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01 September 2018

35. Out of order

For me, the most important reason to look at a composers manuscriptor (more likely) a scan or facsimile of itis to understand something about how it came to be written.  Compositional process (to use the musicological jargon) is always at least interesting to me, and it can sometimes be riveting.  Often you find that a piece that you know well as it is was nearly very different.  (I keep promising I will blog about Mendelssohns Italian symphony in this regard; indeed I will, but I just need to find time to re-read John Michael Coopers excellent study of it.  But there are very many examples of less extreme but still significant revisions in the standard repertory.)

This months post concerns just two instances where a composer decided to insert or re-order material, so that the manuscript presents the music out of sequence with what became the composers intended text was.  That’s not to say, of course, that (given time) the composer might not have changed it again, reverting to the original sequence or inserting or reordering new material.  Whatever one might say about the Fassung letzter Hand, its very “lastness makes it a handy reference point.  For example, in the discussions below I will refer to the bar numbers of the texts as we have come to know them, not as they appear in sequence in the source.

A cropped view of the third page of the autograph score of first movement of Mozart's c minor piano concerto; Mozart has marked the score to indicate that additional measures (written on a subsequent page) are to be inserted between the measures we now know as 43 and 63.
SOURCE:  detail of Mozarts autograph of K. 491/i f. 2r, 
showing  bb. 40-43 and 63-66.  The autograph is held by the
Royal College of Music, London, as RCM MS 402, but this scan is
from the 2014 Bärenreiter facsimile of the score.  

(A 1964 black-and-white facsimile is freely available on the IMSLP.)
An interesting instance of inserted material occurs in the first movement of Mozarts gloomy, glorious C minor piano concerto, K. 491.  As seen at right, Mozart originally followed the bar 43 (as we number it) with the bar that later became 63that is, he made a nineteen-bar insertion at this momentand a gorgeous one it is, with the duet of descending figures alternating between flute and bassoon.  He thus continues the subdued mood a little longer before the outburst that he originally planned at this moment.

I have mocked-up an audio example of this juxtaposition, although of course we can't know that it would have sounded like this:  Mozart generally orchestrated in layers, adding instruments one at a time, and so he might have scored this a little differently if the passage beginning at b. 63 had really been at b. 44.  But if you want to hear the text with the nineteen-bar cut, its on my soundcloud here.

The insertion of a new idea leaves this opening ritornello in a particularly awkward state in the autograph, requiring a jump forward to find b. 44, a jump backward to find b. 63, and a consequent jump forward again to find b. 90.  Moreover, as portions of this are reused again as the closing ritornello (which Mozart indicates with a dal Segno (in this instance, a cartoon head facing back toward the beginning) and other markings), one page of the autograph (f. 3v) contains bb. 54–62, 91–98 (re-used as 501–508), and 99.  But this is an extreme case, and Mozart leaves no doubt about his letzter intended sequence of bars.  (And, so far as I know, no edition has ever screwed it up.) [See Addendum below.]

As I was working on the previous post about bar numbers, my research took me to a page that I would nominate as perhaps the single most interesting page of extant Handel manuscript.  (I may well be wrong:  I have had my eyes on perhaps 5% of Handels extant manuscriptsmostly in facsimile or scansso I can hardly claim to any authority.  Moreover, I would welcome nominations for other contenders for that title.  By all means let me know.)

Anyway, my nominee for that distinction is this page, which has the conclusion of the second movement of the organ concerto published as Op. 7 no. 5 (HWV 310):
A page containing the last thirteen of the two-bar variations that make up the second movement of Handel's g minor organ concerto, opus seven number five.  This page of Handel's autograph has sections added in the margins after the main text was completed, and the two-bar units have been numbered to indicate the ultimate intended ordering.
SOURCE:  page from Handels autograph for HWV 310 (Op. 7 no. 5), mvt. 3; British Library R.M.20.g.12, f. 69v
Handel dated this manuscript, indicating that it was completed on 31 January 1750.  Then again, what does completed mean?  The alterations on this page might well have been made after that date.  The dating is a minor consideration, however.  The real question is What happened here?

