The Enigma I will not explain – its ‘dark saying’ must be left unguessed, and I warn you that the connexion between the Variations and the Theme is often of the slightest texture; further, through and over the whole set another and larger theme ‘goes’, but is not played . . . 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.
Elgar’s Dark Saying: A Music Box Cipher was first published in September 2010 and has received in excess of 18,300 pageviews. In over 45 pages, it documents the discovery and decoding of a musical Polybius box cipher concealed within the Enigma Theme’s opening six measures. This overview will cover three separate lines of investigation that converged to unveil this cryptogram and led to its extraordinary decryption. An overarching goal is to tie together multiple lines of inquiry culminating in a discovery that decisively settles the question, “What is the covert melody to the Enigma Variations?”
Edward Elgar (1857-1934) achieved international acclaim after the premiere of his Enigma Variations in June 1899. This set of symphonic variations was revolutionary because its original Theme was conceived as a counterpoint to a famous melody that is not played and remains mysteriously absent. Elgar gave his distinctive counterpoint the title Enigma before its publication and premiere to convey this contrapuntal riddle. In the original 1899 program note, Elgar calls his perplexing thematic counterpoint “Enigma.” He continues this convention in a later program note for an October 1911 performance at Turin where again he refers to the opening movement again as simply “Enigma.”
Besides a missing principal melody, Elgar acknowledged in the 1899 program note that the Enigma Theme has a “dark saying” that “must be left unguessed.” Such cryptic language insinuates the existence of a coded message hidden away within the Enigma Theme. Such an interpretation of the phrase “dark saying” is made possible by the definitions of its terms. One definition of dark is secret or hidden. A saying is a string of words that typically form an adage. Dr. Clive McClelland finds evidence for a coded message in the Enigma Theme’s opening six bars based on regularly spaced quarter note rests at the start of each measure. According to Dr. McClelland, this recurring feature suggests spaces between words:
Elgar’s six-bar phrase is achieved by the characteristic four-note grouping, repeated six times with its reversible rhythm of two quavers and two crotchets. This strongly suggests the cryptological technique of disguising word-lengths in ciphers by arranging letters in regular patterns.
Following Dr. McClelland’s line of reasoning, quarter rests uniformly dispersed over six bars with four melodic notes per bar collectively suggest that Elgar’s “dark saying” is comprised of six words with a total of 24 letters.
An oddly placed double bar as the terminus of bar 6 is routinely misinterpreted as the end of the counterpoint between the Enigma Theme and its secretive melody. This analysis is clearly flawed because the melodic material in bars 1-6 repeats in measures 11-16, proving unequivocally that the scope of Elgar’s counterpoint extends beyond the first six bars. More importantly, such a misreading of the double bar’s significance in bar 6 directly contradicts Elgar’s published statement affirming the Enigma Theme does not end until Variation I begins.
In My Friends Pictured Within published by Novello in 1947, Elgar writes about Variation I, “There is no break between the theme and this movement.” Variation I begins in measure 20. In this context, Elgar’s straightforward claim designates bar 19 as the end of the Enigma Theme. This observation is supported by a double bar at the end of bar 19 separating the Enigma Theme from Variation I where the opening thematic material is presented in a modified guise. Just as Dr. McClelland suspected, the unusual placement of a double bar at the end of bar 6 marks off the conclusion of the Enigma’s “dark saying”, a music cipher built into the much larger contrapuntal puzzle.
There is no question Elgar was an expert in cryptography, the practice of coding and decoding messages. His obsession with that esoteric art merits an entire chapter in Craig P. Bauer’s recently released book Unsolved! Much of that chapter is devoted to Elgar’s methodical decryption of an allegedly insoluble Nihilist cipher published by John Holt Schooling in an 1896 issue of The Pall Mall Magazine. Elgar was so pleased with his solution that he mentions it in his first biography published in 1905 by Robert J. Buckley. Elgar painted his solution in black paint on a wooden box and summarized his systematic decryption on a set of nine index cards. On the sixth card, he describes the process of cracking the cipher as “. . . working (in the dark).” This use of the word dark as a synonym for a cipher reinforces the conviction that the Enigma’s “dark saying” is a music cipher embedded within the Enigma Theme.
