Mastering Rachmaninoff

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Knut
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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by Knut » 04 Apr 2016, 13:51

tisimst wrote:I'm no expert pianist, either. Personally, I'm in favor of combining the dotted/non-dotted notes when the rhythm is obvious between the voices. In this case, I would say this is true. It also improves the layout and spacing when this is possible.
Thanks for chiming in, tisimst! I guess I'll need to reconsider this.

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John Ruggero
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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by John Ruggero » 04 Apr 2016, 14:54

Knut, please allow me to respond to your very cogent remarks with a more general statement that I think will answer your questions:

Concerning the Henle edition. The editor had access to the MS and all other primary materials. Yet we have seen in a previous thread how he diverges from the MS and 1st edition in the case of the Prelude in C# minor in terms of stem direction in spite of promises to the contrary. For this reason, I distrust this edition in matters of engraving. But it would be an excellent source for matters of divergent readings of notes between the MS and first edition.

I looked through the Henle and compared to the 1st edition, and wherever the Henle has changed the engraving, I prefer the original. For me it is like looking at something produced by knowing hands guided by musicality, i.e. the Breitkopf hand engravers, v.s. something produced by an automaton following simplistic rules because there is no genuine instinct to guide it. Cases in point:

1. Despite the extreme challenges of placing this music on two facing pages (to avoid a page turn) the Henle places the staves of each grand staff FARTHER apart to "aid reading'. This was also forced by changing the placement of the hairpins. But keyboard music that intermingles the hands in the middle of the keyboard is best spaced with the staves CLOSER together than usual, just as with alternating hands passages. This would also allow greater space between the systems, which is a much more effective strategy in helping reading on such a full page.

This can be seen by comparing the first pages of each edition. In the Henle, the eye is lost on the page because there APPEARS to be more space between the staves of each system than between the systems themselves. (This may not literally be the case.) The second page gives both engravers difficulty. But the first edition is superior because the grand staves are of various widths, which helps orientation.

Despite the challenges for the engraver in placing the dynamics etc. between the staves and resulting crowding, I find it easier to read the 1st edition The only players who would be helped by widely spaced staves are beginners who can not take in two staves at once. And this vertical "spreading" reminds me of the horizontal "spreading" seen in so much engraving now.

2. In polyphonic music on the piano, it is obviously best to place slurs closest to the voices they pertain to, which are generally the outer ones, thus the decisions in the original edition. This style of slur positioning cannot always be carried out, unfortunately, and it always bothers me in my own engraving when it cannot. Rachmaninoff often seems to use the tenuto mark as a stress mark and these are best positioned similarly.

Music like Rachmaninoff and Brahms that uses full textures requires very fine voicing, or it sounds ugly. Brahms' music was actually accused of thickness etc. before pianists realized this. This prelude should sound quite delicate and that means that the accompanying textures are to be subordinated to an extreme degree. That is why the hairpins and other markings are so intimately placed in relation to the leading voices.

3. I noticed one more egregious example of changing stem direction in the Henle. Here is the first edition:
Rachmaninoff Prelude stems.jpg
Rachmaninoff Prelude stems.jpg (50.78 KiB) Viewed 1957 times
Note that in the 5th measure the stem direction of the melody in the LH is maintained downward to be consistent with the previous measures, but also to show that this voice leads to the downward stemmed voice in the next measure. This required giving the pizzicato Db in the bass an up stem, horrors!!!

But this up stem hints that the isolated Db has an imaginary conclusion in the next measure, i.e. a pizzicato Gb one octave lower than the written Gb! A good pianist will "suggest" that low Gb.

The Henle changes the stem direction in this voice between the bottom of the first page and top of the second (maybe they thought we wouldn't notice?). Then they add a line to show the voice leading. All of this distortion because the stem direction doesn't adhere to the pedestrian.

Knut wrote;
many of us tend to want to contribute too much to this kind of work, in an effort to 'put our own stamp on it'
In my opinion, putting an individual imprint on anything is not something that one should strive for or distortion will result. Individuality happens because personality comes out in our work almost in spite of ourselves.
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Knut
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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by Knut » 04 Apr 2016, 21:32

Thanks a lot for your in-depth response, John!

I noticed the altered stem directions in the first system of page 2 as well, and interpreted the original in the same way as you. In my case though, it is the 1st edition (downloaded from IMSLP) which has the line indicating the voice leading, not the Henle edition.
John Ruggero wrote:In my opinion, putting an individual imprint on anything is not something that one should strive for or distortion will result. Individuality happens because personality comes out in our work almost in spite of ourselves.
I don't entirely disagree, but as history is full of great composers, artists and writers struggling to come up with something original and 'new', I'd say that this is genrally easier said than done. When it comes to editors and engravers, however, I agree with you completely. They are scholars and craftsmen, not artists (at least not in the same sense of the word as a composer), and should refrain from infusing to much of their personality into someone else's work.

