Lot 91
  • 91

Elgar, Sir Edward

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • Elgar, Sir Edward
  • Important manuscript containing five autograph composition drafts for the Enigma Variations, op.36
  • paper
comprising substantially complete early versions of three variations: Variation XIII (***),  Variation X (Dorabella) and Variation III (R.B.T.), together with an incomplete draft of ''Dorabella'' for two pianos and a brief sketch of variation IV (W.M.B.), unsigned, notated in short score, with many deletions, revisions and additions, some indicated with cues, the music frequently diverging from the final versions, written in black ink with additions and sketches in pencil, on up to twelve staves per page, titles to each variation (numbered in blue crayon), and a  few indications of instrumentation ("tim[pani] side drum sticks" and "CB."), arranged on 2 bifolios and two separated leaves:

1) a bifolium comprising  a) "Var." [= Variation XIII, 'Romanza'], being a continuous composition draft (Figure 55 to the end), in black ink and pencil, marked "grazioso", with tempo and dynamic markings, the reprise notated more sketchily (from figure 59), with Elgar's additional titles ("xxx" and "L") and numbering (''XII'' and ''13'') in blue crayon, 2 pages, with, on the back of the same bifolio: b) ''RBT'' [Variation III], a largely complete draft, lacking only the last six bars, the opening in black ink, continued in pencil, comprising 28 bars in all, deleted  in blue crayon and marked ''K[opied]''', 1 page, with on the facing page: ''Var. W.M.B'' [Variation IV], a short draft in ink of the first 10 bars (Figure 11), marked “Presto strepitoso”, deleted in crayon and marked ''K”), 1 page;

2) a bifolium [Variation X 'Dorabella'], an early draft of 'Dorabella' for two pianos, containing many differences from the final version, written in black ink on four-stave systems (Figures 38-39), marked ''Primo'' and ''Secondo'', with additions in pencil, the whole deleted in ink; followed by a pencil sketch of the middle section (Figures 42-44), notated on two-stave systems, deleted in blue crayon and marked ''K'', 2 pages, with two blank pages

3) 2 separate leaves, containing ''Var D'' [= Variation X ('Dorabella')], a series of drafts, written in ink and in pencil, comprising: leaf i): an ink draft of 8 bars, re-numbered successively XI, IX and VIII in blue crayon, with expression (“grazioso”), articulation and dynamic markings in pencil, (Figures 38-39), the continuation lacking, followed by related sketches in pencil, marked ''?coda see over'', with on the verso: a draft in ink and pencil of 15 bars (Figure 45 to the end), and leaf ii):  an ink draft of 12 bars of “Dorabella” (Figures 42-44), leading to the reprise marked ''come prima'', with another ink sketch on the verso (laid down and obscured),  4 pages in all

9 pages, with another page under a pasted-down leaf (7 leaves in all), folio (30.5 x 24cm), 12-stave paper, annotated at the head by the collector Edward Speyer, to whom Elgar gave the manuscripts, archival sleeve, dark green morocco folding box, gilt titles (overall size: c.38 x 32cm), no place or date, [1898-1899], light browning to first page, some staining to pasted-down leaf


From the collection of Edward Speyer, to whom Elgar gave these manuscripts.


Condition is described in the main body of the cataloguing, where appropriate
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT SERIES OF COMPOSITION DRAFTS BY ELGAR EVER TO HAVE BEEN OFFERED FOR SALE.  The ''Enigma'' Variations op.36 is one of Elgar’s best-loved works, and the one which established his role as the leading British composer of his day, raising him to national eminence. 

These manuscripts complement the sketches in the British Library (BL Add Ms 58003). Included here are substantial drafts of Variations XIII and III, movements which do not feature among the sketches in Add Ms 58003. They represent the Variations at an early stage of composition, before the sequence of movements was fixed.  Elgar renumbered them in blue crayon several times, particularly 'Dorabella'. Variation XIII bears Elgar's mysterious titles "xxx" and "L",. The briefest draft, that for Variation IV ('WMB'), perhaps recalls the very earliest stage in the genesis of the "Enigma" Variations in October 1898, where Alice Elgar identified the tune with William Meath Baker.

The series is notable for including the unique surviving sketch for the anonymous variation, Variation XIII 'Romanza' (***), now thought to have been written in memory of a lost love, but whose identity is the subject of considerable speculation. Here Elgar marks it just "L", perhaps confirming the standard identification with Lady Mary Lygon, who departed for Australia; Elgar implied this in his sketch for a programme note in 1913, which he first titled "L.M.L".  More recently, other more emotional attachments have been suggested, in particular Helen Weaver, to whom Elgar had been engaged for eighteen months during 1883-1884, but who left for New Zealand.  Nicholas Reed and Esther Cavett-Dunsby (in her edition of the score) also suggested the American heiress Julia Worthington.   With its representations of the sound of the departing boat and quotation from Mendelssohn's Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage (on the clarinet), the mood of the work darkens and arguably suggests the loss of a someone beloved.   In her own copy of her memoir of Elgar, Dora Penny ("Dorabella"), includes photographic portraits of all the friends; that for XIII “Romanza” is captioned like all the others, but only illustrated with a blank frame (see next lot).