Great is the art of beginning, but greater the art is of ending.
Cited by Elgar after the extended Finale of the Enigma Variations
This is the fifth installment in a series of articles that explore a trove of cryptograms embedded in three bridge passages of the Enigma Variations by the British romantic composer Edward Elgar. A section in classical music that smoothly connects one movement to another is called a bridge passage, and there are three in the Enigma Variations. The first in bars 18-19 comprises an elaboration of the final cadence from the iconic Enigma Theme. It begins at Rehearsal 2 and precedes Variation I (C. A. E.). The second in bars 185-188 completes the closing section of Variation V (R. P. A). It starts four bars before Rehearsal 19 and links to Variation VI (Ysobel). The third bridge passage in bars 306-308 begins three measures before Rehearsal 33 and forms the ending phrase of Variation VIII (W. N.). A soulful melodic G from the tonic cadence is sustained by the first violins over the barline into Rehearsal 33 to herald the sublime dawn of the most elegiac of the movements, Variation IX (Nimrod).
My first essay covers the Opus Dei Cipher. This cryptogram is formed by three performance directions in the first bridge passage that stand out from the others because they end in a period: tempo., dim., and unis. Those three terms are an anagram of two phrases and one word. The first is the Latin phrase “Opus Dei” which means “The work of God.” The next is “I m,” a phonetic spelling of “I am.” This phrase is a mysterious name given by God to Moses at the burning bush on Mount Horeb. The third is “mnt,” a phonetic rendition of “mount.” Moses first encountered God on Mount Horeb, a place also known as the Mountain of God. Elgar taught violin at a school called The Mount on the day he first performed the Enigma Theme at the piano for his wife. first performed the Enigma Theme The decryptions “Opus Dei”, “I AM,” and “mount” evince a coherent theological framework. They further hint at the identity of the secret friend memorialized in Variation XIII because Christian theologians classify the episode on Mount Horeb as a Christophany, an appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus in the Old Testament.
My second article presents the Psalm 46 Ciphers. The word psalm is encoded as an acrostic anagram by five performance directions in the first bridge passage. The numbers 4 and 6 are enciphered in this first bridge passage in two ways by its orchestration. The first is conveyed by the breakdown of the notes in the opening G major chord in bar 18. This tonic major chord is constructed of ten written notes that may be categorized as four unisons and six discrete pitches. The numbers four and six turn up again in connection with the melodic eighth notes performed by the first violins (bars 18-19) and harmonic eighth notes played by the violas (bar 19). These eighth notes are beamed into groups of four, and there are a total of six beamed groupings. The encoding of the word “psalm” in conjunction with the numbers 4 and 6 is illuminating because the title of the covert Theme to the Enigma Variations originates from the first line of Psalm 46. The repeated slurred pattern of eighth notes in pairs is a pattern that suggests the chapter number 22, a messianic psalm that describes the crucifixion.
My third paper describes the Tau Cross Ciphers. The proximate performance directions “a tempo” and “unis” in the first bridge passage are an acrostic anagram of tau. The tau cross is one of the four iconographic representations of the cross, a Christogram that implicates Jesus as Elgar’s secret friend. The sums of the characters in the separate terms in “a tempo” and “unis.” are an anagram of the number 515. That divine number is the cryptic “enigma forte” from Dante’s Divine Comedy. There are multiple coded allusions to the Divine Comedy and the mysterious number 515 within the Enigma Variations. Like the divine number 515, there are at least two coded references in the first bridge passage to a mathematical ratio known as the Divine Number or Golden Section. Similarly, there are two coded references to Pi in bars 1 and 11 of the Enigma Theme. The Golden Section provides the first two words from the title of Longfellow’s book The Golden Legend. That book contains a homage to Martin Luther that cites all four stanzas of his hymn Ein feste Burg, the covert Theme to the Enigma Variations.
