Edward Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme, op.36 or 'Enigma' Variations as they are known today was the first work to bring the composer to public recognition.
This is the full score of the work in the composer’s own handwriting. The title page shows the dedication to Elgar’s ‘friends pictured within’ as well as the date he began working on the score in February 1899 and the day it was finished (although we know from a letter to his friend August Jaeger that he had sketched the variations as early as October 1898).
The title page also bears a note at the bottom concerning the first performance of the Variations: ‘Hans Richter under whose conducting the first performance of this fine work took place at St. James’s Hall, 19 June 1899, London’.
The pages here show the Theme, and the first page of Variations I, IX, XI, and XIV, which depict Elgar’s wife, his close friend August Jaeger (nicknamed ‘Nimrod’), a bulldog named Dan that belonged to George Robertson Sinclair (the organist of Hereford Cathedral), and Elgar himself. The last page shows the closing bars of the Finale, with Elgar’s signature and the note: ‘Great is the art of beginning, but greater the art is of ending’.
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- Jeremy Dibble
- Music and words, Music and place, Performance and reception, Music, politics and society
Jeremy Dibble gives an overview of British composers in the early 20th century and their context.
- Article by:
- Julian Rushton
- Performance and reception, Musical style, Music and place, Creative process
Julian Rushton discusses the early history of Elgar’s ‘Enigma’ Variations.