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.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’sMass 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”…
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.”
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”…
Ernst-Günter Heinemann – the Debussy Editor at G. Henle Verlag
2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Claude Debussy, French music’s great innovator celebrated worldwide. Whoever deals with our Debussy editions inevitably comes across the name Ernst-Günter Heinemann, editor at Henle from 1978 to 2010 and still closely associated today with the publishing house.
He is the editor of Debussy’s complete Piano Works published by Henle and available since 2011 in a three-volume collected edition (paper covers HN 1192, 1194, 1196, linen covers HN 1193, 1195, 1197); he has also edited a large part of Debussy’s chamber music – altogether a real Herculean task!
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.
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.
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”…
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?”…