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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Elgar's Third Bridge Passage Enigma Ciphers


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.

Edward Elgar in a letter to G. H. Jacks


This is the sixth article in a series that surveys a trove of cryptograms embedded within three bridge passages of the symphonic Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar. A section in classical music that merges one movement into another is called a bridge passage. These three bridge passages add up to nine measures and comprise less than one percent of the full score. The preliminary four articles catalog assorted cryptograms in the first bridge passage (bars 18-19) that begins at Rehearsal 2 and links to Variation I (C. A. E.). The first essay covers the Opus Dei Cipher. The second discusses the Psalm 46 Ciphers. The third describes the Tau Cross Ciphers. The fourth addresses other interrelated word ciphers embedded within the performance directions of the first bridge passage. The fifth article presents a series of cryptograms in the second bridge passage (bars 185-188) that starts four bars before Rehearsal 19 and links Variation V (R. P. A) to Variation VI (Ysobel).

These cryptograms clustered within the three bridge passages document Elgar’s expertise in cryptography, a subject that merits a chapter in Craig P. Bauer’s treatise Unsolved!  A decade of concerted analysis has netted over ninety cryptograms in diverse formats that encode a set of mutually consistent solutions that 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 cornerstone of each movement? 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 situated in measures 1-6. Who is the secret friend and inspiration behind Variation XIII? Answer: Jesus Christ, the Savior of Elgar’s Roman Catholic faith.

The Third Bridge Passage Time Signatures Cipher

This article will describe various cryptograms found in the third bridge passage (bars 306-308) which is the concluding phrase of Variation VIII. Variation VIII is framed in 6/8 time with six eighth note beats per measure. A soulful melodic G from its final tonic chord is sustained by the first violins over the barline into Rehearsal 33 to herald the sublime dawn of the most elegiac of the movements, Variation IX (Nimrod). Variation IX is set in 3/4 time with three quarter beats per bar. A bridge represents a crossing, and remarkably, the criss-cross products of the opposing numerators and denominators from these adjacent time signatures are the same. 6 multiplied by 4 produces the same result (24) as 3 multiplied by 8. 24 is the number of letters in the complete German title Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. The pairing of 4 and 6 produces 46, the chapter number from the Psalms that inspired Martin Luther to compose Ein feste Burg.



The Third Bridge Passage FAE Cipher

The orchestration of the final cadence of Variation VIII begins with six voices on beats 1-2, reduces to 5 voices on beats 3-4, and thins to just one voice on beats 5-6 that is held over the barline into Variation IX at Rehearsal 33. The instrumentation, notes, and durations in bar 308 are outlined below:

  1. Second B-flat Clarinet: Written C-sharp sounding as B sustained for 2 beats followed by 1 eighth rest, 1 quarter rest, and 1 eighth rest.

  2. First Violins: G held for 6 beats that ties over the barline.

  3. Second Violins: D sustained for 4 beats followed by 2 eighth rests.

  4. Violas: B sustained for 4 beats followed by 2 eighth rests.

  5. Cellos: G sustained for 4 beats followed by 2 eighth rests.

  6. Basses: G sustained for 4 beats followed by 2 eighth rests.

The number of voices starts in bar 308 at six, declines to five, and then just one. The application of a basic number-to-letter key (1 = a, 2 = b, 3 = c, etc…) converts those voice totals to the plaintext  F, E, and A. These three letters are an anagram of FAE, a well-known music cryptogram that represents the initials of the romantic German motto “Frei aber einsam” (Free but lonely). The renowned violinist Joseph Joachim coined this motto around 1851. Those same initials are enciphered as an anagram by the key letters of the Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII which are performed in the keys of A-flat major, F minor, and E-flat major. A coded link between Joachim and Mendelssohn is exquisitely appropriate. Joachim was mentored by Mendelssohn who sponsored his May 1844 debut before the Royal Philharmonic Society in a performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major. Although Jewish by birth, Mendelssohn and Joachim were baptized as Lutherans. An overt reference to Mendelssohn mingled with a coded allusion to Joachim efficiently hints at the composer of the covert Theme and the identity of the secret friend.

