Sunday, November 27, 2016

Wagnerian Leitmotifs in Elgar's "Chanson de Nuit"

It was during this visit that Elgar spoke of a Malvern book club, a sort of literary federation, of which he was the first member, which enabled Malvern readers to know each other’s libraries, the late Mrs. Lynn Linton being an enthusiastic supporter. The surrounding piles of books were expressive of the man, but other features of the study spoke of his many-sideness. A large portrait of Wagner was conspicuous, and a board over the fireplace displayed in poker-work an ascending flash of chromatic semi-quavers. “The Fire-motive,” he said, “from the ‘Ring of the Nibelungen’ ; one of my own attempts at decoration.”

Robert J. Buckley in Sir Edward Elgar

In his groundbreaking 1985 paper Elgar and Wagner, Peter Dennison identifies extraordinary parallels between motifs from Wagner’s operas and Elgar’s early choral works. Dennison astutely theorizes that fragments of Wagner’s music emanated from Elgar’s early music because of an intense and prolonged study of Wagner’s works. In 2008, Laura Meadows picked up where Dennison left off in her fascinating thesis Elgar as Post-Wagnerian: A Study of Elgar’s Assimilation of Wagner’s Music and Methodology. She makes a compelling case that Elgar was “profoundly influenced by Wagner from an early age and this influence gradually infiltrated his compositional thoughts.” She traces this influence to Elgar’s large-scale choral and orchestral works, overlooking comparably diminutive works such as those for solo violin and piano that apparently make no use of leitmotifs or other dramatic effects associated with Wagner’s operas.
In March 1883, Elgar attended a memorial concert conducted by August Manns in honor of Wagner who had died the previous month. On the concert program, he penciled expression marks on the Siegfried motif in the Funeral March from Götterdämmerung. By 1889 his fascination for the Siegfried leitmotif blossomed into song as evidenced by the opening ten notes of Chanson de Nuit Op. 15 No. 1. The first ten melody notes of Chanson de Nuit are drawn entirely from Siegfried’s Second Horn Call, a leitmotif from Wagner’s Opera Götterdämmerung.

These opening melody notes are a virtual restatement of the Second Siegfried Horn Call leitmotif except for its first note which Elgar cleverly slips in at the end of the opening four-bar phrase of Chanson de Nuit. Never was it more truly said that mediocre artists borrow, but great artists steal.
There is credible evidence that the contrasting secondary theme from Chanson de Nuit is modeled closely after Wagner’s Magic Sleep leitmotif from Götterdämmerung. Excluding the punctuated dotted rhythmic figures, the chromatic sequence of descending minor seconds closely mirrors the same note sequence of the Magic Sleep leitmotif. It is exquisitely appropriate that Elgar symbolically alludes to sleep in a song about the night.

Elgar’s manipulation of the Magic Sleep leitmotif shares a striking similarity with how he modified the Siegfried Second Horn Call leitmotif. This is the case because Elgar omitted the first note of the Siegfried Second Horn Call leitmotif, and left out the first two notes of his elaborated Magic Sleep leitmotif. Elgar’s willingness to borrow from Wagner’s Magic Sleep leitmotif was not confined to Chanson de Nuit. Diana McVeagh finds evidence for Wagner’s Magic Sleep leitmotif in Elgar’s oratorio The Black Knight composed in 1889-93 at the same time as Chanson de Nuit:
There are Wagnerian echoes. The Black Knight’s own motif is Klingorish. In Scene 2 the king’s castle rocks to a series of chromatic chords over bass tritones (the four bars before K, repeated before cue M) markedly like the version of ‘magic sleep’ as Valhalla burns in the final orchestral bars of Götterdämmerung.
Elgar’s willingness to borrow from Wagner’s leitmotifs around 1889 for both Chanson de Nuit and The Black Knight marked the beginning of a far more ambitious enterprise that culminated in the Enigma Variations in 1899, for in that work he covertly quotes Ein feste Burg. In her informative thesis, Laura Meadows carefully catalogs concerts that Elgar attended or participated in as a sectional violinist between 1878 and 1911. She assembled this itemized list from Elgar’s personal collection of concert programs housed at the Elgar Birthplace Museum. Something remarkable about that list is how often Elgar heard performances of Ein Feste Burg before he composed the Enigma Variations in 1898-99. In 1890 Elgar played first violin in a performance Bach’s sacred cantata Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott BWV 80. In 1897 he was an audience member at a concert that included that same work. In 1883, 1886, and 1889, Elgar attended performances of Wagner’s Kaisermarsch which freely quotes Bach’s adaption of Luther’s hymn Ein feste Burg. Following the Enigma Variations, Elgar would later participate in a performance of Kaisermarsch in 1901. Like Bach and Wagner, Mendelssohn quotes Ein feste Burg in one his own works, the Reformation Symphony. Therefore, Elgar's decision to surreptitiously quote Ein feste Burg in his Enigma Variations pays silent homage to three giants of the German School: Bach, Mendelssohn, and Wagner.
To learn more about the secrets of Elgar’s Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Elgar’s Enigma Variations FIRE Cipher

“Flamma fumo est proxima.”

