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Enigma Variations

Few pieces are as shrouded in mystery as the Enigma Variations with its hidden theme, the 'dark saying' that 'must be left unguessed'. The electrifying Dinis Sousa conducts the work the made Elgar an international name.
London, Southbank Centre's Queen Elizabeth Hall £15 - £59 (£78 premium)

General booking for this event will open in October 2024.

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In the South (Alassio)
Sea Pictures
Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma Variations)

Frances Gregory mezzo-soprano
Dinis Sousa conductor

In 1898, as the new century approached Edward Elgar was 41, a composer of some repute but struggling for recognition. One evening he improvised variations upon a whimsical theme to his wife, Alice, inpsired by characteristics of his friends. It grew from something “commenced in a spirit of humour and continued in deep seriousness” into something more substantial. It is believed that Elgar hid another melody within his theme, but despite many theories being put forward the secret has never been cracked. 

The Enigma Variations was a roaring success with the British public. And not only at home. It was to be the work that propelled him to a global fame no English composer had achieved in over 200 years. It was said to have delighted Rimsky-Korsakov at its St Petersburg premiere and Mahler conducted it in New York.  

Sea Pictures was composed the summer after the premiere of Enigma Variations. Imbued with the Victorian affection for the English seaside, it also evokes distant shores. The orchestral version sets the five songs for a richly dark female voice, a part inspired by the contralto Clara Butt and sung this evening by Frances Gregory, one of our current Rising Stars of the Enlightenment. With In the South we depart British waters for a thrilling conjuring of the Italian resort of Alassio, where the Elgars spent holidays.

Part of Southbank Centre Season 2024/25.

"Sousa was electrifying in moments of grandeur, high drama and emotional intensity. Playing and choral singing were both sensationally good..."