Archive for the 'classical' Category

In Another Guise: Recycling and Borrowing in J. S. Bach’s Works

By Dr. Uwe Wolf, Chief Editor of Carus Verlag

It may seem surprising that Johann Sebastian Bach’s oratorios and masses are based to a large extent on parody, and that they were originally composed to a quite different text. This does not, however, diminish the fascination which they exert. Of course, when the timpani notes we are all so familiar with from the Christmas Oratorio are suddenly followed by the choir singing “Tönet, ihr Pauken,” this is a revelatory moment. And despite that, for us, each timpani beat is closely associated with the Christmas acclamation “Jauchzet, frohlocket” – not only because we’ve always known it like that, but also because, freed from that all-too-obvious link to the emphatic “hammering” invitation, it perhaps even gains something in artistic value.

A musical journey which explores the precursors of famous major works is exciting and illuminating. Bach’s masses re-use many sections from his own sacred vocal works – the so-called “Lutheran masses” BWV 233–236 (see Carus 31.233, 31.234, 31.235, 31.236) contains musical borrowings from several of his cantatas, as does Bach’s “opus ultimum,” the Mass in B minor. Bach’s Lutheran masses are performed rather infrequently, so parts of them are perhaps better known today in their original cantata form than in the transformed guise as a movement in a mass. But it is quite the opposite with the Mass in B minor. While this is one of Bach’s most frequently-performed works, many of its precursors now lead rather a shadowy existence. Here, Bach’s choice of material for reuse in the Mass in B minor can be regarded as a guide to finding that which is very special in the wealth of his cantatas. Indeed, it has long been assumed that in his opus ultimum Bach combined the best of his church music and may have also wanted to place it in a larger, more universal context. There are borrowings or parallel arrangements from BWV 11 (Agnus Dei), BWV 12 (Crucifixus), BWV 29 (Gratias), BWV 46 (Qui tollis), BWV 120 (Et expecto), BWV 171 (Patrem omnipotentem), and BWV 215 (Osanna). Audiences will prick up their ears at well-known movements in another guise heard in concerts, as will choral singers at the first rehearsals!

As well as these borrowings from the cantatas, in his Mass in B minor Bach used part of previously existing music from his Missa of 1733 and the splendid Sanctus of 1724 (the Carus CD of the Mass in B minor contains a recording of this version of the Sanctus, which differs in many details). Before Bach turned the Missa of 1733 into the first part of the Mass in B minor in 1748, he made use of it in another Latin Christmas music setting at the beginning of the 1740s: the magnificent and far too seldom heard Cantata Gloria in excelsis Deo BWV 191 with a direct borrowing and two Latin parodies of movements from the Gloria of the Mass in B minor.

Bach’s parody practice not only draws our attention to the special treasures amongst his output of cantatas, but also serves as a means of enabling missing compositions to be recreated. In the process we can take advantage of the fact that Bach took pains to adapt parody texts to fit his existing compositions – and in Christian Friedrich Henrici, alias Picander (1700–1764) he found a master at this art of writing poetry. As these parody texts had to match the original exactly in terms of meter and structure, we can perhaps now identify which piece of music was used as a basis from the meter of the poem. There are now all sorts of theories and speculations about this, but a whole series of clear parody relationships can be established beyond reasonable doubt.

Bach’s missing compositions which can be partially reconstructed in this way include his St. Mark Passion. Only the text survives of the Passion itself, but straight away several movements display such a similarity to movements in the Funeral ode BWV 198, that it is almost beyond doubt that the corresponding movements are based on that model. Two further movements can be reconstructed from other cantatas and for the (numerous) chorales, movements in Bach’s oeuvre can similarly be found. But the Passion story – the heart of the Passion – is missing, and cannot be reconstructed. Here, too, it is worth looking at the models. The Funeral ode survives complete and is one of J.S. Bach’s most outstanding vocal works, not only in the quality of the individual movements, but as a complete whole per se, including the exquisitely scored accompagnati which were not incorporated into the Passion. It is one of his most richly colored and impressive compositions of all, characterized by the sound of gambas and lutes, as well as the woodwinds, especially the flutes – up to the death knell in the flutes and pizzicato strings in the alto accompagnato. And scarcely any other cantata serves up three such magnificent and varied choral movements: the opening tombeau in dotted rhythms, a large choral fugue in the middle, and the unique, dance-like final chorus with its constantly surprising choral unisons. The text by Johann Christoph Gottsched on the death of the Electress Christiane Eberhardine is not really suitable for church services, but it is on another literary level from some of the birthday cantatas and is suitable for concert performance at any time. Thus here is a plea for a revival of the precursors!

