Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Table of Contents

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Why and What I Will Write

Since 1899 no one has persuasively resolved the mysteries posed by Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Why risk writing on this seemingly impenetrable subject confounded by a fog of confusion and conflicting ‘solutions’? What are my qualifications? Do I have anything to add that has not already been proffered by prominent Elgar scholars? The many discoveries I was permitted to unmask are considerable, resolving a multitude of unanswered questions about one of Elgar’s most celebrated orchestral works. As this investigation will show, there is far more to Elgar’s melodic labyrinth than anyone previously envisioned.

Chapter 1

Elgar and the Three Cs

The key to understanding the secrets behind the Enigma Variations is to wade into the mind and motives of Elgar. Three of his most formative influences were his Roman Catholicism, a lifelong fascination with cryptograms, and a penchant for writing counterpoints to famous melodies. The three C’s of Elgar’s psychological profile are Catholicism, cryptograms, and counterpoint. It is of vital importance to recognize these influences because a person’s character is more often than not a reliable predictor of behavior.

Chapter 2

A Missing Principal Theme

A cardinal sin among Elgar scholars is conjuring the right answers to the wrong questions.  This book does not replicate that misguided practice. As one prominent philosopher put it, “Getting the question right is the answer.” So what is the right question? To ask what the covert melodic Principal Theme is the Enigma Variations. All of the answers to Elgar’s remaining enigmas revolve around that elusive theme. The crux of Elgar’s Variations is a famous melody, not an abstract concept, metaphor, symbol, or number. The remaining enigmas – the “dark saying” linked to the Enigma Theme and the hidden friend of Variation XIII – are essentially branches extending from the trunk of that core question. Those who deny the existence of a hidden melodic Principal Theme contradict the recorded words of the composer from multiple, unimpeachable sources. The focus of any credible search must begin with a famous melodic theme, for it is the key to Elgar’s melodic safe and its ancillary secrets. The search must be for a song – not a song and dance.

Chapter 3

A Missing “Dark Saying”

In the original 1899 program note, Elgar explained the Enigma contains a “dark saying” that must remain “unguessed.” The capitalized word Enigma explicitly refers to the opening Theme. In other words, Elgar claims the Enigma Theme holds a “dark saying,” a phrase that means obscured words. Elgar was a renowned expert in ciphers, so his cryptic language points to a coded message. What else could be unguessed except a cipher since the solution is not guessed, but decoded?

Chapter 4

A Missing Friend

Variation XIII is dedicated to a hidden friend whose initials are represented by three asterisks (✡ ✡ ✡). Standard solutions to this enigma such as Lady Lygon or Helen Weaver are easily disproved, leaving the question unresolved.

Chapter 5

Elgar's Covert Theme: Ein feste Burg

Evidence confirms the covert Theme of the Enigma Variations is Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) by Martin Luther. That sublime hymn satisfies six criteria given by Elgar concerning the correct melodic solution:
  1. The Enigma Theme is a counterpoint to the principal Theme. 
  2. The principal Theme is not heard. 
  3. The principal Theme is famous. 
  4. Fragments of the principal Theme are present in the Variations. 
  5. The principal Theme is a melody that can be played through and over the whole set of Variations including the entire Enigma Theme. 
  6. The Enigma Theme comprises measures 1 through 19.

Chapter 6

Confirmation: A Music Box Cipher

It is generally believed by scholars that Elgar did not leave a written record authenticating the correct solution to his Variations, opting instead to take his secret to the grave. The conventional wisdom is turned on its head by the discovery of an ingenious musical Polybius box cipher embedded in the first six measures of the Enigma Theme. This Music Box Cipher confirms the name of the covert Principal Theme and the hidden friend’s identity for Variation XIII. The decryption decisively proves Elgar encoded the answers to his enigmas within the score of the Enigma Variations. Not only did Elgar encode the answer to his Enigma Variations using a breathtakingly original Music Box Cipher, he cleverly encoded his name within the decryption. How? By means of the first letters of the four languages used in that cipher: English, Latin, German, and Aramaic.

Chapter 7

The Program Anagram Cipher

 In the original 1899 program note describing a work dedicated to his friends, Elgar gives only one name, and that for a stranger: Maeterlinck. A careful analysis of that unusually placed name reveals two incredibly revealing anagrams. The first instructs us to “Seek Martin L” while the second states, “See EE copy Martin L.” Thes anagrams are incredibly revealing because the composer of Ein feste Burg is Martin Luther.

