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Friday, March 27, 2020

Elgar’s ‘Craeg Lea’ Enigma Cipher

The new house was named with an anagram of the family’s initials: E, A, C. E L G A R—’Craeg Lea’. He sent the new name to Dora Penny, teasing her with the anagram’s secret.
Jerrold Northrop Moore in Edward Elgar: Letters of a Lifetime

There is no doubt Edward Elgar was an expert in cryptography, the discipline of coding and decoding messages. His obsession with that esoteric art merits an entire chapter in Craig P. Bauer’s treatise Unsolved! Much of the third chapter is devoted to Elgar’s brilliant decryption of an allegedly insoluble Nihilist cipher presented by John Holt Schooling in an April 1896 issue of The Pall Mall Gazette.  Elgar was so pleased with his solution that he mentions it in his first biography published in 1905 by Robert J. Buckley. Elgar painted his solution in black paint on a wooden box, an appropriate medium as another name for the Polybius checkerboard is a box cipher.
Elgar’s methodical decryption is summarized on a set of nine index cards. On the sixth card, Elgar relates the task of cracking the cipher to “...working (in the dark).” This use of the word “dark” as a synonym for a cipher is significant because he employs that same phraseology in the 1899 program note for the premiere to characterize the Enigma Theme. It is an oft-cited passage that merits revisiting because Elgar lays the groundwork for his tripartite riddle:
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.
A compulsion for cryptography is a reigning pillar of Elgar’s psychological profile. A decade of systematic analysis of the Enigma Variations has netted over seventy 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 a dominant facet of Elgar’s psychological profile—an obsession for ciphers. More significantly, 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 that serves as the foundation of the ensuing movements? Answer: Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) by Martin Luther. What is Elgar’s “dark saying” hidden within the Enigma Theme? Answer: A musical Polybius box cipher contained 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.
A conspicuous feature of some of those ciphers is their proximity to double barlines, particularly those situated in unusual locations. For example, the Enigma Theme has an oddly placed double barline at the end of measure 6. The placement of a double barline so close to the beginning of a movement is decidedly anomalous. This condition also applies to the first bridge passage that is framed by an end barline at the outset of bar 18 and a double barline at the terminus of bar 19. The insertion of multiple double barlines in less than twenty measures is inordinate and conspicuous.
An intensive cryptanalysis of the opening six measures of the Enigma Theme uncovered a series of cryptograms that encipher a narrow set of mutually reinforcing and consistent solutions. The most sophisticated is a musical Polybius box cipher that encodes Elgar’s mysterious “dark saying” first mentioned in the original 1899 program note. This secret message is an elaborate anagram of the covert Theme’s 24-letter title (Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott). This anagram reveals the secret friend’s name (Jesus encoded as "Gsus") within the context of other apposite words and phrases phonetically rendered in Latin, English, and what popular biblical commentaries then identified as Aramaic. This cunning combination of phonetically spelled words in four languages was obviously intended to stifle all attempts at decryption. A less apparent but marvelous explanation is that the first letters of those four languages are an acrostic anagram of Elgar
English
Latin
German
Aramaic
In a brilliant cryptographic coup, Elgar stealthily autographed his cipher via an acrostic anagram embedded within the languages divulged by the correct solution. The decoding of this cryptogram makes it possible to know with supreme confidence that Luther’s hymn Ein feste Burg is the absent melody to the Enigma Variations because it bears Elgar’s coded signature wrapped within another layer of encipherment.
When treated as a pure acrostic anagram, the first letters of these four cipher languages may be rearranged to spell ELAG. These four letters are a phonetic rendering of elegy. This construction mirrors the four-letter groupings unveiled by the decryption of the Enigma Theme Polybius Box Cipher. According to Merriam-Webster, an elegy is defined as “a song or poem expressing sorrow or lamentation especially for one who is dead,” and “a short pensive musical composition.” The first definition is fitting because the death of Elgar’s famous secret friend is memorialized in Variation XIII. The other definition is a suitable description of the Enigma Theme which consists of only nineteen measures. At the conclusion of the extended Finale completed in July 1899, Elgar cites a passage from stanza XIV of Longfellow's Elegiac Verse: "Great is the art of beginning, but greater the art is of ending." There is no greater or more permanent ending in life than death, an insight alluded to by Elgar’s Tasso paraphrase from the epic Christian poem Jerusalem Delivered that he dated incorrectly to the year of Tasso’s passing (1595).
