Dedicated tomy Friends pictured within.
Elgar’s dedication to the Enigma Variations
The British romantic composer Edward Elgar excelled in coding and decoding secret messages, a discipline formally known as cryptography. His intense dedication to that esoteric art merits an entire chapter in Craig P. Bauer’s treatise Unsolved! A compulsion for cryptography is a reigning facet of Elgar’s psychological profile. A decade of trawling the Enigma Variations has netted over seventy cryptograms in varying formats that encode a set of mutually consistent and complementary solutions. Although that figure may appear too high to be believable, it is entirely consistent with Elgar’s obsession with ciphers. More significantly, their solutions provide definitive answers to the core questions posed by the Enigma Variations.
What is the secret melody to which the Enigma Theme is a counterpoint and serves as the melodic foundation for the ensuing movements? Answer: Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) by Martin Luther. What is Elgar’s “dark saying” ensconced within the Enigma Theme? Answer: A musical Polybius box cipher embedded in its inaugural six bars. Who is the secret friend and inspiration behind Variation XIII? Answer: Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of Elgar’s Roman Catholic faith. The cryptographic evidence supporting these discoveries is diverse, decisive, and overwhelming. Those committed to a priori assumptions about the presumed absence of cryptograms in the Enigma Variations are unwitting victims of a circuitous confirmation bias.
Elgar penned the following phrase at the top of the title page of the Master Score of the Enigma Variations, “Dedicated to my Friends pictured within.” That string of 34 letters, five spaces, and one period amounts to 40 characters that convey six seemingly simple words. However, the appearance of simplicity serves as a nimble camouflage. The combination of forty characters within six words is a subtle allusion to the number 46. That figure is remarkable because the title of the covert Theme of the Enigma Variations originates from Psalm 46. This character and word cryptogram subtly intimates that Elgar incorporated other ciphers within his dedication.
The Dedication 24 Ciphers
Elgar’s dedication appears at the top of the Master Score’s title page with the opening two words positioned above the remaining four. The first two words (Dedicated to) contain eleven letters. This sum is connected to the title of the covert Theme because it has eleven unique letters. The next four words of the dedication (my Friends pictured within.) have 24 characters excluding spaces. This number is also tied to the covert Theme as its complete six-word title has precisely 24 letters: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. Like the covert Theme’s title, the full dedication is six words. The distribution of two words above four is a subtle reference to the number 24, a figure encoded throughout the Enigma Theme.
The Dedication Acrostic Glyphs “EFb” Cipher
The initials of the three words “my Friends pictured” sequentially supply the glyphs required to recreate the initials of the absent Theme’s common three-word German title. This cryptogram operates under the same principles as the FAE Cipher in Variation XIII that encodes the glyphs for “A Mighty Fortress.” The m has the same contours as a rounded capital cursive E that permits it to be repositioned upward to reproduce that letter. Elgar applied that same technique in his Dorabella Cipher where a capital cursive E is reoriented to appear as an M as well as a W.
The p is the same shape as a lowercase b flipped topsy-turvy. The F is unchanged, retaining its original posture. Based on this analysis, the initials “mFp” may be reoriented to “EFb”. Those are the initials for Ein feste Burg. Elgar wrote an abbreviated form of February as “FEb” twice on the cover of the Master Score to document the start and end dates of the orchestration. Elgar capitalized the E because it is the first letter in a title. It is hardly a coincidence that “FEb” is an anagram of “EFb”. The F and E in “FEb” are both capitalized, just as in this decipherment of the covert Theme’s initials from the words “. . . my Friends pictured . . .” The initials of the covert Theme are pictured in those very words as an acrostic glyphs cipher.
To assess the presence of other cryptograms within Elgar’s dedication, a frequency analysis of its letters was completed. This process requires identifying every unique letter within a text string and counting how many times it occurs. This process found that Elgar’s dedication contains seventeen discrete letters with frequencies ranging between 1 and 5.
The number seventeen is remarkable as the Enigma Theme concludes on a G major Picardy third in bar 17. The numbers 1 and 5 are significant because together they form 15, and the Enigma Variations contain fifteen movements. The numbers 17 and 15 are tied to endings within the Enigma Variations, numbers that evoke a sense of finality.
There are 17 separate letters in Elgar’s dedication consisting of all five vowels (a, e, i, o, and u) and twelve consonants (c, d, h, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, and y). When these two figures are filtered through a basic number-to-letter key in which a number is converted to its corresponding letter in the alphabet (1 = a, 2 = b, 3 = c, etc.), they yield the plaintext E and L. In the Hebrew scriptures, the word El means God or Lord. For example, one of the titles for the God of Israel is El Shaddai which means “God Almighty.” Elgar identified the earliest sketch of Variation XIII with a solitary capital L, a phonetic version of El. A capital letter L is an appropriate symbol for this movement because its covert dedicatee, Jesus, is known as the Son of God and the Lord.
