Edward Elgar composed his Variations on an Original Theme for Orchestra ("Enigma"), Op. 36, commonly referred to as the Enigma Variations, in 1898–99. It is a set of fourteen variations on a hidden "theme" that is, in Elgar's words, "not played". It is Elgar's best-known large-scale composition, for both the music itself and the enigma behind it.
Elgar dedicated the piece to "my friends pictured within", each variation being an affectionate portrayal of one of his circle of close acquaintances. See Musical cryptogram. The people portrayed in the variations include Elgar's wife Alice, Augustus J. Jaeger and Elgar himself. The enigma is the hidden theme, which has been the subject of much speculation. Various musicians have proposed theories for what melody it could be, although Elgar did not say that that his "theme" was a melody. The enigma could be something else, such as a symbol or a literary theme. Elgar accepted none of the solutions proposed in his lifetime, and took the secret with him to the grave.
After its 1899 London premiere, the piece achieved popularity and was performed internationally. It has been recorded over 60 times.
- 1 History
- 2 Music
- 2.1 Orchestration
- 2.2 Structure
- 2.2.1 Theme (Enigma: Andante)
- 2.2.2 Variation I (L'istesso tempo) "C.A.E."
- 2.2.3 Variation II (Allegro) "H.D.S-P."
- 2.2.4 Variation III (Allegretto) "R.B.T."
- 2.2.5 Variation IV (Allegro di molto) "W.M.B."
- 2.2.6 Variation V (Moderato) "R.P.A."
- 2.2.7 Variation VI (Andantino) "Ysobel"
- 2.2.8 Variation VII (Presto) "Troyte"
- 2.2.9 Variation VIII (Allegretto) "W.N."
- 2.2.10 Variation IX (Adagio) "Nimrod"
- 2.2.11 Variation X (Intermezzo: Allegretto) "Dorabella"
- 2.2.12 Variation XI (Allegro di molto) "G.R.S."
- 2.2.13 Variation XII (Andante) "B.G.N."
- 2.2.14 Variation XIII (Romanza: Moderato) " * * * "
- 2.2.15 Variation XIV (Finale: Allegro Presto) "E.D.U."
- 2.3 Arrangements
- 3 The enigma
- 4 Subsequent history
- 5 Recordings
- 6 Notes and references
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 External links
Elgar's account of the piece's genesis was that after a tiring day of teaching in late October 1898, he was daydreaming at the piano. A melody he played caught the attention of his wife Alice, who liked it and asked him to repeat it for her. So, to entertain her, he began to improvise variations on this melody, each one either a musical portrait of one of their friends, or in the musical style they might have used. Elgar eventually expanded and orchestrated these improvisations into the Enigma Variations. He considered including variations portraying Arthur Sullivan and Hubert Parry, but was unable to assimilate their musical styles without pastiche, and dropped the idea.
The piece was finished by 20 February 1899, published by Novello & Co., and was first performed at St James's Hall in London on 19 June 1899, conducted by Hans Richter. Critics were at first irritated by the layer of mystification, but most praised the substance, structure, and orchestration of the work. Elgar revised the final variation, adding 100 new bars and an organ part; the new version, the one usually played today, was played at the Worcester Three Choirs Festival on 13 September 1899, with Elgar conducting.
The European continental premiere was performed in Düsseldorf, Germany on 7 February 1901, under Julius Buths (who would also conduct the European premiere of The Dream of Gerontius in December 1901). The work quickly achieved many international performances, from Saint Petersburg, where it delighted Alexander Glazunov and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1904, to New York, where Gustav Mahler conducted it in 1910.
The work is scored for an orchestra consisting of 2 flutes (one doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in B flat, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in F, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, side drum, triangle, bass drum, cymbals, organ (ad lib) and strings.
The work consists of the theme, followed by 14 variations. The variations spring from the theme's melodic, harmonic and (especially) rhythmic elements, and the extended fourteenth variation forms a grand finale.
Elgar dedicated the piece to "my friends pictured within" and in the score each variation is prefaced with either a nickname or initials, a clue to the identity of the friend depicted. As was common with painted portraits of the time, Elgar's musical portraits depict their subjects at two levels. Each movement conveys a general impression of its subject's personality; in addition, most of them contain a musical reference to a specific characteristic or event, such as Dorabella's stutter, Winifred Norbury's laugh, or the walk in the woods with Jaeger. The sections of the piece are as follows.
