Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

Edward Elgar, Cute Internet Animals, and Multimedia: The Enigma Variations and Bulldog Dan


Here is a video of a bulldog rolling down a hill.

Why am I showing you a cute internet animal video?  Other than it’s Monday, and besides, why not?

George Robertson Sinclair and his bulldog Dan, subject of Elgar's Enigma Variation XI

George Robertson Sinclair and his bulldog Dan, subject of Elgar’s Enigma Variation XI

When Edward Elgar wrote the Enigma Variations, each variation was intended to depict a friend.  In the case of Variation XI, even though it is labeled G. R. S. (George Robertson Sinclair, an organist friend), it is actually about Sinclair’s bulldog Dan.  It depicts Dan falling into the river Wye (perhaps after rolling?), waddling up the bank, reaching the top and barking.

See if you can hear bulldog Dan in this recording of Variation XI from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.  Afterward, you might want to try playing the muted bulldog video at the same time as the variation.

Here is Elgar’s own explanation of the Enigma Variations, a booklet titled My Friends Pictured Within, written to accompany a 1929 piano roll of the piece.

In an article in the The Elgar Society Journal on the variations I found the following passage:

It should be explained that Elgar’s notes and the running commentary are printed on the rolls themselves, which may explain why the material has been so little consulted. Copies are scarce, and the rolls are both cumbersome and fragile (I timed the rewinding of one at thirteen minutes). The running commentary was designed to be read from the roll during performance (hence, presumably, the subtitle of the series: ‘Audiographic Music’).1

Edward Elgar went multimedia—in 1929.

If you are looking for a comprehensive Elgar site, go to

The orchestral score and Elgar’s own solo piano version can be found here.

And finally, here is the complete Enigma Variations, performed by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yuri Temirkanov.


  1. Smith, Mike, “Friends Revisited: an edition of Elgar Birthplace EB722,” in The Elgar Society Journal, Vol 16 No 2, July 2009, p 8.


Image attributions: Photograph of George Robertson Sinclair and bulldog Dan from My Friends Pictured Within.  London: Novello and Co. Ltd.

2 thoughts on “Edward Elgar, Cute Internet Animals, and Multimedia: The Enigma Variations and Bulldog Dan

  1. Is there no end to the delight of music? Pomp and circumstance and pratfalls and gags, from one mind. Oh, England, wherefore art thou?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Delightful. The pairing you recommend is perfect.


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