Edward Elgar composed his Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36, popularly known as the Enigma Variations, between October 1898 and February 1899. It is an orchestral work comprising fourteen variations on an original theme.

Elgar dedicated the work "to my friends pictured within", each variation being a musical sketch of one of his circle of close acquaintances (see musical cryptogram). Those portrayed include Elgar's wife Alice, his friend and publisher Augustus J. Jaeger and Elgar himself. In a programme note for a performance in 1911 Elgar wrote:

In naming his theme "Enigma" Elgar posed a challenge which has generated much speculation but has never been conclusively answered. The Enigma is widely believed to involve a hidden melody.

After its 1899 London premiere the Variations achieved immediate popularity and established Elgar's international reputation. The work has been recorded over 60 times.

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Performances & Interviews


Upcoming BBC Events featuring Enigma Variations

Proms 2019: Prom 35: Enigma Variations
https://www.bbc.co.uk/events/e6wxp6
Royal Albert Hall
2019-08-13T04:21:58
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/208x117/p075vs8g.jpg


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