Most recently of all, I've been contemplating the return of that great theme at the end of the Elgar's First Symphony, asking myself whence come those extraordinary chords that intermittently add stresses. Tangentially, there is a video of Tod Handley conducting the work on YouTube, and I wish I could make it mandatory viewing for all neophyte conductors, above all, keeping in mind that this was an appearance as guest conductor to boot (with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra!). This is great conducting, I would say. What my mind kept returning to was what in Elgar's mind inspired him to write those chords, and I came to think that the answer to a question quite often posed is that all we really need to know is what is in the music, though it would be a huge bonus if we could hear from the composer what thought process it issued from, if any. I can't answer the question whether absolute music 'says' something coming from the mind of the composer, but all that is important is that it speaks to the listener.That comes from an email sent to me by reader Philip Amos in response to my recent post We are born in mystery, live in mystery, and die in mystery. Reading it and watching the video - a valuable document I had not seen before - compelled me to share Philip's thoughts here. In answer to his question as to where those extraordinary chords in the finale of Elgar's symphony come from, I would quote Saul Bellow's observation about Mozart's music: "All we can say is that it comes from somewhere else". Take care while I am away.
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