There are thirteen people portrayed in the Variations Elgar himself appears twice but there were several other people he considered including. It is said that Parry and Sullivan were contenders, but that Elgar rejected them, fearing that the music would descend into parody. If they were ever seriously considered, however, there is no surviving evidence of it they could hardly be called friends either. Sketches of what became Variation IV are headed I. Other than these, the subjects of variations are as we today know them, although their order took a while to establish.
He clearly intended his friends to appreciate what was happening, though, for although he hid their identities behind initials and pseudonyms, he enjoyed revealing the secrets. One of the earliest confidantes was Dora Penny Variation X: Dorabella who visited on 1st November and attended a concert with Edward and Alice.
On returning to Forli, Elgar's home at Malvern: Alice] following at a more sedate pace. Then he turned over two pages and I saw No. How on earth have you done it? Why did it remind me of him so? I do hope you like it. It might have been expected that Elgar would have included only his best, his oldest, his dearest friends, but he did not. At least one — Rosa Burley, headmistress of The Mount — was clearly annoyed by not being included; in a book about their friendship, she displays a very obvious jealousy when suggesting that she was not a variation, but the theme!
It is notable that Elgar included no friend from before his marriage, though several were friends whom Alice had introduced. It is Nimrod — alone — who represents Elgar's longing for an artistic world outside provincial musical and social life. In the end it is likely that subjects were chosen as much for a quirk of nature W. It seems such an easy question to ask: It seems that Elgar never talked of any puzzle beyond the identity of the subjects at the time he was writing the work.
Interestingly, it is in quotation marks. Several commentators have questioned why it is there at all, but Jaeger is known to have made a number of corrections, following a list supplied by the composer, in early April This was the first time Jaeger had seen the score, as it had only just arrived back from Vienna, where Hans Richter had been studying it. That same programme note, quoting Elgar, contained the puzzle that has exercised musical minds ever since the first performance: So the principal Theme never appears, even as in some late dramas … the chief character is never on the stage.
From this, it seems there are two puzzles: This would make sense of that double bar — something that is itself puzzling without such an explanation. Not only that, but the Elgar they represent is Elgar when lonely, depressed — or at least feeling sorry for himself. There are many examples to support this, but two will suffice. On 25th October he wrote to Dora Penny Dorabella:.
So you must come and tell us whether you are as nice as or only as unideal as Eh? In it, Elgar uses much self-quotation to intensify the meaning of the poem like Mahler and Strauss he was not afraid to quote himself. It is about the loneliness — the remoteness — of the creative artist, and begins: This, of course, has been the puzzle that has provided extra-musical interest for years. Those close to Elgar thought it was a well known tune, and Elgar himself encouraged this.
Thereby hangs the Enigma. Others have suggested that the whole thing was an Elgarian hoax, but again there is no supporting evidence, and too much that there was a puzzle to solve. However, no one has ever identified the larger theme conclusively. Many tunes have been suggested, with Auld Lang Syne and the Dies Irae being surprisingly the most popular. Auld Lang Syne would be emotionally right — Elgar was at a significant crossroads, and would soon be saying goodbye to the provincial life he was used to.
It has to be remembered that the work was not planned — at least, if we accept the story of its genesis. This is where Patrick Turner comes closer than anyone to what might have happened. He improvised at the piano, but a persistent tune ran through his head — perhaps it was something pupils had been playing that day.
Thus the work became a set of variations on a variation of an unplayed theme. As food for future development it is superbly balanced, with contrasting melody and rhythm, irregular phrase-lengths, and in particular the added bonus of both major and minor modes. Caroline Alice Elgar was married to the composer for thirty-one years.
Not only was she a supportive companion, she was often the driving force behind her husband's creativity — and Elgar needed pushing very often.
In the case of the Variations , she ruled the bar lines and added the instrument names in the full score, took parcels of manuscript to the post, and kept Elgar as free as possible from mundane concerns — such as moving house, which occupied the early part of Alice's variation is not only joined to the Theme, it is nearer to it musically than any other.
The fact that both oboe I and bassoon I are marked largamente independently of the prevailing tempo is notable. In , Elgar would write a substantial passage for oboe in his Symphony in E flat, where it is marked quasi ad lib. The music swells to a passionate fortissimo three bars before 4, which subsides in typical Elgarian fashion in the space of two bars, the movement ending quietly in the major. Incidentally, Elgar had second thoughts about the string textures at the beginning of C.
It is rare to see such major alterations in an Elgar full score. This was one of the earliest variations to be written, possibly the first. Huw David Steuart Powell was an amateur pianist of Alice's acquaintance who had been introduced to Edward through his marriage. He lived in London, but regularly visited Malvern where he would play chamber works with Elgar.
The variation does not represent his personality, but is a joke on the sort of warm-up exercise Powell would play, though one that was chromatic beyond his liking. Richard Baxter Townshend was the oldest of the subjects, being 52 when the Variations were written. He had known Alice for some time before she married, and had lived an adventurous life, prospecting for gold in California, cattle ranching in Texas, and writing several popular novels. The variation recalls a specific incident at a house party in Having agreed to act in a play much against his will Townshend could not cope with the voice he had adopted, with amusing results that alternated between baritone and falsetto.
This is the only variation with a repeat, which is of course always played. Elgar introduces a contrabassoon, giving it a solo for its first note. It is interesting that he also cues the part in the bass line, something he had done in Froissart — it appears that a contrabassoon could not be guaranteed in s England. Variation IV — W. Now Edward could visit their country homes, entering through the front door rather than the tradesmen's entrance, as his father the piano tuner and Elgar himself the violin teacher had been obliged to do.
