The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Today, Queen Elizabeth II of England marks 60 years on the throne. Do you know these 60 facts about her? What music should be played to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee? The Ear says Elgar.

February 6, 2012
11 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

OK, I’ll admit it: There is something endearing about Queen Elizabeth II (below), who today marks exactly 60 years of sitting on the throne.

The rest of the family, at least until the recent marriage of Prince Andrew and Kate Middleton (below), doesn’t quite seem to live up to the Queen’s dignified and very competent example.

Now, I am not particularly fond of royalty. I do not follow royalty and am not a feverish fan. In fact, I think that, for the most part, the French knew exactly what to do with royalty, as they demonstrated during the French Revolution. (If you think I’m being harsh, you would do well to remember the abusive privilege called the “rights of the lord” – the context of Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” — that is, to deflower any bride on her wedding night before her husband got the honor.)

I also recall the quip made by Egypt’s degenerate King Farouk (below), made in 1948 as he left for exile aboard a ship after the military coup by Nasser. “The whole world is in revolt. Soon there will be only five Kings left — the King of England, the King of Spades, The King of Clubs, the King of Hearts, and the King of Diamonds.”

Well, I am not taking bets about how long the British monarchy will survive. For quite a while, popular opinion seemed to be running against it. But recently, it seems to have recovered and regained its footing a bit.

Queen Elizabeth II has by all accounts done a pretty good and pretty fair job during her reign. As some of the newly-minted royals, including Princess Diana (below) and Princess Fergie, have found out, it is not as easy or plus a job as it looks.

Here are some little-known “60 Facts About 60 Years”:

http://www.couriermail.com.au/ipad/queen-elizabeth-60-years-60-facts/story-fn6ck45n-1226262281148

And here is how she prepared on Sunday to mark the anniversary:

http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Queen-prepares-to-mark-60-years-on-throne-3050369.php

And here is a UK government site listing the various events:

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Nl1/Newsroom/Features/DG_WP200687

Anyway, what music should mark The Anniversary?

I am tempted to say you can’t do better than the “Pomp and Circumstance” marches of Sir Edward Elgar (below). The most famous one, No. 1, is often used for graduations but is still best suited to royal processions. It is both stately and sentimental. So the marches do seem the perfect occasional music, matching fine music and the right mood. But of them all, I think No. 4 ( at bottom) is the most suited to this particular Queen and this particular occasion.

But there are other British composers who have honored royalty, including William Walton.

And there is the dramatic coronation scene, complete with church bells, from Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov.”

And there is a lot more.

Do you have a thought about Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne, which occurs today but which will be marked throughout 2012 and especially from June 2 to June 5?

Do you have a piece of music you would play and dedicate to her and her rule?

The Ear wants to hear.

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