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elgar's enigma variations - cover photo Post Scriptum

The objective of this section is to record comments and new information with regard to the subject matter of the book that has come to the author's attention since its publication.

If you have a contribution to make you would be most welcome to do so. Just click here.

 John Bishop (1931-2000)

It is with great sadness that I record here the death of John Bishop of Thames Publishing on 5 September 2000. John literally was Thames Publishing and I have a great debt of gratitude to him for his confidence in my book and his patient help in bringing the manuscript into print.

A tribute to John can be found at this website.

 The original ending to the Finale

Chapter 5, p 95

...the original Finale has been abandoned...
I hear that a performance of the Variations by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Richard Hickox in Worcester Cathedral on 4 June 1999 used the original Finale.

A note in the July 1999 issue of the Elgar Society News reads: "The chief item of interest was the use of the original ending to 'E.D.U.', played at the première in June 1899. In this the Coda is cut short, and to those familiar with the work it comes as a real shock and with a sense of deprivation! However, almost as an encore (though it was programmed beforehand) this was immediately followed by the longer version, which Jaeger had argued for, and which Elgar came to see was the correct peroration of the work."

I would be interested to hear of any other performances of the original ending.

 The original ending to the Finale (2)

In response to the previous point, I have received an e-mail from Joel Lazar, conductor of the JCC Symphony Orchestra in Maryland, USA. He writes as follows:

"The Variations have fascinated me since my school days and I've heard many wonderful performances of them, including Monteux and the Boston Symphony in early 1964, the last concert he conducted before his death.

Re your request for documentation of performances of the original ending, here's a "close but not quite" case-- The Maryland Symphony Orchestra [based in Hagerstown, Maryland, USA; originally conducted by Barry Tuckwell], performed a portion of the finale with the original ending as part of a pre-performance talk on Enigma by their current Music Director, Elizabeth Schultze, in the Fall of 1999. I'm sorry I can't be more specific; I was there, in fact, but I don't seem to have a copy of the program to hand. In the actual concert, of course, they performed the published ending.

Needless to say, I was shocked by the brevity of the original ending. I suppose I shouldn't have been; I'd seen it in the MS score on display at the British Museum on my first visit to London as far back as 1970, and of course seen it since in photographic reproduction. I must say it sounded even worse than it looked!

My own orchestra, in Rockville Maryland, a northern suburb of Washington DC, (website will play Enigma on 31 March 2001 [published version]. This will be my fourth or fifth performance of the Variations in the past 35 years, I believe. We played with much success In the South a few years back, the obvious second-half piece was Harold in Italy. Trombones, trumpets and harp had a great day. In the South had precisely the effect on and with the orchestra that Tovey described; even the first time through it sounded as if everybody has played it before. Not quite the same situation with Enigma, at least not at our first rehearsal last week!"

 Elgar's standard reply to 'enigma solvers'

Chapter 6, p 105

Elgar's death in 1934 obviously removed the possibility of would-be enigma solvers trying their attempts directly on the composer himself.
A letter from Raymond Monk published in the July 1999 issue of the Elgar Society Journal gives me the opportunity to mention another book on the 'Enigma' Variations also published this year. This is Elgar 'Enigma' Variations by Julian Rushton, West Riding Professor of Music at the University of Leeds. The book is published by Cambridge University Press.

Raymond Monk's very kind letter reads as follows:

"Julian Rushton and Patrick Turner with their notable* additions to the Elgar bibliography have celebrated the Enigma centenary in fine style. Both books are a joy to read and I for one will be returning to them again and again. However, those who would embark on Enigma puzzle-solving in the next century may like to read Elgar's standard reply to those 'solutions' which appeared during his lifetime:

Severn House, Hampstead, NW.

No: nothing like it.

I do not see that the tune you suggest fits in the least.


And I am inclined to the view that all subsequent attempts would have met with this same response!"

* corrected from the originally published "noble" following information received from Geoffrey Hodgkins, Editor of the Elgar Society Journal.

