Sunday, January 1, 2023

Elgar’s Bars 15-17 Enigma Ciphers

A London Railway Station (circa 1890)
He who laughs last, laughs best.
An English Proverb from the early 17th century

During railway journeys amuses himself with cryptograms; solved one by John Holt Schooling who defied the world to unravel his mystery.
Robert J. Buckley in his 1905 biography Sir Edward Elgar

The Enigma Theme spells “EFB GAG” in the melody and countermelody of bar 16. “EFB” is the acronym for Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress), the covert Theme of the Variations. “Gag” is defined as a practical joke and a prohibition against being heard. Unmasking that note cipher spurred a comprehensive search for other cryptograms in this region of the score. Note letters in bar 16 encode the acronym for Joseph Joachim’s motto “Frei aber einsam” (FAE), the initials for Jesus Christ in Italian (GC), Before Christ (BC), Anno Domine and Agnus Dei (AD), Deo Gratias (DG), Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (AMDG), Castle Church (CC), Exsurge Dominine (ED), Edward Elgar (EE), and Caroline Alice Elgar (CAE). The Morse code translation of the melody in bar 16 is “I M,” a phonetic rendering of the Great “I AM” from the Exodus account. Performance directions in bar 16 supply the initials for Pontius Pilate (PP), Protestant Reformation (PR), Reformation Day (RD), the number ninety-five, the Latin acronym for Luther’s Ninety-five Theses (DPDVI), the German word for door (tür), Tetzel’s drum, the words Ein, Pi, mist, and the phrases “Unto Messi[e]” (Unto Messiah) and “Turin S[hroud].” The adjacent bar numbers 15 and 17 encode the year 1517 when Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the door of Castle Church. 31 notes in bar 16 implicate October 31, the anniversary of Reformation Day. Notes in bar 17 provide the initials for Deo Gratias, Anno Domine, Agnus Dei, All Hallows Feast, and anagrams for Abba and Dad. Note totals in that bar encode the letter L, the Christogram “IC”, and the initials for Christ Jesus. Morse code translates the rhythm in bar 17 into T, a letter that represents the tau (T) and Latin (t) crosses. Analogous ciphers from other parts of the Enigma Variations are also surveyed.


Elgar the Cryptologist
The British composer Edward Elgar was entranced by phonetic spellings, wordplays, and anagrams. One notable example is the title “Craeg Lea” given to his Malvern home where Elgar’s family resided between 1899 and 1904. That odd moniker is an anagram constructed from “Elgar” spelled backward (Craeg Lea) mingled with the initials from the first names of his daughter Carice, himself, and his wife Alice (Craeg Lea). Elgar challenged Dora Penny to decipher the meaning of his home’s eccentric moniker. She caught on quickly as recounted in her memoir:
Edward called the place Craeg Lea and challenged me to guess how he had found the name. By some stroke of luck, I realized that the key lay in the unusual spelling of “Craeg” and immediately saw that the thing had been built up anagrammatically from (A)lice, (C)arice, (E)dward ELGAR. I think he was a little annoyed that this mystification had fallen flat.
Elgar’s enthusiasm for word games culminated in an obsession for cryptography, the discipline of coding and decoding secret messages. His expertise in that esoteric art is intimately documented by Craig P. Bauer in his book Unsolved! The bulk of the third chapter is devoted to Elgar’s meticulous decryption of an allegedly insoluble Nihilist cipher presented by John Holt Schooling in an April 1896 issue of The Pall Mall Magazine. A Nihilist cipher is a derivative of the Polybius square, a method for fractionating plaintext so that pairs of symbols encode one character. A Polybius key resembles a checkerboard with solution letters dispersed among the smaller squares on the board. When combined together, row and column labels designate a particular plaintext letter within a given cell, a system that operates much like algebraic notation is used to record the movements of chess pieces.

Polybius Square Key Example

Elgar was so delighted with his solution to Schooling’s challenge cipher that he bragged 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. The historical record is unambiguous: Elgar was an accomplished expert in cryptography.
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).” In Elgar’s nomenclature, dark is a synonym for cipher.

The linguistic connection between “dark” and “cipher” is pertinent to this investigation as that 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 because Elgar lays the groundwork for his melodic riddle:
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.
Elgar composed the Enigma Variations between October 21, 1898, and February 19, 1899, and appended 96 bars to the Finale between June 30 and July 20, 1899. 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 melodic cornerstone underlying the whole work, a subject that has provoked interminable debate regarding 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 ploy. The editors of the Elgar Complete Edition of the Enigma Variations blithely deny the likelihood there could be any covert counterpoints or cryptograms. Relying on Elgar’s recollection of playing new material at the piano to solicit his wife’s perceptive feedback, 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 sweeping abnegation conveniently relieves them of any obligation to probe for ciphers or cryptograms. Proponents of such an obtuse nihilism extol the validity of their position based on a dearth of evidence for which they never executed a diligent or impartial search. This tautological cul-de-sac is a textbook case of confirmation bias pawned off as scholarship. Musicologists miss the columns for the frieze. In the fourth chapter of The Cambridge Companion to Elgar, Christopher Kent meticulously documents how Elgar sketched and accumulated musical ideas in pastoral settings long before ever testing them out at the piano to gauge his wife’s reaction. Those familiar with Elgar’s compositional methods should know better than to proffer the ludicrous myth that he miraculously improvised the Enigma Theme without any advanced planning or preparation.
The concertmaster of the London Symphony Orchestra, William H. Reed, was a close friend and confidante of Elgar for almost three decades. In his 1936 book Elgar As I Knew Him, Reed encapsulates Elgar’s compulsive compositional process:
He wrote innumerable repetitions of the same section in the music; I have seen a matter of twenty or thirty bars written in short score eight or nine times without very much change except for a little twist here or an interpolation there. He liked to see how it shaped—how it presented itself to the eye as well as to the ear. Fugitive phrases he would redraft and play with by inversion, augmentation, and other devices as if they haunted him.
Contrary to conventional lore, Elgar’s writing habits guarantee that the Enigma Theme was not an improvisational foray, but instead a methodically choreographed piece of music.
Endorsed by those who take Elgar at his published word, the more sensible view accepts the challenge that there is a famous melody lurking behind the Variations’ contrapuntal and modal facade. Regardless of what side is taken in the dispute, legacy 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 nomenklatura 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 psychological profile enhances the possibility 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 cornucopia of cryptograms may seem extraordinary, it is entirely consistent with Elgar’s lifelong fascination for ciphers. More significantly, the solutions give definitive answers to the core conundrums posed by the Enigma Variations. What is the absent 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 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 verifying these discoveries is diverse, decisive, mutually consistent, and multivalent. Such a vast trove of ciphers affirms that the Enigma Variations is ultimately a musical homage to cryptography.

The Enigma Theme’s “GAG” Ciphers
Uncovering scores of ciphers within the Enigma Variations’ score provoked an ongoing search for additional cryptograms. Prior cryptanalysis found that the melody in bar 6 of the Enigma Theme spells “GAG,” and that a cluster of notes in the melody and countermelody of bar 16 generates “EFB GAG.” These note ciphers are identified in the following short score reduction.

The note letters “EFB” are the acronym for Ein feste Burg, the covert Theme of the Enigma Variations. Elgar was familiar with the term gag as documented in his published correspondence where he uses it in a humorous milieu. When treated as a noun, a gag may be defined as a prank or trick. This definition resonates with Elgar’s published program note for an October 1911 performance in Turin that advises the Variations “. . . commenced in a spirit of humour & continued in deep seriousness . . .” A gag is distinctly comical. Elgar's impulse for japery justifies interpreting gag as a practical joke because a proud Roman Catholic surreptitiously citing the battle hymn of the Reformation presents a jarring irony. Such a solution would certainly be unguessed as stipulated by Elgar in the original 1899 program note.
Gag can also mean to restrain or silence as in a gag order or gag rule. Elgar was widely read and studied legal terms in his mid-teens. After completing his education at Littleton House, Elgar was invited by solicitor Willliam Allen to pursue a legal career. Allen was a fellow Roman Catholic who attended St. George’s Church in Worcester where Elgar then served as an assistant organist to his father. In June 1872, Elgar began a one-year apprenticeship at Allen’s law office where he was introduced to a bevy of legal terminology. In April 1873, Elgar attended an orchestral concert where his father played second violin. After spending the entire day with his father, Elgar humorously submitted a “Bill of Costs” that parodied Mr. Allen’s judicial jargon. A friend and confidant for nearly 30 years, Reed mentions Elgar’s command of legalese:
Also I heard about the time he spent before that in a lawyer’s office, and the things he learnt there. He retained an unexpected knowledge of legal affairs, and had all the legal vocabulary at his tongue’s end. He had been given responsible work too; and it was delightful to hear that note of pride in his voice when he told me how the firm had remarked to his father that Edward was a “bright lad.”
The sequential note letters “EFB GAG” in bar 16 of the Enigma Theme allow the consideration of two contrasting definitions of gag. The first relates to something humorous such as a practical joke or prank. The second centers on silence by imposing a prohibition against being heard. Elgar’s selection of a Protestant anthem is unexpectedly comical because of his staunch Roman Catholicism, thereby satisfying the first definition of gag. In his 1899 program note, Elgar explains that the principal Theme goes “through and over” the set of Variations “but is not played.” Although functioning as the foundational Theme, Ein feste Burg remains silent. Elgar effectively gagged the principal Theme by cloaking it with an enigmatic counterpoint. Consequently, divergent definitions of gag pertaining to humor and silence are applicable in this context.