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

There are four subtitles in the Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar:

When the first and last movements are inverted (i.e., the first becomes last, and the last becomes first), the first letters of those four subtitles form an acrostic of the word FIRE. It is astonishing that Julian Rushton, one of the world’s leading Elgar scholars, failed to detect such a rudimentary cryptogram. Such a lapse would account for why he reflexively ruled out the existence of any ciphers in the Enigma Variations. The supreme irony is the only thing that may be safely ruled out is Rushton’s aptitude for cryptanalysis.

Elgar’s FIRE cipher mirrors another nestled among the seven performance directions of the Enigma Theme’s opening measure because the first letters of those terms are an acrostic for EE’s PSALM. The application of the same method of encipherment for these codes is prima facie evidence that Elgar was behind the creation of both.
There are a number of plausible explanations for why would Elgar encode the word FIRE in the Enigma Variations. The first concerns various coded references to Dante's Divina Commedia within the Enigma Variations. For instance, Variation IX is called Nimrod, a giant mentioned in Dante's Inferno inhabiting the ninth circle of hell.  The Inferno is the first canticle from his epic poem, and that title means a very large and dangerous fire. The word canticle translates as a hymn or psalm, a revealing term since the covert principal Theme to the Enigma Variations is Ein feste Burg, a hymn inspired by Psalm 46. For a devout Roman Catholic like Elgar, his FIRE Cipher could be a covert reference to the fire of Christ, the secret friend portrayed in Variation XIII. As it says in the book of Hebrews, “For our God is a consuming fire.” The I AM Cipher in the Enigma Theme suggests another theological explanation, for when God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, he ascribed to himself the enigmatic title, “I AM.” In Roman Catholic theology Jesus is a Person of the Trinity and is regarded as the Incarnation of God. Multiple coded references to the Turin Shroud are also relevant because that sacred relic was scorched in 1532 when a fire broke out in the chapel where it was stored.
There is another possible explanation for Elgar’s FIRE Cipher. In the original 1899 program note, Elgar remarked the Enigma Theme involved a “dark saying.” Fire serves as a source of light to illuminate the night, so this acrostic cryptogram suggests a cipher key involving some connection to fire. Prior research uncovered a Polybius Square Music Box Cipher in the opening six measures of the Enigma Theme. This secret code enciphers a six-word phrase (i.e., a saying) that comprises the complete title of the covert principal Theme, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, in the original German as Ein feste Burg ist Unser Gott. What is remarkable about the Polybius Square Cipher is it originally involved the use of different combinations of flaming torches to transmit messages over long distances at night. Besides suggesting the identity of his secret friend, Elgar’s coded reference to FIRE may be understood as a clue regarding the type of cipher that encodes his “dark saying.”
Another acrostic ensconced within these four subtitles is the German word frei meaning free:

A meticulous study of the Mendelssohn Fragments in Variation XIII shows their key signatures (A-flat major, F minor, and E-flat major) encode the well-known musical cryptogram F-A-E. These initials originate from Joseph Joachim’s German motto “Frei aber einsam,” which translates into English as “Free but lonely.” When describing the Enigma Theme, Elgar wrote that “it expressed when written (in 1898) my sense of the loneliness of the artist...”  Not only does he encode the first word of Joachim’s romantic motto in the subtitles, Elgar also sequentially added the Italian word for but (ma) followed by a phonetic version of the German word einsam (eanzam) symbolically laid out in the shape of a cross. Elgar’s use of multiple languages and phonetic spellings is a distinctive feature of his Music Box Cipher, a cryptogram to which he affixed his signature as stealth confirmation.

To learn more about the secrets of Elgar’s Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Julian Rushton’s Enigma Fallacies

