Monday, November 22, 2021

Meeting Maestro Elder In Dallas

Sumptuous strains ripple round his white wand
Invoking spellbinding expositions —
Resplendent, enigmatic, yet profound.
Marvelous music flows at his command,
Awakened by dexterous incantations,
Renewing black notes into lush-hued sound.
Kapellmeister ne plus ultra indeed,
Enthralling the Hallé with Elgar’s songs,
Liberating art from stale convention,
Daring to venture where others recede,
Endeavoring to right a slew of wrongs,
Reproaching all errant intonation.
Charting his course through a vast sonic sea,
He rides the tides conducting destiny.
An acrostic sonnet in honor of Sir Mark Elder
President of the Elgar Society
by Robert W. Padgett

A small contingent from the North American Branch of the Elgar Society enjoyed a casual kaffeeklatsch with conductor Sir Mark Elder in Dallas on October 30, 2021. Maestro Elder is the President of the Elgar Society and was in town to lead the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Elgar’s Symphony No. 1 and works by Richard Wagner and Felix Mendelssohn. Our meeting was arranged by Arthur Reynolds, the esteemed Chairman of the North American Branch, erudite Elgar scholar, and legendary collector of prized Elgarian artifacts. A mutual interest in Elgar’s music brought us together, and Elder opened by drawing attention to some uncanny parallels between Elgar’s life and his own. These encompass the same birthday (June 2), similar-sounding surnames that share three out of five letters (Elgar vis-à-vis Elder), a common British heritage, the study of the bassoon, careers in conducting major symphony orchestras, and the conferment of various titles such as “Sir” for outstanding contributions to music. My life also shares some unusual similarities with Elgar’s experiences as I delineate in the prologue to my eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.
During our confab, Elder graciously autographed my scores of Elgar’s Symphony No. 1 and the Enigma Variations. I offered an intriguing insight from violinist William H. Reed who noted thematic resemblances between the concluding peroration from the Enigma Variations’ Finale and the solemn opening phrase of Symphony No. 1. Reed was Elgar’s confidante and served as a key consultant for the Violin Concerto in B minor. When the Finale’s ending phrase at Rehearsal 82 is reduced from whole note to eighth note values, the ensuing diminution generates the inaugural phrase of Elgar’s Symphony No. 1 a seventh higher in the G minor mode. The following exhibit was shared with Maestro Elder:

According to Reed’s analysis, the opening melody to Elgar’s first symphony is an outgrowth of the concluding phrase from the Enigma Variations. Through this subtle melodic projection, Elgar transmutes the ending of the Enigma Variations into the beginning of his first symphony. That phrase brilliantly recapitulates his nascent desire to compose a symphony, a catalyst for the Enigma Variations. As Reed explains, “This . . . is an outstanding example of the continuity of thought and style which goes in an artist’s subconscious mind, and which persists in spite of all outside influences, his own development or the process of evolution.”
The Maestro questioned Reed’s conclusion because the uppermost line from the Variations is not technically the melody. I countered that it was a countermelody, just as the Enigma Theme is itself a countermelody to the absent principal melody yet serves as the unifying theme of the whole work. Although Elgar adapted a countermelody to serve as the inaugural tune to his first symphony, Reed’s comparison remains no less valid. As a concession, I acknowledged the possibility Elgar may have composed the derivative melody on a subconscious level. Nonetheless, the thematic parallels present an organic link between the Enigma Variations and his first symphony.
Elgar was not planning to compose a resplendent set of orchestral variations in October 1898. Instead, he had a far more ambitious project in mind — a symphony in honor of the late General Charles George Gordon who died heroically thirteen years prior at the Siege of Khartoum. Elgar proposed a symphonic work about that fallen general for the Worcester Three Choirs Festival in September 1899. Gordon’s mystique stoked Elgar’s creative fires. Reed recalls that during this period, Elgar was “. . . obsessed with the idea of writing a symphony, and just as Beethoven’s Eroica had a hero for its inspiration, so Elgar had a strong picture of Gordon in his mind, and meant to use the nobility of Gordon’s character as the central mood.” Such a project heralded an escalation in Elgar’s artistic ambitions as he had never composed a symphony up to that point in his career. However, those plans proved premature as a decade would pass before he finally produced his Symphony No. 1 in A-flat major in 1908.
Elgar composed the 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 unconventional theme dubbed “Enigma,” the work is popularly referred to as the Enigma Variations. In the 1899 program note and other primary sources, Elgar explains 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 secret tune is the cornerstone underlying the whole work, a subject that has provoked an intractable debate about the correct solution.
Some contend there is no answer by insinuating Elgar concocted the notion of an absent principal Theme as an afterthought, practical joke, or marketing gimmick. The editors of the Elgar Complete Edition of the Enigma Variations blithely deny the likelihood there could be any covert counterpoints or even cryptograms. Relying on Elgar’s recollection of playing new material at the piano to gauge his wife’s reaction, the editors tout the standard lore that he extemporized the idiosyncratic Enigma Theme mirabelle dictu without any forethought or planning:
There seems to have been no specific ‘enigma’ in mind at the outset: Elgar’s first playing of the music was hardly more than a running over the keys to aid relaxation. It was Alice Elgar’s interruption, apparently, that called him to attention and helped to identify the phrases which were to become the ‘Enigma’ theme. This suggests it is unlikely that the theme should conceal some counterpoint or cipher needed to solve the ‘Enigma’.
Such a blanket abnegation conveniently relieves them of any obligation to probe for ciphers or cryptograms. Proponents of such a crude denialism extol the validity of their position based on a dearth of evidence for which they never executed a diligent or impartial search. This ridiculous state of affairs is a textbook case of confirmation bias pawned off as scholarship.
The more sensible view (adopted by those who take Elgar at his published word) accepts the challenge there is a famous melody lurking behind the Variations’ contrapuntal and modal facade. Regardless of what side is taken in the debate, mainstream scholars insist the answer can never be known with absolute certainty because Elgar allegedly took his secret to the grave in February 1934. The intellectual establishment presumes he never wrote down the solution for posterity to discover. Such a staid opinion glosses over or flagrantly ignores Elgar’s documented obsession with cryptography. That incontestable facet of his psyche raises the prospect that the solution is meticulously encoded within Enigma Variations’ orchestral score.
A decade of trawling that sublime symphonic masterpiece has netted over one hundred cryptograms in diverse formats that encode a set of mutually consistent and complementary solutions. Although that figure may seem extravagant, it is entirely consistent with Elgar’s lifelong fascination with ciphers. More significantly, the solutions give 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 the “dark saying” ensconced within the Enigma Theme? Answer: A musical Polybius box cipher embedded in its inaugural six bars cordoned off by a strangely positioned 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 yet mutually consistent, multivalent, and decisive. With such a vast trove of cryptograms, the Enigma Variations is Elgar’s musical homage to cryptography.
During our meeting, I could not resist the opportunity to share some highlights from my original research into the Enigma Variations. What follows is an overview of some of the remarkable discoveries I discussed with Maestro Elder. Before I began, he cautioned that he had been warned about my fixation with that captivating topic. Undeterred, I steered the discussion to Elgar’s penchant for wordplay, anagrams, and cryptography. One notable illustration is the title “Craeg Lea” which he imparted to his Malvern home where his family resided between 1899 and 1904. That moniker is an anagram sourced from the reverse spelling of “Elgar” (Craeg Lea) mingled with the initials from the first names of his daughter Carice, himself, and his wife Alice (Craeg Lea). I showed the opening section of my essay Elgar’s Program Anagram Enigma Ciphers that explores this and other examples of Elgar’s wordplays and cryptograms. Maestro Elder perused it as I continued my presentation.
Elgar’s enthusiasm for word games spilled over into his obsession with cryptography, the discipline of coding and decoding secret messages. His expertise in that esoteric art is amply documented by the mathematics professor Craig P. Bauer in his treatise Unsolved! The bulk of its third chapter is devoted to Elgar’s brilliant decryption of an allegedly insoluble Nihilist cipher by John Holt Schooling published in an April 1896 issue of The Pall Mall Magazine. A Nihilist cipher is a derivation of the Polybius square. Elgar was so delighted with his solution that he brags about it in his first biography published in 1905 by Robert J. Buckley. Elgar painted the solution in black paint on a wooden box, an appropriate medium as another name for the Polybius square is a box cipher.
Elgar’s methodical decryption of Schooling’s conundrum is summarized on a set of nine index cards. On the sixth card, Elgar relates the task of cracking the cipher to “working (in the dark).” His use of the word “dark” as a synonym for a cipher is relevant as this same adjective turns up later in the 1899 program note for the premiere of the Enigma Variations. It is an oft-cited passage that warrants revisiting as Elgar lays the groundwork for his melodic riddle:
The Enigma I will not explain – it’s ‘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.
At the outset, Elgar informed the audience that the Enigma Theme has a “dark saying.” Based on his prior use of the word “dark” as a synonym for a cipher, the expression “dark saying” intimates the existence of a cryptogram in the Enigma Theme that encodes a “saying,” an intelligible series of words. Such cryptic language is code for code, suggesting Elgar enciphered the answer to his contrapuntal riddle within the question, i.e., the Enigma Theme. The opening six bars of the Enigma Theme’s melody has 24 notes, presenting uncanny parallels with the covert Theme’s six-word German title with precisely 24 letters: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. That title is a saying. These unmistakable similarities led to the detection and eventual decryption of a musical Polybius cipher in those inaugural six bars. The very place in the score where “Enigma” was written presents a sophisticated music cipher that encodes the melodic solution.
The decryption of Elgar’s musical Polybius cipher revealed a grand anagram in four languages: English, Latin, German, and what Elgar would have reasonably believed to be Aramaic based on contemporaneous biblical commentaries. Fashioning a message in multiple languages is a proven tactic for hardening a cipher. I asked the Maestro if he noticed anything peculiar about the first letters of those four languages. I then observed that the first letters of those four languages are an acrostic anagram of Elgar: English, Latin, German, Aramaic. I posited that we may be confident in the decryption because Elgar signed it using another layer of encryption. As there was inadequate time to delve into a detailed explanation of this advanced cryptogram, I referred Maestro Elder to my paper Elgar’s Engima: A Polybius Box Cipher.
I next directed our attention to a far simpler acrostic anagram embedded in the original title of Variation XIII. On the earliest surviving short score sketch of that movement, Elgar wrote the title in the form of three Xs in blue pencil (XXX), “Var.” (an abbreviation of “Variation”) in black ink, and a large capital “L” in blue pencil. The initials of those three title elements are a reverse acrostic of “LVX.” The letters V and U are the same in the old Latin alphabet, making it possible to read “LVX” as “LUX.” Elgar attended three Roman Catholic schools between the ages of five and fifteen where he studied Latin and attended Latin mass. I asked the Maestro if he knew of any other works by Elgar composed before the Enigma Variations that have a title beginning with the Latin word “Lux.” Without any hesitation he replied, “Lux Christi.” “That is Elgar’s secret friend,” I answered. Elgar’s first sacred oratorio was premiered at the 1896 Three Choirs Festival in Worcester Cathedral under the Anglicanized title The Life of Life. It recounts the Gospel of John’s account of Jesus restoring sight to a beggar who was born blind. Maestro Elder was beginning to see the light.

