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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Elgar's Third Bridge Passage Enigma Ciphers


Most of my ‘sketches’,—that is to say the reduction of the original thoughts to writing, have been made in the open air. I finished the Wye round about Mordiford & completed many pencil memoranda of compositions on the old bridge, of which I have vivid & affectionate memories.

Edward Elgar in a letter to G. H. Jacks


This is the sixth article in a series that surveys a trove of cryptograms embedded within three bridge passages of the symphonic Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar. A section in classical music that merges one movement into another is called a bridge passage. These three bridge passages add up to nine measures and comprise less than one percent of the full score. The preliminary four articles catalog assorted cryptograms in the first bridge passage (bars 18-19) that begins at Rehearsal 2 and links to Variation I (C. A. E.). The first essay covers the Opus Dei Cipher. The second discusses the Psalm 46 Ciphers. The third describes the Tau Cross Ciphers. The fourth addresses other interrelated word ciphers embedded within the performance directions of the first bridge passage. The fifth article presents a series of cryptograms in the second bridge passage (bars 185-188) that starts four bars before Rehearsal 19 and links Variation V (R. P. A) to Variation VI (Ysobel).

These cryptograms clustered within the three bridge passages document Elgar’s expertise in cryptography, a subject that merits a chapter in Craig P. Bauer’s treatise Unsolved!  A decade of concerted analysis has netted over ninety cryptograms in diverse formats that encode a set of mutually consistent solutions that provide definitive answers to the core questions posed by the Enigma Variations. What is the secret melody to which the Enigma Theme is a counterpoint and serves as the melodic cornerstone of each movement? Answer: Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) by Martin Luther. What is Elgar’s “dark saying ensconced within the Enigma Theme? Answer: A musical Polybius box cipher situated in measures 1-6. Who is the secret friend and inspiration behind Variation XIII? Answer: Jesus Christ, the Savior of Elgar’s Roman Catholic faith.

The Third Bridge Passage Time Signatures Cipher

This article will describe various cryptograms found in the third bridge passage (bars 306-308) which is the concluding phrase of Variation VIII. Variation VIII is framed in 6/8 time with six eighth note beats per measure. A soulful melodic G from its final tonic chord is sustained by the first violins over the barline into Rehearsal 33 to herald the sublime dawn of the most elegiac of the movements, Variation IX (Nimrod). Variation IX is set in 3/4 time with three quarter beats per bar. A bridge represents a crossing, and remarkably, the criss-cross products of the opposing numerators and denominators from these adjacent time signatures are the same. 6 multiplied by 4 produces the same result (24) as 3 multiplied by 8. 24 is the number of letters in the complete German title Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. The pairing of 4 and 6 produces 46, the chapter number from the Psalms that inspired Martin Luther to compose Ein feste Burg.



The Third Bridge Passage FAE Cipher

The orchestration of the final cadence of Variation VIII begins with six voices on beats 1-2, reduces to 5 voices on beats 3-4, and thins to just one voice on beats 5-6 that is held over the barline into Variation IX at Rehearsal 33. The instrumentation, notes, and durations in bar 308 are outlined below:

  1. Second B-flat Clarinet: Written C-sharp sounding as B sustained for 2 beats followed by 1 eighth rest, 1 quarter rest, and 1 eighth rest.

  2. First Violins: G held for 6 beats that ties over the barline.

  3. Second Violins: D sustained for 4 beats followed by 2 eighth rests.

  4. Violas: B sustained for 4 beats followed by 2 eighth rests.

  5. Cellos: G sustained for 4 beats followed by 2 eighth rests.

  6. Basses: G sustained for 4 beats followed by 2 eighth rests.

The number of voices starts in bar 308 at six, declines to five, and then just one. The application of a basic number-to-letter key (1 = a, 2 = b, 3 = c, etc…) converts those voice totals to the plaintext  F, E, and A. These three letters are an anagram of FAE, a well-known music cryptogram that represents the initials of the romantic German motto “Frei aber einsam” (Free but lonely). The renowned violinist Joseph Joachim coined this motto around 1851. Those same initials are enciphered as an anagram by the key letters of the Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII which are performed in the keys of A-flat major, F minor, and E-flat major. A coded link between Joachim and Mendelssohn is exquisitely appropriate. Joachim was mentored by Mendelssohn who sponsored his May 1844 debut before the Royal Philharmonic Society in a performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major. Although Jewish by birth, Mendelssohn and Joachim were baptized as Lutherans. An overt reference to Mendelssohn mingled with a coded allusion to Joachim efficiently hints at the composer of the covert Theme and the identity of the secret friend.

In a note for The Music Makers, Elgar wrote that the Enigma Theme “expressed when written (in 1898) my sense of the loneliness of the artist.” A solitary melodic G held over the barline deftly captures this doleful sense of isolation. A coded reference to Joachim’s motto that ends with the word “lonely” elegantly intersects with Elgar’s description of the Enigma Theme. The FAE Cipher in the third bridge passage is a cryptographic link to Variation XIII where the Mendelssohn fragments also encipher those same initials. The first and second bridge passages also harbor coded links to Variation XIII.

