Edward Elgar: Variations on an Original Theme ‘Enigma’ Op.36
TheLiverpool Philharmonic Hall
May 15 – 16
Orchestra: The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Running Time: 2 hrs
Conductor: Alexander Shelley
Soloists: Mari Samuelsen (violin) Håkon Samuelsen (cello)
After a day of violin lessons in October 1898, Edward Elgar sat at his piano and began to play. A short time after starting the composer’s wife, Caroline Alice, interrupted by saying “Edu, that is a good tune … play it again.” From this chance remark – and the pair’s subsequent musings as to how some of their acquaintances might play, or how each variation might best be altered to suit their friends, the theme Elgar had spontaneously created – the session spawned what is regarded to day as the British composer’s landmark composition, The Enigma Variations.
That this evening they were placed in the hands of the glorious Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the youthful but nonetheless experienced and deeply talented Alexander Shelley, only added to the experience of witnessing a truly memorable concert. A feeling which was further enhanced by the addition of brother and sister partnership Mari and Håkon Samuelsen. Hailing from Norway, this is the much acclaimed duo’s first appearance in Liverpool although, now having heard them, the tickets for the December 17 Spirit of Christmas concert at The Liverpool Philharmonic will be me met with even greater anticipation. As if the evening were not memorable enough, the brother and sister partnership are simply mesmerising, leading an awestruck audience into an interval during which the bar and foyer once again buzzed; not only concerning the overall interpretation of the Variations, but also of the soloists’ beautifully performed encore, Passacaglia (Handel / Halvorsen) which was the epitome of musical excellence.
There is sadness, humour – such as the Variation XI which recounts the image of Dan the Bulldog, the organist of Hereford Cathedral’s dog, chasing after a cat and tumbling headlong into the River Wye – and solemnity. Nimrod is synonymous with Remembrance Sunday in Whitehall, but the verve with which the Liverpool Philharmonic perform the piece, new levels of emotional reaction are reached.
This is the beauty of the variations; the tendrils of random inspirations conspiring in the ether to become rendered as something magical and as near perfect as anybody has a right to expect them to be.
Edward Elgar: Variations on an Original Theme ‘Enigma’ Op.36 as performed by Alexander Shelley and The Royal Liverpool Orchestra in its own beautiful home will be a concert that will long in the memory of all those fortunate enough to see it.
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