Before proceeding further, it is vital to recognize that Elgar employed inventive spellings in his personal correspondence. Some examples of these atypical spellings are listed below:
- Bizziness (business)
- çkor (score)
- cszquōrrr (score)
- fagotten (forgotten)
- FAX (facts)
- frazes (phrases)
- gorjus (gorgeous)
- phatten (fatten)
- skorh (score)
- SSCZOWOUGHOHR (score)
- Xmas (Christmas)
- Xqqqq (Excuse)
- Xti (Christi)
The Dedication God Ciphers
Elgar’s dedication has 17 discrete letters and 34 total letters. The transposition of these distinct numerals (1, 3, 4, and 7) into their corresponding letters in the alphabet produces A, C, D, and G. When treated as an anagram, these letters may be reshuffled to form “CA GD.” This is a phonetic rendering of the phrase “Saw God.” The discovery of a coded reference to the Hebrew word for God (El) based on the number of vowels (5) and consonants (12) in the dedication is consistent with this ancillary decryption. Why would Elgar encode the phrase “Saw God” through his dedication using the sum of unique letters (17) and the total number of letters (34)? There is an explanation for why Elgar would encode such a phrase, and it has to do with the Turin Shroud.
Dead Friend pictured within Cipher
There are multiple coded references to the Turin Shroud within the Enigma Variations. Roman Catholics believe it is the burial cloth that wrapped the body of Jesus while he was interred in the tomb. There is a faint image of a crucified man on that linen sheet that scientists are powerless to explain or duplicate. Secondo Pia took the first official photographs of the Turin Shroud in May 1898, five months before Elgar began openly composing his Enigma Variations. Pia made the astonishing discovery in a dark room that the negatives on his photographic plates revealed a positive image that symbolically resurrected the cryptic image on the Turin Shroud. Pia’s photographic plates revealed for the first time in history that the faint image on the shroud is a photographic negative, a phenomenon that predates the invention of photography by millennia. This discovery became an international sensation in the secular and religious press. As a practicing Roman Catholic, Elgar would surely have been made aware of this scientific revelation.
The wording of Elgar’s dedication may be reappraised when contemplated within the context of these veiled references to the Turin Shroud. Buried within the dedication is the four-word phrase, “Dead Friend pictured within.” This covert dedication is realized by the removal of thirteen characters, i.e., eleven letters and two spaces: “Ded
icated to my Friend s pictured within.” The excision of thirteen characters is telling because the thirteenth variation is dedicated to Elgar’s dead friend. The word dead is spelled phonetically as ded, a recognized element of Elgar’s personal writing style. The reduction of the six-word dedication to a four-word phrase furnishes yet another coded allusion to the numbers 4 and 6. Elgar’s straightforward inscription begins with a homophone of dead in its first word, “Dedicated.” This is followed by a coded form of the German word for death (tod) created by the combination of the second word with the last letter from the first: “Dedicated to . . .” This is a contiguous letter anagram, a phenomenon that occurs extensively in the titles of the Variations.
Dedication Letter Frequencies Cipher
Elgar’s dedication has ten letters with a frequency of 1, three with frequencies of 2, two with frequencies of 4, and two with frequencies of 5. When these letter frequencies from highest to lowest (10, 3, 2, and 2) are run through a number-to-letter key, the plaintext results are J, C, and two Bs. The first two letters are the initials of Elgar’s covert friend, Jesus Christ. His initials are encoded in the same way by the Roman numerals of Variation XIII. X stands for the number ten. J is the tenth letter of the alphabet. III represents the number three. C is the third letter of the alphabet. This secret dedication comports with Elgar’s very public Roman Catholic faith. The same enciphering technique is also found in the title of Variation IX, a movement dedicated to August Jaeger.
The two remaining Bs may be aptly described as “Two B,” a clever wordplay on the verb infinitive “to be.” William Shakespeare deploys this verb infinitive with great effect in the play Hamlet. In the nunnery scene (Act 3, scene 1), Hamlet contemplates death in his famous soliloquy that begins with the famous phrase, “To be, or not to be . . .” This literary context mingles the numbers 1 and 3, the verb “to be,” and the grim prospect of death. The context of the initials for Jesus Christ hints at the conjugation of “to be” in the first person singular as “I am.” This prominent theological phrase is used by Jesus seven times in the Gospel of John to describe himself as the Bread of Life (John 6:35), the Light of the Word (John 8:12), the Door (John 10:9), the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-14), the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25), the Way and the Truth (John 14:6), and the True Vine (John 15:1-5). When religious authorities questioned his divine authority, Jesus responded by calling himself “I am” (John 8:48-59). This is the same name God gave for Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14-15).
