Question: You are very well known for your pioneering work in performance practice. The term and all its ramifications are gaining in recognition and application today. Where does performance practice have its origins?
Clive Brown: It’s not a new thing. Already in the early 19th century people were concerned about performing the music of older composers in the style appropriate to it. When the 21-year-old violinist Spohr played in Leipzig in 1804, Friedrich Rochlitz admired ‘his insight into the spirit of different compositions, and his artistry in reproducing each in its own spirit’, which he had not observed to this extent in the playing of other musicians. Rochlitz found this particularly impressive in his quartet playing where he was ‘almost completely another person when he, for example, plays Beethoven (his darling, whom he handles splendidly), or Mozart (his ideal), or Rode (whose grandiosity he knows very well how to assume, without any scratching or scraping, yielding little to him, particularly in fullness of tone), or when he plays Viotti and galant composers: he is a different person, because they are different people.
Guest post by Bärenreiter editor Jonathan Del Mar on working with Beethoven’s autographs
“Beethoven had such appallingly messy handwriting, didn’t he – I don’t know how anyone can read it!” How many times have I heard that accusation directed against one of the greatest composers who ever lived? True, many great works have been created despite truly terrible handwriting; Tippett, for example, when asked: “Michael, should this be an F or a G here?”, would characteristically respond, “Oh, I don’t know, love, do whichever you think best.” I would say the all-time worst handwriting was Janáček’s; but perhaps Janáček scholars would defend their icon just as I do Beethoven.
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”…