Fourteen variations on an original theme: it seems easy, boring, even – but the great mastery of Edward Elgar turned it into one of the most famous works of the British repertoire.

An evening spent at the piano and the musical ear of his wife (who asked him to repeat a specific melody): that’s all Elgar needed to compose his ‘Enigma Variations‘. What began as a simple movement grew, as he improvised, into a theme as well as the first variation in which Elgar depicted his friend Billy Baker. This ‘joke’ ultimately led to 14 musical portraits of Elgar’s entire circle of friends.

The title ‘Enigma’ this refers not only to the quest to identify which person lurks behind each variation, but also hints to the original (and hidden) theme on which all the variations are based. The initials or nicknames in the titles help find the friends depicted – but the theme is not played, and has been the subject of speculation for a hundred years: Elgar took the secret with him to the grave.

"The Enigma I will not explain – its 'dark saying' must be left unguessed, and I warn you that the connexion between the Variations and the Theme is often of the slightest texture; further, through and over the whole set another and larger theme 'goes', but is not played..." - Edward Elgar


Franz Schubert
Die Zauberharfe. Ouvertüre C-Dur D 644 “Rosamunde”

Alban Berg
Konzert für Violine und Orchester “Dem Andenken eines Engels”
soloist: Veronika Eberle, violin

Edward Elgar
Variations on an Original Theme for orchestra, op. 36 “Enigma”

Discover LSO with Sir Adrian Boult: Boult recorded many of Elgar's works together with the composer.

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bbc soul music

Composed as part of the Enigma Variations, Nimrod was inspired by Elgar's friend and music editor, Augustus Jaeger. In this podcast Jaeger's granddaughter talks about her grandfather.

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symfomania! (8+)

Playing, singing, drawing, listening... and mostly: enjoying Elgar’s music! Discover this fun kit for young music loving do-it-yourselfers.

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the story behind

Elgar’s Enigma Variations is one of the greatest pieces of the 19th century – and this is the true story about how it came about.

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this is elgar

Enjoy almost seven hours of music by Elgar in this Spotify playlist.

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🎟️🎫 €43 > €12,5

Venue: Concertgebouw Brugge

Location: ’t Zand 34 | 8000 Bruges
Phone: +32 70 22 12 12

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