Sketches for Elgar’s unfinished Third Symphony


Elgar did not complete his Third Symphony before his death in February 1934, but as was his compositional practice he produced numerous sketches for all four movements of the work as it developed. The surviving sketches range from short ideas only a few bars long to entire passages written in full score.

According to remarks made by friends who heard Elgar play the symphony on the piano at home, it had reached an advanced stage of composition shortly before he died.  The manuscripts that survive also show that he had started work on the full orchestration of the symphony.  The images shown here show selected sketches for all four movements, reflecting various stages in the development of the work.

Folios 1r, 12r and 19r show the opening of the symphony written on a single stave, in short score and full score respectively.

Folios 27r and 36r show the opening of the second movement, the Scherzo, in short and full score.  This passage was taken from Arthur, a work composed in 1923, which was not published in Elgar’s lifetime.

Folio 53 is a sketch for the opening of the third movement, Adagio Solenne, and folio 52 shows the first four bars of the last movement, the Allegro, in full score.

Other sketches reflect work on other aspects of the symphony, such as instrumentation, articulation, etc. Folios 6r, 84r and 99r for instance show a passage from the first movement with different ideas for the articulation (bowing) of the violin parts. Other sketches reveal Elgar’s humorous character! (folio 56r)

This manuscript of Elgar's sketches was formerly owned by the BBC and was presented to the British Library in 1969.

Full title:
Edward Elgar: Sketches for the unfinished Third Symphony
Edward Elgar
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Reproduced by kind permission of the publishers: Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd.

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British Library
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