Philharmonia Orchestra - Elgar Enigma Variations

Philharmonia Orchestra - Elgar Enigma Variations

Catalogue Code: 782102

Barcode: 5050457821029

Release Date: 22 Aug 2011

This record provides us with a substantial and revealing introduction to Elgar's music, the music of the Edwardian imperialist who loved his friends in the West Country, loved the Malvern Hills and Piccadilly, loved tradition and ceremony...the "Nimrod" Variation should suggest that Elgar had an intense spiritual streak, the trio tunes of the marches that he could write for voices, Cockaigne that he was a master of form and Enigma of character portrayal; and if the autumnal sublimity of the slow movement and epilogue to the 'cello concerto is nowhere else to be found in his music, there is a hint of what was to come in the "B.G.N." and "..." Variations. Yes, there is much of the essential Elgar here. The earliest of these works is the Enigma Variations, written in the spring of 1899, and destined to set Elgar in the front rank of English composers, as a composer fit to be noticed by foreign musicians as well as by his compatriots. Elgar...worked out these character variations thoroughly, and Hans Richter conducted their first performance in June, 1899. Where then is the Enigma of the title? Elgar revealed that with the theme of the variations another theme goes, but what it was he refused to say. Many ingenious people have suggested solutions, none wholly satisfactory - one is more acceptable than the others, which is that the Enigmatic counter-theme is the spirit of friendship. The overture Cockaigne is subtitled "In London Town". Cockaigne was a cloud-cuckoo land, but Elgar intends a pun on Cockneydom. Formally regular, it depicts the bustle of Town, introduces us to a pair of lovers who wander about its streets, and watches them pursued by jeering small boys (the lover's tune speeded up), brought to a halt by a military band, wandering for quietness into a church, meeting the band again, and finally lost in the hubbub. There are six Pomp and Circumstance Marches, cast in the form which English composers have since followed in their own essays. The prototype, No. 1 in D is familiar for the tune of its trio, later to be used in the Coronation Ode as "Land of Hope and Glory". The G major March, in many ways more polished than its D major companion, has another fine trio tune, almost as popular, though A. P. Herbert's words for it have never stuck to it. Imperialism is not popular nowadays, but these Marches are still as fresh as a gusty breeze, and their tunes as heart-stirring as any call to loyal English hearts. Notes by William Mann

1. Enigma, Variation, Op. 36: Theme (Andante) / Variations 1 - 14
2. Cockaigne, Overture, Op. 40
3. Pomp And Circumstance March No. 1 In D Major, Op. 39
4. Pomp And Circumstance March No. 4 In G Major, Op. 39