By David Pownall.
The reaction to his Second Symphony, and the Rondo in particular, only heightened the doubts and fears which plagued Elgar for much of his creative life.
Later, while struggling to express in music the horror of the First World War, his family and admirers endeavour to help him re-ignite his creative spark.
In an English country garden Elgar is hiding away from failure, heartbroken by the bad reception given to his second symphony. Only three years earlier he had been hailed as England's answer to Beethoven and loaded with honours. Although the piano-tuner's son is now famous, knighted and wealthy, he cannot rise above criticism of the one piece of music he has written that is most detectably him. He receives sympathy from every quarter - his wife, his ghosts, his dream-woman, his priest, his friends, even his king.
The guns in Flanders can be heard in the Sussex garden but Elgar cannot respond. He refuses to go through the sufferings and mental dangers that being a creative artist expose him to. He wants to be himself first and a servant of music's terrible duty second. Taking this choice, he imagines he will be free from pain - but the muse knows better.