A Cartoon of Mahler



Symphony No. 2

Autograph timpani part – AO


NL-DHgm/NL-DHnmi Mengelberg Stichting





This conjectural dating is not that suggested by Renate Hilmar-Voit (RSVTP, who believes the part was prepared in connection with copying of ACF2 and the revisions to the manuscript parts ([CO1]) prior to the first complete performance in December 1895.


















































































  Autograph, ink, fol. 1r: 1. Satz;  fol. 2v: 3. Satz
  Undated [?inter January – 5 February 1895]¹


  Black ink, with blue crayon rehearsal numbers, corrections and annotations; pencil annotations and queries by Hermann Behn; pencil annotations in an unidentified hand.


  A 24 staves, no maker's mark, upright format, 340 x 262 (r = 306)
  B 24 staves, no maker's mark, upright format, 335 x 265 (r = 306)

Manuscript structure and collation

  3 folios:


Ms. Fol.



DHnmi description


I  (A)


First movement

184 [a]




First movement



II (A)


First movement

184 [b]




Third movement





Third movement

184 [b]




Third movement



  Rudolf Mengelberg?


  Fol. 1r–3v: RSVTP, 15–20

Select Bibliography


RSVTP, passim; DM2, 271–2, 283–4; 427–9; NKGII.2, 35, 124: sources StPk-1 and StPk-3



The timpani part in the first and third movements was laid out for one player in the original layer of AF2 and ACF1, though there is a brief passage in the first movement (bb. 304–8)  where a second musician is required to play one of the drums in a passage of repeated two-note chords (bb. 304–8). While preparing the fair copy of the fifth movement in late 1894 Mahler had the idea of doubling the timpani part from b. 395 onwards, as he indicated with the annotation 'doppelt besetzt' (fol. 95r). However, there is no separate part for the second player from this point onwards in AF2, and no indication, either musically or verbally, as to the extent of the doubling.

Soon after the completion of AF2 on 18 December 1894 Mahler revised and reconfigured the timpani part of the first and third movements for two players, each with a set of drums, presumably in preparation for, or response to, the run-through of the first three movements he conducted in Hamburg (c. 6–13 January). Certainly a revision was completed by 5 February 1895, when Mahler wrote to Strauss, informing him, inter alia, of the need for two timpanists (GMRSB, 43–4; GMRSBE 39–40).

The reconfiguration of the timpani part in the first movement seems to have occurred in two phases: first a series of blue crayon annotations in AF2 and then the writing out of a draft part with separate lines for each player (= AO). Neither of these phases is reflected in either the original layer or the autograph annotations in ACF1. The same is also true of the revision to the timpani part in the third movement up to b. 406. However, from b. 407 onwards there are autograph blue crayon revisions to the timpani part in ACF1, although these only explicitly entail the use of a second set of timpani in bb. 441–81, a passage heavily revised in both AF2 and ACF1.

In preparing AO, Mahler may have been seeking to achieve two goals: making a first thorough effort at dividing the timpani part between two players, and providing a part that could be used in rehearsal and/or performance. In the latter respect the result was not entirely satisfactory. Probably because he was working exclusively from AF2, Mahler was not able to insert rehearsal letters as he worked (they are clearly part of a later, blue-crayon layer of revisions) and as a result these numbers sometimes fall within extended multi-bar rests: in rehearsal this could have caused the player considerable inconvenience, and in a further layer of revision Mahler has in all such cases added in pencil bar counts to show exactly where the rehearsal number falls in within the rest. Furthermore, Mahler was very sparing in his inclusion of tempo markings – a few have been added in pencil by an unidentified scribe –  and one page turn (at the end of 1r) falls within a continuous roll in the timpani 1 part. Orchestral musicians then (as now) no doubt had to cope at times with even less practical parts, but even if this part was deemed satisfactory for practical use, a second copy would have been needed. 

Renate Hilmar-Voit (RSVTP) has identified a number of the pencil annotations (some initialled 'B') in AO as being in the hand of Hermann Behn, including some that appear to be related to casting off of the music. She believes this to have been for the benefit of an engraver; this is possible, though it appears that the work on the engraving of the parts was undertaken by Jos. Eberle & Co. (Erste Wiener Zeitungs-Gesellschaft) in Vienna in 1898–9, by which time Behn was less closely involved with the work. Two alternative scenarios may be suggested. Firstly, that Behn was helping Mahler to produce one or two manuscript timpani parts either for the run-through or for the partial première in Berlin: at least one additional part would have been needed. Alternatively, Behn's annotations may relate to the preparation of his two-piano arrangement of the work in 1895, and the clarification of a couple of problematic passages: they imply an expectation that Mahler would respond to the questions.

