Composer vs Engravers: Cautionary Accidentals

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John Ruggero
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Composer vs Engravers: Cautionary Accidentals

Post by John Ruggero » 21 Dec 2016, 22:29

In dealing with the original materials of the Chopin Etudes in detail, I am constantly struck by the intelligence of the notation in the autograph. For example, comparing Chopin's use of cautionary accidentals with that of contemporary engraving practice is like comparing human and machine intelligence. Chopin does what is necessary to prevent confusion and no more; contemporary engraving practice follows arbitrary rules and winds up supplying unneeded accidentals but also omitting needed ones.

Here is one example from the Etude op 10 no 10:
Chopin Cautionary Accidentals MS.jpeg
Chopin Cautionary Accidentals MS.jpeg (42.7 KiB) Viewed 2281 times
Chopin gives the next to last right hand eighth note in m. 1, D, a natural sign, even though it was naturalized previously. Why? Because the D in question was not naturalized in the melody but in a secondary voice. Chopin always thinks in terms of voice leading, not "chords". The resulting notation is pleasing to play from. There is no doubt about the D natural, no looking back to check, and no paradox about why the following D would have a natural sign when the previous one doesn't.

In the next measure there are no cautionary accidentals at all in the autograph. Why should there be? Would anyone apply any of the previous chromatic passing tones to this completely diatonic measure? What a relief and a hint to interpretation to see no unnecessary accidentals marring the impression of a completely diatonic second measure which opposes the previous completely chromatic one.

The first French and English editions engraved this exactly as in the autograph. The first German edition and many that followed added a flat before the first note of the next measure. Along with this, these later editions also left out that special D natural sign in the previous measure.

But now to the precautionary accidentals in more modern editions, in this case, the Paderewski and Wiener Urtext editions which follow "the rules". Here is what these editions present (as re-engraved by me to avoid copyright issues):
Chopin Cautionary Accidentals.jpg
Chopin Cautionary Accidentals.jpg (107.89 KiB) Viewed 2281 times
Do they accomplish anything more than cluttering the music? And where is that nice D natural in measure one?
Last edited by John Ruggero on 22 Dec 2016, 13:41, edited 1 time in total.
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Knut
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Re: Composer vs Engravers: Cautionary Accidentals

Post by Knut » 22 Dec 2016, 11:47

I don't mind arbitrary rules as a basis for applying cautionary accidentals, nor do I mind the 'relieving' accidentals in m. 2 resulting from such rules. After all, such arbitrary cautionaries have become such a common practice implementation that I tend to fear questions arising in their absence. Regardless, the natural D in m. 1 should definitely be retained according to the MS, and it is a brilliant example of the importance of human intervention in the application of accidentals, since I think such cases are hard, if not outright impossible, for a computer to spot.

Is that second example your own engraving, John? It is very beautifully done; aside from the missing accidental in m. 1 and the curve of the r.h. slur, I'd say it's more or less perfect, actually. However, I don't understand why you would base any of your engraving decisions on avoidance of copyright issues. After all, such decisions can be made completely independently by several editors, and as far as I know, there is no law against reaching the same conclusions as any copyrighted edition.

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Re: Composer vs Engravers: Cautionary Accidentals

Post by John Ruggero » 22 Dec 2016, 13:37

Knut, I will go back and clarify my original post. My example was to show what is printed in the Paderewski and Wiener Urtext scores, which I don't feel comfortable scanning and putting online for copyright reasons. It is not what I will actually engrave in my edition.

Here is what will appear. I have no fear at all of presenting my findings and editorial decisions in an edition:
Chopin Etude op 10 no 10.jpg
Chopin Etude op 10 no 10.jpg (106.45 KiB) Viewed 2260 times
Thank you for your compliment, which I greatly value. The big slur is one of the few where I feel the lack of control points for the tips of the slur. It is intended to have an amorphous start because of questions about the starting point in the MS and first editions, and it has an incomplete ending because it continues on to the next line. I will continue to work on it to see what I can do; but, of course, right now I am focused more on the editorial side.
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Re: Composer vs Engravers: Cautionary Accidentals

Post by Knut » 22 Dec 2016, 14:57

John Ruggero wrote:Knut, I will go back and clarify my original post. My example was to show what is printed in the Paderewski and Wiener Urtext scores, which I don't feel comfortable scanning and putting online for copyright reasons. It is not what I will actually engrave in my edition.

