A note on the Minuet and Funeral March - Graham Hatton "Ein tragikomisches Märchen nach Gozzi von Schiller. Deutsche Ubersetzung von Schiller. Partitur von Havergal Brian". Thus reads the autograph title-page to the orchestral score of the opera which Brian composed at North Harrow in 1949-1951 between his 8th and 9th Symphonies. Adhering to Schiller’s text but abridging it, he fashioned his own libretto and compressed Schiller’s five acts into three; he applied the same process to Goethe’s ‘Faust’ in 1955-1956.
In a letter of 18 January 1971, Brian gave this reply to some queries of mine: "Turandot. I have not seen any music of the work by Busoni or Puccini. I think I should admire Busoni’s rather than Puccini’s- Busoni was a great musician. I listened to him in the Brahms D Minor Piano Concerto with Richter and The Halle and it was an unforgettable experience from orchestra, soloist and conductor. My reason for tackling ‘Turandot’ was that I read a German translation and enjoyed it so much that I started work on it as an Opera. There is no chorus in my treatment of Gozzi’s legend - only where the 8 or so doctors sing."
The opera’s outstanding qualities are admirably summarised by Malcolm MacDonald on p. 161 of his book ‘The Symphonies of Havergal Brian’ (Vol. 1), where he also implies that the Minuet and Funeral March are examples of Brian’ s musical humour (showing itself in Haydnesque and Beethovenian stylistic parody respectively). He arranged and transcribed the two pieces in Jan - Feb 1973, inscribing them "for Ronald Stevenson", who gave their first performances on 3 and 5 May at the Reid Concert Hall, University of Edinburgh, and the Wigmore Hall, London, respectively.
The Minuet (or Minuetto to use Brian’s title) comes from Act 2. Scene 1 and in the opera, is a song, marked "launisch - whimsical", for baritone (Tartaglia) with flute, oboe doubling cor anglais, clarinet in A, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trombones, timpani, 2 harps, celesta and strings.
The Funeral march accompanies Turandot’s entry in Act 3, Scene 2 (Man hort einem lugubren Marsch mit gedamften Trommeln, says the stage direction), and is scored for baritone (Pantalon) and soprano (Turandot) with the opera’s full orchestra of triple woodwind plus E flat clarinet, 4 horns, 4 trumpets,3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, 2 harps and strings: not an exceptionally large one by Brian’s sometime standards and certainly no bigger than those required by his later post-war operas -'The Cenci,’ ‘Faust’, and ‘Agamemnon’.
The Schiller texts underlying each piece can be read at lines 573-582 (for the Minuet) and 2418-2431 (for the Funeral March) in an edition of ‘Turandot’ that forms part of the 12th volume of the complete works of Schiller, published in paperback in 1B66 by Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag of Munich (Friedrich Schiller dtv-Gesamtausgabe Band 12: Buhnenbearbeitungen). In both cases Brian set the Schiller text complete.
August 1978 / NL7
Newsletter, NL 7