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The Severn Suite came to be written at the instigation of a brass band music editor, Herbert Whiteley, whose ambition it had been for some time to secure from Elgar a competition piece for the annual Brass Band Festival at Crystal Palace. In 1930 there fell the twenty-fifth anniversary of this festival and Elgar was enticed, with a generous offer made in somewhat hard times, to fulfil this commission. The music he wrote was scored for brass band by Henry Geehl, an acknowledged expert in this particular skill. The arranger recalls that Elgar supplied him with a sketchy piano part, a figured bass and a kind of skeletal orchestral score, together with an indication of the counterpoint that he was required to add. Geehl went on to complain that he had much difficulty in persuading the great composer to write idiomatically for band. However, the work was successfully completed and Elgar accorded it an opus number, 87, and dedicated it to George Bernard Shaw who received the honour with delight. Later, Elgar scored the work for orchestra and added names of local reference to each movement: Introduction (Worcester Castle), Toccata (Tournament), Fugue (Cathedral) and Minuet (Commandery). This new version was recorded by Elgar with the London Symphony Orchestra in April 1932.
from notes by Peter Lamb © 1988