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: 1281
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 695 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 695 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 695 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: 1281
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 517 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: 18
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: 163
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: 18
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.

User avatar
John Ruggero
Posts: 1281
Joined: 05 Oct 2015, 14:25
Location: Raleigh, NC USA

Re: Composers vs Engravers: Stems and Slurs part 10

Post by John Ruggero » 27 Sep 2018, 15:12

Anders Hedelin wrote:
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'.
Chopin overran most of his slurs, beginning before the notes and ending after. Only when he is notating something very specific that he thought the engravers might misinterpret, is he more exact. The New Polish National Edition actually tries to capture this in engraving, but the result does, as you say, look sloppy, at least to me.
Schonbergian wrote:
20 Sep 2018, 02:57
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
Each situation has to be considered on its own, so it is hard to address this question in general. (And while the Schenker edition is an excellent one, a few aspects of the notation were sometimes modernized, possibly beyond Schenker's control, so the manuscript or first edition has to be consulted in each case.) In any case, in looking quickly over the Beethoven piano sonatas, in the opening of the Sonata op 27 no 2 (Moonlight) also in C :s minor like the etude in question and a favorite of Chopin, the first four measures use up stems even through the triplets ultimately become the inner voice in measure 5.
Beethoven op 27 no 2.1.jpeg
Beethoven op 27 no 2.1.jpeg (148.99 KiB) Viewed 202 times
And in the Sonata op 2 no 1, the middle voice in measure 68 has up stems, but this is not continued to avoid confusion with the entrances of the fragmentary upper voice in the following measures. This is not intended to "prove" anything, however, it is just an observation. Some research would be required to really answer your question.
Beethoven op 2 no 1.1.jpeg
Beethoven op 2 no 1.1.jpeg (85.96 KiB) Viewed 202 times
it is worth noting that when J. S. Bach begins a imitative piece with a middle voice in the right hand, he generally uses the normal stem direction for the melody, even when the upper voice enters immediately:
Bach Sinfonia 14 MS.jpeg
Bach Sinfonia 14 MS.jpeg (27.6 KiB) Viewed 202 times
Anders Hedelin wrote:
22 Sep 2018, 11:10
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.
From my point of view, all the counterpoint written by the best composers in the the common practice style is both harmonically and melodically motivated and equally so. It is for this reason that, the distinction between melody and accompaniment is only skin deep, and when one looks deeper, what might seem to be "mere" accompaniment may turn out ultimately to be the more important material structurally. This happens in the example in my second post where the resolution to the the right hand C# is more important structurally that the more interesting left hand. To illustrate this more clearly, when one looks at the first five measures of the opening section of op 25 no 7 (excluding the introduction) it becomes clear that the main melody is the high E in the right hand of measure 1, leading to the D# in measure 4 and finally to the C# in measure 5. The "cello" part is supplying a very elaborate bass part to provide the root tones of the i-V-i harmony:
Chopin Etude op 25 no 7 MS Copy.jpg
Chopin Etude op 25 no 7 MS Copy.jpg (52.26 KiB) Viewed 199 times
Note also the smaller E-D#-C# melodic progressions that begin the upper line and the "cello" line. In this way the whole is reflected in the part and the part is reflected in the whole. An even larger E-D#-C# melodic progression forms the backbone for the entire piece.
Last edited by John Ruggero on 28 Sep 2018, 17:21, edited 1 time in total.
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: 18
Joined: 16 Aug 2017, 16:36
Location: Sweden

Re: Composers vs Engravers: Stems and Slurs part 10

Post by Anders Hedelin » 28 Sep 2018, 11:55

Thanks, John, for your extensive analysis!

I have some objections, though. Maybe the beginning of the slur in your first example is not that important, but I think that the careful continuation is (as you pointed out yourself).

I know this is a forum for notation mainly, but surely notation has many implications, among others musical and theoretical.