The EE Notes Ciphers

Some cryptograms in the Enigma Variations contain Elgar’s initials, first name, or last name. The performance directions in the first bar of the Enigma Theme are an acrostic anagram of “EE’s Psalm.” The decryption of a Music Polybius Box Cipher in bars 1-6 of the Enigma Theme reveals the use of four different languages: English, Latin, German, and what Elgar would have reasonably believed to be Aramaic. In an astonishing twist, the first letters of those four cipher languages are an acrostic anagram of Elgar. The end and double barlines enclosing the first bridge passage in bars 18-19 are an acrostic anagram of “Ed.” The note letters of the middle voice in bar 16 of the Enigma Theme also spell “Ed” with an E-flat on beat 2 followed by a D on beat 3. These examples demonstrate that multiple cryptograms within the Enigma Theme encipher the composer’s first name, last name, or initials.

Elgar’s initials appear repeatedly in the orchestration of the second bridge passage, and this trend continues with the third bridge passage. The bar number 306 is intriguing as it is bookended by the numerals of the opus number (36). Sprinkled throughout measures 306 and 307 in the full score are 23 written Es, and four other written notes that sound in concert pitch as E. In all, there are 27 Es in the third bridge passage. These notes commonly occur in pairs and serve as coded forms of the initials EE.

Elgar often signed his letters with his initials, and this pattern persists with many of his ciphers. For instance, Elgar used the glyph of a capital cursive E as a building block to construct the Dorabella Cipher. The mirror image of a capital cursive E is the number 3. That is telling because the third bridge passage consists of three measures and concludes at Rehearsal 33. These two threes associated with the third bridge passage are linked to Elgar’s initials because 33 is the mirror image of two capital cursive Es.



The third bridge passage connects to the opening measure of Variation IX in bar 309 at Rehearsal 33. It is precisely at this point in the score that the tuning of the timpani is indicated as E-flat, F, and B-flat. Those three note letters are an anagram of the initials for the covert Theme, Ein feste Burg. A coded form of Elgar’s initials at Rehearsal 33 hints at the presence of another important set of initials. The FAE Cipher in bar 308 enciphers a three-word German phrase. Likewise, the Nimrod Timpani Tuning Cipher in bar 309 encodes another three-word German Phrase, the title of the secret melody. There is an elegant consistency to the positioning and twin decryptions of these two ciphers in contiguous measures at the end of the third bridge passage. Two different three-word phrases in German are enciphered back-to-back in bars 308-309 at Rehearsal 33. That rehearsal number suggests the presence of two threes, and that is precisely the case with these two three-word German phrases.

The ED Notes Ciphers

At the start of bar 306, the first clarinet plays the concert pitches E and D written in the score as F-sharp and E. These two concert pitches spell Ed, a shortened version of Edward. In all, there are nine pairings of the notes E and D in bars 306-307, five as ED and four as DE. The first bassoon plays these note pairs three times in bars 306-307. The second violins play E-D at the end of bar 307. The cellos and basses perform D-E twice in bars 306 and 307, the reverse spelling of Ed. Elgar enciphered this short form of his first name in the first bridge passage using the end and double barlines as an acrostic anagram (End and Double). “Ed” is also spelled ten times in the second bridge passage. Indeed, a coded spelling of Elgar’s first name is present in all three bridge passages. Elgar features this familiar version of his first name within the title (E.D.U.) of his own movement.



The Transposing Notes EFB Cipher

The first bridge passage is the ending phrase of the Enigma Theme. Likewise, the second bridge passage comprises the ending phrase of Variation V. This pattern continues with the third bridge passage that forms the concluding phrase of Variation VIII. There are four sounding Es in two different written pitches in the first bar of the third bridge passage. In bar 306, the B-flat clarinets perform two F-sharps an octave apart that sound a whole tone lower as Es. In that same measure, the French horns play octave Bs that sound a fifth lower as Es. These pairs of sounding Es suggest Elgar’s initials and, like many other sections of the score, the presence of a cryptogram. These two transposing instrumental parts in bar 306 have written Bs and F-sharps that sound as Es. The combination of written and sounding pitches conveniently provides the letters E, F, and B. Those three letters are the initials of the covert Theme, Ein feste Burg. The pairs of sounding Es for the transposing instruments in bar 306 convey two sets of initials, one for Elgar (EE) and the second for the hidden melody (EFB).



The Third Bridge Passage 46 Ciphers

There are six crescendo symbols and four decrescendo symbols in the third bridge passage. These are referred to colloquially as hairpins due to their V-shape oriented sideways. Out of nine discrete performance directions in the third bridge passage, these crescendo and decrescendo symbols are the only two not represented directly by words, acronyms, or initials. The distribution of four decrescendos and six crescendos is a coded allusion to the number 46. That number is important because the title of the covert Theme originates from chapter 46 from the Book of Psalms.



