Home   |   About Me   |   Contents   |   Contact   |   Links   |   Acknowledgements   |   Subscribe

15 May 2017

20. The chord that should get lost

So far I have generally avoided posting about my own work, but as it is only with my own work that I have really been able to be “behind the curtain, I thought I would give an example where the reading I (as editor) wanted wasnt what eventually made it to print, and where even the textual note about it didnt ultimately satisfy me.  I dont think this is a case of telling tales out of school, but a reminder (to myself, at least) that all sorts of hidden factors may stand between the editors intended text and that which is published.  I know that there must be many cases like these, but how can we know unless people share their experience?

I have the highest regard for my general editor on the William Walton Editionthe English conductor David Lloyd-Jones.  His path-breaking edition of Boris Godunov in the 1970s has had long-lasting effects on the way the opera was performed, restoring the quirkiness of Mussorgskys text, and he has produced critical editions of a wide range of worksprincipally nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian and British works, but with a distinguished foray into Berlioz, tooall moonlighting alongside a distinguished conducting career.  By offering me a Walton volume to edit, he gave me my first big break professionally; by offering me a second volume, he shored up my confidence to continue.  I owe him an incalculable debt; and yet here is an instance where we disagreedin this case just a single chord, but a chord I would so much like to lose.

The second of the volumes I did for the edition was an unusual one, consisting of concert suites derived from Walton’s film scores, including those for the Laurence Olivier Shakespeare films Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948), and Richard III (1955).  These suites were made in the 1960s by Muir Mathieson (1911-1975), who had conducted the recording sessions for each of these films.

SOURCE:  1946 78s; scan of  US release front cover
There seems to be a critical consensus that the most successful of these films (and of these Walton scores) is Henry V.  Right after the release of the film, a four-movement concert suite was prepared (credited at the time to conductor Malcolm Sargent, although I have not found the slightest evidence that Sargent had any hand in it), but Waltons publisher never offered it for sale, so it had only a marginal impact.  (The two movements for strings only were put on sale and were more widely circulated.)  A more successful commercial re-use was a recording of musical excerpts paired with Olivier reciting newly-recorded speeches on four 78 rpm discs [shown at right].  This recording had a good bit more music than the suite.  Significantly, it included the dramatic Charge and Battle music, a musical and cinematic climax of the film.  As the title indicates, these are actually two different musical cuesseparated in the film by the launch of a volley of arrows.  (Walton marked the end of his autograph of the charge with the caption Bombs gone!”)  The charge sequence is tremendously exciting to watchparticularly the virtuoso tracking shot lasting some fifty seconds as the French horses trot, then canter, then gallop across the field.  (A contemporary reviewer noted that the audience at the press-screening gave a spontaneous ovation at this moment, even though they were applauding tother side.)  The whole charge sequence is analysed shot-by-shot and bar-by-bar in the 1957 Roger Manvell and John Huntley text The Technique of Film Music.
SOURCE:  Manvell & Hartley, The Technique of Film Music, p. 91 (the very end of the Charge); I have reformatted the page here to better fit a wide rather than tall aspect-ratio.  The penultimate bar is incorrectly transcribed:  Walton writes this as two bars of 3/4, with each 8th-note here really a quarter.
When Mathieson set about producing a new suite, he used the Sargent suite as his starting point, but deleted the choral parts (and consequently the music requiring a chorus) and reduced the scoring to double-wind, hoping to make it more attractive to smaller orchestras.  He also inserted the Charge and Battle music (plus another section, appended after the battlebut thereby hangs a tale for another time) as the centerpiece of a five-movement suiteand very effective it is, too.

Mathieson has skillfully spliced the cues together, but in doing so he added a chord.  The Charge cue ends abruptly on a downbeatjust an eighth-note chord.  (It was followed on both the film and the 1946 RCA recording by the launch of the arrows; to hear those, click either of those hyperlinks.)  The Battle cue continues in 3/4 time although with an eighth-rest on the downbeat.  Mathieson elides the two, so that the downbeat chord that ends Charge takes the place of the eighth-rest on the downbeat of Battle.  The problem comes in the second bar, which Walton indicates only by a ditto mark:
SOURCE:  detail of Walton's autograph of the beginning of the “Battle” cue (147c) of Henry V, taken from a screenshot of the page at the website of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University [http://brbl-zoom.library.yale.edu/viewer/1237439].  The measure numbers in red ink across the top were added by Mathieson as he prepared his suite.
Mathieson applies this ditto sign to everything in his newly-elided bar, so the downbeat chord appears a second time.

I sought to remove this extraneous chord from the new edition, as it forms no part of the film or any of the early sources, even if it was unambiguously a part of Mathieson's arrangement.  David Lloyd-Joness responsereasonable as everwas that as Walton had conducted a recording of the Mathieson arrangement at the time of its publication, the appearance of the chord on that recording could be taken to be Walton's acceptance of the variant reading.  (Hear him conduct it here; listen closely and you might hear my teeth grinding in the background.)  Given that this recording was made twenty years after the music was composed, and that Walton was hardly the most detail-conscious of composers, I was not persuaded that the presence of the chord indicated that he had even noticed it, let alone endorsed it.

And so the offending chord appears in the William Walton Edition, over the objections of the volume editor:
SOURCE:  marked-up digital scan of William Walton Edition vol. 22, p. 48 (detail).
The corresponding textual note documents that this was Mathiesons addition, but does nothing to suggestas I wanted tothat one should at least consider eliminating it.  I believe our volume is an improvement over the first edition of Mathiesons arrangement (especially because ours restores Waltons original triple-wind scoring), but here is one place where I think we didnt go far enough in restoring the composer's text.