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

One of the loftiest figures in Elgar scholarship is Julian Rushton, a prolific musicologist and Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Leeds. Perhaps more than anyone else, he has doggedly advanced and ossified the conventional wisdom regarding the Enigma Variations. One of his importunate mantras is to insist that the correct solution to the Enigma Variations – if one exists at all – “should seem obvious (and not just to its begetter).”[1] This staid opinion is reiterated when commenting on his tenure as editor of The Elgar Society Journal, “I am delighted to have got through five years without printing any more purported enigma ‘solutions’, especially as some that have recently come to my attention tend to the increasingly tortuous, despite Elgar’s claim that the solution, once spotted, would seem obvious.”[2] According to Rushton, the answer to the Enigma Variations must appear obvious; and as there are no obvious solutions, the riddle must remain steadfastly unresolved.
Where Rushton found such a peculiar proviso is not so obvious, for there is no record of Elgar stipulating the solution should be apparent. This faux condition conjured by Rushton’s feted imagination is easily refuted by consulting a dictionary. The Merriam-Webster definition for enigma is, “Someone or something that is difficult to understand or explain.” In contrast, the definition for obvious is, “Easy for the mind to understand or recognize.” With such diametrically opposed meanings, Merriam-Webster classifies enigma and obvious as antonyms. Following the passage of over a century without uncovering a compelling solution to the Enigma Variations, what should be excruciatingly obvious (even to a career academic like Rushton) is that the correct solution is anything but straightforward. Compromised by such a fatal logical flaw in which the principle of contradiction has been suspended, Rushton’s quest for a credible resolution in his book Elgar: Enigma Variations was doomed from the start.
There are other outlandish errors pockmarking Rushton’s analysis of the Enigma Variations. One of the most glaring is his assumption Elgar had only a brief three-day period in which to conceive of any cryptograms. He relies on Elgar’s correspondence with Jaeger to arrive at such an eccentric conclusion. Rushton ruminates, “A tempting avenue leads to ciphers, although the short interval (three days) between conception and the commitment implied by mentioning the existence of the Variations to Jaeger makes elaborate precompositional calculation unlikely.”[3] This inference conflicts with Rushton’s remarks concerning Variation X (Dorabella) which he describes as being of “possibly early origin…”[4] An “early origin” would imply some degree of “precompositional calculation.” What Rushton alleges is the Variations were essentially a spontaneous, unplanned eruption of Elgar’s genius that would necessarily preclude any elaborately premeditated cryptograms and counterpoints.
Does Rushton’s theory harmonize with the historical evidence? A cursory review of the timeline decisively refutes such an arbitrary three-day constraint on the formulation of any cryptograms and counterpoints. Elgar openly began work on the Variations starting October 21, 1898, only completing the orchestration by February 19, 1899. From the time he first performed the Enigma Theme for his wife until he completed the initial orchestration covered a span of no less than 121 days. This timeline does not take into consideration an extra five days in July 1899 when Elgar sketched and appended 96 bars to the extended Finale. At a minimum, Elgar enjoyed a leisurely four months to devise and perfect any eventual ciphers and counterpoints, not a scant three days as Rushton weirdly contends. The selfsame scholar who conflated the definitions for obvious and enigma apparently lacks the mathematical acuity to differentiate between three days versus four months. To paraphrase Elgar’s not-so-secret friend, it is as if Rushton’s left lobe does not know what the right is thinking. If Rushton is the best England’s renowned universities can muster in the quest to crack the Enigma Variations, then no wonder the British academic establishment failed to successfully navigate that melodic labyrinth.
Rushton’s three-day limitation on Elgar’s creative ferment is in marked conflict with Elgar’s lifelong compositional habits. In The Cambridge Companion to Elgar (edited by Daniel M. Grimley and, somewhat ironically, Julian Rushton), Christopher Kent describes Elgar’s compositional practices in his essay Magic by mosaic: some aspects of Elgar’s compositional methods. From early childhood Elgar would record and accumulate his musical ideas on small sheets of staff paper during outdoor excursions, a practice he likely absorbed from his father. Kent designates these musical sketches as “spontaneous jottings.” He offers numerous anecdotes of Elgar deriving musical inspiration from outdoor trips by the River Wye, Lake Windermere, and the reeds of the Severn with “a sheet of paper trying to fix the sounds and longing for something great.” Elgar’s lasting “indebtedness to environmental stimulation” raises the question whether he conceived of the Enigma Theme and some of the variations while ostensibly extemporizing at the piano on the eve of October 21, 1898, or if his ideas were crystallized earlier during his pastoral forays.  Unfortunately, the sketchbook that could document those ideas was burned in July 1921, a year after the passing of Lady Elgar. Nonetheless, there is abundant evidence proving Elgar used material from sketches generated years and even decades before fashioning them into a polished work. Rushton’s observation regarding Variation X as possibly being of an early origin supports this very conclusion.
There is overwhelming evidence for no less than 41 ciphers in the Enigma Variations, and in all probability, there are more waiting to be discovered. Elgar apparently devised some of these ciphers before or during the three-day window invoked by Rushton. For instance, Richard Santa made the momentous discovery that Elgar enciphered the number Pi in the first bar of the Enigma Theme using the scale degrees of the melody.  The Enigma Locks Cipher could not have been realized until the orchestration commenced in February 1899. In contrast, the Keys Cipher was evidently conceived at the outset because the accidentals for the two keys in which the Enigma Theme is played (G minor and major) cleverly encode the initials for the hidden Theme. The key signature for G minor consists of B flat and E flat, and the accidental for G major is F sharp. Those three letters (E, F, and B) form the initials of Ein feste Burg, and it is remarkable at least five ciphers encode those very same initials. The odds of so many ciphers encoding the same three initials is so remote as to exclude the realm of chance.