The specter of death cast a long shadow over the Enigma Variations. The six-word dedication opens with a homonym of dead, “Dedicated to my Friends pictured within.” The silence of the principal Theme is evocative of a passage from Psalm 31:17 that mentions the silence of the grave. For Elgar, there was an indelible link between music and death because he studied musical scores as a boy at a local churchyard while resting on a tombstone. In Variation XIII, Elgar repeatedly quotes a fragment from Mendelssohn’s concert overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage (Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt) to portray a ship crossing the open sea. This sonic symbolism was inspired by the poetry of the famed German playwright Goethe whose seemingly benign image of a boat adrift on a windless sea actually depicts the stillness of death (Todestille). In the original program note for the 1899 premiere of the Enigma Variations, Elgar likens the absent principal Theme to the mysterious protagonist who never appears onstage in certain dramas by the Belgian playwright, Maeterlinck. That absent character is death, a central element in Maeterlinck's works described as "marionette" plays as the characters rarely move.
The phonetic words and phrases encoded in bars 1-6 of the Enigma Theme Polybius box cipher are an anagram of the 24-letter German title of the secretive melody: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. In the article from The Pall Mall Gazette that Elgar retained in his personal library, John Holt Schooling refers to the Polybius box as “The ‘Checker-board’ Cipher.” The list below shows the first cipher method (Checkerboard) followed by the languages of the full decryption in order of appearance from bars 1-6. This is capped off by the second cipher method (Anagram) needed to unscramble the first decryption (Elgar’s “dark saying”) to reveal the second (the title of the covert Theme):
Checkerboard
English
Latin
English
English
Aramaic
English
German
Anagram
A particular sequence of four letters (LEEA) stands out from that acrostic of nine terms. In March 1899, Elgar moved his family into a new home that he christened Craeg Lea. This move occurred shortly after he finished orchestrating the Enigma Variations the prior month on February 19. Elgar devised this unusual residential moniker by reversing the letters of his last name (Craeg Lea) and inserting the initials from the first names of his wife Alice (Craeg Lea), daughter Carice (Craeg Lea) and himself (Craeg Lea). The acrostic letter sequence LEEA from the above list suggests the last name of Elgar’s home from that very period. Remarkably, the first letters from that list of languages and encipherment techniques furnish all but one letter from these two unusual names, the r. Recall that the second letter in “Aramaic” was required to complete Elgar’s covert signature in the discrete list of cipher languages (English, Latin, German, Aramaic). That same condition applies again in this instance to complete the unique and novel title for Elgar’s residence.
The first letters of the cipher languages (English, Latin, English, English, Aramaic, English German) and cipher types (Checkerboard and Anagram) are an acrostic anagram of “EE CRAEG LEA.” This solution features the composer’s initials (EE) followed by the distinctive name for his residence (Craeg Lea). The discovery of this cryptogram affirms that Elgar conceived of this new name months if not years before moving into his new home in March 1899. Other cryptograms in the Enigma Variations are distinguished by Elgar’s dual initial Es. For instance, the performance directions in the Enigma Theme’s opening bar are an acrostic anagram of “EE’s Psalm.” This cryptogram is called the Enigma Psalms Cipher. The encoding of the word psalm in the Enigma Theme’s inaugural measure is a major clue because the title of the covert Theme originates from Psalm 46.
The Enigma Theme’s opening bars harbor other fascinating musical cryptograms such as the Pi Cipher, Locks Cipher, and Keys Cipher. A German sixth chord on the downbeat of bar 5 is noteworthy because the covert Theme’s complete title is six words in German. The title Enigma is spelled identically in English and German. It was written on the full score by Elgar’s only German friend portrayed in the Variations, August Jaeger. The first three letters of Enigma are also an anagram of Ein, the first word in the covert Theme’s title. There are undoubtedly other cryptograms yet to be discovered in Elgar's arresting homage to musical cryptography. To learn more concerning the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.

