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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Turn of the 20th Century > Variations. Op. 1a. ("Enigma Variations") - Elgar


Variations. Op. 1a. ("Enigma Variations")

Edward Elgar
(1857-1934)



The "Variations," op. 36, or, as the composer himself styles the main theme, the "Enigma," was first performed in London in 1899. the score comprises a theme and fourteen variations, and is dedicated to fourteen of his friends.

Each of the "Variations" is headed by the initials of the friend to whom it refers, nut it is not easy, considering the concealed identity of the friends, to understand their idiosyncrasies from the musical description. Its opening theme is strong and expressive, and the succeeding variations are sketched in a masterly manner, some of them powerful, bold, and heroic, others vivacious, animated, and tranquil, and now and then one so graceful in its melodiousness as to indicate that it represents one of the gentler sex. The final variation is one of great brilliancy and broad scoring, serving as a climax to the other thirteen. As the composer takes all his music seriously, there is very little sentiment and still less humor in these sketches. His fourteen friends, judged by their musical portraits, are fourteen serious persons, genial, refined, and intellectual.





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