Regarded as a typically English composer, Elgar wrote his Enigma Variations between 1898 and 1899; an orchestral work comprising fourteen variations on an original theme.
Sir Edward William Elgar (1857–1934) is often regarded as a typically English composer, many of whose works have entered the British and international classical concert repertoire. Among his best-known compositions are the Enigma Variations, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, concertos for violin and cello and two symphonies. He also composed choral works, including “The Dream of Gerontius”. He was appointed Master of the King's Musick in 1924 and has been described as the first composer to take the gramophone recording seriously. Between 1914 and 1925, he conducted a series of acoustic recordings of his works. The introduction of the microphone in 1925 made far more accurate sound reproduction possible, and Elgar made new recordings of most of his major orchestral works.
He composed his Enigma Variations between 1898 and 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 and is prefaced by their initials, name or nickname. Those portrayed include Elgar's wife Alice, his friend and publisher Augustus J. Jaeger and Elgar himself. In naming his theme “Enigma” Elgar posed a challenge that has generated much speculation but has never been conclusively answered. The Enigma is widely believed to involve a hidden melody. Variation IX (Adagio) “Nimrod” describes his publisher. The London publisher Novello & Co employed Augustus J. Jaeger as music editor. He was a close friend of Elgar, giving him useful advice but also severe criticism, something Elgar greatly appreciated. Elgar later related 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” – Jäger being German for hunter. This variation has become popular in its own right and is sometimes used at British funerals, memorial services and other solemn occasions. It is always played at the Cenotaph, Whitehall in London on Remembrance Sunday. A version was also played during the Hong Kong handover ceremony in 1997 and at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.