Historical editions (music)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Historical editions form part of a category of printed music, which generally consists of classical music and opera from a past repertory, where the term can apply to several different types of published music. However, it is principally applied to one of three types of music of this sort:

  • Scholarly or critical editions are music editions in which careful scholarship has been employed to ensure that the music contained within is as close to the composer's original intentions as possible.
  • Collected Works or Complete Works, generally in multi-volume sets, are devoted to a particular composer or to a particular musical repertory. This is sometimes referred to in German as Gesamtausgabe[1] when containing the works of one particular composer.
  • Monuments or Monumental Editions (or the German Denkmäler)[2] when containing a repertory defined by geography, time period, or musical genre.

The origins of historical editions[edit]

Up until the 18th century, music performance and distribution centered around current compositions. Even professional musicians rarely were familiar with music written more than a half century before their own time.[3] In the second half of the 18th century, an awakening of interest in the history of music prompted the publication of numerous collections of older music (for example, William Boyce's Cathedral Music, published around 1760-63, and Giovanni Battista Martini's Esemplare, ossia Saggio... di contrappunto, published around 1774-5).[4] Around the same time, the proliferation of pirated editions of music by popular composers (such as Haydn and Mozart) prompted respected music publishers to embark on "oeuvres complettes," intended as uniform editions of the entire musical output of these composers. Unfortunately, many of these early complete works projects were never finished.[5]

In the 19th century, the emergence of romantic hero worship of composers, sometimes described as the "cult of genius," fired the enthusiasm for Complete Works series for important composers.[6] The development of the academic field of musicology also contributed to an interest in more accurate and well-researched editions of musical works. Finally, the rise of Nationalism within music circles influenced the creation of Monumental Editions devoted to geographical regions, such as Denkmäler deutscher Tonkunst begun in 1892 and Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Österreich begun in 1894.

Editing historical editions[edit]

In creating a scholarly or critical edition, an editor examines all available versions of the given piece (early musical sketches, manuscript versions, publisher’s proof copies, early printed editions, and so on) and attempts to create an edition that is as close to the composer’s original intentions as possible. Editors use their historical knowledge, detective skills, and musical understanding to choose what one hopes is the most accurate version of the piece. More recent scholarly editions often include footnotes or critical reports describing discrepancies between differing versions, or explaining appropriate performance practice for the time period. In general, editing music is a much more challenging endeavor than editing text-based works of literature, as musical notation can be imprecise, musical handwriting can be difficult to decipher, and first or early printed editions of pieces often contained mistakes.[7]

By comparison, what are known as performers’ editions do not rely on a thorough examination of all known sources, and often purposely include extraneous markings not written by the composer (dynamics, articulation marks, bowing indications, fingerings, and so on) to aid a musician playing from that score.

Scholarly or critical editions[edit]


The editing of operatic works from the 17th century,[8] 18th century[9] and 19th century provides many considerable challenges.

The emergence of critical editions of many works from the 19th century Italian operatic repertory did not begin until after 1945. This resulted from the revival of interest in the 1950s of the operas of the bel canto era—early 1800s to approximately 1850, the primo ottocento— written by Gioachino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, and Giuseppe Verdi, in addition to many other relatively minor composers.[10]

In an online essay - "What is a critical edition?: Answers to Questions You Never Thought to Ask" - which focuses primarily on Rossini, musicologist Patricia Brauner of the Center for Italian Opera Studies at the University of Chicago explains several different aspects of a critical edition, including the process of producing published editions and the ultimate value of them for performers and conductors.[11]

Musicologists such as Philip Gossett and Roger Parker represent parallel approaches to the works of the Italian bel canto era. The former is now General Editor of The Critical Edition of the Works of Giuseppe Verdi[12] at the University of Chicago's Center for Italian Opera Studies— in addition to being an acknowledged expert in preparing critical editions of the operas of Rossini— while the other is Professor of Music at King's College London and editor of many of the operas of Donizetti,[13] as well as having written extensively on Verdi. He is the founding co-editor (with Arthur Groos) of the Cambridge Opera Journal, and he continues as General Editor (with Gabriele Dotto, who headed the editorial division of Ricordi until 2001) of the The Critical Edition of the Operas of Gaetano Donizetti published by Casa Ricordi of Milan.

Gossett has laid out his interpretation of what a critical edition involves in terms of opera:

....I have always meant an edition that bases itself wherever possible on the very finest and most accurate sources for an opera. That means that it must study the entire performance history of a work. In some cases of course we have an autograph manuscript, and that helps us, but it is also where many of the problems start, because composers are known to have made mistakes in their autograph manuscripts. And therefore we are required—we feel it is necessary—to intervene and to correct errors that sometimes have been perpetrated on these works by printed editions from the beginning, so they are just mistakes in the old editions, simple mistakes.[14]

But, Gossett continues by clarifying how the existence of these editions may effect performances:

We don’t believe that everybody has to perform just what we do, because that’s not what they did in the nineteenth century, not what composers did or expected, but we do think that performers should base their work on the finest editions possible, and that’s what we try to produce.[14]

The pioneering work of the major Italian music publishing house, Casa Ricordi, reveals how extensive the company's involvement in restoring the work of 19th century composers Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi has been. [15] Since 2007, the German publishing house Bärenreiter-Verlag has been producing editions of Rossini's operas, [16] having become the successor to the Fondazione Rossini Pesaro, which produced many editions between 1979 and 2005. Today, many are still published by Ricordi in Europe and in the US by the University of Chicago. [17]

Collected Works or Complete Works[edit]

The German music publisher Breitkopf & Härtel initiated many of the earliest complete works series of major composers. A few of these include:

Many of these early complete works series were edited by music scholars or composers famous in their own right, such as Johannes Brahms, Guido Adler, Julius Rietz, Friedrich Chrysander, and others.

