Evening Concert

Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations central to tonight’s “Evening Concert” from the CSO


Tonight at 7:00 on the “Evening Concert” on WILL-FM 90.9 Donald Runnicles guest conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations. Also on the program: Britten’s “Sinfonia da Requiem” and Strauss’ “Death and Transfiguration”.

Tuesday December 6: Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO 16-49)

Runnicles conducts the Enigma Variations

Britten: Sinfonia da Requiem

Strauss: Death and Transfiguration

Elgar: Enigma Variations

[CSO fill: Dvóřak: Violin Concerto (Christian Tetzlaff, violin; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor)]

here's a bit of what Elgar had to say about the work: "

“Commenced in a spirit of humour & continued in deep seriousness,” is how Elgar later described the genesis of the work that would make all the difference in his life. He was in his forties and still had to scrape together a living with long hours of teaching and hackwork for his publisher. When he finished the Variations, he sent the score to the great German conductor Hans Richter, who agreed to introduce the work in London. Richter’s advocacy meant a lot. A famed interpreter of both Wagner and Brahms, he had been active and adored in England since the late 1870s. The Variations proved a landmark, not just for Elgar, but for English music.

Elgar presented two mysteries, the identity of the “friends pictured within” and something darker at which he hinted in his program note. The first of these was easy, each friend save one being identified by initials or a nickname. As for the other, Elgar wrote, “The enigma I will not explain—its ‘dark saying’ must be left unguessed, and I warn you that the apparent connection 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—so the principal Theme never appears. . . .”"

(source: Michael Steinberg, the San Francisco Symphony’s program annotator, at https://www.sfsymphony.org/Watch-Listen-Learn/Read-Program-Notes/Program-Notes/ELGAR-Enigma,-Variations-on-an-Original-Theme,-Opu.aspx