Whygold’s Weekend

Whygold’s Weekend

… under this motto I present you my music tip for the weekend.

Maybe one or the other discovers something new.

Consciously listening to music is, in my opinion, as important as reading a good book.

Today: Elgar: Enigma Variations


Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet (b. June 2, 1857, Broadheath, near Worcester; † February 23, 1934, Worcester) was a British composer. His most famous work is the
Pomp & Circumstance March No. 1
. The middle part is also known as the hymn
Land of Hope and Glory
and is considered the most important unofficial anthem of the United Kingdom; the piece is a highlight of the annual
Last Night of the Proms

Edward Elgar was the son of music dealer, piano tuner, and organist William Henry Elgar (1821-1906) and spent his early years above his parents music shop, the Elgar Brothers’ Music Shop. He was the fourth of seven children. His mother, Ann Elgar, née Greening, had converted to the Catholic faith against her father’s wishes, and she raised her children Catholic.

Elgar played various instruments from an early age. After working briefly for a notary, he joined his father’s business. At the age of sixteen, he decided to pursue musical training. In 1877 he was admitted to the Worcester Glee Club and became the leader of the new Worcester Amateur Instrumental Society. He led the rehearsals and began to play the bassoon. He set up an atypical wind quintet with the available musicians, consisting of two flutes, oboe, clarinet and bassoon, often playing the bassoon. It played under the name “The Sunday Band” or “The Brothers Wind”. He wrote the chamber music for this instrumentation himself, simple and pleasing utility music for Sunday performance.

Early works include Promenade, with titles such as Madame Tussaud and Waxworks.

In 1877 Elgar took violin lessons in London with Adolf Politzer; as a composer he was self-taught. In 1880, violinist and friend Karl Bammert joined the group. Some quintets followed with violin instead of second flute. The group existed until 1882.

In 1882 Elgar became concertmaster in Worcester and in 1885 succeeded his father as organist at St. George Church. In 1889 he married his piano pupil Caroline Alice Roberts, moved to Malvern in Worcestershire, and lived as a freelance composer ever since. She assisted her husband in his work and acted as his “manager.”[3] The couple had a daughter, Carice (1890-1970). He first worked as bandmaster of the Attendants Orchestra at the Country Lunatic Asylum in 1879 for a salary of 32 pounds a year; in addition, there were five shillings for each polka or quadrille he composed.

His first cantatas The Black Knight (1893) and King Olaf (1896) and the oratorio The Light of Life (1896) won him recognition, but Elgar’s final breakthrough as a composer came in 1899 with his
Enigma Variations
and a year later with the oratorio
The Dream of Gerontius
for the Birmingham Triennial Music Festival. The Enigma Variations, a large-scale orchestral work with 14 character variations, each symbolizes in artfully colored instrumentation a personal characteristic of a friend of the composer and continues the great tradition of orchestral variation in 19th century music.

The Enigma Variations is an orchestral work (op. 36) by the British composer Edward Elgar. The 14 variations describe people from Elgar’s environment.

The Enigma Variations were written in 1898, when Elgar played a random melody on the piano that his wife Alice liked. In early 1899 he sent the score, which he originally called Variations on an Original Theme (the piece was given its present name Enigma (from Greek αἴνιγμα ‘riddle’) only later), to the conductor Hans Richter. It was Hans Richter who performed the work at St. James Hall in London on June 19. The Enigma Variations made Elgar internationally famous.

The variation designations contain the initials of the persons concerned:

The 1st variation (CAE; L’istesso tempo) alludes to Elgar’s wife Alice and describes the melody Elgar whistled when coming home in the evening.

The 2nd variation (HDS-P; Allegro) contains scale cascades reminiscent of the piano style of Elgar’s friend Hew David Stewart-Powell.

The 3rd variation (RBT; Allegretto) is dedicated to Richard Baxter Townshend, an eccentric actor who loved to ride tricycles.

The 4th variation (WMB; Allegro di molto) is about William Meath Baker rushing into the room to loudly announce his orders and subsequently leaving the room.

In the 5th variation (RPA; Moderato), Richard Arnold, son of the poet Matthew Arnold, muses.

The 6th variation (Ysobel; Andantino) imitates the ponderous viola playing of Isabell Fitton.

The 7th variation (Troyte; Presto), on the other hand, recalls the piano playing of Elgar’s friend Arthur Troyte Griffith.

The 8th variation (WN; Allegretto) describes Winifred Norbury, who was secretary of the Worcestershire Philharmonic Society.

The 9th variation (Nimrod; Adagio) is dedicated to August Jaeger, one of Elgar’s closest friends and promoter of his music. The name of this variation comes from a biblical passage in which Nimrod is referred to as a “mighty hunter before the Lord.” Strictly speaking, it is not his portrait, but the story of something that happened between them. By October 1898, Elgar, “very sick at heart of music,” was about to give it all up and stop writing music. His friend Jaeger tried to cheer him up by talking about Ludwig van Beethoven, who had many worries but wrote ever more beautiful music. “And that’s exactly what you have to do,” Jaeger said, then sang the theme of the second movement of the Sonata Pathétique. Elgar later revealed to Dora Penny that Nimrod’s first bars had been performed to suggest this theme. “Can’t you hear it at the beginning? Just a hint, not a quote”.

The 10th variation (Dorabella; Allegretto) recalls Dora Penny, another close friend of Elgar.

The 11th variation (GRS; Allegro di molto) describes the organist Dr. George Robertson Sinclair and his bulldog Dan, who fell into the river during a walk and managed to escape to shore.

In the 12th variation (BGN; Andante), Elgar describes his friendship with a “serious and devoted friend,” the cellist Basil Nevinson.

According to Elgar, the 13th variation (Romanza; Moderato) depicts the name of a lady “who was on a sea voyage at the time of composition,” and contains a quotation from Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s
Sea calm and happy voyage

Finally, the 14th variation (EDU; Allegro-Presto) is described by Elgar himself.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Who doesn’t know it, “Land of Hope and Glory” – “the” British anthem par excellence. But here, too, it is worthwhile to listen to other compositions of the composer, and to deal with his biography.

Have fun listening to this album !

Your Chris Weigold

P.S.: Maybe you enjoy the listening pleasure together with a glass of wine from our “Orchester der Kulturen Edition”.