Man muss immer umkehren.(Invert, always invert.)
Edward Elgar draws special attention to the number six in his Enigma Variations. The opus number (36) is the product of six times six. There are six titles given to different movements that are each six letters long. The first is Enigma, while two others appear in succession for Variations VI (Ysobel) and VII (Troyte). There is an oddly placed double bar at the end of measure 6 of the Enigma Theme. Less obvious but equally relevant is the presence of a 6 x 6 music box cipher embedded within the first six measures of the Enigma Theme. When decoded, it reveals Elgar’s “dark saying” first mentioned in the 1899 program note for the premiere. The complete title of the unstated principal Theme is six words in length: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. There are 24 letters in that title, the sum of four sixes. The lyrics of Luther's most famous hymn originate from Psalm 46, a chapter number ending in six. The names Martin and Luther are each six letters in length. Elgar's use of the German sixth chord in the Enigma Theme alludes to the missing melody's six-word title in German. Even Elgar's dedication hints at this number for it is comprised of six words: “Dedicated to My Friends Pictured Within.” These overt and covert references to the number six in the Enigma Variations invite a closer evaluation of the orchestral score at Rehearsal 66.
It is remarkable that notes in the countermelody starting at Rehearsal 66 are sequentially identical to those from the final phrase of Ein feste Burg. Two of those countermelody notes are duplicates (C and B) three bars after Rehearsal 66, thinly disguising the source melody’s ending in combination with the use of a repeated dotted rhythm.
In a stunning parallel, Elgar quotes the same closing phrase of Ein feste Burg not once, but twice, in Variation X Dorabella. Played by the inner voice, both of these partial quotations appear in an augmented form to disguise the source melody. The first instance takes place six measures before Rehearsal 42. The second begins six measures before Rehearsal 45. Notice the appearance of the number six as both partial quotations begin six measures before the next rehearsal number. No wonder Elgar confessed to Dora Penny he thought she “of all people” would be the one to correctly guess the missing melody. Out of all of the Variations, her movement most clearly quotes the final phrase of Ein feste Burg. Like the fragment at Rehearsal 66, Elgar quotes the ending rather than the beginning of the covert Theme. This is consistent with Elgar’s quotation from Longfellow’s Elegiac Verse at the end of the extended Finale, “. . . greater the art is of ending.”
Slipping in the final phrase of the secretive theme is a wily stratagem, for the average listener typically begins searching for the source melody at its beginning rather than its end. Such a simplistic approach defines virtually all prior failed attempts at solving the Enigma Variations by those who vainly matched the Enigma Theme’s opening notes with the first few of another theme. These investigators invariably neglected Jacobi’s maxim, “Invert, always invert.” If only they had begun their search at the end rather than the beginning, perhaps the solution could have been discovered sooner. Ultimately it was discovered on the bicentennial of Mendelssohn’s birth, a truly symbolic day since his music is quoted by Elgar in the Variations. Mainstream scholars continue to ignore these major contributions to Elgar scholarship, adamantly insisting these discoveries first be published in a “peer-reviewed” journal before serious consideration. They forget that only Elgar’s permission is needed, and that has already been granted by a tsunami of evidence. To learn more about the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.
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