Theme (Enigma: Andante)
- The main theme is played by the first violins at the beginning. It is played for a second time, with a slightly different accompaniment, after the second melody has been introduced by the woodwinds. Both fragments are further developed in the following variations.
- The theme leads into Variation 1 without a pause.
Variation I (L'istesso tempo) "C.A.E."
- Caroline Alice Elgar, Elgar's wife. The variation contains repetitions of a four-note melodic fragment which Elgar reportedly whistled whenever arriving home to his wife. In 'My Friends Pictured Within' Elgar wrote, "The variation is really a prolongation of the theme with what I wished to be romantic and delicate additions; those who knew C.A.E. will understand this reference to one whose life was a romantic and delicate inspiration".
Variation II (Allegro) "H.D.S-P."
- Hew David Steuart-Powell. In 'My Friends Pictured Within' Elgar wrote, "Hew David Steuart-Powell was a well-known amateur pianist and a great player of chamber music. He was associated with B.G.N. (cello) and the composer (violin) for many years in this playing. His characteristic diatonic run over the keys before beginning to play is here humorously travestied in the semiquaver passages; these should suggest a Toccata, but chromatic beyond H.D.S-P.'s liking".
Variation III (Allegretto) "R.B.T."
- Richard Baxter Townshend, Oxford don and author of the "Tenderfoot" series of books. The Variation has a reference to R.B.T's presentation of an old man in some amateur theatricals- the low voice flying off occasionally into "soprano" timbre. Brother-in-law of W.M.B. depicted in Variation IV.
Variation IV (Allegro di molto) "W.M.B."
- William Meath Baker, squire of Hasfield, Gloucestershire and benefactor of several public buildings in Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent, brother-in-law of R.B.T. depicted in Variation III, and (step) uncle of Dora Penny in Variation X. He "expressed himself somewhat energetically". This is the shortest of the variations.
Variation V (Moderato) "R.P.A."
- Richard Penrose Arnold, the son of the poet Matthew Arnold, and himself an amateur pianist. This variation leads into the next without pause.
Variation VI (Andantino) "Ysobel"
- Isabel Fitton, a viola pupil of Elgar. The variation begins with the viola section playing three notes on different strings, as if to imitate Fitton's string crossing etudes. The melody of this variation is played by the violas, ending on the three notes played by solo viola.
Variation VII (Presto) "Troyte"
- Arthur Troyte Griffith, an architect. The variation good-naturedly mimics his enthusiastic incompetence on the piano. It also refers to a specific memory, of a day on which Griffith and Elgar were walking and got caught in a thunder-storm. The pair ran for it, and took refuge in the Norbury house, to which the next theme refers.
Variation VIII (Allegretto) "W.N."
- Winifred Norbury, a friend Elgar regarded as particularly easy-going, hence the relatively relaxed atmosphere. The theme also refers to the Norbury house, which Elgar was fond of. At the end a single violin note is held over into the next variation.
Variation IX (Adagio) "Nimrod"
- Augustus J. Jaeger was employed as music editor by the London publisher Novello & Co. For a long time he was a close friend of Elgar, giving him useful advice, but also severe criticism, something Elgar greatly appreciated. Remarkably, Elgar later related on several occasions how Jaeger had encouraged him as an artist and had stimulated him to continue composing despite setbacks. The name of the variation refers to Nimrod, an Old Testament patriarch described as "a mighty hunter before the Lord" – the name Jäger being German for hunter.
- In 1904 Elgar told Dora Penny (“Dorabella”) that this variation is not really a portrait, but "the story of something that happened". Once, when Elgar had been very depressed and was about to give it all up and write no more music, Jaeger had visited him and encouraged him to continue composing. He referred to Ludwig van Beethoven, who had a lot of worries, but wrote more and more beautiful music. “And that is what you must do”, Jaeger said and he sang the theme of the second movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 "Pathétique". Elgar disclosed to Dora that the opening bars of "Nimrod" were made to suggest that theme. “Can’t you hear it at the beginning? Only a hint, not a quotation”.