After the upheavals of World War I and World War II, which slowed the output of musical scholarship and publishing, renewed activity led to many new series as well as to a reassessment of the older complete works series. New techniques in photographic and other types of reproduction allowed scholars to consult many more early sources, either in microfilm or facsimile copies. Entirely new series were published for several major composers for whom complete works sets already existed. These updated editions incorporated new scholarship in their editing and allowed for a broader definition of complete works, often including early versions of pieces, sketches, and so on.[18] Many of these new series have been published by the German music publisher Bärenreiter, and include:

In addition to the reworking of older Complete Works series, many new series have been initiated for composers not previously featured in this way. Some examples include:

It would be impossible to list here all of the new Complete Works series that have been initiated in the last century. Some of the major publishers of these series include Breitkopf & Härtel, Bärenreiter, Stainer & Bell, G. Henle Verlag, and others.

Monuments or Monumental Editions[edit]

Many of the early Monumental Editions were devoted to geographic regions, and often had the support of their respective governments. For example, the series Denkmäler deutscher Tonkunst,[19] begun in 1892 by a group of German musicians that included Johannes Brahms, Joseph Joachim, and Philipp Spitta, was supported by the German government.[18] Examples of other monumental editions (still ongoing) include:

Some recent projects include not only those focusing on geographic regions, but also many devoted to particular time periods or repertory, such as:

  • Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae (1935-)
  • Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century (1956–58)
  • Recent Researches in Music (1962-)
  • Italian Opera, 1640-1770 (1977-)

It would be impossible to list all of the Monumental Editions currently ongoing. Several of the major publishers of these series include the American Institute of Musicology, A-R Editions, Bärenreiter, Istituto Italiano per la Storia della Musica, Instituto Español de musicologia, Éditions de l'Oiseau-Lyre, and others.

Characteristics of complete works and monumental editions[edit]

Publication of these multi-volume series is usually spread over many years, sometimes decades. Depending on the financial state of the publisher, some projected sets are never finished, and some sets are taken over by other publishers. There are often different editors for individual volumes, with a general editor or committee of editors to oversee the entire series. Complete Works series are often organized by genre, for example grouping all symphonies together, or all piano sonatas. Several of the complete works sets have complicated, multi-tiered systems for numbering the volumes. Monumental Editions have varying organizational schemes, but several of them include numerous sub-series, some of which are devoted to the music of single composers.

These publications are often sponsored by musicological research bodies or by civic organizations. Many of these endeavors also value international cooperation, creating editorial boards that include scholars from various countries.[20]

Finding pieces within historical edition sets[edit]

Finding a particular piece of music within one of these multi-volume sets can often be difficult, as many of the series do not have general indices. For pieces within a composer's complete works set, researchers often consult the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (Second Edition, 2001), either online or in its printed version. Articles on composers will list the title and publisher of any complete works sets that exist, and within the list of compositions by that composer, will include volume numbers of the complete works set in which each piece is found.

To find pieces within older Monumental Editions, the best resource is still the 3rd edition of Anna Harriet Heyer's Historical Sets, Collected Editions, and Monuments of Music: A Guide to their Content, published in 1980. A more up to date description of newer complete works and monumental edition sets can be found in the work of George Hill and Norris Stephens, but there is no index to find individual pieces. An online database, called the "Index to Printed Music: Collections & Series," is currently underway, but it is accessible by subscription only, and is not yet complete.



  1. ^ Literally: "whole edition"
  2. ^ Literally: "memorials"
  3. ^ Moser, p. 7
  4. ^ Sydney Robinson Charles, "Editions, Historical", Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy. Accessed 17 April 2007
  5. ^ Lang, p. 337
  6. ^ Lang, p. 377.
  7. ^ James Grier, "Editing" in in Grove Music Online Accessed 24 April 2007
  8. ^ Rosand, Ellen, "The 17th Century" in Sadie (ed.), Vol. 2, pp. 11—13
  9. ^ Sadie, Stanley, "The 18th Century" in Sadie (ed.), Vol. 2, pp. 13—14
  10. ^ Parker, Roger, "The 19th and 20th centuries", in Sadie (ed,), Vol. 2, pp. 14—16
  11. ^ Brauner, "What is a critical edition?"
  12. ^ Critical editions of Verdi's operas published by the University of Chicago on humanities.uchicago.edu
  13. ^ Parker, "The Critical Editions of Gaetano Donizetti's Operas"
  14. ^ a b Luiz Gazzola, "Exclusive Opera Lively Interview with Italian Opera scholar Dr. Philip Gossett" on operalively.com. 17 June 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2013
  15. ^ Universal Music Publishing Classical Critical Editions website
  16. ^ "Works of Giacchino Rossini" on hum.uchicago.edu
  17. ^ List of critical editions produced under the Fondazione Rossini, 1979 to 2005 on hum.uchicago.edu
  18. ^ a b Charles, Grove Music Online.
  19. ^ Literally: Memorials of German Musical Art
  20. ^ Lang, p. 380.

Cited sources

Other sources

  • Heyer, Anna Harriet. Historical Sets, Collected Editions, and Monuments of Music: A Guide to their Contents, 3rd edition. Chicago: American Library Association, 1980.
  • Hill, George R.; Norris L. Stephens. Collected Editions, Historical Series & Sets & Monuments of Music: A Bibliography. Berkeley: Fallen Leaf Press, 1997.

External links[edit]