Enigma Variations solved? Oh, not again….

There has been very little reaction to an explosive claim in the Times this weekend by ‘one of the country’s sharpest young musical minds’ that he had cracked the riddle at the heart of Edward Elgar’s breakthrough work.

According to Ed Newton-Rex, 31 – ‘a composer and artificial intelligence music expert who obtained a double starred first in music from Cambridge, graduating top of his year’ – it’s a tune from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater.

Some are persuaded.

Most are not bothered – any more than they were three months ago when a laughing policeman – ‘a police inspector with an MA in crime patterns’ – told the Daily Telegraph that he had cracked the code, albeit with an unfathomable solution.

Or the Leeds professor who discovered in 2015 that it was a well-known hymn.

All good theories. None matters much any more.

In 1985, when Elgar’s godson disclosed to me the name of the composer’s long-lost girfriend, the story made the front page of the Sunday Time and we were bombarded for weeks afterwards with clues as to the lady’s whereabouts.

That was then. Today, classical music is a peripheral pursuit and the mass media no longer carry critical mass.

Sad but true.

The music endures.

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  • Garry Humphreys says:

    Whatever brilliant solutions emerge, only Elgar knows the truth, so we’ll never know, unless some documentary evidence comes to light, which is unlikely.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Indeed! In the meantime, we can keep enjoying this wonderful music, even without knowing the riddle. Norman Lebrecht was right: “The music endures”.

  • fflambeau says:

    His explanation is highly convincing.

  • Cleve Orch Fan says:

    “Explosive claim”? About a 120 year old piece of music that the vast majority of humans have never heard? It’s not even explosive in the niche world of Classical music.

  • Here’s another one for you Norman. Personally, I’ll stick with the Mozart “Prague” Symphony theory.


  • Greg Bottini says:

    “Enigma Variations” is a masterpiece, possibly Elgar’s greatest work.
    I, for one, have no interest whatsoever concerning where Elgar came up with his inspiration.
    I only know that the beauty and profundity of Nimrod makes me cry every time I hear it.
    Every. Single. Time.

  • A meticulous assessment of Pergolesi’s ‘Stabat Mater’ confirms that melody fails to satisfy five of six criteria provided by Elgar. The British media’s repeated attempts to prop up a non-German solution proffered by students of English institutions is admirable but misguided. The absent Theme is German in origin, a critical clue affirmed by the Theme’s German title (Enigma is spelled the same in German as it is in English), Elgar’s German rendering of his first name for the Finale (E.D.U.ard), and four melodic quotations in Variation XIII from a German composer’s concert overture with the original German title ‘Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt.’ To learn more about this surprising melodic solution, read my 37-page paper cited by Wikipedia, ‘Evidence for Ein feste Burg as the Covert Theme to Elgar’s Enigma Variations.’

  • Mendelssohn’s version of Luther’s well-known hymn “Ein feste Burg” (A Mighty Fortress) plays “through and over” Variation IX Nimrod in the following audiovisual demonstration:


    This contrapuntal mapping affirms the identity of the covert melody to Elgar’s Enigma Variations. To learn more, visit http://enigmathemeunmasked.blogspot.com/2010/09/variation-ix-nimrod-with-ein-feste-burg.html

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