The Elgar Cello Concerto

The only good music is the music that I like. It is the same for everyone, if you love it, it is good music. I may not agree, but that is immaterial.

I have loved the Elgar Cello Concerto for many years, but I actually got to hear it played live by Philip Higham at the 286th Three Choirs Festival at Gloucester Cathedral last night. There are nuiances that you can hear in a live performance that you don’t really notice in a recording. The way the sound reverberates around the cathedral in a multi-dimensional way is also different from a recording.

Music is something that can take me away from the world of having cancer. It is a bit like sound imagery can allow you to feel and process emotions in a way that few others can do. The Elgar Cello Concerto is closely associated with the life of Jacqueline Du Pre and I wonder what she would have made of it at the end of her life had her career not been destroyed by Multiple Sclerosis. Imagine having a talent like that and the ability to express yourself through music, and yet to lose that channel of expression through illness. The Elgar is at once a masterpiece of pathos and heartbreak and yet even to the end it retains that spark of defiance and resolution. It was written at the end of the First World War and in the full knowledge of the devastation of life, limb and sanity that war had caused. The loss of so much. Maybe that is why, for me, it is such a great piece of music. It allows me the sense of loss and despair and yet there is still the defiance and determination to go on with life. It restoreth my soul.


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