From Composer to Printed Page

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Musical notation is both inexact and changeable; the assumptions of one period may be lost on following generations, and the greater part of written music still remains unpublished at the present day. The challenges of editing and presenting a text, either of a well-known classic or of an unknown writer differ in music from those faced in the similar worlds of literature or Biblical criticism. The dilemmas created by composers' second thoughts and revisions, and disciples' 'improvements' require a 'correct' way of presenting obsolete information to the modern performer and raise questions which can both change our attitude to familiar works and resurrect forgotten treasures.

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22 March 2011

From Composer to Printed Page 

Professor Christopher Hogwood 

I promised that the last two of my lectures this year would deal with a rather cradle-to-grave aspect of music.  The start of the operation, in this lecture, is talking mostly concerned with personal experiences to do with the finding of music in its raw state, that is its manuscript or library state, and bringing it into a condition where it can be put into a performer’s hands, can be sold, can be shelved in a public library or can be made available to the public at large.  Next month, with Emma Kirby and Jacob Lindberg, we will carry on from that point of having the edited and performable music printed through to what the performer discovers has to be, may be done, or should not be done, and the general intricacies of, as it were, cooking up the meal from the recipe.

So, in these two territories, it does look a bit as though the today’s topic is very much the province of the librarian, scholar and the musicologist, whereas the next lecture looks like the exciting one, concerned with the teacher, performer and the public; the limelight and the glamour.  In fact, in an ideal world, I think the people in charge of the first stage ought to also be involved in the second stage, and vice versa, otherwise quite a lot of difficulties arise, and very often, when these activities are segregated, you discover that the people who are most expert at each stage do not actually play together very well in the end product.  Sometimes, they do not even speak the same language, and you can have mystification on both sides.  The sheer musicologist, if he or she is not a performer, may well be absolutely baffled by something that the music appears to demand, but which a performer can easily explain as being absolutely normal, and vice versa.  A performer without some sense of historical background or the origins of the music that they have picked off the shelf and are looking at can sometimes jump to the wrong conclusions.  You need a little bit of help, usually, not only with the setting that the music was created for and in, but also the niceties of its notation or the assumptions of the composer, even if it is not a composer from an earlier period of music.  Even contemporary compositions can sometimes entirely mystify the performer when they are first presented and they need a little bit of explanation.  So I think that the crossover between those two categories should be encouraged, in spite of the fact that traditionally it has been a little bit discouraged from both sides: both the music schools in the tradition of the 19th Century German division of the performing institute, the conservatoire, where often people took a great pride in not reading a single book, and the university, the Musikwissenschaft, the musicology side, where very often those crusty old librarians and musicologists took a great pride in not being able to play the national anthem on any instrument.  

So it might initially appear to you as though the first stage of these two lectures, as I say, is rather dusty, and the second is rather exciting, so I thought I would dip, first of all, into what I would consider some of the excitements of editing music, and some of the pitfalls and choices, and some of the qualifications I would say a good edition of music should have, so that when you are faced with a choice of your favourite pieces, in different edited versions, you might know what questions to ask of them.

The chief excitement about editing, of course, is the possibility of bringing to light and bringing up for performance some music that would not otherwise have been known or ever heard.  Let me play you a little of something that arrived in this format.  You will probably know the music, but you will not expect the sound that it is making.  Here is a little bit of what you will easily recognise as a Bach Prelude.

[Music plays]

This Bach Prelude and, after it, a sample of a Bach Fugue, are actually the last pieces that Stravinsky wrote.  They are not included in most lists of his works, and there has been a general conspiracy to deny that he ever did it.  But in 1969 when he was quite ill and going in and out of hospital in Los Angeles and New York, he was adamant that one of the things he most wanted to make available to the musical public was what he called “the bread of life”.  Every day he played at the piano a prelude and fugue by Bach, and he said to Robert Craft and others that the great shame was only keyboard players tended to be aware or have physical contact with this repertoire.  The Well-Tempered Clavier was mentioned but not so often heard.  He thought he could be doing a service, in his very old age, to the concert public by making orchestrated versions of this music available.  He was old and infirm, but he was still bright of mind.  If you look at the original score for this, you will see the result of Stravinsky’s slightly shaky pencil hand, with Preludio 11, at the top, and this is laid out for strings with most of the parts there.  He took them direct from his Czerny edition of the Bach 48 and turned this prelude at least into a piece for strings.  