The Maestro’s curiosity was piqued by this elementary cryptogram. Surprised and somewhat incredulous, he raised the objection that Variation XIV is a Romanza. I retorted that Elgar’s seemingly romantic subtitle is a classic wordplay as Jesus was crucified by the Romans under the orders of Pontius Pilate. I then explained how the Roman numerals for Variation XIII encode the initials for Jesus Christ using a basic number-to-letter key (1 = A, 2 = b, 3 = C, etc.). “X” represents ten, and the tenth letter of the alphabet is J. “III” stands for three, and the third letter is C. This is not the only place in the Enigma Variations where Elgar applied that encipherment technique. The Roman numerals for Variation IX (Nimrod) encode the initials (AJ) of that movement’s dedicatee (August Jaeger) using the same method. “I” represents one, and the first letter is A. “X” is ten, and that the tenth letter is J. If anyone failed to grasp the linguistic connection between the pseudonym Nimrod and the dedicatee’s name Jaeger, Elgar ensured that his friends’ initials were encoded by the Roman numerals.
The Roman numerals for the number nine illustrate Elgar’s proclivity for wordplay. Variation IX is dedicated to Elgar’s only German friend portrayed in the Enigma Variations. The word “nine” is a homonym and anagram of “nein,” the German word for “no.” Remarkably, the German spelling “nein” harbors the first word of the covert Theme’s title: Ein feste Burg. As previously shown, Jaeger’s initials are encoded by the Roman numerals IX using a simple number-to-letter key. The initials “AJ” are a reverse spelling of “Ja,” the German word for “yes.” Through the Roman numerals IX, Elgar presents a coded wordplay on “yes” and “no” auf Deutch that also contains the first word of the hidden melody’s title.
My wife, Heather, chimed in about several allusions in the Enigma Variations to the Divine Comedy (Divina Commedia), a renowned Italian narrative poem by Dante Alighieri. The tempo marking for the Enigma Theme is Andante, a word that transparently conceals Dante’s name. In the Inferno, Dante is escorted by Virgil on a grand tour of the netherworld. Canto XXXI describes the lyric duo encountering the giant Nimrod who guards the ninth circle of Hell. Nimrod spearheaded the construction of the Tower of Babel when humanity was united by a common language. To thwart that nefarious edifice, God sowed division among the populace by causing them to speak diverse languages. That seminal event is traditionally called the Confusion of Tongues. When Nimrod attempts to communicate with Dante and Virgil, he blurts out gibberish because he is forever cursed with a babbling tongue. To attract attention, Nimrod blows on a hunter’s horn draped around his neck. In deference to this poetic illustration, Elgar named Variation IX “Nimrod” and symbolically concludes that elegiac movement with a blast from the brass section at Rehearsal 37. Nimrod is followed by Variation X (Dorabella) where Elgar pokes fun at Dora Penny’s stutter — a veritable confusion of tongues.
The second part of Dante’s Divine Comedy is Purgatorio where Elgar was likely inspired to adopt the title “Enigma” for his original Theme. In its final Canto XXXIII, the heroine Beatrice delivers a mystifying prophecy about a future savior who will rid the church of corruption and slay a wicked giant, an archetype of Goliath. In place of the champion’s name, she gives the nebulous number “Five hundred, Ten, and Five” (515). Beatrice refers to her oracle as an “enigma forte” (hard enigma) and a “narrazion buia” (dark saying). This is the only passage in all of the Divine Comedy where the terms “enigma” and “dark saying” appear in close proximity. The word “forte” is used in music to indicate a loud dynamic. The identity of Dante’s anonymous liberator is one of the great mysteries of Western literature.
The comingling of “Enigma” with “dark saying” in Elgar’s 1899 program note has an illustrious literary precedent in Dante’s Divine Comedy, a distinctly Roman Catholic work. Remarkably, there are subtle connections between the number 515 and Variation XIII. That Romanza begins at Rehearsal 55 and consists of 51 bars, two figures that closely resemble 515. The second Mendelssohn quotation ends in bar 515. In imitation of Dante’s “enigma forte,” Elgar withheld the identity of his friend for this movement, one with Roman numerals that overlap with those for Canto XXXIII. These numeric parallels suggest Elgar is floating a solution to Dante’s difficult enigma in the guise of another enigma, one that points to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
I then opened the Elgar Complete Edition of the Enigma Variations to Variation XIII and directed the Maestro’s attention to the first two melody notes, a G descending by a perfect fourth to D. These two notes are a phonetic spelling of “God.” The Maestro calmly added they also are the initials for “Gloria Dei,” the Latin expression for “Glory to God.” The letters “GD” are also the reverse initials for “Deo Gratias,” a phrase that turns up repeatedly in the personal correspondence of Elgar and his wife. According to Roman Catholic doctrine, Jesus is the human incarnation of the Triune God. I next showed the Maestro how the contrabass line spells “D-E-A-D” twice in that movement. The first instance occurs four bars after Rehearsal 55, and the second four bars after Rehearsal 59. This "DEAD" motivic figure symbolically appears in the lowest voice of the string choir. In both cases, these spellings of “DEAD” by the lowest string voice are immediately followed by three statements of “G-D” by the upper woodwinds (i.e., flutes and clarinet). Three renditions of the notes “G-D” present a Trinitarian allusion. These coded spellings of “DEAD” answered by three phonetic spellings of “God” robustly implicate the death of Jesus.

