Kenneth Leighton: Elegy for Cello


Originally set as part of his 1947 Sonata in F minor, Kenneth Leighton’s Elegy for Cello went through a number of different forms before ending up with the version we know today. As part of the sonata, Elegy only received one public performance in 1950, which was part of The University of Cambridge’s music union. Leighton soon had a change of heart about his Sonata, so he scrapped the work from performance, but kept the slow movement, soon to be known as Elegy. Published in 1953, Elegy for Cello is a challenging lyrical piece for any player, offering a quintessential British style throughout.


The Music

Inspired by the stylings of other British composers such as Gerald Finzi, Herbert Howells and Ralph Vaughan Williams, the dark and lyrical Elegy for Cello stacks up in both style and substance. The dark and woody undertones of the cello allows Leighton to explore timbre and texture, whilst also portraying intense lyricism through the music. As this was composed when Leighton was studying at The University of Oxford, the pastoral style of the piece is typical of the time. Also the cello adds to the intensity of the atmosphere, the delicate writing and tender transitions opens the music up effectively. As the music begins to die away, the piano plays the final resolution chords to conclude this beautiful piece for cello.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

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