Dr. Uwe Wolf has been Chief Editor of Carus since October 2011. Before that he researched the music of Bach for over 20 years. Thanks to his work as Editorial Director of the Selected Works, Gottfried August Homilius is no longer a neglected composer.

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Preserving the Publishing Legacy

By Simon Wright, Head of Rights and Contracts at Oxford University Press in the Sheet Music department

For any classical music publisher working up until the middle years of the twentieth century, and even later in many cases, paper was the primary means of dissemination for the sheet music and scores. Digital, and even photocopying, were still far ahead on the horizon, and making copies of anything required manual labour and pen and ink. All composers would write their compositions out by hand on music manuscript paper (the “autograph manuscript”); copies required for the first and other early performances would be copied out by music copyists, again on manuscript paper; a music engraver would work either from the autograph manuscript or from a marked-up copyist’s score to produce the plates required for printing; proofs would be produced, run off from the plates; and finally, after any corrections had been made, paper copies would be printed and bound, for sale or for hire. If the composition involved an orchestra the separate orchestral parts required for individual players would also be copied out, by hand, and in many cases later engraved and printed.

Much of the material produced for these processing purposes was regarded as ephemeral (the copyists’ scores, the proofs), but where it survives the items collectively will often shed fascinating light on the story of the music’s composition and the early performances—how a particular work journeyed from the mind and imagination of the composer into the hands of players for a live performance, and something of the individuals that enabled that to happen (the editors, the conductor, the performers). There is a “geological layer” aspect to much publishing ephemera, stories quietly sitting and awaiting discovery and telling.

Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams

Ralph Vaughan Williams was one of the most celebrated British composers of the twentieth century, and Oxford University Press was his principal music publisher from 1925 until his death in 1958. For Vaughan Williams, OUP published six of his nine symphonies, choral and instrumental works, hymns, carols, operas, and ballet—all of this music was initially made available using the processes described. After Vaughan Williams’s death, much of the surviving archival material was retained by OUP and held in storage.

In October 2022, as musicians across the world mark the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth, these materials are to be moved to the British Library, where they will join the Library’s existing world-class collection of Vaughan Williams autograph manuscripts, papers, letters, photographs, and other materials—the most comprehensive collection relating to this composer in the world.

The OUP donation covers approximately 60 items, each one of these demonstrating some part of the publication process. Here, we explore a selection of the items, each telling a story from Vaughan Williams’s musical career.

A “copyist’s copy” of the full score of “Symphony No. 4” (1934) has evidently passed through many hands: the composer’s (a sheet of his Dorking headed notepaper, with the title written in his hand, is used as a label on the cover, and his amendments are visible throughout the score); various conductors (performance markings, often in coloured crayon, are self-evident); the publisher (markings show the “plan” and pagination for the engraved and printed edition); and the engraver (queries for the publisher or composer are raised in pencilled notes). Furthermore, cuts and changes to the musical notation are shown, probably agreed between the conductor and the composer during the initial rehearsals.
A surviving manuscript score of the piano reduction of the ballet “Job: A Masque for Dancing” (1930) shows hurriedly made cuts and changes, made during rehearsals—these amendments subsequently found their way into the matching full score and orchestral parts.
The smaller “Romance for Harmonica and String Orchestra”, written for Larry Adler in 1951, tells its story through a hand-copied piano reduction replete with pasted-over correction slips in the hand of Vaughan Williams (what lies beneath these paste-overs?).
This note, by Vaughan Williams and in his handwriting, is found pasted inside the cover of the pre-publication copyist’s full score of “Five Variants of ‘Dives and Lazarus’”, a work written for the 1939 New York World’s Fair (this score was also used by the conductor Adrian Boult at the first performance, in Carnegie Hall). The note, which explains both the provenance of the folk tune “Dives and Lazarus” and its use in this piece, and also the unusual “divisi” of violas and cellos required, was eventually transcribed and printed verbatim in the published full score (1940)—this paste-in is its original source.
The OUP donation includes the full score (in five volumes) of the opera (“Morality”, as the composer preferred to call it) “The Pilgrim’s Progress” (1951) used at the Covent Garden first performances, and then by Sir Adrian Boult for his 1971 EMI recording (a surviving tape from the recording sessions reveals Boult’s annoyance that the scores did not lie flat—and they still don’t).