Friday, March 20, 2020

The 'Elegy' Cipher in Elgar’s Enigma

Musica lux in tenebris.
(Music is light in darkness)
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
    the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people dwelling in darkness
    have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
    on them a light has dawned.”
The British Romantic composer Edward Elgar composed a coruscating set of symphonic variations between October 1898 and July 1899 that is popularly known today as the Enigma Variations. The bulk of this orchestral tour de force was completed between October 21, 1898, and February 19, 1899. After the June 19 premiere under the Wagnerian protégé Hans Richter, Elgar appended 96 bars to the final movement in July 1899 to produce a more audacious and triumphant finish. At the end of the extended coda, he penned a quotation from stanza XIV of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Elegiac Verse, “Great is the art of beginning, but greater the art is of ending.” In Elgar’s case, Longfellow’s proclamation proved to be an acute understatement.
The Enigma Variations are puzzling for three overarching reasons. First, the famous melody that serves as the cornerstone of its foundation is absent and unheard. The Enigma Theme’s despondent and uplifting strains are a counterpoint to that renowned but secretive tune. Second, Elgar asserted the Enigma Theme harbors a “dark saying.” Those familiar with his lifelong obsession with cryptography—the art of encoding and decoding messages—reasonably interpret this cryptic phrase as an acknowledgment of a musical cipher ensconced within the Enigma Theme. Elgar’s nebulous language is code for a code because “dark” can mean hidden or secret, and a “saying” is a coherent series of words. Third, each movement is publicly dedicated to one of Elgar’s friends using their initials, name, or nickname with one notable exception. Variation XIII has in place of a friend’s initials three asterisks (***) in the form of hexagrammic stars. The Enigma Variations are then infused and confused by these three essential secrets: An absent melody, a coded message, and a mysterious friend.
Career academics throw up their hands and frontal cortices in capitulation when it comes to navigating Elgar’s labyrinthian schema of cloaked counterpoints, clandestine ciphers, and a covert confidant. Most insist that Elgar’s contrapuntal riddle is an impenetrable fortress as he allegedly took his secret to the grave. Michael Kennedy ruminates, “People have ingeniously been trying to guess the tune ever since, a harmless but pointless recreation since the secret, if there was one, died with him.” J.P.E. Harper-Scott echoes that staid opinion more a bit more flare:

Although human nature guarantees that attempts to solve it will never end until the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail are on permanent display in the British Museum, they all somehow fail to convince. It is easy to carp, since the riddle cannot be answered now its perpetrator is dead, but the evidence supporting all of the ‘solutions’ is weak.