Variation XIII is rife with anomalies that function as signposts for cryptograms. The enigmatic title consists of three asterisks (***) first represented on the short score by three Xs. Even more baffling, Elgar cites a four-note incipit from Mendelssohn’s concert overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage on four occasions in that movement. The original title for that overture comes from Johann Wolgang von Goethe’s pair of poems Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt. In his poetry, Goethe likens a calm sea to death with the exclamation, “Todesstille fürchterlich!” That German phrase translates literally as, “Terrible silence of death!” This comparison makes sense when a sailing vessel is stranded on a windless seascape and cannot cross an aqueous desert. Such a dire predicament inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge to coin that famous passage in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.” Through these Mendelssohn fragments, Elgar signaled that his secret friend had died. For those who missed this poetic allusion, he encoded the word “DEAD” twice in the contrabass line of that movement.
Elgar sonically portrays a calm sea with the Mendelssohn incipits which are accompanied by an ostinato figure that revisits the Enigma Theme’s palindromic rhythm. The mingling of the Mendelssohn fragments with the Enigma Theme’s distinctive rhythm implies a connection between these two seemingly unrelated melodies. It was reasoned Elgar quotes Mendelssohn to imply by imitation that Mendelssohn quotes the hidden melody in one of his own symphonies. Four Mendelssohn fragments each consisting of four notes further suggest the famous tune is quoted in the fourth movement of that symphony Elgar’s quotation is not original, a feature that implies the well-known melody was quoted rather than composed by Mendelssohn. There is only one viable candidate that satisfies those precise parameters. In the fourth movement of the Reformation Symphony, Mendelssohn cites Ein feste Burg followed by a set of variations. Connecting these data points was a watershed moment in my investigation, arriving at a discovery that was utterly unexpected.
Elgar frames the Mendelssohn incipits in three contrasting keys. The melodic fragment is introduced in A-major by the cellos at 6:32 of this recording by the London Symphony Orchestra. The first two are in A-flat major, the third is in F minor and the fourth is in E-flat major. Those in major modes are enclosed by quotation marks because they mirror the major key of the original source. The key letters of those Mendelssohn fragments (A, F, and E) are an anagram of the famous music cryptogram “F. A. E.” popularized by Robert Schumann, Albert Dietrich, and Johannes Brahms in their collaborative F-A-E Violin Sonata composed in 1851. That work was composed as a tribute to their friendship with the violinist Joseph Joachim. The letters “FAE” are an acronym of his personal German romantic motto, “Frei aber einsam” (Free but lonely). The discovery of the FAE Cipher in the Mendelssohn fragments was an epiphany as it confirmed the presence of a popular musical cryptogram. Joachim’s motto consists of three German words, providing a discernible parallel with Ein feste Burg which also shares that same trait.
A cryptanalysis of the Mendelssohn fragments led to the discovery of a cipher that encodes the initials for Ein feste Burg. The key relies on converting the number of statements in a given key to the corresponding scale degree to unveil the plaintext letters. There are two statements in A-flat major; the second scale degree of that key is B-flat. There is one statement in F minor; the first scale degree being F. The final statement is in E-flat major; the first scale degree of that mode is E-flat. The Mendelssohn Fragments Scale Degrees Cipher ingeniously encodes the three absent letters (EFB) represented by the three mysterious asterisks. Those are the same three letters encoded as an acrostic anagram by the titles that immediately precede and come after Variation XIII: XII (B.G.N.) and XIV (E.D.U. & Finale). Elgar adroitly enveloped the riddle posed by the three asterisks with the solution in the form of an acrostic anagram. The answer was hidden in plain sight. The following exhibit was shown to Maestro Elder:

A key piece of evidence is my contrapuntal mapping of Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) over Variation IX (Nimrod). This compelling counterpoint verifies that Luther’s famous hymn is the absent principal Theme to the Enigma Variations. I tracked the course of Luther’s hymn “through and over” Nimrod in August 2009 in response to an ultimatum from Dr. Clive McClelland who demanded that I attempt to map Ein feste Burg above any movement besides the Enigma Theme. He dismissively mentions my melodic solution in the July 2009 issue of The Elgar Society Journal. The contrapuntal decryption of Nimrod proved far easier than I anticipated as the counterpoint virtually wrote itself. Elder carefully read through the following exhibit:

When I offered to play an audio demonstration on my Google Pixel 2 phone, he politely declined as he already heard the whole thing in his head. British videographer and composer Barnaby Martin publicly admits the efficacy of this contrapuntal mapping in his popular presentation The Mystery of Elgar’s Enigma. This mapping was simultaneously acknowledged and travestied by David Owen Norris and Dr. Kate Kennedy at the 2019 BBC Proms. When compared to other purported melodic solutions, Ein feste Burg holds an exclusive status because it is the only melody ever successfully mapped “through and over” any of the movements beyond the Enigma Theme. I planned to establish my bona fides as a contrapuntalist by showing him my Sinfonia No. 1 in E minor for three voices, but insufficient time prevented me. Besides, we were there to talk about Elgar’s music, not mine.
I next explained how Elgar’s unusual title for Variation IX (Nimrod) is an exquisite wordplay on the covert Theme’s title. In Genesis 10:9, Nimrod is described as “a mighty hunter.” That biblical phrase furnishes the first two words of the hidden melody’s title in the correct order: A Mighty Fortress. The scriptures record that Nimrod built fortified cities, i.e., fortresses. The theological association between Nimrod and fortifications is so well established that a medieval castle on the southern slopes of Mount Hermon is called Nimrod Fortress. The biblical connotations linked to Nimrod enable the assembling of the words “a mighty” and “fortress” to generate the secret melody’s title. Variation IX is dedicated to Elgar’s only German friend depicted in that work, inviting the translation from English to German as “Ein feste Burg.” Elgar’s eccentric choice of titles for August Jaeger’s movement is a skillful wordplay that divulges the secret tune’s title.

I then described how the tuning of the timpani for that elegiac movement enciphers the initials of the covert Theme as an anagram. Rehearsal 33 marks the beginning of Variation IX where the tuning of the timpani is indicated as E-flat, B-flat, and F. Those three letters are an anagram of “EFB”, the initials of Ein feste Burg. Elgar’s tuning indication begins with “in E . . .” Those three letters are an anagram of “Ein” which is the first word in the covert Theme’s title. In a similar manner, the first three letters of “Enigma” are also an anagram of “Ein.” One overt title brilliantly hints at the first word in the covert title.

