by Elsie Gordon
bromide print, 1927
2 1/2 in. x 4 1/4 in. (63 mm x 107 mm)
Given by Jonathan Harvey, 1984
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- Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 203 Read entry
Sir Henry Wood spotted Malcolm Sargent's talent in 1921, when as pianist, composer and conductor the young man was organizing concerts in Leicestershire. He invited him to London to conduct at the Promenade Concert season of 1921, and from that time his career as a conductor accelerated rapidly. The next decade was a period of unremitting hard work and, indeed, pleasure, for Sargent liked to relax after a concert by dancing until dawn. It ended with a complete nervous breakdown in 1932, though two years later he was back at work with renewed vigour.
In his career Sargent conducted many first performances of British works, among them Walton's Belshazzar's Feast (1931) and Troilus and Cressida (1954), and achieved international recognition as an artist, though in England he never fully escaped charges of superficiality. He won an enduring place, however, in the public's affection, above all for his conducting of Messiah, for his long association with the Promenade Concerts and the Huddersfield Choral Society, and for his charm and dashing appearance.
Little is known of Elsie Gordon, an amateur photographer, who in the 1920s mixed in musical circles, and took numerous snapshots of musicians, either at rehearsal or relaxing. The Gallery owns some sixty of her prints, including a group of rare photographs of the pianist and composer Percy Grainger.