Still photos taken by J. Black © Oxford University Press

In Memoriam: George Crumb (1929 – 2022)

George Crumb. Photo credit: Simon Jay Pierce.

Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as “…an all-American composer – one of our best, most original and most important,” George Crumb was a titan of contemporary classical music, who was beloved by musicians and audiences alike for his aurally and visually stunning scores.

A true avant-garde, Crumb expanded our conception of what it means to be a musician, turning items like bowed water glasses into instruments, incorporating new elements such as spoken word, nature sounds, and electronics into his works, and asking instrumentalists to participate in elaborate theatrical presentations of his music, wearing masks, for instance, or performing under prescribed lighting.

Creating works simultaneously dramatic and concise, Crumb gave to music his own musical language, both in sound and on the page. Many of Crumb’s unique notated scores famously were hand-drawn shapes and spirals. For example, his written score for “Agnus Dei” from Makrokosmos II, is in the shape of a peace symbol. In a 2016 interview with the Brunswick Review, Crumb said, “I don’t have any artistic skills outside of musical calligraphy, I just think the music should look the way it sounds.”

George Crumb writing “The Fiddler.” Photo credit: Margaret Leng Tan.

Refreshingly original and hauntingly beautiful, Crumb’s music not only reached the souls of some of the 20th-century’s most important musicians, but also inspired them to do their part to revolutionize music. Black Angels, Crumb’s best-known work, was described by David Bowie as one of his favorite records: “a study in spiritual annihilation.” That piece, said Kronos Quartet’s David Harrington, “opened up a whole new world to me…. I had no choice but to form Kronos.”

Crumb won a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Award for his compositions, and his groundbreaking, evocative music has been used again and again in works ranging from ballets to Hollywood films, including The Exorcist. His scores are routinely taught in textbooks and in conservatories around the world, and his influence on contemporary music is immeasurable.

Join us in celebrating the life and work of the legendary George Crumb.

John Williams: 90 Years – And Counting

On this, his 90th birthday, we’d posit that there is no living composer who has managed to be simultaneously so well-known, well-respected and well-loved than John Williams. We know his grand era- and genre-defining oeuvre like the backs of our hands: Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, Harry Potter, E.T., Indiana Jones — and the list goes on and on.

The broader public will recognize Williams pieces for their ingenious hooks, fearless displays of the widest range of human emotion, and instantaneous connection to the moving images they bring to life. Musicians, meanwhile, will simply enjoy playing his beautiful melodies and deeply satisfying orchestrations that feel undeniably natural.

None of this, of course, needs any introduction — and sometimes that’s the fun of it. Especially in times like these where our society seems to become more intensely divided with each passing day, a cultural touchpoint of pure joy that we all hold dear and that we can all relate to might be exactly what we need.

The John Williams Signature Edition series remains the gold standard in Williams scores. These spiral-bound, fully-engraved conductor’s scores come directly from the Williams originals and contain anecdotes written and signed by Williams himself that tell us, for example, which scene that he scored was his favorite, how the actors who worked on his legendary films helped to inspire his music, and his own personal connections to the characters those actors brought to life. Whether for orchestra or concert band, these editions have become cornerstones of the popular repertoire of premier ensembles across the country, and with Baby Yoda of The Mandalorian capturing the hearts of a whole new generation of Star Wars fans, that looks to be true for years to come.

