Cockaigne (In London Town) - History


At the beginning of the twentieth century the success of the Enigma Variations had been followed by the initial failure of The Dream of Gerontius, which caused Elgar to be dispirited and declare that God was against art. Nevertheless, on receiving a commission from the Royal Philharmonic Society he began work on the new piece and soon reported that it was 'cheerful and Londony, "stout and steaky"' ... 'honest, healthy, humorous and strong, but not vulgar'.

The first performance was in the Queen's Hall, London at a Royal Philharmonic Society Concert, on 20 June 1901, conducted by the composer. The work was dedicated to the composer's 'many friends, the members of British orchestras'. The music was an immediate success and became one of Elgar's most popular works. It has been performed in the concert hall less frequently in recent decades, though a performance conducted by Britain's then Prime Minister, Edward Heath, at a gala London Symphony Orchestra concert at the Festival Hall in November 1971, pictured, brought Cockaigne to much wider attention than usual.

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