The first violins sustain a note for six beats in bar 308 as the lower four voices of the string choir hold four notes for four beats. The pairing of these two unique numbers is yet another coded form of the number 46. The Psalm 46 Cipher in the Enigma Theme encodes this book title and chapter. The word psalm and number 46 are encoded in the first bridge passage.

The Third Bridge Passage 36 Ciphers

The third bridge passage starts in bar 306, a number that begins and ends with 3 and 6. This is a coded allusion to the opus number of the Variations (36). The distribution of performance directions in bar 308 is six pianissimos (pp) and three attaccas (attaccca:). These two numerals (3 and 6) are another covert reference to the opus number. There is a colon after each attacca that is another coded form of 36 because there are three colons with a total of six dots.

The Third Bridge Passage 24 Cipher

There are four notes held over four beats in bar 308 that are each followed by two eighth rests for a total of six beats. These note and rest durations in the context of six beats per bar are a coded version of 24 and the number six. These numbers are significant because there are precisely 24 letters in the complete six-word title of the covert Theme, Ein feste burg ist unser Gott. Similarly, there are 24 melody notes in the opening six bars of the Enigma Theme that forms Section A in G major. Elgar enciphered all 24 letters of the title from the covert Theme in those first six bars as an elaborate anagram, the “dark saying” first mentioned in the original 1899 program note.

The Third Bridge Passage 11 Written Notes Cipher

There are a total of eleven written notes in bar 308 of the full score. Ten of these notes in the string section are written twice and held together by ties to form longer sounding notes. One note in the second clarinet part is tied to a note in the previous bar. The number eleven is remarkable because there are exactly 11 unique letters in the complete German title of the covert Theme. An awareness of this sum is critical when attempting to crack a cipher.

The “BC” and “AD” Notes Cipher

The second B-flat clarinet slurs a concert pitch C at the end of bar 307 to a concert pitch B in bar 308. These final two notes are a reverse spelling of BC, the initials for “Before Christ.” The bass section performs the sequential notes A and D concurrently with the concert C played by the B-flat clarinet. The consecutive note letters A-D are the initials for the Latin phrase Anno Domoni which means “Year of our Lord.” The initials BC and AD are encoded by overlapping note sequences performed by the clarinet and bass section in bars 307-308. The names of the instruments that perform these revealing note pairs are clarinet and bass, an acrostic anagram of BC. The initials BC and AD both point to Jesus, the covert friend portrayed in Variation XIII.



The “BC” and “G-D” Final Cadence Cipher

The G major chord in the final bar of Variation VIII is constructed from the written notes C-sharp (second B-flat clarinet), G (first violins), D (second violins), B (violas), G (cellos), and G (basses). In all, there are three Gs and one written B, C-sharp, and D. The written C-sharp played by the clarinet sounds in concert pitch as B. The pairing of the written note letters B and C produces, BC, the initials for the phrase “Before Christ.” This is another coded reference to BC that implicates Jesus as the secret friend commemorated in Variation XIII. The remaining three Gs and one D is a distinctly trinitarian spelling of God. According to Roman Catholicism, Jesus is a member of the triune Godhead.



An alternate decryption of the discrete letters B, C, D, and G is “C G-D B.” This phrase may be read phonetically as “See God Be.” In John 14:9, Jesus taught his disciples that those who have seen him have also seen his heavenly Father.

The Colons Cipher

The performance directions in bar 308 include three attaccas followed by a colon (attacca:). This contrasts with the attaccas at the end of Variation XII which lack a colon. There are six dots in these three colons, providing yet another coded reference to the opus number 36. One definition of colon from the Encyclopedia Britannica is “...a rhythmic measure of lyric metre (‘lyric’ in the sense of verse that is sung rather than recited or chanted) with a recognizable recurring pattern.” These punctuation marks may consequently be interpreted as a clue regarding the nature of the covert Theme, a hymn that begins with a biblical verse that is sung in a “recognizable recurring pattern.” It is telling that these colons immediately precede the most hymn-like of the movements, Nimrod. This is amply demonstrated by a setting of Lux Aeterna to this movement.

The “Papa” Proximate Performance Directions Cipher

The performance directions in bar 308 are six pianissimos (pp) and three attaccas. These two sums of performance directions in the final bar of the third bridge passage are a coded form of the opus number 36 and the tempo marking of 63 for the Enigma Theme, I (C.A.E.), and V (R.P.A.). The proximity of pp to attacca in the first violin and bass staves suggests the acrostic “pa,” a term of endearment for father. When the “pa” in the first violin staff is paired with that from the bass staff, it produces “Papa.” This is yet another intimate term for father. Jesus referred to God as his Father using the Aramaic term Abba, our equivalent of “Daddy.” One of the titles for the pope is “father.” The word papacy refers to the office of the pope and begins with the letters “papa.” In the second bridge passage, there are four proximate performance directions that are an acrostic anagram of “pape,”  the French word for pope. There are also coded allusions to the Holy See and Pope Leo XIII in Variation XIII.



