The marches were composed during the first decade of the twentieth century, the Edwardian era when the British Empire enjoyed its greatest spread of colour in the world atlas. Elgar once declared that part of the role he saw for himself as a composer was to write music which stirred the popular imagination, tunes to accompany pageantry, and to have, as Shakespeare had Othello say, ‘all the quality, pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war.’
Elgar himself conducted the first performance of the fourth Pomp and Circumstance March in 1907. The famous nobilmente melody of the central trio was a product of the same year, but other sections had their origins in music he wrote for a family play (The Wand of Youth) when he was only twelve years old. He dedicated the piece to George Robertson Sinclair, organist of Hereford Cathedral at the time, and one of the conductors associated with the Three Choirs Festival where choral works by Elgar and his contemporaries were performed.
It was not the first piece to be dedicated to Sinclair, although the eleventh of the ‘Enigma’ Variations (‘G.R.S.’) has more to do with the antics of the organist’s bulldog than the man himself. Sinclair arranged his friend Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March so that he could enjoy it in the organ loft as well as in the concert hall.
from notes by Ian Carson © 1994