Chapter 8

The Keys Cipher

In the Enigma Theme, Elgar brilliantly encodes the initials for Ein feste Burg using the keys in which that opening movement is played. The Enigma Theme is written in the minor and major modes of G. The accidentals for those two keys are B-flat, E-flat, and F-sharp. In an extraordinary parallel, those same letters provide the initials (E.F.B.) for Ein feste Burg.

Chapter 9

The German Sixth Cipher

The discovery that  Ein feste Burg is the covert Principal Theme to the Enigma Variations shines the equivalent of a Klieg light on Elgar’s use of a deceptive cadence in measure 5 that resolves to a German Sixth chord. Why? Because the complete title of the secretive theme is six words in German.

Chapter 10

The Nimrod Wordplay Cipher

The unusual title for Variation IX – Nimrod – exquisitely captures Elgar's nuanced sense of wordplay. In the book of Genesis Nimrod is described as “a mighty hunter,” a descriptive statement that conveniently provides the first two words of the covert Theme’s title in the correct order: A Mighty. Tradition holds Nimrod was a famous architect and builder of fortified cities, more generally known as fortresses. A well-known fortress constructed on the Northern Golan Heights is called Nimrod Fortress. The Biblical connotations associated with Nimrod may be easily culled together to generate the title of the unstated principal Theme: A Mighty Fortress. Since Variation IX is dedicated to Elgar’s German friend August Jaeger, this invites the translation of this English rendering into German as Ein feste Burg.

Chapter 11

The FAE Cipher

In Variation XIII Elgar inserts four melodic fragments drawn from Felix Mendelssohn’s concert overture Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage). The key signatures of these fragments are A flat major, F minor, and E flat major. Those key letters may be reshuffled to form the well-known musical cryptogram FAE that forms the basis of a famous violin sonata composed collaboratively by Robert SchumannJohannes Brahms, and Albert Dietrich for the famed violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim. Those letters represent Joachim’s personal romantic motto, “Frei aber einsam.” In English, that German phrase translates as, “Free but lonely.” The letters FAE are intriguing because when the E is turned downwards to the right to resemble an M, they become FAM. Those letters form an anagram of AMF, the initials for A Mighty Fortress. This interpretation of the letter E as an M is suggested by Elgar’s unconventional treatment of the capital letter E in his Dorabella Cipher dating from 1897. In that cryptogram, Elgar twists and turns the capital letter E into a number of configurations including one resembling the capital letter M.

Chapter 12

The Mendelssohn EFB Cipher

The Mendelssohn fragments of Variation XIII encode the initials for Ein feste Burg. The decryption process is relatively simple, for it involves identifying how many times a given fragment is performed in a specific key and taking that number to pinpoint the note letter for that particular scale degree. The A flat major fragment is played twice; the second degree of the A flat major scale is B flat. The F minor fragment is performed once; the first scale degree of F minor is F. The E flat major fragment is played once; the first scale degree of that key is E flat. The three solution letters are revealed by this decryption as E, F, and B. Those same initials are ingeniously encoded by Mendelssohn's autograph – Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy – as an acrostic glyphs anagram.

Chapter 13

The Enigma Date Cipher

Although he completed the original score on February 19, 1899, Elgar wrote an inaccurate date on the last page of the Enigma Variations: Feb. 18, 1898. The date is off by 1 year and 1 day. Why would Elgar write the wrong date when he was known for being fastidious with even the minutest detail of his scores? The erroneous date serves as a revealing clue because February 18 marks the anniversary of Martin Luther’s death. Luther composed the covert Theme to the Enigma Variations, the hymn Ein feste Burg. More tantalizing still is that Elgar wrote the month as “FEb” because those particular letters are an anagram of EFB, the very same initials encoded by the Keys Mendelssohn,  and Dominant-Tonic-Dominant (5-1-5) ciphers. While one cipher solution may be casually chalked up to coincidence, four discrete ciphers encoding the same solution are compelling evidence for a grand design.

Chapter 14

Variation XIII: The Hidden Friend

Elgar’s secret friend of Variation XIII is not a lady, but a lord – the Lord. This famous friend’s initials are represented by the Roman numerals XIII. X stands for the tenth letter of the alphabet (J), and III for the third (C).  His name is found in the lyrics of Ein feste Burg – Christ Jesus. A cipher in the Mendelssohn fragments refers to the Turin Shroud, the famous burial cloth of Christ. The timing of this shroud reference is remarkable since a very famous photograph of the Turin Shroud was taken only five months before Elgar began work on the Variations. The photographic negative reveals a miraculous image of a crucified man that many Roman Catholics like Elgar believe to be Jesus Christ.