Here is what will appear. I have no fear at all of presenting my findings and editorial decisions in an edition:

Chopin Etude op 10 no 10.jpg

Thank you for your compliment, which I greatly value. The big slur is one of the few where I feel the lack of control points for the tips of the slur. It is intended to have an amorphous start because of questions about the starting point in the MS and first editions, and it has an incomplete ending because it continues on to the next line. I will continue to work on it to see what I can do; but, of course, right now I am focused more on the editorial side.
I see. Thank you for the clarification.

Unfortunately I don't know if you can tweak the r.h. slur to perfection in Finale. You'll probably need two separate segments to get it right, which is a pain to deal with in that application.

I just spottet another imperfection: the beam on the first beat of m. 2, r.h. should not float in the middle of the space like that. You should probably lower it about 1/4 space to obtain a propper angle and placement. The beam should straddle the bottom staff line on the left side and sit on the same line on the right.

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Re: Composer vs Engravers: Cautionary Accidentals

Post by John Ruggero » 22 Dec 2016, 18:12

Thanks, Knut. You are absolutely right about that beam; there is the classic wedge that one tries to avoid. At this point I have just let Finale do its thing using my settings, and I haven't done any hand adjustments to the beaming. The editorial work and basic engraving and layout is the first order of business. I can't tell you how much I have learned so far through this endeavor. It is a complete education in itself as taught by a master composer. I will continue to report on what I see, even though the examples may be imperfect. I will go back through all the etudes to do the fine engraving work later at high magnification.
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Re: Composer vs Engravers: Cautionary Accidentals

Post by John Ruggero » 22 Dec 2016, 18:29

And thanks for the tip (no pun intended) about the long slur. This is the first time that I have encountered this issue with such intensity, because Chopin can sometimes run slurs over many lines of music continuously. So I will have to solve it one way or the other. It will be another learning experience.
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Re: Composer vs Engravers: Cautionary Accidentals

Post by MJCube » 22 Dec 2016, 22:01

I agree thoroughly about the cautionary accidentals. I can’t imagine the possibility of an algorithm that would handle that much subtle musical thought. So I suppose I would turn the feature off for such music, especially since I would be editing as carefully as possible anyway. Thanks for the example!

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Re: Composer vs Engravers: Cautionary Accidentals

Post by John Ruggero » 23 Dec 2016, 13:41

You are welcome, MJCube. We often have a very similar viewpoint on these things. As you point out, engraving speed or convenience is really not an issue in this kind of work where one doesn't expect or want a program to make decisions of this kind. I want a program to give me as many tools as possible, so that I can make the decisions and carry them out. In this case, user-definted control points for slurs, not automatic cautionary accidentals! But, of course, in other situations, automatic cautionary accidentals are a great convenience.
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Re: Composer vs Engravers: Cautionary Accidentals

Post by John Ruggero » 29 Jul 2017, 15:46

Here is an example of the kind of cautionary accidental that is purely the result of an editor following a dogmatic rule rather than using musical instinct. It makes things less rather than more clear. Would anyone have any doubt that it is an A natural in the LH at the beginning of the second measure? My prima vista reaction would be: What? why is there a natural sign there? What am I missing?

This is from a very fine modern edition, and is typical of what is common now. Needless to say, it is not in the autograph, not in the first editions, not in the Breitkopf complete works and not in other 19th century editions. Only in the 20th-21st century are we blessed with this kind of absurdity.
Cautionary.jpg
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Re: Composer vs Engravers: Cautionary Accidentals

Post by odod » 30 Jul 2017, 14:03

some slurs hit the staff lines, i've never seen that way ..
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