- This variation has become popular in its own right and is sometimes used at British funerals, memorial services, and other solemn occasions. It is always played at the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday. A version was also played at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Musicologist Bill McGlaughlin likens its place in British music to the place Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings holds for Americans. It was also the last piece ever played by the Greek Symphonical Orchestra (besides the Greek National Anthem) when closed down in June 2013.
Variation X (Intermezzo: Allegretto) "Dorabella"
- Dora Penny, a friend whose stutter is depicted by the woodwinds. Dora, later Mrs. Richard Powell, was the daughter of Canon Alfred Penny, of Lichfield and stepdaughter of Mary, the sister of William Meath Baker, inspiration for Variation IV. She was also the recipient of another of Elgar's enigmas, the so-called Dorabella Cipher. She described the 'Friends Pictured Within' and 'The Enigma' in two chapters of her book Edward Elgar, Memories of a Variation. This variation features a melody for solo viola.
Variation XI (Allegro di molto) "G.R.S."
- George Robertson Sinclair, the energetic organist of Hereford Cathedral. In the words of Elgar: 'The variation, however, has nothing to do with organs or cathedrals, or, except remotely, with G.R.S. The first few bars were suggested by his great bulldog, Dan (a well-known character) falling down the steep bank into the River Wye (bar 1); his paddling upstream to find a landing place (bars 2 and 3); and his rejoicing bark on landing (second half of bar 5). G.R.S. said, "Set that to music." I did; here it is'.
Variation XII (Andante) "B.G.N."
- Basil G. Nevinson, a well known cellist, who gets a cello melody for his variation. The variation is introduced and concluded by a solo cello. Later, Nevinson inspired Elgar to write his Cello Concerto. This variation leads into the next without pause.
Variation XIII (Romanza: Moderato) " * * * "
- Lady Mary Lygon. This person is not identified by initials, but Mrs. Dora Powell (at the time Dora Penny, and herself a variation, "Dorabella") has identified her as Lady Mary Lygon, eldest daughter of the late 6th Earl Beauchamp and sister of Lord Beauchamp of Madresfield Court near Malvern. Lady Mary Lygon was a personal friend of Elgar and his wife, promoter of the Madresfield Music Festivals and interested in Elgar's music. In 1899, when the Variations were being finished, Elgar wrote to Lady Mary Lygon to ask permission to use her initials, but as she and her brother were on the point of leaving for Australia (he had been appointed Governor of New South Wales) and there was not time for a reply Elgar used "***" instead. Sketches for this variation refer to it as 'L' and sketches for the Finale show that Elgar thought of re-introducing 'L.M.L.' She became Lady Mary Trefusis when she married Lt.-Col. Henry W. Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis in 1905.
- Appropriately, Elgar included in the variation a quotation from Felix Mendelssohn's concert overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage. This is first played by a clarinet, later quietly by trumpets and trombones, and is included within quotation marks in the score. At intervals the timpani create a sound reminiscent of a ship's engines by means of hard sticks, or, traditionally, coins.
Variation XIV (Finale: Allegro Presto) "E.D.U."
- Elgar himself, nicknamed Edu by his wife, from the German version Eduard. The themes from two variations are echoed: "Nimrod" and "C.A.E.", referring to Jaeger and Elgar´s wife Alice, "two great influences on the life and art of the composer", as Elgar wrote in 1927. Elgar called these references "entirely fitting to the intention of the piece".
- The original version of this variation is 100 bars shorter than the one now usually played. In July 1899, one month after the original version was finished, Elgar's friend Jaeger, the person depicted in Variation IX, urged Elgar to make the variation a little longer. Elgar agreed, and also added an organ part. The new version was played for the first time at the Worcester Three Choirs Festival, with Elgar himself conducting, on 13 September 1899.