Chapter 15

Variation I (C. A. E.) with Ein feste Burg

Ein feste Burg plays “through and over” Variation I with 28 shared notes between both melody lines., an amount equal to two times plus two of that found with the Enigma theme (13). These melodic conjunctions are present from measures 20 to 39, a span of 19 measures. Variation I is 21 measures in length excluding the two-bar bridge with the Enigma Theme (measures 18 and 19). Further analysis revealed this two-measure bridge is an extension of the Enigma Theme’s ending, and that phrase A of Ein feste Burg plays covertly over this section. There are 90 melody notes in Variation I, and 75 melody notes in Ein feste Burg. Therefore, 37.3% of the melody from Ein feste Burg overlaps with 31.1% of the melody of Variation I. Such a high percentage supports the conclusion Variation I is a deliberate counterpoint to Ein feste Burg.

Chapter 16

Variation II (H. D. S-P.) with Ein feste Burg

Ein feste Burg plays “through and over” Variation II, generating 45 melodic conjunctions in 31 out of 55 measures, and 65 harmonic conjunctions covering 32 measures. It was determined the covert Theme is dormant in the first ten measures (41-50), and the last fourteen (83-96). These inactive sections are essentially symmetrical because both consist of ten measure segments at the beginning and end of Ein feste Burg with the last dormant section followed by a four-bar codetta. Elgar uses this sandwich technique more than once in the Variations as a sort of camouflage to obscure the start and end points of the covert Theme. Since it is dormant in 24 out of 56 measures, the Covert Theme plays over almost 43% of the movement.

Chapter 17

Variation III (R. B. T.) with Ein feste Burg

Ein feste Burg plays “through and over” Variation III, producing 34 melodic conjunctions spread over 24 out of 34 measures, and 72 harmonic conjunctions spanning 27 measures. As it is dormant in 7 out of 34 measures (97, 105, 121-123, and 131-132), the covert Theme plays over approximately 79% of the movement.

Chapter 18

Variation IV (W. M. B.) with Ein feste Burg

Ein feste Burg plays “through and over” Variation IV, generating 26 melodic conjunctions dispersed over 28 of 32 measures, and 113 harmonic conjunctions covering 28 measures. Since it is dormant in 4 out of 32 measures (178 through 181), the covert Theme plays over almost 88% of the movement.

Chapter 19

Variation V (R. P. A.) with Ein feste Burg

Ein feste Burg plays “through and over” Variation V, producing 68 melodic conjunctions spread over 20 out of 24 measures, and 166 harmonic conjunctions dispersed over 22 measures. Since it is dormant in 2 out of 24 measures (172 and 173), the covert Theme plays over almost 92% of the movement.

Chapter 20

Variation VI (Ysobel) with Ein feste Burg

Ein feste Burg plays “through and over” Variation VI, generating 39 melodic conjunctions in 17 and 105 harmonic conjunctions spanning 21 measures. The covert Theme plays above all measures or 100% of this movement. It is remarkable the cover theme plays over the entire variation without any dormant measures in the first two movements dedicated to women (I and VI).

Chapter 21

Variation VII (Troyte) with Ein feste Burg

Ein feste Burg plays “through and over” Variation VII, producing 75 melodic conjunctions over 39 measures, and 236 total note conjunctions spread over 64 measures. Since it is dormant in 8 out of 72 measures (210 through 213, 223 through 225, and 252), the covert Theme plays over virtually 89% of the movement.

Chapter 22

Variation VIII (W. N.) with Ein feste Burg

Ein feste Burg plays “through and over” Variation VIII, generating 60 melodic conjunctions and 159 harmonic conjunctions in 26 out of 27 measures. Since it is dormant in the final measure (307), the covert Theme plays in just over 96% of the movement. If the final G of Ein feste Burg in measure 307 is tied over to the G major chord in measure 308, the case could be made the covert Theme plays “through and over” the entire movement without any dormant measures. This presents a third instance in which the covert Principal Theme plays over the entire length of a movement dedicated to a woman (I, VI, and VIII).

