Sir Edward Elgar’s Symphony No. 1 in A-flat major, Op. 55 is one of his two completed symphonies. The first performance was given by the Hallé Orchestra conducted by Hans Richter in Manchester, England, on 3 December 1908. It was widely known that Elgar had been planning a symphony for more than ten years, and the announcement that he had finally completed it aroused enormous interest. The critical reception was enthusiastic, and the public response unprecedented. The symphony achieved what The Musical Times described as “immediate and phenomenal success”, with a hundred performances in Britain, continental Europe and America within just over a year of its première.
The symphony is regularly programmed by British orchestras, and features occasionally in concert programmes in North America and Europe. It is well represented on record, with recordings ranging from the composer’s 1931 version with the London Symphony Orchestra to modern digital recordings, of which more than 20 have been issued since the mid 1980s.