After it was determined that the Enigma Theme harbors a music cryptogram in its opening six measures, a frequency analysis was performed of its melody notes.
In all, there are six discrete melody notes evenly dispersed in four-note phrases over the first six bars of the Enigma Theme for a sum total of 24. There are six As, six B-flats, six Gs, three Ds, two Cs, and one F. A cryptanalysis of these note frequencies did not unveil any credible plaintext solutions. Further research was required to narrow down the pool of possible solution letters.
A separate line of this research centered on four melodic fragments cited in Variation XIII from Felix Mendelssohn’s concert overture Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage) Op. 27. Elgar’s treatment of these four-note segments departs from the original A major mode, 4/4 time signature, and faster tempo. He slows the tempo down, reconstructs the fragment in 3/4 time, and alters the key. The first two Mendelssohn fragments are in A-flat major, and the fourth is E-flat major. These three fragments in major modes are enclosed by quotation marks. The third fragment is performed in F minor by three trumpets and three trombones but lacks quotation marks because it diverges from the original major mode. These Mendelssohn fragments are performed over a palindromic ostinato figure drawn from the Enigma Theme’s alternating pairs of quarter notes and eighth notes with the intervening quarter rests stripped out. The conspicuous pairing of these Mendelssohn quotations with the Enigma Theme’s rhythmic structure implies some intimate connection between them.
The insertion in Variation XIII of a foreign melodic fragment that appears extraneous to the Enigma Theme raises the prospect that Elgar intended to furnish a critical series of clues regarding the hidden melody. By quoting an alien tune by Mendelssohn in his symphonic variations, Elgar intimates through imitation that Mendelssohn cites the covert Theme in one of his symphonies as the basis for a set of variations. Four fragments suggest the fourth movement of a particular work. The original German title of Mendelssohn’s overture further alludes to a German title for the covert Theme. These are highly specific criteria that leave no wiggle room to finagle a plausible solution. Is there a famous melody with an original German title quoted by Mendelssohn in the fourth movement of one of his symphonies that served as the basis for a series of variations?
There is only one viable candidate among Mendelssohn’s symphonic works that meets all of those highly specific requirements. The fourth movement of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5 begins with the hymn Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) followed by a sequence of variations. This solution sparked a cryptographic epiphany because that famous hymn has an original German title with six words and a total of 24 letters. These are the precise figures observed in the opening six measures of the Enigma Theme with its 24 melody notes divided by evenly spaced quarter rests into four-note fragments. The common three-word title Ein feste Burg is a shortened version of the complete six-word title, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God). That full title is a familiar biblical adage drawn from the first line of Psalm 46.
A frequency analysis of the letters in Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott was then completed to enable a comparison with the melodic notes from the Enigma Theme’s opening six bars.
There are 11 discrete letters with frequencies ranging from 1 (B, F, and O), 2 (G, I, N, R, and U), 3 (S), and 4 (E and T). This presents no broad correlations with the Enigma Theme’s 6 discrete note letters with frequencies of 1 (F), 2 (C), 3 (D), and 6 (A, B-flat, and G). With his recognized expertise in the field of cryptography, it would be reasonable to suspect that Elgar employed a more complex form of encipherment to harden his cryptogram.
To reassign the 24 letters from a six-word title among the 24 melody notes in the Enigma Theme’s opening six bars, Elgar must have deployed a more sophisticated cipher. This brings us back to the Nihilist cipher devised by John Holt Schooling that Elgar bragged about solving in his first biography released in 1905. Elgar first encountered this allegedly unsolvable cryptogram in the fourth and final installment in a series of articles published in 1896 under the heading “Secrets in Cipher” by The Pall Mall Magazine. Elgar retained these articles in his personal library that provide an excellent introduction to the history of code making and breaking. Schooling saved his most difficult Nihilist cipher for last at the conclusion of his fourth article, issuing the daring claim that “...the meaning of the cipher which now follows will never be solved by [sic] any one.” Elgar systematically studied and analyzed this cryptogram until he arrived at the solution.
