The essence of beauty is unity in variety.
Variation XIII from Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations is a reflective Romanza with an austere title of three enigmatic asterisks (***). This movement features three major melodic quotations and one minor adaption from Felix Mendelssohn’s concert overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage (Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt) Op. 27. Each fragment is performed pianissimo or pianississimo to symbolize a calm sea. The ebb and flow of the tides are embodied by the accompaniment, an undulating ostinato that reprises the Enigma Theme’s palindromic rhythm of two alternating pairs of two eighth notes and two quarter notes.
|First Mendelssohn quotation in A-flat major|
|Second Mendelssohn quotation in A-flat Major|
|Mendelssohn fragment in F minor|
|Third Mendelssohn quotation in E-flat major|
The marriage of these Mendelssohn fragments with the Enigma Theme’s palindromic rhythm intimates a link between these two seemingly disparate melodies. The Enigma Theme is a counterpoint to a famous yet absent Theme, and in a similar vein, the unconventional title of Variation XIII is also absent. Unmasking the connections between the Enigma Theme and Variation XIII demands a mastery of music cryptography, an esoteric art that eludes legacy scholars who stubbornly tout the conventional wisdom that the Mendelssohn fragments are entirely alien to the Enigma Theme. This superficial impression proves to be profoundly misguided.
My search for music cryptograms within the Enigma Variations was precipitated by a marvelous discovery by Charles Richard Santa. A retired engineer and amateur musician, Santa saw that the scale degrees of the Enigma Theme’s opening four melody notes in measures 1 and 11 encipher the mathematical ratio Pi. The notes of the Enigma Theme's melody notes in those bars are B-flat, G, C, and A. The scale degrees of those four notes in G minor are 3, 1, 4, and 2 respectively. Those scale degrees in melodic order are a coded reference to the number Pi that is rounded from 3.1415 to four digits as 3.142.
The Enigma Theme Pi Cipher is remarkable because a circle has 360 degrees, presenting an intriguing parallel with the opus number of the Enigma Variations—36. Santa’s groundbreaking research showed for the first time how Elgar deftly inserted a cryptogram into the Enigma Theme, raising the tantalizing prospect of more ciphers. Elgar used the opening four melody notes from the Enigma Theme to encode Pi, thereby furnishing a numeric convergence with the four-note Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII. Could there be other cryptographic connections between these two overtly extraneous melodies?
On four occasions in Variation XIII from the Enigma Variations, Elgar cites a four-note melodic fragment from the starting point of a theme in Felix Mendelssohn’s concert overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage. Three are quoted by the principal clarinet with two in A-flat major, and a third in E-flat major. There is another in F minor performed in octaves by the trumpets and trombones that lacks quotation marks because it diverges from the original major mode.
The key letters of those Mendelssohn fragments are an anagram of a well-known music cryptogram (FAE) coined around 1853 by Joseph Joachim, one of the most celebrated violinists in England and Europe during the latter half of the 19th century. Mendelssohn served as Joachim’s mentor, introducing him to the Britsh public in 1844 at just under 13 years of age in a command performance of Beethoven’s violin concerto for the Royal Philharmonic Society of London. An aspiring violinist in his youth and professional concert violinist as an adult, Elgar lionized Joachim as eloquently portrayed by Arthur Reynolds in the July 2007 issue of The Elgar Society Journal.
The inability of career academics such as Julian Rushton to detect such a relatively simple cryptogram concealed so openly by the Mendelssohn fragments is ample proof of a punctum caecum, a gaping blind spot in their perceptual comprehension. Absent an informed sensitivity to the existence of ciphers, career academics casually dismiss that possibility on contrived grounds and make no effort to detect or decrypt them. This perspective feeds a perverse form of confirmation bias as the presumption that there are no cryptograms stifles and stalls any search for them. Ignorance of these ciphers is elevated to the level of proof that they cannot exist.