The fourth installment covers other related ciphers embedded within the performance directions of the first bridge passage. Setting aside the performance directions that comprise an acrostic anagram of psalm leaves nine other terms. When these remaining words are treated like an acrostic anagram, their first letters may be reshuffled to form “u ffacd ttt.” This phrase may be interpreted phonetically and symbolically as “You faced crucifixion” and “You effaced death.” There were three crosses at the crucifixion of Jesus. Likewise, there are three bridge passages and three Mendelssohn quotations in the Enigma Variations. These decryptions bolster the conclusion that Jesus is the secret friend memorialized in Variation XIII.
Another possible arrangement is “u facd tttf” in which “tttf” is a phonetic rendering of the German word tief meaning deep. The German saying “Stille Wasser sind tief” (Still water runs deep) provides a multilayered linkage to the original German title of Mendelssohn’s overture Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage). Meeres is a word for a large body of water, and stille is identical to that from the German aphorism. When read from this vantage point, the phrase “u facd tttf” may be interpreted as “You faced [the] deep” depths of death. Two coded references to “dead” in the double bass part of Variation XIII bolster this cryptographic interpolation.
The existence of these bridge passage ciphers is consistent with Elgar’s compulsion for cryptography, a subject that merits a chapter in Craig P. Bauer’s treatise Unsolved! A decade of concerted analysis of the Enigma Variations has netted over ninety cryptograms in diverse formats that encode a set of mutually consistent and complementary solutions. While this figure may seem incredible, it is entirely consistent with Elgar’s psychological profile. More importantly, their solutions provide definitive answers to the core questions posed by the Enigma Variations. What is the secret melody to which the Enigma Theme is a counterpoint and serves as the foundation of the ensuing movements? Answer: Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) by Martin Luther. What is Elgar’s “dark saying” ensconced within the Enigma Theme? Answer: A musical Polybius box cipher embedded in the opening six bars. Who is the secret friend and inspiration behind Variation XIII? Answer: Jesus Christ, the Savior of Elgar’s Roman Catholic faith.
The Second Bridge Passage
The second bridge passage in bars 185-188 is the closing section of Variation V (R. P. A). It begins four bars before Rehearsal 19 and links to Variation VI (Ysobel). Elgar devised a predominantly scaler countermelody to serve as the main subject of Variation V to contrast with the Enigma Theme’s more open melodic architecture. In bars 185 through 186, the first nine notes of this countermelody are performed twice in octaves by the second violins, violas, and cellos with the opening four-notes of the Enigma Theme played by the second flute with the French horns in octaves. In bars 187 through 188, the first four notes of the countermelody are repeated in a descending melodic sequence in conjunction with a series of four descending sevenths played in unison in bar 187 by the principal flute and first clarinet, and continued by the clarinet in bars 188.
The second bridge passage layers the first phrase of the countermelody above a four-note incipit of Enigma Theme, first in 185 and a second time with the countermelody an octave higher in bar 186. The countermelody has a time signature of 12/8 and is constructed predominantly from triplet patterns. The Enigma Theme retains its original 4/4 meter and rhythmic structure of two eighth notes followed by two quarter notes. These contrasting time signatures are indicated concurrently in the full score. The placement of the countermelody above the Enigma Theme mirrors Elgar’s condition that requires the hidden tune must play “through and over the whole set” of Variations.
A careful analysis of the countermelody’s opening six notes over the Enigma Theme’s first four notes reveals that it is a melodic anagram. The merger of these two beginnings produces one remarkable ending as these ten notes may be reorganized and revalued rhythmically to form the complete ending phrase of Ein feste Burg.
This is not the only time that Elgar encodes the ending phrase of the secret tune in the form of a melodic anagram. In Variation XIII, three clarinet solo passages that begin with a Mendelssohn quotation are a melodic anagram of the concluding phrase of Ein feste Burg. At Rehearsal 66 in Variation XIV, the countermelody to the Enigma Theme is also a melodic anagram of the hidden tune’s concluding phrase. Consequently, the discovery of the Second Bridge Melodic Anagram Cipher is part of a larger pattern in the Enigma Variations.
