“A mighty hunter before the Lord…”

Edward Elgar June 2nd, 1857 – 23 February 23rd, 1934

Elgar was the exact opposite of the typical English aristocrat of his time. He was very largely self taught, although he did have musical instruction from his father. He played several instruments well – piano, violin and bassoon – but most of what he learned about conducting, orchestration and composition he acquired on his own. He struggled for many years for recognition but was unable to earn enough money to support himself without taking all sorts of odd musical jobs on the side.

Then almost overnight he was famous, and it was through his Enigma Variations (1899) , which quickly became popular throughout the world. These variations started out with a theme, and then he used this theme to create a musical portrait of close friends. The “enigma” part comes from his claim that there is another theme, uniting all the variations, that no one has been able to figure out.

The most famous variation is called “Nimrod”,  in honor of his close friend and publisher, Augustus J. Jaeger,  who had encouraged him  him to continue composing despite lack of fame and near bankruptcy.

(Nimrod is the name of an Old Testament patriarch described as “a mighty hunter before the Lord”.  Jäger is a german word for  “hunter”.)

Today there is no greater musical honor than hearing Nimrod played in memory of someone very famous and much loved. It is only about four minutes long, about the same length as may popular tunes written right now. Of course there is more, and here is the whole thing with a score for two pianos:



6 thoughts on “Nimrod

    1. It is very famous, so of course you might have heard it someplace without knowing what it is. This is how untrained people come to think of this or that piece of music as “classical”. Things are played in a lot of circumstances, and people become aware that it is something they think they know. They may like it, or even love it, but the don’t think someone wrote it recently so they put it in the “classical” box.

    1. Michael, the Enigma Variations is a composition that I could not live without. Next lesson I’ll try to show you the theme, how he used that theme for Nimrod and all the other variations. I did not add a link to the whole thing, because I was afraid most students would not even think about listening to the whole thing, but tonight I will.

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