Composers vs Engravers: Stems and Slurs part 10

Discuss the rules of notation, standard notation practices, efficient notation practices and graphic design.
Post Reply
User avatar
John Ruggero
Posts: 1271
Joined: 05 Oct 2015, 14:25
Location: Raleigh, NC USA

Composers vs Engravers: Stems and Slurs part 10

Post by John Ruggero » 15 Aug 2018, 16:24

I find it fascinating to see how closely notation can parallel a composer’s thought process.

At the very beginning of the opening theme of Chopin’s Etude op. 25 no. 7, Chopin’s always-faithful copyist writes:
Chopin Etude op 25 no 7 MS Copy.jpeg
Chopin Etude op 25 no 7 MS Copy.jpeg (27.12 KiB) Viewed 474 times
This was engraved exactly as it stands by the first French edition and the first German edition, even though the original engravers and editors were probably scratching their heads: Why are the accompaniment notes in the right hand not downstemmed as in the next measure? And why does the slur include the accompaniment as if it were part of the top melody, especially given the dramatic entrance of this melody in measure 2 in imitaton of the bass melody in measure 1?
Later editors found themselves less able to restrain themselves:
Chopin Etude op 25 no 7 Scholtz.jpeg
Chopin Etude op 25 no 7 Scholtz.jpeg (21.58 KiB) Viewed 474 times
and even the best modern editions make such changes.

Why then did Chopin write this as he did?

Chopin, like other masters of the common practice style, considered the topmost and then the bottommost voice, whether part of the leading melody or not, to be the main structural lines that hold a piece of music together. In other words, these composers made a distinction between what was most “important” in the long haul and what was most “interesting” at the moment—“important” meaning the material that cannot be omitted without losing the overall thread of the piece.

Thus, in playing a fugue, the outer lines must be recognized as the controlling voices even when the subject or a countersubject is present in an inner voice.

In the same way in this “Cello” Etude, even though the left hand solo is the “leading” voice, it is second in importance to the top line structurally, whether the top line is an interesting melody imitating the bass solo or the top notes of the repeated chord accompaniment.

Chopin clearly shows this by writing upstemmed notes for the accompaniment throughout the piece when the more “interesting” top melody is not present. Note that in measure 1-2 the C-sharp and E swap between the top and bottom line, the standard technique of “voice exchange” between two different voices. He clearly thinks of the top notes of the accompanying chords in measure 1 to be on par in “importance” if not in “interest” with the top notes in measure 2 and therefore swapable with the bass voice.
Chopin Etude op 25 no 7 MS Copy voice exchange.jpg
Chopin Etude op 25 no 7 MS Copy voice exchange.jpg (31.56 KiB) Viewed 474 times
The single slur encompassing measures 1 through 4 shows once again that for composers like Chopin, slurs are not marks of phrasing. They mean legato only.
Mac mini (OS 10.8.5) with dual monitors, Kurzweil Mark 5 with M-Audio Midisport 2 x 2,
Finale 2014d with GPO 4, JW Plug-ins, SmartScore X Pro, Adobe InDesign CS4,
Inkscape .48.5 and .91, FontForge 20150526
http://www.cantilenapress.com

User avatar
John Ruggero
Posts: 1271
Joined: 05 Oct 2015, 14:25
Location: Raleigh, NC USA

Re: Composers vs Engravers: Stems and Slurs part 10

Post by John Ruggero » 26 Aug 2018, 12:46

At the end of the middle section of the etude, which is mostly in E, a resolution to C# minor leads back to the repeat of the opening section. Note the prominent role of the upper line, which leads back to the opening melody note C# in bar 5 of the example, while still functioning as a repeated chord accompaniment.
Chopin Etude op 25 no 7 example .jpg
Chopin Etude op 25 no 7 example .jpg (57.95 KiB) Viewed 296 times
The correction of bars 3-4 of the right hand is revealing. Originally it was notated as single-stemmed repeated chords. Chopin changes this by holding the top notes of the chords to bring out more of its melodic importance as it leads back to the C#.

Note also the slur over the correction. How carefully it is joined to the slur in bar 2. It is even lead over the rest in bar 5. This invites the "over-holding" of the decorative 32nd-note C# into the next measure since it joins conceptually to the first C# of bar 5 as part of the cadence.
Mac mini (OS 10.8.5) with dual monitors, Kurzweil Mark 5 with M-Audio Midisport 2 x 2,
Finale 2014d with GPO 4, JW Plug-ins, SmartScore X Pro, Adobe InDesign CS4,
Inkscape .48.5 and .91, FontForge 20150526
http://www.cantilenapress.com

Anders Hedelin
Posts: 6
Joined: 16 Aug 2017, 16:36
Location: Sweden

Re: Composers vs Engravers: Stems and Slurs part 10

Post by Anders Hedelin » 19 Sep 2018, 19:25

Just a thought: Especially the right-hand slurs of the MS (copy?) are very suggestive in that they seem to begin, not on the first eighth, but on the the first rest, or even before that - and in that they do not end conveniently at the expected 'phrase joints'. To me it suggests that Chopin intended one long line 'without breathing'. As something more immaterial than real singing. Isn't there a similar long slurring in the E major Etude op. 10 by the way?
Then, how to write 'slurs beginning before the music' in a modern engraving without making them look sloppy or mistaken?
Finale 25 on Windows 7 and Mac OS 11.6.

Schonbergian
Posts: 160
Joined: 03 Feb 2017, 02:25
Location: Toronto

Re: Composers vs Engravers: Stems and Slurs part 10

Post by Schonbergian » 20 Sep 2018, 02:57

John, I'm curious about your thoughts on stem direction in the original post. In Schenker's faithfully reproduced edition of the Beethoven sonatas, we see precisely the opposite - notes in one voice or layer that Beethoven stems all-up or all-down (without rests) in anticipation of the opposite voice or layer. In other words, Beethoven would have written something akin to your example of editorial meddling, and the editors would have corrected it to something analogous to Chopin's original.

How are these two notational concepts reconciled?

Anders Hedelin
Posts: 6
Joined: 16 Aug 2017, 16:36
Location: Sweden

Re: Composers vs Engravers: Stems and Slurs part 10

Post by Anders Hedelin » 22 Sep 2018, 11:10

John, I fail to see why the stem directions in your examples are that important. As Schonbergian pointed out, Beethoven may have made a point of telling beforehand what is accompaniment and what is not. But Chopin? The stem directions are what they normally would be with only the accompaniment present on the r.h. stave - stems up (in both your examples). It could actually be interpreted 'the other way round': that the eights in bar one as well as the top melody in bar two is not more, but less important. The latter being just a slight intensification of the accompaniment, a soft echo of the leading melody in the l.h. The continuation in bar three bears this out - the interest lies in the 'cello' of the l.h., the top voice of the r.h. has a mainly harmonically (not melodically) motivated counterpoint.
Finale 25 on Windows 7 and Mac OS 11.6.

Post Reply