This movement is a set of variations over a ground bass.  (Here’s a good recording by Lorenzo Ghielmi with La Divina Armonia.)  While it would not be fair to say that the variations could work as effectively in any order, this movement is clearly highly sectionalized into two bar segments, eighteen in all (with many of them immediately repeated).  Handels autograph shows that at some point after finishing the movement with just fifteen segments, he added three more.  He also (at the same time?) re-ordered the intended sequence by numbering each segment.  The first four segments are on the preceding page, so this page starts with the fifth segment.  The following illustration is intended to clarify what the autograph reveals:  the sections shaded in red were (I argue) the original version of the movement, proceeding in their original order (left-to-right, top-to-bottom).  The shaded sections in blue were added subsequently, and the numbering shown incorporates the new variations into a re-ordered sequence.  (The bar numbers indicate the final form, as do the bold variation numbers.)
SOURCE:  my own schematic offering a hypothesis about Handels original sequence of the variations as presented in the autography; a recording edited to manifest this sequence (and omitting the blue sections) is available here on my soundcloud page.

There is a logic to Handels revised ordering: the first three sections (3-4-5) are melodic, but thereafter there is a series of showy 32nd-note patterns, first arpeggiations in each hand (6), then scales in one hand or the other (7-8-9); then, starting at the mid-point, a stretch of new melodic ideas with more daringly chromatic harmonies (10-11-12); then, by way of a Scotch snap [short-long, with the short note in a metrically stronger position] figure (13), there are three sections with triplet figurationright hand, left hand, both together (14-15-16); the ending of the movement consists of the most brilliant of the 32nd-note arpeggiation patterns (17), and a grand chordal peroration (18).

There is, however, also a logic to Handels original version, which is not at all stream-of-consciousness.  (The variation numbers here refer to the final version.)
  • melodic introduction (3–4–5)
  • triplets (14, 16)
  • more chromatic melody (10–11–12)
  • “Scotch snap (13)
  • 32nd-note figures (7, 9, 17),
  • chordal coda (18)
In the original version the triplet sections come before the central chromaticized melodic passages, andin a move commonly seen in Baroque variationsthe speed of the ornaments increases as it nears the end, with (in this case) a series of three 32nd-note variations.  It is notable that the three (blue) sections that were added later each feature the left hand, which was apparently not emphasized in Handel's original conception of the piece.  Indeed, I think it not too fanciful to suggest that even the (inner-line) left-hand triplets in variation 16 were added as part of the revision:  they seem to my eye squeezed into the staves in an already sufficient texture.  (I note that in Simon Prestons recording, which I was using for my cut-and-paste version on Soundcloud, he leaves out the left-hand triplets on the first time through this variation, adding it in only for the repeat.)
cropped scan of the same page shown above; this shows the only variation to have two running lines (right hand and left hand) above the ground bass, but the cramped notation suggests that the left hand line was possibly a late addition.
SOURCE cropped to show detail of the same page given in full above
It is not at all unusual that such reordering and insertions occurred:  this is the way we write.  Having written, we may then proceed to move chunks of prose around hither and yon as it seems better to usas we have new ideas and second thoughts.  I was surprised, however, to find such clear evidence of Handels revisionsand delighted to try it out another way.

ADDENDUM  30 September 2018

After reading my post, one of my mentors from Cornell, David Rosen, mentioned to me the very interesting case of the first movement of Mozarts last piano concerto, K. 595, about which David had written years ago in The Journal of Musicology.  In that case, Mozarts insertion of seven bars into the opening ritornello happened much later in the compositional process, in that it doesnt get notated until the closing ritornelloand, indeed, all editions before the Neue Mozart Ausgabe neglected to insert it after bar 46.  Davids fascinating article argues that the version known before the NMAs text exhibited a formal quirk that did not accord with Mozartstandard operating procedure in concerto first-movementsthat procedure as outlined by Robert Levin and Daniel N. Leeson in the Mozart-Jahrbuch 1976/77.  The thesis of Davids article applies just as well to K. 491, too:  that Mozart inserted material to accord with the ways things had worked well before.  In both of these cases (and who knows how many others?) his first thoughts deviated from his well-trodden path, yet in both he eventually settled on something more conventional.