Arrangements of the Variations include:
- The composer's arrangement of the complete work for piano solo
- The composer's arrangement of the complete work for piano duet (two pianos)
- Piano duet (one piano) – by John E. West[n 1]
- Brass band – by composer Eric Ball
- There are many arrangements of individual variations, particularly Variation IX "Nimrod"
- Variation X "Dorabella" was published separately in its orchestral version
- Transcription for Wind Band by Earl Slocum (USA)
- Transcription for Symphonic Wind Band by John Morrison (UK)
Determining which of Elgar's friends is represented in each variation is, surprisingly, not the "enigma" mentioned in the title. The identities of all are known, and Elgar himself even provided brief notes on the subjects to accompany the five Duo-art pianola rolls of the Variations that the Aeolian Company introduced in 1929. Instead, there is a theme hidden in the work that is "not played." Various attempts have been made to link the clues Elgar gave throughout his lifetime to any one solution; in a programme note for the first performance, Charles A. Barry quoted:
The Enigma I will not explain – its 'dark saying' 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.... So the principal Theme never appears, even as in some late dramas ... the chief character is never on the stage.—Edward Elgar
Elgar also wrote the following, in a set of notes issued with the Aeolian Company pianola rolls published in 1929:
The alternation of the two quavers and two crotchets in the first bar and their reversal in the second bar will be noticed; references to this grouping are almost continuous (either melodically or in the accompanying figures – in Variation XIII, beginning at bar 11 , for example). The drop of a seventh in the Theme (bars 3 and 4) should be observed. At bar 7 (G major) appears the rising and falling passage in thirds which is much used later, e.g. Variation III, bars 10.16. [106, 112]—E.E.
Julian Rushton suggests that any solution must satisfy five criteria, three of which stem from the above quotations: a "dark saying" must be involved; the theme "is not played"; the theme should be "well known", as Elgar stated multiple times; Dora Penny (to whom Elgar also wrote the Dorabella Cipher) should have been, "of all people," the one to solve the Enigma; and finally, the details mentioned in the notes accompanying the pianola rolls may be part of the solution.
Norman Del Mar speculates that "there would be considerable loss if the solution were to be found, much of the work's attraction lying in the impenetrability of the riddle itself", and that interest in the work would not be as strong had the Enigma been solved during Elgar's lifetime.
Possible musical themes
Various musicians have tried to tease out the hidden theme in the belief that it is a derivation of some well-known tune. Others have concluded that the theme is not a musical phrase but a literary or philosophical theme. Of the musical themes suggested as the Enigma, one of the most frequently proposed is the Scottish song "Auld Lang Syne", which has been favoured by Elgar's friend Richard Powell (husband of Dorabella), the musicologist Roger Fiske, and the writer Eric Sams. Elgar himself, however, said, "'Auld Lang Syne' won't do." Two British patriotic songs have been proposed as the theme: "God Save the Queen" and "Rule, Britannia!". Troyte Griffiths asked Elgar if the former was the hidden theme, and Elgar replied, "Of course not!" Proponents of the latter as the theme have pointed out that the theme is similar to the "never, never, never" section of the song. This theory was accepted by the president of the Elgar Society, Yehudi Menuhin. Before conducting the variations at Carnegie Hall, New York, in 1984, Menuhin addressed the audience explaining that the solution to Elgar's enigma was "none other" than "Rule, Britannia". [n 2]
The pianist Joseph Cooper proposed the theory that the theme may be based on part of Mozart's "Prague" Symphony, which was on the programme at the "Enigma" Variations' premiere in 1899. This solution was favoured by Sir Charles Mackerras, who conducted a concert entitled "Elgar – The Enigma Solved?" in February 1992. A different source is proposed by Dennis J. Whitten, who suggested "Pop Goes the Weasel" as the theme.
Other writers, such as F. G. Edwards in 1900 and Robert Buckley in 1905, have held that the theme is a "countermelody to some other unheard tune": it would fit when played simultaneously, but does not necessarily contain any of its characteristics other than the most general harmonic or structural outline. Edwards wrote, "In connection with these much discussed Variations, Mr Elgar tells us that the heading Enigma is justified by the fact that it is possible to add another phrase, which is quite familiar, above the original theme that he has written. What that theme is no one knows except the composer. Thereby hangs the Enigma." Buckley, in his Elgar biography of 1905, wrote, "The theme is a counterpoint on some well-known melody which is never heard".
In 1953 the American magazine The Saturday Review organised a competition to find plausible candidates for the Enigma theme. Entries included "Una bella serenata" from Così fan tutte, the "Agnus Dei" from Bach's Mass in B minor, the slow movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Pathétique sonata, "When I am laid in earth" from Dido and Aeneas and "None shall part us" from Iolanthe. In 1985, Marshall Portnoy in the Musical Quarterly (Oxford) suggested that the answer to the enigma was J S Bach's The Art of Fugue. The Art of Fugue contains the B-A-C-H motif (in English notation, B-flat A C B-natural) which appears in the 14th fugue, which, in Portnoy's view, also seems to have been hinted at in the Enigma variations. A recent theory, proposed by Clive McClelland of the University of Leeds, suggests that the hidden theme is the hymn tune "Now the day is over". Unlike most theories, this deals with all 24 notes of the main theme; the lyrics too, McClelland thinks, fit in with Elgar's "dark saying".