Chapter 23

Variation IX (Nimrod) with Ein feste Burg

Ein feste Burg plays “through and over” Variation IX, generating 27 melodic conjunctions spread over 20 measures and 150 harmonic conjunctions over 36 measures out of a total of 43. Since it is dormant in 13 measures (341, 349-350, 356, 361-364, 368-372), the covert Theme plays over virtually 70% of the movement.

Chapter 24

Variation X (Dorabella) with Ein feste Burg

Ein feste Burg plays “through and over” Variation X, producing 104 melodic conjunctions spread over 35 measures, and 172 harmonic conjunctions over 41 measures out of a total of 74 measures. Since it is dormant in 33 measures (385, 397-404, 415-424, 437-450), the covert Theme plays just under 58% of the movement. It is remarkable that in both instances when the covert Theme concludes one complete cycle it is immediately followed by a carefully placed double bar in the score (measures 414 and 436). The odds of such a coincidence are astronomically low, reinforcing the conclusion that  Ein feste Burg must be Elgar’s missing melody. More importantly, the pattern of marking off the end of the counterpoint with the covert Principal Theme is not isolated to this movement. Partial quotations of Ein feste Burg’s concluding phrase comprised of its first four notes (G, F-sharp, E, D) are performed by the flutes (Martin Luther’s personal instrument) six bars before Rehearsal 42 and 45. These are among the most complete and compelling fragments of the covert principal Theme presented anywhere in the Variations. The Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII, like the Luther fragments in this movement, consist of four notes.

Chapter 25

Variation XI (G. R. S.) with Ein feste Burg

Ein feste Burg plays “through and over” Variation XI, generating 62 melodic conjunctions spread over 28 measures, and 241 harmonic conjunctions over 33 out of a total of 41 measures. The covert Theme is dormant in 5 measures (457, 490 – 493) with four of these five inactive measures consisting of a codetta at the end of the movement. Consequently, there are shared melody notes in 28 out of 35 active measures, or 80% of the movement when Ein feste Burg plays. There are matching notes dispersed over 33 of 35 active measures, or 92% of the movement when Ein feste Burg plays. When factoring in all measures, matching notes occur in 80% of the movement.

Chapter 26

Variation XII (B. G. N.) with Ein feste Burg

Ein feste Burg plays “through and over” Variation XII, producing 23 melodic conjunctions spread over 23 measures, and 100 harmonic conjunctions over 23 out of a total of 28 measures. Since it is dormant in five measures (494-495, 515, 520-521), the covert Theme plays in just over 82% of the movement. Inactive sections are symmetrical insofar as they consist of two measure segments at the beginning and end of Ein feste Burg, and the third near the middle at measure 515. This sandwich technique serves to camouflage the start and end points of the covert Principal Theme and is also found in Variation II.

Chapter 27

Variation XIII (✡ ✡ ✡) with Ein feste Burg

Ein feste Burg plays “through and over” Variation XIII, generating 46 melodic conjunctions in 85 measures, and 173 harmonic conjunctions over 46 out of a total of 51 measures. The covert Theme is dormant over 21 quarter note beats dispersed over 8 bars (532-534, 548, 564-566, and 572). Consequently, there are matching notes in 46 out of 51 active measures or 90% of the movement when Ein feste Burg plays. When factoring all measures, the covert Theme plays over almost 83 % of this section. Melodic conjunctions begin in measure 522 and continue through the double bar at measure 553 where Ein feste Burg finishes one complete cycle. The conclusion of Ein feste Burg precisely at the double bar is not an isolated coincidence as this pattern also appears in other variations containing double bars such as X.

Chapter 28

Variation XIV (E. D. U.) with Ein feste Burg

Ein feste Burg plays “through and over” Variation XIV, generating 204 melodic conjunctions over 85 measures, and 464 harmonic conjunctions over 148 out of a total of 236 measures. Since it is dormant in 77 bars (598-603, 626-634, 647-652, 671-674, 685-687, 702-703, 732-739, and 767-809), the covert Theme plays in slightly over 67 % of the final movement. It is significant that 55 % of dormant measures (41) are found in the extended ending Elgar added shortly after the 1899 premiere. This suggests Elgar tapered his sophisticated counterpoint to permit greater flexibility in his treatment and elaboration of the closing material.