Bar 16 Performance Terms “Rumped” Anagram
Bar 16 has five discrete performance directions: rit., unis., mesto, pp, and dim. The first letters of these performance terms are an acrostic anagram of “rumpd,” a phonetic version of rumped. This term originates from rump which is defined as the buttocks, backside, or “a small inferior remnant or offshoot.” The “GAG” Ciphers at the ends of Sections A (bars 1-6) and A’ (bars 11-17) point to Ein feste Burg as the butt of Elgar’s musical joke. When used as slang, rumped refers to someone exposed to another’s bare posterior. In the 1995 historical drama Braveheart, William Wallace and his Scottish troops rumped the British Army of the North before annihilating them at the Battle of Stirling. The positioning in bar 16 of the performance directions “rumpd” anagram alongside the “EFB GAG” notes cipher intimates that Elgar exposes the posterior of Ein feste Burg as the butt-end of his contrapuntal jape. Consistent with this interpretation, the rosalia figures in Section B (bars 7-10) of the Enigma Theme reprise fourteen incipits of Phrase B from Ein feste Burg. That sum mirrors the fourteen Variations which are assigned Roman numerals.

This four-note incipit from the ending phrase of Ein feste Burg is deftly woven into the fabric of the Enigma Theme. For example, the diminished retrograde inversion of this Phrase B incipit serves as the primary building block of the rosalia figure in Section B (bars 7-10). Twelve of these retrograde incipits are labeled with blue arrows with four in the clarinet staff, two in the French horn staves, two in the first violin staff, three in the second violin staff, and one in the violas staff. A descending four-note incipit (F-sharp, E, D, C) shown in red is played in unison by the flutes and oboes in bars 10 and 11 in an augmented whole-tone format. Extensive research found that the tail end of Ein feste Burg is quoted in divergent guises within the Variations. The Enigma Theme’s countermelody cites a four-note fragment of that famous hymn’s ending phrase in bar 16 adapted to the minor mode (G, F, E-flat, D).

That same four-note fragment is played by the inner voice of Variation X in an augmented version (G, F-sharp, E, D), first in bars 382 through 386, and a second time in bars 404 through 408.

In Variation XIII, the clarinet solos in A-flat major and E-flat major are musical anagrams of the concluding phrase from Ein feste Burg. That ending phrase furnishes the building blocks of a countermelody at Rehearsal 66 in the Finale that is prominently featured at Rehearsal 68 with a grandioso rendition of the Enigma Theme. Elgar hinted at the predominance of the ending over the beginning by quoting a passage from Longfellow’s Elegiac Verse at the end of the extended Finale, “Great is the art of beginning, but greater the art is of ending.” This insight is affirmed by Elgar’s retrograde treatment of Ein feste Burg “through and over” the Enigma Theme, and numerous fragments from the ending phrase of that famous hymn scattered throughout the Variations.

Section B “EFB” Notes Anagrams
The proximity of written and sounding notes in these Section B rosalia figures in the Enigma Theme furnish the initials “EFB” of the covert Theme in various configurations. For instance, the principal clarinet’s melody in bar 7 features the written note sequence E, F-sharp, and B. On beat four of bar 7 continuing to the downbeat of bar 8, the flutes play the notes F-sharp, E, and B. In bar 8, the second horn has a written F-sharp on the downbeat followed on beat three by a written B and E for by the third and fourth horns. In bar 9, the second violins and violas play the notes E, F-sharp, and B in order as part of the ascending harmonic thirds figure. These same notes are doubled in concert pitch by the clarinets in bar 9. Proximate notes in the staves for Violin I, Violin II, and Viola, provide the initials of that epic hymn in measure 10. These examples suffice to illustrate how the initials of Ein feste Burg are encoded by proximate written notes in Section B of the Enigma Theme. It is noteworthy that these “EFB” note sequences are intermingled with four-note incipits of Phrase B from Ein feste Burg.

Elgar’s Cheeky Wordplay
Elgar performed the Enigma Theme for his wife on the evening of October 21, 1898, a date commemorated annually by Elgarians as Enigma Day. Three days later on October 24, 1898, Elgar wrote his friend August Jaeger to apprise him of his new orchestral project: 
Since I’ve been back I have sketched a set of Variations (orkestry) on an original theme: the Variations have amused me because I’ve labeled ‘em with the nicknames of my particular friends – you are Nimrod. That is to say I’ve written the variations each one to represent the mood of the ‘party’ – I’ve liked to imagine the ‘party’ writing the var: him (or her) self & have written what I think they wd. have written – if they were asses enough to compose – it’s a quaint idee & the result is amusing to those behind the scene & won’t affect the hearer who ‘nose nuffin. What think you”
Elgar employs an interesting choice of words by likening his friends’ exertions at writing music to assess. A cursory explanation would be that Elgar wanted to convey the stubbornness necessary to compose. A more nuanced assessment recognizes that “ass” presents the initials for A Safe Stronghold, a popular translation of Ein feste Burg by Thomas Carlyle presented in his 1831 essay Luther’s Psalm. It is salient that ass is also a synonym for rump or backside. This coded emphasis on the ending of Ein feste Burg is significant because research confirms that Elgar began his counterpoint with the Enigma Theme using that final phrase. This violates the reflexive expectation that the hidden melody’s beginning should play at the opening of the Enigma Theme. In an unexpected twist, Elgar mapped Ein feste Burg in reverse above the Enigma Theme as a retrograde counterpoint. Rather than playing forward in the ordinary manner, the secret melody plays backward from the end to its beginning. This rarely used contrapuntal technique amply warrants the title “Enigma.” Playing the secret melody in reverse above the Enigma Theme is tantamount to a musical trick or prank that camouflages it from detection.

Elgar’s Bar 16 Initials Ciphers
The emotive intensity of bar 16 with its “EFB GAG”' cipher triggered an in-depth reassessment of that region of the orchestral score. Situated six bars after Rehearsal 1, bar 16 appears two measures before the end bar on the third page of the Elgar Complete Edition:

The Enigma Theme Bars 12–17 (Full Score)

Bar 16 has 31 written notes dispersed over eight staves for woodwinds (Clarinets I and II), brass (French Horn I), and strings (Violins I and II, Viola, Cello, and Contrabass). All notes in written pitch from bar 16 are summarized in the table below.

Pulling on the thread presented by Elgar's "EFB GAG" Cipher unraveled an elaborate tapestry of interlocking cryptograms. A cryptanalysis of the notes in bar 16 uncovered encoded solutions pertaining to the secret melody and friend immortalized in Variation XIII. It was previously shown how the initials for Ein feste Burg are furnished in bar 16 by contiguous notes in the countermelody (F and E-flat on beats 1.5 and 2) and melody (B-flat on beat 2). Bar 16 has thirteen written note letters that may be used to generate the initials for Ein feste Burg: One E natural, three B-flats, three F naturals, and six E-flats. Stripping away the accidentals leaves three Bs, six Es, and three Fs. These unique notes may be arranged in 63 different ways (3 x 3 x 7) as anagrams of “EFB,” the initials of the covert Theme. The tempo for the Enigma Theme is 63 quarter beats per minute, a figure that mirrors the opus number 36. Thirteen is also a relevant sum because Variation XIII contains numerous ciphers that encode the initials, title, and ending phrase of Ein feste Burg. God is called a rock, fortress, stronghold, refuge, and deliverer in the scriptures (e.g., Psalm 18:2, Psalm 46:1, Psalm 62:6, Psalm 91:2, Psalm 144:2, 2 Samual 22:2, and Nahum 1:7). These scriptures, particularly Psalm 46:1, ascribe to God the title Ein fest Burg (A Mighty Fortress). In accordance with Trinitarian doctrine, that German title would also apply to Jesus. Coded references to the title Ein feste Burg implicate not only the title of the covert Theme but also one for Elgar’s anonymous friend.