Edition Peters: Piano, Pedagogy, Studies and the Influence of Carl Czerny

Guest post by Christian A. Pohl, Professor of Piano and Piano Methodology, Head of Piano Department, University of Music and Theatre ‘Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’ Leipzig 

The start of the nineteenth century saw a seismic shift in the world of domestic keyboard playing as the piano rapidly displaced the harpsichord and clavichord as the instrument of choice in homes across Europe. Seizing on this new opportunity, a series of piano instruction methods were swiftly published, followed by methods and studies over subsequent generations that covered the rudiments of piano playing, technique and performance practice. A huge number of these studies are represented in the Edition Peters Piano Catalogue.

Major names in the field of piano pedagogy were quickly established – including Beyer, Burgmüller, Hanon and Clementi – but it was one who followed behind them that arguably defined the shape of piano pedagogy for generations to come. Indeed, even today – nearly 200 years after this educational “meteorite” first struck the German-speaking piano world – the waves of his impact are still being felt. There is no getting around Carl Czerny when it comes to pianistic exercises or didactic approaches to building a virtuoso pianist.

Carl Czerny
Continue reading ‘Edition Peters: Piano, Pedagogy, Studies and the Influence of Carl Czerny’

Chopin: Poland’s “Cannons Buried in Flowers”

Between 1772 and 1795, the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg Monarchy divided and annexed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth amongst themselves in a series of three partitions.

Though one of the largest and most populous countries in 16th– and 17th-century Europe, decades of protracted political, military and economic decline led the country to the brink of civil war, made it vulnerable to foreign influences, and ultimately rendered it unable to withstand the onslaught brought by the encroaching powers, even in spite of a revolutionary new constitution, a war in its defense and an uprising led by Tadeusz Kosciuszko. (As a side note, Kosciuszko was also a decorated hero of the American Revolutionary War and an accomplished military architect who designed and oversaw the construction of state-of-the-art fortifications, including those at West Point.)

Continue reading ‘Chopin: Poland’s “Cannons Buried in Flowers”’

Edition Peters: Reflecting the Composer’s Intentions and the Value of Urtext

Guest post by Linda Hawken, MD of Edition Peters Europe, and Kathryn Knight, President of C.F. Peters, USA

Being a music publisher in the 21st century presents many different challenges to those faced by publishers at the beginning of the industry 200 years ago. Nowhere is this better illustrated than at Edition Peters, founded in Leipzig in 1800 – a time when the idea of music copyright was only just starting to be thought about, with no laws in place to protect the composer. Instead, a successful publishing relationship depended solely on a close and ongoing collaboration with the composer.

Edition Peters’ unique history tells one of the most extraordinary stories of the music-publishing world.  The roster of composers with whom Edition Peters worked directly across the 19th century is dizzying, from Beethoven to Grieg and Mahler.

Edition Peters created the first editions of some of the most famous compositions of all time, with those editions being proofread and corrected by the composers themselves long before the concept of “Urtext” was conceived. Yet despite the provenance of these important editions, it became fashionable in the later 20th century to disregard them – and the unique value of the composer’s direct input – in favor of Urtext “interpretations” by musicologists.

The concept of the Urtext only emerged in the early 1930s, devised by musicologists who aimed to get closer to “the composer’s intentions” by reviewing multiple sources. Indeed it was Edition Peters who released one of the very first Urtext editions with its 1933 edition of J. S. Bach’s Inventions and Sinfonias. After the Second World War, other publishers took on this concept, producing their own Urtext editions. However, this led to much confusion about the meaning and significance of the editions, and whether they reflected the composer’s true intentions.

Continue reading ‘Edition Peters: Reflecting the Composer’s Intentions and the Value of Urtext’

Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas: Setting the New Performance Standard

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven’s ten violin sonatas are among the most famous works of chamber music history and represent, together with Mozart’s works for this instrument duo, the core of violin repertoire from the Viennese Classicist period.

