Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The 'Enigma' decoded?

One of the most enticing and durable mysteries in classical music is theme of Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations.” (Hardly anyone refers to the piece using Elgar’s title, “Variations on an Original Theme.”) The composer, writing at the time of the premiere in 1899, called his theme a “dark saying” that “must be left unguessed, and I warn you that the [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 . . . ”

Bob Padgett, a violinist and teacher in Plano, Texas, believes he has cracked the code. Elgar scholars doubt it. Daniel Estrin, writing for The New Republic, chronicles the sleuth’s hunt for the enigma: