A MODEL OF CLARITY
A new edition of Elgar's 'Mina',
appraised by ROBERT ANDERSON
Elgar wrote music for only two of his favourite dogs, Dan the bulldog who features in the Variations, and Mina, 'the little cairn' of his latter years. 'Scap', acquired from Yorkshire, made a music of his own in the Elgar Bros shop, when he hurtled down the stairs and crashed headlong into a variety of instruments; whereas Marco, 'the loveliest spaniel I have ever seen' had to be content with rides in the car. I remain optimistic that Mina was named in affectionate and slightly ironical memory of Lady Beresford, redoubtable wife to the former admiral of the fleet.
Elgar thought Mina 'a love & so sharp'. Her characteristic sounds in this little piece of less than a hundred bars are provided by the celesta and glockenspiel. Of the woodwind only the clarinets are doubled. The two horns and strings are muted throughout. This new edition has no truck with the extra instruments provided in the Keith Prowse score of 1934. The Foreword makes clear that Elgar on his deathbed managed to score completely half the work, providing important indications for the remaining bars. He also commented on a recording speedily organised by Fred Gaisberg, the dedicatee.
This is the fifth score produced by Acuta Music in its admirable scheme of publishing late works by Elgar. So far they cover a decade, with the Empire March representing 1924, and Mina Elgar's last months. But major works remain, notably the Arthur music of 1923, much of which was to feature in Symphony No 3, the Nursery Suite, and above all Pomp and Circumstance March No 5, with the most splendid of all Elgar's trio tunes. Such publications as exist are by no means perfect, and Acuta could put orchestral players even further in its debt.
Not that this edition is quite perfect, which remains always a consummation devoutly to be wished. I am not sure which viola is supposed to do what at the end of bar 26: the tie should probably be upside down; in bar 35 the bassoon would be wise to play G rather than A to avoid anger from the rostrum; and the celesta chord in bar 82 should probably have D for top note rather than C. Otherwise I have nothing but praise for the score, which is a model of clarity and editorial policy, and look forward greatly to the next production from this adventurous house in one of Elgar's favourite counties.
Copyright © 12 November 2009 Robert Anderson,
Elgar: Mina for small orchestra (1934)
Acuta Music, 2009
(study score - limited edition of 300 copies)
Full score and orchestral parts