The Contiguous Letter Frequencies Cipher
The next step in this analysis was to arrange the discrete letters in Elgar’s dedication from their highest to lowest frequencies in alphabetical order.
An analysis of this list uncovered discernable words and phrases that relate to Elgar’s secret melody and the covert Theme. The following is a summary and explanation of those findings.
The first word in this ordering of separate letters based on their frequencies is the verb die. This term intersects with the specter of death that overshadows the Enigma Variations. The silence of the principal Theme is evocative of a passage from Psalm 37:17 that mentions the silence of the grave. For Elgar, there was an indelible link between music and death because, as a boy, he studied musical scores at a local churchyard while resting on a tombstone.
In Variation XIII, Elgar repeatedly quotes a fragment from Mendelssohn’s concert overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage (Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt) to portray a ship crossing the open sea. This sonic symbolism was inspired by the poetry of the famed German playwright Goethe whose seemingly benign image of a boat adrift on a windless sea actually depicts the stillness of death (Todestille). In the original program note for the 1899 premiere of the Enigma Variations, Elgar likens the absent principal Theme to the mysterious protagonist who never appears on stage in various dramas by the Belgian playwright, Maeterlinck. That absent character is death, a central element in Maeterlinck’s works described as “marionette” plays as the characters rarely move.
The word die is followed by the letter t, a glyph with two intersecting lines. Jesus is the secret friend whose death is memorialized in Variation XIII. Elgar’s stealth companion was nailed to a Roman cross to die for the sins of the world. The symbol for this instrument of execution is shaped just like the letter t. Following the word die by a cross symbol in the form of a t astutely captures the death of Elgar’s sacred friend on a cross.
The first four letters form the word diet. Martin Luther is the composer of the hymn Ein feste Burg, the covert Theme to the Enigma Variations. At the Diet of Worms in 1521, Luther was publicly interrogated and condemned for his theological writings. Like David standing before Goliath, Luther championed the authority of scripture over a giant church profiting from the sale of indulgences that fleeced the German economy and enriched corrupt cardinals in Rome. Luther recognized the supremacy of God’s words over humanity’s decadent traditions and took a bold stand at the imperial diet. This was a pivotal event in Luther’s life that transpired just before he escaped the pope’s assassins in a mock abduction, retreating to the safety of Wartburg Castle where he famously translated the scriptures into German.
The letter t is followed by cn. Elgar used the letter c as a substitute for s, a practice reflected by his phonetic spellings and words like circle. This realization permits cn to be read phonetically as sign. The t after a phonetic rendering of sign is a coded allusion to the sign of the cross. Roman Catholics and Lutherans practice this ritual blessing by tracing the outline of a cross with the right hand while reciting the trinitarian formula, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Elgar was raised a Roman Catholic and engaged in this ceremonial observance. Four of the fifteen movements from the Enigma Variations are set in common time (Enigma, I, V, and VII) with four beats in the bar. Remarkably, the conducting pattern of this time signature replicates the sign of the cross.
The first four letters spell diet and are followed by cnr, a phonetic version of sinner. A sinner’s diet may be aptly described as the Eucharist, a sacrament that entails consuming of bread and wine that symbolize the body and blood of Jesus. Roman Catholics celebrate this sacrament at mass.
The next three letters (raf) are a phonetic spelling of Raff. Joseph Joachim Raff was a prominent German composer and protégé of Franz Liszt. Raff submitted some of his piano compositions to Felix Mendelssohn who proved instrumental in getting them published by Breitkopf & Härtel. These works were soon lauded by Elgar’s “ideal” composer, Robert Schumann, in the journal Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. In 1865, Raff completed a dramatic concert overture in 1865 entitled Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott Op. 127. Elgar’s coded reference to a recognized composer of the German school alludes to Luther’s famous hymn as the covert Theme. Like Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony, Raff quotes Ein feste Burg in a symphonic work.
The key letters of the anomalous Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII encode the letters F, A, and E. These are the initials for a romantic German motto “Frei aber einsam” (Free but lonely) coined around 1851 by the famed violinist Joseph Joachim. Like Raff, Joachim’s career was furthered by the support of Mendelssohn. It is revealing that Raff’s first two names are an exact match with “Joseph Joachim.” Joachim’s dual initials serve as an important clue as they match those of an alias assumed by Martin Luther while holed up at Wartburg Castle. To evade notice and capture, Luther grew a beard and adopted the regalia of a knight named Junker Jörg which means “Knight George” in German. Luther’s bearded countenance is reminiscent of Joseph Joachim who has baptized a Lutheran just like his mentor, Mendelssohn. By quoting Mendelssohn in Variation XIII, Elgar openly quotes the music of a Lutheran.