Chapter 29

The Enigma Variations Ciphers

A comprehensive analysis of the Enigma Variations over a nine-year period uncovered a vast trove of cryptograms. While seemingly extraordinary, such a high number is entirely consistent with a reigning facet of Elgar’s psychological profile, an intense fascination for ciphers. More importantly, the decryptions provide definitive answers to the central questions posed by the Variations. What is the secret melody on which the Enigma Theme is a counterpoint and the ensuing movements are based? Answer: Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) by Martin Luther. What is the ‘dark saying’ associated with the Enigma Theme? Answer: A Polybius Box Cipher embedded in the opening six measures of the Enigma Theme. Who is the secret friend and inspiration behind Variation XIII? Answer: Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of Elgar’s Roman Catholic faith. A subset of these ciphers also reveals one of Elgar’s sources of inspiration was Secondo Pia’s historic photographic negative of the Turin Shroud taken five months before work was begun openly on the Enigma Variations.

Chapter 30

The Enigma Variations and the Turin Shroud

An unusual number of parallels between the Enigma Variations and the Turin Shroud are presented. A famous photographic negative of the Turin Shroud taken five months before Elgar began work on the Variations provides a rationale for his unconventional approach. Just as the Turin Shroud contains a secretive image of a famous man in the form of a photographic negative, Elgar devised a contrapuntal “negative” of a famous hymn in the form of the Enigma Theme. The Turin Shroud is the burial cloth of the secret friend portrayed in Variation XIII.

Chapter 31

The Turin Shroud Enigma Ciphers

A distinct subset of the Enigma Variations ciphers refers to the Turin Shroud and its first official photographer, Secondo Pia.

Chapter 32

Elgar's Enigmas and Longfellow’s Elegiac Verse

At the conclusion of the extended Finale to the Enigma Variations, Elgar quotes a paraphrase from the last stanza of Longfellow’s Elegiac Verse. In a remarkable confluence, the stanza number from Longfellow’s poem matches the Roman numeral assigned to the Finale, XIV. There are other equally fascinating parallels between Longfellow’s Elegiac Verse and the Enigma Variations that illustrate Elgar’s subtle and informed use of literature.

Chapter 33

Rehearsal 66 in the Enigma Variations

Edward Elgar draws special attention to the number six throughout the Enigma Variations. The opus number (36) is the product of six multiplied by six. There are six titles for different movements that are six letters long. The first of these is Enigma.  There is an oddly placed double bar at the end of measure 6 within the Enigma Theme. Less obvious but equally relevant is the presence of a six-by-six Polybius Box Cipher embedded within the Enigma Theme. When decoded it reveals Elgar’s “dark saying” first mentioned in the 1899 program note for the premiere. The complete title of the unstated principal Theme is six words in length: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. There are 24 letters in that title, the sum of four sixes. The lyrics for Luther’s most famous hymn come from Psalm 46, a chapter number that ends in six. The names Martin and Luther are both six letters in length. Elgar’s use of the German sixth chord in the Enigma Theme alludes to the missing melody’s six-word title in German. Even his dedication alludes to the number six, for it is six words long: “Dedicated to my Friends pictured within.” These overt and covert references to the number six within the Enigma Variations invite a closer evaluation of the orchestral score at Rehearsal 66.

Chapter 34

Elgar's Grand Allusion: Dante’s Divine Comedy

There are an array of parallels between the Enigma Variations and Dante’s Divine ComedyThese connections revolve around poetry, numerology, symbolism, theology, and music.

Chapter 35

Elgar's Literary Clues about his Enigmas

Elgar’s first biographical sketch in the October 1900 issue of The Musical Times begins with two poetic excerpts, the first from Piers Plowman by William Langland, and the second from The Lost Bower by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Both excerpts mention the Malvern Hills, a prominent topographical feature of Elgar’s birthplace. These poems are theological allegories making rich use of characters and places to symbolize a distinctly Christian worldview. For the composer of sacred oratorios like The Dream of Gerontius and The Light of Life (Lux Christi), these intensely theological poems capture Elgar’s artistic gestalt. They also mirror Jesus' practice of teaching by telling parables. More importantly, these poetic excerpts elegantly hint at the title of the unstated Principal Theme to the Enigma Variations (Ein feste Burg), the hidden friend of Variation XIII (Jesus), and a major source of inspiration, the Turin Shroud.

Chapter 36

God and Elgar at Yale

In early 1905 Sir Edward Elgar received an invitation to visit America from his friend Samuel Sanford, Professor of Applied Music at Yale University. Following his acceptance (and at Sanford’s urging), Yale officially invited Elgar to receive an Honorary Doctor of Music. On June 28 Elgar attended the commencement at Woolsey Hall to receive his honorary degree. Incredibly, Elgar’s conferment was immediately followed by a performance of Ein feste Burg.

