Elgar's Enigma: "A Mighty Hunter Before the Lord"
by Anne French
Edward Elgar's well-known orchestral work, written in 1898-1899 and known as The Enigma Variations, was dedicated by the composer to "my friends pictured within." Each of the 14 variations is a musical portrait depicting 14 different intimate friends whom Elgar identified by initials or nickname. Variation IX, the oft heard and intensely moving adagio titled "Nimrod," was dedicated to Augustus Jaeger, a friend who persuaded Elgar to continue working when the composer was in a state of despair. Since Jaeger is the German word for "hunter," this variation was named for the Old Testament patriarch, Nimrod, described as "a mighty hunter before the Lord." However the real enigma is not in the names, but is rather some hidden theme, musical or otherwise, that in Elgar's words is "not played." This Friday's Phonograph plays the Nimrod Variation performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Adrian Boult conducting. It has been synchronized with truly awe-inspiring images from space. And who knows? Perhaps these mysteries of space are themselves the enigmatic unplayed theme.