The Performance Directions Frequencies Cipher

The third bridge passage has seven different performance directions in the form of words, abbreviations, or initials. These terms are constructed from letters and stand apart from the hairpin crescendo and decrescendo symbols. It was previously observed that those hairpin symbols encode the numbers four and six. The textual performance directions and their frequencies are listed alphabetically in the table below:



The discrete frequencies of those terms are 3, 6, 8, and 10. Those numbers may be converted into their corresponding letters in the alphabet using a number-to-letter key. This results in the plaintext C, F, H, and J. When viewed as an anagram, this permits grouping the letters J and C together to form the initials for Elgar’s secret friend, Jesus Christ. The remaining two letters, H and F, enable a phonetic spelling of the German words “Hof” and “hoff.” The word Hof refers to a court, place, or courtyard. For example, “Hofoper” is German for “Court Opera.” Jesus was tried before Pilate on the Gabbatha, a courtyard with stone pavement in the Antonia Fortress (see John 19:13). The second reading as “hoff” is the German word for “hope.” In 1 Timothy 1:1, the Apostle Paul calls Jesus Christ “our hope.” Both German phonetic readings of HF as Hof and hoff are linked to the biblical account of Jesus.

Concluding Remarks

This overview identified fourteen different cryptograms hidden away within the third bridge passage of the Enigma Variations. These ciphers encode a discrete set of answers that relate incisively with the covert Theme and secret friend of the Variations.  The discovery of any of these cryptograms in isolation could be comfortably written off as a coincidence. However, the sheer number of ciphers in these three bridge passages cannot be conveniently attributed to chance or confirmation bias, particularly as they encode a small set of interlocking answers. These coded patterns betray a grand design and Elgar's genius for cryptography. There are recognizable and recurring patterns within these ciphers such as the appearance of Elgar’s initials and short form of his first name. There is a staid reliance on anagrams, acrostics, and phonetic spellings, all idiosyncratic specialties of Elgar. The next installment in this series will describe various cryptograms formed by elements from all three bridge passages. To learn more about the innermost secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elar's Enigmas Exposed.

Soli Yah Gloria


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Elgar's Varying Tempi Nimrod Cipher

Since I’ve been back I have sketched a set of Variations (orkestry) on an original theme: the Variations have amused me because I’ve labelled ’em with the nicknames of my particular friends – you are Nimrod. That is to say I’ve written the variations each one to represent the mood of the ‘party’ – I’ve liked to imagine the ‘party’ writing the var: him (or her) self & have written what I think they wd. have written – if they were asses enough to compose – it’s a quaint idee & the result is amusing to those behind the scenes & won’t affect the hearer who ‘nose nuffin’. What think you?

Edward Elgar in an October 24, 1898 letter to August Jaeger


The autographed score of Variation IX (Nimrod) from Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations has a metronome marking of 66 quarter beats per minute. The published score reduces that figure to 52 which results in a noticeably slower tempo. Julian Rushton draws attention to this and other discrepancies between the autograph and published scores in the August 2019 issue of The Elgar Society Journal. Remarking on the recovery of a lost score of the Enigma Variations once belonging to August Jaeger, Rushton opines, “...nothing bears on the ‘enigma’ — unless, that is, something can be deduced from additional information on Elgar’s indecision about the order of the variations, and metronome markings that differ from the published score…” The differences make all the difference as the following analysis unveils.



My original research found that the fifth and final ordering of the variations produces a remarkable matrix of proximate title letters ciphers. These and other cryptograms encode answers to the core questions posed by the Variations concerning the absent principal Theme, a cryptic “dark saying” concealed by the Enigma Theme, and a secret friend commemorated in Variation XIII. Based on these intriguing discoveries, it is reasonable to suspect that the tempo variance between the autographed and published scores of Nimrod may be yet another cipher.

Simon Singh remarks that cryptograms are often cracked by exploiting their anomalies. The differences in tempo between the autographed and published scores of Variation IX is one of those illuminating inconsistencies.  The discrete numerals in these divergent tempo markings (52 and 66) are 2, 5, and 6. When those unique numbers are converted into their corresponding letters of the alphabet employing an elementary number-to-letter key (1 = a, 2 = b, 3 = c, etc…), they become B, E and F. Those are the initials of Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress), the covert Theme to the Enigma Variations.

This is not the only cipher at the beginning of Variation IX. The tuning of the timpani is indicated at Rehearsal 33 as E-flat, B-flat, and F. Those three note letters are also an anagram of the hidden theme’s initials — E.F.B. Indeed, a distinct subset of cryptograms within the Enigma Variations encipher those three letters hinted at by three asterisks that form the title of Variation XIII.  For instance, the Enigma Theme is written in the parallel modes of G minor and G major. The accidentals for those keys are F-sharp, B-flat and E-flat. The Enigma Theme’s keys are the key to unlocking Elgar’s melodic safe because they encipher the initials of the hidden melody. To learn more about the innermost secrets of the Enigma Variations, read Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.

Soli Yah Gloria

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Elgar's Second Bridge Passage Enigma Ciphers


Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.

