If a few combinations of pitches, durations, timbres and dynamic values can unlock the most hidden contents of man’s spiritual and emotional being, then the study of music should be the key to an understanding of man’s nature.
For over a century the greatest minds have consistently failed to penetrate the secrets of the Enigma Variations. Why risk writing on this unnerving, unnavigable melodic labyrinth? My qualifications to tackle this insurmountable puzzle are hardly extraordinary. I never attended conservatory, but neither did Elgar. On closer review, Elgar and I share an astonishing number of similar life experiences. Like me, he was:
- The son of a musician father who “who hated all religions”
- The son of a devout Christian mother who taught him to revere God and the arts
- The fourth child born to his parents
- A husband and father
- A Christian
- A concert violinist
- A piano accompanist
- An instructor of violin, viola, and piano
- A violin student of a respected teacher
- A self-taught composer
- An enthusiast for golfing, kite flying, bicycling, and experimenting in a home laboratory
- A law student in his youth
- Employed for a few years in an asylum as a musician
- Planning to attend conservatory but could not afford to do so
- An ardent admirer of Bach, Mendelssohn, and Wagner
- A Native English speaker
- Able to speak, read and write German
- An award winning composer
- Considered an outsider because of his faith, profession and class
- Suspicious of career academics
- Fascinated by puns, anagrams, and cryptograms
While there are other parallels between my life and Elgar's, those described above are the more significant because in the final analysis they are my best qualifications. Such an unusually large number of similar life experiences undeniably help me get into the mind and motives of Elgar on a much deeper level. Real life experiences like those mentioned above could never be duplicated by spending endless hours scouring book and journal articles on his life and music. This is no argument against the benefit of reading biographies, for how could I have ever learned about these commonalities in the first place? More vital than reading alone is the crucible of experience. Forged in that white hot flame, the sword of learning is heated and hardened until it may be sharpened into the finest, most discerning blade. Experience is the best teacher, and my life has taught me things about Elgar that I could never have gleaned from every article and book ever written about him and his music.
Sir Edward Elgar became an anachronism of the post-Romantic era when his music fell out of favor during his lifetime with the gaudy rise of the second Viennese School and the nemesis of classical music, atonalism. Thankfully his work has fallen back in favor, and not a moment too soon. While outwardly embracing tradition with his Victorian manner and quasi-military dress, Elgar inwardly remained a devoted iconoclast who first mastered, then transcended, the conventional rules of counterpoint and harmony. Considered among his greatest if not most performed works, the Enigma Variations broke the mold. Following its first performance in 1899 under Hans Richter, the history of English music has never been the same. It quickly became a standard in the orchestral repertoire, and now stands as one of the crown jewels of British symphonic music. Its hallowed place in England’s national conscious is justified by performances of Nimrod at the 1997 funeral of Princess Diana, the ceremony observing the return of Hong Kong to China, and on Remembrance Sunday before the Cenotaph (England’s World War I monument for “The Glorious Dead”). In England, Nimrod has become a national hymn for the fallen, a way of saying goodbye with reverence and honor.
The mysteries of Elgar’s Variations have both eluded and entertained the public, spawning an entire genre of scholarship and research. Like his other famous enigma – the Dorabella Cipher – the Variations are a vault of secrets still locked away despite the passage of over a century. Most experts assert the task of solving it is impossible since he took his secret to the grave. Or did he? The Enigma Variations were not commissioned, and neither was this blog. Similarly, it was Elgar’s first score to be published, and the same holds true for this volume (in a virtual sense). Elgar was 41 years old when he wrote it, and so was I when this treatise was conceived. The chief aim of this blog is to decisively answer one of most baffling riddles in the history of Western music: What is the unstated Principal Theme to the Enigma Variations? A second objective is to dispel some misleading claims about Elgar and his music. These falsehoods proffered under the guise of 'scholarship' are:
- Elgar – an aficionado of riddles, puzzles, ciphers, and cryptograms – did not deliberately premeditate his enigma, but added it merely as an afterthought or publicity stunt.
- Statements by Elgar declaring the existence of a hidden principal melodic theme were made as a practical joke (“jape”) because none exists (i.e., “athemeism”).
- A hidden principal melodic theme may exist, but it only plays “through and over” the first six measures of the Enigma theme, not the full seventeen bars.
- The secret dedicatee of Variation XIII is Lady Mary Lygon or Helen Weaver.
- Elgar took his secret to the grave without writing down the answer for posterity to discover.
Elgar loved secret codes, music, and God, and my new solution to the Enigma Variations powerfully integrates all three. Essential to this investigation is an acute appreciation of the three C's of Elgar's character: Catholicism, codes and counterpoint. Four major riddles of the Variations are described, and specific conditions formulated by Elgar to aid in unmasking the missing melody are outlined. It will be demonstrated with multiple proofs that the unstated Principal Theme is Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) by Martin Luther. Confirmation of this discovery is provided by a cleverly concealed Music Box Cipher embedded in the first six measures of the Enigma theme. The decrypted cipher text is Elgar's mysterious "dark saying" that unveils the name of the hidden dedicatee for Variation XIII. Even more tantalizingly, this "dark saying" is an ingenious anagram of the missing Principal theme’s title, a groundbreaking discovery obliterating the myth Elgar allegedly never wrote down the answer for posterity. Not only did he enshrine the answer in code, but Elgar also did so within the orchestral score to assure its preservation.
It will be shown how Ein feste Burg plays 'through and over' each of the variations. There are over sixty five different ciphers that disclose the secrets of the Enigma Variations. A discrete subset identifies a major source of inspiration behind Elgar's first extended symphonic work: The Turin Shroud. Elgar’s grand allusion to Dante’s Divine Comedy and the mysterious enigma forte will also be covered. For a more detailed summary of what is covered, see the Table of Contents.
Modern scholars will predictably recoil at my overt Christian faith, reflexively dismissing my findings as speculative and unfounded. My reply to their predictable objections is to point out Elgar was a devout Christian who dedicated the majority of his works to God, and their collective failure to weigh this fact most carefully unduly clouds their narrowly academic, secular understanding of the Enigma Variations. George Bernard Shaw correctly observed that those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. How right he was then, and even more so today, especially about the sclerotic state of post-modern academia desperately in need of deconstructing itself.
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. 
It is fortunate the permission of secular scholars is not compulsory to be correct on this matter. Only Elgar's signature is required to sign off on these discoveries, and that has been safely secured and reported to the world. To learn more about the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.
 McVeagh, D. (2007), Elgar the Music Maker. Rochester, New York: Boydell Press, p 57.
 “Athemism” is a portmanteau created by combining the words atheism and theme.