Structure[ edit ] The theme is followed by 14 variations. Elgar dedicated the piece to "my friends pictured within" and in the score each variation is prefaced the initials, name or nickname of the friend depicted. In addition, many of them contain a musical reference to a specific characteristic or event, such as a laugh, a habit of speech or a memorable conversation. The sections of the work are as follows. Theme Enigma: Andante [ edit ] The unusual melodic contours of the G minor opening theme convey a sense of searching introspection: A switch to the major key introduces a flowing motif which briefly lightens the mood before the first theme returns, now accompanied by a sustained bass line and emotionally charged counterpoints.
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See media help. During the s, Elgar gradually built up a reputation as a composer, chiefly of works for the great choral festivals of the English Midlands. The Black Knight and King Olaf , both inspired by Longfellow , The Light of Life and Caractacus were all modestly successful, and he obtained a long-standing publisher in Novello and Co.
Although he was in demand as a festival composer, he was only just getting by financially and felt unappreciated. In , he said he was "very sick at heart over music" and hoped to find a way to succeed with a larger work.
Your time of universal recognition will come. At the age of forty-two, Elgar produced the Enigma Variations , which were premiered in London under the baton of the eminent German conductor Hans Richter. Probably the best known variation is "Nimrod", depicting Jaeger. Purely musical considerations led Elgar to omit variations depicting Arthur Sullivan and Hubert Parry, whose styles he tried but failed to incorporate in the variations.
The enigma is that, although there are fourteen variations on the "original theme", there is another overarching theme, never identified by Elgar, which he said "runs through and over the whole set" but is never heard.
Richter conducted the premiere, which was marred by a poorly prepared chorus, which sang badly. The German press was enthusiastic. The Cologne Gazette said, "In both parts we meet with beauties of imperishable value.
Elgar stands on the shoulders of Berlioz, Wagner, and Liszt , from whose influences he has freed himself until he has become an important individuality. He is one of the leaders of musical art of modern times. Since the days of Liszt nothing has been produced in the way of oratorio According to Kennedy, "It is unquestionably the greatest British work in the oratorio form His colleague, Charles Villiers Stanford complained that the work "stinks of incense".
Wood , who later wrote that the audience "rose and yelled The approval of the king was confirmed, and Elgar began work. The contralto Clara Butt had persuaded him that the trio of the first Pomp and Circumstance march could have words fitted to it, and Elgar invited Benson to do so.
Elgar incorporated the new vocal version into the Ode. The publishers of the score recognised the potential of the vocal piece, "Land of Hope and Glory", and asked Benson and Elgar to make a further revision for publication as a separate song. The Times commented, "Four or five years ago if any one had predicted that the Opera-house would be full from floor to ceiling for the performance of an oratorio by an English composer he would probably have been supposed to be out of his mind.
The orchestral items were Froissart, the Enigma Variations, Cockaigne , the first two at that time the only two Pomp and Circumstance marches, and the premiere of a new orchestral work, In the South , inspired by a holiday in Italy.
Between and , he held the post of Peyton Professor of Music at the University of Birmingham. Vulgarity often goes with inventiveness You know in your own mind, in your own soul, that it is not taste at all, that it is the want of taste, that is mere evasion.
English music is white, and evades everything. He complained to Jaeger in , "My life is one continual giving up of little things which I love. Gilbert and Thomas Hardy sought to collaborate with Elgar in this decade. Elgar refused, but would have collaborated with George Bernard Shaw had Shaw been willing. His first was to conduct his music and to accept a doctorate from Yale University.
In just over a year, it received a hundred performances in Britain, America and continental Europe. Elgar wrote it during the summer of , with occasional help from W. Reed, the leader of the London Symphony Orchestra , who helped the composer with advice on technical points.
Reed recalled, "the Concerto proved to be a complete triumph, the concert a brilliant and unforgettable occasion. The following year he presented his Second Symphony in London, but was disappointed at its reception. Unlike the First Symphony, it ends not in a blaze of orchestral splendour but quietly and contemplatively.
Reed, who played at the premiere, later wrote that Elgar was recalled to the platform several times to acknowledge the applause, "but missed that unmistakable note perceived when an audience, even an English audience, is thoroughly roused or worked up, as it was after the Violin Concerto or the First Symphony. They sit there like a lot of stuffed pigs.
There Elgar composed his last two large-scale works of the pre-war era, the choral ode, The Music Makers for the Birmingham Festival, and the symphonic study Falstaff for the Leeds Festival, Both were received politely but without enthusiasm. Even the dedicatee of Falstaff, the conductor Landon Ronald , confessed privately that he could not "make head or tail of the piece,"  while the musical scholar Percy Scholes wrote of Falstaff that it was a "great work" but, "so far as public appreciation goes, a comparative failure.
He signed up as a special constable in the local police and later joined the Hampstead Volunteer Reserve of the army. There Elgar recovered his strength and, in and , he produced four large-scale works. On hearing the work in progress, Alice Elgar wrote in her diary, "E. The Manchester Guardian wrote, "This quartet, with its tremendous climaxes, curious refinements of dance-rhythms, and its perfect symmetry, and the quintet, more lyrical and passionate, are as perfect examples of chamber music as the great oratorios were of their type.
Courtesy of Musopen Problems playing this file? Lady Elgar wrote, "that brutal selfish ill-mannered bounder Whatever the explanation, the sad fact remains that never, in all probability, has so great an orchestra made so lamentable an exhibition of itself.
Reed singles out a performance of the Second Symphony in March conducted by "a young man almost unknown to the public", Adrian Boult, for bringing "the grandeur and nobility of the work" to a wider public. Phoebus ". He made large-scale symphonic arrangements of works by Bach and Handel and wrote his Empire March and eight songs Pageant of Empire for the British Empire Exhibition.
After World War II, the recording of the Violin Concerto with the teenage Menuhin as soloist remained available on 78 and later on LP , but the other recordings were out of the catalogues for some years. For this work, dedicated to the wife and daughters of the Duke of York , Elgar once again drew on his youthful sketch-books. Church, Little Malvern In his final years, Elgar experienced a musical revival.
The BBC organised a festival of his works to celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday, in His final illness, however, prevented their completion. He fretted about the unfinished works.
The Third Symphony sketches were elaborated by the composer Anthony Payne into a complete score in He told his consulting doctor, Arthur Thomson , that he had no faith in an afterlife : "I believe there is nothing but complete oblivion.
The habit of assembling his compositions, even large-scale ones, from scraps of themes jotted down randomly remained throughout his life. In this period and later, Elgar wrote songs and partsongs. Reed expressed reservations about these pieces, but praised the partsong The Snow, for female voices, and Sea Pictures , a cycle of five songs for contralto and orchestra which remains in the repertory.
Of these, McVeagh comments favourably on his lavish orchestration and innovative use of leitmotifs.
Variations on an Original Theme 'Enigma', Op.36 (Elgar, Edward)