I concluded my presentation with some extraordinary examples of Elgar’s use of acrostic anagrams. It is distinctly anomalous that in his 1899 program note about an orchestral work dedicated to his friends, Elgar only provides the name of a foreign playwright and stranger: Maeterlinck. That surname is followed by the French titles from two of his plays, L’Intruse (The Intruder) and Les sept Princesses (The Seven Princesses). In the program note, the phrase “Maeterlinck’s ‘L’Intruse’ and ‘Les sept Princesses’” is set apart by two long dashes. Elgar was an expert in cryptography, the discipline of encoding and decoding secret messages. Could his conspicuous Maeterlinck phrase be a cipher?
The unique first initials from Elgar’s Maeterlinck phrase are “MLaSP” — Maeterlinck’s ‘L’Intruse’ and ‘Les sept Princesses’. These initials are a reverse acrostic anagram of Psalm. Equally remarkable is that this conspicuous phrase has precisely 46 characters. The encoding of “Psalm” in a 46-character phrase points to Psalm 46.

That famous chapter is called “Luther’s Psalm” because it inspired his greatest hymn, Ein feste Burg. This Maeterlinck cryptogram implicates Luther’s most famous hymn as the covert principal Theme to the Enigma Variations. The remaining initials “IL” (Maeterlinck’s ‘L’Intruse’ and ‘Les sept Princesses’) produce the Roman numerals for 49. That number may be interpolated as a coded form of 46 because the glyph for 9 is identical to 6 in an inverted form.
There is a second layer to this Maeterlinck Cipher. The German initials for the secret melody (E.F.B.) are enciphered by the nationalities associated with Elgar’s program note. Elgar is an English composer whose explanatory note for the Enigma Variations is in his native language. In his remarks, he refers to the Belgian playwright Maeterlinck and the French titles of two plays. These three nationalities — English, French, and Belgian — are an acrostic anagram of the initials for Ein feste Burg. In a remarkable display of cryptography, the phrase “Maeterlinck’s ‘L’Intruse’ and ‘Les sept Princesses’” in Elgar’s 1899 program note efficiently encodes Psalm 46 and the initials for the secret melody. These two overlapping ciphers provide a set of mutually reinforcing solutions in which one authenticates the other.
I then directed Maestro Elgar’s attention to a related cryptogram formed by seven discrete performance directions in the first bar of the Enigma Theme’s orchestral score. Those seven terms are Andante, legato e sostenuto, molto express., and Piano. The first letters of these seven Italian words are an acrostic anagram of “EE’s Psalm.” Elgar ingeniously inserted his initials (EE) in the decryption of this elementary cryptogram.
  1. e
  2. espress.
  3. Piano
  4. sostenuto
  5. Andante
  6. legato
  7. molto
Elgar indicated the tempo for the Enigma Theme by writing a quarter note followed by an equals sign (=) and the number 63. This adds four more characters to the seven other performance directions in the Enigma Theme’s opening bar for a grand total of 46 characters. That precise sum is linked to the decryption “EE’s Psalm’, leading us again to Psalm 46.

Elgar encoded a phonetic spelling of “Locks” within the same six bars of the Enigma Theme that house a musical Polybius cipher. He achieves this by applying a number-to-letter key to the separate note totals for each of the four active parts that comprise the string quartet. The cellos play twelve notes over bars 1-6; the 12th letter is L. The violas play fifteen notes in that section; the 15th letter is O. The second violins play seventeen notes; the 17th letter is Q. The first violins perform 24 notes; the 24th letter is X. The four plaintext letters “LOQX” are a phonetic realization of locks. A phonetic decryption is justified because Elgar deployed inventive spellings in his letters. For example, he respelled excuse as “xqqq,” phrases as “frazes,” gorgeous as “gorjus,” and Christi as “Xti.” A phonetic decryption bears Elgar's cryptographic imprimatur. The following exhibit was shown to Maestro Elder:

Locks, like ciphers, are opened by keys. This unexpected discovery precipitated a reassessment of the keys in which the Enigma Theme is played. The Enigma Theme is set in the parallel keys of G minor and G major. The accidentals for those key signatures are B-flat, E-flat, and F-sharp. The letters of those accidentals (B, E, and F) are an anagram of the initials for Ein feste Burg. The keys of the Enigma Theme elegantly unlock Elgar's contrapuntal strongbox to reveal the initials of the covert principal Theme.

There are some extraordinary parallels between the Program Note Maeterlinck Cipher and the Enigma Theme’s Performance Directions Cipher. Both employ acrostic anagrams to encode the word “Psalm” and associate it to character totals adding up to 46. The title of the covert principal Theme to the Enigma Variations comes from the first line of Psalm 46: A Mighty Fortress is our God. The initials for Ein feste Burg are enciphered as acrostic anagrams by the nationalities in the 1899 Program Note (English, French, and Belgian) and the accidentals for the parallel key signatures of the Enigma Theme (E-flat, F-sharp, and B-flat). The matching decryptions of these two ciphers via acrostic anagrams defies a fortuitous origin. The precision and ingenuity of these two multilayered ciphers illustrate Elgar’s talent for cryptography, a neglected field of study deserving of more rigorous investigation and analysis.
I then highlighted Elgar’s use of a special type of augmented sixth chord called a German sixth near the start and finish of the Enigma Variations. The first appears in bar 5, and the last two bars before the original ending of the Finale. The German sixth hints at the covert Theme’s complete title which has six German words. The positions of the first and last German sixth chords also encode the initials for the covert Theme. The first German sixth appears five bars after the beginning, and the last occurs two bars from the original ending. Converting those bar distances into their corresponding letters of the alphabet generates the letters E and B, two of the three initials from Ein feste Burg. The last German sixth appears exactly six quarter beats from the end, and its label also furnishes the number six. A number-to-letter key transforms the number six into the letter F. Like so many other cryptograms in the Enigma Variations, the first and last German sixth chords encipher the initials to the hidden melody.
Time slipped away before I could cover other fascinating cryptograms ensconced within the Enigma Variations. One that I would have relished sharing with Maestro Elder is a pair of acrostic anagrams embedded in the original title of the autograph score: “Variations for orchestra composed by Edward Elgar.” The first letters of those seven words are acrostic anagrams of “EFB” and “Voce,” the Italian word for voice. Within the original title, Elgar concealed two acrostic anagrams that indicate the absent voice of the Enigma Variations is Ein feste Burg.

Near the end of my presentation, Maestro Elder inquired if I had written down any of my discoveries. I replied that my research is published freely on my Enigma Variations blog which has received in excess of 500,000 page views from a global audience since its inception in late 2010. I gave him a business card with the web address and invited him to tour my contrapuntal and cryptographic discoveries. Elgar advised in his 1899 program note that the solution “. . . must be left unguessed . . .” I emphasized that a decryption cannot be guessed, but must be systematically worked out. I concluded my informal presentation by declaring the Enigma Variations is Elgar’s musical homage to counterpoint and cryptography.

Elgar’s “Organo” Label Trilingual Acrostic Cipher

During our cordial symposium, Maestro Elder remarked that the manner in which Elgar designated the organ on the Enigma Variations score is unconventional. “Nobody writes it like that,” he exclaimed. That colossal instrument is routinely named on orchestral scores simply as “Organo” in Italian. Contrary to that convention, Elgar identifies it on the autograph score as “Organo, ad lib (tacet till Finale)”. The word “till” is the Middle English iteration of “until.” In recognition of Elgar’s expertise in cryptography, Elder suggested the organ label could be an anagram or possibly some other cipher. The Enigma Theme’s first page from the 1899 autograph score and a closeup of the original organ label are shown below:

A dot near the center of the “O” from Organo makes that letter resemble a roundel, a heraldic emblem on some coats of arms. The cross is a popular emblem in British heraldry. Addended sometime after Elgar’s inked “Organo” label is the penciled sentence, “Systeme für die Orgel nur auf Page 1. und im Finale.” This German phrase translates as, “Systems for the organ only on page 1. and in the Finale.” The script is too neat to be Elgar’s and is markedly different from Jaeger’s penciled title “Enigma” at the top of the page. This German translation of Elgar’s multilingual organ label may have been added by Alice or Herr Geidel, an engraver in Leipzig. This penciled explanation may be safely set aside as a post hoc clarification of the organ label for the German engraver.
The organ label is curtailed to “Organo, ad lib.” on the Complete Edition of the 1899 published score:

“Organo” is followed by a comma and “lib” by a period. Elgar was extremely meticulous with his published scores, so these punctuation marks must have been added at his explicit direction. The Complete Edition retains the tacet annotation but repositions it above the first bar of the organ staves, replaces “till” with the au courant “until”, and substitutes “XIV” for “Finale”. The abbreviation “ad lib.” is short for the Latin phrase “ad libitum.” When applied to a part in an orchestral score, “ad lib.” indicates the work may be performed with or without that particular instrument. Based on this assessment, Elgar’s organ part does not seem to depart from standard practice except for being inserted ex post facto and remaining silent for 679 bars.
The organ part was added to the Enigma Variations when Elgar composed a 96 bar extension to the Finale between June 30 and July 20, 1899. This new section was composed at the behest of August Jaeger and the conductor Hans Richter following the momentous June premiere. The Finale is Elgar’s musical self-portrait. The addition of the organ part mingles elements of his early career with clues about the covert Theme. In The Cambridge Companion to Elgar, John Butt observes this novel organ part raises “autobiographical resonances” because of Elgar’s tenure as assistant organist (1872-1884) and organist (1885-1889) at St. George’s Church in Worcester. Butt also draws attention to the organ as “. . . the instrument of the Anglican establishment . . .”
Organs are traditionally used to perform hymns in church settings and cathedrals. Such an association resonates with the discovery of Martin Luther’s hymn Ein feste Burg as the covert Theme to the Enigma Variations. As an organist and disciple of the German School, Elgar was familiar with organ works by the great German masters. Preludes and fugues based on Ein feste Burg were composed by such luminaries as Michael Praetorius, Dietrich Buxtehude, Johann Pachebel, Johann Nikolaus Hanff, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Johann Gottfried Walther. Notice that most of those names begin with “Johann,” the German form of John.
That name surfaces in a February 1899 letter to F. G. Edwards, the editor of The Musical Times, in which Elgar describes his creative process for the Variations. He explains, “I have in the Variations sketched ‘portraits’ of my friends — a new idea I think — that is in each variation I have (looked at) the theme through the personality (as it were) of another Johnny — ask Jaeger about this.” The nickname “Johnny” differs from “Johann” by only one letter and is followed by a reference to Elgar’s only German friend depicted in the Variations. The names Johnny, Johann, and Jaeger each have two syllables and six letters. The insertion of an organ part in the Enigma Variations ultimately serves as a clue about the nature of the hidden theme as there are numerous iterations of Ein feste Burg for organ by composers whose names begin with some version of John.
According to biographer Jerrold Northrop Moore, Elgar studied Bach's organ preludes and fugues when he served as the organist at St. George's Church. After his wife’s death, Elgar sought consolation and inspiration by playing Bach’s keyboard and organ works. As Moore recounts in the pages of Elgar: A Creative Life:
In April 1921 he was playing Bach fugues—not only from The Well-Tempered Clavier but the big organ fugues he had studied forty years earlier at St. George’s Church: ‘Now that my poor wife has gone I can’t be original, and so I depend on people like Johann Sebastian for a source of inspiration. He decided to orchestrate the C minor organ fugue, as he wrote to Ivor Atkins, ‘. . . in modern way—largest orchestra . . . So many arrgts have been made of Bach on the “pretty’ scale” & I wanted to shew how gorgeous & great & brilliant he would have made himself sound if he had our means.’ Yet the sound of the organ was in his mind as well. He wrote to Ernest Newman: ‘You will see that I have kept it quite solid (diapasony) at first;—later you hear the sesquialteras & other trimming stops reverberating & the resultant vibrating shimmering sort of organ sound—I think.’ By April 25 the arrangement was finished. In May he copied it out and sent it to Novellos, who agreed to pay Edward a hundred guineas for the copyright.
Based on Northrop's account, it is probable that one of the “big organ fugues” that Elgar played through was none other than Bach’s BWV 720—Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott.
Elder’s suspicion that Elgar’s organ label could be a cipher is supported by the use of parentheses in fourteen titles of the Enigma Variations. Elgar enclosed fourteen titles with parentheses to designate cryptograms about his friends’ identities. The majority of these superficial ciphers are easily solved as Elgar provided their initials, pseudonyms, or names. The sole exception to this pattern is Variation XIII where Elgar replaces the initials with three mysterious asterisks.

There is another encrypted layer that Elgar expertly entwined within these titles using proximate title letters. He carefully crafted these anagrams over the course of sketching five different lists of the Enigma Variations. Their varied decryptions are laid out in my article Elgar’s Proximate Title Letters Enigma Ciphers. One notable example employs title letters from the Theme through Variation III to generate the anagram “Pie Christi Abide” (Pious Christ Abide). “Pie Christi” is a variant of the Latin phrase “Pie Jesu,” the final couplet from the hymn Dies Irae. This discovery complements the “LUX” acrostic anagram in the short score title of Variation XIV.

Could Elgar’s unusual organ label be a cipher as Maestro Elder speculated during our Dallas meeting? Referring to the autograph score, that label consists of six words in three different languages. The first word “Organo” is in Italian. The second (ad), third (lib.), and fourth (tacet) are in Latin. The remaining two words (till Finale) are in English. These three languages in order of appearance are listed below:
  1. Italian
  2. Latin
  3. English
The initials of these three languages are a reverse acrostic of “ELI”: Italian, Latin, and English. That same inversion technique was also witnessed in an assortment of other cryptograms. Elgar spelled his surname backward in the anagram "Craeg Lea." Elgar enciphered “LUX” as a backward acrostic in the short score title of Variation XIII. The Mendelssohn Fragments Scale Degrees Cipher encodes the initials for Ein feste Burg in reverse order as “BFE.” The Program Note Maeterlinck Phrase Cipher spells the word “Psalm” as a backward acrostic. The prevalence of this retrograde formulation is a recurring motif among Elgar’s variegated ciphers. Their similar encryption methods and decryptions are mutually consistent and confirmatory. More significantly, this backward pattern intimates that the hidden melody plays as a retrograde counterpoint above the Enigma Theme.
Why would Elgar encode “ELI” as an acrostic from the three languages of his organ label? The secret friend memorialized by Variation XIII spoke that word twice at his public execution. The Gospel of Matthew records that as Jesus hung on the cross, he cried out around the ninth hour in Aramaic, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?). “Eli” is Aramaic for “My God.” This was Christ’s fourth declaration out of seven from the cross. In making this statement, Jesus recited the first verse of Psalm 22. That chapter is called a Messianic Psalm because it prophesied numerous events concerning Christ’s crucifixion. Based on this citation, Matthew 27:46 is inextricably linked to the Book of Psalms. Remarkably, the verse number (46) from Matthew 27 combined with “Psalm” is a coded form of Psalm 46, the chapter that inspired the title of Ein feste Burg.
Elgar was certainly aware of the linkage between Matthew 27 and Psalm 22. He spent many years studying the Bible, the Apocrypha, biblical commentaries, and other theological texts in preparation for writing his sacred oratorio The Apostles. Shortly before its premiere in October 1903,h he remarked about the libretto, “I have been thinking it out since boyhood, and have been selecting the words for years, many years.” As Reed recalled about Elgar:
. . . his knowledge of the Bible and the Apocrypha was profound. He certainly consulted his friends also, both in his own Roman Catholic church and in the Anglican . . . 
Above five bars in the vocal score of The Apostles, Elgar wrote “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.”

