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Friday, August 16, 2019

"Ein feste Burg" sung with "Nimrod" at BBC Proms 35

To truth only a brief celebration of victory is allowed between the two long periods during which it is condemned as paradoxical, or disparaged as trivial.

Beginning at 1:04:50 in the broadcast, the Proms Plus segment of the 2019 BBC Proms 35 features a panel discussion hosted at Imperial College Union about Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Without naming the originator of Ein feste Burg as the covert Theme to Elgar’s symphonic masterpiece, the panelists heap ridicule on Martin Luther’s most famous hymn by labeling it as a “conspiracy theory” and “bonkers.” I will extend them the courtesy they withheld from me, namely by naming them. They are Dr. Kate Kennedy (a lecturer of English and Music at Oxford University), and David Owen Norris (a concert pianist and broadcaster). If Luther’s hymn is really such an outlandish theory, why would this dynamic duo of the lectern and keyboard single it out for such a farcical critique? They could just as easily directed their sarcasm at a dozen other tunes proffered as contrapuntal solutions to the Enigma Theme. The professors directed their scathing salvos so precisely at Ein feste Burg because as the saying goes, “The flack is heaviest when you’re over the target.”
The British academic establishment fielded two of their best to slap down my solution to the Enigma Variations, and it was embarrassing to sit through it. By embarrassing, I mean for them, not for me. In their unflattering portrayal of Ein feste Burg as the hidden melody to the Enigma Variations, Kennedy and Norris reveal at best a superficial understanding of my original research. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing as shown by Kennedy’s struggle to describe my findings starting at 1:20:46 in the broadcast:
What we’ve got here is an example, um, not by me and not endorsed by me I hasten to add, of setting, um, Martin Luther’s Ein feste Burg to Nimrod. You can also set it to the Theme apparently, um, and there are all sorts of wonderful reasons why this is the key to the mystery. Um, it is Ein feste Burg because E-F-B, uh, relates to the fact that the timps are tuned to E-flat, B-flat, and F. And this is Variation IX, I-X in Roman numerals; and “nine,” of course, sounds like the German word for “no.” And one and X are A and J, I, I kid you not. A and J in the (here the interviewer interjects, “You’ve lost us all.”) Keep up, keep up, it’s terribly complicated. A and J backwards is “Ja” in Germany, see? So “Ja” and “nein,” German words, so therefore, it must be Ein feste Burg.
The scattered nature of her comments confirms she was unprepared to give a cogent account of some elementary cryptograms embedded within the Enigma Variations. Kennedy inarticulately stumbles through as best she can, generously seasoning her discordant discourse with ums and ahs—a cardinal sin for any public speaker. Her erratic synopsis was exceedingly "umprofessional." As she strains to describe some relatively simple ciphers, one shudders at the prospect of her grappling with even more complex material. The Proms Plus segment casts my research in an absurd light by conveying it in a discombobulated and dithering manner.
In her incoherent attempt to describe the Nimrod Timani Cipher and the Roman Numerals IX Cipher, Kenney mirabile dictu arrives at Ein feste Burg as the hidden melody of the Enigma Variations. What precipitated the unmasking of that famous hymn was not those particular cryptograms, but rather the anomalous Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII as documented in my essay Evidence for Ein feste Burg as the Covert Theme to Elgar’s Enigma Variations. One hopes that Kennedy will consult that seminal paper before her next attempt at publicly addressing my research. A simple reading of the Abstract would provide a cogent summary of my main findings.
In a glaring omission, Kennedy and Norris fail to discuss Elgar’s quotations of four melodic fragments in Variation XIII from Felix Mendelssohn’s concert overture Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt. These seemingly extraneous quotations in an orchestral context imply that Mendelssohn cites the covert Theme in one of his own symphonic works. These four Mendelssohn fragments turn out to be a massive clue implicating the covert Theme because Mendelssohn quotes Ein feste Burg in the fourth movement of his Reformation Symphony followed by a set of variations. That insight certainly merited mention during the panel discussion but was conspicuously left out. It should have also been mentioned that Mendelssohn was a Lutheran composer from Germany.
At  1:21:42 in the broadcast, Kennedy sings the first phrase of Ein feste Burg in German as Norris belts out the opening eight bars of Nimrod’s melody.  After listening to Norris “la la la” his way through Nimrod, one readily understands why he gravitated towards a career as a pianist rather than a vocalist, for hardly anyone condemns an artist when the piano is out of tune. This truncated rookie rendition is a paltry substitute for the complete contrapuntal mapping that should have been shared as it is freely available on YouTube. The playing of Mendelssohn’s version of Ein feste Burg above a piano reduction of Nimrod is compelling evidence in support of my discovery. Not only is the counterpoint sound, but it also satisfies a key condition Elgar articulated in the original 1899 program note that demands the covert Theme must play “through and over” the set of Variations. Except for Ein feste Burg, no other melody has ever been shown to play over any one complete movement of the Variations. It is precisely for this reason that Ein feste Burg stands in a class of its own, towering far above the rest of the field.
