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. In the case of the popular German beer Pilsner Urquell, Urquell means “old source” or “old recipe.” (Quell means source.) 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. Continue reading ‘What is an Urtext Edition?’