Another solution has been published in 2007 by the Dutch lexicographer Hans Westgeest. He found a connection between the enigma and the Jaeger-Beethoven-story behind the Nimrod-variation which Elgar told Dora Penny later (see var. IX above). The real theme of the Enigma Variations which is present everywhere throughout the work in different shapes, is rather short: it consists of only nine notes. These notes are the same as the first nine notes of Nimrod, in 4/4 time (with a crotchet rest on the first beat of the bar). This short melody is based on the rhythm of Edward Elgar's own name ("short-short-long-long", the reverse of it, "long-long-short-short", and an endnote) and can be called the "Elgar-theme". Elgar composed this theme as a countermelody to the beginning of the mysterious "principal Theme" which, as Elgar himself disclosed, is present "through and over the whole set" without being actually played. This hidden melody turns out to be the theme of the second movement of the Pathétique Sonata of Beethoven. The "Elgar theme" comprises the very notes of the Beethoven melody, in exactly the same order but sounding a bit later (the G of Beethoven is followed by the G of Elgar, Beethoven's F is followed by Elgar's F etc.). As Westgeest states, the symbolism of this is evident: by composing the work Elgar follows the example of Beethoven, as Jaeger told him to do. By doing so, the artist triumphs over depression and discouragement in the powerful, optimistic Finale, "E.D.U." So, like some works of Elgar's contemporaries Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, the Enigma Variations are about the artist himself. In this theory even Elgar's later remark to Dora Penny "I thought that you of all people would guess it" (see var. IX above) makes good sense.
Other possible themes
The musical scholar Sir Jack Westrup insisted that according to Elgar's words it was clear that the theme was a melody: "Everyone who knew Elgar at the time is quite emphatic that he meant a tune. Hence the suggestion that the larger theme is friendship – reinforced by a quotation from the Religio Medici which includes the word 'Enigmas' – can hardly have any foundation". Others have disagreed.
Professor Ian Parrott, former vice-president of the Elgar Society, in his book on Elgar (Master Musicians, 1971) wrote that the "dark saying", and possibly the whole of the Enigma, had a biblical source, 1 Corinthians 13:12, which reads according to the Authorised Version of the Bible: "For now we see through a glass, darkly (enigmate in the Latin of the Vulgate); but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." This verse is from St. Paul's essay on love. Elgar was a practising Roman Catholic and on 12 February 1899, eight days before the completion of the Variations, he attended Quinquagesima Mass at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Malvern. This particular verse was read. Another literary theme was suggested by Edmund M. Green in The Elgar Society Journal (November 2004, Vol.13, No. 6) in which he suggested that the "larger" theme is Shakespeare's sixty-sixth Sonnet and that the word "Enigma" stands for the real name of the Dark Lady of the Sonnets.
Another theme that has been suggested is the mathematical constant pi, which is "well known". The first four notes of the Variations are the scale degrees 3–1–4–2, which correspond to an approximation of pi. (However, 3–1–4–2 is a common musical pattern that appears in countless pieces of music.) The commonly used fractional approximation is also observed in the two "drops of a seventh" that follow exactly after the first eleven notes– 11 x 2/7, or 22/7. In this proposal, the "dark saying" is a pun on the nursery rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence, found in “Four and twenty blackbirds (dark) baked in a pie (Pi)", used to refer to the first twenty-four black notes. Elgar wrote his Enigma Variations in the year following the Indiana Pi Bill of 1897, and noted in 1910 that the work was "commenced in a spirit of humour".
Elgar himself quoted many of his own works, including Nimrod (Variation 9), in his choral piece of 1912, The Music Makers. On 24 May 1912 Elgar conducted a performance of the Variations at a Memorial Concert in aid of the family survivors of musicians who had been lost in the Titanic disaster.
