Showcase March-April 2014 - page 18

theme “Enigma” and stating that “its ‘dark saying’
must be left unguessed.” Hans Richter conducted the
first performance in London on June 19, 1899, and
the
Enigma
Variations quickly established Elgar’s
reputation.
portraits in music—and the composer’s voice
In these concerts, a narrator shares observations in
Elgar’s own words, adding to the music’s charming
depiction of late-Victorian England, with its civilized
manners, garden parties, friends bicycling over for a
visit, and long steamer trips abroad.
Theme: Enigma.
Strings alone announce the noble, wistful
theme, which Elgar marks
molto espressivo
. The music
leads directly into:
I. C.A.E.
This is a gentle portrait of the composer’s
wife, Caroline Alice Elgar, musically similar to the first
statement of the theme.
II. H.D.S.-P.
Hew David Steuart-Powell was a piano
teacher; this variation, marked
Allegro
, echoes his
practicing staccato runs.
III. R.B.T.
Elgar described Richard Baxter Townshend as
“an amiable eccentric.”
IV. W.M.B.
The variation for WilliamMeath Baker, a bluff
and peremptory country squire, thunders past in barely
30 seconds.
V. R.P.A.
Elgar described Richard Penrose Arnold, son
of Matthew Arnold, as a “gentleman of the old school”
and represents him with a noble violin line and flights of
fancy from the woodwinds.
VI. Ysobel.
Isabel Fitton, a viola player, is gently depicted
via an exercise in string-crossing for violists.
VII. Troyte.
Arthur Troyte Griffith was an argumentative
architect. His
Presto
variation features
brillante
runs from
the violins and ends with the sound of a slamming door.
VIII. W.N.
Winnifred Norbury, a dignified older
acquaintance of the Elgars, is heard in a “trilly laugh,” but
some believe it actually pictures her family home.
IX. Nimrod.
August Jaeger was one of Elgar’s closest
friends and supporters; “Jaeger” (
Jäger
) is German
Program Notes
mar 13, 14, 15
for hunter, and Nimrod was the mighty hunter in the
Biblical book of Genesis. This noble slow movement is
sometimes performed separately as a memorial. Strings
alone announce the theme, which grows to a triumphant
climax and subsides to end quietly.
X. Dorabella.
Dora Penny was a friend whose slight
stammer is represented in the music as a brief hesitation
at the start of each woodwind phrase. Elgar renamed
her Dorabella for this variation, after the character in
Così fan tutte
.
XI. G.R.S.
The variation for George Robertson Sinclair,
the organist at the Hereford Cathedral, features
the sound of his bulldog Dan in the growling lower
instruments, and the tinkling sound of his bicycle bell in
the triangle.
XII. B.G.N.
Basil Nevinson was a cellist, and noble
solos for that instrument open and close this cantabile
variation.
XIII. (***) Romanza.
Lady Mary Lygon was on a
steamship to Australia when Elgar wrote this music, and
he remembered her with a variation that suggests the
sound of the ship’s vibrating engines as side drum sticks
roll softly on the timpani. Over this low rumble, Elgar
quotes Mendelssohn’s
Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage
Overture, putting quotation marks around the excerpt in
his score.
XIV. E.D.U.
“Edu” was his wife’s nickname for the
composer, and this musical self-portrait, by turns
powerful, striving and gentle, was “written at a time when
friends were dubious and generally discouraged as to
the composer’s musical future.” Along the way we hear
the whistle Elgar used to announce his arrival at home;
he also weaves in a reminiscence of his wife’s variations
before the music drives to a triumphant close.
Instrumentation:
2 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons,
contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani,
organ, bass drum, cymbals, snare drum, triangle and strings
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