The moniker Elgar ascribed to Jaeger’s variation – Nimrod – first mentioned in his letter dated October 24, 1898, is on closer inspection an exquisite wordplay cipher that encodes the covert Theme’s title. It is no coincidence that Bach’s rendering of Ein feste Burg plays convincingly “through and over” that elegiac movement, or that Mendelssohn’s adaption from his Reformation Symphony offers an equally compelling counterpoint. The Enigma Psalms Cipher was likely conceived during that initial three-day period because of its placement in the opening bar of the Enigma Theme, although it is equally possible Elgar revisited this measure later during the orchestration to select the performance directions necessary to construct it. At least five of these ciphers include in their decryptions Elgar’s initials or last name. The four languages used in Elgar’s Enigma Theme Music Box Cipher are the four voices of a cryptographic choir – English, Latin, German, and Aramaic. From the grave, this foursquare ensemble sings the composer’s name: Elgar. This elaborate cryptogram proves Elgar did indeed record the solutions to his enigmas by incorporating the cipher within the body of the orchestral score, affixing his name in code to authenticate the answers.
A subset of eight ciphers are embedded in the anomalous Mendelssohn fragments cited in Variation XIII:
  1. FAE Cipher
  2. Fragments Cipher
  3. Mendelssohn EFB Cipher
  4. Mendelssohn Keynotes Cipher
  5.  Music Anagram Cipher
  6. Dominant-Tonic-Dominant (5-1-5) Cipher
  7. Mendelssohn Pi Cipher
  8. Mendelssohn Pi-C Cipher
Concerning the cryptographic relevance of these Mendelssohn fragments, Rushton clearly missed the proverbial boat by assuming that Elgar lacked the time needed to devise such an elaborate series of cryptograms.  Rather than impugning the veracity of these codes by relying on the demonstrably false assumption that Elgar lacked sufficient time, the complexity and sophistication of these complementary cryptograms serve as conclusive evidence for their authenticity, and by extension, the answers they encode. Rushton’s folly illustrates when one presumes there are no cryptograms to discover, the need for conducting a diligent search becomes superfluous with the attendant absence of evidence feeding that corrosive confirmation bias. In short, Rushton found nothing because he believed there was nothing to find, culminating ever so predictably in a self-fulfilling prophecy intoned by a false prophet.
Rushton’s capacity to sustain a modicum of objectivity is compromised, if not smothered, by an intractable skepticism towards all alleged solutions to the Enigma Variations. Such agnosticism appears to be driven by his belief that a solution is unnecessary. As he surmises, “That Op. 36 stands ‘as a piece of music’ reminds us that there is no need, from the aesthetic rather than psychological point of view, to find a solution.”[5] The appeal to the psychological realm in describing the motives of those recommending new solutions suggests an unhealthy obsession, one fatal to scholarly objectivity. As he writes, “I shall propose no new solution, nor try to fathom the solver’s psychology, beyond remarking that it may lead to illnesses dangerous to scholars, such as selective quotation.”[6] He all but implies that the quest for answers requires the abandonment of reason and objectivity, a position decidedly at odds with the English motto of his Alma mater, the University of Leeds: “And knowledge will be increased.” The appalling irony is that Rushton, in his naked desire to minimize and marginalize all solutions, casts reason to the wind to ensure that no solution, no matter how credible, will ever be taken seriously or granted an impartial hearing. If Elgar’s Enigma Variations were likened to a melodic labyrinth, then Rushton is surely a type of Minotaur whose illusive scholarship impeded discovery of a way out.
Rushton’s failure to objectively present the most basic facts about the Enigma Variations without imposing artificial constraints on the exercise of Elgar’s genius casts a long and lingering shadow of doubt over much of his analysis. When citing the original 1899 program note, Rushton wryly observed, ‘This passage raises a ripe mixture of unanswerable questions, not least why the composer indulged in obfuscation as early as 1899.”[7] Unanswerable questions? From the outset Rushton pigeonholes the only “solution” he finds palatable, namely that the answer should remain uncertain, unknowable, and undecided. His superficial summary of Elgar’s conditions concerning the relationship between the Covert Theme and the Enigma Variations is so hopelessly constructed that it reaps a whirlwind of clashing answers. Perhaps this was Rushton’s intention all along, to so abjectly confuse his audience as to ensure they would inevitably arrive at his foreordained inconclusive conclusion.
Only a judicious appreciation of Elgar’s carefully crafted conditions offers any genuine hope of unmasking the correct melodic solution. As an astute philosopher observed, “Getting the question right is the answer.” Getting Elgar’s conditions right is pivotal in this quest for clarity. In private and public venues Elgar consistently explained the Enigma Variations are based on a famous clandestine melody. The dedicatee of Variation X, Dora Powell (née Penny) categorically stated, “Elgar told me personally more than once that the enigma concerned another tune.”[8] His first public remarks in the 1899 program note for the premiere makes this fact unequivocal:
It is true that I have sketched for their amusement and mine, the idiosyncrasies of fourteen of my friends, not necessarily musicians; but this is a personal matter, and need not have been mentioned publicly. The Variations should stand simply as a ‘piece’ of music. The Enigma I will not explain – it’s ‘dark saying’ must be left unguessed, and I warn you that the connexion between the Variations and the Theme is often of the slightest texture; further, through and over the whole set another and larger theme ‘goes’, but is not played…So the principal Theme never appears, even as in some later dramas – e.g., Maeterlinck’s ‘L’Intruse’ and ‘Les sept Princesses’ – the chief character is never on the stage.[9]
Elgar plainly states the Theme may be played through and over the entire set of Variations, yet remains silent with often the slightest connection between them. Only a musical theme may be played, unlike those of a literary, symbolic or mathematical nature. In 1923 Troyte Griffith, the friend portrayed in Variation VII, asked if the missing melody was God save the King. Elgar replied, “No, of course not; but it is so well-known that it is extraordinary no one has spotted it.”[10] Rushton mistakes such a statement to mean the melodic solution should be obvious, but that is not the crux of Elgar's response. His reply to Troyte confirms the obvious fame of the absent Theme, suggesting that fragments of it must be present in the Variations, for otherwise there would be nothing to spot. What those fragments are is not so obvious. This hunch is bolstered by the original program note that describes the link between the absent Theme and the Variations as being “…often of the slightest texture...”  Merriam-Webster defines slight as “very small in degree or amount,” and one definition for texture is “the various parts of a song…and the way they fit together.” Elgar’s judiciously parsed words specify the discernable bond between the Variations and the absent Theme is comprised of short sequences of shared notes or fragments. This condition is further alluded to by the brief four-note Mendelssohn fragments quoted in Variation XIII.
