Loneliness, a sense of nothingness yet combined with great idealism and ambition – all that was true of Elgar. Since the ’Enigma’ Variations first appeared there has been endless speculation as to whether some musical riddle is contained in that ’Enigma’ theme: cryptogram perhaps, or a scrambled reference to the well-known tune ’Auld Lang Syne’ has been suggested. However ingenious or entertaining the results, surely this misses the point. The Variations may begin with ’nothing’, the lonely, melancholic, selfdoubting artist; but they progress to something very different: a depiction of the artist in triumph: in the Finale, ’EDU’ (’Edu’ was Alice’s nickname for Elgar), we see the man who has indeed made something of himself. And it is a musical journey through friendship – the 13 vivid musical portraits of his closest friends that build up to the Finale – which has enabled Elgar to reach that longed-for goal.
TracklistPlease note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Total time: 00:47:54
|Original Recording Format|
Jonathan Stokes, Neil Hutchinson – Classic Sound Ltd
Barbican, London England
|Recording Type & Bit Rate|
|Release Date||July 8, 2016|
Newton-Rex contends that the relationship of Elgar’s famous “Original Theme” to the melody at the beginning of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater is not one of the theme-and-variations (in other words, Elgar’s opening tune is not a variation of Pergolesi’s opening tune); but rather, the relationship is that of counterpoint.
That is to say, Elgar’s opening tune should be thought of as a counterpoint to Pergolesi’s opening tune—they were meant to be played in parallel at the same time. At least for the purpose of coming up with an “original theme.”
This sleight of hand—that a counterpoint to a hidden (not played) theme is itself the theme for perhaps the most famous set of orchestral variations, fits in with much else we know of Elgar’s personality. It really is worth your time to click on the link for the intellectual pleasure of following Newton-Rex’s argument.
One thing that I would like to add to what Newton-Rex says is that, I think that it is fair to say that Elgar’s relation to Catholicism was of the “Love/Despair” variety. While Elgar’s faith was very important to him and to his creative output, it also must be remembered that when Elgar was growing up, Catholics were under legal restrictions, the relevant one to this discussion is that Elgar, as a Catholic, could not attend a University.
Elgar always rued his lack of formal training. But it apparently never occurred to him that had he had “the best teachers,” he might have turned out like any number of almost-forgotten British composers known only to a few choirs and chorus members.
So, Pergolesi’s take on the Crucifixion as the “dark secret” Elgar referred to makes a lot of sense to me. Elgar was shoving Catholicism right under the noses of the British class structure, and they were too self-absorbed to see it or hear it. Which also makes sense as a reason for Elgar’s never revealing the secret.
There are more than 100 Enigma performances currently available. I can’t offhand think of a bad one. But the newcomer Vasily Petrenko has been getting lots of good press. DSD fans should snap up Sir Colin Davis’ 2008 LSO Live performance!
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