Schooling’s Nihilist cipher relies on a Polybius box key through which single plaintext letters are fractionated into two. A pair of numbers identifies a corresponding row and column within a checkerboard grid that holds a single solution letter. This is similar to how the positions of pieces on a chessboard may be identified by assigning a column letter and a row number. For this reason, the Polybius box is also known as a checkerboard cipher. In the standard Polybius box key grid shown below, the solution letter A is encoded as 11, B as 12, C as 13, and so on.
Music notation is based on the first seven letters of the alphabet. The degrees of a musical scale are numbered 1 through 8. To construct a musical Polybius box cipher, it would be necessary to isolate two equal numbered groups of notes to distribute solution letters within a Polybius key grid. There are six unique note letters in the Enigma Theme’s melody over the opening six bars. On the short score of the Enigma Theme, Elgar wrote the melody and bass lines in black ink and filled in the remaining harmonies in pencil. Could that black ink pinpoint the foundation of Elgar’s “dark saying?”
Like the Enigma Theme’s melody, there are precisely six unique note letters in the bass line in the opening six bars. This uncanny parallel between the number of melody and bass notes in the Enigma Theme’s first six bars raises the possibility that they could serve as the column and row labels in a 6 by 6 Polybius square key. If Elgar reassigned the 24 letters of Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott to the 24 notes of the Enigma Theme’s melody in bars 1-6, there would be a high probability of corresponding frequencies between those letters and the melody/bass note pairs.
To assess this prospect, a frequency analysis of melody/bass note letter pairs was prepared for bars 1-6 of the Enigma Theme. For the purposes of this analysis, a bass note was treated as unchanged until the next is introduced. This permits pairing melody notes with the most recent sounding bass note continuing into the quarter rest until the next note is sounded. This methodology is supported by the repetition of the opening thematic material in measures 11-16 above a sustained bass line with almost all the quarter rests removed. These melody/bass note pairs are confined to the note letters themselves and do not take into consideration any accidentals such as sharps and flats.
What emerges from these melody/bass note letter pairs are obvious correlations with plaintext letter frequencies of 4, 3, and 2. Melody/bass note letter pairs were easily found for plaintext letters with frequencies of 4 (e, t), 3 (s), and in three cases for letters with frequencies of 2 (g, i, n, r, u). The remaining two melody/bass note letter pairs for plaintext letters with frequencies of 2 were not immediately apparent. The first to be linked were G/B-flat and B-flat/D because they form a G minor triad and have B-flats in opposite positions. The next correlation was found between C/A and A/E-flat because of a shared A in alternate places, a trait found with the prior pairing. Another rationale is the letters C, A, and E are the initials for Elgar's wife, the title for Variation I. Like the previously matched melody/bass pairs, these notes (A, C, and E-flat) form a musical chord, an A minor diminished triad.
The remaining three melody/bass note letter pairs (F/B, G/E-flat, B-flat/E-flat) were assigned through a process of elimination to plaintext letters with frequencies of one (b, f, 0). These three mismatched melody/bass pairs are sourced strictly from quarter notes valued at one beat each, a characteristic that presents a plausible link to the plaintext frequency of 1. These particular note letters (B, E, F, and G) are the first, second, third, and sixth initials from the German title Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. It is remarkable the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 6 correspond precisely to the frequencies of the six melody notes from the Enigma Theme’s opening six measures. An initial is the first letter in a word, providing yet another basis for linking these melody/bass note pairs to the plaintext frequency of 1. The remaining two initials (I and U) cannot be represented by musical note letters as they are limited to the opening seven letters of the alphabet.
