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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Top Eleven Enigma 'Solutions' Refuted



“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.”

Some of the most prevalent ‘solutions’ to Elgar’s Enigma Variations are listed by Wikipedia, a virtual clearinghouse of ‘peer reviewed’ theories. Could any of the following tunes be the unstated Principal Theme to the Variations?
  1. Pop goes the Weasel
  2. For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow
  3. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  4. Beethoven’s Pathétique Piano Sonata
  5. Now the Day is Over
  6. Mozart’s Prague Symphony
  7. God Save the King (or Queen)
  8. Rule Britannia
  9. Dies Irae
  10. Auld Lang Syne
  11. Tallis Canon
Before being recognized as the solution, the correct melody must first satisfy specific conditions given by Elgar regarding the special relationship between the hidden Theme and the Enigma Variations. These conditions come from three primary sources: The original 1899 program note, the 1900 interview for The Musical Times, and his 1905 biographyElgar’s four conditions are:
  1. The Enigma theme is a counterpoint to the Principal theme.
  2. The Principal theme is not heard.
  3. The Principal Theme is a melody that can be played ‘through and over’ the whole set of Variations including the entire Enigma Theme.
  4. The Principal Theme is famous.
Elgar made it crystal clear the Enigma Theme is a counterpoint to the unstated Principal Theme. In his first authoritative biography published in 1905, he explained:
The ‘Enigma’ orchestral-piece is Op. 36. What the solution of the ‘Enigma’ may be, nobody but the composer knows. The theme is a counterpoint on some well-known melody which is never heard, the variations are the theme seen through the personalities of friends, with an intermezzo and a coda, the last added at the request of friends aided and abetted by Dr. Richter, who accepted the work on its merits, having received the score in Vienna from his agent in London, and who at the time had not met with the composer.”[1]
      A counterpoint is by definition a counter melody, hence logic dictates the unstated Principal Theme must also be a melody.  This observation is consistent with Elgar’s character as a composer as shown by counterpoints he composed to famous themes from Handel’s Messiah and Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. Since the unstated Principal Theme must be melodic in nature, this obviously precludes from consideration any symbolic, mathematical or literary themes – popular refuges for the musical illiterati. A major implication of Elgar’s contrapuntal condition is the unstated Principal Theme must play ‘through and over’ the entire Enigma Theme. Again, this observation meshes with Elgar’s life history of composing melodic counterpoints to famous melodies. Like a home standing on its foundation, the Enigma Theme rests on its foundational Theme. This demands that both must be the same size (i.e., length), presenting a snug horizontal fit. However, this does not rule out the possibility of a second mapping using an augmented form of the source melody to produce a contrapuntally sound mapping.
Before mapping any proposed melody over the Enigma Theme, it must first be transposed into a mix of G minor and G major. These alterations between the minor and major modes are implied by the Enigma Theme’s odd structure. In measures 1-6 it plays in G minor, continuing in G major in measures 7-10, returning to G minor in measure 11-16, and closing in G major in measure 17. Even when granting these generous accommodations, the top eleven 'solution' melodies flunk the test.

Top Eleven Solutions to Elgar’s Enigma Theme
Theme
Audio
Length
Harmony
Counterpoint
Short
Dissonant
Incompatible
Short
Dissonant
Incompatible
Short
Dissonant
Incompatible
Short
Dissonant
Incompatible
Short
Dissonant
Incompatible
Short
Dissonant
Incompatible
Short
Dissonant
Incompatible
Short
Dissonant
Incompatible
Short
Dissonant
Incompatible
Short
Dissonant
Incompatible
Short
Dissonant
Incompatible

      So much for Wikipedia’s staid reliance on the ‘peer review’ process, an abject travesty that places all the emphasis on peer and nothing on review. In post-modern academia ‘peer review’ has become a euphemism for straining out a gnat to drink a camel. Such a desperate condition was diagnosed long ago by Allan Bloom who warned, “Reason transformed into prejudice is the worst form of prejudice, because reason is the only instrument for liberation from prejudice.” Academics have grown far too comfortable with their pet theories to permit any light to chase away the darkness of their blighted intellects. Their mantra is to publish or perish. Predictably they publish, and just as predictably the truth perishes. Yet in the end, who needs them? With Google, Blogger and YouTube serving as a virtual ten pound sledgehammer, one may apply the necessary force to obliterate these obsolete theories propped up by the ‘peer review’ process...and Wikipedia.
The case for Ein feste Burg as the unstated Principal Theme to the Enigma Variations is extensive and persuasive. Confirmation that Ein feste Burg is the hidden theme is given by a number of different music ciphers in the Enigma Theme and Variation XIII. Within the Enigma Theme is concealed an ingenious music box cipher, Elgar’s ‘dark saying’ linked to the Enigma mentioned in the original 1899 program note. Incredibly, Elgar did not take his secret to the grave, but rather enciphered the answer within the orchestral score. When discovered, the decrypted answer would remain unguessed just as Elgar predicted. He even went so far as to encode the initials for the hidden melody in the Enigma Theme which modulates between the minor and major modes of G. The accidentals for those two keys are E-flat, F-sharp, B-flat.
The odd nickname for Jaeger’s Variation (Nimrod) is linked to the title A Mighty Fortress by of one Elgar’s favorite pastimes, wordplay. When he gave a copy of Longfellow’s novel Hyperion to the conductor Hans Richter following the premiere, Elgar literally gave away the answer.  No wonder he suspected the solution would soon be found. Even the wrong date on the original score is a revealing clue since it falls on the anniversary of Luther’s death. According to an alphanumeric cipher within the Mendelssohn fragments, the missing initials for Variation XIII (***) are E.F.B. – the initials for Ein feste BurgThe mapping of Ein feste Burg over Nimrod is so self-evident that the melodic solution to Elgar's Enigma Variations is as plain a pikestaff. To learn more about the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.


[1] Buckley, Robert J. Sir Edward Elgar (1905). New York: Kessinger Publishing, Llc, 2009, p. 54-55

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About Mr. Padgett

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Mr. Padgett studied violin with Michael Rosenker, 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 ShriverSteve 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.