The English music critic and musicologist Ernest Newman describes this passage in his 1906 book The Master of the Masters: Elgar:
The drama now moves to Golgotha, where we see only the last episode of all, the death of Jesus. Believing that the cry of “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” could not be fittingly given to any human voice, Elgar has entrusted it to the muted strings alone.
Elgar's trilingual label for the organ generates the acrostic anagram “ELI,” a theologically infused term that affirms that Jesus is the secret friend memorialized in Variation XIII. This particular method of encipherment is exquisitely appropriate as the word “acrostic” has within it a nearly complete spelling of cross (acrostic).

Elgar’s “Organo” Label Ciphers

Is there any evidence for Maestro Elder’s suspicion that Elgar’s organ label could be an anagram? There are precisely two Es in the parenthetical phrase “(tacet till Finale)”. Those two es suggest a coded form of Elgar’s initials (EE), a feature associated with other cryptograms in the Enigma Variations. The first “e” is the fourth letter of “tacet” which also happens to be the fourth word in the organ label. The second “e” is the sixth letter of “Finale” which is the sixth word. The fourth and sixth words of the organ label are the only words with the letter “e” which hold corresponding fourth and sixth positions in those two words. These allusions to four and six implicate the number 46, the chapter from the Psalms that inspired Luther to compose Ein feste Burg. All of these elements suggest that Elgar’s parenthetical remark is a distinct cipher.
When analyzed for potential anagrams, the letters from Elgar’s parenthetical phrase “tacet till Finale” may be reshuffled to spell out “all Face eli in ttt.” This anagram appropriately repositions the two es next to each other to reproduce Elgar's initials. “Eli” is Aramaic for "My God" and is also encoded as an acrostic by Elgar’s trilingual organ label. The glyph for the lower case "t" closely resembles the shape of the cross. Three ts in this anagram aptly symbolize the three crosses at Golgotha where Jesus was crucified between two criminals. The cross is a symbol of death, the sinister specter that overshadows the ominous sea crossing in Variation XIII, a movement with the recurring “D-E-A-D” motive in the contrabass line. Based on the foregoing analysis, the anagram “All face Eli in ttt” may be decoded as the phrase “All face ‘my God’ in death.” An alternate reading is, “All face ‘my God’ at the cross.”
Another prospective anagram sourced from Elgar’s parenthetical organ label is “nail l ttt eli Face.” The word “nail” is indelibly linked to the crucifixion as Jesus who was brutally nailed to the cross. Three crosses are portrayed by the three lowercase ts (ttt) and symbolize the crucifixion narrative. The lower case “l” eerily resembles a Roman nail. “L” is a homonym of “El,” the Hebrew word for God. Roman Catholicism teaches that Jesus is the incarnation of God in human form. The first part of the anagram “nail l ttt” may therefore be read as “Nail El (God) [to the] Cross.” Such a decryption is an apt description of the crucifixion of Christ. The second part “eli Face” may be interpreted as “My God['s] face.” The phrase “eli Face” could also conceivable allude to the moment when God the Father turned his face away from Christ languishing on the cross, resulting in three hours of darkness in the middle of the day. It was at the end of this blackout that Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
It was shown how the letters from “tacet till Finale” produce the related anagrams “All face Eli in ttt” (All face ‘My God” in death/at the cross) and “Nail L ttt Eli Face” (Nail God [to the] cross - My God[’s] Face). Both decryptions contain “Eli”, the same term formed as a reverse acrostic by Elgar’s trilingual “Organo” label. The discovery of various anagrams in the parenthetical section of the organ label enhances the prospect that the first three words are also a stand-alone anagram. This is certainly implied by the published score that dispenses with the parenthetical phrase ostensibly at Elgar’s behest. When treated as an anagram, the letters of “Organo, ad lib.” may be reorganized as “Lion God bara.” This proves to be a theologically sophisticated solution consistent with other anagrams procured from the parenthetical section.
The decryptions “Lion” and “God” are two labels applied to Jesus in the Christian scriptures. The title “Lion” is ascribed to Jesus in Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. In Revelation 5:5, Jesus is called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” He is also called “God” in John 1:1. The Hebrew word “bara” means “to create, shape, form,” and is always used with God as the subject. This Hebrew verb appears in the first verse of Genesis, “In the beginning, God created [bara] the heavens and the earth.” John 1:3 affirms that Jesus was at the creation and made everything: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” In Colossians 1:15-17, the Apostle Paul reiterates the doctrine that all things were created by, through, and for Jesus. Consequently, the anagram “Lion God bara” obtained from “Organo, ad. lib.” is permeated with theological references from the first and last books of the Bible. Jesus is the “Lion” and “God” of Christianity who created (bara) the heavens and the earth. Like the anagrams generated by the three words in parentheses, the solution is in more than one language.
Maestro Elder’s hunch about possible anagrams secreted away in Elgar’s “Organo” label proved highly perceptive and ultimately correct. These anagrams are formed by the three words “Organo, ad lib.” followed by three more words enclosed by parentheses (tacet till Finale). These two groups of three words intimate a coded form of Elgar’s initials as the number 33 is the mirror image of two capital cursive Es. These stealth initials also present themselves at Rehearsal 33 in conjunction with the Nimrod Timpani Tuning Cipher. These two sets of three words that comprise Elgar’s organ label encipher mutually consistent anagrams that confirm Elgar’s secret friend is Jesus Christ.

Elgar’s “Organo” Label Character Sums Ciphers

Another possible way to analyze Elgar’s organ label is to add up the number of characters in each word, then convert those sums into their corresponding letters of the alphabet using a basic number-to-letter key (1 = A, 2 = B, 3 = C, etc.). Although the comma after “Organo” does not appear on the autograph score, it was added prior to publication ostensibly at Elgar’s behest. The same holds true for the absent period after “lib” on the autograph score. The parentheses were excluded from the calculations as they are extraneous to the text and enclose a discrete subcipher. Remarkably, the parentheses may connect at the top and overlap at the bottom to form the Ichythus, an ancient Christogram commonly referred to as the Jesus Fish. When early Christians encountered one another during an era of intense Roman persecution, they drew this symbol as a cipher to secretly and safely communicate their forbidden faith. This tradition would explain why each friend depicted in the Enigma Variations has parenthesis around their title because they were united by a Christian worldview.

