NHSO Season concludes with Elgar’s Enigma

Tuesday • May 1, 2012

The NHSO season finale celebrates folk music from America and Europe as Music Director William Boughton leads Elgar’s Enigma, Thursday, May 17, 7:30pm, at Woolsey Hall, New Haven. Elgar’s stunning Enigma Variations provides the centerpiece of this program featuring Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in E-flat Major performed by Principal Trumpet Richard Clymer with additional works by Brahms and Dvořák.

Enigma would be Elgar’s best-known composition were it not for the ubiquitous Pomp and Circumstance of graduation fame. Enigma is famous both for the music itself and the “enigmas” behind it—Elgar dedicated the piece to his “friends pictured within,” each variation being an affectionate portrayal of one of his close acquaintances. The enigma is not the identity of the persons portrayed but rather a hidden theme. This thematic riddle has been the subject of much speculation but Elgar never confirmed the solution, taking the secret with him to the grave.

Originally written for piano, Antonin Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances were inspired by Johannes Brahms’s own Hungarian Dances. While the pieces convey a strong folk style, all of the melodies used are the composer’s own. The pieces, lively and overtly nationalistic, were well received at the time and today are among the composers’ most memorable works. Similarly, Charles Ives’ Three Places in New England paints a picture of American ideals, lifestyle and patriotism at the turn of the century. The piece is carefully composed to make the listener experience the unique atmosphere of each place. Ives’ paraphrasing of American folk tunes creates this effect, giving the listener reference points with which to access the chromatic, often multi-layered music.