Frederick Ashton's ballet Enigma Variations (My Friends Pictured Within) is choreographed to Elgar's score with the exception of the finale, which uses Elgar's original shorter ending (see above), transcribed from the manuscript by John Lanchbery. The ballet, which depicts the friends and Elgar as he awaits Richter's decision about conducting the premiere, received its first performance on 25 October 1968 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London.
The acclaimed 1974 television play Penda's Fen includes a scene where the young protagonist has a vision of an aged Elgar who whispers to him the "solution" to the enigma, occasioning astonishment on the face of the recipient.
Elgar suggested that in case the variations were to be a ballet the 'enigma' would have to be represented by 'a veiled dancer'. Elgar's remark suggested that the 'enigma' in fact pictured 'a friend', just like the variations. He used the word 'veiled', possibly indicating that it was a female character (Britannia).
The Enigma Variations inspired a drama in the form of a dialogue – original title "Variations Énigmatiques" (1996) – by the French dramatist Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt.
There have been more than sixty recordings of the Variations since Elgar's first recording, made by the acoustic process in 1924. Elgar himself conducted the Royal Albert Hall Orchestra for its first electrical recording in 1926 on the HMV label. That recording has been remastered for compact disc; the EMI CD couples it with Elgar's Violin Concerto conducted by the composer with Yehudi Menuhin as the soloist. Sixty years later, Menuhin took the baton to conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the Variations for Philips, as a coupling to the Cello Concerto with Julian Lloyd Webber. Other conductors who have recorded the work include Arturo Toscanini, Daniel Barenboim, Sir Georg Solti, Leonard Bernstein, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, William Steinberg and André Previn, as well as leading English conductors from Sir Henry Wood and Sir Adrian Boult to Sir Simon Rattle.
Notes and references
- John Ebenezer West (1863–1929), F.R.A.M., F.R.C.O., organist and composer, was musical adviser to Novello's, the publishers of the Variations
- According to the "Rule, Britannia!" theory (presented by the Anglo-Dutch musicologist and writer Theodore van Houten, in Music Review, May 1976) this hidden character is "Britannia ruling the waves." Moreover, Van Houten suggested that Variation XI represents another symbol for England: John Bull, with bulldog and all. Van Houten's "Rule Britannia!" theory links the Enigma Variations with nationalism in European music around 1900. Elgar, then a solid conservative, wrote his patriotic cantata Caractacus (Op. 35) just before the Enigma Variations (Op. 36). The premiere concert was concluded by Alexander Mackenzie's Overture Britannia, based on "Rule, Britannia!".
- Moore pp. 247–52
- Moore, p. 252
- Moore, pp. 273 and 289
- Moore, p. 350
- Kennedy, p. 179
- As she wrote later in her book; Mrs. R. Powell (1947), pp. 110–111.
- McGlaughlin, Bill. Edward Elgar: Part 2 of 5. Exploring Music. Originally aired 6 April 2004.
- Quotation from the booklet by Elgar, My Friends Pictured Within by Novello and Company Limited, London(1946)
- Lygon pronounced "Liggon"
- Powell, p.114-5
- Kennedy, p.67
- My friends pictured within 1946, Var. XIV
- Rushton, Julian (1999). Elgar: 'Enigma' Variations. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-63637-7.
- Del Mar, Norman (1998). Conducting Elgar. Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-816557-9.
- Powell, Richard C., "Elgar's Enigma," Music and Letters, XV (July 1934), p. 203, quoted in Portnoy
- Fiske, Roger, "The Enigma: A Solution," The Musical Times, CX (November 1969), 1124 quoted in Portnoy
- Sams, Eric, "Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma)," The Musical Times, CXI (March 1970), quoted in Portnoy
- Westrup, J. A.,"Elgar's Enigma", Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, 86th Sess. (1959–1960), pp. 79–97, Taylor & Francis, Ltd for the Royal Musical Association, accessed 2 December 2010 (subscription required)
- Houten, Theodore Van, "You of All People: Elgar's Enigma," Music Review, XXXVII (May 1976), p. 130
- Page Tim, "Music Notes; Is Bach The Clue To Elgar's Enigma?" The New York Times, 3 November 1985, Section 2, p. 23, accessed 3 December 2010
- Stevens, Denis, "Elgar's Enigma, The Musical Times, Vol. 133, No. 1788 (February 1992), p. 62, accessed 2 December 2010 (subscription required)
- The Observer, 9 February 1992, p. 58
- "Pop Goes the Enigma," letter in Music and Musicians, XXVI (1977), pp. 4–5
- Edwards 1900 (reprinted in: Redwood 1982), p. 47
- Buckley 1905, pp. 54–55.
