Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Enigma Theme’s Main Character "Off-Stage"

Christ in the Desert by Ivan Kramskoi
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.
Edward Elgar from the 1899 program note for the Enigma Variations 

In describing the Enigma Variations for the 1899 premiere, Edward Elgar likens the missing principal Theme to a main dramatic character who never appears on stage. To frame it another way, the main character remains in the dark off-stage, hidden from view. It is incredibly revealing Elgar’s 1903 sacred oratorio The Kingdom presents the trial and crucifixion of Jesus off stage. Elgar’s use of this dramatic device is rich with symbolism for there was a preternatural darkness over the land during the crucifixion. It also alludes to the identity of Elgar’s hidden friend, the subject of his haunting Enigma Theme and dark saying, a musical Polybius Box Cipher that reveals both the name of the unstated principal Theme and the secret friend of Variation XIII.
Research confirms the hidden friend and dedicatee of Variation XIII is Jesus Christ. The evidence is both overwhelmingly obvious and yet cleverly concealed. Variation XIII was originally designated with a capital L, a letter associated with various titles for Jesus such as the Lord of Lords, Light of the World, and Light of Life. There are some compelling linguistic associations between the letter L and Jesus that likely prompted Elgar to use it as a cryptic reference. For one, L is the phonetic equivalent of the Hebrew word for Lord and God (El), and the first two letters in Elgar's last name. In Greek, the letter L is known as Lambda, a title that may be interpreted as an oblique reference to one of the titles for Christ as the Lamb of God with the final two letters (da) forming the reverse acronym of the equivalent Latin title Agnus Dei. In ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, L is represented by a reclining lion or sphinx. In Elgar's Roman Catholic tradition, one of the titles for Jesus is the Lion of Judah. As an aside, it is intriguing that in a letter from November 1899 Jaeger describes Elgar as a sphinx, a mythical creature infamous for posing insoluble riddles.
It is fascinating the word crucifixion contains exactly one X and three Is, the same Roman numerals associated with Elgar’s most enigmatic variation (XIII). These Roman numerals translate into the secret friend's initials using a basic number-to-letter key (1 = A, 2 = B, 3 = C, etc.). The Roman numeral X represents the number ten. The tenth letter of the alphabet is J. The Roman numerals III signify the number there. The third letter is C. When considered as X and III, the Roman numerals XIII encode the initials JC. They may also figuratively be read to represent a cross and three nails. Even the lyrics of the covert Principal Theme – Ein feste Burg –mention Elgar’s hidden friend by name. More tantalizingly, an ingenious elimination cipher in Variation XIII refers to the burial cloth of Jesus, the Turin Shroud.

In May 1898, the amateur photographer Secondo Pia made history when his photographic negative of the Turin Shroud revealed a moving, life-like image of the crucified Jesus. What makes Pia’s discovery even more symbolically relevant to this inquiry is that it was made in a dark room as he was developing a photographic plate. Could this be one element of Elgar’s elaborate darking saying? The evidence certainly suggests so. The riveting revelation of Pia’s photographic negative of the Turin Shroud galvanized the Roman Catholic community and mesmerized the world press during the five months preceding the genesis of the Enigma Variations in October 1898. The amazing image of Jesus on the Turin Shroud was openly hidden in plain view, yet could only be fully seen in the form of a photographic negative. Another compelling reason why Elgar used the letter L as a reference to Christ is the Turin Shroud contains four distinctive L-shaped burn hole patterns. Based on cryptographic evidence, the Turin Shroud was a tremendous source of inspiration for Elgar when he composed the Enigma Variations in 1898-99.

L-shaped burn hole patter on the Turin Shroud

Jesus, the teacher who spoke in parables or dark sayings, is ultimately the main character of Elgar’s Enigma Variations and subject of the covert Principal Theme who only appears off-stage. To learn more about the secrets behind the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar's Enigmas Exposed

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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.