Written in 1919, Edward Elgar composed the Cello Concerto in E minor, in response to the atrocities of World War 1. It was one of his last ever compositions.
An air of melancholy hangs over much of the concerto, as though to convey the great depression and disillusionment that Elgar had felt about The Great War.
A strong introduction by the soloist dies away as the wistful, meandering theme of the first movement appears, first heard in the lower strings of the orchestra. After the contrasting middle section, which is introduced by the woodwind, the main theme returns.
Pizzicato (plucked) chords from the solo cello and brief fragments of the scherzo (quick triple time) to come, introduce the magical second movement, which provides a brief release from the sadness of the adjacent movements.
The lovely adagio third movement's seamless melody is a lament which bears the composer's unmistakable stamp.
The final movement opens with the orchestra which is quickly disbanded by the entry of the solo cello. And finally as each attempt to recapture the stance of an earlier, more confident age slides to despair, there is the unbearably moving moment when the melody of the adagio is recalled, the cello reaches a "hairs standing up on the back of your neck" high, and the concerto ends with an echo of the opening melody. (Definitely the best bit of the whole work!)
1st Movement - Adagio-Moderato
2nd Movement - Lento-Allegro molto
3rd Movement - Adagio
4th Movement - Allegro-Moderato-Allegro, ma non troppo - Poco più lento
This cello cocerto is also the piece that Jacqueline du Pré is most famous for playing.