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Elgar's "Smoking Cantata"

American Broadcast Premiere for Composer's Brief Work

Etching of Edward Elgar smoking

Etching of Edward Elgar smoking hide caption

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British Composer Edward Elgar (1857-1934), perhaps best known for his moving work, the "Enigma Variations," loved a good cigar. In 1919, Elgar went to stay with a friend who was not as fond of tobacco, asking the composer to refrain from smoking in certain areas of his home.

The incident became somewhat of an inside joke between host and guest, and Elgar later decided to create a good-natured sendup: his 40-second "Smoking Cantata." The work has only recently been discovered — in the estate of the host, who recently died — and NPR's Performance Today is proud to present its American broadcast premiere, courtesy of the BBC.

The cantata is performed by baritone Andrew Shore and the Halle Orchestra conducted by Mark Elder. The entire text of the cantata is as follows: "Kindly, kindly, kindly do not smoke in the hall or staircase."

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