The surprise, for me, was finding that this music did exist.  The manuscript had been carefully sorted away in the collection of all Stravinsky’s music that was sold to the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel, and there, lurking in a bottom drawer, was a folder that contained these shaky sheets, with a few later red markings over them, and clear indications that somebody had copied out performing parts from these pieces.  In spite of that, the books either denied that they were done, or musicologists would say they were unfinished pieces, or Stravinsky was not in a fit enough state to say that this was real music.  But all the notes are there: you do not have to supply any more than Stravinsky has laid out on the page.  You do sometimes have to clarify the notes that he has written, and certainly you have to work out which instrument is meant to be playing them.  This is a string ensemble and he labelled it very nicely at the beginning, so you know what you are in for: you know roughly where the music is going, and sometimes, when he gets himself lost, he gives you a little indicator.  

When it comes to a fugue, the editor can step in a little more, in order to get a sonority you might have thought was fairly normal – it does not really require a Stravinsky to think of a string orchestra playing an orchestration of a prelude.  The fugue is rather more nicely done.  Stravinsky sets out a fugue in three voices, for three clarinets.  It is very jolly, a very un-Bachian sound.  His only oversight, and it is an oversight he tended to make throughout his life, was running off the range of the instruments available.  So, although it says three clarinets, the lowest clarinet goes way beyond what the clarinet can actually manage.  So here is a case where the editor, as they had to for all of Stravinsky’s life, stepped in and tidied it somewhat – seeing that you needed not a clarinet but a bass clarinet, which then you get this terrific sound for a three-part fugue.

[Music plays]

I think it is great fun to bring that to life.  If one had not pursued it, found it, scored it up, edited it, advised on the bass clarinet and then got it performed, you would not have the fun of hearing that, and I think that makes the editing process exciting.  There are many more instances of this sort of thing, and I will mention some as I go along.

The type of editing that you can impose, if you like, on the original source brings up many choices.  You could, for instance, just make a photographic facsimile.  That would give you exactly what the composer wrote, but, as you can see from the pages of Stravinsky’s Bach score, there are going to be instances where it does not get you very far.  Although it is very nice and romantic to look at the composer’s own shaky hand, it does not lead you that far along the line.  

You can then go for an edited version, where the editor has sorted out the original notation, reproduced it more cleanly and fully, with instructions or at least advice on what it all means.  This would not be adding another person’s view of how it should sound, but merely trying to clarify your view of what is there.

Something that was very typical 19th Century attitude to editing, was that if the person doing the editing has a strong reputation or facility as a performer, teacher or conductor, what the public would probably like to see, they argued, was not the bare text, as perhaps Bach had left it, but what Joachim or Stokowski or anybody else would care to do with it.  Therefore, the copy of the music that Stravinsky, for example, was working from was his edition of the Bach Well-Tempered Clavier that he put up on the piano and played every day, as the “bread of life”, but it had been worked over by Carl Czerny, in the 19th Century, giving it fingerings and dynamic markings.  Of course Bach had not anticipated the dynamic capacity of the piano, nor the pedal markings, nor the rallentandos, crescendos and diminuendos – all the expressive things that go with the piano and were not part and parcel of Baroque notation.  These are very personal interpretations.  Of course, it was exactly what Czerny wanted to have shown on the page in order to help his pupils. Other people might make a different choice.  But this interpretative edition was then overlaid with the teacher’s recommendations, which is a practice that is still very common I think, if you look at a lot of familiar pieces that conservatoire students will be playing.  It seems to be more prevalent possibly in the area of string repertoire than other repertoire, but certainly romantic music tends to have hidden within it, usually within brackets, “edited by”, “fingered by”, “expressive markings by” somebody or other.  It is good that they should admit to them being there, but it is very rarely possible to distinguish between the origins of the notations: “is this fortissimo a Bach idea or is it Mr Czerny’s idea or is it some other editor?”, “how has it got into this music?”, and “do we have an option of ignoring it?” etc.  

