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Different Editions Can Be Hazardous!


Peter Clark
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I suspect that like many organists on this forum, I was reared on the Novello edition of JSB, and so even with a piece which is really well known to the player, the score still acts as a prompt during performance. But what happens when you use a different edition? I may be alone here, but I found recently to my horror and embarrassment that using the Mayhew edition (a totally "clean" edition ie no registration or dynamic suggestions) the notes just weren't in the right place sometimes (eg upper stave carrying notes I am used to seeing on the lower manual stave and so on), causing multiple errors. My fault, I know, since I should have studied the new score a little more diligently but be warned! By the way who else uses the Mayhew edition?

 

Best wishes

 

Peter

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Can't beat Dover for value for money...

 

Complete P's and F's - USD10.95 (~£5.50)

BWV531,2,3,4,5,6,9,41,2,3,45-51 + 8 Short

 

T's Fant's, Passa and other works - USD11.95

BWV537,8,40,42,62,3,4,5,6,8,9,70,72,3,4,4a,5,8,9,82

 

Organ Music (USD13.95)

6 Trio Sonatas, ClaiverU III, Orgelbuchlein, Schubler and the XVIII

 

The only trouble is, it's the Gesellschaft, so quite a lot of C clefs in the Chorale Preludes. I reckon even this is no bad thing - it makes me learn them instead of just mindlessly sightreading them.

 

But I did have to relearn one or two of the works - as Peter says, finding notes laid out differently between the hands somewhere in the throes of a big fugue is surprisingly fatal!

 

Actually, technically you can beat Dover for VFM: this edition is freely downloadable from several places on the web.

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So I'm not the only one then!

 

I have this quaint idea that if you're going to spend time and effort learning to play the right notes it's a bit of a waste of time if the "right notes" are the wrong notes. So over the years I've replaced several old editions with more up-to-date and reliable ones: Bach, Buxtehude, Brahms, Krebs, some Mendelssohn, some Rheinberger. Almost invariably I find the new editions really distracting. It's not only the allocation of the notes between the hands, though this is probably the most significant factor: even things like the typeface and the spacing of the bars can make a piece feel very different. Sometimes the effort involved in re-learning the pieces hardly seems worth the end result.

 

The Bach edition I now use is the Bärenreiter Neue Bach-Ausgabe, which is supposed to be the last word in Bach scholarship. But does anyone share my misgivings about it? Not only does the Bach of BWV 562 seem an entirely different character from the Bach of BWV546, quite a few of the readings on other works simply seem inferior to me (I would especially single out the Fantasia & Fugue in G minor). This is purely an emprical reaction, though - I'm not a Bach scholar.

 

I would certainly feel diffident about recommending the Bärenreiter, not just because of the above, but also because it is a direct offprint of a library editions and so has a complete disregard for practical page turns.

 

I don't know which Bach edition offers the best combination of reliable readings and user-friendliness, but I rather like the volumes I have seen of Heinz Lohmann's edition for Breitkopf & Härtel.

 

A few years ago OUP were trumpeting a new edition of Bach's organ works which was "in preparation". It even got as far as being listed in their catalogue. Whatever happened to that?

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But does anyone share my misgivings about it?
Andrew Fletcher once told me that he thought that Urtext was all very well, but that when the source contained obvious misprints / copyists slips etc etc, he didn't think it was doing anybody any favours to reprint them...
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Andrew Fletcher once told me that he thought that Urtext was all very well, but that when the source contained obvious misprints / copyists slips etc etc, he didn't think it was doing anybody any favours to reprint them...

I'd play from facsimiles of the original editions or MSS if I could get hold of them - that way I'd feel closer to the composer. Certainly there's something about the way Messiaen or Duruflé looks on the page that informs, if only subconsciously, how we perceive the music, and there's no reason that turn of the 17th Century German "house style" wouldn't do the same for JSB. Although I suppose a blind musician's perception would bypass the written appearance.

