(DAT) Timpani Part Editing - Part 2 - Part Revision Techniques - Page 2 - Survey of Literature

Survey of Literature - Opera

Blades lists Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Rossini on the previous page as composers that can benefit from part revision. For me, this revision is primarily a nineteenth century phenomenon, particularly necessary for opera. As someone with a great of deal of opera experience, most of the revision work I have done has been of 19th century Italian opera repertoire.

In my experience the earlier in the century the opera was written, the more likely it is to need revision. So the following composers' operas will always need significant attention:

  • Donizetti
  • Rossini
  • Verdi
  • Bellini

  • Donizetti's works, especially the earlier ones, are so problematic that the written pitches in the part have little resemblance to the harmony.  Lucia de Lammermoor has sections where the part is obviously supposed to transpose like a horn or trumpet part - but the transposition isn't given. There are even published parts (Daughter of the Regiment - Kalmus edition) that are obviously the work of a later editor.

    Rossini is slightly less of a problem, in fact one version of  Barber of Seville is a perennial timpanist's favorite. You only play the overture (originally written for a different opera altogether) and you can leave really early - a rare occurrence when you go home earlier than your colleagues in the percussion section. In fact, the timpani parts that do exist for the remainder of  Barber are among the worst I have encountered, they are very difficult to arrange so that they add anything to the music.

    Verdi is an interesting study, because given the general quality of his orchestration one would think he would write better for timpani. All of his operas, up to and including Falstaff, need work. Generally the earlier works  (NabuccoAttila) pose more problems than the later ones such as  Otello and  Falstaff.  Two of the worst I have encountered are  La Traviata and  Aida.

    By the time you get to Puccini the problem has more or less disappeared, but I feel that Mascagni ( Cavalleria Rusticana ) and Leoncavallo ( I Pagliacci ) also benefit from some attention.

    I have also found major problems with French repertoire, primarily Massenet and Gounod. For example, Massenet's  Manon is a complete mess. Even in the earlier works of Wagner (prior to the  Ring ) some minor editing is useful. Plan on extra study of the score of ANY opera from this historical period prior to the first rehearsals.

    Survey of Literature - Symphonic

    Here is my list of some major composers most likely to require editing in the symphonic literature, more or less in descending order:

  • Robert Schumann
  • Schubert
  • Mendelssohn
  • Dvorák

  • The four symphonies of Schumann are frequent targets for re-orchestration, and not just the timpani parts. Symphony #2 is the least problematic of the four, the other three all benefit from major editing. His other orchestral works require less editing then the symphonies, but still need to be checked.

    All of the Schubert symphonies (except for #5 which has no timpani part) are candidates for editing. In fact there is a published edition of revised parts for these works by Jacques Rémy, timpanist of the Orchestre de Paris. Schubert's overtures and all his other orchestral music need attention as well.

    Mendelssohn runs hot and cold, the part in the "Italian" Symphony #4 is OK (with a couple of very minor changes), but the part in the "Reformation" Symphony #5 is a disaster, especially in the Scherzo. All the remaining symphonies need help, as do the two piano concertos, but the Midsummer Night's Dream music and Violin Concerto are basically fine.

    Dvorák is another uneven composer, some parts (many of the Slavonic Dances, most of the "New World" Symphony #9) are OK, many of the other symphonies (especially #7) are not.

    As far as the earlier Classical literature, I tend to leave those parts alone except for an occasional change (more often in Haydn than in Mozart). I tend to assume that Beethoven knows what he is doing, but there are definitely places (not so much in the symphonies) that can use a discreet change, like some of the Egmont music and the Coriolan overture. Brahms is also usually fine, but I feel the German Requiem (an earlier work) benefits from some editing.

    Once you get into the latter part of the century there are fewer problems, but an occasional problematic work is encountered like the Sibelius First and Second Symphonies or a few odd places in Tchaikovsky. Bruckner I tend to leave alone, because in his music the timpani signal the home key. However, because of the many different editions of his works you have to watch for simple errors in his music.

    On the next page we'll discuss philosophies of editing and begin to develop an editing method.

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