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Title:Pax Britannica: Edward Elgar's Caractacus as a musical expression of British imperialism
Author(s):Mortensen, Bryson
Director of Research:Alwes, Chester L.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Alwes, Chester L.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Siena, Jerold; Ward, Thomas R.; Blume, Philipp
Department / Program:Music
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
leitmotiv, british
Abstract:British composer Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934) is most famous for his later works including his “Enigma” variations, symphonies, and “Pomp and Circumstance” marches. His Choral-Orchestral output from his later years includes his Catholic-inspired oratorios The Dream of Gerontius, The Apostles, and The Kingdom. The fame brought about by public interest in his Variations helped elevate Elgar to a leader among British composers in his time. In addition to these works, Elgar’s oeuvre includes several Nationalist works, many of which are influenced by the Imperial movement of the time. These works include The Crown of India, The Banner of St. George, and the Imperial March. Among these works, Elgar’s secular cantata Caractacus has been the topic of significant discussion. Most of the discussion has focused on its jingoistic final chorus, particularly its seeming lack of congruity with the rest of the cantata. This dissertation shows how Elgar used the entire cantata to present his perception of the positive facets of the British Empire, making this chorus the logical conclusion of the work. Chapter One gives a brief summary of Elgar’s compositional output preceding Caractacus. Chapter Two examines the propaganda and Imperialist sentiment in England at the turn of the century. Chapter Three investigates the degree to which the Imperialist sentiment affected Elgar and his interpretation of the British Empire. Chapter Four explores the tools available to understand the meaning of Elgar’s compositions. Chapter Five identifies Elgar’s nationalist sentiment as portrayed in Caractacus. Chapter Six provides portrayals of militarism and chivalry in Caractacus. Chapter Seven examines the evolution of Orbin as an example of Social Darwinism, one of the primary goals of the British Empire. Chapter Eight addresses the major breakdown in dramatic continuity during scenes four and five and their role in emphasizing Elgar’s portrayal of the Pax Britannica.
Issue Date:2013-02-03
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Bryson Eli Mortensen
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-02-03
Date Deposited:2012-12

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