The initials “GC” for Gesù CristoJesus Christ in Italian — are presented concurrently as written notes on beat 1.5 by the clarinets (G) and French horn (C). These same notes are played together on beats 3 and 4.5 by the first violins (G) and second bassoon (C). The same notes appear on beat 4 in the parts for the principal French horn (G), cellos, and contrabasses (C). In all, there are five Cs and six Gs in bar 16. These eleven notes yield 30 anagrams of “GC,” the Italian initials for Elgar’s anonymous friend memorialized in Variation XIII. An Italian decryption is consistent with the Italian performance directions in bar 16 (mesto, dim., div.. pp, rit., and unis.) and the Italian labels for the instrumentation.

The initials for Cristo Gesù are encoded in the Enigma Theme by Plagel cadences in bars 6-7 and 16-17. Each Plagel cadence begins with a C minor triad that resolves to G major. The Encyclopedia Britannica explains that this cadential formula is known as the “Amen” cadence because “. . . its most characteristic and formulaic usage in the West is with the final amen (IV–I) at the end of a hymn in Christian churches.” By deploying a Plagal cadence in bars 16-17, Elgar concludes the Enigma Theme just like a hymn, a standard practice he employed while serving as organist at St. George’s Church in Worcester. This “Amen” cadence is a dead giveaway about the covert Theme because Ein feste Burg is a hymn.

Bars 760-767 Initials Ciphers
Church organists typically perform a hymn’s ending phrase as an introduction before the congregation joins in to sing the first stanza. Three bars after Rehearsal 76, Elgar adds an organ part to enlarge and ennoble the triumphant peroration to Variation XIV. The addition of an organ part at the end of the Finale intimates the practice of playing a hymn’s concluding phrase as an introduction. Like the Enigma Theme, the Finale concludes with a Plagel cadence that commences with a C minor triad (bars 760-767) sustained below an augmented descending four-note fragment (B-flat, A, G, F-sharp), an incipit from the covert Theme’s ending phrase transposed a minor third higher. Bars 760 through 767 contain written note anagrams of “EFB” (Ein feste Burg), “EE” (Edward Elgar), “CAE” (Caroline Alice Elgar), and “FAE” (Joseph Joachim’s romantic motto “Frei aber einsam” meaning “Free but lonely”). In some cases, these note anagrams imbricate each another as seen in bars 766 and 767. The “Amen” cadence resolves down a perfect fourth to a protracted G major tonic triad beginning at Rehearsal 83 (bars 768-780). The chord sequence for this Plagal cadence (C minor to G major) encodes the Italian initials for Cristo Gesù. With adjacent note letters, Elgar ingeniously enciphered the hidden melody’s initials and a four-note fragment from its concluding phrase near the endings of the Enigma Theme and Variation XIV.

Joachim’s maxim is encoded as a sequence of acrostic, mesostich, and telestich anagrams in the titles Enigma, Intermezzo, Romanza, and Finale. The acrostic anagram produces “Frei,” the German word for free. The second solution in the sequence is the telestich “ma” which is Italian for but. The third is the melostich “eanzam,” a phonetic version of the German word “einsam” meaning lonely. The mesostich is exemplary of Elgar’s penchant for idiosyncratic spellings. These decryptions in German and Italian are encoded within a matrix of German and Italian terms. The words Enigma and Finale and identical in German and Italian. The terms Intermezzo and Romanza are both Italian. The discovery of this particular cipher bolsters the decryption of the proximate note letters “FAE” as a coded form of Joachim’s proverb. The key letters of the Mendelssohn incipits in Variation XIII ( A-flat major, F minor, E-flat major) are an anagram of Joachim’s motto.

Coded references to Joachim’s maxim recapitulate Elgar’s comments regarding the Engima Theme in a letter to the music critic Ernest Newman penned on August 14, 1912. In his missive, Elgar advised that the Enigma Theme “. . . expressed when written (in 1898) my sense of the loneliness of the artist . . . and to me it still embodies that sense . . .” “Free but lonely” is a fitting mantra for the lonely artist haunting the Enigma Theme. The expression “Frei aber einsam” is three words in German, the same sum and language as in the covert Theme’s title, Ein feste Burg. The initials “FAE” and ‘EFB” share two common letters (EF) with the third only one off from the other (A versus B). Remarkably, the acronym “FAE” furnishes the glyphs required to reproduce the initials for “A Mighty Fortress.”
The name of Elgar’s secret friend is cited in the second stanza of Ein feste Burg with the declaration, “Er heißt Jesus Christ.” Thomas Carlyle translated that line literally as “Christ Jesus is his name.” Frederic Hedge’s 1853 translation renders that phrase as “Christ Jesus, it is he.” In both versions, “Christ Jesus” corresponds to the Italian initials “CG” encoded by the “Amen” cadences in bars 6-7 and 16-17 of the Enigma Theme, and the elongated Plagel cadence in bars 760 through 768 of the Finale. The Enigma Theme’s second (G) and third (C) melody notes in bars 1 and 11 encipher the Italian initials “GC.” In the first measure, a musical Polybius cipher encodes “GSUS”, a phonetic spelling of Jesus. Different cryptograms in the first bar encode mutually consistent solutions that implicate Jesus as Elgar’s anonymous friend.

More Bar 16 Initials Ciphers
Bar 16 has three written As, one E, six E-flats, and three Fs. These thirteen note letters generate 63 anagrams of “FAE,” the acronym of violinist Joachim’s German maxim “Free aber einsam” (Free but lonely). 63 is the tempo indication for the Enigma Theme and the converse of the opus number 36. The musical cryptogram “FAE” is a recurring motif in the F-A-E Violin Sonata, a four movement work composed collaboratively in 1851 by Robert Schumann, Albert Dietrich, and Johannes Brahms as a tribute to Joachim. The first “FAE” is realized on beat 1.5 by the clarinets (A), violas (E-flat), and cellos (F). The identical acronym is enciphered by the key letters of the Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII (A-flat major, F minor, and E-flat major) and written note combinations in the bars preceding the penultimate Plagal cadence of the Finale at Rehearsal 83.

The initials of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea who ordered the brutal scourging and crucifixion of Jesus, are enciphered eight times in bar 16 as the dynamic pianissimo (pp). The written notes B-flat and C furnish the initials “BC,” the acronym for “Before Christ.” The “BC” note sequence occurs on beat 2 with a written B-flat for the principal French horn and first violins followed on beat three with a C for the second bassoon and contrabasses. A total of three B-flats and five Cs in bar 16 produce fifteen anagrams of “BC.”

The written notes A and D provide the initials for the Latin phrase “Anno Domini” (Year of our Lord). This Latin phrase is a shorthand for the expression, “Anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi” (In the year of our Lord Jesus Christ). These two notes are also an acronym for Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), one of many appellations for Jesus. The first “AD” on the downbeat of bar 16 is formed by the clarinets (A) and principal French horn (D). The second pairing appears on beat three with the principal French horn (A), second violins (D), and alternatively, the cellos (D). Another “AD” occurs on beat four between the first violins (A) and the principal clarinet (D). In total, four A notes and three D notes permit twelve combinations of “AD” in bar 16. The encoding of “AD” on beats 1, 3, and 4 of that measure is mutually consistent with the decryption of “GC” on beat 4 as the Italian initials for Jesus Christ.

The note letters D and G generate the acronym for the Latin expression “Deo Gratias” (Thanks be to God). These same note letters present a phonetic realization of God (G-D), the recipient of gratitude. Elgar’s wife, Alice, repeatedly uses the phrase “Deo Gratias” in her diary. After their first year of marriage, she wrote in her 1889 diary, “End of the first year together: happy and loving: trusting and hoping together, as one! — Deo gratias!” The opening two melody notes of Variation XIII (G-D) encipher that Roman Catholic phrase. The first “DG” note alignment is formed on beat 1 between the principal French horn (D) and the second violins and cellos (G). The next note convergence occurs on beat 3 between the second violins and cellos (D), and first violins (G). The final “DG” note union is on beat 4 between the principal clarinet (D) and principal French horn (G). A total of four Ds and four Gs enable sixteen anagrams of “DG” in bar 16. The same computation regarding these notes applies to the phonetic spelling of God (G-D).