A frequency analysis of 11 discrete letters in the six-word German title Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott found three letters with frequencies of 1 (b, f, o), five with frequencies of 2 (g, i, n, r, u), one with a frequency of 3 (s), and two with frequencies of 4 (e, t). A frequency analysis of 6 discrete notes from Enigma Theme’s opening six bars showed one with a frequency of 1 (F), one with a frequency of 2 (C), one with a frequency of 3 (D), and three with frequencies of 6 (A, B-flat, G). These results verify there are no clear correlations between the 11 discrete letters from the German title and the 6 discrete notes from the Enigma Theme’s opening six bars. By expanding the search to a frequency analysis of melody/bass note letters from those same opening six measures, it was discovered that there is an eerily similar distribution of frequencies matching those found in the letters from Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. This pattern indicates Elgar fractionated the plaintext from the six-word 24-letter German title and assigned its letters to the 24 melody/bass note letter pairs of the Enigma Theme’s opening six bars using a musical Polybius box cipher key.
Two plaintext letters are assigned to melody/bass note letter pairs with a frequency of 4. This limits possible combinations to 2 for this group. Only one plaintext letter is associated with melody/bass note letter pairs with a frequency of 3, confining the potential outcomes to 1. Five plaintext letters are connected to melody/bass note letter pairs with a frequency of 2, resulting in 120 possible letter combinations based on the standard formula 5 x 4 x 3 x 2. Three plaintext letters are available for melody/bass note letter pairs with a frequency of 1, furnishing 6 possible combinations. Based on these potential letter combinations for melody/bass note letter frequencies, the total number of possible plaintext letter combinations comes to 1,440. This number is arrived at by multiplying the possible arrangement of letters for each category with one other as 2 x 1 x 120 x 6.
Out of 1,440 possible combinations of plaintext letters based on a frequency analysis of the Enigma Theme’s melody/bass note pairs for its 24 opening melody notes and the 24 letters of Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, virtually all of them are gibberish except for one notable exception.
Before proceeding to a discussion of the full decryption, it is critical to recognize Elgar enjoyed experimenting with phonetic spellings. His personal correspondence glistens with inventive respellings of common words. For example, he refashioned “excuse” as xqqq, and “score” as ckor, skore, skorh, skowre, skourrghe, csquorr, skourghowore, and sczowoughohr. Elgar's use of phonetic spellings, particularly for names, is clearly established through his own personal correspondence where he sometimes signed his first name as Edwd. The plaintext solution for bar 1 is “GSUS”. This is a phonetic version of Jesus that closely matches the Latin spelling Iesus. This phonetic variant is reminiscent of how Jesus is spelled in the Italian phrase “del Gesù” (of Jesus) ascribed to the famous violin maker Guarneri because his instrument labels bore the nomina sacra and a Roman cross. Jesus is at the heart of Elgar’s Roman Catholic faith, and a substantial amount of cryptographic evidence confirms that Christ is most certainly the secret friend enshrined in Variation XIII.
The plaintext solution in bar 2 is “GRTS”. The absence of any vowels permits this phonetic text to be interpolated as the Latin words gratus, gratis, and gratias. Elgar was intimately familiar with this academic and liturgical language because he regularly attended Latin Mass and received instruction in Latin during his youth at three Catholic schools. The 1897 edition of Cassell’s Latin Dictionary defines gratus as “charming, pleasant, welcome, beloved, grateful, and deserving thanks.” A Copious and Critical English-Latin Dictionary first published in 1871 defines gratus as “beloved” and “favorite.” The terms “beloved” and “pleasing” are used in Matthew 3:17 to describe Jesus after his baptism when a voice from heaven declared, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” An alternative realization of the plaintext “GRTS” is the Latin word for grace, gratis. As an adverb, it is defined as “without recompense, for nothing, gratis.” As a noun, gratis means “thanks” or “thanksgiving,” especially to a deity.