Because of this, you need to go back a little bit to the old principles of literary criticism, literary editing or biblical editing – all those words that used to mystify me in the King James Bible when I was small, wondering why they were printed in italics.  It was only afterwards explained to me that those were what the translators put in to show where they had had to add a word to make an implication or fill out a phrase that was not similarly complete in the original language, and they admitted up to every addition they had put in there.  You cannot make sense of it without these, but at least it was very honourable that they showed what was the word of God and what was the additional word of the editor.

That sort of honesty had a strong effect on the musicological world and, towards the 20th Century, there was invented this not very good term called the urtext edition, the original text, the true text, the basic text.  It is what is shorthand nowadays for what I would prefer to call a critical edition.  Urtext, meaning “the single true text”, is something you can only very rarely establish.  If you only have one source of a work, and there are no contradictory editions or printings, if there is no commentary necessary, if every note is absolutely clear, if every slur and every dot is exactly where it should be, then you could of course reproduce that and say that is the urtext, because we are doing nothing to it because you have no choice about what to do to it.  But, in most cases, you will have a manuscript that poses problems.  

For example, you will see an example of this in the original scores of Mendelssohn.  Despite his calligraphy being very fine, what he termed revisions “krankheit” – his mania for revising and adapting and crossing out – often reaches a fine pitch.  It often pays to compare the manuscript of a piece by Mendelssohn with a printed edition.  Often, composers will make changes to their works as they go into print.  And if you are Brahms, you make changes to your works even when they are in print!  In Brahms’ library, when you look at his copy of his own printed works, he has made adaptations for them.  They never got out to the public, they are very handy for a modern editor to look at and incorporate in a new edition, but he was happy to have made the correction on top of something that was already public.

The ideal edition that you pick up, I think, should really not have all the answers to the problems that might be on the page, but it should, in some way, control the questions so that users can feel themselves that they are in possession of the best available knowledge about this music.  It does fall to the performer to make a lot of decisions, but they need to be informed decisions, and this is where the library side of things can help the non-library side, the performer.  

Editions can do a lot of things on your behalf.  As I say, you can have editions which add to the basic music, things that the composer might have expected you to know, or that a later interpreter thinks any performer should know.  So we come to someone like Czerny, who I have already mentioned in related to Bach. 

There are very good 18th Century examples of this sort of thing where, in a sonata, there will be the publisher’s attempt to aid the performer.  For example, there is an edition of a Corelli Sonata.  Of the three staves, the lowest of the staves in each system is the bass line, the continuo part.  The middle stave is how Corelli wrote his violin sonatas, so you will see that there is a certain economy of notes on that middle stave, it is very simple.  Even if you do not read music much, you can see there is not much there to read.  On the top stave though is the part that Corelli did not write out, but the part that the public were desperate to know about.  This was the part representing what  Corelli might have done when he played the music, and when any Italian played their solo music in the 18th Century, when it was normal practice to embellish it.  You could embellish it with small trills, big trills, long flourishes, big cadences.  In our example, what you see on the top line is actually what the publisher first published, with a little rubric saying the ornaments to this edition, “as Mr Corelli played them”.  This was published within Corelli’s own lifetime, so there may have been people around who said “But Corelli never wrote this down.” It looks a bit like something we have heard pupils of Corelli doing, but we do not have a Corellian autograph for this, so now, one needs to be a little bit more circumspect about it, and the publisher needs to do the same.  So, clearly in response to some criticism, the next issue of this edition came out with the rubric slightly changed, saying the violin sonatas of Archangelo Corelli, Opus 5, “containing the ornaments as he would like them played”, which was a fine way of getting round the Trade Descriptions Act!  And, it is true, they can be measured against other people who wrote out typical Italianate embellishments to Corelli.  There are many sets of these, all of them of course giving you the message that the one thing you cannot do is play this basic, simple part underneath, which was just the skeleton for what was going on.  But it was not the expected way of performing it, whether or not you believe this is Corelli, or a friend of Corelli, or some hack in the publisher’s house.  No doubt, they are certainly nice ornaments, and they agree with other ornaments that circulated by leading violinists, all showing a fair lavishness.  It was known that one had to obey more or less the skeleton outline of the original notation, but you also certainly had to dress it up with a lot of foliage, running scales up and down, and this clearly baffled people.  They were not quite sure how to do it.  So here, suddenly, you had a set of sonatas with all the slower movements decorated in this way for your edification, and what you learnt of this edition, you could then apply to other Italian sonatas.  So, in a way, this is an early form of the interpretative edition, and we must not credit it wholeheartedly to Corelli, but it is one of our most useful sources for knowing how to perform an early 18th Century Italian violin sonata.

