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Ed Sheeran Finds Classical Music Inspiration in Upcoming Album

By Sara Schabas on August 28, 2023

Ed Sheeran classical music
(L-R) Ed Sheeran (Photo Wikipedia/ Harald Krichel) / Edward Elgar (Public Domain)

The British singer-songwriter recently announced his next album, “Autumn Variations,” inspired by Edward Elgar’s 1899 Enigma Variations.

The Scoop: On Thursday, the Grammy-award-winning singer Ed Sheeran announced his second album of 2023, “Autumn Variations.” The album will be produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, also known for his collaborations with Taylor Swift and Gracie Abrams.

The Inspiration: Sheeran was inspired by Edward Elgar’s 14-movement Op. 36, Variations on an Original Theme, popularly known as the Enigma Variations. Sheeran explained in a statement that each movement in Elgar’s opus was inspired by a different one of the composer’s friends, which inspired Sheeran to do the same on his 14-song album.

The Comparison: In a 1911 program note, Elgar wrote of his Enigma Variations: “This work, commenced in a spirit of humour & continued in deep seriousness, contains sketches of the composer’s friends. … The sketches are not ‘portraits’ but each variation contains a distinct idea founded on some particular personality or perhaps on some incident known only to two people.”

Sheeran’s notes about his album are written in the same vein. He said, “Last autumn, I found that my friends and I were going through so many life changes. … When I learned about my friends’ different situations, I wrote songs, some from their perspectives, some from mine, to capture how they and I viewed the world at that time.”

Edward Elgar improvised much of his Variations one night to his wife after a long day. Sheeran described a similar fervour when writing his  album with Aaron Dessner, saying,“We wrote and recorded non-stop.”

When can I hear it?: Sheeran’s album won’t be out till September 29th. Until then, enjoy Elgar’s heart-wrenching and intimately crafted Nimrod from Enigma.


Sara Schabas
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