Elgar’s “Enigma Variations”: Beyond Sketches and Riddles

“A man is known by the company he keeps,” said the ancient Greek fabulist, Aesop. For Sir Edward Elgar, it was associations with a circle of friends, each with their distinct personalities and quirks, that inspired the orchestral masterwork, Variations on an Original Theme, Op.36, popularly known as the Enigma Variations. According to the story, it began on an October evening in 1898 at Elgar’s home in the Worcestershire countryside. Puffing on a …

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Elgar’s “Nimrod”: Sir Colin Davis and the LSO

Sir Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, completed in 1899, are the musical embodiment of the idea that our lives are all shaped by a close circle of friends and acquaintances. Elgar offered the following description in 1911: This work, commenced in a spirit of humour and 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 and each one attempts …

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The Triumph of Inner Voices

No, this post isn’t about following your intuition…today we’re talking about musical inner voices, those sometimes inconspicuous lines between the melody and the bass, which are often the essence of a piece’s drama. If you have any doubts about the importance of these lines, often played by violas and second violins in orchestral and string quartet repertoire, watch this short but funny clip of conductor Sergiu Celibidache rehearsing the Adagio from Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7.  Ensemble …

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