By 1915, the bulk of Edward Elgar’s success was behind him; Europe was on a path to self-destruction; and music had taken a sharp turn toward modernism—a ride he wasn’t about to take in the sixth decade of life. It was the Polish conductor Emil Mlynarski who asked Elgar to write a piece benefiting wartime charities in Poland. According to the Elgar Society the resulting work, Polonia, was the only instance in which the composer wrote a fantasy on patriotic tunes, a genre which had been so popular with his fellow Romantics (like Liszt or Tchaikovsky, or even Sibelius and Richard Strauss).
Although Elgar lived until 1934, he wrote very little after the death of his wife Alice in 1920.
On Thursday afternoon hear this Elgar rarity, as well as a concerto by the Polish conductor who persuaded Elgar to write it, Emil Mlynarski. Also on the afternoon program, the Polish Symphony by Tchaikovsky.
Note: Elgar finished his Cello Concerto in 1919, written as a lament in the wake of WWI. The reception for the piece was chilly. Today it is one of the most loved of all cello concertos.