Composers Datebook®

Elgar's Fifth

Composer's Datebook - September 18, 2023


On today’s date in 1930, in Kingsway Hall in London, the British composer Sir Edward Elgar conducted the first performance of his Pomp and Circumstance March No. 5, the last in this popular series.

Two of the previous marches had been dedicated to organist friends of the composer, and so when organist Percy Hull asked Elgar for a new work for the 1930 Hereford Festival, the Pomp and Circumstance March No. 5 is dedicated to him.

In 1930, Elgar was 73 years old and he liked to go for automobile rides in the country. Hull had given Elgar some driving lessons, and, appropriately enough, Elgar got the idea for the musical themes of his new march on a drive through the countryside with a friend. Elgar suddenly asked for something on which he could jot down his ideas. All the driver could produce was a road map of Worcestershire—so on its margins the first notes of Elgar’s new score were scribbled.

The march proved to be one of his last new orchestral works. Elgar planned to write a sixth Pomp and Circumstance March, a kind of soldier’s funeral march, he said, but Elgar himself died in 1934.

Music Played in Today's Program

Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934) Pomp and Circumstance March No. 5 Royal Philharmonic; André Previn, cond. Philips 454 250

On This Day


  • 1893 - Australian composer Arthur Benjamin, in Sydney;

  • 1910 - Polish-born Israeli composer Josef Tal, in Pinne (near Posen);


  • 1970 - Rock guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix, age 27, from asphyxiation due to an overdose of barbiturates


  • 1954 - Virgil Thomson: Concerto for flute, strings and percussion, in Venice;

  • 1960 - Penderecki: "Dimensions of Time and Silence," during "Warsaw Autumn" International Festival of Contemporary Music;

  • 1978 - Shostakovich: unfinished opera "The Gamblers" (after Nikolai Gogol), in Leningrad at the Large Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic;

  • 1986 - Corigliano: "Fantasia on an Ostinato" by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Zubin Mehta;

  • 1998 - Bright Sheng: "Spring Dreams," by cellist Yo-Yo Ma with the Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwartz conducting.

  • 1998 - Michael Torke: "Lucent Variations," in St. Paul, Minn., by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Hugh Wolff conducting.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®