In a note for The Music Makers, Elgar wrote that the Enigma Theme “expressed when written (in 1898) my sense of the loneliness of the artist.” A solitary melodic G held over the barline deftly captures this doleful sense of isolation. A coded reference to Joachim’s motto that ends with the word “lonely” elegantly intersects with Elgar’s description of the Enigma Theme. The FAE Cipher in the third bridge passage is a cryptographic link to Variation XIII where the Mendelssohn fragments also encipher those same initials. The first and second bridge passages also harbor coded links to Variation XIII.

The EE Notes Ciphers

Some cryptograms in the Enigma Variations contain Elgar’s initials, first name, or last name. The performance directions in the first bar of the Enigma Theme are an acrostic anagram of “EE’s Psalm.” The decryption of a Music Polybius Box Cipher in bars 1-6 of the Enigma Theme reveals the use of four different languages: English, Latin, German, and what Elgar would have reasonably believed to be Aramaic. In an astonishing twist, the first letters of those four cipher languages are an acrostic anagram of Elgar. The end and double barlines enclosing the first bridge passage in bars 18-19 are an acrostic anagram of “Ed.” The note letters of the middle voice in bar 16 of the Enigma Theme also spell “Ed” with an E-flat on beat 2 followed by a D on beat 3. These examples demonstrate that multiple cryptograms within the Enigma Theme encipher the composer’s first name, last name, or initials.

Elgar’s initials appear repeatedly in the orchestration of the second bridge passage, and this trend continues with the third bridge passage. The bar number 306 is intriguing as it is bookended by the numerals of the opus number (36). Sprinkled throughout measures 306 and 307 in the full score are 23 written Es, and four other written notes that sound in concert pitch as E. In all, there are 27 Es in the third bridge passage. These notes commonly occur in pairs and serve as coded forms of the initials EE.

Elgar often signed his letters with his initials, and this pattern persists with many of his ciphers. For instance, Elgar used the glyph of a capital cursive E as a building block to construct the Dorabella Cipher. The mirror image of a capital cursive E is the number 3. That is telling because the third bridge passage consists of three measures and concludes at Rehearsal 33. These two threes associated with the third bridge passage are linked to Elgar’s initials because 33 is the mirror image of two capital cursive Es.



The third bridge passage connects to the opening measure of Variation IX in bar 309 at Rehearsal 33. It is precisely at this point in the score that the tuning of the timpani is indicated as E-flat, F, and B-flat. Those three note letters are an anagram of the initials for the covert Theme, Ein feste Burg. A coded form of Elgar’s initials at Rehearsal 33 hints at the presence of another important set of initials. The FAE Cipher in bar 308 enciphers a three-word German phrase. Likewise, the Nimrod Timpani Tuning Cipher in bar 309 encodes another three-word German Phrase, the title of the secret melody. There is an elegant consistency to the positioning and twin decryptions of these two ciphers in contiguous measures at the end of the third bridge passage. Two different three-word phrases in German are enciphered back-to-back in bars 308-309 at Rehearsal 33. That rehearsal number suggests the presence of two threes, and that is precisely the case with these two three-word German phrases.

The ED Notes Ciphers

At the start of bar 306, the first clarinet plays the concert pitches E and D written in the score as F-sharp and E. These two concert pitches spell Ed, a shortened version of Edward. In all, there are nine pairings of the notes E and D in bars 306-307, five as ED and four as DE. The first bassoon plays these note pairs three times in bars 306-307. The second violins play E-D at the end of bar 307. The cellos and basses perform D-E twice in bars 306 and 307, the reverse spelling of Ed. Elgar enciphered this short form of his first name in the first bridge passage using the end and double barlines as an acrostic anagram (End and Double). “Ed” is also spelled ten times in the second bridge passage. Indeed, a coded spelling of Elgar’s first name is present in all three bridge passages. Elgar features this familiar version of his first name within the title (E.D.U.) of his own movement.