Ysobel’s Sea Crossing Ciphers
Variation VI is dedicated to Elgar’s viola pupil Isabel Fitton. “Ysobel” is a variant of her first name with the English equivalent of “Elisabeth.” “Ysobel” is a derivation of the name “Elisheba”, the wife of Aaron mentioned in Exodus 6:23. The chapter number 6 corresponds to the Roman numeral VI, and even more remarkably, Ysobel ends at Rehearsal 23 which corresponds to verse 23. Aaron served as the spokesman for his brother Moses who led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt during the Exodus. Fleeing the Pharaoh's pursuing army, Elisheba escaped with the Hebrew nation across a miraculous landbridge created when God parted the sea. The words “I AM” and “mount” are encoded by the Opus Dei Cipher, and these are prominent terms highlighted in the Exodus account. Two new documentary films — The Red Sea Miracle Parts I and II — present archeological evidence for this pivotal event in Jewish history.
The insertion of a bridge passage between Variations V (R.P.A.) and VI (Ysobel) is a subtle but unmistakable theological allusion to a sea crossing. The key signatures of the bridge passage (C minor) and ensuing movement (C major) drive this point home because that shared key letter is a homonym of sea. A pedal tone C is tied over four barlines throughout the second bridge passage into the downbeat of Variation VI. This feature provides a cunning wordplay on “sea tied.” The pedal tone C is sustained for a total of 50 eighth notes, a number linked to the Exodus account because Moses received God's Law precisely 50 days after Passover. This event is celebrated on Shavuot which is also known as Pentecost. Secular scholars could never see this theologically transparent reference because the scriptural connotations of the name “Ysobel” would never cross their philistine minds.
There is a second allusion to a sea crossing in Variation VI. Elgar wrote concerning this movement, “It may be noticed that the opening bar, a phrase made use of throughout the variation, is an ‘exercise’ for crossing the strings — a difficulty for beginners; on this is built a pensive and, for a moment, romantic movement.” The main motive is a string crossing exercise Elgar devised for Isabel to practice on her viola. The viola is written primarily in the alto clef which is also known as the C clef. Variation VI presents a string crossing exercise in the key of C that is introduced by the viola composed in the C clef. This clever combination of motive, key, and orchestration, results in multiple coded references to a C (sea) crossing.
There are four notes in the string crossing motif which is accompanied by a figure constructed from the first three notes of the Enigma Theme played in harmonic thirds for a total of six notes. Four countermelody notes are played along with three melody notes performed in harmonic thirds for a total of six. This combination of four and six notes is a coded reference to the numbers four and six. Those two numerals are enciphered throughout the Enigma Theme and in its first bridge passage. The significance of the numbers four and six is that covert Theme's title originates from Psalm 46.
Elgar cites in Variation XIII a melodic incipit from Felix Mendelssohn’s concert overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage to sonically portray a sea crossing. This overture was inspired by the poetry of the German poet and playwright Johann Wolgang von Goethe. The image of a sea crossing intersects with the coded reference to a sea crossing in the C minor bridge passage of Variation V that links to Variation VI with its distinctive string crossing exercise motif. The function of a bridge is to provide a place to cross, a word intimately tied to Jesus, the friend secretly commemorated in Variation XIII. There are three bridge passages within the Enigma Variations, something analogous to the three crosses at the crucifixion of Christ.
IHC Christogram Cipher
The second bridge passage opens with the first nine sounding notes of the countermelody performed in bar 185 and repeated an octave higher in bar 186. The first four notes of the countermelody are next played twice starting a 5th higher on G in bar 187 for a total of eighth notes. A melodic sequence is constructed from these opening four notes in bar 188 that modulates downward in stepwise fashion from F to E-flat. The countermelody is played over a pedal tone C sustained by the bass section and a timpani roll on the same C that later accompanies the first two Mendelssohn quotations in A-flat major. The droning timpani roll on C serves as a link to the Mendelssohn quotations in Variation XIII.
