The day the Queen forgot Elgar

The day the Queen forgot Elgar


norman lebrecht

June 08, 2016

Her Majesty the Queen, who has turned 90, has allowed BBC Radio 2 to publish her ten favourite pieces of music (below).

All of them are pop songs or church hymns.

No great surprises there. But in a recent award of the Queen’s Medal for music to the composer Oliver Knussen, she detained Ollie for several minutes with childhood reminiscences of Edward Elgar, who wrote a Nursery Suite for the birth of her sister and for whom she retained a lifelong affection. She followed that recollection with memories of six generations of British composers. Her Maj knows much more music than BBC Radio 2 can possibly imagine.

knussen queen elizabeth

The Queen’s 10 favourite pieces of music (according to Radio 2):

– Oklahoma! by Howard Keel

– Anything You Can Do (Annie Get Your Gun) by Dolores Gray and Bill Johnson

– Sing by Gary Barlow and the Commonwealth Band featuring the Military Wives

– Cheek to Cheek by Fred Astaire

– The White Cliffs Of Dover by Vera Lynn

– Leaning on a Lamp-post by George Formby

– Praise, My Soul, The King Of Heaven (hymn)

– The Lord is My Shepherd (hymn)

– Lester Lanin Medley

– Regimental March Milanollo

knussen queen elizabeth

photo: David Sillitoe/press pool


  • Olassus says:

    Such bad, bad taste! When is Charles taking over?

    • Richard Slack says:

      Charles will be worse, he is devotee of John Tavener (20th century one)

      • La Verita says:

        Charles is a classical music devotee – he’s an enthusiastic amateur cellist, and he maintains friendships with several of the best known concert artists.

    • Halldor says:

      If you believe that a love of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Irving Berlin and the New English Hymnal indicate bad taste, you’re not really competent to judge…

      • Olassus says:

        – Oklahoma! / by … Rodgers, 1943

        – Anything You Can Do / by … Berlin, 1946

        – Sing / by … Barlow and Lloyd Webber, 2012

        – Cheek to Cheek / by … Berlin, 1935

        – The White Cliffs of Dover / by … Kent, 1941

        – Leaning On a Lamp-Post / by … Gay, 1937

        – Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven / by … Goss, 1868

        – The Lord’s My Shepherd / by … Irvine, 1872

        – It’s De-Lovely / by … Porter, 1936

        – Milanollo-Marsch / by … Hamm, 1840

      • Alexander says:

        Not a fan of the New English Hymnal myself. All of the best Anglican hymns have been appropriated from Catholics or Lutherans or were originally folk songs.

    • Jaybuyer says:

      Wot, no Mahler?


    NO! Norman is right. Both The Queen and Prince Charles are far more au fait with classical music than people want her to be….

  • MacroV says:

    Can’t fault her for liking Oklahoma, probably the greatest musical ever. And Howard Keel! Wonder if she knows about his late-career stint on Dallas.

    • Nigel says:

      Musicals are rubbish by definition. Pretentious pop music trying to sound a bit “classical & classy”. Another sad example of the “americanisation” of Britain.
      The queen’s taste… Well, like most varnished aged ignorants, she shows a banal taste and “covered in dandruff”.

  • Halldor says:

    Can someone tell me which pop chart featured the regimental march of the Coldstream Guards? Or what number it is in the hymn book?

  • Una says:

    Charles was at the Ring incognito as himself when I was there once in London. Some practising musicians I know wouldn’t just go to the Ring, they wouldn’t go to hear any singer. I can’t vouch for the Queen’s taste in music but Charles for sure is very knowledgeable, and plays the cello well.

  • herrera says:

    Of course that’s not the Queen’s real list. She is there to represent the people, not to reveal to them what she sings in the shower. (I bet she sings Adele in her private karaoke bar in the basement of Buckingham palace.)

    • John Borstlap says:

      According to a reliable and financially accessible source at Buckingham Palace, what the Queen really likes, is [redacted]. Who would EVER have thought that!

  • Jaybuyer says:

    Who is Lester Lanin (Medley)?

    • Olassus says:

      Maybe this:

      Starts with Porter, ends with Berlin. Not an “intelligent” choice. Perhaps she danced to it?

      • Una says:

        The Queen is known by us all here to have been an absolute fabulous dancer in her time. You too will have been told if you had published your list of music that it was, oh, ‘in such bad, bad taste!’. It was for a Radio 2 audience, which is fundamentally an ‘easy listening’ type of audience and even I listen to when I’m driving or similar. If it had been Desert Island Discs on Radio 4, then she would not only have had a list, but also given us some background as to why she chose each piece, and probably a very different list. So unfair and some what very unkind to say ‘bad taste’ and assume the Queen has no taste in music. And so what if she doesn’t have Elgar. A very happy official birthday, Ma’am, and enjoy many more years of whatever you want and like.

  • Una says:

    A very nice interview done by Bruce Duffie in Chicago when Lord Harewood, the Queen’s cousin. Note it’s pronounced Harwood when you’re talking about him, as opposed to Harewood (as in ‘hair’) House, the estate in Yorkshire! The BBC perpetually get rung up about it – one of those lovely illogical British quirks in the way we pronounce our English language!

  • Nigel says:

    How can we keep such undemocratic, such indecent exhibition of inequality, institution in the 21th century and don’t feel ashamed?
    Down with monarchy and privileges by birth. Republic for Britain, now!