If besieged by such an impotent mindset, the British would have never cracked the Wehrmacht’s Enigma machine at Bletchley Park during World War II. That black box was christened Enigma by its inventor in honor of Elgar’s breakout symphonic coup. The truth is the British did not solve the Enigma cipher on their own. Without the advanced work and research of such brilliant Polish mathematicians as Marian Rejewski, they would have been grasping vainly in the dark to decrypt German secret communiques at the onset of hostilities. How ironic that the British academic establishment of yesteryear that so boldly attacked Germany’s military cipher with scant exception now sits idly behind a Maginot Line of impuissant ignorance waving the white flag of surrender.
Similar to white flags waving in the breeze, ocean waves whipped up by the winds are capped by white crests of frothing foam. Elgar invokes the sea in Variation XIII by quoting a four-note melodic fragment from Felix Mendelssohn’s concert overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage. Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt is the original German title drawn from two short poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a friend and patron of the youthful Mendelssohn. These Mendelssohn quotations are anomalous as they come from an extraneous work unrelated to the Enigma Theme and its ensuing movements. There are three Mendelssohn fragments enclosed by quotation marks because they mirror the major mode of the source melody. A  fourth is devoid of quotations because it ventures into the minor mode.
Three Mendelssohn quotations are in the major mode with two in A-flat and one in E-flat. A fourth Mendelssohn fragment is in F minor. Those three key letters hold the proverbial key to unlocking the deeper significance of these anomalous melodic fragments because they are an anagram of a  famous music cryptogram. The notes F-A-E are the motivic lynchpin of the F-A-E Sonata, a work for violin and piano composed in 1851 by Robert Schumann, his pupil Albert Dietrich, and Johannes Brahms, for their friend and famed violinist, Joseph Joachim. Those three note letters come from the initials of Joachim’s trademark maxim “Frei aber einsam” (Free but lonely) coined around 1851. The three cryptic asterisks in the title of Variation XIII cleverly allude to the F-A-E motif implicated by the key letters of the Mendelssohn fragments.
As a young man, Elgar lionized Schumann as “my ideal!” Schumann contributed a Romanze and Finale to the F-A-E Sonata. In a matching gesture, the last two movements of the Enigma Variations are subtitled Romanze and Finale respectively.  Joachim was not a personal friend or even an acquaintance of Elgar’s when the Enigma Variations were conceived, ruling out that eminent violinist as the covert dedicatee. It is astonishing that tenured academics failed to detect the F-A-E music cryptogram hidden in plain sight by the key letters of the Mendelssohn fragments. Highly credentialed scholars like Julian Rushton missed the proverbial boat regarding the vital significance of these Mendelssohn incipits. Where one cryptogram is found, others are likely to follow. This is especially the case for an aficionado of ciphers like Elgar.
There is no question Elgar was an expert in cryptography, the practice of coding and decoding messages. His obsession with that esoteric art merits an entire chapter in Craig P. Bauer’s recently released book Unsolved! Much of that chapter is devoted to Elgar’s methodical decryption of an allegedly insoluble Nihilist cipher published by John Holt Schooling in an 1896 issue of The Pall Mall Gazette. Elgar was so pleased with his solution that he mentions it in his first biography published in 1905 by Robert J. Buckley. Elgar painted his solution in black paint on a wooden box and summarized his systematic decryption on a set of nine index cards. On the sixth card, he describes the process of cracking the cipher as “...working (in the dark).” This use of the word “dark” as a synonym for a cipher reinforces the conviction that the Enigma’s “dark saying” is a music cipher embedded within the Enigma Theme.
A decade of systematic analysis of the Enigma Variations has netted over seventy cryptograms in diverse formats that encode a set of mutually consistent and complementary solutions. While this figure may appear incredible, it is entirely consistent with a dominant facet of Elgar’s psychological profile—an obsession with ciphers. More significantly, 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 that serves as the foundation of the ensuing movements? Answer: Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) by Martin Luther. What is Elgar’s “dark saying” hidden within the Enigma Theme? Answer: A musical Polybius box cipher contained 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.
Elgar’s coded homage to Joachim in Variation XIII is cryptographically layered and efficient because it unveils multiple but relevant names associated with the secret melody and confidential friend. Joachim’s initials (J. J.) cleverly allude to the initials of the composer of the hidden theme because Martin Luther adopted the alias Junker Jörg (Knight George) while hiding out at Wartburg Castle from the pope’s assassins. Those same initials also implicate the name of the secret friend because the great contrapuntist Bach inscribed at the top on his scores the initials “J. J.” to denote the divine invocation “Jesu, Juva which means “Jesus, help.” Joachim’s first name, Joseph, is also the same shared by the stepfather of the secret friend.
Like the title of Mendelssohn’s overture, Joachim’s romantic motto is in the German language. One crucial implication of this linguistic convergence is that the title of the covert Theme must also be three words in German just like Joachim’s motto. The encoding of Joachim’s motto via the key letters of the Mendelssohn fragments further implies that Mendelssohn cites the famous covert Theme in one of his own compositions. By means of imitation, the name of a standard contrapuntal device, Elgar suggests that the same condition by citing Mendelssohn so blatantly within the score. When contemplated within its orchestral context, the sum of those melodic fragments (4), as well as the total number of notes within each quotation (4), strongly implies that Mendelssohn cites the secret melody in the fourth movement of a symphony. All of these conditions are met by only one tune: Ein feste Burg by Martin Luther, a renowned hymn quoted by Mendelssohn in the fourth movement of his Reformation Symphony followed by a set of variations. Mendelssohn was a great proponent of Bach whose sacred cantata Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott presents a set of ornate contrapuntal variations on that famous hymn that concludes with a sublime choral.