Chapter 37

Top Twelve Enigma Solutions Refuted


Chapter 38

How Elgar Channels Wagner Via Mendelssohn

There is a subtle melodic thread that runs through the works of Mendelssohn, Wagner, and Elgar. A fragment from Mendelssohn’s concert overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage is quoted by Elgar in Variation XIII. A careful analysis of this four-note incipit confirms it is an exact restatement of the apotheosis of Senta’s redemption motive from Wagner’s opera The Flying Dutchman. Elgar’s handling of the Mendelssohn fragments reveals some striking similarities to Wagner’s treatment of quotations from Ein feste Burg in his Kaisermarsch

Chapter 39

Why scholars failed to solve Elgar’s Enigma Variations

Secular academics failed to unravel the puzzles of the Enigma Variations because they proudly gazed inward for answers when they should have humbly looked upwards. They callously disregarded the proverb, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Wedded to their worldly assumptions, secular scholars reasoned themselves into intellectual cul-de-sacs devoid of any spiritual insight consistent with Elgar’s faith. The privilege of penetrating the many mysteries of Elgar’s Enigma Variations was an answer to prayer granted by divine providence.


Jesus, Elgar and the Violin . . . . .

There are a variety of extraordinary links between Jesus and the violin that undoubtedly fueled Elgar’s identification with the “King of the orchestra.” A survey of these uncanny parallels helps unmask the secret friend and inspiration behind Elgar’s Violin Concerto.

Photographic negatives of the Turin Shroud


Misfitmuse said...

Interesting article--thanks for writing it. As for the dedication of variation IX to Elgar's friend August Jaegar, the fact that his last name, "Jaegar" means "hunter" in German, might have something to do with it.

Anonymous said...

The only snag with your theory (interesting though it is) is that Elgar himself professed the solution to be a simple one to fathom. In other words, one that a person of no particular scientific or mathematical background might stumble upon.

Robert Padgett said...

@Anonymous: When and where did Elgar ever profess that the solution to his Enigma Variations was simple or straightforward? Have you ever looked up the definition for the term enigma?

Robert Padgett said...

@Anonymous: Merriam-Webster's simple definition for "enigma" is "someone or something that is difficult to understand or explain." The simple definition for "difficult" is "not easy, requiring much work or skill to do or make." The title Elgar gave to the Theme succinctly coveys the severe complexity of the puzzle, not its purported simplicity imagined by simpletons masquerading as academics.

Harold Boswell said...

@Anonymous I'd suggest that if an under-qualified psychology graduate like Mr Padgett can figure it out it was probably a simple solution.

Robert Padgett said...

Harold Boswell is correct in describing me as "under-qualified" for tackling such a momentous puzzle as Elgar's Enigma Variations. The only explanation that I may proffer regrding my lack of qualifications is to invoke the following passage from 1 Corinthians 27-29:

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Dell said...

Couple of mysteries remain which will probably be censored:
1) If Elgar was a devout Roman Catholic, why would he use a popular hymn of the reformation and a leader of Lutheranism (Martin Luther)?

2) If it was a religious theme, why didn't he reveal the enigma after he allegedly lost his faith?

Robert Padgett said...


Elgar cites the music of Felix Mendelssohn in Variation XIII. Mendelssohn was baptized a Lutheran and composed the Reformation Symphony that cites "Ein feste Burg" followed by a set of variations. Elgar was perfectly comfortable quoting the music of a Lutheran in the Enigma Variations, a fact that invites consideration of Lutheran themes. It is truly astonishing that academics failed to probe the Mendelssohn quotations more thoughtfully by connecting these data points and following where they lead. Academics like Julian Rushton missed the proverbial boat in regards to the significance of the Mendelssohn fragments.

"Ein feste Burg" was a battle hymn for the German military in World War I. Assuming that Elgar lost his faith after 1914, there was no possible way for him to admit that the secret melody to the Enigma Variations was a paeon for the German army that slaughtered millions of British soldiers on the battlefields of Europe. Anyone with perceived German sympathies was ostracized or run out of the country. It would have been artistic and social suicide for Elgar to divulge the secret melody to the Enigma Variations.

About Mr. Padgett

My photo
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.