The academic establishment missed the proverbial boat regarding the cryptographic significance of the Mendelssohn fragments. The key letters of the Mendelssohn fragments form part of a much larger cache of cryptograms that divulge and authenticate the covert melodic Theme to the Enigma Variations and the secret friend memorialized in Variation XIII. While astonishing in their scope, these ciphers are entirely consistent with Elgar’s expertise in cryptography. This towering trait of his psychological profile merits an entire chapter in Craig Bauer’s recently published history of the world’s greatest ciphers, Unsolved! A meticulous analysis of the Mendelssohn fragments has so far netted twenty-two cryptograms. This impressive array of ciphers is listed below with links to their detailed descriptions and decryptions:
- FAE Cipher
- Mendelssohn FAE Syllables Cipher
- FACE Cipher
- AMF Cipher
- Mendelssohn E.F.B. Cipher
- Mendelssohn Keynotes Cipher
- Mendelssohn Scale Degrees Cipher
- Variation XIII Music Anagram Ciphers
- Mendelssohn Clarinet Solo Nominal Notes Cipher
- Clarinet A Major Key Signature Transposition Cipher
- Mendelssohn Pi Cipher
- Mendelssohn Pi-C Cipher
- Mendelssohn Fragments Melodic Intervals Cipher
- Dual Initials Enigma Cipher
- Romanza Cipher
- Dominant-Tonic-Dominant (5-1-5) Cipher
- “See Abba” Mendelssohn Cipher
- Mendelssohn Fragments Clefs Cipher
- Rehearsal 55 Clarinet Solo Cipher
- Mendelssohn-Wagner Melodic Merger Cipher
- Mendelssohn Quotations Accidentals Cipher
- Mendelssohn Quotations Elimination Cipher
It is a privilege to announce the discovery of yet another cryptogram connected to the Mendelssohn fragments, making it the 23rd in the series. This cipher is based on the number of notes in each Mendelssohn fragment and the additional amount of notes added to a given fragment to complete each solo passage. These distinct note sums are then filtered through a number-to-letter key (1=a, 2=b, 3=c, etc.) to generate the plaintext. For this reason, it is dubbed the Mendelssohn Fragments Solo Passages Cipher.
The four-note Mendelssohn fragments cited in Variation XIII are extended into complete solo passages with the addition of 5, 6, or 7 notes. Three quotations are played exclusively by the principal clarinet. The first two are in A-flat major, and the last is in E-flat major. Another fragment in F minor is performed in octaves by three trumpets and three trombones. Although clearly sourced from Mendelssohn’s melody, it lacks quotation marks because it departs from the original major mode.
The Enigma Locks Cipher is located in the opening six measures of the Enigma Theme. It utilizes an elementary number-to-letter key to encode letters from the alphabet based on the sum of the notes played by each string part from bars 1 through 6. Only the four voices of the string quartet are active in these opening six measures that are sectioned off by an oddly placed double bar at the terminus of bar 6. This inaugural section exhibits the distinctive palindromic rhythm that accompanies the four Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII. Such a rhythmic convergence suggests applying the same encipherment method to the sum of the notes for each solo passage beginning with a Mendelssohn fragment.
Each Mendelssohn quotation in A-flat major is four notes that are extended by the addition of six more notes to round out the solo passage. The application of a number-to-letter key to the numbers four and six yields the plaintext D and F. The Mendelssohn fragment in F minor is four notes that are elaborated by the addition of five more. When filtered through a number-to-letter key, the numbers four and five produce the letters D and E. The final Mendelssohn quotation in E-flat major is four notes and is augmented by seven notes to complete the solo passage. These numbers coincide with the letters D and G.
When treated as an anagram, these plaintext letters may be reversed, reordered and condensed to “GD FD ED.” Before laying out its decryption, it is crucial to recognize that Elgar’s personal correspondence bristles with inventive phonetic spellings. For instance, he spelled excuse as Xqqq. The decryption of the first layer of the Mendelssohn Solo Passages Cipher is facilitated by the knowledge of Elgar’s affinity for phonetic spellings. The first pair (GD) is a phonetic rendering of God. The second (FD) is phonetic for fed. The final pair (ED) is a shortened version of Edward, the first name of the composer. The decryption reads, “God fed Ed.” This is an apt description of the Eucharist, the rite of Holy Communion celebrated during Mass by Roman Catholics that commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Elgar was a Roman Catholic.
