Event

UC Davis Symphony Orchestra:
Music of Edward Elgar

Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center

Christian Baldini, music director and conductor

Works by Sir Edward Elgar—

Introduction and Allegro
Jolán Friedhoff and Dagenais Smiley, violin
Ellen Ruth Rose, viola, and Susan Lamb Cook, cello

Variations on an Original Theme (“Enigma”), op. 36

On sale starting July 14:
$10 Students and Children, $20 Adults (Assigned Seating)

For string quartet and string orchestra only, Introduction and Allegro is evocative of a Baroque concerto grosso with demanding, soloistic parts playing with and against a full-sounding string orchestra. The work was composed for a concert of the London Symphony Orchestra in 1905, then in its infancy. The piece is meant to showcase the string-players abilities of the orchestra, and the Allegro section features, in Elgar’s words, a “devil of a fugue.”

Elgar wrote of the Enigma Variations: “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.” In other words, Elgar varied the typical practice itself of a theme and variation—a common enough compositional practice—by writing a set of variations upon a theme (“its dark saying”) that the listener never really hears. Each variation is instead a counterpoint to that enigmatic theme. Although Elgar said only the composer knew the Enigma melody, plenty of individuals have proposed answers, from a minor version of Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star to a theme presented in Brahms’s Fourth Symphony to Elgar’s own signature E-minor leitmotif. What is known, however, are the variations are representative of his friends. In fact the dedication of the piece reads, “My Friends Pictured Within.” The Nimrod variation is easily the most famous and most often extracted variation of the set, and represents Elgar’s friend, editor, and critic Augustus Jaeger. The name Nimrod is actually a character from the Old Testament, a mighty hunter. In German, Jäger means hunter—which, although seemingly cryptic, makes the connection between the Nimrod variation and Augustus Jaeger clear.

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