Behn's queries reflect musical good sense. In I, b. 131 he asks of a crotchet separated from its predecessor by seven bars rest 'Soll diese E nicht 4 Takt früher stehen?' [Shouldn't this E come 4 bars earlier?]. If he was comparing the passage in AO with the reading in ACF1, he had every reason to wonder whether Mahler had simply miscounted the number of bars rest needed. He would have noted that in b. 123 in ACF1 the timpani doubled the bass of the harp chord, and that ACF1 had nothing further in the timpani part until b. 179; he doubtless wondered whether in revising the passage  Mahler intended the E to double the bass of the harp chord in b. 127. Had he also read the passage in AF2 he would have seen the answer: the new E was a blue crayon revision in b. 131.

More importantly Behn grappled with revisions to the opening timpani solo of the third (at that time, second) movement.  This was the subject of a convoluted process of expansion, contraction and redistribution for two timpani instead of one, all of which can be traced in a range of manuscripts and the annotations on them. Because the precise dating of so many of the sources cannot be ascertained, any stemma must remain speculative: the graphical layout of the following, which is concerned only with the evolution of the timpani introduction to the movement, attempts to clarify some of the interconnections between the documents and the layers within documents:


Link to the main description of AF2 Link to the main description of ACF1 Link to the main description of AF3 Link to the main description of ACF2 Link to the main description of AF3 Link to the main description of ACF2 Link to the main description of AF2 Graphic: a diagram summarising the relationships between the manuscript scores and parts produced in connection with the revision of the opening of the third movement of the second Symphony


Fig 1

The information in parentheses in the diagram above indicate whether the source distributes the music to one or two players, and the length (in bars) of the opening timpani passage.

Solid arrows indicate production of a direct copy, hashed arrows, production of a revision.

To link to a description of a particular source, click on the siglum in the diagram.


In this stemma the source sigla refer to:


AF2 – the original layer in autograph score, with a simple two-bar introduction for a single timpanist. This ink layer was copied directly into

CF1 – Weidig's first manuscript copy. This must have been completed early enough to allow it to serve as the source for the original set of orchestral parts. It contains no autograph revisions to the timpani introduction, and may have been replaced as the source for the timpani parts in the first movement and scherzo by

AO – this appears to be the first attempt at an extended timpani introduction and the first version to require two timpanists: there are no sketches for its version of the opening of the scherzo in blue crayon in AF2. Its date is uncertain: it may have pre-dated or post-dated the run through in Hamburg in early January 1895. This revision alternates the two players in the dramatic opening four bars, an antiphonal effect dropped in all later versions (see the transcription, DM2, 427). This presumably formed the basis of a new version prepared by Mahler:

AF3 – the autograph Einlage to replace the opening of the movement in CF1. This redistributes the AO version so that the second player enters only with the commencement of the ostinato accompaniment. This was used by Weidig as the source for the opening of the movement when copying the new manuscript of the complete work, CF2,  sometime after the partial première on 4 March 1895 (see the transcription, DM2, 284).

AF3a – a series of revisions in pencil and blue crayon which reduce the introduction to six bars. Mahler's intentions at this stage were perhaps not entirely clear, which may explain:

AObehnHermann Behn's pencil version on staves 21 and 23 of fol. 2v (see the transcription, DM2, 428). This was probably jotted down while Behn was preparing his two-piano arrangement of the work (PT2p41). Probably attempting to work out what Mahler means by his revisions to the version at the top of this page, Behn copies out a six-bar version of the introduction which is close to the final text, except in a few details and in that it is given solely to the first timpanist. However, he was unclear as to whether he should have included an addition passage of three bars (which he labels  'Nach Vorlagen denkbare Einschaltung'  [conceivable insertion according to the source]) and comments:

Wenn die ^ 3 Takte fortbleiben, würde ich auch diesen Pausentakt deliren, falls nicht ein rhythmisch überzähliger Takt intendirt ist B.

If the ^ [additional 3 bars] are omitted, I would delete this bars rest, unless a rhythmically superfluous bar is intended B[ehn].

Mahler himself resolved the issues when he revised the opening of the movement in ACF2 and arrived at the final version.

AF2a – a very faint pencil (?autograph) draft entered into the 14 (i.e. 2 x 7) empty bars on the two trombone staves on the first page of the third movement in AF2 (fol. 47r). This does not specify anything other than pitch and rhythm, but it does outline the content of the final version of the passage; its chronological placing and significance within the revision process is unclear.

It is currently not possible to assess how the text(s) of the orchestral parts ([CO1]) related to these sources and reflected the revision process. AO may have been prepared before the orchestral run-through and might therefore have been the text first copied into [CO1], but this is by no means certain; in all events it was this longer version of the opening of the movement that was heard in March 1895.

This manuscript, part of the Nederlands Muziek Instituut collection, is kept at the Gemeentemueum Den Haag.

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© 2007 Paul Banks | This page was lasted edited on 14 May 2020