Thursday, 9 July 2015

Hermann Finck: An Elgarian Anecdote

Hermann Finck was a popular composer in Edwardian and Georgian years. Some of his works have been recorded, however it is as musical director of the Palace Theatre, Cambridge Circus between 1900 and 1920 that he will be best recalled by musical historians. In 1937 Finck’s lively My Musical Memories were published by The Mayflower Press. It is a chock-full of amusing and fascinating anecdotes. 
One of his stories concerned Sir Edward Elgar which bears retelling.

Elgar was having some of his music played at a charity matinee at the Palace Theatre in London. He was concerned that the band would not be able to do his work justice. so he insisted on two rehearsals.  Finck told him, ‘I think you will find that the orchestra will do anything you want in one rehearsal.’ He pointed out that a second one would have to be paid for specially.
Elgar relented and they managed with a single rehearsal. His fears were not justified. After the performance Elgar wrote to Hermann Finck:-
“I send you many thanks for arranging everything so pleasantly for me at the Theatre, and I shall be very grateful of you will convey to the gentlemen of the orchestra my warmest thanks for their very kind help yesterday; the playing was beautiful.’
I guess that is is impossible to discover what the pieces that Elgar had performed: I have had a look at contemporary concert adverts to no avail. I guess that it may well have been during the Great War and that would explain the fact it was a charity concert. It is just possible that the work may have been the Sanguine Fan which was first performed during 1917 and was written expressly for money raising events.

Finck notes that after this, Elgar and he became ‘very friendly’ and recalled that one of the last letters he (Elgar) wrote, to the Scottish composer and academic Sir Alexander Mackenzie, related that ‘he had met me (Finck) outside the Langham Hotel – and I had made him laugh.’ It is a nice thought. 

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