The Te Deum and Benedictus was written for chorus and orchestra for Elgar’s friend G R Sinclair (GRS of the Enigma Variations), organist of Hereford Cathedral, to mark the Hereford Three Choirs Festival in 1897. It was first heard there on 12 September 1897. Here Elgar takes two morning service canticles and treats them as a whole. This was the year of the Imperial March and The Banner of Saint George and Elgar was clearly aiming at a big, popular, setting, revelling in writing for large forces in a big space; the grand festival occasion was already meat and drink to him. The opening motif recurs throughout and in the Benedictus reappears at the words ‘And thou, child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest’. Elgar has the Te Deum end serenely, gradually fading away on a long organ (or orchestral) postlude. In the Benedictus Elgar opens with the choir only lightly accompanied, if at all. Later however he signals the Gloria (‘Glory be to the Father …’) with a crash on the cymbals and now returns to the world of the Te Deum with a grand and celebratory treatment of the words.
from notes by Lewis Foreman © 2007