(DAT) Timpani Part Editing - Part 2 - Part Revision Techniques
First I would like to quote some relevant passages from two books that deal with this issue. First is from Norman Del Mar: Anatomy of the Orchestra, p. 345:
The pedals also give players the opportunity to amend older composers' timpani parts where they may seem inadequate or even downright incorrect. It is actually surprising how both classical and romantic composers would often write notes quite foreign to the harmony rather than forfeit the colour of a drum stroke, confident - not without reason - that the pitch clash would pass unnoticed by all except the actual player:
Del Mar then gives a notoriously thorny example from the last movement of Schumann's Fourth Symphony (16 measures after letter Z).
This next longer quote (footnotes omitted) is from James Blades: Percussion Instruments and Their History (Revised Edition, 1984), p. 274-5:
With Schubert, as with Beethoven and earlier composers, the lack of a third drum, and their drummers' inability to re-tune in the course of a movement, undoubtedly led to dissonances. In the first movement of the Unfinished Symphony there is a clash so harsh that today the part is sometimes modified by changing the B natural drum to C sharp, or alternatively by using an extra drum. In the same movement the drums play on B and F sharp, when a G and D would seem more suitable during a full close in G major. In his Second Symphony Schubert frequently uses B flat in a chord of C Major. Whether one should alter the original score in such cases, on the grounds that early composers would have written differently had the full resources of modern technical improvement been at their disposal, is arguable.
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Opinions are sharply divided as to the justification of amendments in standard works. That the restrictions under which the older classical composers wrote for the drums resulted in defects in undeniable. P.A. Browne says: 'Every intelligent and conscientious conductor, when he prepares an early classical work for performance, finds himself faced with the problem whether to leave such primitive methods of scoring as he finds them or else to make the most of his composer's musical inspiration and "touch up" the scoring as he feels the composer would have liked it done, had all the modern technical improvements been available for his use.'
There are numerous occasions in the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Rossini (for example), where there are dissonances which by no means suggest intentional discordances, for here an extra drum, or quick change of tuning would have given the composer access to a more satisfactory note at the point where he obviously desired the additional weight of the drum. With the additional clarity of modern timpani these dissonances are, to some, intensely disturbing. Many conductors and players are of the opinion that had present-day equipment been available to these early composers, many of these situations would not have occurred, and the timpani parts are altered accordingly, as for instance, the use of the note F in place of the written A in bar 10 of Schubert's Third Symphony.
In the works of early masters there are also many occasions where the drums are silent, when had it been practical to employ them, there seems little doubt that a part would have been given to them. Many present-day timpanists feel the urge to use a third drum (or a pedal change) to reinforce certain chords in the Figaro Overture, or even at times to change the rhythm
to comply with the customary matching with the trumpets. Whether an occasional dressing of this nature is disrespectful is arguable. There are many practising musicians who openly disagree with the purists who consider it sacrilege to tamper with the scores of the great masters. Many eminent musicians have thought fit occasionally to revise. Mengelberg reinforced the horns in the Overture to Tannhäuser
Forsyth says: 'According to Strauss, Von Bülow put Beethoven's
on the Mechanical Drums'. Sir Henry Wood's personal score shows this addition to the first movement of the Eighth Symphony, as also
in the Minuet. In Schubert's Unfinished there are interesting additions by Sir Henry, prompted no doubt, as were other examples, by his acquisition of machine drums.
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