Monday, November 8, 2010

Variation XII (B. G. N.) with "Ein feste Burg"

The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice.
G. K. Chesterton

Variation XII is dedicated to Basil George Nevinson (1853 – 1908) who resided in London but found time to visit Malvern regularly and play cello in various musical ensembles. When Elgar visited London, he would often stay at the Nevinson home. This poignant movement features a cello solo in acknowledgment of Elgar’s friendship with Nevinson. It is extraordinary that the performance directions for the cello solo at Rehearsal 52 generate the acrostic anagram “E’s Psalm.” That is a significant disclosure as the covert Theme’s title originates from Psalm 46. Virtually the same acrostic anagram (EE's Psalm) is produced by performance directions in the Enigma Theme's first measure. 

Ein feste Burg may play through and over Variation XII as shown in Figure 21.1. An audiovisual file of this melodic mapping supports the efficacy of this contrapuntal solution. It should be mentioned in measure 500 Ein feste Burg modulates with the variation up a minor third from G minor to B flat major. In this context Ein feste Burg rises from A at the end of measure 499 to B flat at the beginning of measure 500 instead of cadencing downward on G. It is feasible to use a G at the beginning of measure 500 without undermining the melodic solution, but in light of the obvious modulation, it was determined B-flat presents a superior resolution.

Melodic Interval Mirroring
Figure 21.2 illustrates precisely how Ein feste Burg was carefully mapped over Variation XII 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 21.2 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 21.1 summarizes 23 melodic conjunctions between Ein feste Burg and Variation XII. A melodic conjunction is defined as any simultaneously shared note between the melody lines of the unstated Principal Theme and the variation. Melodic conjunctions are dispersed over 23 out of 28 measures in Variation XII. Based on this mode of analysis, it was found Ein feste Burg does not play over five measures of Variation XII:
  • The two-bar introduction in measures 494 and 495
  • Measure 515 four bars after rehearsal 54
  • The closing two bar recapitulation of the introduction in measures 520 and 521
Excluding these five inactive measures, melodic conjunctions are present in 15 out of 23 bars, or 65% of all active measures. An active measure is defined as one in which Ein feste Burg plays.

Table 21.2 breaks down melodic conjunctions between Ein feste Burg and Variation XII by note type. There are seven shared melody note types with frequencies ranging from 1 to 10.

Table 21.3 gives a breakdown of all shared notes between Ein feste Burg and Variation XII. There are 100 shared notes dispersed over 23 measures. As was previously observed, five measures were deemed inactive when Ein feste Burg does not play. This means 100% of all active measures contain sequentially shared notes with the unstated Principal Theme. 23 melodic notes and 77 chordal notes from Variation XII are shared with Ein feste Burg. There are 8 shared note types with frequencies ranging from a low of 4 to a high of 28.

Table 21.4 summarizes all note conjunctions between Ein feste Burg and Variation XII, giving percentages for each note type found in both the melodic and chordal categories.

The preponderance of the evidence outlined in the above Figures and Tables demonstrates Variation XII 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.

No comments:

About Mr. Padgett

My photo
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.