One such was William Meath Baker. Like many wealthy late Victorians, he was a keen sportsman, especially a climber. He obviously had plenty of energy — the variation is the shortest about 30 seconds and one of the most energetic — and is said to depict Baker's habit of reading the day's itinerary to his guests each morning. We hear the slightly amused guests figure 13 et seq. Richard Penrose Arnold was the son of the poet Matthew Arnold.
He and Elgar met when the composer took up a new hobby in the early s — golf Basil Nevinson and Hew Steuart Powell were also golfing partners. It is here, in the woodwind and horns in the second bar of Incidentally, the first bar of 16 is a passage that can establish a conductor's Elgarian credentials — or not. For the groups of six notes played by the flute all based on theme B cannot in fact be played too literally. Each group needs the slightest stringendo over the first four notes and a subtle holding back on the last two.
This needs to be instinctive above all else, for to overdo the effect, or to play the passage as written, simply does not sound like Elgar. Elgar did originally provide a pause bar to finish the movement, but crossed it out, adding attacca into the next, so that the variation now ends with a dark-hued passage against soft trombones. It is worth studying the scoring of the last two bars, in particular the changing colours in the woodwind. Elgar had known the Fitton family most of his life. Isabel Fitton was a violist who had taken lessons with the composer, although she eventually stopped having them, saying that she valued her friendship with Elgar too highly!
She became one of the two secretaries of the Worcestershire Philharmonic Society when it was formed in Isabel was herself tall, a fact that may be suggested by the wide leaps of the viola solo. The variation is, however, an exercise in crossing strings on the viola that is, moving from one string to the next-but-one without touching the intervening string — something that Isabel Fitton did not find easy.
The B theme is given more prominence in this delicately scored variation. So far, Elgar has featured woodwind instruments in several solo passages, plus a viola solo. This variation is a virtuoso display for the timpani. Arthur Troyte Griffith was an architect and theatrical designer, who was secretary of the Malvern Concert Club. He was one of Elgar's more recent acquaintances, but the two men formed a close friendship that lasted until the composer's death in Percussion other than timpani are used for the first time.
The timpani are tuned to octave Gs and C, leaving one to ponder just how difficult it must have been to reach a secure high G on hand-tuned timpani with calf heads in ! Winifred Norbury was the other of the two secretaries of the Worcestershire Philharmonic Society. However, there is another laugh at 31 as a variant of theme B and Dora Penny saw the whole as a characterisation of Winifred's rather determined and persistent character.
Winifred was particularly helpful to Elgar, for instance by copying orchestral parts. His own recording, made in , takes the movement at , which seems perfect. Maybe Elgar's maths was to blame!
First violins sustain G from the last chord of Variation VIII, where it was the tonic, and hold the note for the magical shift to E flat with the entrance of the full body of strings — the first time this key has been established rather than hinted at. So begins the best known movement, one that has achieved a separate existence as one of the great adagios of music. Indeed, in Britain it has the status of an anthem for the national expression of grief, being played at state funerals such as those of Winston Churchill and Princess Diana and annually at the Remembrance Day parade in Whitehall.
It is a sort of solemn companion to Land of Hope and Glory. The irony is not only that it has nothing to do with grief but, like the tune of Land of Hope and Glory , it dedicated to a German. His family had moved to London when he was 18, a reaction to the conservative nationalism of the new German Empire under Bismarck.
Their earliest surviving correspondence is from August , when Jaeger wrote praising the Te Deum and Benedictus that Elgar had written for the Hereford Festival. Jaeger did see it, and over the remaining 12 years of his life he became Elgar's closest and most respected musical friend.
His was an influence beyond friendship. He was directly responsible for Elgar's making major structural changes to his works — most notably during the composition of The Dream of Gerontius , but also of the Variations. Of all Elgar's friends, Jaeger was the one with a grasp of the Englishman's true stature and genius comparable with that of Alice Elgar.
More than once, Jaeger interrupted a period of Elgarian despondency and self-pity to focus the composer's thoughts on composition, and Variation IX recalls one such occasion. Exactly when this was is not clear, but during the summer of seems likely. Jaeger took time to remind Elgar that Beethoven had produced some of his greatest works after fits of depression. Just try it with G instead of F! The climax is actually on the second beat of 37, after which Elgar allows just two beats for the music to subside to pianissimo — typical of Elgar's habit of suddenly withdrawing into himself. Traumerei am Meeresufer arr.
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Traum durch die Dammerung. Danses sacree et profane: Danse profante version for harp and strings.
Variations on an Original Theme, Op. Martin in the Fields. Verklarte Nacht Transfigured Night , Op.
Adagio molto tranquillo version for string orchestra. More By Pinchas Steinberg. Un bal from Symphonie fantastique, Op.
Schlaf ein, mein blond Engelein arr. Romanze in B flat major, Op. Variation II — H. Others have suggested that the whole thing was an Elgarian hoax, but again there is no supporting evidence, and too much that there was a puzzle to solve. Dora stotterte leicht; darauf spielen im zweiten Takt die Oboen und Klarinetten an. He had been considering a symphony, but this fact was not well known and in any case it was intended for the Three Choirs Festival at Worcester in , conducted either by its composer or by the chief festival conductor, the organist of Worcester Cathedral, his friend Ivor Atkins.
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