The combination of the plaintext solutions from bars 1 and 2 (GSUS + GRTS) produces the phrase “Jesus Gratias” which translates as “Thanks be to Jesus.” These two terms appear together in the 1838 edition of A Simplified Latin Grammar published in London. That exact phrase is found in the writings of Pope Damasus I (c. 305 – 11 December 384) published in 1745. During his papacy, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire in the year 380 under Emperor Constantine I. It closely mirrors a phrase from the Latin mass “Deo Gratias” which means “Thanks be to God.” Gratias also appears in the Ordinary of the Latin Mass in the seventh sentence of the Gloria as, “Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam” ("We give thanks to Thee thy great glory"). As part of her conversion to Roman Catholicism four years after marrying Elgar, Alice received instruction in Latin. An entry in her diary on September 3, 1896, illustrates her practice of citing Latin phrases. It reads, “To rehearsal at Queen's Hall about 11 – Perfectly lovely morning – Deo Gratias – for it.” It is significant that the Latin terms encoded in bars 1 and 2 appear in the proper order with the name “GSUS” preceding “GRTS”.
Following the first measure’s reference to Jesus, the appearance of a phonetic Latin spelling of the words for beloved, thanksgiving, and grace are theologically elegant and compelling. In the Christian canon, Jesus is described as beloved and pleasing to God and serves as the supreme example of divine grace. This message is made plain in the book of Ephesians where it teaches, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”
The plaintext solution in bar 3 is “INOU”, the phonetic equivalent of the phrase “I know you.” The plaintext solution in bar 4 is “BETR”, a phonetic version of better. Combining these plaintext results for measures 3 and 4 produces “INOU BETR” which is the phrase “I know you better.” Following the decryption from bars 1 and 2 expressing thanks to Jesus and efficiently capturing some of his most important theological attributes through the possible Latin readings of “GRTS”, the context of this second phrase implies Elgar knows Jesus better. Why would Elgar profess this belief?
There is a historic photograph taken five months before Elgar began to openly compose the Enigma Variations that accounts for his coded assertion that he knew Jesus better. Secondo Pia took the first official picture of the Turin Shroud in May 1898. For the first time in history, Pia’s photographic negative revealed a positive image of what many believe to be the tortured and crucified body of Jesus. This was made possible because the image on the Turin Shroud is itself a photographic negative that predates the invention of photography by millennia. A photographic negative of a negative produces a recognizable positive image.
Pia’s photographic negative of the Turin Shroud became an international sensation in the secular and religious media. Devout Roman Catholics displayed it in their churches and homes, venerating it as part of their devotions to the Holy Face. For Roman Catholics like Elgar, the opportunity to gaze at the beaten and bruised face of their Savior would be a profoundly moving spiritual experience as well as a powerful confirmation of their faith. To see the face of Jesus would certainly lead a Roman Catholic like Elgar to declare he knows Jesus better. Numerous coded references to the Turin Shroud within the Enigma Variations reinforce the conclusion that this sacred relic was indeed the inspiration behind Elgar’s expression of thanks to Jesus and his secretive confession of knowing Him better than before.
The appearance of the correct Latin word order in measures 1 and 2 is significant because the same phenomenon occurs with the English words in measures 3 and 4. The statistical odds of words from multiple languages occurring in meaningful pairs and in the correct sequence is far too remote to be the result of chance. The title of the covert Theme is the famous adage, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The phonetically encoded Latin and English plaintext in bars 1-4 comprise two distinct intelligible phrases that also satisfy the definition of saying. It is critical to recognize the assignment of plaintext letters was restricted to melody/bass note letter pairs with corresponding frequencies, effectively barring the prospect of cherry-picking a believable solution.
The plain text solution for measure 5 is “TENI”. Various biblical commentaries that were popular and in widespread use during Elgar's era document that when Jesus asked the Samaritan woman at the well for a drink of water, he began his request with that exact word by saying, “Teni li listosh” Teni is indelibly linked to Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well when he plainly revealed his identity to her as the Messiah. In view of the decryptions of measures 1 through 4 referring to Jesus, a theological context is undoubtedly what Elgar intended for the plaintext found in measure 5. His personal library housed as many as 100 religious texts including Bibles, theological works, and biblical commentaries, so Elgar was well versed in theology.
