By 1903, Edward Elgar was doing well enough to afford a winter holiday for his wife and himself. They went to fashionable Alassio on the Italian Riviera and walked in the hills enjoying streams and flowers against a backdrop both of snow-capped mountains and the blue Mediterranean.
He daydreamed of ancient civilisations and mused on the passage of time as he watched shepherds amongst the ruins. ‘Then I woke up,’ he said, ‘and found I’d composed an overture. The rest was merely writing it down.’ In the South (Alassio) was premiered in 1904 at Covent Garden.
It was a good year for Elgar. The King Knighted him, the Athenaeum accepted him and Birmingham University honoured him. A winter in the warm south was his due, dammit.
Rick Jones is a freelance journalist and Blue Badge London tour guide. He studied singing and lute playing as a postgraduate at the Royal College of Music, before becoming a music critic and journalist. He was the chief music critic for the Evening Standard from 1992 to 2002 and now writes for titles including BBC Music Magazine, Washington Post, Sunday Times, Independent, Daily Mail and Time Out.