BORN: 1857 / DIED: 1934 / NATIONALITY: British

Elgar was a truly great British composer but it took him many years to find fame. We often think of him as the creator of the ultimate English sound. He wrote lush romantic music at a time when the rest of the musical world was in turmoil. We now know however that Elgar was in just as much personal turmoil as everybody else. He felt like he didn't quite fit in; he was from a humble family of amateur musicians, he was self-taught, he was even the 'wrong' religion and so for much of his early adult life he felt that his face just didn’t fit the mould of 'great classical composer'. He tried everything; moving from the countryside to London, hanging out with orchestral players and conductors, entering competitions but no one seemed interested in his music and he often considered giving up completely. Then in 1899 encouraged by his wife Alice, he wrote a set of pieces based on a mysterious theme of his own and used each version to describe one of his friends. These Enigma Variations where an instant, huge success and within a couple of years he was made Master of the King's Music and was knighted. His wife had been right to stop him from quitting!

Find out all about the piece we are listening to in singing assembly here: