Mastering Rachmaninoff

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David Ward
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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by David Ward » 02 Apr 2016, 21:04

John Ruggero wrote:That would be an excellent exercise, OCTO.
A few weeks ago I directly e-mailed to John for his comments PDFs of a couple of pieces of mine for piano. He responded in detail and at considerable length with a substantial list of very helpful suggestions, for which I'm extremely grateful. Mind you, the pianists who have played these pieces in the past never complained about my less than perfect notation (which is probably not quite as bad as is my own piano playing).

Leaving aside piano reductions, which are a whole other issue, I have rarely heard complaint that any particular piece for piano by this or that composer is unplayable. Not so individual parts here or there in the mainstream orchestral literature, including pieces by acknowledged master orchestrators. Different instruments have their own horror stories about the need for compromises and work-arounds.

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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by John Ruggero » 02 Apr 2016, 23:02

It was my pleasure to help, David. I thought that your pieces were idiomatic and displayed an excellent knowledge of the resources of the piano.

Concerning playabllity etc.

Writing for the piano is much like the art of notating it: the best piano composers know how to make the greatest effect with the least effort. Brahms apparently belittled his own youthful efforts because he felt that he had written too many notes for the net result; he considered Beethoven to be the best keyboard composer for the opposite reason.

The music that makes up the piano Classical Canon is more than playable; it is physically a joy to play, and the resources of the instrument are explored with an amazing and unceasing creativity so that one wants to continue to play and grow into it over a lifetime. Much of it shows the signs of having originated in improvisation; and it would seem that the more adept the composer was at improvising, the better their keyboard music.
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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by DatOrganistTho » 03 Apr 2016, 02:18

In regards to copyright: International Copyright is secure for Rachmaninoff for now. No need to fret about him. Even if there was a claim on it, this forum, as mentioned in another discussion, is purely academic and critical, which falls under "fair use" protection of using snippets of music (or whole works depending on if it is PD).

A Copyright claimant can request a take down for any work on this website, and as discussed, if it falls within their right to request it be removed. I doubt that will ever happen.
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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by DatOrganistTho » 03 Apr 2016, 02:32

@John,

I want to re-engrave Rachmaninoff works because the "authentic editions" you speak of read really poorly. In other places we have discussed at length the need to be providing works that are error free and clean/easy to read. Some of these older works (see the award winning Fried Songs by Urs Liska et al) very desperately need to be re-typeset.

Not only that, but the LilyPond community needs large-scale works to be created to improve features, drive requests, and kill bugs.

On so-called "immaculate/perfect editions" : I once spoke by phone to a rather well known publisher in the organ field and was inquiring about the Franck Chorales that they had. They said it was "scholarly urtext" but they did not have previews of what the music looked like. I was concerned for the quality, and whether or not the price was worth it.

I spoke with the owner, who was very quick to say that his editions are always worth the money, because they have superior research in musicology and error detection. He was also quick to point out that this version of the Franck Chorales was "a historic reprint of unprecedented quality, free of error." It was also $50. I said, "why not!?" and so I ordered it. For snorts and giggles I ordered Dover edition of the same for about $12.

The edition that was "scholarly urtext" was a 1st or 2nd edition reprint, and it was AWFUL to read. Filled with noise, oversized binding, it was difficult to use. My Dover edition, however, was very easy to read (also a reprint), but had considerably less noise on the page.

I called the Publisher, outraged, that he would charge $50 for a historic reprint that I could find on IMSLP. He said (and I quote), "We were too afraid to re-typeset an edition that would match this edition with it's error-free output. So we decided to reprint it instead."

I went, page after page, and compared it to the Dover Edition, to see if I really needed it. I was furious; I found hand-written accidentals in the urtext edition, with marks clearly made after the fact of this printing. It had be "edited" to cautionary accidentals and various other devices that were not there originally, nor needed. Other than that, my Dover edition also was error free (despite it didn't have some of the cautionary accidentals).

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.
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Re: RE: Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by OCTO » 03 Apr 2016, 06:21

DatOrganistTho wrote:In regards to copyright: International Copyright is secure for Rachmaninoff for now. No need to fret about him. Even if there was a claim on it, this forum, as mentioned in another discussion, is purely academic and critical, which falls under "fair use" protection of using snippets of music (or whole works depending on if it is PD).

A Copyright claimant can request a take down for any work on this website, and as discussed, if it falls within their right to request it be removed. I doubt that will ever happen.
Can you give me any valid information (link or document) that proves that Rachmaninov is under the copyright?

P.s. I see now. In US it is applied the law +100 years for publications between 23-77.
So far it is limited only to US.
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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by OCTO » 03 Apr 2016, 07:19

Reading post by DatOrganistTho and John I can't agree more with both. I think you both have good standpoints and reasons for your views.
For me the ultimate goal for music publications would be:
- error free
- well engraved, readable
- good binding, durable

If I have "scholarly urtext", but badly engraved (check some new Henle Scriabin Sonatas) than - I can't motivate this edition to be superior.
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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by David Ward » 03 Apr 2016, 10:51

John Ruggero wrote:It was my pleasure to help, David. I thought that your pieces were idiomatic and displayed an excellent knowledge of the resources of the piano.
Thank you for these kind words.

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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by John Ruggero » 03 Apr 2016, 13:31

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.
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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by Knut » 04 Apr 2016, 10:50

DatOrganistTho wrote:I want to re-engrave Rachmaninoff works because the "authentic editions" you speak of read really poorly. In other places we have discussed at length the need to be providing works that are error free and clean/easy to read. Some of these older works (see the award winning Fried Songs by Urs Liska et al) very desperately need to be re-typeset.

Not only that, but the LilyPond community needs large-scale works to be created to improve features, drive requests, and kill bugs.

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'm not an avid student of Rachmaninoff (although his Symphonic Dances is one of my favorite works), but I can certainly understand where you're coming from a more general perspective. There are many reasons to re-engrave old editions, and learning or testing a scoring application is as good a reason as any, one which doesn't require you to be absolutely faithful to the composer's MS.

I think john is right, however, that issuing such a revision into the public domain should require a lot more responsibility, and I think that as engravers and editors, 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', so to speak. I've read through the 1st editions of both the Preludes and the 3rd Piano Concerto, and to me they don't read poorly at all. Of course, the print isn't as sharp as a modern edition would be, but from an engraving standpoint they seem pretty darn good. I'm curious to know what you don't like about them.

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Re: Mastering Rachmaninoff

Post by Knut » 04 Apr 2016, 11:26

John, some of the more subtle aspects subjected to change in the Henle edition of Op.23, No. 10 is placement of slurs, articulations and tuplet numbers. Based on an earlier thread of yours, I'm guessing you do not approve of Henle's phrasing revisions (e.g. p. 2, mm. 3–5), but what about their changes to slur direction and articulation placement (e.g. p. 2, last system) or tuplet indications (p.2, mm. 18–26)?

Being a non-pianist, one of the most common but difficult things for me to determine as an engraver is the ideal vertical placement of articulations and slurs. In piano music (as in the 1st edition of Op. 23, No. 10) they are frequently placed at the outer edges of the music (above the upper staff or below the lower staff) regardless of stem direction and conventional placement for other instruments. Often it is easy to determine that this is done to improve readability in the context of a grand staff, but not always. Some of Henle's changes makes me increasingly uncertain whether or not my intuition about such placement is right.

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