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.

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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.

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Beethoven’s Ninth: How Reading What Beethoven Wrote Changed Everything

JonathanDelMar
Jonathan Del Mar

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.

 

SimonRattle

“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

 

BarenreiterBeethoven9The 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”

From Sketch to First Edition: The (Almost) Seamless Source Documentation of Edward Elgar’s Violin Sonata – from G. Henle Verlag

Guest post by Dr. Norbert Müllemann, Editor-in-Chief of G. Henle Verlag

Elgar
Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

Many Urtext editions and their sources cross the desk of an editor at the G. Henle publishing house – but we are seldom dealing with such a comprehensive source documentation as is the case with Elgar’s violin sonata. Nearly ever step of the work’s genesis can still be retraced today, and yet in preparing this edition its editors were constantly confronted with unresolved issues – how could that be?

In August 1918 Elgar’s wife, Alice, mentions in her diary: “E. writing wonderful new music, different from anything else of his. A. [i.e., Alice herself] calls it wood magic. So elusive and delicate.” The start of work on this “Wood magic [reference to the location of their country manor near the Fittleworth woods in West Sussex?]” is captured in sketch material. We see literally how Elgar initially recorded crucial themes that he wanted to develop further later on. Before the first accolade of what is apparently the first sketch, you will find Elgar’s remark: “1. idea.” This “first idea” consists of the opening bars of the first movement, and it appears that Elgar actually worked through the entire sonata from “start to finish.” The sketches for the 2nd movement play a special role here, for here he enshrined in music his response to sad news from his circle of friends (a death and an illness). This is existential music that Elgar sent — an exceptional instance — in the sketch stage to the woman friend injured in an accident, so that she could share in the composition: “This I wrote just after your telegram about the accident came & I send you the pencil notes as first made at that sad moment.” The sketches still extant today are in fact snapshots giving us an insight into Elgar’s workshop. more “From Sketch to First Edition: The (Almost) Seamless Source Documentation of Edward Elgar’s Violin Sonata – from G. Henle Verlag”

Cantabile Qualities: Choral Music by Beethoven

Guest post by Jan Schumacher

Beethoven is not primarily thought of as a vocal composer, but why not? The choral collection compiled by Jan Schumacher, which contains both well-known and unknown choral works by Beethoven and original transcriptions of Beethoven’s works by other composers, reveals a great deal of extremely attractive repertoire.

Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven

The widely-held prejudice that “he could not write for voice” sticks to few composers as much as it does to Ludwig van Beethoven. This may be due to the fact that his place in music history is primarily as a revolutionary symphonist and creator of incomparable chamber music like the string quartets and piano sonatas. To take this to mean that he had no understanding of the human voice or did not know how to write for chorus, however, is to draw the wrong conclusion. Beethoven, like nearly every other composer of his age and indeed until the first half of the 20th century (with a few notable exceptions such as Chopin and Paganini), was equally used to composing for voice and instruments.

It is when we try to label Beethoven that we develop what can be misleading expectations. more “Cantabile Qualities: Choral Music by Beethoven”

Celebrating 150 Years of Edition Peters Green

Originally posted on www.editionpeters.com.

Hidden behind the iconic green covers of Edition Peters lies a story that is fascinating, complex, at times heartbreakingly tragic, but overwhelmingly inspirational. This year Edition Peters proudly celebrates 150 years of the green cover series and here is a short version of our story.

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What is an Urtext Edition?

by Kevin Harper

We’ve all seen the term “Urtext Edition” when shopping for sheet music. But what does that mean? How is it different from other sheet music? Let’s begin with the definition of “Urtext”.

Germans famously love to combine separate words into one long word. In this case, we have the German words Ur and Text. The oldest city in the world was the city of Ur in modern-day Iraq. This word became part of the German language, meaning original, ancient, or great. For example, Great-grandfather in German is Urgrossvater. Germans use Ur to describe something that is not only very old, but also respected and distinguished.

The meaning of Text in German is easy to figure out. It is a cognate of our English word, which means they have the same definition.

So we’ve established what the word Urtext means, but what in the world does it have to do with music? Publishers use the term to refer to old editions of music, particularly those that have the music written in the hand of the composer, or with annotations and guidelines in the composer’s own words. more “What is an Urtext Edition?”