 

Michael

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Andrew Fletcher once told me that he thought that Urtext was all very well, but that when the source contained obvious misprints / copyists slips etc etc, he didn't think it was doing anybody any favours to reprint them...
That sounds as if he thinks producing an Urtext edition means that you automatically reproduce copyists' errors. It doesn't, of course. It's an editor's job to edit. Editors can of course make bad decisions (Alas, I've been guilty myself in the past.)
I'd play from facsimiles of the original editions or MSS if I could get hold of them - that way I'd feel closer to the composer. Certainly there's something about the way Messiaen or Duruflé looks on the page that informs, if only subconsciously, how we perceive the music, and there's no reason that turn of the 17th Century German "house style" wouldn't do the same for JSB.
I recently replaced my old Peters edition of Lübeck with the Bärenreiter one which is entirely on two staves. There's a lot to be said for that approach.
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Bach editions are always a problem. I use the Breitkopf which is ok. I find the Bärenreiter a little awkward to read as the notes appear in almost any stave unlike the Novello edition which is more user friendly. It's always good to cross-check with other editions. I love the facsimiles over the Clavier Ubung and the Orgelbuchlein, which are published by Peters and Bärenreiter respectively.

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He was talking about Bärenreiter

Bärenreiter has misprints of its own but the scholarship behind the text is thorough; the motivation of the editors was generally to present Bach's final intention. To be fully informed of how the final text was arrived at you need to read the Critische Bericht (?sp.) that is printed to accompany each volume of music; unfortunately they are quite expensive and, I think, only available in German. Try your nearest university music faculty library.

 

Michael

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The Mayhew Bach is said to be very user-friendly interms of clarity of layout and ease of page turns. From the very cursory look I had at a few volumes in our local music shop once I would agree with this. Another plus point is that it's uncluttered by editorial suggestions for registration and phrasing.

 

The editor was Alan Ridout. What this means I confess I have no idea. Ridout doesn't figure among the elite of Bach scholarship and, though I may be doing him an immense injustice, I seriously doubt that his text was the result of a meticulous and scholarly assessment of the source material. My guess is that his editing consisted of taking some established edition and simply imposing his layout on it. It all depends on what his source was. If his source text was that of the Neue Bach-Ausgabe you could be onto a real winner. On the other hand...

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But just to ask the question again (yes, I know I didn't ask it originally), what do people think about the Mayhew complete Bach edition? They're doing it on special offer at £99 for the lot, which seems cheap, but not sure if its any good.

Although their web site still mentions that £99 offer, it also says it ends on 30 Nov 06, and clicking "buy" puts £250 on your basket.

 

Paul

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The Mayhew Bach ...

 

The editor was Alan Ridout. <snip>

If his source text was that of the Neue Bach-Ausgabe you could be onto a real winner. On the other hand...

 

The editorial work of the NBA is still protected by copyright. Some of the "misprints" in Bärenreiter will be to help establish copyright infringement. Anyone care to do a note-by-note comparison?

 

Michael

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

Anything with the words Walter Emery on the cover can bring the player to a fine musical page. Rest assured.

 

All best seasonal greetings,

Nigel

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Guest Barry Williams
Can't beat Dover for value for money...

 

Complete P's and F's - USD10.95 (~£5.50)

BWV531,2,3,4,5,6,9,41,2,3,45-51 + 8 Short

 

T's Fant's, Passa and other works - USD11.95

BWV537,8,40,42,62,3,4,5,6,8,9,70,72,3,4,4a,5,8,9,82

 

Organ Music (USD13.95)

6 Trio Sonatas, ClaiverU III, Orgelbuchlein, Schubler and the XVIII

 

The only trouble is, it's the Gesellschaft, so quite a lot of C clefs in the Chorale Preludes. I reckon even this is no bad thing - it makes me learn them instead of just mindlessly sightreading them.

 

But I did have to relearn one or two of the works - as Peter says, finding notes laid out differently between the hands somewhere in the throes of a big fugue is surprisingly fatal!

 

Actually, technically you can beat Dover for VFM: this edition is freely downloadable from several places on the web.

 

 

 

The advantage of tenor and alto clefs is that the player avoids having to read complex leger (ledger) lines. The very small effort needed for those clefs is amply justified by the ease of reading. Regrettably, most modern editions 'translate' the score into treble and bass clefs. The original scores have many tenor and alto clefs.

 

Barry Williams

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