It is an indisputable fact that Elgar carefully studied the Polybius cipher because his personal library includes a series of articles published under the title “Secrets in Cipher” by John Holt Schooling in the April 1896 edition of The Pall Mall Gazette. Elgar’s unique contribution to cryptography was to adapt the Polybius cipher to music by fractionating plaintext through melody and bass note pairs. The term plaintext refers to the intelligible message to be transformed into ciphertext or other symbols through a process of encipherment. The solution to Elgar’s musical Polybius box cipher from the Enigma Theme is an elaborate anagram of the covert Theme’s 24-letter German title that produces phonetically spelled words and phrases in English, Latin, and what Elgar would have innocently believed was Aramaic (the language spoken by Jesus and his disciples) based on popular biblical commentaries of his day. Thanks to Daniel Estrin’s sleuthing, it was verified by a native speaker that the allegedly Aramaic word teni is actually Hebrew. This is the sacred language associated with Jesus and the biblical text.
The 24-letter plaintext solution is a grand anagram of the full German title of the covert Theme: Ein feste Burg ist Unser Gott. The four languages Elgar utilized in this cryptogram are English, Latin, German, and what he thought was Aramaic. The decryptions from each of the six bars consist of four-letter groupings. This poses a numeric parallel with the Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII as there are four fragments, and each one has four notes. Those melodic incipits are performed above a pulsating ostinato that reprises the Enigma Theme’s palindromic rhythm of alternating pairs of eighth notes and quarter notes. Elgar’s use of four different languages was ostensibly intended to harden his cipher and foil decryption. Incredibly, these four languages are an acrostic anagram of ELGAR with the inclusion of the r in Aramaic.
English
Latin
German
Aramaic
Complete confidence may be vested in the solution to the Enigma Theme Polybius box cipher because Elgar stealthily autographed his handiwork with a second layer of encryption only detectable after the full solution of the first layer is realized. Elgar’s autograph authenticates the cipher and its resolution. A complete analysis of Enigma Theme Music Box Cipher delves into its many intriguing facets and connections to other cryptograms within the Enigma Variations.
There is another remarkable acrostic anagram associated with these four cipher languages as their first letters may be reshuffled as ELAG. That is a phonetic spelling of elegy. This mirrors the plaintext solution to bar 1 of the Enigma Theme because “gsus” is a phonetic version of the secret friend’s first name, Jesus. When the languages from the full decryption are listed in order of appearance from bars 1 through 6 followed by the German from the anagrammatic solution, it produces the following list:
English
Latin
English
English
Aramaic
English
German
The first letters of those four languages are an acrostic anagram of ELAGEEE, another phonetic rendering of elegy. This finding is consistent with Elgar’s personal correspondence that bristles with inventive phonetic spellings.
Elegy is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a song or poem expressing sorrow or lamentation especially for one who is dead.” This meaning is apropos because the death of Elgar’s famous friend is memorialized in Variation XIII. In that movement, Elgar quotes a fragment from Mendelssohn’s concert overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage (Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt) to portray a ship crossing the open sea. This sonic symbolism was inspired by the poetry of the famed German playwright Goethe whose seemingly benign image of a boat adrift on a windless sea depicts the stillness of death (Todestille). This cadaverous imagery is bolstered by the bass line in Variation XIII where four and five bars after Rehearsals 55 and 59 the notes spell D-E-A-D. This term also surfaces in Elgar’s solution (“He who fears is half dead”) to John Holt Schooling’s allegedly unbreakable Nihilist cipher published by The Pall Mall Gazette in April 1896.
The specter of death looms over the Enigma Variations. The six-word dedication begins with a homonym of dead, “Dedicated to my Friends pictured within.” The silence of the principal Theme is evocative of a passage from Psalm 31:17 that mentions the silence of the grave. For Elgar, there was an indelible link between music and death because as a boy he studied musical scores at a local churchyard while resting on a tombstone. In the original program note for the 1899 premiere of the Enigma Variations, Elgar likens the absent principal Theme to the mysterious protagonist who never appears onstage in various dramas by the Belgian playwright, Maeterlinck. That absent character is death, a central element in Maeterlinck’s works described as “marionette” plays as the characters rarely move.
Another definition of elegy is “a short pensive musical composition.” This is an apt characterization of the mood and length Enigma Theme at merely nineteen measures. The opening six bars of the Enigma Theme are scored solely for strings, a trait that emerges later in a brief work composed by Elgar in 1909 entitled Elegy. There is another remarkable link between the Enigma Theme Elegy Cipher and Variation XIV (E.D.U.). At the end of the extended Finale, Elgar cites a passage from stanza XIV of Longfellow’s Elegiac Verse: “Great is the art of beginning, but greater the art is of ending.” Merriam-Webster defines elegiac as “of, relating to, or comprising elegy or an elegy.” Based on this newly emerged acrostic anagram from the languages found in the decryption of the Enigma Theme Polybius box cipher, it may be safely concluded that both the Enigma Theme and Variation XIII are musical elegies. To learn more concerning the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.

About Mr. Padgett

My photo
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.