The British romantic composer Edward Elgar produced his symphonic Enigma Variations in 1898-99. That extraordinary work elevated him from provincial obscurity to international acclaim, transforming his career from an itinerant music teacher to a celebrated composer. The original title appears on the autograph score as “Variations for orchestra composed by Edward Elgar Op. 36”. With the opening theme dubbed “Enigma,” the work is popularly referred to as the Enigma Variations. Elgar explained the Theme is called “Enigma” because it is a counterpoint to a famous melody that is not heard but can play “through and over” the Variations. This absent tune is the cornerstone underlying the entire work, a subject that has provoked a prolonged debate about the correct melodic solution.
Some contend there is no solution by insinuating Elgar concocted the notion of an absent principal Theme as an afterthought, practical joke, or marketing ploy. Others take Elgar at his word and accept the challenge that there is a famous melody lurking behind the Variations’ contrapuntal and modal facade. Regardless of what side is taken in this debate, conventional scholarship insists the solution cannot be known with certainty because Elgar allegedly took his secret to the grave in February 1934. They insist Elgar never wrote down the answer for posterity to discover. However, this opinion overlooks Elgar’s expertise in cryptography, the discipline of coding and decoding secret messages. His obsession with that esoteric art merits an entire chapter in Craig P. Bauer’s treatise Unsolved! A compulsion for cryptography is a reigning pillar of Elgar’s psychological profile. This incontestable fact raises the possibility that the solution is encoded in the score of the Enigma Variations.
A decade of trawling the Enigma Variations has netted over one hundred cryptograms in diverse forms that encode a set of mutually consistent and complementary solutions. Although that figure may seem extravagant, it is entirely consistent with Elgar’s lifelong obsession for 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 cordoned off by an oddly placed double barline. Who is the secret friend and inspiration behind Variation XIII? Answer: Jesus Christ, the Savior of Elgar’s Roman Catholic faith. The cryptographic evidence supporting these discoveries is diverse, decisive, and prodigious.
The Acrostic Anagrams Title Page Cipher
With so many ciphers interwoven throughout the Enigma Variations, it makes sense to sift its title for other ciphers. Recent research uncovered various anagrams encoded by character sums from each title word utilizing an elementary number-to-letter key (1 = A, 2 = B, 3 = C, etc.). These anagrammatic decryptions generate four sets of initials: JC, IHC, BC, and EFB. The first three sets (JC, IHC, BC) identify Jesus Christ as the secret friend depicted in Variation XIII. The fourth set (EFB) gives the initials for Ein feste Burg, the title of the covert Theme. The encoding of so many sets of initials is consistent with the majority of the Enigma Variations’ titles that also consist of initials. Could there be other cryptograms within the original title of the Variations? The title page from the autograph score is exhibited below:
The original title of the 'Enigma' Variations appears as follows:
Elgar's penchant for cryptography invites a cryptanalytic approach to detect and decrypt prospective ciphers. As previously observed, the character sums in each word encipher initial anagrams that identity the covert Theme and the secret friend. The titles’ initials may also conceal yet another cipher. This hunch is bolstered by an acrostic anagram ensconced within the seven discrete performance directions of the Enigma Theme’s first bar. Those seven performance directions encode “EE’s Psalm.”
This cryptogram consists of precisely 46 characters, a sum that alludes to the 46th chapter of the Psalms. Martin Luther obtained the title of Ein feste Burg from Psalm 46, a chapter known as “Luther’s Psalm.” The Enigma Theme’s Psalm 46 Cipher elevates the prospect that the Variations’ original title harbors some acrostic anagrams.
There are nine terms in the Variations’ title. These may be reduced to the following case-sensitive initials: V, f, o, c, b, E, E, O, and 3. There are four lower cases letters, three capital letters, and one number. The first significant acrostic anagram to be detected was “Efb,” the initials for Ein feste Burg.
This acrostic anagram is formed by tracing a line from the initial “E” in “Edward” upwards to the “f” in “for” over to the “b” in “by.” The configuration of this acrostic anagram outlines the glyph for a capital “L” — the initial for Luther. Remarkably, the original title of the Variations enciphers the initials of the covert principal Theme. The title of the hidden melody is hidden in the overt title as an acrostic anagram. The initials “EFB” are also encoded as an anagram by the character sums of the sequential words “by Edward Elgar” using a simple number-to-letter key. Two of those three initials are also enciphered by the initials for “by” and “Edward” or alternatively, “Elgar.”
