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. more “Revisiting Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor”
1870 marked the 100th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven. After denying the invitation from the “Beethoven Committee of Vienna” to appear onstage together with Liszt, Joachim and Clara Schumann to celebrate the event, Richard Wagner decided to write an essay instead. While this essay is notable as a broader investigation of Wagner’s aesthetic philosophy and ideals, it also remains an insightful exploration of both the artistic significance and enduring popularity of Beethoven’s music. For Wagner Beethoven’s music isn’t merely beautiful, a concept that is for him constrained by convention and subject to changing tastes and fashions, but sublime. Beethoven reveals a sort of Platonic ideal of melody, thereby liberating it from its historical moment, and connecting his listeners with a timeless, universal human truth. For Wagner it is Beethoven’s radical defiance against tradition and his intense emotional expressions that make his music a vehicle for revelation.
Though these strains are apparent across Beethoven’s entire oeuvre, it is in his piano sonatas that Beethoven’s boldest thoughts and gestures shine most brightly. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Beethoven was widely known as a brilliant pianist in his own right, giving him the natural freedom to stretch the boundaries of the instrument. Perhaps, though, it is also due to the nature of the piano itself: a solo instrument that lends itself to the realm of the personal and inward, even the diaristic, and one that, by allowing tones only to be struck and not sustained or driven forward, abstracts music into its most intellectually pure form, making it a prime medium for musical exploration and innovation.
To explore Beethoven’s piano sonatas is to explore Beethoven’s musical innovations. In these 32 pieces, we see the concentrated version of the familiar trajectory guiding us from the Classical era into the Romantic: the experimental mimicry of his early years, the ego-driven defiance of his middle years where, at the height of his compositional powers, he most fully challenges convention, and finally his late years where, fully deaf, he introspectively explores the mysteries of life and death. more “Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas: The New New Testament of Piano Repertoire”
For a conductor music starts with Beethoven. And for the son of a conductor both can start very early, as they did for Jonathan Del Mar, Beethoven scholar and editor of the new edition of Beethoven’s nine symphonies for Bärenreiter.
In 1949 Del Mar’s father, conductor Norman Del Mar, purchased a copy of the 1924 facsimile of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, which he studied with Jonathan when he was still a child. The younger Del Mar, whose career also began as a conductor, remarks, “Had it not been for our possession of this endlessly fascinating document, it must remain doubtful whether my interest in Beethoven’s handwriting, and my work on his autographs, would ever have begun.”
Jonathan Del Mar’s edition of the nine symphonies for Bärenreiter, completed in 2000, has become the preferred edition for many renowned conductors worldwide.
“We all are amongst those of gratitude to Jonathan Del Mar who simply did the work to give us the first, really true edition of what this music was.”
— Sir Simon Rattle
The most monumental symphony of them all, the Ninth, was the first of the new edition to be published, and it was in preparing this edition of this very special symphony that Del Mar made one of his most thrilling discoveries. more “Beethoven’s Ninth: How Reading What Beethoven Wrote Changed Everything”
Even in a cultural era ripe with nationalism, Antonín Dvořák was one of the most nationalistic. Slavic folk music, especially from his native Bohemia, permeates his entire oeuvre. He develops these simplistic folk elements into sophisticated symphonies, operas and concertos through Romantic compositional techniques, while retaining a certain innocence that makes his music approachable and beloved by musicians and audiences alike.
For Dvořák incorporating Slavic folk elements into his music wasn’t so much a political gesture as it was a matter of musical philosophy. Having grown up in the Bohemian countryside playing folk tunes in his father’s tavern, he intuited an intimate relationship between music and the place it came from, and he believed that all peoples of the world should develop their own music stemming from their homegrown culture. more “Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9: A National Culture for the New World”
Every time we listen to Swedish composer Mårten Jansson we can’t help but get swept up in the whirlwind of emotions he creates. His music is full of all of the compositional elements that choristers love to sing: sweeping melodic lines, open chords and expressive dissonance.
Ultimately, though, performers and audiences alike fall in love with his music because they are drawn to the fundamental honesty at its core. Jansson approaches traditional sacred texts with humility, and he openly shares his experience of it through his music in a way that amplifies the text without pretense or contradiction.
This honesty should not be confused with simplicity or naïveté. Jansson’s stunning Missa Popularis, for instance, manages to connect us to a profound range of emotions, while uniting many layers of thought and tradition into the microcosm of a single piece of music. In addition to all of Jansson’s neoromantic tendencies, the Missa sits atop a foundation of Swedish folk dances and also sounds strikingly Medieval. Though perhaps most obvious in the opening of the “Kyrie” and the “Agnus Dei,” the feeling of the chant is present throughout the entire Mass. more “Discovering Mårten Jansson & Bärenreiter’s Jansson Choral Competition”
Douglas Woodfull-Harris has been working at Bärenreiter as an editor for orchestral and chamber music for more than 25 years and has overseen the production of countless editions. In 2018 we will commemorate Claude Debussy’s death 100 years ago. Among the editions which Woodfull-Harris has personally edited are Debussy’s La Mer, Afternoon of a Faun, his Cello Sonata and String Quartet, Images for piano, Syrinx for Flute, and most recently the Rhapsodie Première for Orchestra with Solo Clarinet (coming in December 2017).
Why Debussy? What made you turn to his works?
Douglas Woodfull-Harris (DWH): From conversations with musicians I knew that the existing editions had problems such as discrepancies between score and parts of orchestral works. Orchestras had their correction lists and made do with what they had but scholarly-critical editions were badly needed. Also, I simply enjoy the music.
The first work by Debussy which you edited was his cello sonata. How did you proceed?
DWH: Of course, I gathered together all relevant sources as I always do. During this process I investigated a private collection in Winterthur (Switzerland) which nobody appears to have looked into, and there I found sketches to the Cello Sonata.
Now, the final note in measure 18 of the 2nd movement is the lowest note on the cello, a C. In the autograph score, the first edition, and all other published editions a “circle” or “zero” appears above the note (*see example below). This circle today is understood to indicate that the note should be played as an open string. I asked myself why an experienced composer like Debussy would mark a note in such a way that can only be played as the open C string. It simply didn’t make sense to me. The marking seemed redundant. But is it possible Debussy meant something else? more “The Excitement of Editing Debussy’s Works: Interview with Bärenreiter Editor Douglas Woodfull-Harris”
Bärenreiter is a renowned German publisher. Founded in 1923, during an era in which there was a burgeoning interest in early music, Bärenreiter quickly developed its reputation for using musicological research to inform editorial decisions. Their editions are preferred by many musicians worldwide. So what is it about Bärenreiter publications that makes them so popular? Our interview with Bärenreiter staff, below, will answer that question and more!
Question: What is an Urtext edition? Why is it important?
Until the early 20th century, performers and music teachers were principally concerned with passing on their own performance instructions to up-and-coming generations of musicians. This led to the development of “instructive” editions, which included personal interpretations of bowing, dynamics, articulation, etc. Two of the most famous instructive editions were those by Artur Schnabel for the Beethoven sonatas and Clara Schumann for the piano works of Robert Schumann.
Because these editions contained major changes that were not originally written by the composer, there was a movement during the middle of the 20th century to return to a musical text free from any extraneous input. In a nutshell: Urtext editions are edited by specialists who take all available sources of a particular work into account and strive to put together a musical text as close as possible to the composer’s original intentions. more “Publisher Spotlight: Bärenreiter”