The Wand of Youth

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The Wand of Youth Suites No. 1 & No. 2 are works for full orchestra by the English composer Edward Elgar. The titles given them by Elgar were, in full:

 Music to a Child's Play
        (First Suite)
         (Op. 1A:)


 Music to a Child's Play
      (Second Suite)
         (Op. 1B:)


As a boy Elgar composed some tunes for use in a play staged by the young members of the Elgar family. He noted the tunes down in a sketchbook and in 1907, four decades later, he arranged the music as the two Wand of Youth suites. Elgar also used material from some of the dance music he wrote when as a young man he was employed at what was then the Worcester City and County Lunatic Asylum, now Powick Hospital. He gave the suites the opus number 1 in recognition that they were his earliest surviving compositions, albeit now scored for full orchestra with the mature Elgar’s mastery of orchestration. Many years later Benjamin Britten followed Elgar’s precedent using his own juvenilia as the basis of his Simple Symphony.

The two suites were published by Novello & Co. in 1908.

First Suite[edit]

The First Suite is dedicated 'To my friend C. Lee Williams'.[1]

It consists of seven sections:

1. Overture
2. Serenade
3. Minuet (Old Style)
4. Sun Dance
5. Fairy Pipers
6. Slumber Scene
7. Fairies and Giants

It was first performed at the Queen's Hall, London on 14 December 1907, conducted by Henry Wood.

It is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (both in B & A), 2 bassoons, 4 horns in F, 2 trumpets (both in B & C), 3 trombones, tuba, timpani (3), 2 percussionists (with bass drum & cymbals, triangle & snare drum), harp and string section. Not all players are employed in all sections.

Second Suite[edit]

The Second Suite is dedicated 'To Hubert A. Leicester, Worcester'.[2]

It has six sections:

1. March
2. The Little Bells (Scherzino)
3. Moths and Butterflies (Dance)
4. Fountain Dance
5. The Tame Bear
6. The Wild Bears

It was first performed at Worcester (as part of the Three Choirs Festival) on 9 September 1908, conducted by the composer.

It is scored for 2 flutes (2nd player with piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (both in B & A), 2 bassoons, 4 horns in F, 2 trumpets in B , 3 trombones, tuba, timpani (3), 3 percussionists (with tambourine, bass drum & cymbals, side drum & triangle), harp and string section. Not all players play in all sections.

Selective discography[edit]

The suites are not regularly programmed in the concert hall, but their length is well suited to recordings, and they have been recorded under the baton of the composer and by several later conductors. In the era of the Long Playing record the suites (each lasting under 20 minutes) fit conveniently on an LP side; in the CD era the suites have continued to be recorded, usually in tandem with other shorter pieces by Elgar such as the Nursery Suite.




  • Reed, W. H., Elgar, J M Dent & Sons Ltd, London, 1939
  • Notes to recordings listed above by LPO/Boult and RLPO/Handley


  1. ^ Charles Lee Williams, Mus.B. was a former organist of Gloucester Cathedral, nicknamed the 'Father of the Three Choirs'.
  2. ^ Hubert Leicester was a boyhood friend of the composer, who played the clarinet in Elgar's wind quintet while young Edward played the bassoon and cello.

External links[edit]