I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s own immortality.
In May 2017 it was first determined the structure of the Enigma Variations is in reality a cipher that encodes the initials of the covert Theme and the secret friend’s name covertly commemorated by Variation XIII. The realization that the architecture of the Enigma Variations enciphers answers to its central riddles raises the prospect that the Enigma Theme’s structure could also be a cryptogram waiting to be decoded.
The Enigma Theme is divided into four sections laid out in an ABA’C format over nineteen measures. Section A is six measures in the key of G minor. This opening section is demarcated from the next by a double barline at the terminus of measure 6. Section B is four bars in the contrasting parallel key of G major. Section A Prime returns to G minor and is seven measures. In measure 17 it concludes with a Picardi cadence in G major followed by a final barline. Section C continues in G major for one bar before modulating back to G minor in measure 19 which is separated from Variation I by a double barline. In all, there are thirteen measures in G minor, and six in G major. These figures are remarkable because the numbers six and thirteen hold special significance in the Enigma Variations.
Scholars and laypersons proffer conflicting opinions about the Enigma Theme’s length. Patrick Turner adopts the most restrictive view by confining it to Section A in the opening six measures. Mainstream scholars like Diana McVeigh are more generous in their assessment, identifying it with the Ternary structure in Sections ABA’ while overlooking Section C. Both of these views are misguided because they conflict with Elgar’s published position regarding the Enigma Theme’s actual length.
In explanatory notes supplied for a set of pianola rolls published in 1929, Elgar wrote the following about Variation I, “There is no break between the theme and this movement.” That disclosure is crucial because the Enigma Theme’s first variant is not introduced until measure 20. This fact, when considered in the context of Elgar’s explanatory note, confirms he defined the Enigma Theme’s duration as measures 1 through 19.
The two-bar bridge in measures 18 and 19 does not belong to Variation I, something deceptively implied by a final barline at the end of measure 17. On the contrary, Section C represents an elaboration of the Enigma Theme’s closing cadence. A conspicuous series of ties connecting the notes of measures 17 with measure 18 supports this observation, linking the Enigma Theme and the bridge in a way not found with Variation I. The bridge serves to unwind the Picardy cadence, circling back to the minor mode in preparation for the first variation from which it is separated by a conspicuous double bar. The Enigma Theme begins and ends in G minor with brief forays into the parallel major, generating a modal smokescreen that adroitly obscures the covert Theme’s key.
To assess the existence of a cipher within the Enigma Theme’s structure, it is instructive to consider the number of bars in each of its sections. Section A is 6 measures. Section B is 4 bars. Section A Prime is 7 measures. Section C is 2 bars. The application of a Number-to-Letter conversion to these measure totals (the same used with the Enigma Variations Keys Cipher) produces the solution letters F, D, G, and B.
The letters F and B stand out because they are the second and third initials from the covert Theme’s title, Ein feste Burg. The absent E is suggested by the phonetic pronunciation of the plaintext letters with F pronounced as "ef," D as "dee," G as "gee," and B as "bee." The E is conveniently supplied by the Theme’s title, Enigma. E is the first letter in the first word of the hidden melody's title, and likewise is the first letter in the title of the Enigma Theme. It is remarkable the first three letters of Enigma may be rearranged to spell the covert Theme’s first word, Ein. In this brilliant wordplay, Elgar provides with the carefully selected title Enigma not only the first initial of the covert Theme’s title, but also all three letters continuously of its first word Ein. This cannot be a coincidence. The initials E.F.B. are also encoded by the Enigma Theme Keys Cipher, the Enigma Variations Key Numbers Cipher, the Mendelssohn Cipher, the Letter Cluster Cipher, the Enigma Date Cipher, the Dominant-Tonic-Dominant Cipher, and twice on the original cover page of the score.
The remaining two letters (G and D) from the plaintext decryption are a phonetic spelling of God. This coded reference to God serves two purposes. The first is that it identifies the last word in the complete title of the covert Theme, A Mighty Fortress is our God. The second is it affirms the identity of the secret friend, Jesus, whom Roman Catholics such as Elgar identify as the Son of God and a member of the Trinity. It is undoubtedly for this reason that Elgar begins Variation XIII, the special movement dedicated in secret to Christ, with the two melody notes G and D. To learn more about the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.