In an interview published in the October 1900 issue of The Musical Times, Elgar clarified how the absent Theme fits into the overall design:
In connection with these much discussed Variations, Mr. Elgar tells us that the heading ‘Enigma’ is justified by the fact that it is possible to add another phrase, which is quite familiar, above the original theme that he has written. What that theme is no one knows except the composer. Thereby hangs the ‘Enigma.’[11]
Notice the terms phrase and theme are used interchangeably in the context of a melody that may be added above the original Enigma Theme. This narrative dovetails precisely with the original program note stating “…through and over the whole set another and larger theme ‘goes’, but is not played…” Only a musical theme can be played, a quality irreconcilable with something symbolic, figurative, mathematical, or literary. The insistence by some that the solution could be something other than a famous melody is utterly incompatible with this stipulation.
More evidence confirming the enigma must be a melody is found in Elgar’s 1905 biography compiled by Robert J. Buckley. As the music critic for The Birmingham News, he first met Elgar in 1896 and knew him for almost a decade prior to publication.[12] In the introduction Buckley confidently declares:
Whatever this book states as fact may be accepted as such. The sayings of Elgar are recorded in the actual words addressed directly to the writer, and upon these I rely to give to the book an interest it would not otherwise possess.[13]
This biography was available during Elgar’s lifetime, and it is important to recognize he never disputed or disavowed any part of Buckley’s reportage. Dora Powell confirmed the biography was sanctioned by the composer.[14] Buckley could not have offered such intimate details such as quotations, anecdotes, personal photographs, and copies of unpublished scores without Elgar’s personal assistance. Following Buckley’s introduction, Elgar’s cooperation is established by a facsimile of a handwritten autographed note in German and English.[15] On the subject of the Enigma Variations Buckley records Elgar’s description as follows:
The ‘Enigma’ orchestral-piece is Op. 36. What the solution of the ‘Enigma’ may be, nobody but the composer knows. The theme is a counterpoint on some well-known melody which is never heard, the variations are the theme seen through the personalities of friends, with an intermezzo and a coda, the last added at the request of friends aided and abetted by Dr. Richter, who accepted the work on its merits, having received the score in Vienna from his agent in London, and who at the time had not met with the composer.[16]
A counterpoint is by definition a counter-melody, so logic requires the unstated principal Theme must also be a melody.  This condition is consistent with Elgar’s character as a composer for he composed counterpoints to famous themes like Handel’s Messiah and Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. A counterpoint requires both a vertical and horizontal fit between the two themes. Like a home resting on its foundation, the Enigma Theme rests on its foundational principal Theme. This demands that each share the same length to ensure a precise horizontal fit. The long and short of it is that one tune cannot be longer or shorter than the other. Elgar’s standard reply to enigma solutions invokes this fundamental idea of a fit between the two melodies:
No: nothing like it. 
I do not see the tune you suggest fits in the least.
Merriam-Webster defines the verb fit as “to be suitable for or to harmonize with,” and “to conform correctly to the shape or size of.” Elgar’s language leaves no room for doubt. Both themes must be the same length with a suitable counterpoint.
The final condition comes from explanatory notes Elgar supplied for a set of pianola rolls published in 1929. Concerning the first Variation he wrote, “There is no break between the theme and this movement.”[18] That disclosure is crucial because it confirms the Enigma Theme does not end until Variation I begins. As the first variant of the Enigma Theme is not introduced until measure 20, this would mean he defined the length of the Enigma Theme as the opening nineteen measures. The two-bar bridge in measures 18 and 19 does not belong to Variation I (something deceptively implied by the layout of the score), but rather represents an elaboration of the Enigma Theme’s closing cadence. A conspicuous tie between the notes of measures 17 and 18 supports this conclusion, linking the Enigma Theme and the bridge in a way not found in Variation I. The bridge serves to unwind the Picardy cadence, returning it back to the minor mode in preparation for the first variation from which it is separated by a conspicuous double bar. At first glance measure 17 only appears to mark the end of the Enigma Theme, but in light of Elgar’s published statement, it is in actuality a faux ending. The correct melodic mapping of the covert principal Theme must account not only for the Enigma Theme’s Ternary ABA structure in measures 1 through 17, but also the two-bar bridge (Section C) in measures 18 and 19 that precede the launch of Variation I.
A meticulous analysis of four primary sources – the original 1899 program note, the October 1900 interview in The Musical Times, the 1905 biography, and descriptive notes for the 1929 pianola notes – yields six conditions capturing the relationship between the Enigma Variations and the covert principal Theme. Those six conditions are:
  1. The Enigma Theme is a counterpoint to the principal Theme.
  2. The principal Theme is not heard.
  3. The principal Theme is famous.
  4. Fragments of the principal Theme are present in the Variations.
  5. The principal Theme is a melody that can be played through and over the whole set of Variations including the entire Enigma Theme.
  6. The Enigma Theme comprises measures 1 through 19.
Any alleged solution that violates just one of these six conditions may only be proffered in direct conflict with the recorded words of the composer by multiple, independent, unimpeachable sources. This includes all of the purported melodic solutions assessed by Rushton in his treatise because they invariably overlook the bridge in measures 18 and 19. That his analysis was restricted to a pool of false solutions ensured Rushton would inevitably arrive at the conclusion that the answer was elusive. If only he had granted due consideration to Ein feste Burg, the one solution he would never guess because of its apparent incompatibility with Elgar's Roman Catholic faith. Such an unexpected choice would explain why Elgar insisted the answer must remain unguessed. To learn more about the secrets of Elgar’s Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.