There are nine sounding notes in the countermelody in bar 185 that are repeated in bar 186. There are eight countermelody notes in bar 187 and again in 188. When these discrete note totals of the countermelody (9 and 8) are filtered through a number-to-letter key (1 = a, 2 = b, 3 = c, etc.), the resulting plaintext is I and H. Those are the first two letters in the Christogram IHC. The absent C is conveniently provided by the C pedal tone that accompanies the countermelody throughout the second bridge passage. The enciphering of a Christogram in a bridge passage is contextually appropriate because a bridge provides a place to cross.
The second bridge connects seamlessly to Variation VI with the indication attacca. At Rehearsal 19, there are four proximate performance directions in the staves of the first violins (pp) and violas (p, arco, and express.). These four neighboring performance directions are an acrostic anagram of paper:
The French word pape means “pope.” Elgar was an observant Roman Catholic when he composed the Enigma Variations in 1898-99. The word pape is enciphered in bar 189. Remarkably, the 189th pope was Martin IV, the last French pope based in Rome. The Roman numerals for Variation VI are the mirror image of IV. The name Martin is associated with the covert Theme as it was composed by Martin Luther. There are various coded references to Dante’s Divine Comedy in the Enigma Variations, and Pope Martin IV is specifically mentioned in the second cantica, Purgatorio.
The second bridge passage connects Variation V (R. P. A.) to Variation VI (Ysobel). The initials of those adjoining titles (R. P. A. and Y) are an anagram of “PARY”. This proximate initials anagram is a phonetic rendering of Parry, the last name of Hubert Parry. He was a prominent English composer who championed Elgar's music. Parry contributed articles to George Grove’s immense Dictionary of Music and Musicians, a work that Elgar consulted during his musical apprenticeship. In 1895, Parry succeeded Grove as head of the Royal College of Music.
Parry may not have merited his own variation, but his name is deftly encoded by two movements linked together by a bridge passage. Parry’s 1916 setting of William Blake’s poem Jerusalem was orchestrated by Elgar in 1922 and has become a permanent fixture at the Proms. The main character of that poem is Jesus, the secret friend portrayed in Variation XIII. Elgar prepared no fewer than five lists of the Variations that varied the order of the movements. He did not arrive at placing R. P. A. before Ysobel until the third list. These divergent lists were Elgar's attempts to construct an assortment of cryptograms as addressed in the article Elgar's Proximate Title Letters Enigma Ciphers.
Elgar’s Initials and Name Ciphers
A distinct subset of cryptograms within the Enigma Variations harbor the composer’s initials or name. For instance, the performance directions in the Enigma Theme’s opening bar are an acrostic anagram of “EE’s Psalm.” The first bridge passage is enclosed by an end bar and a double bar. Those barlines (End and double) are an acrostic of Ed, a shortened version of Edward. Elgar’s initials for his own variation also feature those letters: E. D. U. The decryption of a musical Polybius box cipher in the Enigma Theme’s opening six measures revealed it relied on four different languages: English, Latin, German, and what Elgar reasonably believed to be Aramaic. The first letters of those four languages are an acrostic anagram of Elgar: English, Latin, German, and Aramaic. The Enigma Theme is bookended by coded versions of the composer’s last and first names.
The second bridge passage is sprinkled with pairs of E-flats hinting at Elgar’s initials. The second flute part restates the opening four notes of the Enigma Theme in C minor beginning with E-flat in bar 185, and repeats the same melodic fragment in bar 186. The second flute plays an E-flat on the second beat of bars 185 and 186 to form the first pair of note letter Es. The first and second French horns play octave E-flats in concert pitch in bar 185 and again in bar 186, furnishing two more sets of note letter Es. The third trombone plays E-flat on the first and third beats of measure 187. The third trombone plays an E-flat on the second beat of bar 188, and the second trombone repeats that same E-flat on the third beat. The first violins perform two melodic E-flats in bar 187, and again in bar 188. The consistent appearance of two E-flats in each measure of the second bridge passage bears Elgar’s cryptographic fingerprints.