Other music contains similar mystifications for the performers.  If you ever play French 18th Century keyboard music, you will know how it is riddled with small ornamental signs, which look very mysterious, and somewhere in the volume will be a table of these mystery signs and their explanation in written-out notes.  So, to save you constantly turning to the front or back of your volume to discover what every little ornament means, some editors decided it was best to write out all these embellishments in a full flurry of notes.  It is a little bit fussy and very busy on the eye.  You get something looking like a very decorated version of Corelli, but all the problems are solved for you. 

The same is true of when you play early English virginalists’ music.  They had ornamental signs, such as the tail of the note with a stroke or with two strokes, or sometimes even three strokes, all of which means something or other – it is a mystery subject still.  But, editors decided to take it on themselves to translate these signs into something that we would understand.  Because, of course, no conservatoire student will know what two strokes through a note means, so if you think it should be a trill, then you take away the two strokes and you put trill over the top.  That is fine, so long as you admit to doing it. Sometimes, this was not so, and therefore the wrong idea goes out, that the virginalist music was full of trills, looking very much like a Mozart piece, trilling on many notes.  So, be careful that your edition actually tells you who has done what!

You can have also editions that explain things, sometimes wrongly, and become the current norm.  One rather embarrassing one, I think, is Handel’s Water Music.  Somewhere in the 1950s the idea grew up that the lovely collection of pieces with different orchestrations that Handel wrote for performance on the river, to mollify the King, was somehow come to be corrupted in the edition that came down to us.  The thought was that the music you heard in this constantly changing orchestration should in fact have been three suites of music.  I think you will very frequently find it described in this way when you buy recordings of it even now, and this is even when you buy recordings I have made of it.  At that time we were in the period when we trusted this musicology that said there was hidden in there one suite involving trumpets, so it was called Suite Number 1, the Trumpet Suite.  Suite Number 2 was that involving the French horns, and then, as a little apology at the end, came the other movements, which tended to have flute and recorder and small scale things, and so that was described as Suite Number 3 for Flute.  

Then a theory grew up that Suite Number 1 was played loudly on the river, as they went up to Chelsea and Chiswick, and Suite Number 3, the small one, was played while they had their supper indoors, and the Suite Number 2, with Trumpets, was played loudly as they returned.  Well, there was immediately a problem with this theory, but it still seemed to look very tidy and neat, and everybody loves to be told something was corrupted by hands unknown so that we can put it right again.  The accounts of the trip upriver said that there was a mixed band of instruments, including flutes, recorders, oboes, trumpets and horns, on the music barge, and they played continuously for one hour going upriver, and after supper, they played continuously for one hour returning into London at 2am.  It must have annoyed some of the riverbank dwellers I suspect!  

