Bernstein’s Elgar.


  • Edward Elgar: Enigma Variations, Op. 36
  • Performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein, conductor
  • Recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall, 14 April 1982
  • Bonus:

– Rehearsal documentary including an interview with Leonard Bernstein

During the last few days, I have watched this DVD so many times that I have lost count. And there are two reasons why I keep coming back to watch some more:

1. Edward Elgar was a genius, and he wrote some totally amazing stuff. His “Enigma Variations” is actually a work in which he musically depicts several of his friends and relatives, one per variation on an original theme.

2. Beyond the performance itself, where Bernstein conducts the BBC Symphony for the first time, there is a fascinating rehearsal of Bernstein, who works with the orchestra members to prepare this piece.

We see Bernstein demanding very fast tempos and also very slow tempos, as he was known to do with other orchestras, particularly during the last few years of his life. There is a portion of the rehearsal where the trumpet section comes close to a “Palace Revolt” when Bernstein asks them to improve both tone and pitch.

Variation XIX is particularly moving.

Leonard Bernstein died in 1990 in New York City.

Here is a portion of the rehearsal:

and here is the concert: Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” as played by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a controversial reading by Leonard Bernstein at the Royal Festival Hall, London, on 14 April 1982.


Tags: Edward Elgar, Leonard Bernstein, Enigma Variations, BBC Symphony Orchestra