The first violins perform the notes E-D four times over bars 187-188, providing four instances where Elgar cleverly inserted his first name within the second bridge passage. The scoring of the Enigma Variations includes two B-flat clarinets, a transposing instrument that plays a written note a whole tone lower. In bar 187, the first clarinet performs a written D on the downbeat descending by a minor seventh to E on the second beat. This same melodic pattern is repeated on the third and fourth beats. These four written notes (D-E-D-E) are two reverse spellings of Ed with one conventional spelling (E-D) on beats two and three. On the second and fourth beats of bar 187, the first and second clarinets perform a unison written E that sounds a whole tone lower as D. These unison Es are another coded form of Elgar’s first name because of the relationship between the written (E) and sounding (D) pitches.
This excavation of the second bridge passage in the Enigma Variations uncovered a number of intriguing cryptograms. The countermelody’s opening six notes over the Enigma Theme’s first four notes reveals that this melodic melding is an anagram of the complete ending phrase of Ein feste Burg. This bridge passage is tied to a sea crossing because it is written in C minor and connects to Variation VI (Ysobel). The key letter C is a homonym of sea. The pedal tone C is tied over multiple barlines throughout the second bridge passage, providing a witty wordplay on “sea tied.” The Mendelssohn quotations in Variation XIII symbolize a sea crossing and begin on the note C. The name Ysobel is a derivation of Elisheba, the name of Aaron’s wife and sister-in-law to Moses. The Exodus account describes how the people of Israel escaped Egypt and fled across a miraculous land bridge created when God parted the sea.
The second bridge passage encodes the IHC Christogram. The discrete number of countermelody notes per measure in the second bridge passage are 9 (bars 185 and 186), and 8 (bars 187 and 188). When converted into their corresponding letters in the alphabet, the numerals 9 and 8 produce I and H. The countermelody is performed above a C pedal tone. This sustained note provides the third letter to complete the IHC Christogram.
Variation V (R. P. A.) and Variation VI (Ysobel) are linked by the second bridge passage. The initials for these connected movements (R. P. A. and Y) are an anagram of “PARY”. This is a phonetic spelling of Parry. The British composer and academic Hubert Parry befriended Elgar and played an important role in furthering his career. Parry’s 1916 setting of William Blake’s poem Jerusalem was orchestrated by Elgar in 1922 and is performed on the last night of the Proms.
An array of cryptograms within the Enigma Variations harbor either Elgar’s initials, first name, or last name. The bridge passage ciphers fall into this category. Elgar’s initials are sprinkled throughout the bridge passage as pairs of E-flats. The second flute plays an E-flat on the second beat of bars 185 and 186. The French horns play octave E-flats on the second beat of bars 185 and 186. The third trombone performs two E-flats on beats 1 and 3 of bar 187. The second trombone plays an E-flat on beat 2 of bar 188, and the third trombone follows with a second E-flat on beat 3. The first violins perform two E-flats during beats 1 and 3 of bars 187 and 188. The first and second clarinets perform unison written Es on beats 2 and 4 of bar 187.
Elgar’s first name is spelled out by the first violin line four times in bars 187-188 by the consecutive notes E and D. It is also spelled out in the B-flat clarinet staff by the notes E and D on beats 2 and 3 of bar 187, and twice in reverse as D and E on beats 1 and 2, and again on beats 3 and 4. The B-flat clarinet is a transposing instrument that plays a written pitch a whole tone lower. The first and second clarinets play a unison written E twice in bar 187, and that note sounds in concert pitch as D. Consequently, these unison Es are a coded version of Ed by pairing the written pitch (E) with the sounding pitch (D). Remarkably, Elgar signed his second bridge passage cipher six times. To learn more about the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elar's Enigmas Exposed.