But in the Royal Society of Musicians, when we were rummaging in a bottom drawer a few years ago, there turned up the earliest manuscript score of Handel’s Fireworks Music, and it confirmed that the old mixed-up sequence of pieces was exactly what had been used in the early 18th Century.  It confirmed this corrupted sequence of mixed-up music, and that that was Handel’s first intention.  Musicology had got it wrong, and now we had to jumble all these pieces back into their old sequence, where you had a piece for horns, and then the trumpets played, and then the flutes played, and then again the trumpets came up.  It was much loved of course by the brass players, who love to have time-off as well as time-on for playing, and the whole thing becomes a really wonderful, unique example of continuously changing entertainment music from the 18th Century running for one hour.  There is no other music, not even ballet scores I can think of from the 18th Century, that are so continuously through-composed with this varying orchestration.  It is a very nice, brilliant idea of the young Handel, and it is unfortunate I think that we were just a little bit too clever at believing that the suites had got mixed up.  There was not an idea of having suites; there was an idea of having a kaleidoscope of ravishing music that actually, when you play it in sequence like that, it lasts one hour.  So he got that right as well.  So this is an example of the sort of thing to beware of: musicology can sometimes overstep itself and make deductions on your behalf that may not be upheld.

Of course, you can also have an edition that you rely on to decipher what was originally there.  If you look at any Beethoven manuscript, you will wonder how any engraver or editor made head or tail of some of those squiggles on the page, exactly as you might worry about the Stravinsky on the example of earlier, and how much puzzling you have to do to work out what is there.  If you deal with composers like Walton or Vaughan Williams, editors are still with us who worked with those composers, very often saying that things were a complete muddle, and when they asked Vaughan Williams was this line for clarinet in C or clarinet in B flat, he would say to the editor, “Well, I do not know – what do you think sounds best?”   Quite a lot of important decisions had to be made by somebody in the process of deciphering and resolving what the composer had given.

There are always going to be discrepancies of what the handwriting actually means because, however clearly you indicate things, you will find in all composers’ manuscripts a little doubt as to how far that slur went: did it cover three notes or two notes; did the staccato mean a dot or a dash – when you are writing with a quill, it is very easy to make the one thing, a dash and a dote, look more or less the same. So there is great puzzling for the editor of working that out.

You can also have editions that clean-up the act.  That is where the notation is actually inaccurate or approximate or makes no sense to us nowadays.  Remember of course that this slur we are talking about over a number of notes, it nowadays means, to most players, on a string instrument, it is very legato in one bow, on a piano, you play smoothly, on a wind instrument, you play in one breath.  It can also mean a lot of other things.  In the 18th Century, it could mean that you played without adapting the rhythm of those notes – that is, you play them straight instead of swung.  It could imply that you held all the notes down on a keyboard.  There are, in the end, twelve different meanings for a slur circulating in the 18th Century.  An edition has to clarify that somewhat.

There were also conventions that existed right through the 19th Century, when you have music that is in separate parts and in score.  Brahms, for example, writes to his editors and engravers saying that it is perfectly okay to put more information into the players’ parts than you find in the score.  So while everybody looks at, for instance, the Brahms’ Sextets, in the score, they see one set of instructions, but any player who plays from an individual part will sometimes see a completely different set of instructions, and certainly more instructions.  A modern editor would probably now say that we deserve to have this evidence pooled and put into the score, but this was not Brahms’ intention.  Even into the 1890s, he was perfectly happy to see that the players had more detailed information than was facing them in the score.  The same applied to orchestral music.  So pity the poor conductor who looks at his score and says to the flutes, “Why are you playing a sforzando there? Why are you playing staccato there?  It is not in the music!” and of course, the flute turns back and says, “Oh Maestro, but it is in the music – it is in my part!”  Somehow, you have to reconcile these concepts of whether or not the score should indicate everything that everybody has and show you the complete picture, which in some cases means that you need to resolve the complete picture if the evidence is contradictory.  That tends to be the present idea.