From Elegiac Verse by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Cited by Elgar after the extended Finale of the Enigma Variations


This is the fifth installment in a series of articles that explore a trove of cryptograms embedded in three bridge passages of the Enigma Variations by the British romantic composer Edward Elgar. A section in classical music that smoothly connects one movement to another is called a bridge passage, and there are three in the Enigma Variations. The first in bars 18-19 comprises an elaboration of the final cadence from the iconic Enigma Theme. It begins at Rehearsal 2 and precedes Variation I (C. A. E.). The second in bars 185-188 completes the closing section of Variation V (R. P. A). It starts four bars before Rehearsal 19 and links to Variation VI (Ysobel). The third bridge passage in bars 306-308 begins three measures before Rehearsal 33 and forms the ending phrase of Variation VIII (W. N.). A soulful melodic G from the tonic cadence is sustained by the first violins over the barline into Rehearsal 33 to herald the sublime dawn of the most elegiac of the movements, Variation IX (Nimrod).

My first essay covers the Opus Dei Cipher. This cryptogram is formed by three performance directions in the first bridge passage that stand out from the others because they end in a period: tempo., dim., and unis. Those three terms are an anagram of two phrases and one word. The first is the Latin phrase “Opus Dei” which means “The work of God.” The next is “I m,” a phonetic spelling of “I am.” This phrase is a mysterious name given by God to Moses at the burning bush on Mount Horeb. The third is “mnt,” a phonetic rendition of “mount.” Moses first encountered God on Mount Horeb, a place also known as the Mountain of God. Elgar taught violin at a school called The Mount on the day he first performed the Enigma Theme at the piano for his wife. first performed the Enigma Theme The decryptions “Opus Dei”, “I AM,” and “mount” evince a coherent theological framework. They further hint at the identity of the secret friend memorialized in Variation XIII because Christian theologians classify the episode on Mount Horeb as a Christophany, an appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus in the Old Testament.

My second article presents the Psalm 46 Ciphers. The word “psalm” is encoded as an acrostic anagram by five performance directions in the first bridge passage. The numbers 4 and 6 are enciphered in this first bridge passage in two ways by its orchestration. The first is conveyed by the breakdown of the notes in the opening G major chord in bar 18. This tonic major chord is constructed of ten written notes that may be categorized as four unisons and six discrete pitches. The numbers four and six turn up again in connection with the melodic eighth notes performed by the first violins (bars 18-19) and harmonic eighth notes played by the violas (bar 19). These eighth notes are beamed into groups of four, and there are a total of six beamed groupings. The encoding of the word “psalm” in conjunction with the numbers 4 and 6 is illuminating because the title of the covert Theme to the Enigma Variations originates from the first line of Psalm 46. The repeated slurred pattern of eighth notes in pairs is a pattern that suggests the chapter number 22, a messianic psalm that describes the crucifixion.

My third paper describes the Tau Cross Ciphers. The proximate performance directions “a tempo” and “unis” in the first bridge passage are an acrostic anagram of “tau.” The tau cross is one of the four iconographic representations of the cross, a Christogram that implicates Jesus as Elgar’s secret friend. The sums of the characters in the separate terms in “a tempo” and “unis.” are an anagram of the number 515. That divine number is the cryptic “enigma forte” from Dante’s Divine Comedy. There are multiple coded allusions to the Divine Comedy and the mysterious number 515 within the Enigma Variations. Like the divine number 515, there are at least two coded references in the first bridge passage to a mathematical ratio known as the Divine Number or Golden Section. Similarly, there are two coded references to Pi in bars 1 and 11 of the Enigma Theme. The Golden Section provides the first two words from the title of Longfellow’s book The Golden Legend. That book contains a homage to Martin Luther that cites all four stanzas of his hymn Ein feste Burg, the covert Theme to the Enigma Variations.

The fourth installment covers other related ciphers embedded within the performance directions of the first bridge passage. Setting aside the performance directions that comprise an acrostic anagram of “psalm” leaves nine other terms. When these remaining words are treated like an acrostic anagram, their first letters may be reshuffled to form “u ffacd ttt.” This phrase may be interpreted phonetically and symbolically as “You faced crucifixion” and “You effaced death.” There were three crosses at the crucifixion of Jesus. Likewise, there are three bridge passages and three Mendelssohn quotations in the Enigma Variations. These decryptions bolster the conclusion that Jesus is the secret friend memorialized in Variation XIII.

Another possible arrangement is “u facd tttf” in which “tttf” is a phonetic rendering of the German word tief meaning “deep.” The German saying “Stille Wasser sind tief” (Still water runs deep) provides a multilayered linkage to the original German title of Mendelssohn’s overture Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage). “Meeres” is a word for a large body of water, and “stille” is identical to that from the German aphorism. When read from this vantage point, the phrase “u facd tttf” may be interpreted as “You faced [the] deep” depths of death. Two coded references to “dead” in the bass part of Variation XIII bolster this cryptographic interpolation.