 It has already been proven conclusively that Nimrod is a counterpoint to Ein feste Burg.  This brings us back to Kennedy’s anemic account of the Nimrod Timpani Cipher. That elegiac movement begins at Rehearsal 33 where the tuning of the timpani is shown as E-flat, B-flat, and F.
Is it just an astonishing coincidence that these three letters happen to be an anagram of the initials for Ein feste Burg? My research revealed that Elgar initialed multiple cryptograms in the Enigma Variations, and some encode the initials for the covert Theme. This trend persists with the Nimrod Timpani Cipher where the corresponding rehearsal number (33) forms a mirror image of Elgar’s capital cursive initials. In other words, one set of initials denotes (quite literally in this case) the presence of another. The Enigma Theme is played in the alternating parallel modes of G minor and G major, posing yet another remarkable coincidence as the accidentals for those keys (B-flat, E-flat, and F-sharp) form another anagram of the covert Theme’s initials. The Enigma Theme’s keys unlock Elgar’s melodic safe.
Kennedy gives an incoherent account of the Variation IX Roman Numerals Cipher. The Roman numerals IX represent the number nine, a word that is the phonetic equivalent and an anagram of the German word for no (nein). Before securing international acclaim, Elgar often received that response from Jaeger when lobbying Novello to publish one of his less commercially viable compositions. The application of a simple number-to-letter key (1 = a, 2 = b, 3 = c, etc…) to the Roman numerals I and X yields A and J respectively. These two letters are the initials for August Jaeger, the friend portrayed in Variation IX. Those letters are also an anagram of the German word for yes (Ja), another more favorable reply Elgar received from Jaeger when marketing his scores to Novello. Multiple coded references to German terms is significant because the original title of the covert Theme is in that language, one that Elgar learned in the forlorn hope of attending the Leipzig Conservatory founded by Mendelssohn.
It was Jaeger—not Elgar—who penciled in the title “Enigma” on the Master score. “Enigma” is spelled the same way in English and German. By directing his only German friend portrayed in the Variations to write the title “Enigma” above the original Theme, Elgar cleverly implies that its origin is Germanic. In a remarkable twist, the first three letters of “Enigma” form an anagram of the first word of the covert Theme’s title (Ein). There is yet another German connection with the final movement as Elgar based his initials on the German rendering of his first name, Eduard. These linguistic allusions are part of a much larger pattern that encompasses the Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII. Elgar cites four fragments from Mendelssohn’s concert overture Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt. The translation of its original German title is “Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage.” Mendelssohn was a German who was baptized a Lutheran, and his concert overture was inspired by the poetry of his friend, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. There is a tantalizing wordplay between Goethe and Luther as they are two-syllable names that rhyme.
At 1:16:30 in the broadcast, Norris refers to the translation of the German word Jaeger as “hunter.” He then ties it to the biblical description of Nimrod from Genesis 10:9 as “...a mighty hunter.” In describing this multilingual pun, Norris unwittingly recites the first two words in the covert Theme’s title, “A Mighty Fortress.” Nimrod is a giant from the Old Testament whose architectural expertise spurred the construction of various fortresses like Babel. His reputation for building citadels is so well established that a famous medieval castle on the slopes of Mount Hermon is known as Nimrod Fortress. Based on these associations with the name Nimrod, it is relatively simple to string together the words “A mighty” with “Fortress” to reproduce the covert Theme’s title. As Variation IX is dedicated to Elgar’s only German friend portrayed in the Variations, the next step would be to translate that result into German as Ein feste Burg. Like Elgar’s tie in between the English translation of Jaeger and the biblical description of Nimrod, this Nimrod Cipher also proves to be another multilingual wordplay.
Listening to Kennedy and Norris muddle their way through my research reminds me of the German saying, “Doof bleibt doof, da helfen keine Pillen.” There is no pill to cure stupidity. A stunning paradox is these highly credentialed figures know so much yet understand so little. If Kennedy and Norris are the best and brightest that England can muster, this accounts for why no British academic has ever managed to successfully navigate Elgar’s contrapuntal labyrinth. They may count themselves in the elite company of Julian Rushton, yet another career academic whose curiosity was straight-jacketed by a university education. These pedantic professors missed the proverbial boat concerning the enormous significance of the Mendelssohn fragments. The truth set sail with the tides years ago, leaving them far behind to commune in the shoals and shallows of their intellects. To learn more concerning the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.

2 comments:

Franklin B Davis said...

Mr. Padgett, your article is so revealing, not only of those British intellectuals' seemingly limited intellects, but also in offering so many delicious morsels of knowledge from your own research. I look forward to reading your eBook.

Anonymous said...

argumentum ad hominem... revealing indeed

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.