The Enigma Variations, Op. 36 is a symphonic work by Edward Elgar, based on a musical cryptogram which repeats and varies over 14 times. In fact, the suggestive name of the composition is a reference to a secret theme that is hidden throughout the piece without being played. According to Elgar himself, the Variations are a counterpoint to this mysterious theme. Over time, musicologists enjoyed tracing down this ghost of a melody: some recognised the hymn God save the queen or else Auld Lang Syne; others saw Mozart’s Symphony “Prague”; the lexicographer Hans Westgeest detected the second movement of Beethoven’s Sonata “Pathétique”; while recently, the composer Marc Geretto has suggested the famous ringtone of the Big Ben Bell Tower… The Enigma Variations, therefore, continue to fascinate due to their nature as an “open work” (U. Eco), as if they were setting a challenge to their public…
Browse recordings of Enigma Variations, Op. 36
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medici.tv is the best online platform for live streaming Elgar’s Enigma Variations, offering you a VIP ticket to the most famous productions with world-class artists captured in the best audio quality and HD video. As a musical riddle, Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations launched a challenge to their public with music built around a ghost theme which fascinated musicologists from all over the world. Structured in 14 variations around the same theme, this composition by Elgar is an insistent repetition of a fixed idea skilfully concealed by its author. What do you think? What is hiding in Elgar’s Enigma Variations, Op. 36?
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The 14 variations of the Enigma Variations are a portrait in music of the people close to its author, and eventually, of Elgar himself. The composer declares it as a work dedicated “to my friends pictured within”. The Variations start with his wife, Caroline Alice Elgar, who, according to the legend, might have inspired the composition of the work while whistling a short melody of four notes returning home. Here follows a description of Elgar’s cultural milieu, as if in spite of the differences between those people, there was something impenetrable uniting them all. Then, the Enigma Variations reveal their mystery, hidden, and yet exposed to the view of all: like a loveletter, they talk about the intimate complicity that unites all men. And for good reason, the famous writer André Aciman refers to the Enigma Variations in the title of one of his books. On the back cover, you can read the following phrase: “We may not know what we want. We may remain enigmas to ourselves and to others. But sooner or later we discover who we've always known we were.”