There is a second layer to the Mendelssohn Solo Passages Cipher that relies on the application of the number-to-letter key to the sum of the notes from each Mendelssohn fragment solo passage. There are ten notes in each clarinet solo passage beginning with the A-flat major Mendelssohn quotation. The application of a number-to-letter key to the number ten produces J, the tenth letter of the alphabet. The marine atmosphere of the Mendelssohn fragments alludes to a second letter as the word sea is the phonetic equivalent of C. The pairing of J with C unveils the initials for the secret friend eulogized in this movement, Jesus Christ. Those letters may be reversed as CJ to mean “See Jesus” and “Christ Jesus.” Those same initials are encoded by the Variation XIII Roman Numerals Cipher and the Enigma Locks Cipher using the identical number-to-letter key.
Following the two clarinet solo passages commencing with the A-flat major Mendelssohn quotations, the next and most ominous of the Mendelssohn fragments is performed by the brass section in F minor. This four-note minor adaptation is further developed into a complete passage with the addition of five more sounding notes for a total of nine. The ninth letter of the alphabet is I that may also be paired with the letter C due to the maritime atmosphere symbolized by the Mendelssohn fragment. The pairing of I and C is a phonetic version of the phrase "I see,” a reading supported by Elgar’s personal correspondence that incorporates inventive phonetic spellings.
The final clarinet solo commencing with the E-flat major Mendelssohn quotation is extended into a complete eleven note passage due to the addition of a grace note. The eleventh letter of the alphabet is K, an initial Elgar wrote on his scores as a shorthand for “kopiert” which means “copied” in German. Elgar sometimes respelled copied as koppied. Based on the previously decoded initials for the secret friend, the combination KC may be read as "Copied Christ." When the order is reversed as CK, it may be interpreted as "See copied," or alternatively "Christ copied."
The application of a number-to-letter key to the note totals of the four solo passages starting with the Mendelssohn fragments produces the plaintext letters J, I, and K. These may in turn be paired with the letter C as intimated phonetically by each Mendelssohn sea fragment. A preliminary decryption of these plaintext letter pairs is Jesus Christ for JC, “I see” for IC, and “Copied Christ” for KC. Why would Elgar encode these phrases in the Mendelssohn fragments solo passages? Another cipher hidden within the Mendelssohn fragments reveals the answer.
The Romanza Cipher encodes a reference to the Turin Shroud, the most famous relic in Christendom. The Turin Shroud is a traditional Jewish burial cloth that exhibits two faint images of the front and back of a crucified man with wounds consistent with those described in the Gospel accounts. These central and dorsal images are a facsimile of what many believe to be the body of Jesus Christ following his gruesome crucifixion. When Secondo Pia took the first official photographs of the Turin Shroud in May 1898, he made the startling discovery that his photographic negatives revealed lifelike positive images. This was only possible because a photographic negative of another negative produces a recognizable positive image. Pia made a startling discovery—the puzzling impressions on the Turin Shroud are photographic negatives that predate the invention of photography by millennia.
Pia’s sensational photographic negatives were widely reported and shared in the secular and Catholic press. The timing of Pia’s incredible find is relevant because it transpired five months before Elgar first performed the Enigma Theme for his wife on the evening of October 21, 1898. Elgar was a practicing Roman Catholic during this period and was undoubtedly aware of this astonishing revelation. A coded reference to that sacred burial cloth in Variation XIII, particularly in the context of the Mendelssohn fragments that symbolize the “deathly stillness” of the sea, bolsters the conclusion this movement is indeed dedicated in secret to Jesus Christ.
