|August Jaeger (1860 – 1909)|
He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.”
In the Enigma Variations, Edward Elgar portrays various friends, acknowledging them primarily by their initials, and in a few isolated instances with nicknames. The most unusual of the nicknames is “Nimrod”was given to August Jaeger, the friend portrayed in the elegiac Variation IX. Jaeger, whose German name means hunter, was Elgar’s devoted champion at the London publisher Novello. In the book of Genesis, Nimrod is described as “a mighty hunter before the LORD,” providing a cursory explanation for Elgar’s odd choice as both names refer to a hunter.
The title Nimrod serves as a sublime play on words since the classic biblical description conveniently provides the first two words from the title of the covert principal Theme: A Mighty Fortress. Nimrod’s reputation as a builder of fortress cities injects the final piece of the puzzle – fortress – to complete the famous phrase that opens Psalm 46. With the nickname Nimrod, Elgar exploits the overlapping meanings of Jaeger in German with the Biblical description of Nimrod to elegantly capture the hidden melody’s title. And by using an atypical version of the hunter’s name, Elgar invites us to hunt for the solution. The musical counterpoint between Nimrod and Ein feste Burg substantiates the validity of this Nimrod wordplay cryptogram.
Just in case anyone missed the linguistic connection between Nimrod and Jaeger, Elgar enciphered his friend’s initials using the Roman numerals assigned to that movement (IX). When tralsated by a basic number-to-letter key (1 = A, 2 = B, 3 = C, etc.), the Roman numerals “I” and “X” produce “AJ,” the initials for August Jaeger. “I” stands for the number one, and the first letter of the alphabet is A. “X” represents the number ten, and the tenth letter is J. Elgar cleverly encodes August Jaeger’s initials using the Roman numerals for his elegiac variation. This is not the only movement in which Elgar employs a Roman numeral cipher, for he also encodes the initials of his secret friend memorialized in Variation XIII using the same encipherment method.
The Timpani Tuning Cipher
The tuning of the timpani at Rehearsal 33 of Variation IX is indicated in the score as E-flat, B-flat, and F. Remarkably, those three note letters are an anagram of the initials for Ein feste Burg. Speaking of initials, the number 33 is the mirror image of Elgar's initials consisting of two capital cursive Es. With his transparently encoded set of initials, Elgar hints at the presence of another significant set of enciphered initials.
The interrelated decryptions of the Enigma Variations Ciphers are mutually consistent and reinforcing, erecting an elaborate yet rational set of solutions to one of musicology’s enduring mysteries. With so many ciphers pinpointing the same answers, there is no longer room for doubt. The ciphers are genuine, so the answers must be true and correct. The secret melody to the Enigma Variations is Ein feste Burg by Martin Luther. The secret friend of Variation XIII is Jesus Christ, Elgar’s inspiration behind not only the Enigma Variations but also his sacred oratorios (The Light of Life, The Dream of Gerontius, The Apostles, and The Kingdom) and Violin Concerto in B minor. To learn more about the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.