Elgar dedicated his major sacred works such as The Dream of Gerontius by inscribing “A. M. D. G.” on the title page. This Jesuit acronym represents the Latin phrase, “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” (For the Great Glory of God). Three of these initials are readily sourced from the musical alphabet, i.e., A, D, and G. The absent letter M is subtly emphasized in bar 16 in various ways. Directly above the B-flat in the first violin staff is the term mesto, a word that begins with the letter m. A recurring pattern in the Enigma Theme’s rhythmic structure is two quarter notes. Two quarter notes are the equivalent of two dashes in International Morse Code, a pattern that encodes the letter M. The second and third beats of bar 16 consist of two melodic quarter notes with a B-flat descending by a minor third to G. The number three (3) from that melodic interval is a homoglyph of both the capital cursive E and M.
Although there is no M in the musical alphabet, the glyph for E may be rotated clockwise 90 degrees to replicate that letter. Elgar employs that identical technique in his Dorabella Cipher where he reorients an E to resemble an M. This character cryptogram dates from July 1897, 464 days before Elgar first performed the Enigma Theme on the piano for his wife.

The Dorabella Cipher (July 14, 1897)

Bar 16 has seventeen written notes that furnish the characters required to assemble the Jesuit acronym “AMDG”: Three As, four Ds, one E, five E-flats, and four Gs. These seventeen written note letters generate a whopping 363 anagrams of that Jesuit motto. Bar 16 has two clear examples of where these four note letters align to encode that Latin dedication. The first is formed on the downbeat of bar 16 by the clarinets (A), principal French horn (D), second violins and cellos (G), and double bass (E-flat). The second is produced on the third beat by the clarinets (E), principal French horn (A), first violins (G), second violins, and cellos (D). Beat three is the precise location where the letter M is enciphered in Morse Code by the two consecutive quarter notes in the Enigma Theme’s melody.

Bars 681-683 “AMDG” Finale Cipher
A chord sequence starting four bars from the original ending of the Finale encodes three of the four initials for “AMDG.” Measure 681 opens with a forceful A minor seventh chord that decrescendos into the next bar. This is followed in bar 682 by a dramatic scale run upwards that arrives at a fortissimo D dominant seventh chord on beat four. This dominant seventh resolves on the downbeat of bar 683 to a tonic G major chord. The order of these chord letters is A-D-G, a pattern reinforced by the contrabass section that performs the identical note sequence. This chord and notes series presents the three available musical note letters of “AMDG” in the correct order. The lone holdout is M, a letter inaccessible in the musical alphabet. To encipher that letter, Elgar would need to resort to other indirect means.
One way the absent m is supplied in bar 682 is by the initial for the performance direction molto which appears four times in that measure. M is the alphabet’s thirteenth letter, a number embedded within that bar 682 in four discernable ways. The first is by the instrumental parts which have precisely thirteen coincident written notes at the outset of that measure. This pattern of thirteen concurrent written notes persists until the arrival of the dominant seventh on beat 4. The second is with the upward thirteen-note scale run that covers the interval of a major thirteenth. A third and less obvious way Elgar pinpoints the number thirteen in this bar is through thirteen performance terms dispersed over the first three quarter beats. There are six ff, four molto, and three cresc. The fourth method is by the sum of the characters in “ff molto cresc.” which adds up to precisely thirteen. These redundant encoded forms of the number thirteen implicate the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, the missing M.

The location of these coded versions of M appears between the A minor seventh and D dominant chords, the correct location required to complete a stealth “AMDG” dedication. The location of this cryptogram near the original ending explains why Elgar was so reluctant to alter his Finale. Following the premiere on June 21, 1899, Jaeger protested that the coda to Variation XIV was too abrupt and recommended that it be expanded. Elgar hesitated before remonstrating in writing on June 27, 1899. In his letter to Jaeger, he replied, “I waited until I had thought it out & now decide that the end is good enough for me . . . You won’t frighten me into writing a logically developed movement where I don’t want one by quoting other people! Selah!” Elgar’s use of the Hebrew word Selah is a revealing slip of the tongue as it is a recurring motif in the Book of Psalms, appearing a total of 71 times. More significantly, “Selah” occurs at end of verses 3, 7, and 11 in Psalm 46, the chapter that inspired Luther to compose his hymn Ein feste Burg. Elgar soon relented to Jaeger’s sound counsel and appended 96 bars to the Finale.

Elgar’s bars 15-17 Reformation Ciphers
Why would Elgar position so many cryptograms in bar 16? The targeting of bar 16 to embed a variety of cryptograms was undoubtedly inspired by the adjacent bar numbers 15 and 17. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg. That seminal event sparked the Protestant Reformation and is commemorated every October 31 as Reformation Day. Codes elements in bar 16 allude to that famous schism in sixteenth-century Christianity. The initials for “Protestant Reformation” are given as an acrostic anagram by the performance directions “pp” and “rit.” The terms “rit.” and “dim.” are an acrostic acronym for “Reformation Day.” The initials for “Castle Church” are given on beat 3 as octave Cs played by the second bassoon and double basses. A second pair of Cs is performed in unison by the second violins and cellos on beat 4, a number that rhymes with door. A total of four written Cs generate twelve anagrams of “CC” in bar 16. The German word for door (Tür) may be culled together from letters in the adjacent performance directions “rit.” and “unis.” at the outset of the bar.
The first violins have two performance terms above (mesto and unis.) and below (pp and dim.) the staff. Nine letters populate “mesto unis.” Five letters produce “pp dim.” When paired together, the numerals nine and five yield “95,” the exact number of Luther’s polemical propositions. There are precisely 31 written notes in bar 16, a sum that corresponds to October 31. The melodic note sequence “GAG” appears in bars 6 and 16 of the Enigma Theme, separated by a distance of ten measures. The tenth month of the year is October. That month was originally designated the eighth on the old Roman calendar. For this reason, the Latin word for eight (octo) serves as the root word of October. In honor of that ancient tradition, Elgar distributed written notes on eight active staves in bar 16. Octave Cs played by the second violins and second bassoon on beat 4 of bar 16 also supply the root word for October.

“Luther posting his Ninety-five Theses in 1517” by Ferdinand Pauwels (1830 - 1904)

The Ninety-five Theses were written in Latin, the standard scholarly language of the sixteenth century. The original Latin title of Luther’s Theses is “Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum” (Disputation on the Efficacy and Power of Indulges). The acronym for that Latin title (DPDVI) is clustered together in bar 16 among the performance direction for the first and second violins. Two Ds and I come from two diminuendos (dim.), the P by a pianissimo (pp), and the V by the accent (>) over the note D in the second violin staff. The U from unisono (unis.) also encodes the letter V due to the equivalence between these two letters in the classical Latin alphabet. The I may alternatively be obtained from the performance terms unisono (unis.) and ritardando (rit.). The proximity of the performance directions dim., pp, and accent (>) present a compact grouping of the necessary letters to encode the Latin acronym for Luther’s Ninety-five Theses. A Latin acronym is compatible with other ciphers in bar 16 that encode the Latin acronyms “DG” (Deo Gratias), “AD” (Anno Domini”, and “AMDG” (Ad Majorem Dei Glorium).