[1] Rushton, Enigma Variations, 77.
[2] The Elgar Society Journal, November 2010 Vol. 16 No. 6, p. 3.
[3] Rushton, Elgar: Enigma Variations, 70.
[4] Ibid, p. 47
[5] Ibid, p. 65
[6] Ibid, p. 64.
[7] Ibid, p. 65
[8] The Musical Times 80 (1939), 60.
[9] Original 1899 program note by C. A. Barry citing an unsourced letter by Elgar.
[10] Kennedy, Portrait of Elgar, 66.
[11] The Musical Times (October 1, 1900), 647.
[12] Turner, Elgar's 'Enigma' Variations - a Centenary Celebration, 51.
[13] Buckley, Sir Edward Elgar, xi.
[14] Rushton, Elgar: Enigma Variations, 105.
[15] Buckley, Sir Edward Elgar, ix.
[16] Ibid, ix.
[17] Turner, Elgar's 'Enigma' Variations - a Centenary Celebration, 146.
[18] Elgar, My Friends Pictured Within, 6.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Elgar’s Initials Or Name In Five Enigma Variations Ciphers

“Where words fail, music speaks.”

An extensive examination of Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations performed over seven years revealed at least forty-one different ciphers. These secret codes are decisive in resolving the riddles posed by the Variations because they provide a set of mutually consistent, reinforcing answers. There are three paramount questions. What is the covert principal Theme to which the Enigma Theme is a counterpoint? What is the secret “dark saying” associated with the Enigma Theme? And who is the secret friend and inspiration behind Variation XIII? These diverse codes confirm that Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) is the covert principal Theme, a Music Box Cipher is the Enigma Theme’s elusive “dark saying,” and Jesus Christ is the secret friend memorialized in Variation XIII.
Five of the forty-one ciphers stand out because they share a common feature in their decryptions, namely the presence of Elgar’s initials or last name. These varied yet mutually reinforcing ciphers are the Program Anagram Cipher (found in the original 1899 program note for the premiere), the Music Anagram Cipher (contained in the Mendelssohn quotations in Variation XIII), the Dominant-Tonic-Dominant (5-1-5) Cipher (also in the Mendelssohn fragments), the Enigma Psalm Cipher (located in the first measure of the Enigma Theme), the Music Box Cipher (embedded in the Enigma Theme’s opening six bars). Brief descriptions of each will be given followed by some concluding remarks.
The Program Anagram Cipher
In the original program note Charles A. Barry quotes verbatim Elgar’s description of his latest orchestral masterpiece:
It is true that I have sketched for their amusement and mine, the idiosyncrasies of fourteen of my friends, not necessarily musicians; but this is a personal matter, and need not have been mentioned publicly. The Variations should stand simply as a ‘piece’ of music. The Enigma I will not explain – it’s ‘dark saying’ must be left unguessed, and I warn you that the connexion between the Variations and the Theme is often of the slightest texture; further, through and over the whole set another and larger theme ‘goes’, but is not played…So the principal Theme never appears, even as in some later dramas – e.g., Maeterlinck’s ‘L’Intruse’ and ‘Les sept Princesses’ – the chief character is never on the stage.[1]
It is decidedly anomalous that in describing a work dedicated to his friends that the only name Elgar would give is one for a stranger, the Belgian playwright Maeterlinck. Was this possibly done to serve as a clue? Are there any plausible connections between the names Maeterlinck and Martin Luther, the composer of Ein feste Burg? As the table below shows, these names share the same letters in the first (M), second (A), fourth (T) and seventh (L) positions. There are also three equidistant matching letters with R in the third and sixth positions, I in the fifth and eighth positions, and N in the sixth and ninth positions. In all, there are seven shared letters between these two names with four in the same places and three in equidistant positions.