In what language is the word teni? Multiple commentaries available during the closing decade of the 19th century asserted that Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman in Aramaic. The Pulpit Commentaries dating from 1897 furnishes the following analysis of John 4:
The Samaritan woman therefore saith to him, How is it (compare this “how” with that of Nicodemus. Jesus had at once provoked inquiry, which he was not unwilling to gratify)—How is it that thou, being a Jew? She would have known that he was a Jew by his speech, for the Samaritans were accustomed to turn the sound of sh into that of s; and so, when Jesus said in Jewish Aramaic, Teni lishekoth, “Give me to drink,” while she would herself have said, Teni lisekoth, his speech would betray him.
Another instance is found in The Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary on St. John dating from 1892 which also advises that the word teni is Aramaic:
The woman knew He was a Jew probably by His dress, but it may be also by His accent. It has been pointed out that the words of the question asked by Jesus in Aramaic would be תני לי לשׁחת (Teni li lish'ḥoth), whereas the woman would have said לשׂחת (lis'ḥoth) (vide Jud 12:5-6).
While these and other commentaries of Elgar’s era would have reasonably compelled him to believe the term teni is Aramaic, the exceptionally talented international correspondent Daniel Estrin confirmed it is actually Hebrew. Charles C. Torrey of Yale University lays out a compelling case that the Gospel of John was originally written in Aramaic, the vernacular of Judea in the first century. It is universally acknowledged that although Jesus and his disciples were Hebrews, they conversed almost exclusively in Aramaic. For this reason, the biblical commentaries correctly report that Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman in Aramaic. However, the translation given is mistakenly in Hebrew, a language very similar to Aramaic. The correct version of this passage from the Aramaic Peshitta is, “Hav li maya, eshteh,” which means, “Give me water, I will drink.”
The plaintext solution measure 6 is “FETE”. As a noun, fete means “a feast, a festival.” As a verb, fete means “to honor or commemorate with a fete, to pay high honor to.” The General Roman Calendar lists annual Feast Days and liturgical celebrations through which “. . . the Church unfolds the entire mystery of Christ and observes the birthdays of the Saints.” Elgar employed the word fete in his program note about Sevillana Op. 7, a work for orchestra composed in 1884. He begins his commentary, “This sketch is an attempt to portray, in the compass of a few bars, the humours of a Spanish fête.” Elgar’s description and title may have been suggested by the title of a piano work by J. Ascher advertised in the 1856 issue of The Musical World as “LA SEVILLANA Fete Espagnole.” In the context of the preceding decryptions in measures 1 through 5, fete may be understood as a reference to the Roman Catholic tradition of honoring Jesus through festivals and Feast Days.
Elgar’s “dark saying” turns out to be an elaborate anagram of the German title Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. Four decryptions in bars 1 through 4 are phonetic, and two are perfectly spelled in measures 5 and 6. When paired together, those two numbers allude to the 24 letters in the covert Theme's title that comprise the grand anagram. Elgar’s use of four different languages was masterfully conceived to complicate encryption and insulate the cryptogram from facile decoding. One of the most remarkable features of these four languages is their first letters are an acrostic anagram of “ELGAR”:
In a magisterial display, Elgar covertly autographed his anagrammatic Polybius cipher using a second layer of encryption in the form of another anagram formed by the languages disclosed by its accurate decryption. That Elgar misidentified the linguistic origin of teni as Aramaic by relying on popular biblical commentaries of his era only adds further credence to this discovery. The blunder is too precise to be a coincidence. Elgar signed a cryptographically sealed envelope that, when forced open, answers his contrapuntal riddle and authenticates the correct “dark saying” encrypted within the Enigma Theme. The brilliance of Elgar’s approach was to expertly shroud the answer as a cipher within the contrapuntal question.
The convergence of three separate lines of inquiry resulted in the detection and decoding of the Enigma Theme’s Polybius box cipher. The first was the cryptic phrase “dark saying” in the original 1899 program note that Elgar attributed to the Enigma “. . . that must be left unguessed.” A solution to a cryptogram cannot be guessed because it must be systematically decrypted. Dr. McClelland interpreted the regularly spaced quarter rests in the Enigma Theme’s opening six bars as evidence for spaces between encoded words. Following this line of reasoning, 24 melody notes in the first six bars would suggest a six-word cryptogram with 24 letters. That is precisely the number of words and letters in the covert Theme’s German title: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott.
