Music Theory Analysis: Elgar’s Enigma

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Music Theory Analysis: Elgar’s Enigma. Write a 2000 word paper answering; The Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar uses specific techniques that were common for the 1800s in classical music. The thematic materials and the presentation of the orchestration are able to work together to create a specific effect. The term “enigma” is referred to as a metaphorical or symbolic thought that is given to another in a riddle and which has to be thought of for a solution. Each of the variations was dedicated to the close friends of Elgar, which were defined as being “pictured within” the variations. To further this, each of the variations has one of the friend’s initials and is known to reflect the personality of the individuals that were close to Elgar. While each is able to show a different personality, the variations also provide similarities in the thematic material and the structure that is used. The similarities and differences that range in the variations are able to create a deeper meaning to the piece that relates to the characteristics of Elgar. The beginning theme and Variation IV are examples of how Elgar worked with the thematic material to create specific types of personalities that are intertwined into the entire piece (Nice, 1996).The opening theme of Enigma starts with a melancholy melody and harmony. It begins at an andante and counts in the key of 4/4. The key signature is in the key of d minor to create the melancholy mood. The opening only has the violin, viola and cello playing. The violins are carrying the melody and the viola and cello hold a rhythmic and slow pace underneath this to create a movement with the piece. The first six bars carry the theme that is intertwined throughout the rest of the piece, heard in the first violin. Theme B begins in measure 7 and is heard by the change in instrumentation. The violin quartet in the symphony continues to carry the rhythmic pace heard by a quarter note and quarter rest in the background. The melody moves to the oboe and is echoed through the flute and woodwind section. A countermelody is also heard in the violins as the piece moves through the first movement. The same six bar melody that was heard at the beginning of the piece is also echoed in the relative major key at this point.

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