The next identifiable letter formation is hm that follows on the heels of Elgar’s phonetic rendering of Raff. The letters hm are a phonetic version of hymn. Martin Luther was a prolific hymnodist, and his most renowned and quoted melody is Ein feste Burg. The German poet Heinrich Heine theorized that Luther and his companions sang Ein feste Burg as they entered the city of Worms in April 1521 for the Imperial Diet. This epic hymn is quoted by leading figures of the German School such as Dieterich Buxtehude, Johann Pachelbel, George Frideric Handel, Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann, Felix Mendelssohn, Joachim Raff, Giacomo Meyerbeer, and Richard Wagner. Elgar was an avid disciple of the German School, but his Roman Catholicism deterred him from openly quoting the Battle Hymn of the Reformation.
The letters raf are followed by hm in the table of letter frequencies listed from highest to lowest in alphabetical order. These two terms are phonetic versions of Raff and hymn. The pairing of these two words suggests that they may be read jointly as “Raff’s hymn.” There is only one credible work that answers this decryption. In his overture Op. 127, Raff introduces Ein feste Burg in D major followed by a set of variations and other dramatic themes.
The next four letters after hm are opsu, an anagram of opus. This would not be the only time that Elgar rearranged letters in a word to yield an anagram of the original term. For example, he labeled a sketch “Apsoltes” by exchanging the letters s and o in the word Apostles. A similar tack appears in this coded misspelling of opus as opsu with the s and u switching places. Elgar’s coded respelling of opus as opsu reproduces the same “ps” configuration found in “Apsoltes.” It is notable that psalm begins with ps. An opus number is assigned to a work to track a composer’s output chronologically. The encipherment of such a term is ideally suited for a symphonic work. It is relevant and suitable within this context, and gains added significance by what follows last in the list.
The final letters wy convey a phonetic version of way. This is a title for Jesus, the secret friend memorialized in Variation XIII. In the fourteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus told his disciples that he is “the way.” As documented in Acts 9:2, early church members referred to themselves as followers of “the Way.” This reading is consistent with other decryptions in this series such as the pairing of the word die with t (a symbol of the cross) and the cross sign.
An alternative reading of the final two letters is a shortened version of Wye, a river that Elgar frequented on pastoral excursions that moved him to compose. In a letter to H. G. Jacks, Elgar explained:
Most of my’ sketches’,—that is to say the reduction of the original thoughts to writing, have been made in the open air. I finished the Wye round about Mordiford & completed many pencil memoranda of compositions on the old bridge, of which I have vivid & affectionate memories.
An excellent example is Variation XII, a movement dedicated to the Hereford Cathedral organist George Robertson Sinclair who owned an English Mastiff named Dan. In 1927, Elgar prepared explanatory notes for a set of pianola rolls that were eventually published in 1948 by Novello under the title My Friends Pictured Within. Elgar wrote the following regarding Variation XI:
George Robertson Sinclair, Mus. D., late organist of Hereford Cathedral. The variation, however, has nothing to do with organs or cathedrals, or, except remotely, with G. R. S. The first few bars were suggested by his great Bulldog Dan (a well-known character) falling down the steep bank into the river Wye (bar 1); his paddling up stream to find a landing place (bars 2 and 3); and his rejoicing bark on landing (2nd half of bar 5). G. R. S. said, “Set that to music.” I did; here it is.
A coded reference to the river Wye in a dedication of a symphonic score is exquisitely suitable, particularly as at least one of the movements was inspired by that flowing body of water.
Elgar’s coded version of opus as opsu is followed by wy which may be read phonetically as way or Wye. The continuity of these neighboring terms suggests a twin decryption as “Opus Way” and “Opus Wye.” The first reading as “Opus Way” is bolstered by extensive cryptographic evidence showing that Jesus is the friend whose sacrificial death is covertly commemorated in Variation XIII. This conclusion is supported by the lyrics of the hidden melody to the Enigma Variations that explicitly cite the name of Jesus. The Enigma Variations is saturated with Christian symbolism. For example, there are fourteen stations of the cross, and likewise, there are fourteen variations given Roman numerals. Proximate letter formations in the titles of the Enigma Variations encode numerous Christograms. One notable example is "Pie Christi Abide" (Pious Christ Abide) formed by adjacent letters from the opening four titles. The first two words are Latin, a language Elgar studied as part of his Roman Catholic education. Lux Christi is Elgar’s first sacred oratorio, a title that incorporates the Latin word Christi.
A secondary reading as “Opus Wye” is equally compelling as that river stimulated Elgar’s creative impulse to compose. The Enigma Variations is Elgar's symphonic homage to cryptography, beginning with his dedication and rippling through the titles. To learn more about the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar's Enigmas Exposed.
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