Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-846f6c7c4f-xq4m6 Total loading time: 0.239 Render date: 2022-07-07T13:22:47.578Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

9 - Three Journeys, Two Paths: Locating the Lyric and Dramatic in Elgar’s Sea Pictures

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 June 2021

Eric Saylor
Affiliation:
Associate Professor, musicology (Drake University)
Christopher M. Scheer
Affiliation:
Associate Professor, musicology (Utah State University)
Byron Adams
Affiliation:
Professor of Music University of California at Riverside
James Brooks Kuykendall
Affiliation:
Professor of Music Erskine College
Charles Edward McGuire
Affiliation:
Professor of Musicology Oberlin College Conservatory
Alyson McLamore
Affiliation:
Professor / Music Department, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Louis Niebur
Affiliation:
Associate Professor of Musicology University of Nevada, Reno
Jennifer Oates
Affiliation:
Associate Professor of Musicology and Librarianship Queen's College-City University of New York
Justin Vickers
Affiliation:
Assistant Professor of Music Artist Teacher of Voice Illinois State University
Amanda Eubanks Winkler
Affiliation:
Associate Professor of Music History and Cultures Director of Undergraduate Studies, Music History and Cultures Program
Frances Wilkins
Affiliation:
Lecturer in Ethnomusicology, The Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen
Get access

Summary

WHILE EDWARD ELGAR'S song-cycle Sea Pictures (1899) has been popular with audiences since its premiere, critics have remained less than impressed by the composition. Commentators have analysed Sea Pictures as a set of stand-alone miniatures, deemed it inferior to the composer's other works due to the poetry Elgar chose to set, and even argued that it is cyclical only in a literary sense because (purportedly) the five songs lack a compelling sense of musical unity. Most of the comments within the secondary literature can be summed up by the terse statement within J. P. E. Harper-Scott's Elgar: An Extraordinary Life: ‘Sea Pictures, Op. 37, has a hotch-potch jumble of five poems, one of the best of them by [the composer's wife] Alice Elgar (a memory of a trip to Capri, set in 1897 as “Love alone will stay”). One of the songs, “Sabbath Morning at Sea”, is made of old music from 1883; it is the weakest of the set.’ Harper-Scott, like most of the biographers who have come before him, notes that there were five songs in the cycle (each one featuring a text by a different poet), and presents little else aside from who sang the premiere (Clara Butt) and where it took place (the Norfolk and Norwich Musical Festival). Within most biographies of the composer, Sea Pictures is worth little else.

Yet those who present the two most detailed musical analyses of the work, Stephen Banfield and Trevor Hold, find Sea Pictures’ combination of imagery and music not only compelling, but better than most of Elgar's other efforts in the genre of song. Hold, after castigating Elgar as a songwriter (for being ‘content to accept the artistically [sic] meretriciousness of the popular ballad format’ and for his lack of fastidiousness in word setting), admits that within Sea Pictures ‘the real Elgar peeps through and we have real music’. Banfield believes Sea Pictures is successful because it ultimately ‘amalgamates the two strongly contrasted aspects of Elgar's personality, the outer love of invigorating, sometimes vulgar spectacle and bombast … and the inner, private hypersensitivity to emotional influence, in this case personal nostalgia’.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2015

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×