The only titles bereft of parentheses are Enigma, Intermezzo, Romanza, and Finale. Those terms are an acrostic anagram of “FREI,” the first word in Joachim’s romantic motto “Frei aber einsam.” As mentioned earlier, Elgar enciphered the initials of that motto using the key letters of the Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII. The shared decryptions of the Mendelssohn “FAE” and Enigma nonparenthetical titles “FREI” cipher are corroborative.
The character sums from the six-word organ label and letter conversions are summarized in the table below:

These character sums convert into the plaintext letters G, B, D, E, D, and F. Those in the even positions (2nd, 4th, and 6th) are a reverse spelling of “FEB”: G, B, D, E, D, and F. The even position numbers (2, 4, 6) are conspicuous because the first combine to create 24, the number of letters in the title of Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. The number six is also tied to this six-word title. When paired together, the latter numbers (4 and 6) allude to the number 46, the chapter from the Psalms that unveils that covert Theme’s title. Elgar penned the abbreviation “FEb” for “February” on the title page of the Enigma Variations and the last page of the original Finale. That abbreviation is a thinly veiled anagram of the initials for the hidden melody. Eight out of fifteen titles from the Enigma Variations possess three initials: I, III, IV, V, XI, XII, XIII, and XIV. This predominant trait among the titles robustly suggests that the mysterious melody’s title also has three initials.
The remaining three letters in the odd positions (1st, 3rd, and 6th) are “GDD.” The first two (G-D) are a phonetic rendering of God, a word that incidentally rhymes with odd. As previously mentioned, the first two melody notes of Variation XIII are “G-D.” The remaining “D” is the initial for “Deo” and “Dei,” two comparable Latin words for God. These three letters may be reshuffled to form the anagram “DGD.” These initials furnish the overlapping Latin abbreviations “DG” and “GD.” “DG” stands for “Deo Gratias” which means “Thanks be to God” That Latin expression surfaces as the abbreviation “D. G.” in the diary of Elgar’s wife. Elgar and Alice also used “Deo Gratias” in their written and presumably oral communications.
The initials “DG” equally signify the Latin phrase “Dei Gratia” which means “By the Grace of God.” That dictum appears on British coinage minted before and at the time Elgar composed the Enigma Variations. Coins played a special role at the June 1899 premiere. Elgar consulted with Richter’s timpanist Charles Henderson to find a way to make timpani rolls in Variation XIII mimic the distant throb of a steamer. On the score, Elgar directs the timpanist to use “side drum sticks,” but this method proved garish and ineffective. Henderson recommended replacing the drum sticks with half crown coins, clutching them tightly between the thumb and forefinger of each hand, and rapidly tapping the drum surface to generate a coruscating metallic drone. Elgar consented to this technique for the premiere, and this practice has continued to the present day. Remarkably, the 1899 British half crown coin has on its obverse face the motto “Dei Gra” which is an abbreviation of “Dei Gratia.” The decryption of “DG” as “Dei Gratia” is consistent with the timeline as Elgar inserted the organ part after the premiere of the Enigma Variations.

Why would Elgar neglect to revise the timpani part in Variation XIII to specify the use of coins instead of side drum sticks? The explanation hinges on his affinity for wordplay. The word “sticks” is a homophone of Styx, the mythical river crossed by the dead to the Underworld. Coins are traditionally placed over the eyes of the deceased to pay the ferryman. Elgar portrays a sea crossing by citing an incipit from Mendelssohn’s overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage. These melodic fragments symbolize the deathly stillness of a calm sea described in Goethe’s poetry. To drive this point home, Elgar spells out “DEAD” in the contrabass line of that movement four bars before Rehearsal 55, and a second time four bars before Rehearsal 59. The parallels between crossing a calm sea and the River Styx are unmistakable.
Elgar wrote “AMDG” as a dedication on the title page of his sacred masterpiece The Dream of Gerontius. Those initials are an acronym of the Jesuit motto “Ad Majorem Dei Glorium” (For the Greater Glory of God). The initials “DG” form the last half of that maxim’s acronym. A chord progression mingled with a dramatic upward 13-note scale run at the end of the original Finale cleverly enciphers “AMDG.” No wonder Elgar balked when asked to change the ending after the premiere because it would compromise this Finale Dedication Cipher.

The initials “DG” also stand for “Deo Gloria” which means “Glory to God.” That expression appears as part of the dedication “Soli Deo Gloria” written as “SDG” on manuscripts by Bach and Handel. The initials “GD” also represent “Gloria Dei” (Glory to God), a phrase used in musical settings of the mass such as Bach’s famous Mass in B minor. This analysis has shown how the anagram “DGD” may be decrypted as two overlapping Latin abbreviations (DG and GD) that convey the following five Latin expressions:
  1. Deo Gratias (Thanks be to God)
  2. Dei Gratia (Grace of God)
  3. Deo Gloria (Glory to God)
  4. Dei Glorium (God’s Glory)
  5. Gloria Dei (Glory to God)
Elgar’s efficient encoding of these Latin phrases via his organo label is contextually appropriate as the organ is traditionally used to perform sacred works that include those same expressions on their scores and in their lyrics.

Elgar’s “Organo” Label Anagram Ciphers

The next step in this cryptanalysis was to assess the organ label for prospective anagrams. Elgar’s six-word “Organo” label is shown below:

The first letters from Elgar’s six-word “Organo” label are “OalttF. When treated as an anagram, these initials may be reorganized as “OlaF” and “tt”. The name “Olaf” is in the title of Elgar’s Scenes from the Saga of King Olaf Op. 30. Commonly referred to as simply King Olaf, Elgar’s cantata premiered to great acclaim at the Hanley Festival in October 1896 with many of his friends and relations in attendance. The enthusiastic response of critics was aptly summed up by the proclamation that Elgar “. . . was the greatest English genius since Purcell . . .” Alice’s diary entry on October 30 encapsulates the moment: “Glorious King Olaf a magnificent triumph. D[eo] G[ratias].” The title and libretto came largely from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem The Saga of King Olaf, the longest section from his 1863 book Tales of a Wayside Inn. The story is recounted under the rubric “A Musician’s Tale” by a violinist who is a thinly disguised impersonation of Longfellow’s friend, the Norwegian virtuoso and composer Ole Bull. Like Elgar’s enciphered reference to Joachim’s motto in Variation XIII, this coded allusion to “Olaf” is connected to another legendary violinist of the 19th century.
Why would Elgar encipher the name “Olaf” as an acrostic anagram in his “Organo” label? The explanation lies in the persona of that crusading king who bravely battled evil, liberated pagan lands, and promulgated the Christian faith. The published Synopsis describes how King Olaf converts his country from the violent cult of Thor to Christianity. King Olaf’s missionary zeal is celebrated in the scene “King Olaf’s Return” where the bass recitativo declares:
Tell how King Olaf bore the Cross,
To the folk at Nidaros,
Norland, Iceland, lands and seas
Winning to the God of peace.
King Olaf dies fighting overwhelming odds in a sea battle against the Danes. The portrayal of Olaf as a Christian King who dies at sea presents distinct parallels with Elgar’s sketch of Jesus in Variation XIII, the “King of the Jews” whose death is immortalized by a somber sea crossing. The “deathly stillness” of the three Mendelssohn quotations symbolizes the entombment of Christ who likened his death and burial to the prophet Jonah who spent three days and nights in the belly of a “great fish.” The encoding “Olaf” in the “Organo” label provides powerful clues about the faith and kingship of Elgar’s anonymous friend.
Besides forming “Olaf” as an acrostic anagram, the remaining initials from Elgar’s original “Organo” label produce “tt.” These two-ts are the lower case initials for Torquato Tasso, the celebrated author of the Christian epic poem Jerusalem Delivered inspired by the First Crusade and the liberation of Jerusalem. Like Elgar’s organ label, the actual title of that work — La Gerusalemme Liberata — is in Italian. Elgar paraphrases a passage from that famous poem at the end of the original Finale where he wrote “Bramo assai, poco spero, nulla chieggio” followed by “(sic, 1595) [Tasso]”. The Tasso paraphrase is riddled with anomalies that signal the presence of a cipher. The liberation of Jerusalem by crusading knights presents obvious parallels with King Olaf’s mission to war against paganism and Christianize his country. The encoding of “Olaf” in conjunction with the initials for Torquato Tasso appears motivated by a common theme to combat superstition and spread the Gospel.
The last letters from each word of Elgar’s “Organo” label are “odbtle”. When treated as a telestich anagram, these final letters may be rearranged to form “btl ode.” The first three letters “btl” are a phonetic realization of “battle,” and the last three spells “ode.” An ode is a lyric poem intended to be sung, and this is precisely what Elgar accomplishes in his cantata King Olaf using the poetry of one of his favorite poets, Longfellow. This telestich anagram is mutually consistent with the acrostic anagram “Olaf.” A “battle ode” is a homage to a military campaign. Longfellow’s Saga of King Olaf and Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered are essentially battle odes of grand proportions. The acrostic and telestich anagrams from Elgar’s “Organo” label may be combined to generate “Olaf tt btl ode.” Based on the preceding analysis, this melding of first and last letters may be decrypted as “Olaf T[orquato] T[asso] battle ode.”
The first six and last six letters from Elgar’s original “Organo” label are “OalttF” and “odbtle” respectively. These twelve letters may be combined and rearranged as “lOaf bode l ttt.” A “loaf” is a quantity of bread. In one of his enigmatic “I am” statements, Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.” On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus broke bread at the Last Supper to symbolize his broken body. This crucial moment in the ministry of Christ is re-enacted at the Eucharist, a ritual also referred to as Holy Communion and the Lord’s Supper. The word “bode” refers to a sign, but it may also be read phonetically as “body” with the “e” pronounced as the letter. The lower case “l” is a homonym of the Hebrew word “El” which means “God.” Jesus used bread as a symbol of his body. The three ts (ttt) aptly depict the three crosses at Golgotha where Jesus was crucified between two criminals. The combined anagram “Loaf Bode L ttt” sourced from the first and last letters of the “Organo” label is rich with theological symbolism and overtones associated with Elgar’s secret friend.

