The British conductor talks about the importance of mystery in his new Elgar disc, Limelight’s Recording of the Month.

The Enigma Variationsseems to have few, if any, antecedents in Elgar’s output or in European classical music. Can you trace its origins, or is it simply unique?

There are so many things that are totally unique about the Enigma Variations. That is one of the reasons it continues to be performed, loved by listeners, and recorded so many years after it first appeared. Having said that, the form – variations on a theme – had been around for a long time. One interesting example is the Dvořák Symphonic Variations, which is the piece I conducted when I won the Leeds Conducting Competition!! Unlike the Enigma, that piece has 32 variations!

Enigma is perhaps Elgar’s most performed and recorded orchestral work. Did you approach it with any specific personal musical agenda?

Not really… I approach every recording in the same way. Wanting to give a true and honest presentation of a composer’s intentions.

What are the main challenges facing a conductor in the work?

Gosh, there are so many! One important challenge is to maintain a sense of unity and a coherent structure, while...