Enigma Variations - Comments from Norman Del Mar

from Norman Del Mar's Orchestral Variations
Confusion and Error in the Orchestral Repertoire

published by Eulenburg Books, London, 1981

This extremely useful book is currently out of print.

page 126, referring to Variation II, the timpani dynamic should be p ma marcato as below:

page 127, referring to Variation XIII, reh 56:
According to the accepted and well-authenticated tradition, the side-drum sticks prescribed for the timpani are a euphemism for two pennies. (With the introduction of decimal coinage and the tiny new pennies, however, a certain problem has arisen.)
More on this issue in the Blades quotes to come...

Here are some comments about the Elgar Cello Concerto, page 124:
1. Fig. 17: The timpani reads differently in the part from the score. The quicker group of the part:

is perhaps the more natural reading and Elgar himself allowed it to be played so in his own recording.

The score has:

4. Fig. 29: The timpani part gives a D at 29 which is the obvious resolution after the A's of the previous bar. As in note 1 above, it could well be the score which has the misprint.

(DAT) Number 1 for the cello concerto is a classic example of one of those 50-50 situations you run across in the orchestral repertoire. The part has one thing, the score another, and neither is overtly right or wrong.

So what does one play in such a situation? Once I have looked at all the information available, I try both a few times and then play the one that feels better musically. In the case of example one above, even though the two 32nds version is more stylistically consistent with Elgar's writing (he uses single timpani notes preceded by two grace notes quite often), I prefer the two 16ths version because it seems to support the musical line better. So that's what I play unless the conductor asks for something else.

Number 4 for the cello concerto is an example of what I call "subconscious copyist editing". I've done a great deal of copyist work in my career, both by hand and on the computer. When a discrepancy exists between the part and score, especially in an established work such as this, often the copyist will have made edits that make musical sense as part of the process of extracting the parts and never remember that it was done or document the change. I would think in this instance Elgar was being conservative, his tuning for the piece is G, B, e; the G is only used near the end of the entire work. He indicates no changes (not for the A either), so the d instead of the A in the score is probably a copyist edit, but one that makes perfect sense. Perhaps Elgar didn't think both changes could be made in time on the hand-tuned drums commonly in use in Britain at the time, so he opted for just the A in the score, which would sound OK since it is a chord tone.

Also, I wouldn't necessarily take a recording supervised and/or conducted by the composer as the final word on such an issue. Elgar was by all accounts a fine conductor, but conductors have a lot on their mind, and he could have easily wanted 16ths at the spot at reh 17 and just not noticed the timpanist was playing 32nds. Also recordings of that era allowed for minimal editing so it is also possible that the "error" was noticed but that take was the best overall, with several other errors or inaccuracies to consider.

On to Comments from James Blades (from Percussion Instruments and Their History)

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