German printers recognized the appeal of Luther’s theses and quickly translated them into German and published them for an avid public. Like this popular translation of the Ninety-five Theses, the lyrics of Ein feste Burg are also in German. As previously shown, the initials for Luther’s hymn (EFB) are encoded in bar 16 by thirteen note letters in 63 different combinations. History also remembers Luther for his influential German translation of the Bible, the Lutherbibel. Luther first translated the New Testament between 1521 and 1522 while hiding out from the pope’s assassins at Wartburg Castle, a genuine “Mighty Fortress.”
In the July 1934 issue of Music and Letters, Richard Powell speculates that the absent tune of the Enigma Variations could be Auld Lang Syne. Powell enjoyed a personal connection with the Enigma Variations because he married Dora Penny, the dedicatee of Variation X (Dorabella), in January 1914. When asked if the missing melody could be that popular Scottish folk song, Elgar flatly stated, “No. Auld Lang Syne won’t do.” Powell presumed that the absent Theme could not be something classical or religious because the majority of Elgar’s friends depicted in the Variations were amateur musicians and did not share his Roman Catholicism. As Powell speculates:
It is worth while to note that the persona portrayed and commemorated in this fashion were not celebrities; they were friends, close friends, and in one case more than that. Another reflection suggests itself; it is almost impossible to believe that Elgar, when thinking out the scheme of this peculiar, if not unique work, would select for his unheard melody a tune drawn from the classics or the church, for it must be remembered that most of the friends commemorated were only amateur musicians and one was not even musical. Furthermore, most of them were not of his religion.
Powell recognized that virtually all of Elgar’s friends portrayed in the Variations were Anglicans. As a branch of Protestantism, Anglican hymnals feature Luther’s Ein feste Burg, a work Heinrich Heine dubbed the “Marseillaise of the Reformation.” Elgar’s selection of a Protestant anthem for the covert Theme was undoubtedly swayed by the recognition that most of his friends belonged to the Protestant persuasion. His own wife was born and raised in the Anglican tradition before dutifully converting to Roman Catholicism years after their marriage in 1889. Although recognizing the overt dichotomy between the faiths of Elgar and his friends, Powell too hastily discounted the possibility of a Protestant hymn for the absent tune, proferring a secular folk song that fails to satisfy Elgar’s precise conditions.
Four performance directions (dim., rit., unis., and mesto) in bar 16 form an acrostic anagram of drum. There is an uncanny connection between the word drum and the sale of indulgences that provoked Luther to post his Ninety-five Theses. The Dominican friar Johann Tetzel marketed indulgences throughout Germany to raise money chiefly for the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. When he set up shop in the local town square, he would loudly beat on a drum to summon the people to hear his message. After terrifying the crowds with demoralizing stories of hell and purgatory, he would offer an escape for them and their deceased relatives through the purchase of indulges. He twisted the sacrament of repentance into a marauding money-making machine for himself and his benefactors.
At the zenith of his sales pitch, Tetzel would cry out, “Sobald der Gülden im Becken klingt im huy die Seel im Himmel springt” (As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul into heaven springs). Gullible rubes would line up in droves to buy pardons for themselves and dead loved ones. Martin Luther condemned this rapacious practice and singled out Tetzel for harsh invectives. When a parishioner told Luther about Tetzel “drumming” his pardons in the town square, Luther replied, “God help me, I’ll beat a hole in his drum!” Luther condemned the sale of indulgences because it caused people to forsake genuine repentance in favor of buying parchments absolving them of their egregious transgressions. Volume X of the 1898 Encyclopedia Brittanica aptly conveys the connection between Tetzel’s drum and Luther’s Ninetey-Five Theses:
One morning in 1517, the people of Wittenberg in Saxony found nailed to the door of their church ninety-five propositions signed by Martin Luther. The theses were directed at the principle which underlay the sale of indulgences by John Tetzel and others for the Pope. Tetzel, a Dominican friar, had established himself at Juterbock, and with trumpet and drum called the people to him to buy indulgences for the remission of sin. “God willing,” exclaimed Luther, “I will beat a hole in his drum”—and the ninety-five propositions constituted the sledge-hammer with which the hole was beaten, not only in the instrument of Tetzel, but in the doctrine of the power of the church to forgive sin.”
Luther used the word drum in his published sermons as illustrated by the following excerpt:
The life of a Christian is represented as a warfare; and as men when they engage in battle have native drums and trumpets to dispel their fears, and inspire them with courage, so those who engage in the spiritual warfare against Satan, the world, and the flesh, have need of continual exhortations and ammunitions in order that their courage may not flag, and that they may persevere valiantly in the fight.
The drum is closely associated with the history and reception of Ein feste Burg. At the centennial celebration of the Reformation in 1617, Heinrich Schütz directed five choirs in a special performance of Ein feste Burg accompanied by military trumpets and kettle drums at the Lutheran Schlosskirche in Dresden. During the Thirty Years’ War, Ein feste Burg became a battle hymn for a coalition of Swedish, German, Finnish, English, and Scottish soldiers commanded by King Gustavus Adolphus. At the battle of Breitenfeld (1631) near the city of Leipzig, the Swedish coalition sang Ein feste Burg before achieving the first significant Protestant victory in the Thirty Years’ War. The nineteenth century poet Karl Curths’ retelling of that battle imagines that “. . . the Swedish Army sang the two hymns Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott and Es woll uns Gott genändig seyn accompanied by the sounds of kettle drums and trumpets.” Drums and trumpets were standard accouterments of military formations of that era. On the 300th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, Felix Mendelssohn composed his Reformation Symphony that cites Ein feste Burg in its fourth movement followed by a set of variations. His orchestration includes two kettledrums (timpani) tuned to D and A.
The word drum is a contraction of the German word darum meaning so and therefore. The German term drum appears in the lyrics of some popular German hymns including Luther’s hymn Christ unser Herr, zum Jordan kam (To Jordan came our Lord the Christ), a work J. S. Bach set in cantatas and choral preludes. The German word drum appears frequently in the librettos of Bach’s Lutheran cantatas. For example, drum appears in the libretto for the chorale Jesu bleibet meine Freude (Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring) from the cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life) BWV 147. Bach sourced the lyrics for this chorale from two stanzas of the hymn Jesu, meiner Seelen Wohne written by Martin Janus in 1661. The word drum appears in its original lyrics. Bach composed the motet Komm, Jesus, komm BWV 229 in Leipzig where it received its first performance in 1731-32. The word “Drum” occurs in the lyrics with the line, “Drum schließ ich mich in deine Hände” (So I put myself in your hands). When viewed as a German contraction, drum presents distinct associations with the German hymnody, Luther’s hymns and writings, and sacred works by Bach.
Like bar 16, there are also 31 written notes in bar 15. Luther selected October 31 to post his Ninety-five Theses because it was the eve of All Saints’ Day, a Roman Catholic celebration in honor of all the saints. Luther’s timing reflected his desire to return the church to a scripturally sound foundation by abandoning such questionable practices as simony and the selling of indulgences. Another title for All Saints’ Day is “All-Hallows Feast.” It is significant that the initials for “All Hallows Feast” are encoded in bar 17. In that measure, the first and second clarinets play written octave As that sound in concert pitch a whole step lower as Gs. A is the initial for “All.” The first and second violins play B-natural at the octave. In the German system of notation, a B-natural represents the letter H. In that capacity, B-natural provides the initial for “Hallows.” The first French Horn plays a written F-sharp that sounds a fifth lower as B-natural. F is the initial for “Feast.” The written notes A, B-natural, and F-sharp in bar 17 of the orchestral score encipher the initials for “All Hallows Feast.” All Saints’ Day is held on the first day of November. That date is suggested by the G major chord which is built on the first scale degree of that mode. The remaining two discreet note letters (G-D) present a phonetic realization of God.
The note letters (ABE) that supply the initials for “All Hallows Feast” are a short form of Abraham, the Hebrew patriarch whose impactful life is chronicled in the book of Genesis. Elgar sourced the title “Nimrod” for Variation IX from Genesis 10:9. The title “Ysobel” for Variation VI originates from the Exodus account, for that was the name of Aaron’s wife. In Exodus 3:6 and other passages, God refers to Himself as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When asked a loaded question by some who doubted the resurrection of the dead, Jesus responded by citing that title from Exodus and concluding in Mark 26:27, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
There are twelve written notes in bar 17 with nine whole notes (two As, three Bs, two Ds, and two Gs), and three quarter notes ( D, F-sharp, and G). That sum is noteworthy because the twelfth letter of the alphabet is L, the initial for Lord and Luther. The Book of Common Prayer places a special emphasis on the number twelve for All Saints’ Day. The first scriptural reading from the Epistles is Revelation 7:2-12 which describes the sealing of 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Twelve symbolizes the church because Jesus founded that institution with twelve disciples. The number twelve is associated with the communion of the saints because this subject is addressed by the Apostle Paul in the twelfth chapters of Romans (12:4-13) and 1 Corinthians (12:12-27). An ancient liturgical tradition is for the body of believers to recite the Credo Apostolorum, the Apostles’ Creed that consists of twelve articles of faith.
Martin Luther's initials are enciphered in bars 16 and 117. Morse Code represents the letter M as two dashes, the equivalent of two quarter notes on beats 2 and 3 of bar 16. The performance term “mesto” in that measure also provides that same initial. The letter L is encoded in bar 17 by twelve written notes using a simple number-to-letter conversion. Other cryptograms in bars 15 through 17 relating to the German Reformation bolster the interpretation of “ML” as Martin Luther’s initials.
A distinct category of ciphers in the Enigma Variations is sealed by Elgar’s initials (EE). One notable exemplar is the Enigma Theme Psalm 46 Cipher in bar 1. Seven discrete performance directions in bar 1 form an acrostic anagram of “EE’s Psalm.” 46 characters in these seven performance terms implicate Psalm 46, a chapter known as Luther’s Psalm. The precision and specificity of this decryption verify the scriptural fountainhead of Luther’s most famous hymn that serves as the covert Theme to the Enigma Variations.

