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Editions of Bach organ music


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#1 Martin Cooke

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Posted 05 August 2010 - 07:24 AM

I am glad that the topic I started on Bach registration has "run on" - I have found it very interesting and have enjoyed following up the links.

I am not sure if this topic has been rehearsed before, but I am also interested in editions. I was brought up on Novello and very unscholastically would happily refer to the pieces by their volume number - "C major - Book ," "C major - Book 9." My Novello scores have many useful markings, fingerings etc and my policy in the last few years has been to switch to Barenreiter when I had the time to re-learn a piece.

I feel "virtuous" about doing this, and I appreciate the limited prefatory material in each volume, and I am often taken by surprise at the different variations of each piece - in Barenreiter Volume 6, for example, there are several versions of the Legrenzi Fugue (not that I have ever played any of them), and there is a D minor version what we all might think of as a Prelude and Fugue in C minor (Novello Book 2 - the dull one with the opening pedal solo). There is virtue in using the "best" edition and by that I believe Barenreiter is widely accepted at the most scholarly edition of Bach, and there is also great value I have found in looking at music I have played and with I am very familiar set out afresh.

But, actually, are there any changes in the notes? (I know there are notational corrections in the Toccata in F and the Fantasia in G or should we call it Piece d'Orgue) It is certainly not in any sense easier or more helpful to learn a piece from the B edition, in my experience - indeed, when I learned the E minor (BWV 548) (OK - Novello Book 8), last summer, I ended up pasting into the B edition the opening section of the prelude from the N edition. I don't have a specific question to pose here, but an airing of views would be interesting and informative and, I hope, not just for me.

#2 wolsey

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Posted 05 August 2010 - 10:32 AM

There is virtue in using the "best" edition and by that I believe Barenreiter is widely accepted at the most scholarly edition of Bach, and there is also great value I have found in looking at music I have played and with I am very familiar set out afresh.

Some swear by the Breitkopf edition (ed. Heinz Lohmann).

#3 DHM

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Posted 05 August 2010 - 05:01 PM

Some swear by the Breitkopf edition (ed. Heinz Lohmann).

I still have, and use, the bound volumes of the Peters Edition which were given to me as a teenager in the 1960s.

#4 Martin Cooke

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Posted 05 August 2010 - 05:35 PM

It occurred to me after my opening post... what sources did Alan Ridout use for the Mayhew Bach edition?

#5 innate

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Posted 05 August 2010 - 05:43 PM

I still have, and use, the bound volumes of the Peters Edition which were given to me as a teenager in the 1960s.

I can't remember where I read it but apparently some early sources of Bach's organ works were available to the editors of the Peters Edition (Griepenkerl?) which were subsequently lost or destroyed before or during WW2 and were therefore unavailable to the NBA upon which the Baerenreiter edition is based.

I chiefly use Baerenreiter but it is not perfect. There are odd vertical misalignements and occasional misprints. What I originally liked about its clarity and spacing (lots of white space on the page) I now find wasteful - I prefer the dense nature of Peters with its fewer, and often easier, pageturns. I also like the authentic, if archaic, use of C clefs in some of the chorale preludes in Peters. I like the facsimiles at the front of the Baerenreiter volumes; makes me wish I had a facsimile edition.

Peters puts all the chorale preludes in alphabetical order which may be convenient for some but makes Bach's ordering of the Clavierübung III or the Orgelbüchlein almost impossible to comprehend.

Novello, which my father has, is in 20 volumes, I think, with some repetition. Walter Emery's scholarship for Bach is probably as practically useful in the organ works as Donald Tovey's scholarship is for the 48 and Beethoven's pf sonatas.

I wonder how long before some of us are using some iPad-like screen with the facility to switch between different editions, layouts etc at the swipe of a finger.

#6 Paul Morley

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Posted 05 August 2010 - 07:18 PM

My first organ teacher used the Widor/Schweitzer Bach edition. It might be interesting to know if this edition is still published in France.

#7 Vox Humana

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Posted 05 August 2010 - 11:39 PM

This issue was raised recently on the ABRSM organ forum (in a thread about the new syllabus).

In my not so humble opinion, the ideal Bach edition has not yet been published.

Having initially educated myself on the Novello volumes, I now use the Bärenreiter NBA because of its authoritative scholarship, but , frankly, I don't like it. No consideration has been given to the practical needs of the performer. The page turns are hit and (mostly) miss. Also, no attempt has been made to allocate the notes between the hands in the practical way that Novello does: each contrapuntal "voice" is simply allocated in its entirety to whichever stave best suits it and the player is left to fend for himself.

I may be wrong, but I think I have read somewhere that the original Novello edition used the notes of the Griepenkerl edition with a Romantic overlay (registration suggestions). Later, several volumes, but not all, were overhauled and stripped back to an urtext by that very reliable Bach scholar Walter Emery. The process must have been akin to Thurston Dart's revision of some volumes of Edmund Fellowes's complete edition of William Byrd, i.e. sufficient unto the day, but hardly a substitute for a complete, scholarly re-editing (which for Byrd has since been done). I think the problem in those days was that it was no easy matter to make significant alterations to engraved plates.

