Masterpiece by composer heard for the first time in 100 years

Listen to lost Elgar masterpiece: String melody by English classical composer can be heard for first time in 100 years after it was found in autograph book

  • The melody had been penned on musical manuscript paper and signed by him
  • He is responsible for some of the most iconic classical music from England 
  • Music was found in the autograph book of a charity fundraiser who died in 1983 

An undiscovered masterpiece by English classical composer Edward Elgar has been heard for the first time in 100 years after being found tucked away inside an autograph book.

The ‘andante’ melody from 1924 was penned on musical manuscript paper and signed by the great composer who was responsible for some of the most iconic classic music to ever come from England.

Believed to be scored for a string quartet, experts believe the tune could also be a brief overture for a more comprehensive piece.

It was discovered tucked away inside an autograph book owned by a charity fundraiser who died in 1983 and is believed to not have been heard aloud for nearly 100 years.

This piece of music (pictured above) by Sir Edward Elgar which is thought to be an undiscovered melody never previously heard has come to light

The sheet music was discovered tucked away inside an autograph book (pictured above) owned by a charity fundraiser who died in 1983

The manuscript will feature in Richard Winterton’s Library Sale at The Lichfield Auction Centre, Staffordshire, on March 26.

Auctioneer Richard Winterton, who stars in BBC’s Bargain Hunt and Dickinson’s Real Deal, said: ‘Elgar is widely regarded as one of this country’s greatest ever composers.

‘There can’t be many people who don’t know some of his music, even if they aren’t necessarily aware that he wrote it.

Sir Edward Elgar (pictured above) was an English classical composer and died in 1934

‘Unfolding this musical manuscript tucked away inside an autograph book – which was already loaded with impressive signatures – I could not believe what I was seeing.

Not only is it signed and dated by Elgar but there are several lines of complicated musical notation. It was clearly a short melody, written down yet never played.

‘Perhaps never heard aloud for almost 100 years.’

The autograph book, which is bulging with impressive signatures and dates back to 1923, was owned collected by Lydia Tabb, a matron at Barnardo’s, during her time fundraising for the charity.

It contains approximately 69 signatures including five Prime Ministers – Herbert Henry Asquith, David Lloyd George, Stanley Baldwin, Ramsay MacDonald and Winston Churchill – as well as four important authors, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, HG Wells, Sir JM Barrie and Rudyard Kipling.

Other signatures in the book include those of Charlie Chaplin, the future King George VI and many important figures from the First World War including Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the supreme Allied Commander during WW1, and Field Marshal Earl Haig.

Relatively little is known about Lydia, who was born in 1897 and died in 1983, other than that she worked tirelessly for Barnado’s and at one point travelled to Australia on behalf of the charity.

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Music by Edward Elgar had previously been valued on the Antiques road Show for £100,00

The fundraiser, whose maiden name was Probyn before she married Herbert Edward Tabb in 1939, previously had links to Surrey before moving to Gravelly Hill, Birmingham.

Lydia’s great nieces Linda Brewer and Jane Coombs remember visiting her as children.

Linda said: ‘My dad would mow the lawn while we would sit with her eating sandwiches and watching the wrestling.

‘But I don’t remember her ever mentioning the autograph book or the Elgar manuscript.

‘It’s a bit of a mystery as to how Lydia compiled the signatures of so many famous and influential people and we would love to find out more.’

Sir Edward William Elgar, who was born in 1857 and died in 1934, is regarded as one of England’s greatest composers, with many of his compositions featuring in classical concert repertoires all over the world.

Orchestral works such as the Enigma Variations and Pomp and Circumstance marches sit among his best-known compositions alongside two symphonies and concertos for violin and cello.

This is while his more recent works have been used in various adverts. In December 2001 Pomp And Circumstance March Number 3 was used in a Sainsbury’s advert, while Carling used ‘Nimrod’ in one of their 2007 campaigns. 

Sir Edward Elgar and his musical upbringing

Edward Elgar was born on June 2 1857 in Worcester, where his father owned a music shop where he also tuned pianos.

Elgar grew up in a musical atmosphere and is said to have studied the music available in his father’s shop as well as teaching himself to play a wide array of instruments.

Despite having come from a somewhat musical background, Elgar found it difficult to establish himself and faced prejudice for being a Roman Catholic in a Protestant majority in England at the time. Not only this but he grew up in late Victorian society, where class was key for anyone wanting to make it big.

From the 1880s and the 1890s he gained much experience and with so his style of music changed as he started to compose for local music organisations as well as having taught the violin and playing the organ at a local church.

He married one of his students in 1889 and from then on his musical works started to gain traction.

Through works such as Froissart, 1890, the Imperial March, 1897, King Olaf, 1896 and Caractacus, 1898, he became famous across the UK, before having his biggest success in 1899 with the Variation on an Original Theme (Enigma).

His other well-known works included Sea Pictures, 1899 and The Dream of Gerontius – which was hailed as one of his best religious compositions.

He also wrote Cockaigne which was premiered in 1901 and Pomp and Circumstance Marches, which later became Land of hope and Glory. 

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