Alternate “Organo” Label Anagram Ciphers

It was previously discussed how the short score title for Variation XIII substitutes the medieval Latin letter “V” for “U” as a ploy to obscure the reverse acrostic “LUX.” A similar tact is apparent with Elgar’s organ label as he uses the dated Middle English preposition “till” in lieu of the modern “until.” In each instance, the technique of substituting something contemporary with an antiquated version is an effective means for camouflaging a cipher. Elgar’s antiquated language prompted the editors of the Complete Edition to substitute “till” with “until”. What happens when “till” is replaced by “until” in Elgar’s six-word organ label? The outcome is an impressive array of acrostic, mesostich, and telestich anagrams.

The first column of letters is an acrostic anagram of “Flauto,” the Italian word for flute. That decryption is in the same language as the “Organo” label. “Flauto” is affiliated with the pipe organ because it has a rank of flu pipes called the flutes. Such a solution also hints at the composer of Ein feste Burg because Martin Luther was an avid flutist. It was Luther’s proficiency on that instrument that motivated Mendelssohn to introduce Ein feste Burg in the Reformation Symphony on a flute solo.
The second column of letters generates the mesostich anagrams “ad” and “inri.” “AD” is the Latin abbreviation for “Anno Domini” which means “Year of our Lord.” The complete phrase is “Anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi” which translates as “In the year of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When Christ was crucified, his capital offense was advertised on a placard in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. The Latin inscription read, “IESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDÆORVM.” The translation reads as, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” The Latin acronym from Jesus’ death warrant is “INRI”, a popular Christogram. The second column of letters encodes two mesostich anagrams that affirm the identity of Elgar’s anonymous friend.
The last letters in Elgar’s “Organo” label remain unchanged when the word “till” is supplanted by “until.” It was shown earlier how these final letters form “btl ode,” a telestich anagram that may be read phonetically as “Battle Ode.” This decryption is a suitable designation for Ein feste Burg, the hidden melody to the Enigma Variations. “A Mighty Fortress” is commonly designated as the “Battle Hymn of the Reformation.” The romantic author Heinrich Heine described Luther’s Ein feste Burg as “the Marseillaise of the Reformation.” The Marseillaise is the national anthem of France composed in 1792 as a war song by the French army officer Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle. King Gustavus Adolphus urged his soldiers to sing Ein feste Burg as a battle anthem during the Thirty Years War. Frederick the Great proudly called it “God Almighty’s grenadier march.” Wagner cites Ein feste Burg in his Kaisermarsch, a patriotic work that commemorates Germany’s victory in the Franco-Prussian War. With such a martial pedigree, Ein feste Burg may be safely characterized as a battle ode.
A second telestich anagram from the last letters “odbtl” is “betold.” That term is the simple past tense and past participle of the Middle English word betellen which means “to speak about, answer, defend oneself against a charge or accusation.” Matthew 26:57-65 gives an account of the trial of Jesus before Sanhedrin in the middle of the night. Caiaphas implored, “I demand in the name of the living God — tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus replied in his defense, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” With that answer, Jesus sealed his fate because it was adjudicated as blasphemy, a capital offense under Jewish law. Christ “betold” the truth, and for this was condemned to death by corrupt religious authorities.
A third prospective telestich anagram from the letters “odbtl” is “bode t l.” The word “bode” means “a sign” and appears in such familiar phrases as “bode ill” and “bode well.” As previously acknowledged, the lower case “t” is a symbol of the cross. Consequently, “bod t” may be decoded as “sign [of the] cross.” The sign of the cross is a ritual blessing performed by many branches of Christianity including the Roman Catholic and Lutheran faiths. The final letter “l” is a phonetic version of the Hebrew “El” meaning “God.” The telestich anagram “bode t l” may be interpolated as “sign of the cross” accompanied by the word “God.


A small group of Elgar Society members was privileged to meet with Maestro Elder in Dallas in late October 2021. At that gathering, I presented a panoply of contrapuntal and cryptographic evidence that implicates the Lutheran hymn Ein feste Burg as the covert Theme to the Enigma Variations, and Jesus Christ as the anonymous friend whose death is immortalized in Variation XIII. My primary objective was to introduce the Maestro to these discoveries and dispel a pernicious misconception that there are no counterpoints or ciphers embedded within the Enigma Variations. He listened intently and asked pertinent queries that precipitated the discovery of a fascinating subset of ciphers in the “Organo” label. Maestro Elder is to be commended for his perceptive contribution to this burgeoning field of research.
Much work still remains to be done to more fully fathom Elgar’s symphonic homage to counterpoint and cryptography. Those who object to the complexity of these puzzles and their elaborate solutions are urged to revisit the definition of “enigma.” Merriam-Webster defines that term as “something hard to understand or explain.” Legacy scholars who insist on simple answers to multiplex counterpoints and ciphers impose an artificial constraint on Elgar’s multifaceted genius. The unfortunate outcome is a wholesale neglect of a promising avenue of inquiry that deepens and expands our understanding of Elgar. As an autodidact and polymath, Elgar challenged prevailing norms and transcended convention to create his own harmonic and melodic language. His fascination with cryptography and counterpoints should not remain verboten or arcane, but be recognized as a legitimate domain of investigation and analysis.
The conductor Hans Richter was fond of the maxim, Musica lux in tenebris. This Latin motto means, "Music is light in the darkness. It is sincerely hoped that as President of the Elgar Society, Maestro Elder will issue a clarion call for a reappraisal of the dominant paradigm that adamantly denies or minimizes Elgar's profound contrapuntal and cryptographic contributions to music. By this action, he could initiate a reformation that will revitalize Elgar studies and unleash an exciting new era of exploration. Like those who attended the June 1899 London premiere, we will hear the Enigma Variations with a renewed sense of wonder and awe at secrets yet to be discovered. My small contributions merely mark the beginning of that far larger enterprise. To learn more about the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar’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.