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Is Elgar’s £60k music score in Exmouth?

15:00 07 August 2012

Edward Elgar

Edward Elgar


Check your attics - a missing musical score by English composer Edward Elgar, with a price tag of £60k, could be hiding there.

A long-lost treasure penned by English composer Edward Elgar could be hiding in an attic in Exmouth.

Elgar, whose masterpieces include Salut d’amour and the Pomp and Circumstance marches, wrote his last piece of music in 1928 for a stage play, Beau Brummel, after agreeing to help actor Gerald Lawrence, who moved to Exmouth in 1939 with his second wife, actress Fay Davis who died in February 1945.

Elgar’s manuscript, showing the music for each individual instrument, disappeared after the play went on tour of England and South Africa. It is thought the great composer’s work could have been kept in Exmouth – where it may remain today.

Robert Kay, of Acuta Music, who specialises in researching, editing and publishing Elgar’s music, hopes Exmouth residents will be inspired to pull down their attic ladders and join the search.

He said: “Gerald Lawrence was given permission to keep the set of orchestral parts so, in theory at least, he might have still had them when he moved to Exmouth and so might have given them away during his stay there.

“Gerald Lawrence lived in London until late 1939 when he came to Exmouth with his wife Fay Davis - another stage person and possibly better-known than him - for the duration of the war.

“I haven’t traced his address so possibly they lodged with friends.

“I believe that there is a theoretical possibility that the music may still be residing in someone’s cupboard somewhere.

“The one surviving fragment of the full score had sat at the bottom of a suitcase for at least 50 years and its owners had no idea of its significance.

“It is in the nature of these things that people may be a bit less inclined to throw away music manuscripts than other types of waste paper.” Mr Kay said the music has been missing since its final performance in October 1929.

He has urged anyone finding the missing music, which could be 200 pages long, to contact the British Museum, which holds most of Elgar’s manuscripts.

Mr Kay said just the piano score could fetch around £60,000. He said: “The missing manuscript shows the music for each individual instrument. It would be headed Brummel, act one, intro.

“I think there probably was a piano score and I think it probably was in Elgar’s handwriting.

“It’s a theoretical possibility it does exist. It is possible Gerald Lawrence gave it to somebody to look after. I think he possibly gave it to a colleague.

“He would have been in Exmouth at the time the play was performed.”

Letters between Lawrence and Elgar suggest the actor had refused to give the music back. On June 7, 1930, Elgar wrote to Lawrence asking him to return the full score if not the now-missing orchestral parts, which he referred to as ‘stuff’.

Elgar’s letter said: “Where is the ‘material’ of Beau Brummel music? I shd. like to have the full score when convenient: of course the stuff will always be at your disposal, but I fear, seeing the trend of popular taste that the chance of production must be somewhat remote.”


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