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  • Chris Anderson

Life During Elgar's Time

Life during Sir Edward Elgar's time, which spans the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was marked by significant social, cultural, and technological changes. I always find it fascinating to see if these aspects have any influence on composers, certainly ones from a bygone age. Here are some key aspects that characterised life during Elgar's era:


Victorian and Edwardian Eras: Elgar lived during the Victorian and Edwardian periods in Britain. These eras were characterised by a strict social hierarchy, conservative values, and a focus on empire-building. Society was divided into distinct classes, with the upper class enjoying privileges and the working class facing challenges and limited opportunities.


Industrial Revolution: Elgar witnessed the tail end of the Industrial Revolution, a period of rapid industrialisation and urbanisation. Factories and mills proliferated, and many people moved from rural areas to cities in search of employment. This shift led to significant societal changes, including the rise of the middle class and increased social mobility.


Technological Advancements: Elgar lived in a time of significant technological advancements. The invention of the telephone, the phonograph, and the electric light bulb transformed communication, entertainment, and daily life. These innovations influenced the development and dissemination of music, making it more accessible to a broader audience.


Cultural Shifts: Elgar's time was marked by cultural shifts, including changes in artistic expression and societal values. The Romantic era in music was transitioning into the early stages of the Modern era, with composers exploring new harmonic and structural possibilities. The arts, literature, and philosophy were also experiencing shifts, with new movements such as Impressionism and Symbolism emerging.


Empire and National Identity: Elgar lived in an era when the British Empire was at its height. The empire played a significant role in shaping British national identity and cultural pride. Elgar's music often resonated with patriotic sentiments and themes of Britishness, capturing the spirit of the time. Perhaps the most famous of them is this piece.


Social and Political Movements: Elgar's era was marked by social and political movements advocating for various causes. The women's suffrage movement was gaining momentum, seeking equal rights and the right to vote for women. Labor movements fought for workers' rights and better working conditions. These movements brought about significant changes in society and paved the way for future reforms.


Leisure and Entertainment: Leisure time and entertainment played an important role in the lives of people during Elgar's time. Popular forms of entertainment included attending concerts, theater performances, and sporting events. Music, both classical and popular, was a central part of social gatherings and cultural events.


Life during Elgar's time varied depending on social class, geographical location, and personal circumstances. While some enjoyed prosperity and advancements, others faced poverty and social challenges. Elgar himself experienced both successes and struggles throughout his life, reflecting the complexities and diversity of the era he lived in.

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