The existence of these bridge passage ciphers is consistent with Elgar’s compulsion for cryptography, a subject that merits a chapter in Craig P. Bauer’s treatise Unsolved!  A decade of concerted analysis of the Enigma Variations has netted over ninety cryptograms in diverse formats that encode a set of mutually consistent and complementary solutions. While this figure may seem incredible, it is entirely consistent with Elgar’s psychological profile. More importantly, their solutions provide definitive answers to the core questions posed by the Enigma Variations. What is the secret melody to which the Enigma Theme is a counterpoint and serves as the foundation of the ensuing movements? Answer: Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) by Martin Luther. What is Elgar’s “dark saying ensconced within the Enigma Theme? Answer: A musical Polybius box cipher embedded in the opening six bars. Who is the secret friend and inspiration behind Variation XIII? Answer: Jesus Christ, the Savior of Elgar’s Roman Catholic faith.

The Second Bridge Passage

The second bridge passage in bars 185-188 is the closing section of Variation V (R.P.A). It begins four bars before Rehearsal 19 and links to Variation VI (Ysobel). Elgar devised a predominantly scaler countermelody to serve as the main subject of Variation V to contrast with the Enigma Theme’s more open melodic architecture. In bars 185 through 186, the first nine notes of this countermelody are performed twice in octaves by the second violins, violas, and cellos with the opening four-notes of the Enigma Theme played by the second flute with the French horns in octaves. In bars 187 through 188, the first four notes of the countermelody are repeated in a descending melodic sequence in conjunction with a series of four descending sevenths played in unison in bar 187 by the principal flute and first clarinet, and continued by the clarinet in bars 188.



Second Bridge Melodic Anagram Cipher

The second bridge passage layers the first phrase of the countermelody above a four-note incipit of Enigma Theme, first in 185 and a second time with the countermelody an octave higher in bar 186. The countermelody has a time signature of 12/8 and is constructed predominantly from triplet patterns. The Enigma Theme retains its original 4/4 meter and rhythmic structure of two eighth notes followed by two quarter notes. These contrasting time signatures are indicated concurrently in the full score. The placement of the countermelody above the Enigma Theme mirrors Elgar’s condition that requires the hidden tune must play “through and over the whole set” of Variations.

A careful analysis of the countermelody’s opening six notes over the Enigma Theme’s first four notes reveals that it is a melodic anagram. The merger of these two beginnings produces one remarkable ending as these ten notes may be reorganized and revalued rhythmically to form the complete ending phrase of Ein feste Burg.



This is not the only time that Elgar encodes the ending phrase of the secret tune in the form of a melodic anagram. In Variation XIII, three clarinet solo passages that begin with a Mendelssohn quotation are a melodic anagram of the concluding phrase of Ein feste Burg. At Rehearsal 66 in Variation XIV, the countermelody to the Enigma Theme is also a melodic anagram of the hidden tune’s concluding phrase. Consequently, the discovery of the Second Bridge Melodic Anagram Cipher is part of a larger pattern in the Enigma Variations.

Ysobel’s Sea Crossing Ciphers

Variation VI is dedicated to Elgar’s viola pupil Isabel Fitton. “Ysobel” is a variant of her first name with the English equivalent of “Elisabeth.” “Ysobel” is a derivation of the name “Elisheba”, the wife of Aaron mentioned in Exodus 6:23. The chapter number 6 corresponds to the Roman numeral VI, and even more remarkably, Ysobel ends at Rehearsal 23 which corresponds to verse 23. Aaron served as the spokesman for his brother Moses who led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt during the Exodus. Fleeing the Pharaoh's pursuing army, Elisheba escaped with the Hebrew nation across a miraculous landbridge created when God parted the sea. The words “I AM” and “mount” are encoded by the Opus Dei Cipher, and these are prominent terms highlighted in the Exodus account. Two new documentary films—The Red Sea Miracle Parts I and II—present archeological evidence for this pivotal event in Jewish history.

The insertion of a bridge passage between Variations V (R.P.A.) and VI (Ysobel) is a subtle but unmistakable theological allusion to a sea crossing. The key signatures of the bridge passage (C minor) and ensuing movement (C major) drive this point home because that shared key letter is a homonym of sea. A pedal tone C is tied over four barlines throughout the second bridge passage into the downbeat of Variation VI. This feature provides a cunning wordplay on “sea tied.” The pedal tone C is sustained for a total of 50 eighth notes, a number linked to the Exodus account because Moses received God's Law precisely 50 days after Passover. This event is celebrated on Shavuot which is also known as Pentecost. Secular scholars could never see this theologically transparent reference because the scriptural connotations of the name “Ysobel” would never cross their minds.

There is a second allusion to a sea crossing in Variation VI. Elgar wrote concerning this movement, “It may be noticed that the opening bar, a phrase made use of throughout the variation, is an ‘exercise’ for crossing the stringsa difficulty for beginners; on this is built a pensive and, for a moment, romantic movement.” The main motive is a string crossing exercise Elgar devised for Isabel to practice on her viola.  The viola is written primarily in the alto clef which is also known as the C clef. Variation VI presents a string crossing exercise in the key of C that is introduced by the viola composed in the C clef. This clever combination of motive, key, and orchestration, results in multiple coded references to a C (sea) crossing.



