Classical Sunday: Elgar’s Enigma Variations

A performance highly praised by the commentators on YouTube.


Edward Elgar – Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma), Op. 36 (1898)

Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, 11 November 2017
00:35 Theme (Enigma: Andante)
02:18 Variation I (L’istesso tempo) “C.A.E.”
04:12 Variation II (Allegro) “H.D.S-P.”
05:04 Variation III (Allegretto) “R.B.T.”
06:30 Variation IV (Allegro di molto) “W.M.B.”
07:14 Variation V (Moderato) “R.P.A.”
09:55 Variation VI (Andantino) “Ysobel”
11:24 Variation VII (Presto) “Troyte”
12:37 Variation VIII (Allegretto) “W.N.”
14:46 Variation IX (Adagio) “Nimrod”
19:36 Variation X (Intermezzo: Allegretto) “Dorabella”
22:02 Variation XI (Allegro di molto) “G.R.S.”
23:09 Variation XII (Andante) “B.G.N.”
26:47 Variation XIII (Romanza: Moderato) ” * * * ”
30:19 Variation XIV (Finale: Allegro) “E.D.U.”

Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
Jacek Kaspszyk – conductor

Elgar’s Enigma Variations are an interesting piece of music since it is a musical cryptogram, that is, each variation is a musical sketch of one of Elgar’s circle of close acquaintances.

From the Wiki entry on Elgar’s Enigma Variations:

In a programme note for a performance in 1911 Elgar wrote:

This work, commenced in a spirit of humour & continued in deep seriousness, contains sketches of the composer’s friends. It may be understood that these personages comment or reflect on the original theme & each one attempts a solution of the Enigma, for so the theme is called. The sketches are not ‘portraits’ but each variation contains a distinct idea founded on some particular personality or perhaps on some incident known only to two people. This is the basis of the composition, but the work may be listened to as a ‘piece of music’ apart from any extraneous consideration.

2 comments on “Classical Sunday: Elgar’s Enigma Variations”

  1. Elgar was born just a few miles from where I live and his music seems to move through the country. His biographer, Gerald Northrop Moore, argued that the shape of the Malvern Hills can be found in it. I want Nimrod to be played at my funeral.

    Liked by 1 person

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