Ed Sheeran’s Autumnal Notes: A Nod to Elgar’s Enigma

Ed Sheeran Live Concert @ Forest National Bruxelles

Ed Sheeran’s latest album is a gentle homage to the classical composer, Edward Elgar. A touch of history, interwoven with modern pop, Sheeran beckons us into a world where past and present harmonize.

Dive into the world of pop, and Ed Sheeran stands tall. Yet, with his new album, “Autumn Variations” he gracefully leans into the echoes of the 20th century. The album draws its inspiration from Elgar’s timeless “Enigma Variations.” For those unacquainted, Elgar’s piece is a collection of 14 musical narratives dedicated to his close-knit circle, including his beloved wife, Alice.

Imagine, back in 1900, Elgar penning a letter to his publisher, Jaeger. The same Jaeger who inspired ‘Nimrod,’ the standout piece from the Variations. In the letter, Elgar cheekily mentions how he enjoyed ascribing his pals’ nicknames to the musical segments.

Sheeran’s dive into Elgar’s world wasn’t a solitary discovery. He credits his introduction to the iconic Worcestershire composer to family—specifically, his father and musically-talented brother, Matthew Sheeran, known for his classical and film compositions. It was a time when Ed was navigating personal challenges.

Sheeran reflected on his album’s creation, saying, “Last autumn was transformational. Post-summer, my friends and I experienced shifts in our worlds. Calms after storms, breakdowns, epiphanies – the spectrum of emotions was vast. During a rough patch early last year, songwriting became my therapy, a mirror reflecting my and my friends’ sentiments.”

Drawing parallels with Elgar, Sheeran mentioned, “Hearing about Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’, a series where each composition echoed a friend’s persona, I found the muse for this album. My collaboration with Aaron Dessner on ‘Subtract’ was instinctual. Our sessions were a whirlwind of creativity, culminating in ‘Autumn Variations’. His touch brings an essence of fall that resonates deeply. I truly hope listeners cherish this as much as I have.”

“Autumn Variations” is slated for a 29th September release under Sheeran’s label, Gingerbread Man Records.

Ed’s connection with music isn’t a recent affair. In a chat with Classic FM’s Moira Stuart in 2021, he recalled a house filled with classical tunes. His brother’s violin and piano sessions left young Ed enamored. “I yearned to emulate my brother. But he nudged me towards the cello instead,” Ed chuckled. He fondly remembered his grandmother, a classical vocalist, saying, “Her influence was profound.”

With this fusion of pop and classical, who knows? Perhaps Elgar’s cello concerto might just be the muse for Sheeran’s subsequent masterpiece.



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