As far as the textural differences between NBA and Novello go, it depends very much on the individual piece. It's a long time since I last looked at my Novello volumes, but my recollection is that for the music that exists in primary sources (i.e. Bach autographs and self-published) there are no differences in the notes worth worrying about. The one exception is the NBA version of the C minor Fantasia BWV 562 (after Bach's autograph, I believe), which invariably comes as something of a shock to those brough up on earlier editions (nice, stylish performance here, despite the rather woolly audio: ). However for the works existing only in manuscript, most particularly the earlier ones, there are sometimes significant differences in the readings - not necessarily extensive, but enough for the difference to register. One example is the Prelude and Fugue in C minor cited above, which (quite apart from the alternative, D minor version) contains several variants, not least in the opening pedal solo. The F&F in G minor BWV 542 has quite a lot of significant variants too. The NBA version of the Trio in D minor contains all the ornaments which Novello freely admits it has omitted. All in all, I would say that there are just enough variants in NBA to make me stick with it, plus I get a clean urtext, which to me is very important.

The Mayhew Bach edition, edited by Alan Ridout, made a great play of its practical page turns. From the volumes I have browsed in shops, it looks very clean and practically laid out - quite beautiful, in fact. However, as you'd expect from Mayhew, there is absolutely no editorial information, so we cannot judge how reliable the text is, or how it was arrived at. For all his accomplishments in other fields, Ridout was no Bach scholar. If it turns out that he simply took the NBA text and re-formatted it, then we might well have the most recommendable edition, but unfortunately Mayhew have no interest in giving that sort of information, so we are left high and dry.

I have four volumes of Lohmann's Breitkopf edition and I like them, except that I find the text a bit cramped on the page. I do not have enough volumes to assess how practical the page turns are (the Trio Sonatas are not a fair test!) Unlike NBA, Lohmann's edition has the advantage that it is all the work of a single editor, so the editorial approach is consistent. It is also up to date and based on the original sources. The one thing that makes me slightly uneasy is that Lohmann is known as an interventionist editor.* There is nothing wrong with this - it really is the only way to deal with Buxtehude's organ works - but I recall at least one review of an organ volume (not of Bach) in which certain radical decisions of Lohmann's were roundly criticised and that makes me feel uneasy. That's just my problem, however.

* In early music there are two basic types of editor: the cautious and the interventionist (though there are also many intermediate positions). When editing a work, both types will consult all the available sources and assess their reliability and how close they are to the composer (which is often not very). The cautious editor will then decide which of the available texts is the most reliable (or least unrealiable!) and print that, safe in the knowledge that at least it is a version that did (and does) exist, even if it is not perfect. For the interventionist editor, this is not good enough. Where works exist only in sources at some remove from the composer, he is perfectly willing if need be to ignore their readings completely in order to restore what he believes the composer must originally have written. The danger with this is that the editor's analysis of the composer's style may not be infallible and he may print readings that never existed.

#8 Contrabombarde

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 07:02 PM

Am I completely dreaming, or did a totally new version come out a decade or so back by Novello?

The ones I'm aware of from my days as a student are

"Old" Emery Novello
Peters (must say I never did get the funny looking clefs....)
Barenreiter (looked nice but much more expensive and lots of page turns)

Then the Kevin Mayhew one came out, didn't it have some funny order like everything was in chronological order of being written? How well did that work in practice?

What other editions are people aware of? If you had to pick one edition for the complete works of Bach today which would you choose?

Incidentally, there is an electronic version - probably several in fact, though at least the one I have looks like it's probably a digital copy of an early Peters. There is certainly something to be said for carrying all your music around on a laptop and just sticking the laptop on the music desk when it comes time to play. If and when tablet PCs come of age (thinner but wider screen) it could be a real benefit to organists - and of course with certain pdf software you can even annotate the digital music score.

#9 MusingMuso

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 10:47 PM

I am glad that the topic I started on Bach registration has "run on" - I have found it very interesting and have enjoyed following up the links.

I am not sure if this topic has been rehearsed before, but I am also interested in editions.


==========================


I'm fairly sloppy when it come to editions. If it sounds all right, I just play it; hence I tend to work from the hardbound Widor/Schweitzer edition, which I find very nice to read.

However, I also have, (but never use), the Novello set, as well as a few volumes of the W T Best performing editions, which are fascinating.

I don't know about the scholarship or accuracy, but the fascination comes from the various markings and phrasings, which show a performer of real musical maturity. Play from the W T Best aditions, and you will not go far wrong musically.

MM

#10 Fiffaro

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 03:11 AM

I'm aware of a number of my colleagues who take the same approach that I do: we own the Baerenreiter edition, either own or have copies of the critical reports, but more often than not play from other editions that we have checked against the Baerenreiter.

For example, the trio sonatas are more compactly laid out in the Novello (old) edition and more amenable to turning for oneself; many of the chorale preludes I play from the Peters edition (I had to learn those funny clefs during my undergraduate days, and now I'm quite thankful as that saves me reading ledger lines, I can annoy cellists and violists by saying "let's start from where you play..." and I play continuo from funny clefs fairly regularly)

#11 Nigel ALLCOAT

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 06:04 PM

If you want to fly the flag, so to speak, Novello (those volumes edited by Walter Emery) are excellent. He was a most astute scholar and I certainly can say that the 2 volumes of Trio Sonate are just the ticket. As for performing editions so you don't need to rely on a page-tuner - you have to do it yourself! None, as far as I have come across, work.

Best wishes,
N




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