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Edward Elgar, born slightly less than 100 years after the death of that great German-English master, George Frideric Handel, was the first British-born composer to gain international prominence after Henry Purcell made his indelible mark in the 17th century. At the end of the 19th century, Elgar, although having fully absorbed the Germanic tradition, began to converse in a musical language that had an unmistakable English accent. Without resorting to English folk music, he spoke most eloquently to and for his countrymen, and to his time.
Elgar’s name first became known in London through his Imperial March (1896), which was used for the day of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, on June 22, 1897. Acting under the momentum of the success of this work, Elgar began writing what was to become his most famous and loved march, the first Pomp and Circumstance, whose title the composer borrowed from Shakespeare’s Othello: “...the neighing steed, and the shrill trump, the spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife, the royal banner, and all quality, pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war.”
— Orrin Howard