Elgar cleverly embeds his initials (EE) on every quarter beat of bar 16 using one E and six E-flats in written pitch. This figure represents almost 23 percent of the notes in bar 16. The first instance appears on beat 1 as two E-flats played by the violas and double basses. The second set occurs on beat 2 as two E-flats performed by the second violins and cellos. The third set emerges on beat 3 as two Es are played in unison by the principal and second clarinets. The fourth set consists of two half note E-flats performed in unison by the principal bassoon and violas. One E and six E-flats yield 42 possible anagrams of “EE” in bar 16. Remarkably, that sum corresponds with Elgar’s age when the Enigma Variations premiered in June 1899.

The impulse to affix his initials to cryptograms in the Enigma Variations is redolent of Elgar’s habit of sealing envelopes with a wax imprint of “E. E.” In a March 4, 1897 letter to Dora Penny, Elgar explained his newfound interest in sealing his envelopes with his initials. He wrote, “By the way I have taken to ‘die-sinking’ as a recreation: here on the back of this is my parcel-post seal: I have to register all of my MSS [music manuscripts submitted to publishers] & they will not give a receipt unless they are sealed: so I put this on that my works may be E sily distinguished.” Almost four decades later in 1936, Reed recalled Elgar’s obsession with imprinting his wax seal on his correspondence:
His varied assortment of sealing-wax and his fine collection of seals were also of great interest. He loved seals, and had made one or two himself: one was made of quite a good-sized piece of metal on which he had punched the letters E. E. deeply, so that they made a bold impression. The wax was of all colours, his favorite being a deep blue; he loved sealing his things with this, however unnecessarily.
Elgar’s initials in bar 16 are accompanied by those for his wife. Bar 16 has fourteen written notes that convey the initials of Caroline Alice Elgar: Three As, five Cs, one E, and five E-flats. These fourteen note letters generate 105 anagrams of “CAE.” For example, her initials are enciphered on the downbeat of bar 16 by the clarinets (A), principal French horn (C), violas, and double basses (E-flat). Her initials also appear on the 4th beat in the second bassoon, second violins, cellos and double basses (C), principal French horn and first violins (A), principal bassoon and violas (E-flat), and clarinets (E).

In addition to his initials, Elgar also encoded his first name in bar 16. The note letters E and D spell the short form of Edward as Ed. These same two notes reproduce the acronym for Exsurge Domine (Arise, O Lord), the papal bull issued by Pope Leo X to excommunicate Martin Luther from the Roman Catholic Church. Eleven written notes in bar 16 yield 28 anagrams of “ED.” On beat 1, octave E-flats played by the violas and double basses may be combined with a D in the principal horn part to yield two versions. On beats 2 and 3, the violas and cellos play in unison the notes E-flat and D to generate four more combinations. On beat 3, unison Es played by the clarinets may be paired with Ds played by the second violins and cellos to generate four more possible aggregations. On beats 3 and 4, the clarinets have unison Es followed by a D to generate another “ED” pair. E-flats played by the first bassoon and violas on beats 3-4 may be combined separately with the D in the principal clarinet part on beat 4 to produce four more “ED” renderings.

Four subtitles from the Variations yield an acrostic anagram of “FIRE”: Enigma, Romanza, Intermezzo, and Finale. These words appear in the titles for the Theme, Variations, X, XIII, and XIV.

In his 1831 essay Luther’s Psalm, Carlyle likens Luther to fire. This is a profoundly ironic comparison because the Roman Catholic Church was renowned for incinerating heretics. When Pope Leo X issued his Exsurge Domine excommunicating Luther in 1521, Luther responded by hosting a bonfire in Wittenburg to burn volumes of canon law with the papal bull of excommunication. Luther knew how to fire up a crowd by fighting the fire of church corruption with the blazing truth of scripture. As Carlyle explains:
It is evident enough that to this man [Luther] all Popes Conclaves, and Imperial Diets, and hosts, and nations, were but weak; Weak as the forest, with all its strong trees, may be to the smallest spark of electric fire.
The Reformation Ciphers in bars 15-17 bolster the connection between Luther and this titles “FIRE” anagram. The word fire also relates to a special name for God in the story of the Exodus given to Moses at the burning bush, a topic covered later in this essay.
The second letters from those five performance directions (rit., unis., mesto, pp, and dim.) form a mesostich anagram of “Ein” and “Pi.” These two seemingly unrelated terms are connected to the Enigma Variations. Ein is the first word in the title of Ein feste Burg, the covert tune cloaked by the Enigma Theme’s counterpoint. The first three letters of “Enigma” is an acrostic of Ein. Pi is a mathematical constant encoded by the Enigma Theme and the Mendelssohn quotations in Variation XIII. The third letters in those performance terms are a mesostich anagram of “mist.” The Familiar Discourses record Martin Luther’s conversations with students and fellow scholars. In one of those exchanges, Luther likens the word of God to a “mist” that blinds and confuses the devil. Luther also employs the word mist in his hymn Jesaia dem Propheten das gaschach. Samuel Taylor Coleridge observed, “Luther did as much for the Reformation by his hymns as by his translation of the Bible.” Thirty-six hymns are attributed to Luther, a sum that correlates with the opus number of the Enigma Variations (36).
The melodic rhythm in bars 16-17 may be translated into letters using International Morse Code. Two quarter notes are equivalent to two dashes (- -), the pattern for the letter M. Two eighth notes equate to two dots (. .) which encodes the letter I. The long quarter note in bar 17 is one dash (-), the code for T. The Morse Code pattern in bar 16 spells “I M”, a phonetic realization of “I AM.” This enigmatic name for God was given by the Angel of the Lord when He appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush and commanded him to lead the people of Israel out of bondage in Egypt.
Exodus 3:13-14 recounts when Moses inquires about the name of God, the Angel of the Lord answered, “I AM WHO I AM . . . Say to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Theologians refer to this enigmatic title the Great “I AM.” The Angel of the Lord is interpreted as the preincarnate Christ in the Old Testament with each occurrence labeled a Christophany. As described in John 18:1-8, Jesus applied this sacred name to himself when he was arrested at the Garden of Gestheme. The burning bush is not the only time Moses met Christ on a mountain. At the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus appeared in radiant glory with Moses and Elijah before his disciples Peter, James, and John. Elgar was undoubtedly familiar with these theological tenets. Reed acknowledged that Elgar’s “. . . knowledge of the Bible and Apocrypha was profound.” Reed compares Elgar’s sketches of his friends in the Variations to a quasi-spiritual transfiguration of the common into the sublime:
In spite of the spiritual mysticism inherent in his mind, he started his excursions always with his feet on the ground. The Enigma Variations began with real people. I have sometimes had a day-dream of a concert at which each variation was followed by the appearance on the platform of the dedicatee, so that the audience might compare the Elgar transfiguration with the sitter. The transfiguration was always a spiritualisation; but it was gathered from the commonplace facts of life. The late Mr. Jaeger of Novellos’ (Nimrod) was well known to many of the other living British composers; but only Elgar thought of getting immortal music out of him. The variation labelled with three asterisks set us asking, “Who was that? Is it someone who died?” It leaves one wondering and creates the atmosphere of mysticism which was natural to Elgar.
The suspicion that Variation XIII is about someone who died proved prescient as that movement is secretly dedicated to Jesus, the crucified and risen Savoir of Elgar’s Roman Catholic weltanschauung as amply documented in Charles Edward McGuire’s informative essay Measure of a Man: Catechizing Elgar’s Catholic Avatars.
Elgar was familiar with Morse Code. His telegraphic address was Siromoris, a palindrome created from his Order of Merit (OM) and Knighthood (Sir). The Morse code translation of the rhythm in bar 17 is T, a capital letter shaped like a tau cross promulgated by early Christians. Some medieval portrayals of the crucifixion show Jesus languishing on a tau cross. The crucifixion scene by the German painter Konrad Witz is a superb example of this longstanding tradition.

