Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36

Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934)

Jacek Kaspszyk & the Warsaw Philharmonic


Were it not for Alice Elgar, one of the greatest of all English orchestral works might never have been composed. As the story goes, one October evening in 1898 Edward Elgar returned home exhausted from a long day of teaching. After dinner, he sat down at the piano and began to improvise. Elgar later recalled what happened next. “In a little while, soothed and feeling rested, my wife interrupted me: ‘Edward, what is that tune? I like it.’ I answered ‘Nothing—but something might be made of it.’”

Elgar called the tune “Enigma”, not in the sense of a riddle to be solved but of a dark saying that must be left unguessed. The work is comprised of the Enigma theme and fourteen variations. Each variation is a musical sketch of one of his circle of close acquaintances. Elgar dedicated the work “to my friends pictured within”. The first performance was favorably received and the work established Elgar’s international reputation as one of the leading composers of his time.

Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, 11 November 2017


About the Artists

Jacek Kaspszyk

Polish-British conductor Jacek Kaspszyk (born 10 August 1952) was Conductor and Artistic Director of the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra from 2013 until the close of the 2018/2019 season.

Known worldwide for his masterly interpretations of Polish works, he also conducts a wide range of the romantic, 20th century, and contemporary orchestral repertoire. His operatic repertoire ranges from Mozart and Rossini, via Puccini and Verdi to Strauss and Wagner, each to great critical acclaim.

His forthcoming season includes appearances with the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, Bern Symphony Orchestra, Slovenian Philharmonic and the Slovakian Philharmonic, as well as regular visits to China.


Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra

Orkiestra Filharmonii Narodowej w Warszawie was founded in 1901 and has since become one of Europe’s leading cultural institutions. The orchestra hosts both the Chopin international Piano Competition and the Wieniawski International Violin Competition.