The biggest scandal in music publishing

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Harpsichordmaker
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Re: The biggest scandal in music publishing

Post by Harpsichordmaker »

I agree with Romanos401. The problem for harpsichordists doesn't even exist, as they are trained since their first year. The problem is all for the pianists. But are you sure, John, that the fingerings and the ornamentation would solve the issues and bring a higher number of the sonatas to more players? As I wrote in my previous post, that's the simplest of the problems.
You just don't play Scarlatti if you aren't able to finger yourself. Nor Bach etc. Moreover, putting your own fingering on the score is a most useful moment in studying the score. Fingering is not just a mechanical device but a mean to look slowly at the piece, at its harmonies, at the developing of its melodies, and so on. And Scarlatti is not Frescobaldi, when it comes to fingering. In Scarlatti "modern" and "baroque" fingering overlay pretty well (not everywhere, of course).
However, fingering is not just "where to put what finger". It should be something aimed to the "correct" articulation. For example, read what Malcolm Bilson (a renowned fortepiano player) writes here: http://malcolmbilson.com/pdf/bilson_fin ... rtexts.pdf. Having an already set fingering, while being no guarantee at all, means reversing the logical order: you FIRST must know what your articulation should be, THEN decide on the fingering. Having a printed fingering reverses this order: FIRST I have the fingering, THEN I have an articulation more or less induced by that fingering. I could go and play even without having thought of articulation. But in baroque music articulation is nearly everything.

As for the ornamentation, Scarlatti only has longer or shorter squiggles which I can assure you have no unique solution. There is no table of ornaments for Scarlatti because a table of ornaments would go outside Scarlatti (and italian and spanish) aestethics. North-european composers are a different thing.

What takes pianists (and many harpsichordists too) away from all of those masterpieces is a lack of understanding of the musical values of the sonatas. They are short of understanding how those "wrong harmonies", parallel fifths etc. can possibly work. Or how and why - for example - the beginning of most sonatas show a theme or motive (sorry, I don't know hot to say in English) which doesn't come back later anymore. Or maybe they can't recognize, in a sonata, an Opera Sinfonia or an Opera Finale, or an instrumental concerto or a Flamenco or a Saeta (try to play the K 490 not thinking of a Saeta: you just couldn't make head nor tail of it: what are those sudden stops followed by strange scales? Scarlatti ran out of melodic ideas? no, it's a Saeta). In a word, in order to play Scarlatti in a convincing way you have to understand his immense musical world. Something you can't get by fingerings and impossible table of ornaments. The best harpsichord teachers try to teach these things, while the piano teachers usually don't (and couldn't, because then they have Beethoven and Liszt and Scriabin to teach as well...).
Since you recognize the sonatas as masterpieces, you are obviously well capable of understanding and doing this, but please be aware that is not a simple task for many many players both of harpsichord and piano.

There is literature on this subject, of course.

Sorry for being so long.

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John Ruggero
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Re: The biggest scandal in music publishing

Post by John Ruggero »

Following this logic, no urtext edition should have fingering or annotation since all keyboard music has the issues you describe regarding the relationship between fingering, articulation, phrasing, interpretation etc. Yet the music of J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven etc. has appeared in numerous edited versions over several centuries and this shows no signs of stopping. Clearly such editions are preferred by keyboard players, and not just beginners.

The Chopin Etudes are certainly advanced piano music and played only by advanced players, yet how many editions there have been! I own five editions of the Beethoven Sonatas and have access to several more online. I refer to all of them, because after reaching my own conclusions, I am curious as to how other pianists have dealt with and solved some of the performance issues. It gives one perspective.

However, in my opinion, the main thing that is standing in the way of ready access to Scarlatti's sonatas is the price of the two available complete editions. The sonatas should be published in smaller groups and at a much lower price.

I don't agree that the style of the music is off-putting or hard to understand. If anything, it is some of the most immediately attractive keyboard music ever written. It languishes on library shelves because keyboard players here in the US can't get at it. Players outside the US now finally have access to it through IMSLP.

