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Enigma Variations (arr Slocum)

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Sir Edward Elgar

Sir Edward Elgar (trans. Earl Slocum)

General Info

Year: 1899 / 1978
Duration: c. 17:45
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: TRN Music
Cost: Score and Parts - $110.00   |   Score Only: $14.00

Movements (played without pause)

1. Theme - Theme - 1:20
2. Var. 1 - Var. I "C.A.E" - 2:00
3. Var. 2 - Var. IV "W.M.B."- 0:30
4. Var. 3 - Var. V "R.P.A." - 1:55
5. Var. 4 - Var. XI "G.R.S." - 2:30
6. Var. 5 - Var. IX "Nimrod" - 3:15
7. Var. 6 - Finale - Var. XIV Finale "E.D.U." - 5:45


Full Score
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
Eb Contra-Alto Clarinet (optional)
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Cornet I-II-III
B-flat Trumpet I-II
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass
Percussion I-II, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Snare Drum
  • Triangle


In parts:"'

  • Horn in F IV, Var. III, m.5: Should be written as two 8ths followed by two quarters (pitches are correct)
  • B-flat Tenor Saxophone, Var. V (Nimrod, IX in the original) m.40: Should be written C, A, D with the same rhythm (not D, B-flat, D).

See also: Topolewski, in Resources, below.

Program Notes

The Enigma Variations were written for orchestra in 1899 and bore the dedication “To My Friends Pictured Within.” The theme and fourteen variations catapulted Elgar to international acclaim. The story is told of how Elgar, returning home after a long day of giving violin lessons, sat down to unwind at the piano and tinkered by improvising. His wife commented on one of the melodies that emerged, and out of that exchange was born the concept of fashioning the original melody ... as it might be played by some of their friends in their own style. In all, fourteen people and a dog are featured in the Variations. This transcription was realised by Earl Slocum, and contains the theme and six of the fourteen variations.

- Program Note by Nikk Pilato

“To My Friends Pictured Within” was Elgar’s dedication for this work for orchestra written in 1899. As only initials or nicknames were given to the variations, the work remained an enigma of its own for many years to all but the subjects and Elgar’s own circle of friends. Earl Slocum has selected six of the fourteen variations to transcribe for winds and percussion.

The theme is notable for its use of a falling seventh (an Elgarian fingerprint) and for the fact that each phrase in the opening and closing sections begins on the second beat of the bar. Variation I is a portrait of the composer’s wife, Alice. W.M. Baker, the subject of Variation IV, “a country squire, gentleman, and scholar,” is parodied by Elgar for his habit of regimenting guests at country parties. Richard P. Arnold (Variation V) was the son of Matthew Arnold and played the piano “in a self-taught manner, evading difficulties but suggesting in a mysterious way the real feeling.” George Robertson Sinclair (Variation XI), organist of Hereford Cathedral, is depicted by an episode on the banks of the Wye, when his bulldog, Dan, fell down a steep bank into the river and found his way up again. The “Nimrod” of Variation IX was Elgar’s great friend and publisher A.J. Jaeger (the name means “hunter” in German). The variation “is the record of a long summer evening talk, when my friend discoursed eloquently on the slow movements of Beethoven.” The initials E.D.U., which head Variation X1V (Finale), are a paraphrase of “Edoo,” Alice Elgar’s pet name for her husband.

- Program Note by Roy Stahle for the Foothill Symphonic Winds concert program, 8 December 2013

Enigma Variations is a work that consists of a theme and its variations written for orchestra by Elgar in 1898-1899. It is Elgar’s best-known large-scale composition, for both the music itself and the enigmas behind it. Elgar dedicated the piece to “my friends pictured within”, each variation being an affectionate portrayal of one of his circle of close acquaintances.

Enigma Variations was first performed at St. James’s Hall, London, on June 19, 1899, conducted by Hans Richter. Critics were at first irritated by the layer of mystification, but most praised the substance, structure, and orchestration of the work. Elgar revised the final variation, adding 100 new bars and an organ part; the new version, the one usually played today, was premiered at the Worcester Three Choirs Festival on September 13, 1899, with Elgar himself conducting. Enigma Variations has been popular ever since. It quickly achieved many international performances, from Saint Petersburg, where it delighted Alexander Glazunov and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1904, to New York, where Gustav Mahler conducted it in 1910.

- Program Note from the West Texas A&M Wind Ensemble concert program, 11 February 2016


(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)

State Ratings

  • Florida:: VI --- (The Florida Bandmasters Association denotes this as significant literature.)
  • Georgia: VI
  • Iowa: VI
  • Louisiana: V
  • Maine: V
  • New York: VI
  • North Carolina: VI
  • Oklahoma: V
  • Texas: III (play Theme & two contrasting variations)
  • Texas: IV
  • Virginia: VI


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of Kansas (Lawrence) Symphonic Band (Matthew O. Smith, conductor) – 21 March 2023
  • University of Texas, Arlington, Wind Symphony (Douglas Stotter, conductor) - 28 April 2022
  • Oregon State University (Corvallis) Wind Ensemble (Erik Kar Jun Leung, conductor) - 22 October 2021
  • Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro) Wind Ensemble (Reed Thomas, conductor) – 8 November 2019
  • North Suburban Wind Ensemble (Libertyville, Ill.) (Don Shupe, conductor) – 10 March 2019
  • Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) Symphonic Band (Shawn Vondran, conductor) – 7 December 2018
  • United States Army Field Band (Washington, DC. (Jim Keene, conductor) – 11 November 2018 (Chandler, Ariz.)
  • Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge) Wind Ensemble (Damon Talley, conductor) - 27 September 2018
  • World Youth Wind Symphony (Interlochen, Mich.) (Steven D. Davis, conductor) – 4 August 2018
  • Eastman Music Educators' Wind Ensemble (Rochester, N.Y.) (Mark Davis Scatterday, conductor) - 2 August 2018
  • Ithaca (N.Y.) College Wind Ensemble (Christopher Hughes, conductor) – 7 March 2018
  • Wheaton North High School Wind Ensemble (Kent Krause, conductor) - 27 February 2018
  • United States Army Field Band (Ft. Meade, Md.) (Jim Keene, conductor) – 20 November 2017 (Columbus, Ohio)
  • University of Florida (Gainesville) Symphonic Band (John M. Watkins, Jr., conductor) – 13 April 2017
  • San Jose (Calif.) Wind Symphony (Edward C. Harris, conductor) – 5 March 2017
  • Michigan State University (East Lansing) Symphony Band (John T. Madden, conductor) – 1 December 2016
  • Capitol Symphonic Winds (West Hartford, Conn.) (Gary Partridge, conductor) – 30 November 2016
  • State University of New York, Potsdam, Concert Band (James T. Madeja, conductor) – 19 November 2016
  • Encore Winds (Traverse City, MI) (Tim Topolewski, conductor) - 16 October 2016
  • Carl Sandburg High School (Orlando Park, Ill.) (Stewart Bailey, conductor) – 28 April 2016
  • Plainfield North (Ill.) High School (Timothy Hatcher, conductor) – 28 April 2016

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works


  • Christopher J. Woodruff, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, personal correspondence.
  • Enigma Variations, Wikipedia Accessed 24 April 2018
  • Topolewski, Timothy. Errata Studies for the Wind Band Conductor Vol. 2. DeBiencourt, Montreal, Que., Can., Plein la Vue, 2003.