 The striking parallels between the names Maeterlinck and Martin Luther suggest the presence of something far more tantalizing – a cipher. In consideration of his lifelong fascination for anagrams and cryptography, it is not unreasonable to suspect Elgar cited Maeterlinck’s name to serve as a coded link to the composer of Ein feste Burg. When treated as an anagram, the letters in the name Maeterlinck may be rearranged to form “CEEK MARTIN L.” With a history of unconventional spellings, Elgar substituted the letter c for s, a practice buoyed by the words cent and sent. Eric Sams observed Elgar respelled score as ckor and csquorr. This appreciation of Elgar’s phonetic spellings permits one to read CEEK MARTIN L as “Seek Martin L,” a remarkably revealing anagram since Ein feste Burg was composed by Martin Luther.
A second plausible anagram of Maeterlinck introduces spaces before and after Elgar’s initials (EE) to produce “C EE K MARTIN L.” The letter C is the phonetic equivalent of see. Elgar routinely signed his correspondence with his initials, so the double E’s represent himself. The letter K appears on Elgar’s scores to indicate that they had been copied. Armed with these insights it is possible to interpolate “C EE K MARTIN L” as “See E(dward) E(lgar) copy Martin L(uther).” This reading points to Elgar’s copying something by Martin Luther. Observe that Elgar’s initials (EE) are incorporated within that anagram. The first and last letters of that anagram (C and L) are indelibly linked to Variation XIII. In that movement, Elgar sonically portrays the sea by quoting a fragment from Mendelssohn’s concert overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage. The letter c is the phonetic equivalent of sea. On an early list of the variations, Elgar identified this movement with a solitary capital letter L. The fringes of Maeterlinck’s anagrammatic decryptions are revealing clues hinting at where to search for this mysterious “Martin L.” It is noteworthy that Elgar only later added the letters ML (the initials for Martin Luther) to the original L.
The Music Anagram Cipher
The search for “Martin L” triggered by the Program Anagram Cipher leads to another anagram, one situated in Variation XIII with its seemingly anomalous Mendelssohn fragments. On closer inspection it was determined the Mendelssohn fragments cleverly encode the initials for Ein feste Burg, revealing the missing letters for the subtitle’s three asterisks (***). The A flat and E flat fragments enclosed by quotation marks are elaborated and enlarged by Elgar into seven bar clarinet solos. When the discrete notes of the A-flat clarinet solos are treated as an anagram, it is feasible to reconstruct the ending phrase of Ein feste Burg as realized by Mendelssohn in the Finale of his Reformation Symphony.

Like the Program Anagram Cipher, the decryption of the Music Anagram Cipher includes the composer’s initials as shown by the first and last notes of the music anagram beginning and ending on E flat. This feature parallels the initials for the first and last movements of the Variations, Enigma, and E.D.U. respectively. While the first two Mendelssohn fragment in quotations are orchestrated in A flat major, the anagram of the extended clarinet solo itself produces Ein feste Burg’s concluding phrase in E flat major, the dominant or fifth of A flat. In the same manner, the music anagram obtained from the E flat clarinet solo is in B flat major, the dominant key. The remaining Mendelssohn fragment in F minor lacks quotation marks because it departs from the original major mode. The F minor phrase containing the Mendelssohn fragment cannot be rearranged to fully form Ein feste Burg’s end phrase because it lacks one of the necessary notes (E or E flat).
It is remarkable the names Maeterlinck and Mendelssohn share the same first letter (M) and number of syllables (3), striking parallels that invite the more astute observer to investigate further. The possibility arises of constructing Elgar’s initials in at least possible three ways from the comparison of the names Maeterlinck and Mendelssohn. The first is based on their triple syllables, for two 3’s when placed together (33) form the mirror image of two capital cursive E’s (EE). The second focuses on the two capital M’s. In his famed Dorabella Cipher, Elgar reoriented the cursive capital E to resemble a capital M, making it conceivable to interpret two M’s as two E’s. The third and final approach recognizes the two matching E’s in the fifth position of each name that reproduces by this alignment the composer’s initials. Not only do the Program Anagram and Music Anagram Ciphers reproduce Elgar’s initials in their decryptions, but a linear comparison of the two names raised by these ciphers also ingeniously reproduce those same initials.
The Dominant-Tonic-Dominant (5-1-5) Cipher
Multiple ciphers are ensconced within the Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII. Cracking the Music Anagram Cipher revealed the notes from the A flat and E flat clarinet solos may be reshuffled to form the covert principal Theme’s concluding phrase in their respective dominant keys of E flat and B flat majors. It is remarkable these dominant keys furnish the first and third letters from the initials E.F.B., the digits for the number 13, the Roman numerals assigned to this movement. Appropriately enough the F minor Mendelssohn fragment appears in between the major fragments, conveniently providing the second initial (E.F.B.). The key order of the Mendelssohn fragments as they appear in this movement (A-flat major, F minor, and E-flat major) permits the realization of the initials E.F.B. in order based on the Dominant-Tonic-Dominant recasting. The Locks Cipher in opening six bars of the Enigma Theme hints at this key-based decoding, for locks are opened with keys. The appearance of two dominants in the Dominant-Tonic-Dominant Cipher key is a code for Elgar’s initials given that the fifth letter in the alphabet is E.
This Dominant-Tonic-Dominant (5-1-5) Cipher invokes the number 515, a mysterious sum described in Dante’s Divine Comedy as an “enigma forte” (hard enigma). Measure 515 appears in Variation XIII, and there are other veiled references to this symbolic number in that movement. With the discovery that the famous personage portrayed in Variation XIII is Jesus Christ, Elgar offers through his a subset of original puzzles his own solution to one of the great enigmas of Western literature.
The Psalms Cipher
The Psalms Cipher is located in the first measure of the Enigma Theme. In that opening bar, Elgar uses seven Italian musical terms: Andante, legato e sostenuto, piano, and molto espressivo. The first letters of two of these words (e and espressivo) create the initials for the composer, while the first letters of the remaining five terms are an anagram for psalm. When taken as a whole the first letters of the seven performance directions are an anagram for “EE Psalm.”

