Nimrod (tr. Patterson)

From Wind Repertory Project
Sir Edward Elgar

Edward Elgar (trans. Donald Patterson)

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Subtitle: From Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36, Enigma

N.B. This transcription for the U.S. Marine Band by Donald Patterson is not to be confused with Variations on an Original Theme: "Enigma" transcribed by Merlin Patterson.

General Info

Year: 1899 /
Duration: c. 4:00
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: U.S. Marine Band
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Occasionally a composer will create a work within a well-established form that is unlike anything that precedes it, serving as a reminder of the incredible creative possibilities that exist all around. This is exactly what the British composer Sir Edward Elgar did with his Variations on an Original Theme, a work better known by its informal title, Enigma Variations. A lifelong fan of puzzles, riddles, and codes, the composer had the unique opportunity in this composition to combine his favorite hobby with his passion for music. The work is a mystery on several levels.

First, each of the variations is a musical portrait of a friend or loved one represented by a series of initials or a nickname at the beginning of the variation. This was a puzzle easily solved by anyone familiar with Elgar’s family and friends, and Elgar himself provided the answers in a piano roll version of the music that was published in 1929. The second puzzling element of the work is the unique nature of the melodic fragments that appear to constitute the theme. These fragments are indeed heard at the beginning of the piece, the traditional position of a theme, and it is clearly this material that is developed in the subsequent variations. But Elgar did not label this introduction as the “theme,” instead affixing the term “enigma.” Adding to the mystery was the following statement from the composer:

The Enigma I will not explain -- its “dark saying” must be left unguessed, and I warn you that the connection between the Variations and the Theme is often of the slightest texture; further, through and over the whole set another and larger theme “goes,” but is not played … so the principal theme never appears, even as in some recent dramas … the chief character is never on the stage.

Perhaps the best known of the variations is the ninth, which bears the title Nimrod. This title was a subtle nod to Elgar’s dear friend August Jaeger -- Nimrod being the “mighty hunter” from the Book of Genesis, and “Jaeger” being the German word for “hunter” -- who had supported the composer in his career and during periods of mental health difficulties. Jaeger passed away in 1909, and when Elgar wrote the Enigma Variations years later, he specifically tried to depict, “the record of a long summer evening talk” with his confidante. Since the composition of the Enigma Variations, Nimrod has become popular as a standalone work, used as a commemorative musical tribute during memorial services and other somber occasions.

- Program Note from U.S. Marine Band concert program, 26 August 2021


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State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Jason K. Fettig, conductor) – 26 August 2021

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