The second notable acrostic anagram that was observed is “VocE,” the Italian word for “voice.”
Similar to the “Efb” acrostic anagram, the initials for “VocE” are traced by two overlapping capital L configurations. The initials for “VocE” appear in an orderly descending sequence. This common performance direction appears in phrases such as sotto voce, mezza voce, and messa di voce. The combination of the anagrams “EFb” and “VocE” intimates that Ein feste Burg is the true voice of the Enigma Variations. Extending the line connecting the “c” in “composed” to the “E” in “Elgar” arrives at the “3” in “36.” This produces the acrostic anagram “VocE 3.” These initials may also be reshuffled as “3 VocE.”
When preceded by a number, the word “voce” specifies how many independent melodic lines appear in a contrapuntal work such as a fugue. This means that “3 VocE” may be read as “Three-Voice.” That decryption proves revelatory as my contrapuntal mapping of Ein feste Burg in retrograde above the Enigma Theme verified that Elgar spliced together three different versions of that hymn to generate a unique “tribrid.” Elgar patched together recognizable phrases from the original hymn by Martin Luther, and adaptations by Johann Sebastian Bach and Felix Mendelssohn. Elgar was a disciple of the German School of composition. Splicing together distinct phrases of Ein feste Burg by these three masters represents a musical homage to the German School. More importantly, mixing and matching different renditions stifles detection of the hidden melody, particularly when played in an augmented form in reverse as a retrograde counterpoint. The title “Enigma” is amply justified by these complications.
After assembling the acrostic anagrams “Efb” and “Voce 3”, this leaves unaccounted for the initial “O” from “Op.” The letter “O” is a phonetic rendering of the exclamation “Oh.” Merrian-Webster defines “Oh” as “used to express an emotion (such as surprise or desire)” or “express acknowledgment or understanding.” This decryption is supported by Elgar’s use of phonetic spellings in his correspondence. Some examples of these inventive spellings are listed below:
The capital letter O is shaped like a circle. That geometric form is highlighted by the opening four scale degrees of the Enigma Theme (3-1-4-2) that encode a rounded form (3.142) of Pi, the mathematical ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. This seminal discovery was achieved by a retired engineer named Richard Santa and published in 2010 by Columbia University’s journal Current Musicology. It was Santa’s breakthrough that first persuaded me that Elgar incorporated cryptograms within the Enigma Variations. The discovery that the Enigma Theme enciphers the mathematical constant Pi got my mental gears turning and set the proverbial ball rolling with my quest for other cryptograms.
The nine initials from the original title of the Variations may be rearranged to form the acrostic anagram “3 Voce Efb O.” This may be interpolated as “Three-Voice Ein feste Burg, Oh.” This solution affirms that Ein feste Burg is the absent principal Theme to the Variations. Prior research established that three versions of Ein feste Burg form the contrapuntal foundation of the Variations. The phrase “3 Voce” meshes elegantly with Elgar’s use of three contrasting versions of that famous hymn. The expression “Oh” is a common interjection that denotes surprise and understanding, reactions that are contextually appropriate. It is absolutely a surprise that Elgar, a Roman Catholic, would adopt the battle hymn of the Reformation as the secret melody. At the same time, it is understandable why Elgar would embrace a melody quoted so prominently by titans of the German School.
The languages from this complete anagram are English, Italian, and German. When treated as an acrostic anagram, the initials of those three languages may be reordered to spell “GIE.” That is the Scottish word for “give.” It turns up frequently in the 1881 book Scottish Proverbs by Andrew Henderson. For example, the Scottish saying “Gie the deil his due” translates as “Give the devil his due.” The implication of this second tier of encryption is Elgar’s anagram “gives” the answer to his melodic enigma.
Another prospective anagram in the Variations’ title is “OVE,” the singular ablative of the Latin word for “sheep” (ovis).
Elgar attended Latin Mass and was educated in three Roman Catholic schools that mandated the study of Latin. A coded reference to a sheep is associated with one of the titles for Jesus as the Lamb of God. The encoding of “OVE” within the title as an acrostic anagram theologically alludes to the identity of Elgar’s secret friend. The language of that acrostic anagram is Latin. Appending the initial of that language to “OVE” permits the spelling “LOVE.” This ancillary acrostic anagram affirms the deity of Elgar’s secret friend because the First Epistle of John teaches “God is love.” According to Roman Catholicism, Jesus is the incarnation of God.
