“I Will Die a Man if Not a Musician”
Elgar, Brahms, and the Masculine Ideal
Edward Elgar’s image as the quintessential Victorian gentleman was carefully constructed. Throughout his life, profound anxieties concerning his class, religion, and personality led Elgar to curate an exaggerated self-presentation based on a specific set of masculine values. These values, which involved traits of emotional restraint, reticence, and nobility, were also attributed to Johannes Brahms, who, like Elgar, had often been received in gendered terms. Elgar’s compositional relationship with Brahms’s music—as well as his personal admiration for the German composer—suggests that he looked to Brahms specifically as a model in crafting his own identity as a “gentleman composer.” By following Brahms’s example as a “manly” composer defined by seriousness and traditional masculine values, Elgar was able to bolster his own desired image and position himself within the masculine musical tradition that Brahms represented.