A second investigative track focused on the anomalous Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII. By citing an extraneous melodic fragment by a German composer in his symphonic variations, Elgar deftly intimated that Mendelssohn also cites the secretive melody in a set of symphonic variations. Four melodic fragments hint at the exact movement of that suspected orchestral work. The Germanic provenance of that foreign work’s title also affirms that its title is also in German. In the fourth movement of the Reformation Symphony, Mendelssohn quotes Ein feste Burg by Martin Luther followed by a series of variations. These are extremely precise conditions suggested by Elgar’s handling of the Mendelssohn fragments that implicate Ein feste Burg as the hidden Theme of the Enigma Variations. The icing on the cake is that Mendelssohn was baptized a Lutheran and composed his Symphony No. 5 in honor of the 300th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession. Elgar cited the music of a famous Lutheran to allude to the composer of the hidden melody, Martin Luther.
The third line of this investigation employed the standard cryptographic technique of frequency analysis on the 24 letters of the six-word German title implicated by the Mendelssohn fragments. Those results were next compared with the frequencies of 24 melody/bass note letter pairs in the opening six bars of the Enigma Theme. Discernable correlations were easily recognized for plaintext letters and melody/bass note letter pairs with frequencies of 2, 3, and 4. Further analysis arrived at credible matches between letters and corresponding melody/bass note letters with frequencies 1 and 2. Through extensive experimentation from a possible pool of 1,440 solutions restricted by corresponding frequencies between plaintext letters of the German title and the Enigma Theme’s melody/bass note letter pairs, an incredible anagram in three languages was discovered. This stunning decryption is an anagram of the complete German title of the covert Theme rearranged into phonetic and accurately spelled words and phrases in English, Latin, and what Elgar reasonably would have believed was Aramaic. In all, four languages are present in the full decryption: English, Latin, German, and Aramaic. The first letters of those four languages are an acrostic anagram of “ELGAR”. Six four-letter decryptions conveys a coded form of 46, the chapter of the Psalms that inspired Luther's epic hymn Ein fest Burg.
Elgar enjoyed creating anagrams. After completing the Enigma Variations in late February 1899, Elgar moved his family that March to a more spacious home that he named Craeg Lae. He formulated this title from an anagram of “ELGAR” and the initials for himself (Edward), his wife Alice, and their daughter Carice. Elgar’s reliance on phonetic and correctly spelled words and phrases in multiple languages to construct a 24-letter grand anagram resulted in a diabolically difficult cryptogram. John Holt Schooling boasted that his Nihilist cipher would “. . . never be solved by [sic] any one . . . for one hundred years of future time.” Elgar made short shrift of that cryptogram by cracking it in less than a decade. Through a careful study of the Polybius square in the years leading up to the Enigma Variations, Elgar was equipped to adapt that coding technique in a musical setting through the use of melody and bass notes pairs. True to Schooling’s boast, Elgar’s “dark saying” hidden away in the Enigma Theme defied detection and decryption for over a century.
A meticulous investigation determined that the secret melody to the Enigma Theme is enciphered within its opening six bars using a musical Polybius box cipher key. Elgar’s affinity for wordplay is acutely evident as this particular cryptogram may be accurately described as a Music Box Cipher. The timing is believable because Elgar carefully studied the Polybius square in the years leading up to the genesis of the Enigma Variations. Some scholars reflexively object that Ein feste Burg is too Protestant for a Roman Catholic to contemplate, yet that did not dissuade Elgar from openly citing the music of a Lutheran composer in Variation XIII. The existence of phonetic spellings in various languages testifies to Elgar’s known practice of embellishing his correspondence with innovative spellings. The elegant annagramatization of the covert Theme’s title further reflects Elgar’s known history of creating anagrams. Even more remarkable, Elgar stealthily inserted his name as an acrostic anagram using the four languages found in the complete decryption. With so many intricate pieces of the puzzle fitting so elegantly together, this resolution cannot be chalked up to chance. To learn more concerning the innermost secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.
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