Setting aside the acrostic anagrams “Efb” with “OVE” leaves behind the initials o, c, and 3. The anagram “co” is a prefix that means “joint, mutual, common.” It appears in such words as coequal and cohost. It is feasible to rearrange all nine initials from the original title of the Variations to produce the alternate anagram “3 co Efb OVE.” This may be read as “Three co[mmon] Ein feste Burg” followed by the singular ablative Latin word for sheep (Ove). This acrostic anagram implicates Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress” as the covert principal Theme, and Jesus as the secret friend. The number specifies three versions of Ein feste Burg that form the basis for Elgar’s counterpoints with the Variations. The languages revealed by this title acrostic anagram cipher are English, Latin, and German. Elgar studied all three of these languages. Remarkably, the initials of those three languages form an acrostic of “ELG,” an abbreviated form of “Elgar.”
The purple lines connecting the initials “3 co” form the outline of a capital “L.” That is the initial for Luther, Lord, and Lamb. A “V” is formed by the dark blue lines connecting the initials “Efb.” The purple line connecting “co” creates a cross member in the “Efb” V-formation that resembles a capital “A.” The capital “A” is the initial for “Agnus,” the Latin word for lamb. A second “V” is generated by the red lines connecting the initials “EVO.” The capital “V” is the initial for Variations. The combination of “LV” approximates a phonetic spelling of “Love.”
A cryptanalysis of the Variaitons’ original title evaluated its nine initials (V, f, o, c, b, E, E, O, 3) for prospective anagrams. The first acrostic anagram obtained from those nine initials is “3 VocE Efb O.” This may be read as “Three Voice Ein feste Burg” followed by the interjection “Oh.” The second acrostic anagram generated by those nine initials is “3 co Efb OVE.” This may be interpolated as “Three co[mmon] Ein feste Burg[s]” followed by the singular ablative Latin word for sheep (“Ove”). Both of these acrostic anagrams affirm that Ein feste Burg is the covert Theme to the Variations. The second acrostic anagram further verifies that Jesus is Elgar’s secret friend based on the theological connection between “sheep” and the title “Lamb of God.” The languages from these two acrostic anagrams are English, German, Italian, and Latin. The initials of those four languages are an acrostic anagram of “LIEG.” That is a phonetic spelling of liege, a noun meaning lord or sovereign. One of the titles for Jesus in the Book of Revelation is “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
The Acrostic Anagram Final Page Cipher
After the premiere of the Variations on June 19, 1899, the conductor Hans Richter and August Jaeger from Novello urged Elgar to further develop and expand the last movement. Elgar initially hesitated to make any changes to his Finale. By June 30, he began sketching 96 extra bars and completed the orchestration on July 20, 1899. At the end of this revised and expanded movement, Elgar capped it off with a quotation from Longfellow’s Elegiac Verse: “Great is the art of beginning, but greater the art is of ending.” Longfellow’s name begins with a capital “L” which is the same initial for Luther, the composer of Ein feste Burg. Next to his autograph, Elgar wrote “Fine” and “Birchwood Lodge,” the site where he completed his Variations. The first letters of Elgar, Fine, and Birchwood forms an acrostic anagram of “EFB.” The “V” configuration of this acrostic anagram suggests the initial for Variations. The initial from “Lodge” provides the first letter of Luther. The same cryptographic techniques observed on the title page resurface on the final page of the autograph score. The prevalence of acrostic cryptograms alludes to the cross, a symbol for Elgar's secret friend.
This investigation determined that Elgar enciphered the initials “EFB” at least five times on the cover page of the Master Score, and a sixth time on the last page of the extended Finale. The “L” configurations of some of these anagrams give the initial for Luther, the composer of the secret melody. The acrostic anagram “EFB” on the final page of the autograph score is also accompanied by a capital L from the Longfellow quotation and the word “Lodge.” Scores of cryptograms within the score present a coherent and discrete set of decryptions that implicate Luther’s Ein feste Burg as Elgar’s mysterious missing melody. Contrary to the presumptuous claims of career academics, the answers to Elgar’s enigmas are hidden in plain sight on the autograph score. To learn more concerning the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.