Of course, in the process of doing this you tend towards an edition which is labelled ‘urtext’, meaning “the true text”, but it is a wrong description.  It would more correctly be ‘critical’ in two senses.  One, that you can undo what the editor has done – that is, if the editor thinks something is wrong in the text and wants to amend it, add to it, or even subtract to it, he must give written acknowledgement of this fact.  It is done usually typographically.  As the biblical translators used italics to show what they had added in the King James Bible, so the editor tends to use dotted lines or puts markings into square brackets or, at very least, gives you at the back of the edition this very useful, but very thorny looking, critical apparatus, the critical commentary, which looks like a slightly overgrown knitting pattern, where you get references to bars, parts, notes and sources, when there are a number of different sources to align. So a typical line will say: “Clarinet, bar six, note seven, staccato in source A and B, illegible in source C, staccatisimo in source D, missing in composer’s autograph” or something of that sort, and by the time you have sorted all this out, you can in fact re-track through all the levels of evidence and get back to what they all said.  It is quite hard work, but it should give you that sort of ability, and so that critical edition is what allows you to reverse the process and to make your own decisions.  Therefore, it answers up to my first definition of what a good edition might be; that it cannot answer all the questions, but it has to make you aware of the situation and give you the facility to make your own deductions from the whole range of what is available on this.

One thing I would always say is that you should never trust the last version from the composer.  We find many instances where one says that this is the final work, this is the composer’s actual autograph.  This gives us the idea that it is this version that tells us exactly what the composer wanted, and so we try to follow it to a tee.  But then, unfortunately, somebody will come along and say, “Oh no, when the composer got the proofs back from the printer, they made a lot of changes – you have to look at the proof copy.”  And so it can go on, even through pupils.  

For those of you who heard a little snippet of Copeland’s recording in one of my previous lectures, you will remember that there is Copeland, playing one of his most famous pieces, Appalachian Spring, and when the orchestra does not make a crescendo on a certain note, he says, “Where’s that crescendo?” and they say, “Maestro, there isn’t a crescendo.”   “Oh, I do not know where it came from, but I like it!”  That, to me, constitutes something as good as written evidence.  Copeland wanted it, asked for it in rehearsal and fixed it in his recording.  That crescendo can then go back into the score, but indicated differently from the crescendos he actually wrote, being one that he dreamed he had written but never had, but asked for, and if you want to explain it in the critical notes, you can.

In the process of pulling these pieces together, particularly if you are doing editing of a number of pieces by a composer, it falls on the editor to decide whether or not they are authentic works by the composer.  Thus you can have an edition which authenticates.  I came across this when we were putting together everything that should, in our view, be published under a title saying “Purcell: Complete Keyboard Music”.  If you are very scrupulous, and many big editions are very scrupulous, the definition of a Purcell keyboard piece has to be one that is: written by Purcell, signed by Purcell, or has indisputably got his name on that piece.  Because of this, you would have very few pieces which could be asserted as truly Purcell’s.  If it is published with his name on the cover, you are pretty safe, but most music in the 17th Century would have circulated in manuscript.  A lot of Purcell’s keyboard music is actually keyboard versions of things which exist in other forms and other scorings.  I would be for a slightly more liberal view of taking everything that fulfils what I would describe as the “young miss at the spinet” test; that is, if you hear a young lady in the 17th Century playing a piece of music and you say, “My dear, what is that you are playing?” she will say, “Oh, it’s Purcell,” and then you can accept the piece as truly Purcell’s.  She will not say, “Ah, it is a string piece from theatre music written in 1673, adapted by hands-unknown for the keyboard, and therefore I cannot tell you honestly that it is Purcell.”  To anybody of the time, if it was music by Purcell in a keyboard form, you did not query how it had reached that form.  In that way, you can get a lot of lovely music.  The more scrupulous administrators of course say, “No, no, this is too broad – we cannot have this in an edition which is supposed to be urtext and pure.”  I was a bit disappointed by that, but one lucky thing happened: the only Purcell autograph of keyboard music turned up – it was bought by the British Library, where you can see it now.  It is the only thing we have actually in his handwriting with his name on the pieces.  Luckily, out of something like the forty or fifty pieces I would have liked to see in such an edition of Purcell pieces, but which do not have his autograph name on them, quite a few of them were in this autographed collection.  When you listen to these pieces, you can hear the sort of music you might otherwise have missed.

[Music plays]

With these sorts of pieces, it would be a pity not to have it, a pity not to publish it, a shame not to play it, and luckily, with that discovery, there was suddenly a “once bitten, twice shy” attitude and everything was available.  You could put the whole lot in, and so, now, the new edition of Purcell, instead of I think 43 pieces, is going to have 127 pieces, and you can romp around amongst them.  Of course, it is accompanied by the critical commentary, and it and everything around will tell you what the chances are of it being 100% Purcell or only 99% Purcell.