Like the Program Anagram and Music Anagram ciphers, Elgar initials his Psalms Cipher in code to serve as a stealthy form of validation. Factoring in the s after the e in espressivo permits the solution to read “EE’s Psalm,” or “E(dward) E(lgar’s) Psalm.” According to this analysis, the Enigma Theme represents Elgar’s own psalm. This presents a remarkable parallel with Martin Luther’s Ein feste Burg because that title originates from Psalm 46. That chapter number is suggested by the Enigma Theme’s opening G minor section in six measures followed by a contrasting G major section in four measures.
The Music Box Cipher
In the opening six measures of the Enigma Theme is a Polybius Square Music Cipher. Known more wittily as a Music Box Cipher, it is an extraordinary exploit in music cryptography. Not only does it encode the complete six-word German title Ein feste Burg ist Unser Gott (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God), it does so as a 24 letter anagram in a series of phonetically spelled words and phrases in English, Latin, and Aramaic. Phonetic or “trick” spellings are a hallmark of Elgar’s unconventional writing style, something born out by his personal correspondence and the decryption of the Program Anagram and Music Box Ciphers. More remarkable still is the first letters of the four languages employed in Elgar’s Music Box Cipher stealthily
Rather than merely initialing his cipher as was observed with the four previously described, Elgar stealthily inserted his last name via a code within a code. There are at least three notable similarities between Elgar's Music Box Cipher and his Dorabella Cipher as decrypted by Tim Roberts. Both ciphers use multiple languages. The ciphers also employ phonetic spellings. More striking still is that both encode a last name within the decryption. Just as Elgar's last name appears in the Music Box Cipher decryption, Dora Penny's last name also appears in the decryption of the Dorabella Cipher.
This overview has shown a distinct subset of five cryptograms from Elgar’s Enigma Variations encode the composer’s initials or name. Four of these ciphers contain his initials: The Program Anagram, Music Anagram, Dominant-Tonic-Dominant (5-1-5) and Psalms Ciphers. In the fifth and most elaborate – the Music Box Cipher – Elgar encodes his last name using the first letters from four different languages. The appearance of the composer's initials and last name in these cryptograms serves as a covert method of authentication for both the codes and their decryptions. Anagrams are a common trait in the majority of these ciphers, the lone exception being the Dominant-Tonic-Dominant (5-1-5) Cipher which is in reality ancillary to the Music Anagram Cipher. When considered together these five ciphers and their decryptions are sufficient to identify and authenticate the secret principal Theme, the Enigma Theme’s “dark saying,” and the secret friend portrayed in Variation XIII who is named in the second stanza of Ein feste Burg.
To learn more about the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.

[1] Original 1899 program note by C. A. Barry citing an unsourced letter by Elgar.

About Mr. Padgett

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Mr. Padgett studied violin with Michael Rosenker, and Rosenker’s pupil, Owen Dunsford. Mr. Padgett studied piano with Sally Magee (a student of Emanuel Bay), and Blanca Uribe, a student of Rosina Lhévinne. He attended the Stevenson School in Pebble Beach, California, and Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in psychology. At Vassar he studied music theory and composition with Richard Wilson. Mr. Padgett has performed for Joseph Silverstein, Van Cliburn, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, Steve Jobs, Prince Charles, Lady Camilla, Marcia Davenport, William F. Buckley, Jr., and other prominent public figures. His original compositions have been performed by the Monterey Symphony, at the Bohemian Grove, the Bohemian Club, and other private and public venues. In 2008 Mr. Padgett won the Max Bragado-Darman Fanfare Competition with his entry "Fanfare for the Eagles." It was premiered by the Monterey Symphony under Maestro Bragado in May 2008. A member of the Elgar Society, Mr. Padgett is married with five children.