I'm very well aware that there are different kinds of significance in music: expressive, harmonic, rhythmic, structural etc. etc. Please forgive me, John, but I think you are mixing expressive and structural significances. Any musician, especially a pianist or a conductor, knows about the difference between melody, leading voice (Hauptstimme) and accompaniment. Difference in expressiveness, weight in performance. If you let the Shenker-inspired structure-supporting notes be as important as the expressively important notes, and claim that there is just a 'skin-deep' difference between melody and accompaniment you empty the words 'melody' and 'accompaniment' of meaning. And how are we then to discuss, and understand, these matters?

I'm not very keen on Shenkerian analysis, when used to proove anything in music, be it the importance of certain elements, or the Quality of Music (Shenker's own misdirected ambition).

This said, I would like to thank you for the illuminating use of Shenkerian thinking in the last of your examples! Sometimes it pays. It does not explain what is more expressive and not but it's a very fine comment!
Finale 25 on Windows 7 and Mac OS 11.6.

User avatar
John Ruggero
Posts: 1281
Joined: 05 Oct 2015, 14:25
Location: Raleigh, NC USA

Re: Composers vs Engravers: Stems and Slurs part 10

Post by John Ruggero » 28 Sep 2018, 15:09

Anders Hedelin wrote:
28 Sep 2018, 11:55
If you let the Shenker-inspired structure-supporting notes be as important as the expressively important notes, and claim that there is just a 'skin-deep' difference between melody and accompaniment you empty the words 'melody' and 'accompaniment' of meaning. And how are we then to discuss, and understand, these matters?
I used the terms "important" and "interesting" with some trepidation. Clearly, I am not letting the structure be more important than the superstructure. It is more important, just as the foundation and framing of a building are ultimately more important than the surface detail, even though the foundation and framing are not actually seen and only felt in the background. As you said, every musician knows the difference between the leading melody and the accompanying melodies and will not confuse the two in a performance. What is not obvious, at least on a conscious level, are the inner connections in the music that unite the whole and part. That is what Schenker's insights yield for those who want to view certain aspects of common practice music in a very conscious way.

Such insights might also be helpful in performing. In the case of pieces in which the bass voice is featured as a the leading part, as in Chopin's Etude op 25 no 7, a pianist might easily exaggerate the bass voice at the expense of the upper lines, which could be considered an interesting piano accompaniment to the cello solo. A similar danger occurs when imitative music in the common practice style is played on the piano. One often hears Bach's fugues played so that the subject drowns out the other voices no matter what voice it appears in. This was not possible on Bach's keyboard instruments and was not intended by the composer, who assumed that what was subject, what was countersubject, and what was neither was completely obvious on the surface and would be taken account of without exaggeration by the performer.
Anders Hedelin wrote:
28 Sep 2018, 11:55
Maybe the beginning of the slur in your first example is not that important, but I think that the careful continuation is (as you pointed out yourself).
I am sorry that I did not completely understand your observation about the slurs and didn't comment on that. But maybe I will get closer this time.

Interpreting Chopin's MS slurs is a kind of black art which confounded not only the original engravers but even his own copyists. The problem has to do with his habit of what I call "progressive correction". On the first occurrence of an musical idea, he may be uncertain of the exact slurring, make an initial attempt, correct it by adding another slur to it and then another etc. so that it appears to be a number of conjoined slurs. Then on the repetition of the same idea, having decided definitely on the correct version, the slur will appear normally as one long slur. His copyists didn't always understand the process and might even divide up the initial group of slurs, which required that he go through and join them back together, as well as making additional changes to the slurring in the same way. These corrections are clearly seen in many of the manuscript copies. Adding to the problems is the fact that it was apparently not easy to make Chopin's very long slurs with the pens then in use, and one sees starts and stops in them perhaps to dip the pen for more ink. I know this personally, having used a dip pen in my hand copying days. Then there is the overshooting problem mentioned earlier. The example from Chopin's own manuscript of the Etude op 10 no 3 is perhaps the one you were referring to and illustrates some of the issues:
Chopin Etude op 10 no 3.1.jpeg
Chopin Etude op 10 no 3.1.jpeg (26.73 KiB) Viewed 158 times
Chopin Etude op 10 no 3.2.jpeg
Chopin Etude op 10 no 3.2.jpeg (65.71 KiB) Viewed 158 times
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

Post Reply