Composer vs Engravers: Economy

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John Ruggero
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Composer vs Engravers: Economy

Post by John Ruggero » 29 Jul 2017, 14:00

In working in detail with the manuscripts of several fine composers, I have been continually struck by the notational economy shown. It's almost as if they are following a code of ethics that requires the simplest possible notation:

Here is an example from Chopin's Etude op. 10 not. 8. The autograph and first French edition (and all other original sources):
Economy Autograph.jpeg
Economy Autograph.jpeg (59.93 KiB) Viewed 1682 times
Economy First French.jpeg
Economy First French.jpeg (69.52 KiB) Viewed 1682 times
However, the later Breitkopf complete edition, which generally honors the autograph (note the absence of the probably erroneous accent marks on beat 2 of measure 1 and beats 2 and 4 of measure 2 of the first edition), has:
Economy B&H.jpeg
Economy B&H.jpeg (64.46 KiB) Viewed 1682 times
Since breaking the LH chord in this interesting way is simply to cancel parallel fifths from the previous chord and supply a light after-stress on the third quarter beat, Chopin prefers to stem it as much like the previous chord as possible. Stemming it separately, like the Breitkopf, tempts the player to bring out the inner melody B-D in a way unintended by the composer. Unfortunately, modern editions follow the Breitkopf.
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Re: Composer vs Engravers: Economy

Post by John Ruggero » 06 Aug 2017, 12:08

The following example (Chopin Etude op. 10 no. 11) from the French first edition is engraved exactly as in the autograph. What a clear and simple solution to the problem of a chromatic unison. No ugly angled stem as added in later editions.
Chromatic unison.jpg
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Last edited by John Ruggero on 06 Aug 2017, 17:34, edited 1 time in total.
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Schonbergian
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Re: Composer vs Engravers: Economy

Post by Schonbergian » 06 Aug 2017, 13:18

John Ruggero wrote:
06 Aug 2017, 12:08
The following example (Chopin Etude op. 10 no. 11) from the French first edition is engraved exactly as in the autograph. What a clear and simple solution to the problem of a chromatic second. No ugly angled stem as added in later editions.

Chromatic unison.jpg
How would one handle this in modern computer notation software?

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Re: Composer vs Engravers: Economy

Post by RMK » 06 Aug 2017, 13:22

This is fine for a piano part where there can be no doubt of the composer's intention.

But what if this was a divisi string staff? I bet that the B-natural would be treated as a grace note. So the "ugly" stem would be necessary. Obviously one would try to avoid a four part divisi on one staff, but it it could be necessary in order to ensure a good page turn.

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Re: Composer vs Engravers: Economy

Post by John Ruggero » 06 Aug 2017, 18:02

Schonbergian wrote:
06 Aug 2017, 13:18
How would one handle this in modern computer notation software?
Here's how I did it in my edition. There could be a more efficient way that a power user might suggest.

Steps:
1 input notes normally
2 move A up to B in Speedy edit frame
3 move the left B left with the Note Position Tool
4 move flat into position and adjust the lower natural with the Accidental Position Tool
Chromatic Unison 2.jpg
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Re: Composer vs Engravers: Economy

Post by John Ruggero » 06 Aug 2017, 19:05

RMK wrote:
06 Aug 2017, 13:22
But what if this was a divisi string staff? I bet that the B-natural would be treated as a grace note. So the "ugly" stem would be necessary. Obviously one would try to avoid a four part divisi on one staff, but it it could be necessary in order to ensure a good page turn.
If it were a four-part violin divisi on one line, I would put stems up for the top melody, which includes the B natural, and stems down for the other three voices placed on one stem. Chopin doesn't do that here because this texture can be easily written with one stem throughout the rest of the piece, and he doesn't want to make an exception for a few notes. Again, he prefers the simplest possible notation.
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Re: Composer vs Engravers: Economy

Post by John Ruggero » 08 Aug 2017, 15:22

Here is a wonderful notation that was used by many composers through the end of the 19th century. It simplifies and clarifies motives by allowing dotted rhythms to be shown overlapping measures.

Chopin Etude op. 10 no. 3 in the first French edition, engraved as in the autograph:
Chopin dots 1st Fr.jpeg
Chopin dots 1st Fr.jpeg (29.22 KiB) Viewed 1570 times
Slightly modernized in the Mikuli and most other editions until the 20th century:
Chopin dots Mikuli.jpeg
Chopin dots Mikuli.jpeg (27.96 KiB) Viewed 1570 times
The complete modernization seen in editions today makes a complete hash out of a passage in which the parts are simply alternating with each other:
Chopin dots Modern.jpeg
Chopin dots Modern.jpeg (45.38 KiB) Viewed 1570 times
(The hairpins show my conjectural correction of the original notation based on internal evidence.)

Here is another example from the last movement of Brahms Piano Concerto no. 1. The examples are slightly different selections from an extended passage this is notated entirely in this manner.

First edition according to the autograph:
Brahms dots 1st ed.jpeg
Brahms dots 1st ed.jpeg (49.59 KiB) Viewed 1570 times
Breitkopf Complete works. A simple alternation of the hands has been made into a complicated, hard-to-read mess:
Brahms dots B&H.jpeg
Brahms dots B&H.jpeg (38.08 KiB) Viewed 1570 times
Last edited by John Ruggero on 08 Aug 2017, 19:30, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Composer vs Engravers: Economy

Post by David Ward » 08 Aug 2017, 16:23

John Ruggero wrote:
08 Aug 2017, 15:22
Here is a wonderful notation that was used by many composers through the end of the 19th century… … …
One even finds it with double dots in Mozart's operas. I'd have to search for the specific examples, but, yes, it's a pity that one probably can't get away with it in standard ‘modern’ notation.
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Re: Composer vs Engravers: Economy

Post by John Ruggero » 08 Aug 2017, 17:05

That sums it up nicely, David. It's indeed a pity. But I will buck "the system" in my edition. Used in an orchestra context, it might be flirting with disaster, however.
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