 Hans Richter and the Vienna Opera

Chapter 1, p 31

...having previously been in charge of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (and thus Musical Director of the Vienna Opera)...
Christopher Fifield writes: " fact he never held such a position. He didn't want to be Musical Director of any opera house after his experience of such a post in Budapest in the early 1870s. He went to Vienna in 1875 specifically as Erste (first) Kapellmeister, with Franz Jauner (a theatre administrator) and then Wilhelm Jahn (a conductor) above him in the post of General Director. Naturally Richter overshadowed both of them but in Jahn's case their repertoire tastes complemented one another's and Jahn did most of the Italian operas. When Mahler arrived as Music Director problems arose as he wanted to do Wagner, and by then Richter was tired and quite prepared to take his pension and emigrate to Manchester in 1900."

In his letter, Christopher mentions another point connected with the 'Enigma' Variations, also involving Richter: " of the Richter descendants kindly gave me a leather-bound miniature score of the Variations. In it, Elgar has inscribed the following:

I send the first copy of this miniature score. Yrs. EE

To Hans Richter: true Artist and true Friend from Edward Elgar: March 1904. Do not let the lessened size of this score, which you first presented to an audience, lessen your regard for the music or your love for me! EE

In other words, the dedication to Richter so often associated with Elgar's 1st symphony of 1908 was used four years earlier at the time of the Covent Garden Festival, a three-day event devoted to Elgar's music and organised for him by Richter, a terrific accolade by the conductor to the composer. Richter always said at the end of his life that for him there had only been two musical gods, Wagner and Elgar."

Christopher Fifield, conductor and writer, is author of True Artist and True Friend, a Biography of Hans Richter (OUP Clarendon Press 1993)

 Mozart's Prague Symphony

Chapter 6, p 106 (list of previous solutions)

1977    Prague Symphony (Mozart)    J M Nosworthy
In his letter referred to above Christopher Fifield also writes the following: " about the same year (1977) I bought a number of Mozart symphonies in full score published by Breitkopf and Hartel in a second hand music shop as I was building up my collection of working scores as a conductor. In the slow movement a previous owner (a conductor I believe) had written in pencil "Elgar Enigma Variations?" at both points where the striking likeness occurs. Judging by the style of handwriting it was written many years earlier, so the idea of the Prague Symphony predates 1977 by a long way in my view."

As I point out in the book, my list of previously suggested solutions records their first mention in print somewhere, and J M Nosworthy's letter to The Daily Telegraph was the earliest published mention of it I could find.

If any visitor to this site knows of an earlier published mention, I would be delighted to hear from them.

Christopher makes another point related to Mozart's symphony: "Above all, how did the Prague Symphony come to be played at the end of the concert on 19 June 1899 because I'm sure Elgar would not have had the presumption to ask Richter, so did the conductor put it in because he was reminded of the symphony when he read Elgar's MS?

All very intriguing......"

 Locked-away envelopes...

Chapter 8, p 119

...unless the explanation is in an envelope locked away in some lawyer's safe somewhere...
I have learned that there is, in fact, such an envelope, not in some lawyer's safe, but in the safekeeping of the Elgar Birthplace museum at Broadheath.

Chris Bennett of the Birthplace museum tells me that there are instructions that this envelope is only to be opened 100 years after Elgar's death (which will be in 2034). He adds that it would seem from the little that is known about the envelope that its contents have something to do with The Dream of Gerontius.

Although this would appear to squash any hopes that it might contain the solution to the enigma, the very fact that it exists shows that the idea of such an envelope is not so fanciful as it might seem.


In the case of Richard Townshend, the error is all the more frustrating as his name appears several times more, all correctly spelled. I can only conclude that Murphy got involved somewhere along the line!

It is always embarrassing to get someone's name wrong, and I feel particularly bad about this one, as of all the orchestral timpanists I wrote to (about half a dozen), James Strebing of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra was the only one who took the trouble to reply. His letter and our subsequent phone conversation were invaluable to me in writing the section about the timpani part in Variation XIII.
I hope he will accept my apologies.

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