The ability to ask the right question is more than half the battle of finding the answer.
Must the solution be obvious?
What did Elgar divulge about his Enigma?
It is true that I have sketched for their amusement and mine, the idiosyncrasies of fourteen of my friends, not necessarily musicians; but this is a personal matter, and need not have been mentioned publicly. The Variations should stand simply as a ‘piece’ of music. 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.
One Sunday when I went into the study at Craeglea, the piano was open and stuck on the notes bits of stamp edge with numbers written on them. ‘What’s this for?’, I asked. ‘That’s for you’, said Elgar. ‘Learn the numbers by heart and observe carefully that some of the notes have more than one number. When you can remember them, hit the notes in order with one finger hard and fast.’ After a few shots I got it right. ‘That’s it’, said Elgar ‘Hit ‘em harder and keep your finger stiff.’ I said, ‘I believe it’s a tune. What is it?’ Elgar laughed and said, “Oh nothing, we only wanted to hear what it sounded like when you played it.’ That tune must have been the theme.
In connection with these much discussed Variations, Mr. Elgar tells us that the heading ‘Enigma’ is justified by the fact that it is possible to add another phrase, which is quite familiar, above the original theme that he has written. What that theme is no one knows except the composer. Thereby hangs the ‘Enigma.’
Whatever this book states as fact may be accepted as such. The sayings of Elgar are recorded in the actual words addressed directly to the writer, and upon these I rely to give to the book an interest it would not otherwise possess.
The ‘Enigma’ orchestral-piece is Op. 36. What the solution of the ‘Enigma’ may be, nobody but the composer knows. The theme is a counterpoint on some well-known melody which is never heard, the variations are the theme seen through the personalities of friends, with an intermezzo and a coda, the last added at the request of friends aided and abetted by Dr. Richter, who accepted the work on its merits, having received the score in Vienna from his agent in London, and who at the time had not met with the composer.
No: nothing like it.
I do not see the tune you suggest fits in the least.
- The Enigma Theme is a counterpoint to the principal Theme.
- The principal Theme is not heard.
- The principal Theme is famous.
- Fragments of the principal Theme are present in the Variations.
- The principal Theme is a melody that can be played through and over the whole set of Variations including the entire Enigma Theme.
- The Enigma Theme comprises measures 1 through 19.
Did Elgar write counterpoints to famous themes?
Did Elgar drop hints about ciphers?
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.
Did Elgar have sufficient time to create ciphers?
Are the Mendelssohn fragments a cipher?
Why “a spirit of humour”?
Are the keys of the Enigma Theme a cipher?
Are the Enigma Theme’s performance directions a cipher?
Is Elgar’s 1899 program note a cipher?
Is Elgar’s “dark saying” a musical Polybius cipher?
Is the nickname Nimrod a cipher?