There are four notes in the string crossing motif which is accompanied by a figure constructed from the first three notes of the Enigma Theme played in harmonic thirds for a total of six notes. Four countermelody notes are played along with three melody notes performed in harmonic thirds for a total of six. This combination of four and six notes is a coded reference to the numbers four and six. Those two numerals are enciphered throughout the Enigma Theme and in its first bridge passage. The significance of the numbers four and six is that the title of the covert Theme originates from Psalm 46.

In Variation XIII, Elgar cites a melodic incipit from Felix Mendelssohn’s concert overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage to sonically portray a sea crossing. This overture was inspired by the poetry of the German poet and playwright Johann Wolgang von Goethe. The image of a sea crossing intersects with the coded reference to a sea crossing in the C minor bridge passage of Variation V that links to Variation VI with its distinctive string crossing exercise motif. The function of a bridge is to provide a place to cross, a word intimately tied to Jesus, the friend secretly commemorated in Variation XIII. There are three bridge passages within the Enigma Variations, something analogous to three crosses at the crucifixion of Jesus.

IHC Christogram Cipher

The second bridge passage opens with the first nine sounding notes of the countermelody performed in bar 185 and repeated an octave higher in bar 186. The first four notes of the countermelody are next played twice starting a 5th higher on G in bar 187 for a total of eighth notes. A melodic sequence is constructed from these opening four notes in bar 188 that modulates downward in stepwise fashion from F to E-flat. The countermelody is played over a pedal tone C sustained by the bass section and a timpani roll on the same C that later accompanies the first two Mendelssohn quotations in A-flat major. The droning timpani roll on C serves as a link to the Mendelssohn quotations in Variation XIII.

There are nine sounding notes in the countermelody in bar 185 that are repeated in bar 186. There are eight countermelody notes in bar 187 and again in 188. When these discrete note totals of the countermelody (9 and 8) are filtered through a number-to-letter key (1 = a, 2 = b, 3 = c, etc…), the resulting plaintext is I and H. Those are the first two letters in the Christogram IHC. The absent C is conveniently provided by the C pedal tone that accompanies the countermelody throughout the second bridge passage. The enciphering of a Christogram in a bridge passage is contextually appropriate because a bridge provides a place to cross.



Rehearsal 19 PAPE Cipher

The second bridge connects seamlessly to Variation VI with the indication attacca. At Rehearsal 19, there are four proximate performance directions in the staves of the first violins (pp) and violas (p, arco, and express.). These four neighboring performance directions are an acrostic anagram of “pape”:

  1. pp

  2. arco

  3. p

  4. express.

The French word “pape” means “pope.” Elgar was an observant Roman Catholic when he composed the Enigma Variations in 1898-99. The word “pape” is enciphered in bar 189. Remarkably, the 189th pope was Martin IV, the last French pope based in Rome. The Roman numerals for Variation VI are the mirror image of IV. The name Martin is associated with the covert Theme as it was composed by Martin Luther. There are various coded references to Dante’s Divine Comedy in the Enigma Variations, and Pope Martin IV is specifically mentioned in the second cantica, Purgatorio.



Proximate Initials “Parry” Cipher

The second bridge passage connects Variation V (R.P.A.) to Variation VI (Ysobel). The initials of those adjoining titles (R.P.A. and Y) are an anagram of PARY. This proximate initials anagram is a phonetic rendering of Parry, the last name of Hubert Parry. He was a prominent English composer who championed Elgar's music. Parry contributed articles to George Grove’s immense Dictionary of Music and Musicians, a work that Elgar consulted during his musical apprenticeship. In 1895, Parry succeeded Grove as head of the Royal College of Music.

Parry may not have merited his own variation, but his name is deftly encoded by two movements linked together by a bridge passage. Parry’s 1916 setting of William Blake’s poem Jerusalem was orchestrated by Elgar in 1922 and has become a permanent fixture at the Proms. The main character of that poem is Jesus, the secret friend portrayed in Variation XIII. Elgar prepared no fewer than five lists of the Variations that varied the order of the movements. He did not arrive at placing R.P.A. before Ysobel until the third list. These alternate listings were Elgar's attempts to construct an assortment of cryptograms as addressed in the article Elgar's Proximate Title Letters Enigma Ciphers.

Elgar’s Initials and Name Ciphers

A distinct subset of cryptograms within the Enigma Variations harbor the composer’s initials or name. For instance, the performance directions in the Enigma Theme’s opening bar are an acrostic anagram of “EE’s Psalm.” The first bridge passage is enclosed by an end bar and a double bar. Those barlines (End and double) are an acrostic of Ed, a shortened version of Edward. Elgar’s initials for his own variation also feature those letters: E.D.U. The decryption of a musical Polybius box cipher in the Enigma Theme’s opening six measures revealed it relied on four different languages: English, Latin, German, and what Elgar reasonably believed to be Aramaic. The first letters of those four languages are an acrostic anagram of Elgar: English, Latin, German, and Aramic. The Enigma Theme is bookended by coded versions of the composer’s last and first names.

