Sunday, 19 September 2010

Editing timpani parts (III)

Today, I´ll finish my explanation on how I understand my edition of the timpani part for Verdi´s “Requiem”. For that, I´ll use examples from the composer himself as a way to prove my points of view. I don´t want to fall into an “ad verecundiam” fallacy: I just want to show my basis for editing the “Requiem” the way I did... I want to show my decision is based on a serious study and it has nothing to do with arbitrary moves.  

In the “Requiem”, “Dies Irae”, figure 12, we can see how Verdi wrote an upward line from B flat to D:  

We can deduce Verdi had three instruments at his disposal, and writes different to the traditional 4th/5th interval. The problem I see here is the following: because the three notes are very close together (a major third), the drums had to be very similar in diametre to produce quality notes in such a close range. If this is the case, the drums would have had a limited total range. If the drums were disimilar in diameter to extend the total range, those notes wouldn´t have been consistent, as the B flat would have been played in the low drum with a very tight skin, and D would have been played on the high drum with a relatively loose skin...

The same case of using three drums can be seen in the “Libera me”, nine bars after figure 103:

Also in “Aida”, from O, we can see the use of three timpani. The same happens ten bars after P in the finale of “Don Carlo”:

In “Don Carlo”, three drums are used ten bars after P in the finale. Even four timps are used (low F-B flan-C-high F) eleven bars after F in the “Scena” of the third act:

The following example not only demonstrates that Verdi expanded the number of drums to be used, but the use of the pedals too. This case is “Otello”, first act, six bars before I:

The “Otello” part has some interesting timpani writing, and is a firm candidate for editing.

We can see Verdi wanted “more notes” in “Aida”, “Il Trovatore”, “Macbeth”, “Falstaff” (final fugue). I´m quite sure Verdi was longing for timpani and timpanists that allowed to give expression to the timpani parts he would have liked to write.

With these examples I want to show Verdi wanted to expand his timpani writing (adding more drums or using the pedals), and he got it. Logically, the development of pedal timpani at that time was incipient (same as the technique of the timpanists that had to play those parts) and, for that reason, the same happens with Verdi´s writing. This gives us a quite “innocent” one, which has some mistakes and has still influences from past periods. I´m quite sure that have had Verdi born later, his timpani parts would have been more complex.

The question is... Would that parts have had any resemblance with my edition? That´s impossible to know. What I know for sure is my version is based on a profound study and the possibilities given by modern instruments. When Mozart discovered the “pianoforte”, he acted as a child with a new toy: he filled his music with f and p indications, lead by the novelty of the instrument and its dynamic possibilities. Have had Verdi access to a set of Ludwig Professionals (the instruments I used for that concert), I´m pretty sure he would have used them with profusion and, lead by the novelty of the instrument, would have exploited its harmonic/melodic possibilities, writing many note changes. The thing is he never new modern timpani but, because of the examples above, I tend to think he would have loved to have them at his disposal.  
I also would like to show some timpanists who edited the part.

On this video we can see Rainer Seegers with the Berliner Philharmoniker doubling the low G at the beginning of the "Dies Irae”:

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra shows us a version very similar to mine. This proves me that, when done with a rigorous criteria, results tend to be very similar:

On the following video, we can see how the timpanists for the Arturo Toscanini Philharmonic edits the part:

Also, on this video featuring Karajan, we can hear the modifications made by the timpanist:

Finally, to round off this issue, here´s a link where you´ll get access to the full version of my edition of the “Requiem”. Feel free to use it and get back to me should you detect an error or want to comment your opinion on it. If you like it and use it, I´d be very grateful if you could mention me as its editor.

Stay tuned!

…et in Arcadia ego.
© David Valdés

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for a wonderful resource.