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Codes, ciphers, enigmas

The Listening Service selects Elgar's 'Enigma Variations' to look at codes, ciphers and hidden messages in music. With Professor Marcus du Sautoy.

The Listening Service returns to its regular slot now the Proms are over, and chooses one of the BBC's "Ten Pieces III", Elgar's "Enigma Variations", to look at codes, ciphers and hidden messages in music.
What might be the "dark saying" or mystery tune that the Enigma Variations are based around? Which other composers were keen on the use of codes and ciphers in their music?
And if we can't crack the codes, does it matter?
With Tom Service and Prof. Marcus du Sautoy.

Available now

29 minutes

Music Played

  • Robert Schumann

    Fantasy in C major Op.17

    Performer: Paul Lewis.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
  • Dmitry Shostakovich

    Symphony no 10, Finale

    Performer: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Vasily Petrenko.
    • Naxos.
  • Pink Floyd

    Empty Spaces

    Performer: Pink Floyd.
    • The Wall.
    • Harvest.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Symphony no. 38 (K.504) in D major "Prague", 2nd movement; Andante

    Performer: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Performer: Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
    • Elatus.
  • Felix Mendelssohn

    Symphony no. 5 (Op.107) in D major "Reformation", 4th movement

    Performer: Vienna Philharmonic. Performer: Christoph von Dohnányi.
    • Decca.
  • Franz Liszt

    Les Preludes

    Performer: West–Eastern Divan Orchestra. Performer: Daniel Barenboim.
    • Decca.
  • The Royal Doulton Band

    Now The Day Is Over

    • Hymns For Band The Royal Doulton Band.
    • Bandleader.
  • Rod Stewart

    Auld Lang Syne

    • Merry Christmas, Baby (Deluxe Edition).
    • Verve Records.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080; Contrapunctus XIV

    Performer: Pierre‐Laurent Aimard.
    • DG.
  • Alban Berg

    Lyric Suite, Third Movement

    Performer: Schoenberg Quartet.
    • Chandos.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Le Nozze di Figaro - (K.492), Act 1, no.1; Cinque, dieci [duet]

    Singer: Cecilia Bartoli. Singer: Bryn Terfel. Orchestra: Orchestra of the Academy of Santa Cecilia, Rome. Conductor: Myung-Whun Chung.
    • Decca.
  • Dmitry Shostakovich

    String Quartet no 8

    Performer: Carducci String Quartet.
    • Signum.
  • Dmitry Shostakovich

    Symphony no 10 . 4th movt

    Performer: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Vasily Petrenko.
    • Naxos.
  • Hans Zimmer

    Variation 15 (Dunkirk)

    Composer: Benjamin Wallfisch. Performer: Hans Zimmer. Performer: Benjamin Wallfisch.
    • Dunkirk (Soundtrack).
    • WaterTower Music.
  • Edward Elgar

    Variations on an original theme ('Enigma') ... (Op.36), Variation 11; G.R.S.

    Performer: London Symphony Orchestra. Performer: John Barbirolli.
    • EMI.
  • Edward Elgar

    Variations on an original theme ('Enigma') ... (Op.36), Variation 6; Ysobel

    Performer: London Symphony Orchestra. Performer: John Barbirolli.
    • EMI.
  • Edward Elgar

    Variations on an original theme ('Enigma') ... (Op.36), Variation 7; Troyte

    Performer: London Symphony Orchestra. Performer: John Barbirolli.
    • EMI.
  • Edward Elgar

    Variations on an original theme ('Enigma') ... (Op.36), Variation 14; E.D.U.

    Performer: London Symphony Orchestra. Performer: John Barbirolli.
    • EMI.
  • Edward Elgar

    Enigma Variations

    Performer: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Performer: André Previn.
    • Philips.

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