The second bridge passage is sprinkled with pairs of E-flats that hint at Elgar’s initials. The second flute part restates the opening four notes of the Enigma Theme in C minor beginning with E-flat in bar 185, and repeats the same melodic fragment in bar 186. The second flute plays an E-flat on the second beat of bars 185 and 186 to form the first pair of note letter Es. The first and second French horns play octave E-flats in concert pitch in bar 185 and again in bar 186, furnishing two more sets of note letter Es. The third trombone plays E-flat on the first and third beats of measure 187. The third trombone plays an E-flat on the second beat of bar 188, and the second trombone repeats that same E-flat on the third beat. The first violins perform two melodic E-flats in bar 187, and again in bar 188. The consistent appearance of two E-flats in each measure of the second bridge passage bears Elgar’s cryptographic fingerprints.



The first violins perform the notes E-D four times over bars 187-188, providing four instances where Elgar cleverly inserted his first name within the second bridge passage. The scoring of the Enigma Variations includes two B-flat clarinets, a transposing instrument that plays a written note a whole tone lower. In bar 187, the first clarinet performs a written D on the downbeat descending by a minor seventh to E on the second beat. This same melodic pattern is repeated on the third and fourth beats. These four written notes (D-E-D-E) are two reverse spellings of Ed with one conventional spelling (E-D) on beats two and three. On the second and fourth beats of bar 187, the first and second clarinets perform a unison written E that sounds a whole tone lower as D. These unison Es are another coded form of Elgar’s first name because of the relationship between the written  (E) and sounding (D) pitches.

Concluding Remarks

This excavation of the second bridge passage in the Enigma Variations uncovered a number of intriguing cryptograms. The countermelody’s opening six notes over the Enigma Theme’s first four notes reveals that this melodic melding is an anagram of the complete ending phrase of Ein feste Burg. This bridge passage is tied to a sea crossing because it is written in C minor and connects to Variation VI (Ysobel). The key letter C is a homonym of sea. The pedal tone C is tied over multiple barlines throughout the second bridge passage, providing a witty wordplay on “sea tied.” The Mendelssohn quotations in Variation XIII symbolize a sea crossing and begin on the note C. The name Ysobel is a derivation of Elisheba, the name of Aaron’s wife and sister-in-law to Moses. The Exodus account describes how the people of Israel escaped Egypt and fled across a miraculous land bridge created when God parted the sea.

The second bridge passage encodes the IHC Christogram. The discrete number of countermelody notes per measure in the second bridge passage are 9 (bars 185 and 186), and 8 (bars 187 and 188). When converted into their corresponding letters in the alphabet, the numerals 9 and 8 produce I and H. The countermelody is performed above a C pedal tone. This sustained note provides the third letter to complete the Christogram IHC.

Variation V (R.P.A.) and Variation VI (Ysobel) are linked by the second bridge passage. The initials for these connected movements (R.P.A. and Y) are an anagram of PARY. This is a phonetic spelling of Parry. The British composer and academic Hubert Parry befriended Elgar and played an important role in furthering his career. Parry’s 1916 setting of William Blake’s poem Jerusalem was orchestrated by Elgar in 1922 and is performed on the last night of the Proms.

An array of cryptograms within the Enigma Variations harbor either Elgar’s initials, first name, or last name. The bridge passage ciphers fall into this category. Elgar’s initials are sprinkled throughout the bridge passage as pairs of E-flats. The second flute plays an E-flat on the second beat of bars 185 and 186. The French horns play octave E-flats on the second beat of bars 185 and 186. The third trombone performs two E-flats on beats 1 and 3 of bar 187. The second trombone plays an E-flat on beat 2 of bar 188, and the third trombone follows with a second E-flat on beat 3. The first violins perform two E-flats during beats 1 and 3 of bars 187 and 188. The first and second clarinets perform unison written Es on beats 2 and 4 of bar 187.

Elgar’s first name is spelled out by the first violin line four times in bars 187-188 by the consecutive notes E and D. It is also spelled out in the B-flat clarinet staff by the notes E and D on beats 2 and 3 of bar 187, and twice in reverse as D and E on beats 1 and 2, and again on beats 3 and 4. The B-flat clarinet is a transposing instrument that plays a written pitch a whole tone lower. The first and second clarinets play a unison written E twice in bar 187, and that note sounds in concert pitch as D. Consequently, these unison Es are a coded version of “Ed” by pairing the written pitch (E) with the sounding pitch (D). Remarkably, Elgar signed his second bridge passage cipher six times. To learn more concerning the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elar's Enigmas Exposed.

Soli Yah Gloria

About Mr. Padgett

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Mr. Padgett studied violin with Michael Rosenker (a student of Leopold Auer), 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.