Variations on a Theme

Joshua Zona
Joshua Zona

The Rapides Symphony’s next concert, “Variations on a Theme”, features two composers displaying dazzling creativity—Edward Elgar’s Enigma’ Variations and Alberto Ginastera’s Variaciones Concertantes.


Writing variations on a theme has been a favorite practice of composers for hundreds of years, allowing them to imaginatively create something complex out of a simple melody.  Elgar’s Enigma Variations has become a piece of standard orchestral repertoire since it’s premier in 1899.  Each variation is a music depiction of one of Elgar’s friends, complete with inside jokes and musical caricatures.  But the “enigma” referred to in the title is a secret that went to the grave with Elgar.  According to Elgar, the theme on which the piece is based can be performed at the same time as another well-known tune as an accompaniment.  Many have conjectured what that unheard melody is, from “Rule, Britannia” to “Auld Lang Syne”, but to this day, no one knows for sure.


The Argentinian composer Albert Ginastera’s variations are also based on a simple theme upon which he writes a series of variations that have an unmistakable South American flavor.  Each variation features a challenging solo for each of the first-chair players in the orchestra, even instruments that seldom get a solo turn like the viola and the string bass.  The piece comes to a raucous conclusion with the entire orchestra playing an Argentinian dance, the malambo.


Rapides Symphony Web LogoThe concert is Saturday, March 12th at 7:30pm at the Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center in downtown Alexandria.  Tickets range from $10.00 to $25.00, and can be obtained by calling the Rapides Symphony office at (318) 442-9709, or visiting