Though composed in a short span in Beethoven’s creative life (nine of the ten were written between 1798 and 1803, with the final one appearing in 1812), these sonatas bear all the marks of Beethoven’s compositional innovation: the breaking of formal tradition, a vast emotional scope, skillful musical manipulation, and, of course, the trademark urgency and power.

The new Bärenreiter edition of the violin sonatas — or, as more appropriately titled by Beethoven himself, sonatas for the pianoforte and violin — offers a revolutionary editorial approach to the music that does more than simply hand down the text.

These new volumes, edited by historical performing practice expert Dr. Clive Brown, present an approach to performance that is quite different from what most of today’s musicians are accustomed to. This approach not only falls much more in line with what Beethoven would have expected, but also imbues the music with a renewed vigor and offers musicians an incredible array of opportunities for creativity.

“This is the highest quality of academic scholarship, but it is not only that: this edition has enabled me to bring these sonatas to life in a way that has not been possible before – this is historical research in the service of living and breathing music!”

Viktoria Mullova, Violinist

Here violinist Viktoria Mullova and pianist Alasdair Beatson demonstrate some of their most illuminating discoveries from the “Spring” Sonata (Op. 24) and show us why they’re excited to work with these new editions:

The Editorial Approach

Dr. Brown’s new editions of the Beethoven violin sonatas combine a traditional scholarly Urtext approach with a wealth of information on historical performing practice informed by the thorough study of recordings and editions made by 19th-century musicians, many of whom had direct contact with Beethoven himself or with others that did.

These historical sources reveal a striking discrepancy between performance and notation. Composers in Beethoven’s era, including Beethoven himself, simply did not write down a large swath of the expressive gestures that they would have expected musicians to make, including rhythmic and tempo flexibility, piano arpeggiation and asynchrony, portamento, cadenzas, and ornamental, rather than continuous, vibrato effects.

By not including these details in the text, composers created a space bursting with potential for the creative performer to exploit in what could and, most importantly, would be wildly distinctive and thrillingly emotional performances. In many respects, it was a creative freedom much more akin to jazz than to today’s renditions of classical music.

Continue reading ‘Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas: Setting the New Performance Standard’

Revisiting Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor

Mozart-NepomukDellaCroce

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Mass in C minor (K. 427) stands alongside the Requiem (K. 626) as his most remarkable church composition. Today it enjoys almost cult status, first because of its monumentality, which is unique in Mozart’s sacred vocal music, and second because, like the Requiem, it partakes of the aura of the unfinished and mysterious. The exact circumstances that gave rise to it as a votive mass have eluded explanation to the present day. The same applies to the reasons why it was left unfinished and to many details of its first performance, which, as far as we know, took place at St. Peter’s Church, Salzburg, on October 26, 1783. Finally, the transmission of the original sources also raises many questions. Indeed, it is astonishing that the Mass, although left as a torso, was performed at all during Mozart’s final visit to Salzburg. Continue reading ‘Revisiting Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor’

A Short Foray into Beethoven’s Variations

Guest post by Dr. Dominik Rahmer, editor at G. Henle Verlag.

HenleBeethoven250

The formal technique of “variations” played an important role in Beethoven’s work throughout his entire life. Critic Paul Bekker wrote in 1911, “Beethoven begins with variations,” and indeed this is true not only of the character of his oeuvre, but also of its chronological progression: Beethoven’s very first published work was his 9 Variations on a March by Dressler, WoO 63, which appeared in 1782.

DresslerTheme

Dressler Variations, WoO 63: Beginning of the Theme

Similarly, we could add that Beethoven also ends with variations. The Diabelli Variations, Op. 120, which are amongst his last piano works, not only crown his creativity, but also, in the history of piano variations, are probably equaled only by Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

The panoply of variations within his multi-movement works also indicates how fundamental this technique is in Beethoven’s musical thinking. Consider, for example, the profound closing movement of the last piano sonata, Op. 111, or the grand finale of the 3rd Symphony.

Though the themes of these movements were usually Beethoven’s own inventions, here we will focus on the pieces composed as independent variation sets on popular melodies. This vantage point reveals some interesting finds. Continue reading ‘A Short Foray into Beethoven’s Variations’


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