- Portnoy, Marshall A. "The Answer to Elgar's 'Enigma'", The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 71, No. 2 (1985), pp. 205–210, Oxford University Press, accessed 25 October 2010 (subscription required)
- McClelland (2007).
- See Westgeest 2007. The book has been reviewed in the Elgar Society Journal 15, nr. 5 (July 2008), p. 37-39 and nr. 6 (Nov. 2008), p. 64.
- "Hans Westgeest – Biografie". Hanswestgeest.nl. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
- Alice Elgar's diary, 12 February 1899: "E. to St. Joseph's"
- Santa, Charles Richard; Matthew Santa (Spring 2010). "Solving Elgar's Enigma". Current Musicology (89).
- Jerrold Northrop Moore Edward Elgar: A Creative Life p. 634
- Lanchbery J. Enigma Variations, in Royal Opera House programme, 1984.
- Adams, Byron. (2000). "The 'Dark Saying' of the Enigma: Homoeroticism and the Elgarian Paradox." in 19th-Century Music, vol. 23, no. 3 (Spring, 2000), pp. 218–235.
- Buckley, R. J. (1905). Sir Edward Elgar. London / New York.
- Edwards, F.G. (1900). ‘Edward Elgar’, in: The Musical Times 41 (1900). Reprinted in: Redwood 1982, pp. 35–49.
- Elgar, Edward. My friends pictured within. The subjects of the Enigma Variations as portrayed in contemporary photographs and Elgar's manuscript. London, .
- Kennedy, Michael (1987). Portrait of Elgar (Third ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-284017-7.
- McClelland, Clive (2007). "Shadows of the evening: new light on Elgar’s ‘dark saying’". In: Musical Times, Vol. 148, No 1901 (Winter), pp. 43–48.
- Nice, David (1996). Edward Elgar: an essential guide to his life and works. London: Pavilion. ISBN 1-85793-977-8.
- Powell, Mrs. Richard (1947). Edward Elgar: Memories of a Variation. London. 2nd ed.
- Redwood, Chr. (ed.), An Elgar Companion. Ashbourne.
- Reed, W H: Elgar, London: J M Dent & Sons, 1939.
- Rushton, Julian. Elgar: Enigma variations. Cambridge: CUP 1999.
- Van Houten, Theodore (1976). " 'You of all people' – Elgar's Enigma". In: Music Review, xxxvii, May, pp. 131–142.
- Van Houten, Theodore (2008). " 'The Enigma I will not explain' ". In: Mens & Melodie, #4, pp. 14–17.
- Westgeest, Hans (2007). Elgar's Enigma Variations. The Solution. Leidschendam-Voorburg: Corbulo Press. ISBN 978-90-79291-01-4 (hardcover), ISBN 978-90-79291-03-8 (paperback).
- Enigma Variations CDs
- Piano adaptation of Enigma Variations in MIDI file (104KB) The theme and its 14 variations are located at ca. [00:00, 00:55, 02:05, 02:55, 04:20, 04:50, 06:25, 07:30, 08:28, 09:50, 12:22, 14:55, 15:53, 17:38, 19:13] in this 24-min track.
- Enigma Variations: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Julia Trevelyan Oman Archive University of Bristol Theatre Collection, University of Bristol
- John Pickard, "Variations on an Original Theme (‘Enigma’) (1898–9)" from BBC Radio 3
- Discovering Music Enigma Variations (.ram file)
- The Enigma I Will Not Explain on BBC Radio 4
- Leonard Slatkin introduced Elgar's Enigma Variations from BBC Proms 1995
- Complete variation performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle in 2012
- Complete variation performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim
- Complete variation performed by the Massed Bands of the Household Cavalry at the 2007 Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph
- Complate variation performed by the Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra conducted by Peter Santa in Rotterdam
- Complete variation performed by the LSO conducted by Sir Colin Davis in 2004
- Complete variation in a Philip Bloom's airshow movie
- Complete variation performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin in 1995 BBC Proms