Armed with the insight that Elgar drew inspiration from Pia’s photographic negatives of the Turin Shroud, the plaintext solution letters encoded by the Mendelssohn Solo Passages Cipher may be treated as a phonetic anagram. The two JCs represent the initials for Jesus Christ and suggest the front and back images on the Turin Shroud. As previously observed, IC is phonetic for “I see.” Based on Elgar’s use of the initial K as a shorthand for copied, CK may be read as “Christ copied” or “See copied.” The raw plaintext in order of appearance is JC-JC-IC-KC, a sequence that translates as, “Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, I see copied Christ.”
The FAE Cipher implies that the plaintext results of the Mendelssohn Solo Passages Cipher should be rearranged to reflect the order of the initials from Joachim’s motto. When the plaintext of the F minor solo passage (IC) is followed by that for the A-flat major solo passage (JC) and the E-flat solo passage (KC), it yields IC-JC-KC. The plaintext may be further condensed by dropping the duplicate C from the final pair to produce IC-JC-K. This more succinct phonetic anagram reads, “I see Jesus Christ copied.” Such a decryption is a poignant description of the Turin Shroud and Pia’s remarkable photographic negative. This discovery adds a new level of meaning to Elgar’s dedication “...to my friends pictured within.”
The solution to the second layer of the Mendelssohn Solo Passages Cipher is eerily similar to the phrase “Looks like Jesus Christ” encoded by the Enigma Locks Cipher. Both plaintext solutions were unveiled based on the application of a standard number-to-letter key to the note totals of discrete passages in the Enigma Theme and Variation XIII. More significantly, both decryptions represent complementary descriptions of the Turin Shroud.
The commingling of the Mendelssohn fragments with the Enigma Theme’s distinctive rhythmic motif signifies a much deeper link between those two themes. Elgar’s elastic treatment of Mendelssohn’s theme affirms an artistic inclination to modify a source melody’s mode, meter, note values, tempo, dynamics, articulations, and instrumentation. One major implication of this melodic pliability is that it would encompass Elgar’s handling of the covert Theme. This insight proves critical as the last three sounding notes (E-flat, F, G) of the first solo clarinet passage starting with the A-flat major Mendelssohn quotation are actually a retrograde augmented version of the first three notes from the final E-flat major Mendelssohn quotation (G, F, E-flat). This is an enormous clue because Elgar’s mapping of Ein feste Burg through and over the Enigma Theme turns out to be an augmented retrograde counterpoint.
The clarinet solos beginning with the first and last Mendelssohn quotations in A-flat major (measures 507-513) and E-flat major (measures 542-548) are elaborated into a complete seven bar passage. A meticulous analysis of those clarinet solo passages confirms the notes are a music anagram of the concluding phrase from Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress). This is subtly hinted at by the Mendelssohn Keynotes Cipher which encodes the last three notes of that ending phrase as quoted by Mendelssohn in the fourth movement of the Reformation Symphony. When discounting the repeated note in each Mendelssohn fragment, the notes of the first A-flat major and final E-flat major clarinet solo passages may be reshuffled to construct Luther’s original ending phrase from Ein feste Burg.
The decision to quote music by Felix Mendelssohn in the Enigma Variations decisively refutes the false belief that Elgar’s Roman Catholicism would prevent him from citing the works of any Protestant composers. Although born to Jewish parents, Mendelssohn was baptized a Lutheran on the anniversary of another prominent Lutheran’s birth, Johann Sebastian Bach. The FAE Cipher which is formed by the key letters of the Mendelssohn fragments hints at another Jew who was baptized a Lutheran, the famed violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim.
It is incredibly revealing that in these seemingly extraneous Mendelssohn fragments, Elgar refers to two great Jewish musicians who converted to Lutheranism, Felix Mendelssohn and his protégé Joseph Joachim. That one of them bears the name of the earthly father of Jesus (Joseph) is not a coincidence, but a clue regarding the secret friend’s true identity. Elgar would later invite the speculation that Variation XIII was dedicated to Lady Mary Lygon. It is remarkable that her title and first name, Lady Mary, is a thinly veiled reference to the mother of Jesus. To learn more about one of Elgar's greatest symphonic achievements, read my free eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.