The Transposing Notes EFB Cipher

The first bridge passage is the ending phrase of the Enigma Theme. Likewise, the second bridge passage comprises the ending phrase of Variation V. This pattern continues with the third bridge passage that forms the concluding phrase of Variation VIII. There are four sounding Es in two different written pitches in the first bar of the third bridge passage. In bar 306, the B-flat clarinets perform two F-sharps an octave apart that sound a whole tone lower as Es. In that same measure, the French horns play octave Bs that sound a fifth lower as Es. These pairs of sounding Es suggest Elgar’s initials and, like many other sections of the score, the presence of a cryptogram. These two transposing instrumental parts in bar 306 have written Bs and F-sharps that sound as Es. The combination of written and sounding pitches conveniently provides the letters E, F, and B. Those three letters are the initials of the covert Theme, Ein feste Burg. The pairs of sounding Es for the transposing instruments in bar 306 convey two sets of initials, one for Elgar (EE) and the second for the hidden melody (EFB).



The Third Bridge Passage 46 Ciphers

There are six crescendo symbols and four decrescendo symbols in the third bridge passage. These are referred to colloquially as hairpins due to their V-shape oriented sideways. Out of nine discrete performance directions in the third bridge passage, these crescendo and decrescendo symbols are the only two not represented directly by words, acronyms, or initials. The distribution of four decrescendos and six crescendos is a coded allusion to the number 46. That number is important because the title of the covert Theme originates from chapter 46 from the Book of Psalms.



The first violins sustain a note for six beats in bar 308 as the lower four voices of the string choir hold four notes for four beats. The pairing of these two unique numbers is yet another coded form of the number 46. The Psalm 46 Cipher in the Enigma Theme encodes this book title and chapter. The word psalm and number 46 are encoded in the first bridge passage.

The Third Bridge Passage 36 Ciphers

The third bridge passage starts in bar 306, a number that begins and ends with 3 and 6. This is a coded allusion to the opus number of the Variations (36). The distribution of performance directions in bar 308 is six pianissimos (pp) and three attaccas (attaccca:). These two numerals (3 and 6) are another covert reference to the opus number. There is a colon after each attacca that is another coded form of 36 because there are three colons with a total of six dots.

The Third Bridge Passage 24 Cipher

There are four notes held over four beats in bar 308 that are each followed by two eighth rests for a total of six beats. These note and rest durations in the context of six beats per bar are a coded version of 24 and the number six. These numbers are significant because there are precisely 24 letters in the complete six-word title of the covert Theme, Ein feste burg ist unser Gott. Similarly, there are 24 melody notes in the opening six bars of the Enigma Theme that forms Section A in G major. Elgar enciphered all 24 letters of the title from the covert Theme in those first six bars as an elaborate anagram, the “dark saying” first mentioned in the original 1899 program note.

The Third Bridge Passage 11 Written Notes Cipher

There are a total of eleven written notes in bar 308 of the full score. Ten of these notes in the string section are written twice and held together by ties to form longer sounding notes. One note in the second clarinet part is tied to a note in the previous bar. The number eleven is remarkable because there are exactly 11 unique letters in the complete German title of the covert Theme. An awareness of this sum is critical when attempting to crack a cipher.

The “BC” and “AD” Notes Cipher

The second B-flat clarinet slurs a concert pitch C at the end of bar 307 to a concert pitch B in bar 308. These final two notes are a reverse spelling of BC, the initials for “Before Christ.” The bass section performs the sequential notes A and D concurrently with the concert C played by the B-flat clarinet. The consecutive note letters A-D are the initials for the Latin phrase Anno Domoni which means “Year of our Lord.” The initials BC and AD are encoded by overlapping note sequences performed by the clarinet and bass section in bars 307-308. The names of the instruments that perform these revealing note pairs are clarinet and bass, an acrostic anagram of BC. The initials BC and AD both point to Jesus, the covert friend portrayed in Variation XIII.



The “BC” and “G-D” Final Cadence Cipher

The G major chord in the final bar of Variation VIII is constructed from the written notes C-sharp (second B-flat clarinet), G (first violins), D (second violins), B (violas), G (cellos), and G (basses). In all, there are three Gs and one written B, C-sharp, and D. The written C-sharp played by the clarinet sounds in concert pitch as B. The pairing of the written note letters B and C produces, BC, the initials for the phrase “Before Christ.” This is another coded reference to BC that implicates Jesus as the secret friend commemorated in Variation XIII. The remaining three Gs and one D is a distinctly trinitarian spelling of God. According to Roman Catholicism, Jesus is a member of the triune Godhead.



