Elgar - Enigma Variations


I’ve completed the first edits on Elgar’s Enigma Variations (at the moment, just the Thema). Dorico driving VSL’s Synchron Strings Pro, Synchronized Woodwinds and VI Dimension Brass.

This piece is one of the most difficult to do with a synthetic orchestra. While I guess I’ll have to still work on it, I think it is already an interesting test for Dorico. Micro-tuning is very deep. And it is indeed possible.

What do you think? Any suggestions on how to try to improve it? (Note: someone has already pointed out how this version is very ‘dry’ compared to the available recordings; I would consider it as a first-row rehearsal listening…)

EDIT 2021-02-27: This is the most up-to-date version:

Elgar, Enigma Variations, Thema

Elgar, Enigma Variations, Nimrod (work in progress)



Elgar, Enigma Variations, Thema

These are different mixes, all with more ambience:

Elgar - Enigma Variations - Thema (only original mics, Standard edition)

Elgar - Enigma Variations - Thema (with algo reverb MIRacle added)

Elgar - Enigma Variations - Thema (matched to a vintager recording)


(Added more mixes, 2021-02-01)

Sparse things I would have liked while working at this project:

  • After editing an endpoint configuration in the template project, to be able to see all the added/edited playing/playback techniques in the target project. This didn’t happen, and I had to rebuild them all in the target.

  • Being able to work on more CC lanes at the same time. In this particular case, I have to edit at the same time CC1 (volume of longs) and CC11 (fine-tuning, and fine-volume adjustment of shorts).

  • Scrolling up/down in Play mode is not comfortable. You have always to catch the tiny vertical strip on the left, and then go back to the edit area.

  • Zooming horizontally also increase the vertical size of pianoroll events. I don’t find it very logical when wanting to increase the timing resolution, and it steals precious vertical space.

  • It would be great to be able to copy CC events together with notes. Really great! For example, when you want to add a first desk to a section, replicating the same part as the ensemble.

  • Quickly switching from solo to section type, in Setup, would save a lot of time when duplicating tracks, but assigning them different roles.

  • The mixer disappearing when clicking on a plugin window is confusing, and makes one lose focus. In general, the mixer could gain something in functionality and look.

  • I would really appreciate to be able to hide any type of element in the score. My playing indications are really a huge mess, mixing things to be printed and things only to say to the virtual instruments.

In general, working in Dorico is a true pleasure. When these things are smoothed out, it will be an even bigger pleasure!


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I think these all sound pretty great - congratulations!

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I guess if you have plenty of choice (like I don’t) the first thing to think about it what kind of string sound you’d like like for this piece. I’d perhaps go for something a bit warmer if you have it. Not very much to say about the generally tasteful rendering except that the woodwind are clearly too subdued when they come in. The strings should go down a notch and perhaps a little more dynamic phrasing to the woodwind. I like the MIRacle reverb.

On your comments, things of particular importance I think are the improvement required in the piano roll window —being able to work on more than one CC lanes at once and better scrolling behaviour in addition to clearer contrasts as the lines are sometimes all but invisible. I’m confident we will quite soon see some improvements in this area as the team are aware of them.

Anyway, thanks for posting --will be interested to hear what you make of other sections in due course.

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Thank you all very much for listening!

Since this test was also made to check Synchron Strings against a very lush piece, I’m tempted to agree with what you are implying: they are not the best choice. My guess is that the newer offering from VSL is not intended for this type of style, but more to cover modern styles. It’s still a classical sound, but as it is intended nowadays: colder, precise, not as deep as we older people were expecting from classical music up to a decade ago.

I want to see what happens with their Appassionata Strings. Unfortunately I don’t own Cinesamples Strings, that would be ideal, with all the grease pouring everywhere. Of the new Spitfire BBCSO I only own the Discovery version, and my impression is that this is also intended for a modern classical sound. I wonder how Orchestral Tools libraries would behave.

Wasn’t I confused enough? Now I’m more! I was going to lower the woodwinds against the strings, because I found them too loud! Now I need more careful listening with every speaker I have at hand!

However, thank you for the hint about working more on the woodwinds: they were a bit left behind, and deserve more love.


actually I should have been clearer about the woodwind, it’s only just a few seconds from their entry where they briefly before take over the melody the strings again continue. So in a sense you probably are right!

Appassionata strings are exactly what came to mind. CSS strings might well do the trick though I only have the solos. I don’t find the BBC “modern” compared to VSL – in fact is definitely a rather warm sound which has been sometimes criticized for being a bit muddy. It does present some programming challenges (but in case you are curious, I could always try the opening if you post or p.m the beginning of the Dorico score). Cinesamples is perhaps too bright for the necessary dignity of Elgar, I feel.

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I’d suggest you listen to this:

Thank you for your hint! As you know, this piece has been recorded countless times, so there are various models to keep as a reference. I agree, however, that Pierre Monteux is, here as anywhere else, one of the most elegant and convincing.

Incidentally, the version I kept under Dorico while creating the score was also performed by the LSO, but with Eugene Jochum conducting. Probably recorded in 1975.


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How about a Barbirolli sound? :grinning:


Uhm… I didn’t though about the most obvious choice!

Elgar: Enigma Variations, Sir John Barbirolli / Hallé Orchestra


In any case, it is fascinating how the discourse slid toward interpretation. Making music with virtual instruments and computers is at a point where aesthetic matters are highly relevant.


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I love the LSO / Jochum version - my personal favourite. They also recorded the Beethoven Symphonies around the same time - equally good.

I’ve uploaded a new version. This one has a modern tone, without trying to simulate the sound of the old recordings. I have made the winds more expressive, balanced them, and refined the strings a bit more.


just gorgeous.

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For a mechanical reproduction I dont find this at all bad. It is a situation of diminishing returns and to expect to copy a real performance in all details is not necessary. I do find the violas a little loud, particularly in the first six bars, and the first violins a little hesitant.

The Monteux/LSO recording you pointed us to was interesting: very clean playing which sounded a bit too cold to my ears. Although perhaps too French it certainly had character. There is also a famous Toscanini recording with the BBCSO, which is also different but very convincing.


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I’ve gone on, and tried with Nimrod. Just laid out the score, adjusted some dynamics line. Vibrato is only and always the normal one. No portamento yet. Just trying.

The mockup is in the first post. Hope to work on it in the forthcoming days.

I would like to replace the old VI percussions with the new BBO ones, recorded at the Synchron Stage. But I must be careful, to avoid scrambling all the existing settings.