Sunday, October 24, 2010

Variation VIII (W. N.) with "Ein feste Burg"

The Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play: our instincts are merely the keys.
Edward Elgar dedicated Variation VIII from his Enigma Variations to Winifred Norbury, a gentle and gracious friend who served as a secretary of the Worcestershire Philharmonic Society. In the 1890s she was a regular visitor at the Elgar residence, performing chamber music along with the Fitton sisters, Basil Nevinson, Hew Steuart Powell, and George Sinclair. Figure 17.1 shows how Ein feste Burg plays “through and over” Variation VIII, a requirement stipulated by Elgar in the original 1899 program note. An audiovisual demonstration of this melodic mapping supports the efficacy of this contrapuntal solution.

Figure 17.2 documents how Ein feste Burg was carefully mapped over Variation VIII 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 cases of oblique motion. An effective counterpoint typically uses a fairly balanced mix of contrary and similar motion, a feature evident in this melodic mapping.

In Figure 17.2 a melodic conjunction is represented by a diamond-shaped note head, and a harmonic conjunction by a triangle-shaped note head. 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 17.1 identifies 60 melodic conjunctions between Ein feste Burg and Variation VIII A melodic conjunction is defined as a shared note between both melody lines. Share melody notes are dispersed over 26 out of 27 measures in Variation VIII, or slightly over 96% of the movement. It was determined that Ein feste Burg does not play in the final measure (307).  In measures where the missing principal Theme is deemed active, shared melody notes are present in 22 out of 26 measures, or almost 85% of all active measures. Such a high number of shared melody notes in the correct sequence bolsters the conclusion Ein feste Burg is the elusive principal Theme.

Table 17.2 breaks down melodic conjunctions between Ein feste Burg and Variation VIII by note type. There are seven shared melody note types with frequencies ranging from 3 through 16.

Table 17.3 gives a complete breakdown of shared notes between Ein feste Burg and the piano reduction of Variation VIII. The number of shared notes is shown according to each measure number. There are 159 shared notes dispersed over 26 out of a total of 27 measures. Of those conjunctions, 60 are melodic, and 99 are chordal. Ein feste Burg was found active in 26 measures, so 100% of active measures contain shared notes. There are 7 shared note types with frequencies ranging from 6 (B) to 42 (D).

Table 17.4 summarizes all note conjunctions between Ein feste Burg and Variation VIII, stating percentages for each note type in the melodic and chordal categories.

The preponderance of the evidence presented in the above Figures and Tables demonstrates Variation VIII is a clear and convincing counterpoint to Ein feste Burg. To learn more about the secrets behind the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar's Enigmas ExposedPlease support my original research by becoming a sponsor on Patreon.

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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.