Breaking Elgar's enigmatic code

 作者:林蒋噼     |      日期:2019-03-15 07:20:03
By Kevin Jones IT IS a story with all the makings of a blockbuster novel: a brilliant composer, an attractive woman, a secret letter and a mystery that has lasted 100 years. This story, though, is real. The composer was Edward Elgar, the renowned English musician who died 70 years ago. The young women was Dora Penny, a family friend. And the mystery? A short coded letter that, his music apart, remains one of Elgar’s most enduring legacies. A study of the composer’s papers reveals that for most of his life he was fascinated by cryptography. His letters and music scores, for example, are dotted with codes and anagrams. And the title of his Enigma Variations, first performed in 1899, hints at his delight in cryptic puzzles. He teasingly suggested that the melody on which his variations are based forms a counterpoint or matching voice to a well-known tune that is present in the piece only by implication. None of the many suggestions as to what this tune might be, including Auld Lang Syne and Rule Britannia, ring true, so the enigma remains. Yet Elgar left another, more intriguing, mystery. In 1896, while struggling to achieve recognition as a composer, he met Dora Penny, a young woman 20 years his junior. The daughter of a clergyman recently returned from Melanesia, she shared Elgar’s interests in kites, cycling and football (they both supported Wolverhampton Wanderers). They exchanged letters and in July 1897, the halcyon summer of Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Elgar sent her a letter in code. Its curious symbols, possibly inspired by Arabic script,