First of all, Bärenreiter Urtext orchestral parts provide you with a musical text that you can trust. Bärenreiter editors invest sometimes years in locating all relevant sources, in comparing them, in determining the interrelation between them, and in arriving at a musical text that is as close as possible to the composer’s intentions.
In Bärenreiter performance material there are no discrepancies between scores and parts meaning the musical text of the parts is identical with the musical text of the conductor’s full score. You think, this is a matter of course? Reality however shows that in fact scores and parts very often differ in older performance material. Why is this the case?
Claude Debussy completed the orchestration of his Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (BA 8841) in the autumn of 1894. The premiere took place in December of that year, however, the full score and printed orchestral parts were not issued until July 1895. To have orchestral parts available for the premiere, handwritten parts were made based on the autograph score. The conductor used uncorrected proof pages. Many small but also some larger changes in the parts were required during rehearsals, and not all of them were then integrated into the score proofs used by the conductor.
A fine example of this quandary can be found in the original printed bassoon part. In bars 62-63 the 2nd bassoon is called on to double the 1st bassoon – there are even two staves in the part! Cleary, at the premiere the 1st player was not fully capable of playing the line so the 2nd bassoon was called on to reinforce his playing. These handwritten parts (not the score!) were then used to produce the original printed parts with the result that both bassoons were now sanctioned to play and remained thus until recently! But Debussy’s autograph and all the score proofs corrected by the composer clearly call for a solo bassoon, no doubling up here.
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, excerpt from Barenreiter full score (BA 8841), bassoon line, bars 59-64
We also know Debussy did not look at or correct orchestral parts – that was the job of someone else. So the score and parts were at odds with each other. Standard literature is riddled with similar problems. In Bärenreiter editions score and parts are reconciled.
Many composers revised their works in the course of their lives. Sometimes they did this in an effort to improve a work. But sometimes they simply adapted a work to a specific performance situation. Haydn for example originally composed his Stabat Mater (BA 4642) for a smaller ensemble with three wind instruments. More than 20 years later he revisited the work and adapted it to a more contemporary, larger instrumentation including trombones. Bärenreiter provides orchestral material to both versions.
We cannot simply assume that later versions are generally superior to earlier versions. Rather, sometimes different versions in their own right exist. In these cases Bärenreiter publishes them separately in score and parts. Another example is Mendelssohn’s Concert Overture The Hebrides (BA 9053). The composer created many different versions of one and the same work. With Bärenreiter orchestral material you can play them all.
A clear layout on the page, cues, rehearsal letters, and good page turns are essential prerequisites for a smooth rehearsal process. Bärenreiter makes every effort to provide all of this. Orchestral parts are engraved with performers in mind. Page turns dictate the general layout; the music cannot be too compressed so that there is no room for bowing and fingering. But there are some works that simply don’t have places where you can turn pages. How does Bärenreiter solve this problem?
Take the 1st violin part in the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (BA 9009-74), a ripping Molto vivace: In bar 388, where the 1st repeat begins, you notice a three-bar Grand Pause at which you could turn the page. But think about it: If all the 1st violins turned here, there would be a very unattractive paper noise – not to mention the visual disturbance with one player at each desk leaning forward to turn. So, Bärenreiter lets you repeat the passage, and when you get to bar 360 the second time around, you are informed to turn already right there at the 6 bars of rest (other players are playing here, covering you). When you have turned the page, you find bars 366-388 printed here again at the top of the new page.
Beethoven, Symphony No. 9, excerpt from Barenreiter Violin I part (BA 9009-74), page 9, bars 346ff.
Beethoven, Symphony No. 9, excerpt from Barenreiter Violin I part (BA 9009-74), page 10, bars 366ff.
Orchestral string players know that divisi passages can be a problem; sometimes it is hard to know who plays what. A good example is the 1st violin part of Debussy’s Rhapsody for Clarinet and Orchestra (BA 7897-74), bars 118-123; Bärenreiter here presents the divisi clearly with a separate stave for all three parts.
Ravel, Première Rhapsodie for Orchestra with Solo Clarinet in B-flat, excerpt from Barenreiter Violin I part (BA 7897-74), bars 118ff.
When players have to repeat the same note patterns over and over again, Bärenreiter provides repetition numbers. This happens in the double bass part of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 (BA 9002-85), bars 119-130. These numbers make it a lot easier for the player to keep track of note repetitions.
Beethoven, Symphony No. 2, excerpt from Barenreiter Double Bass part (BA 9002-85), bars 117ff.
Bärenreiter orchestral parts are in a large 25.5cm x 32.5cm format which helps transparency and makes them easier to read.
And lastly, Bärenreiter uses high-quality paper which has a slight yellow tinge so that it does not glare under lights and is easier on the eyes. Also, the paper is thick enough that reverse pages do not shine through.
In summary, Bärenreiter orchestral parts have been thought-through, tweaked, and are good-to-go for any musical interpretation, be it one with historically informed performance practice or a 21st century one.
Bärenreiter cares about content and presentation.