Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
The 'Enigma' Variations


 elgar's enigma variations - cover photo


 "Elgar's 'Enigma' Variations - a Centenary Celebration"

Elgar's 'Enigma' Variations had its first performance in June 1899, and audiences and critics were quick to realise that a masterpiece had come among them. It has stayed at the forefront of the orchestral repertoire ever since, and the Nimrod variation in particular has achieved a very special place in the nation's affections. 

Patrick Turner's authoritative book, written to celebrate the centenary of this much-loved work, takes a refreshing new look at the circumstances surrounding its composition, together with its associated puzzles, making extensive reference to a wide range of source material. Some of this appears here in published form for the first time, including - surprisingly - the first ever reference to an enigma in connection with the work. 

He offers an explanation of how the enigma itself came into being, and a new solution that is unique insofar as it is the first time a tune has been put forward that actually fits Elgar's theme perfectly. 

Copiously but unobtrusively annotated, this fascinating book makes a valuable contribution to Elgar scholarship whilst at the same time remaining eminently readable. It will appeal to specialists and non-specialists alike.



1 - The Origins

2 - The Enigma

3 - Hypotheses

4 - Questions of Identity in the Variations

5 - Still More Questions

6 - The Hidden Theme

7 - Reconstruction of Events

8 - Conclusion

Appendix 1- Another theme which 'goes'

Appendix 2 - The 'friends pictured within'

Appendix 3 - The Variations on record



 Publishing details

"Elgar's 'Enigma' Variations - a Centenary Celebration" - Paperback - 148pp (with index) plus 8 pages of illustrations - Thames Publishing, London - ISBN 0 905211 01 4 - Recommended retail price £12.50 - World distributors: William Elkin Music Services to whom enquiries can be sent by clicking here. For USA enquiries click here.


 What the press has said

"Only time will tell if Turner's name is to go down in history alongside that of Alan Turing, the brilliant mathematician and wartime code-breaker: they may both be remembered as the men who cracked Enigmas."

(The Observer - 14 February 1999)  

"refreshing...his arguments are both entertaining and closely reasoned."

"Turner has the sleuth's mentality."

(The Elgar Society Journal - March 1999)  

"Turner's account (is) the one which will best enhance the general reader's appreciation of a much-loved work."

"I remain convinced at a purely musical level that Turner's solution fits better than so many solutions put forward over the years."

(Classical Music - 12 June 1999)

"(it) is the clearest, best researched volume on this subject yet published. The book should be in the library of every lover of ‘the greatest orchestral piece of music ever written by an Englishman.’(Kennedy). (Turner) also has an interesting, lucid ‘solution’ to the Enigma-theme, and it makes intriguing reading. If you missed the book when first reviewed then I strongly recommend you seek it out."  

(Elgar Society Website - September 2000)

author photo The author

Patrick Turner, a long-time member of the Elgar Society, has been passionately involved with Elgar's music for over twenty-five years. Born in Herefordshire in 1947, he was educated at Monmouth School and Jesus College, Oxford, where he read modern languages. He has since pursued a career in business, working mainly in Europe. He lives near Barcelona.


 Post Scriptum

This section records comments and new information with regard to the subject matter of the book that has come to the author's attention since its publication. Click here to go there.


 Where to buy the book

If your local bookshop doesn't have it in stock, get them to contact the distributors - you will find how to contact them in the publishing details section above.

If you prefer to buy via Internet, you have three options:

  in the UK, click here

  in the USA, click here

  in the USA, click here



 to find out more about the 'Enigma' Variations

 to see photos of the 'Enigma' Variations subjects

 for a timpanist's view of the 'Enigma' Variations

 for a 1994 Elgar Society Journal article on the 'Enigma' Variations

 to find out about the Elgar Society

 for information about Anthony Goldstone's piano recording



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