Elgar is one of my favourite classical composers. This CD featuring his Enigma Variations is particularly rousing. My personal favourite is entitled, "Variation IX (Adagio) "Nimrod".
"Variations on an Original Theme for orchestra ("Enigma"), Op. 36, commonly referred to as the Enigma Variations, is a set of a theme and its fourteen variations written for orchestra by Edward Elgar in 1898–1899. It is Elgar's best-known large-scale composition, for both the music itself and the enigmas behind it. Elgar dedicated the piece to "my friends pictured within", each variation being an affectionate portrayal of one of his circle of close acquaintances.
Variation IX (Adagio) "Nimrod"
- Augustus J. Jaeger was employed as music editor by the London publisher Novello & Co. For a long time he was a close friend of Elgar, giving him useful advice, but also severe criticism, something Elgar greatly appreciated. Remarkably, Elgar later related on several occasions how Jaeger had encouraged him as an artist and had stimulated him to continue composing despite setbacks. The name of the variation refers to Nimrod, an Old Testament patriarch described as "a mighty hunter before the Lord" - the name Jäger being German for hunter.
- In 1904 Elgar told Dora Penny (“Dorabella”) that this variation is not really a portrait, but “the story of something that happened”. Once, when Elgar had been very depressed and was about to give it all up and write no more music, Jaeger had visited him and encouraged him to continue composing. He referred to Ludwig van Beethoven, who had a lot of worries, but wrote more and more beautiful music. “And that is what you must do”, Jaeger said and he sang the theme of the second movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 'Pathétique' Elgar disclosed to Dora that the opening bars of "Nimrod" were made to suggest that theme. “Can’t you hear it at the beginning? Only a hint, not a quotation”.
- This variation has become popular in its own right and is sometimes used at funerals, memorial services, and other solemn occasions. It is always played at the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday.