The Great Composers Quiz – July 29, 2020
Time’s up, pencils down, the two Great Composers who were serious about their golf. One never picked up a club until he was thirty-five and liked it so much four months later he joined the Worcestershire Golf Club. The answer is Edward Elgar, who was introduced to golf by the one-time treasurer of the Oxford University Golf Club, Richard Baxter Townshend, aka RBT of the Enigma Variations, Elgar’s seminal work which Ted would not write for another six years after taking up the sticks. Some observers have paused to contemplate whether Elgar’s symphonic masterpiece was informed by Golf, in structure or thematically, which is entirely possible, given Elgar’s enthusiasm for self-referencing puzzlers. What, after all, is more an enigma than golf? Once Elgar had played enough golf to fully appreciate the game’s subtleties (11 years), he explained some of Golf’s appeal to him: “Golf is the best form of exercise for writing men, as it involves no risk of accident, is always ready without much preliminary arrangement, and has the inestimable advantage of being solidly respectable, inasmuch as it is seldom worth seeing and rarely worth reading about.”
The other golfing musical scribe was always buzzing with high energy and reportedly often ran between shots. He took his golf clubs with him on his most important journey, to Charleston, South Carolina. To clear his head between bouts at the piano writing America’s great opera Porgy & Bess, George Gershwin hit golf balls down on Folly Beach.
Who would win the inevitable match-play round at Worcestershire GC? The best card Gershwin ever turned in was 86. No question, Gershwin was the finer athlete, btw, he had an ongoing weekly tennis match with Arnold Schoenberg. Elgar possessed plenty of endurance, he biked everywhere, and even though he played with less-evolved clubs Elgar solves the enigma for many of us with each hearing of “Nimrod.”