Crucifixion scene featuring a taw cross by Konrad Witz

The Greek and Latin cross with intersecting beams became dominant towards the end of Late Antiquity. This type of cross resembles the lowercase t, a fixture in the Roman Catholic Mass. One variant of this t-cross is the ringed cross with intersecting beams enclosed by a circle or nimbus. The circular ring is reminiscent of a Roman garland that represents victory. A variant of the ringed cross is the cruciform halo, a radiant circle combined with a cross that may extend outside the halo. Prominent in Byzantine and Orthodox iconography, the cross halo mingles the circle and cross to symbolize the divinity of Christ. Christ Pantocrator is a famous mosaic in the Hagia Sophia that depicts Jesus with a cross halo.

Jesus Christ Pantocrator (Detail from the deesis mosaic in Hagia SophiaIstanbul)

The ringed cross is suggested in the Enigma Theme by coded allusions to Pi in bars 1 and 11, Jesus in bars 1 and 16, and the letter T in bar 17. The Enigma Theme is set in common time (4/4), a time signature conducted in a manner that replicates the sign of the cross. Variations I, V, XII, and XIV are also set in common time. The symbol for common time is a capital “C” which is the initial for Christ.
The Celtic cross is a type of ringed cross that surfaced during the Middle Ages in Ireland and England when these lands were almost universally Roman Catholic. This origin adds a distinctly English hue to coded allusions to the circle and cross within the Enigma Theme.

High Cross in LlanynysNorth Wales

Like bar 16, note letters bar 17 furnish the initials for Deo Gratia (DG), Anno Domini and Agnus Dei (AD). As previously observed, the notes G and D produce a phonetic rendition of God. There are twelve written notes in bar 17, a sum that converts into the letter L using a basic number-to-letter key (1 = A, 2 = B, 3 = C, etc.) with the standard twenty-six letter English alphabet. L is a homonym of the Hebrew word for God (El), a word integral to such titles as “Elohim” (God) and “El Shaddai” (God Almighty). The decryptions Deo Gratia and God in bar 17 coalesce around this interpolation of the letter L as El. That letter is also the initial for Lord and Luther. Remarkably, the bar number (17) furnishes homoglyphs for the lower (l) and upper cases (7) of L. The Greek letter lambda was the precursor to the Latin letter L. It is significant that the pronunciation of “Lambda” begins with the word “Lamb,” establishing a linguistic link to the Lamb of God (Agnus Dei) encoded by the notes A and D. The accented D on the third beat of bar 16 supplies a homoglph for a capital lambda (Λ) via the accent symbol (>) turned clockwise 90 degrees. This flexible approach to reading symbols and glyphs is justified by Elgar’s elastic treatment of symbols in his Dorabella Cipher.
Written notes in bar 17 from the clarinet (octave As) and violin staves (octave Bs) are an anagram “ABBA.” An intimate word for “Father” in Aramaic, Abba is comparable to “Dad” in English. Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic as it was the lingua franca of the Levant at the dawn of the first millennium. When praying on the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus addressed God as “Abba” as recorded in Mark 14:36. In an extraordinary parallel, the chapter (14) and verse (36) numbers of that scriptural reference correspond to fourteen Variations assigned Roman numerals and the opus number 36. These parallels harken back to the antiquated custom of specifying a biblical chapter using Roman numerals (XIV), and a specific verse by number (36). Written note letters in bar 17 provide multiple references to God and this familial sobriquet. The notes anagram “ABBA” is reinforced by other notes that spell “DAD” in the staves for the clarinets, second violins, and violas.
Unique letters (i, n, r, s, and t) from two neighboring performance terms at the beginning of bar 16 — “rit.” and “unis.” — may be rearranged to spell “Turin s” (rit. & unis). That decryption is an exact match with one for another cipher in Variation XIII that eliminates letters from “Ein feste Burg” that match note letters from the Mendelssohn quotations (A, B, C, E, F, G). The remaining letters (Ein feste Burg) are an anagram of “TURIN S.” Dubbed the Romanza Cipher due to its location in Variation XIII, it is one of the earliest cryptograms to be detected and decoded. The word for the initial “S” is implicated by the absence of the remaining letters that shroud its meaning.

Many Christians believe the Turin Shroud is the genuine burial cloth of Jesus Christ. The bloodied linen shroud bears the faint image of a crucified man marred by wounds consistent with the Gospel account of Christ’s crucifixion. When viewed as a photographic negative, the shroud unveils a three-dimensional photographic positive image. This astonishing discovery was made by the Italian photographer Secondo Pia in May 1898, five months before Elgar began work on the Enigma Variations. Pia unwittingly launched the science the sindonology, the scientific study of the Turin Shroud. The term originates from the Italian translation of “Turin Shroud” as “Sindone di Torino.”

Closeup of the Turin Shroud facial image as it appears to the eye

Photographic negative of the Turin Shroud’s facial region.

Two adjacent performance terms “mesto” and “unis.” in bar 16 are an anagram of the words “unto” and “messi,” a phonetic version of “Messie” — French for Messiah. Coded references in measure 15 to the initials of Jesus Christ, Anno Domini, Agnus Dei, and the Turin Shroud 16 justify interpreting the anagram “Unto Messi[e]” as a stealth dedication. One of the titles for Jesus is Messiah which means “Anointed one.” Elgar excelled in composing largescale sacred oratorios. His first of that genre is The Light of Life (Lux Christi) Op. 29 composed in 1896 and revised extensively in 1899. One of the greatest oratorios of all time was composed in 1741 by Georg Frideric Handel and given the title MessiahAt age 12, Elgar secretly spliced an original tune into the orchestra parts of that oratorio for a performance at the 1869 Three Choirs Festival. He reminisced about this escapade of melodic mischief in these words:
I composed a little tune of which I was very proud. I thought the public should hear it, but my opportunities of publishing it were decidedly few. I took my opportunity when my father was engaged in preparing the Handel parts for the forthcoming festival. Very laboriously I introduced my little tune into the music. The thing was an astonishing success, and I heard that some people had never enjoyed Handel so much before! When my father learned of it, however, he was furious!
There is a renowned 1716 Stradivari violin named the “Messiah.” It was originally named “Le Messie” by the French violinist Jean-Delphin Alard, the son-in-law of the renowned Luthier Jean-Baptiste Vuillame who installed custom pegs and a tailpiece displaying the nativity of Christ. The firm W. E. Hill & Sons published a monograph about that fabled violin in 1891. In that same year, Joseph Joachim played the Messiah Stradivarius when it was owned by Robert Crawford. Joachim reminisced about that experience in a letter, “Of course, the sound of the Strad, that unique ‘Messie’, turns up again and again in my memory, with its combined sweetness and grandeur, that struck me so much in hearing it.” Elgar was a great admirer of Joachim and was undoubtedly aware of his experience playing the most prized violin in the world. Elgar’s coded allusions to Joachim in the Enigma Variations hint at the identity of his anonymous friend because Joachim professed his Lutheran faith in the Messiah, played on the Messiah, and bore the first name of the Messiah’s stepfather.

The 1716 Messiah Stradivarius Violin

The name “Le Messie” gives in reverse order the initials for Martin Luther. Variation XIII has a cryptic title consisting of three asterisks. In a stunning parallel, the Messiah Stradivarius has three asterisks, one carved on the eye of the scroll, and two more in the pegbox mortice. Its year of manufacture (1716) is realized in reverse by the adjoining bar numbers 16 and 17, a conclusion reinforced by the “Messi[e]” anagram nestled within adjacent performance directions of bar 16.

Star imprint on the bass-side eye of the scroll.

Star imprints and “G” mark in pegbox mortice.

The starry title for Variation XIII furnishes a bond to a pamphlet by Luther defending his Ninety-five Theses called Asterisks. The title of Variation XIII subtly hints at the title of that Lutheran tract. This explains why Elgar wrote a prominent capital “L” in blue pencil on the earliest surviving short score sketch of that movement. “L” is the initial for the composer of the hidden melody. Remarkably, the Turin Shroud has four prominent burn-hole patterns in the shape of a capital “L” that link it to coded forms of that letter in the Enigma Theme and Variation XIII.

Short score sketch of Variation XIII.

