Music Because of it's associations outside of Elgar's Enigma Variations (as the wikipedia puts it: "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 (the Sunday nearest to 11th November") and it's impossible to listen to Variation 9 'Nimrod' without being touched by it, such a beautiful, eloquent piece and as it was played tonight in Prom 31 by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, I sobbed.

Unusually, on learning that it's partly an intellectual exercise it's power isn't dented because it's also a commemoration of friendship on Elgar's part; each of the variations is a tribute to each of his pals, and many are expressions of how he feels they might compose music if they had the ability. 'Nimrod' is about his best friend, Augustus J. Jaeger, Elgar's best friend (whose surname means hunter in German, the title of the piece referring to a hunter the Old Testament).

He was attempting to emphasis Jaeger's nobility and soundtracks a typical evening walk in which the two of them would be discussing music in this case Beethoven. Elgar achieves this by dropping in elements of Ludwig's work, particularly the adagio from the Eighth Piano Sonata ('Pathetique'). I'm listening to the Sonata as I type and for the first time I can see the similarities between the two works; in fact Elgar's homage seems like even more of an act of love as he slows Beethoven's piano down then throws in some wollop and majesty. I'd be interested to hear an orchestration of this other piece to see how it might compare.

Tonight's notes on the Prom offers words from both Elgar and his daughter on the inspiration behind the piece:
"After a long day’s fiddle teaching in Malvern, I came home very tired. Dinner being over, my dear wife said to me, ‘Edward, you look like a good cigar,’ and having lighted it, I sat down at the piano. In a little while, soothed and feeling rested, I began to play, and suddenly my wife interrupted by saying, ‘Edward, that’s a good tune.’ I awoke from the dream: ‘Eh! tune, what tune!’ and she said, ‘Play it again, I like that tune.’ I played and strummed, and played, and then she exclaimed, ‘That’s the tune.’ And that tune is the theme of the Variations."
Which underlines once more that some of the best art usually comes along when you're not trying to think too hard about it...

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