DatOrganistTho
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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by DatOrganistTho » 04 Apr 2016, 22:20

John Ruggero wrote:DatOranistTho wrote:
John, I think it is important to consider that editions, no matter how perfect they are in terms of their content, sometimes need a makeover. It is so important that, even if we can make mistakes, we should strive for more perfect editions that appeal to the eyes, the hands, and to the nose. Though we may make errors, somehow it was possible for an engraver to overcome errors in their edition. I believe this can be achieved with Rachmaninoff.
I don't think that I made my point very clearly, for which I apologize. I was reporting what Trelfall said to show that the first edition is a very good basis upon which to create another edition. I never meant that an even better edition could not be achieved. To repeat:

Rachmaninoff's music could certainly be re-edited and re-engraved to produce still better editions, as with any music.

But the person editing and re-engraving these new editions would need:

1. Access to the MS and composer's proofs, which I understand is VERY difficult (impossible?) to obtain from the Russian government.

2. Great experience in music editing and a deep knowledge of Rachmaninoff's life and work.

3. Engraving skills at least the equal of the Breitkopf engravers that produced the first edition.

Anyone else would have to 1. rely on the B and H edition for the preludes and on the first editions for the rest of R.'s music, 2. fly by the seat of their pants, and 3. learn on the job. The odds against such a person coming up with a superior edition are great.
Yes, the task is great and monumental, but altogether not impossible nor needing to be strayed from. I was going against your claim that it should NOT be done.
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DatOrganistTho
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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by DatOrganistTho » 04 Apr 2016, 22:23

Peter West wrote:Hi all

I've been exceptionally busy recently so not been on here much, but am browsing through. If what I say here duplicates others, I apologise. however, i was a little worried by the OP's © caption: "This version released into the public domain"

Rachmaninoff died in March 1943, so by my calculation this will infringe Boosey & Hawkes copyright for another 2 years

(1943 + 75 years = 2018)
Peter, this edition is in the PD. The edition is not B&H, but another version.
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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by DatOrganistTho » 04 Apr 2016, 22:25

@John,

Something that I have noticed is your utter attention to detail, when perhaps in other places you have argued that "as long as you get the general picture, your good to go?" Seems counter intuitive for you to spend so much time dealing with the details. ;)
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Knut
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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by Knut » 05 Apr 2016, 11:40

Knut wrote:I noticed the altered stem directions in the first system of page 2 as well, and interpreted the original in the same way as you. In my case though, it is the 1st edition (downloaded from IMSLP) which has the line indicating the voice leading, not the Henle edition.
John, I was looking at the file containing only Prelude No. 10. In this file, the pen(cil) marks besmudging the scan of the complete Op. 23 are gone. However, there are various voice leading lines not present in the complete file, probably penned prior to scanning. I don't see any lines in the Henle edition file uploaded by DatOrganistTho, though.

One other thing you didn't comment on, which is just about the only thing I find inconsistent in the 1st edition engraving, is the placement of the tuplet numbers on page two:
Skjermbilde 2016-04-05 kl. 13.11.41.png
Skjermbilde 2016-04-05 kl. 13.11.41.png (360.89 KiB) Viewed 1914 times
In my mind the second measure should have the same placement as the first, and I don't see why the numbers aren't present on the last beats of measure one and two.

The Henle edition omits the numbers on this system altogether, which I think is a good solution, given the tuplets in the last measure of the preceding system. The 1st edition, on the other hand, doesn't omit anything until the following system, and only after 1⅔ bars, which seems unnecessary under such cramped conditions.

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John Ruggero
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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by John Ruggero » 05 Apr 2016, 13:49

Knut wrote:
I noticed the altered stem directions in the first system of page 2 as well, and interpreted the original in the same way as you. In my case though, it is the 1st edition (downloaded from IMSLP) which has the line indicating the voice leading, not the Henle edition.
It is even more interesting. There are two prints of the first edition at IMSLP. The one I used in my post does NOT have a line, as one can see, but the other first edition print used by Knut DOES, as does the Henle! We may be dealing with two different printings of the first edition in which there was a later correction.

In measure 14 of page two of the first edition, the same thing occurs. There is a line in the second (?) printing between the staves to show a voice leading feature that does not exist in the first (?) printing.

The Henle editor was perhaps unaware of these divergencies or considered them trivial, because the critical report makes no mention of them. However, such voice-leading lines occur in several of the other preludes in both printings, so it would appear to be according to R.'s intentions. So I retract my criticism of the Henle edition for this line; it is most likely original.

I think that this case illustrates the difficulties faced by editors in trying to produce an authentic edition. Even the first edition may have variations from printing to printing as errors were caught and slight changes introduced. Without access to the original materials, editorial decisions are based on guesses, not facts.
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John Ruggero
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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by John Ruggero » 05 Apr 2016, 13:51

Sorry, our posts crossed, Knut.

One can view the complete Henle edition including the critical report at:

http://www.henleusa.com/us/detail/index ... ludes_1200
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Knut
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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by Knut » 05 Apr 2016, 14:22

John Ruggero wrote:Sorry, our posts crossed, Knut.

One can view the complete Henle edition including the critical report at:

http://www.henleusa.com/us/detail/index ... ludes_1200
Thanks! It's good to see that it has been reissued. Even though the problematic edits still exist in the new version, the engraving of the older Henle edition uploaded by the OP was even worse.

P.S. I hope you're only pondering my point about the tuplets and didn't overlook it. :)

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