An alternate decryption of the discrete letters B, C, D, and G is “C G-D B.” This phrase may be read phonetically as “See God Be.” In John 14:9, Jesus taught his disciples that those who have seen him have also seen his heavenly Father.

The Colons Cipher

The performance directions in bar 308 include three attaccas followed by a colon (attacca:). This contrasts with the attaccas at the end of Variation XII which lack a colon. There are six dots in these three colons, providing yet another coded reference to the opus number 36. One definition of colon from the Encyclopedia Britannica is “...a rhythmic measure of lyric metre (‘lyric’ in the sense of verse that is sung rather than recited or chanted) with a recognizable recurring pattern.” These punctuation marks may consequently be interpreted as a clue regarding the nature of the covert Theme, a hymn that begins with a biblical verse that is sung in a “recognizable recurring pattern.” It is telling that these colons immediately precede the most hymn-like of the movements, Nimrod. This is amply demonstrated by a setting of Lux Aeterna to this movement.

The “Papa” Proximate Performance Directions Cipher

The performance directions in bar 308 are six pianissimos (pp) and three attaccas. These two sums of performance directions in the final bar of the third bridge passage are a coded form of the opus number 36 and the tempo marking of 63 for the Enigma Theme, I (C.A.E.), and V (R.P.A.). The proximity of pp to attacca in the first violin and bass staves suggests the acrostic “pa,” a term of endearment for father. When the “pa” in the first violin staff is paired with that from the bass staff, it produces “Papa.” This is yet another intimate term for father. Jesus referred to God as his Father using the Aramaic term Abba, our equivalent of “Daddy.” One of the titles for the pope is “father.” The word papacy refers to the office of the pope and begins with the letters “papa.” In the second bridge passage, there are four proximate performance directions that are an acrostic anagram of “pape,”  the French word for pope. There are also coded allusions to the Holy See and Pope Leo XIII in Variation XIII.



The Performance Directions Frequencies Cipher

The third bridge passage has seven different performance directions in the form of words, abbreviations, or initials. These terms are constructed from letters and stand apart from the hairpin crescendo and decrescendo symbols. It was previously observed that those hairpin symbols encode the numbers four and six. The textual performance directions and their frequencies are listed alphabetically in the table below:



The discrete frequencies of those terms are 3, 6, 8, and 10. Those numbers may be converted into their corresponding letters in the alphabet using a number-to-letter key. This results in the plaintext C, F, H, and J. When viewed as an anagram, this permits grouping the letters J and C together to form the initials for Elgar’s secret friend, Jesus Christ. The remaining two letters, H and F, enable a phonetic spelling of the German words “Hof” and “hoff.” The word Hof refers to a court, place, or courtyard. For example, “Hofoper” is German for “Court Opera.” Jesus was tried before Pilate on the Gabbatha, a courtyard with stone pavement in the Antonia Fortress (see John 19:13). The second reading as “hoff” is the German word for “hope.” In 1 Timothy 1:1, the Apostle Paul calls Jesus Christ “our hope.” Both German phonetic readings of HF as Hof and hoff are linked to the biblical account of Jesus.

Concluding Remarks

This overview identified fourteen different cryptograms hidden away within the third bridge passage of the Enigma Variations. These ciphers encode a discrete set of answers that relate incisively with the covert Theme and secret friend of the Variations.  The discovery of any of these cryptograms in isolation could be comfortably written off as a coincidence. However, the sheer number of ciphers in these three bridge passages cannot be conveniently attributed to chance or confirmation bias, particularly as they encode a small set of interlocking answers. These coded patterns betray a grand design and Elgar's genius for cryptography. There are recognizable and recurring patterns within these ciphers such as the appearance of Elgar’s initials and short form of his first name. There is a staid reliance on anagrams, acrostics, and phonetic spellings, all idiosyncratic specialties of Elgar. The next installment in this series will describe various cryptograms formed by elements from all three bridge passages. To learn more about the innermost secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elar's Enigmas Exposed.

Soli Yah Gloria


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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.