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In the South (Alassio), Op. 50, is a concert overture composed by Edward Elgar during a family holiday in Italy in the winter of 1903 to 1904. More than twenty minutes long, it may also be considered a "tone poem".

The work is dedicated "To my friend Leo F. Schuster".[1]



The subtitle "Alassio" refers to the town on the Italian Riviera where Elgar and his family stayed. He strolled around during the visit, and his general location within the Province of Savona came to provide him with sources of inspiration. He later recalled:

Then in a flash, it all came to me – the conflict of the armies on that very spot long ago, where I now stood – the contrast of the ruin and the shepherd – and then, all of a sudden, I came back to reality. In that time I had composed the overture – the rest was merely writing it down.[2]

The première of the work was given by the Hallé Orchestra on 16 March 1904, the third day of an "Elgar Festival" at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.[3] It was to have been conducted by Hans Richter, but as Elgar did not have the score ready in time for Richter to study it before the performance, Elgar conducted the orchestra himself. Frank Schuster was with the Elgars at the première.

Theodore Thomas led the U.S. premiere with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on November 4, 1904.[4]


In the piece, the central serenade is played by a solo viola (Excerpt). However, in July of the same year, Elgar took this section from the piece and fitted it to a poem by Shelley as a song under the title In Moonlight. Later he made several instrumental versions titled "Canto Popolare".[5]



The piece is about 20 minutes long. The main descending theme is echoed throughout the sections of the orchestra all through the piece. The viola solo is of particular note due partly to its length, being on such an underused instrument, but also because of the contrast it creates with the rest of the piece which is very bold. There are large legato passages between the strings and horns, and the rest of the brass add tremendous excitement in the middle of the piece with loud chords separated by large intervals.


The work is written for a full symphony orchestra consisting of 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, 3 timpani, percussion (bass drum, cymbals, side drum, triangle and glockenspiel), harp and the string section.[1]



  1. ^ a b "Full Score, Elgar: In The South" (PDF). Novello & Co., London. 1904. Retrieved 2014-06-30.
  2. ^ Moore 1984, p. 427.
  3. ^ Kennedy 1987, p. 347.
  4. ^ Elgar’s In the South (Alassio). Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Rosenthal Archives. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  5. ^ Kennedy 1987, p. 218: "Elgar was asked by Novello's [in 1904] to make various arrangements of the Canto popolare section. So it appeared, subtitled In Moonlight ... There was a song also called In Moonlight ... for which Elgar fitted lines from a poem (1822) by Shelley."


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