Elgar's Enigma Variations
Conductor John Eliot Gardiner joins the Philharmonia Orchestra for music of the past two centuries.
It's rare for Gardiner to conduct the work of British 19th- and 20th-century composers. But it's precisely his expertise in the music of the Baroque era that makes him an insightful pilot through this fascinating programme.
Michael Tippett's Fantasia was composed to mark the 300th anniversary of Italian composer Arcangelo Corelli.
In Tippett's skilled and respectful hands, a movement from a typical Corelli Concerto Grosso – with its contrast between a small group of string players and the whole ensemble – is transmuted into a work of timeless, lyrical radiance.
Greek myth, seen through the prism of Baroque theatre, provides the raw material for Benjamin Britten's 'dramatic cantata' Phaedra.
This exploration of forbidden desire – Phaedra's deadly infatuation with her stepson Hippolytus – compresses all the emotional intensity of an opera into a 15-minute span.
Alice Coote, 'the superlative British mezzo' (San Francisco Chronicle), sings the title role. Variations on a theme have been around since the Baroque era too, but most composers begin by stating their theme clearly. Not so Elgar, who has kept us guessing at his Enigma for over a century.
His memorable musical portraits of his wife, colleagues and friends – and in particular the solemn and majestic 'Nimrod', representing his publisher – are a firm favourite for countless listeners.
- Philharmonia Orchestra
- John Eliot Gardiner conductor
- Alice Coote mezzo-soprano
- Tippett: Fantasia concertante on a theme of Corelli
- Britten: Phaedra, cantata for mezzo-soprano & small orchestra
- Elgar: Enigma Variations
Where to watch
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Dates & times
First broadcast: available from 7.30pm on Fri 7 May and available to buy until Sat 7 Aug.
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