The editor has another responsibility, I think, which is sometimes to show what I would call the process of composition.  This goes a bit beyond the critical edition, in that you expand your brief to show what stages a piece went through in composition.  In doing this you will often see what turbulent lives some pieces go through in their composition, a good example of which is Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony.  It was written to celebrate the Reformation and the Augsburg Confession.  It was a ceremonial piece, to be included in ceremonies with speeches, and it was not designed specifically to be a concert piece.  But it was to do, of course, with Martin Luther, and the most famous chorale, “Ein feste Burg”, that Mendelssohn picked on was the signature tune of the Reformed Church.  That became part of his brief.  He included it as the main theme of the last movement of the Symphony, and if you hear in the Symphony as he eventually fixed it up, you will hear how the piece moves from the slow movement and then it proceeds into the finale, where the flute discovers this chorale tune.

[Music plays]

You listen to the piece, you will notice that it goes somewhere else than the manuscript version at, and that is the result of Mendelssohn’s revisions “krankheit.”  In this Mendelssohn cut out what, when you look at the manuscript, turns out to be a completely scored up movement.  If you turn to the next page, you will see, although there is a big cross through it, everything is there.  It was performed in fact.  It was only later he decided to shorten the piece.  Why?  He does not tell us, but I can immediately think of two good reasons.  One is, as I say, this was a ceremonial piece; it had to fit within an evening of speechifying, celebrating sometimes church service, so it was not a concert piece.  It perhaps was too long for the occasion, and here was a nice way of taking a tuck.  But, symbolically I think, what he originally had in mind was much more interesting, which was, instead of the flute suddenly plunging in with that well-known chorale, a safe stronghold, out of nothing, there was this tradition that Martin Luther played the flute, so what you are seeing is the idea that Luther, in an idle moment, as well as writing the articles and a lot of other stuff, was doodling in the process of establishing some chorale melodies for this religious sect.  So you follow the flute through a little recitatif, and the orchestra joins, and then the flute gets more excited and experiments with new things, until at the end of this recitatif, which is the stuff that was crossed out in the manuscript, you find you have arrived, after a little cadenza, at the theme at the end.  It gives you a different picture, and I think a rather nicer and more programmatic effect of Luther coming to the conclusion of this is a good tune to try, after a number of false starts.  

So, for an edition that I would call a process edition, what you can do is include this sort of movement edited out by Mendelssohn, so you now have the possibility to play it, and give instructions for it in printed form, so you just read the instructions.  If you want Mendelssohn’s last version, then you follow the system of dots and you get to that quite clearly.  If you want his earlier version, which is longer, and has a second problem I think in Mendelssohn’s mind, but maybe not in our mind – he hated being under the shadow of Beethoven, like many people did, and clearly, somebody could easily say to him, “Aha, nice symphony you wrote, but haven’t we heard that recipe before of a recitatif section before a finale?  It’s it Beethoven Nine?”  So, removing this evidence of the preliminary recitatif, I think, spoils the piece, but removes the shadow of Beethoven.

So, in terms of an editor’s possibilities, this sort of edition is absolutely right to offer these sorts of additional parts, with notes, with the information that you require if you decide not to play it.  And, in the Mendelssohn example, it does mean that we have a lovely little interlude available to us that us would not otherwise, and obviously, all flute players love it as well, so to make it available is something I would put in the “yes” category if you are dealing in terms of this new idea of the process edition.

Next month, we will go on from the edition process or otherwise and see what the performer makes of all this, which is the test of whether the editor has actually got it right.

©Professor Christopher Hogwood, Gresham College 2011

This event was on Tue, 22 Mar 2011


Professor Christopher Hogwood CBE

Professor of Music

Christopher Hogwood CBE was a world-renowned conductor, keyboard player, musicologist, writer, editor and broadcaster.  As well as being the Gresham Professor of Music between 2010...

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