Was Elgar’s Enigma Hiding Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater

A convincing case has been made in a very nice 2019 write-up that the famous 1899 Enigma was supposed to make people think of Pergolesi.

…Edward Elgar composed what has become one of the most famous pieces of classical music in the world, the Enigma Variations. Its fame is due in large part to its beauty — its Nimrod theme must be one of the most moving passages of music ever written — but it has also captured people’s imagination for more than 100 years because, in its composition, Elgar set a puzzle that has never been solved.

Until now. Cue dramatic music.

…the Stabat mater being a more likely solution to Elgar’s enigma than the solutions previously suggested: when taken together, the evidence seems almost overwhelming. But stronger even than the appeal to logic is the appeal to the ears: when played alongside each other, the two themes fit astonishingly well. And that, taking Elgar at his word, should be the ultimate test.

Oh, and… spoiler alert!

Sorry, I’m obviously not very good at these riddle posts.

To be fair, I don’t know a single person who could hum anything by Elgar when you say the word Enigma to them, let alone the tunes of an early 1700s composer.

RIP Cafe Pergolesi.

So, maybe, perhaps I haven’t given anything away at all. What song comes to mind for you when you think about the Enigma? Please don’t say Wagner.

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