Absent are the initials “ML” that appear on later surviving sketches. In his essay Elgar’s Enigmatic Inamorata, Nicholas Reed points out that “. . . Elgar had a habit of keeping and annotating his sketches years later.” The available evidence confirms that Elgar appended “ML” — the initials for Martin Luther — to the original “L” on some short score sketches of Variation XIII only after the attribution to Lady Mary Lygon was generally suspected. Elgar merely indulged the impression she could be the dedicatee because, like Luther, she was a published hymnodist.

The diverse but mutually consistent decryptions in bars 15-17 are in five different languages: English, French, Germain, Italian, and Latin. These five languages are an anagram of “FLIEG,” the first-person conjugation of the German verb fliegen (to fly). A German decryption is exquisitely appropriate given that the title of the covert Theme is also in that language. The word “fly” appears in English translations of Luther’s hymns. For example, “fly” surfaces in the lyrics of These Things The Seer Isiah Did Befall. Luther devotes considerable attention to the word “fly” in his study of the tenth verse from Psalm 18. As he expounds:
    And God is said to “fly,” though the cherubim which were made of beaten gold did not fly. For David saw that wings were not given to the cherubim in vain under the Mosaic dispensation: for wings are given to fly with. David by this therefore saw it to be signified, that there would be a certain flying of the Word throughout the whole world, (which is the ministry of the Word itself,) and that it would fly with this kind of flight and upon these wings, and that the Lord would be every where present with his Word: as he says, Mark xvi. 20, “The Lord working with them and confirming the word was signs following.” Wherefore this flying seems to me to signify the velocity of the Word’s progress through the whole world: as we have it, Psalm cxlvii 15, “His Word runneth very swiftly.” It not only signifies this, however, but also shews, that the Word will never cease to sound, nor God to work with and buy it in the church. For we are never t cease from the Word: it is to be in use, in motion, and in flight, that the Lord may always fly above and move in us by faith. Who, although he can do all things by himself, has yet decreed to do all these things by the ministry of the Word, that there may be opportunity and occasion for faith, and that he may thereby meet our infirmities, which cannot endure divine things unless covered and veiled by the Word; in which, the Lord carries us as in a womb or bosom, as Isaiah saith, xlvi. 3.
    Wherefore David is not to be despised when he uses the verb ‘flying’ thus in a repetition because he does it to instruct us and to shew us that the Spirit of the Lord does not move upon the face of the waters of all mankind in general, and that he does not rule by his presence any but those who are disciplined by the Word; that he might thereby destroy all the presumption of human power and free-will, and set forth the grace and kindness of God our Savior to those who hear his Word and keep it. Hence we have it written Deut. xxxii. that the Lord flew above the people of Jacob as an eagle leadeth forth her young to fly, and fluttereth over them, and bare them upon her wings.
In Psalm 18:2, David likens the Lord to a fortress and strongholdThe Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Luther recognized that one of the titles for Jesus is the Word (Logos) of God. This title originates from John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The acrostic anagram “FLIEG” (“I Fly”) is connected to Christ who ended his earthly ministry with his ascension into heaven from the Mount of Olives

“Ascension” by John Singleton Copley (1775)

Elgar’s expertise in cryptography is skillfully documented in the third chapter of Bauer’s book Unsolved! The Dorabella Cipher is an impressive specimen of his specialized knowledge of secret codes. A prolonged evaluation of the Enigma Variations determined it is a musical homage to cryptography, harboring over 100 ciphers. A marvelous example is the “EFB GAG” notes cipher in bar 16 of the Enigma Theme. “EFB” is the acronym for Ein feste Burg, the covert Theme of the Enigma Variations. A gag is defined as a practical joke or, alternatively, as a prohibition against being heard. Both definitions are relevant in this context. That a proud Roman Catholic composer like Elgar would select a famous Protestant anthem as the famous hidden melody poses a comical antagonism. Such a melodic solution could never be guessed. Elgar gags the hidden melody by concealing it behind a contrapuntal camouflage in the form of the Enigma Theme.
The discovery of the “EFB GAG” cipher triggered an in-depth reassessment of that section in the orchestral score. This undertaking unmasked a series of interlocking ciphers that encode the initials for the covert Theme (EFB), the initials for Jesus Christ in Italian (GC), Pontius Pilate (PP), Before Christ (BC), the Latin phrases Anno Domini and Agnus Dei (AD), Deo Gratias (DG), and Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (AMDG). These diverse initials are accompanied by those for Elgar (EE) and his wife (CAE). Such a matrix of interrelated solutions ensconced within bar 16 enhances and certifies their authenticity. The discovery of so many initials cryptograms is consistent with Elgar’s reliance on abbreviations for the bulk of the Enigma Variations’ titles.
Another class of ciphers in bars 15 through 17 revolve around the Protestant Reformation triggered on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther he nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of Castle Church. Bar 16 is a nexus of cryptograms, and its adjacent bar numbers (15 and 17) form the year 1517 of that catalyst for the Protestant Reformation. There are 31 written notes in bar 15, and 31 more in bar 16. These duplicate note totals implicate the anniversary of Reformation Day. Octave Cs on beat 4 of bar 16 provide the root word for October. Performance directions in bar 16 encode the number “Ninety-five,” the initials for Protestant Reformation (PR), Reformation Day (RD), the Latin acronym for the original title of the Ninety-five Theses (DPDVI), the German word for door (tür), and drum. Tetzel famously pounded a drum to market indulgences, a practice that drew Luther’s ire and vow to beat a hole in it. Notes in bar 16 encode the initials for Castle Church (CC) and Exsurge Domine (ED), the papal bull that excommunicated Luther. The note letters “ED” is also a truncated version of Edward that emerges in the title of Variation XIV (E. D. U.).
Note letters in bar 17 encode the initials for All Hallows’ Feast (ABE), another name for All Saints’ Day. This decryption is made possible by the German notation system that identifies B-natural as the letter H. “ABE” is also the short form of Abraham, the patriarch with whom God is routinely identified in the Old Testament. There are twelve written notes in bar 17, a number associated with scripture readings prescribed for All Saints’ Day in the Book of Common Prayer. Like bar 16, written note letters supply the initials for Deo Gratia (DG), a phonetic spelling of God (G-D), Abba (ABBA), and Dad (DAD). Bar 17 has twelve written notes, a sum that converts to L via a number-to-letter key. That letter is the initial for Lord and Luther, a cryptic double entendre for Elgar’s secret friend and the composer of the clandestine Theme. L is also a homonym of the Hebrew word for God (El). The Latin L originated from the Greek letter lambda, a label that begins with the word lamb. The glyph for lambda (Λ) is the same symbol used for a musical accent (>). The third beat of bar 16 has two accents on unison Ds played by the second violins and cellos. No other accent marks are annotated elsewhere in the Enigma Theme.
The downbeat of bar 17 has three written quarter notes (D, B, F-sharp) and nine whole notes (A, A, B, D, B, G, D, G, G). The combined value of these sounding notes is 39, the sum of three quarter notes (3 x 1), and nine whole notes (9 x 4). Consequently, bar 17 produces the numbers three and nine in two distinct ways. The application of a number-to-letter key converts three and nine into C and I, respectively. “IC” is a Christogram obtained from the first and last letters of the Greek spelling of Jesus (ΙΗϹΟΥϹ). These same initials are encoded by the Roman numeral and first initial of Variation I (C. A. E.). A standard cipher alphabet conflates similar glyphs such as i with j and u with v. In accordance with that compressed letter sequence, a number-to-letter key converts three and nine to C and I/J. “CJ” is the acronym for Christ Jesus. Likewise, the Plagel cadence in bars 16 and 17 encodes the Italian initials (CG) for Christ Jesus.
Morse code translates the melodic rhythm in bars 16 and 17 into the letters I, M, and T. “I M” is a phonetic rendering of the Great “I AM,” an enigmatic name for God given to Moses at the burning bush in the Book of Exodus. A capital T replicates the tau cross used in medieval depictions of the crucifixion of Jesus. The lowercase t resembles the Latin and Greek cross. The cross is a prominent feature of the Roman Catholic Mass. 
Elgar’s mastery of cryptography is inadequately understood by academics who callously dismiss this captivating field of study as superfluous to an appreciation of his music. In the case of the Enigma Variations, nothing could be further from the truth. In the January 1910 issue of Le Courrier Musical, Maurice Ravel attributes the following statement to Frédéric Chopin, “Nothing is more odious than music without hidden meaning.” The encrypted subtext of Elgar’s music reveals his “insidest inside,” offering fresh insights into his creative process and an opportunity to peer behind the veil of secrecy. To learn more about the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.

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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.