Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Variation XI (G. R. S.) with "Ein feste Burg"

When there is an original sound in the world, it makes a hundred echoes.
John Shedd

Variation XI is dedicated to George Robertson Sinclair (1863 – 1917). He was an organist at Hereford Cathedral from 1889 until his death in 1917. During the 1890s he performed chamber music at the Elgar residence with the Fitton sisters, Basil Nevinson, Hew Steuart Powell, and Winifred Norbury. Elgar frequently visited the Sinclair home and composed musical fragments in the visitor book. Ein feste Burg may play through and over Variation XI as shown in Figure 20.1An audiovisual file of this melodic mapping verifies the efficacy of this contrapuntal solution.

Melodic Interval Mirroring
Figure 20.2 illustrates precisely how Ein feste Burg was carefully mapped over Variation XI based on melodic interval mirroring and the principles of counterpointMelodic interval mirroring occurs when note intervals from Ein feste Burg are reflected in the variation over comparable or identical distances between notes. These notes do not necessarily appear in the melody line of the variation. The contrapuntal devices of similar and contrary motion were also considered in this analysis. Similar motion is when both voices move in the same direction, but not necessarily by the same degree. Contrary motion takes place when Ein feste Burg moves in the opposite direction than the variation, again not necessarily by the same interval. Similar motion is indicated by SM, and contrary motion by CM. For the purposes of this analysis, similar motion includes any instances of parallel motion, and contrary motion any instances of oblique motion. In some cases, the upper voice of the variation moves parallel with Ein feste Burg while the bass line moves in a contrary manner. An effective counterpoint typically employs a fairly balanced mix of contrary and similar motion, something clearly evident with this mapping.

In Figure 20.2 melodic conjunction is represented by a diamond-shaped note head, and a harmonic conjunction by a triangle-shaped note head. A melodic conjunction is defined as any matching melody note between Ein feste Burg and the movement's melody line. A harmonic conjunction is defined as a match between a melody note from the covert Principal Theme and any non-melodic note from the movement. Both melodic and harmonic conjunctions must sound together to be considered a match.
Table 20.1 identifies 62 melodic conjunctions between Ein feste Burg and Variation XI. A melodic conjunction is defined as a note shared by both melody lines at the same time. Share melody notes are dispersed over 28 of 41 measures in Variation XI. The unstated Principal Theme was found to be dormant in 5 measures (457, 490 – 493). Four of these five inactive measures consist of a codetta at the end of the movement. Consequently, there are shared melody notes in 28 out of 35 measures, or 80% of the movement when Ein feste Burg is active.

Table 20.2 breaks down melodic conjunctions between Ein feste Burg and Variation XI by note type. There are eight shared melody note types with frequencies ranging from 2 to 18.

Table 20.3 gives a breakdown of all shared notes between Ein feste Burg and Variation XI. These shared notes consist of melodic and chordal conjunctions. A melodic conjunction occurs when the melody notes of both themes are of the same pitch. A chordal conjunction is defined as a shared pitch between the melody of Ein feste Burg and any nonmelodic note in the variation. There are 241 shared notes dispersed over 33 measures out of a total of 41 measures. As was previously observed, Ein feste Burg is dormant and does not play in five measures. Consequently, almost 92% of the movement contains sequentially shared notes with the unstated Principal Theme. 62 melodic notes and 179 chordal notes are shared between Variation XI and Ein feste Burg. There are 12 shared note types with frequencies ranging between 2 (F sharp & G sharp) and 52 (G).

Table 20.4 summarizes all note conjunctions between Ein feste Burg and Variation XI, giving percentages for each note type in both the melodic and chordal categories.

The preponderance of the evidence outlined in the above Figures and Tables demonstrates Variation XI is a clear and convincing counterpoint to Ein feste Burg. To learn more about the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.

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About Mr. Padgett

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Mr. Padgett studied violin with Michael Rosenker (a student of Leopold Auer), and Rosenker’s pupil, Owen Dunsford. Mr. Padgett studied piano with Sally Magee (a student of Emanuel Bay), and Blanca Uribe (a student of Rosina Lhévinne). He attended the Stevenson School in Pebble Beach, California, and Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in psychology. At Vassar he studied music theory and composition with Richard Wilson. Mr. Padgett has performed for Joseph Silverstein, Van Cliburn, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, Steve Jobs, Prince Charles, Lady Camilla, Marcia Davenport, William F. Buckley, Jr., and other prominent public figures. His original compositions have been performed by the Monterey Symphony, at the Bohemian Grove, the Bohemian Club, and other private and public venues. In 2008 Mr. Padgett won the Max Bragado-Darman Fanfare Competition with his entry "Fanfare for the Eagles." It was premiered by the Monterey Symphony under Maestro Bragado in May 2008. A member of the Elgar Society, Mr. Padgett is married with five children.