different from his previous compositions, and after their premiere in the spring of 1919, he began realising his idea of a cello concerto. The piece represented, for Elgar, the angst, despair, and disillusionment he felt after the end of the War, and an introspective look at death and mortality. It was a significant change in his style, as he wrote much of his previous works in a noble and jovial style, inspired by the English way of life and the pre-war renaissance of European art. The concerto opens with a dramatic recitative in the solo cello, immediately followed by a short cadenza. The viola section then presents a rendition of the main theme, then pass it to the solo cello who repeats it and then modifies it into a stronger, more painful restatement. The orchestra reiterates, and the cello presents the theme a final time before moving directly into the lighter-hearted and lyrical middle section. This transitions into another presentation of the main theme, now cold and distant and a mere echo of the original theme. The slower first movement moves directly into the fast, light-hearted second movement (acting as a scherzo although it is not in triple time) without a pause.
Excerpt from the first movement above is played by the young and talented Andreas Brantelid (left) and the legendary Jacqueline du Pré (right).
Born in 1987, Andreas Brantelid is already one of Scandinavia’s leading cellists and is quickly establishing an international reputation. He is currently a member of the BBC’s New Generation Artist scheme and in 2009/10 joins the prestigious Lincoln Centre Chamber Music Society in New York. He was nominated by the European Concert Hall Organization for their "Rising Star" recital series last season, and performed in many major venues including the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Musikverein Vienna, Palais des Beaux Arts Brussels, Philharmonie Cologne and Stockholm Concert Hall.
Andreas made his solo debut with orchestra at the age of 14 with the Royal Danish Orchestra, Copenhagen playing this very same Elgar's Cello Concerto. Since then he has appeared as a soloist with all the major orchestras in Scandinavia. This season his performances include the Gothenburg Symphony, Hamburg Symphony, BBC Philharmonic and Vienna Chamber Orchestras. He will also give the world premiere performance of Rosing-Schow’s Cello Concerto with the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra.
He is the first Scandinavian to win 1st Prize in the Eurovision Young Musicians Competition (2006) and the Paulo International Cello Competition (2007). In addition he has won a number of local competitions in Denmark and Sweden. Andreas Brantelid was Danish Radio's "Artist in Residence, 2007". He has received many grants and prizes and is a scholarship holder of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust 2008.
Jacqueline Mary du Pré (26 January 1945 – 19 October 1987) was a British cellist, acknowledged as one of the greatest players of the instrument. She is particularly associated with this very same Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor; her interpretation of that work has been described as "definitive" and "legendary". Her career was cut short by multiple sclerosis, which forced her to cease performing at the age of 28, and led to her premature death. Following her death, her older sister Hilary du Pré and younger brother Piers wrote a book about their family life, A Genius in the Family. It was the basis for the movie Hilary and Jackie, and both aroused fierce controversy.
In March 1961, at age 16, du Pré made her formal début, at Wigmore Hall, London. She made her concerto début in 1962 at the Royal Festival Hall playing the Elgar Cello Concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Rudolf Schwarz. She performed at the Proms in 1963, playing the Elgar Concerto with Sir Malcolm Sargent. Her performance of the concerto proved so popular that she returned three years in succession to perform the work. Du Pré performed with the most prestigious orchestras and conductors, including the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony, London Philharmonic, New Philharmonia Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. She regularly performed with conductors such as Barbirolli, Sargent, Sir Adrian Boult, Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta, and Leonard Bernstein. Her friendship with musicians Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta and Pinchas Zukerman and marriage to Daniel Barenboim led to many memorable chamber music performances.
Du Pré received several fellowships from music academies and honorary doctorate degrees from universities in honour of her contribution to music. She was the first recipient of the prestigious Guilhermina Suggia Award, at age 11, and remains the youngest recipient. In 1960, she won the Gold Medal of the Guildhall School of Music in London and the Queen's Prize for British musicians. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1976 New Year Honours. At the 1977 BRIT Awards, she won the award for the best classical soloist album of the past 25 years for Elgar's Cello Concerto. After her death, a rose cultivar named in her honour received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. She was made an honorary fellow of St Hilda's College, Oxford, whose music building bears her name. In this memorable performance, the orchestra was conducted by Daniel Barenboim - whom she eventually married but had a short and challenging life together. They were eventually divorced.