Art critic 'solves' the riddle of Sir Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations

Art critic 'solves' the riddle of Sir Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations

It is the musical puzzle that has seen Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, the works of Shakespeare and even the mathematical formula for Pi suggested as possible answers. But now a respected art critic has suggested that the ‘hidden melody’ in Sir Edward Elgar’s beloved Enigma Variations is the Welsh song Men of Harlech. Elgar revealed in 1899 that there was ‘a larger theme’ to the works, but took the secret to his grave telling friends: ‘The enigma I will not explain.’ But Bevis Hillier claims Elgar ‘embedded’ Men of Harlech in his celebrated composition because he was ‘obsessed’ with the military tune and also weaved ‘snippets’ of it into other works including Pomp and Circumstance and Chanson de Matin. ‘I looked at the beginning of the Variations because I thought if this man is going to include a code of any kind that is where he will put it. And he did,’ said Mr Hillier. ‘He encoded Men of Harlech in a musical anagram of the piece. He took the first seven notes of the classic Welsh song and jumbled them up in the first seven notes of Variations. ‘The notes of Men of Harlech have exact matches to the Variations, albeit in a slightly different order.’ The Enigma Variations consist of a theme and 14 Variations, including the ninth and most famous, Nimrod, which is regularly played at commemorations and featured at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. Elgar only told his wife, Alice, and music publisher friend, August Jaeger, the solution ...
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