Cristian Măcelaru conducts the Concertgebouworkest in Elgar’s well-loved Enigma Variations and a rarely heard work by Enescu. The celebrated Russian soprano Elina Stikhina sings Wagner’s yearning Wesendonck-Lieder.
An enigma is a riddle. Over a century after its premiere, the mystery of Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations is still unsolved, but it was a hit from the very start. Eight years after the applauded premiere of his masterwork, Elgar lifted a tip of the veil: ‘This work, commenced in a spirit of humour and continued in deep seriousness, contains sketches of the composer's friends. It may be understood that these personages comment or reflect on the original theme and each one attempts a solution of the Enigma, for so the theme is called. The sketches are not 'portraits' but each variation contains a distinct idea founded on some particular personality or perhaps on some incident known only to two people.’
The poetess Mathilde Wesendonck was the wife of Wagner’s maecenas, Otto Wesendonck. Not only did Wagner and Mathilde have a stormy love-affair, more importantly he put five of her poems to music. The song cycle would soon become one of Wagner’s most widely popular works. It is perfectly suited to Elena Stikhina’s powerful yet light soprano voice.