Again, I recommend that players with access explore this wonderful keyboard music. Brahms was a great fan of Scarlatti's sonatas and enjoyed playing through them for pleasure. They had a strong influence on his later keyboard music. (See op. 116 no. 1) He must have loved the parallel fifths that occur in some of the sonatas, being a lover of what he called "good fifths".
Last edited by John Ruggero on 26 Jun 2021, 18:28, edited 1 time in total.
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John Ruggero
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Re: The biggest scandal in music publishing

Post by John Ruggero »

Regarding "tables of ornaments". I agree with Frederick Neumann that the performance of symbolized ornaments must be determined by the musical context, as with every other aspect of a piece of music. It is for this very reason that editorial guidance is particularly helpful for less experienced players, if only to lay out a range of possibilities, depending on the effect desired.
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Harpsichordmaker
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Re: The biggest scandal in music publishing

Post by Harpsichordmaker »

Yes, of course my preference for unfingered editions is just that - my own preference, for the reasons I outlined.

And of course I agree there should be a cheaper printed complete edition.
About 100 sonatas are printed in urtext by Henle, fingered. 4 volumes have been published until now, don’t know if there will be others. I don’t think it will eventually be complete, as the title is “Selected sonatas”.

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John Ruggero
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Re: The biggest scandal in music publishing

Post by John Ruggero »

As much as I prefer paper, one of the advantages of electronic editions would be the possibility of offering editions with different fingering possibilities. I believe that Henle has already experimented with editions that show fingering by several different pianists for the same piece. And of course the fingering could be turned off completely to allow one to do one's own fingering unhampered by existing fingering.

The Henle edition is the typical "selected edition" of which there are so many. I was thinking more along the lines of a complete edition with about 30 or so sonatas to a volume (the number of sonatas Scarlatti published as a set) each at a more reasonable price point. This does lead to a large number of volumes, which has probably been one reason that publishers have shied away from this. However, now that so much music is bought online, one would think that this would no longer be a concern.
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Schonbergian
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Re: The biggest scandal in music publishing

Post by Schonbergian »

Malcolm Bilson takes everything he finds in the old treatises to extremes and produces caricatured performances, then takes other performers to task as "romanticist" for not agreeing with his extremes. As an organist who has actually read through the treatises and writings by Neumann (thank you, John, for introducing me to him), I have found that it is not only possible but in many ways preferable to give a "historically informed" performance while using modern principles of fingering to make the task easier, not harder. Playing with Bilson's fingerings or those like them hamstrings you to a very specific and pre-determined approach to the piece, while modern fingerings enable that approach and so much more depending on the will of the performer - so important in Baroque music.

As for Scarlatti's music itself, I also cannot agree that the musical style is off-putting. It is simply that the works are not well-known in reasonably priced editions and that Scarlatti himself (as with most other Baroque composers) are generally overshadowed in the piano world by Bach.

Romanos401
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Re: The biggest scandal in music publishing

Post by Romanos401 »

I am asking for a good URTEXT edition of all of Scarlatti's sonatas for the same reasons that there are urtext editions of the keyboard music of Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann etc. Urtext editions (as opposed to critical editions) ALWAYS include fingering.
I guess I am mistaken in my understanding of an Urtext then... I was taught in music school that urtexts were scholarly editions in that they reproduced exactly what the composer wrote, insofar as it could be verified by manuscripts. Thus, there would be no fingering if the composer didn't write any. Conversely, if the composer did add fingerings, then they would appear. At any rate, I thought urtexts were expressly for the purpose of only presenting what the composer physically put on the page; no more, no less.

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John Ruggero
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Re: The biggest scandal in music publishing

Post by John Ruggero »

An "urtext" edition is one that faithfully follows the original sources just like a "critical" or scholarly edition, but it omits the extensive apparatus that is found as a separate volume or appendix in a critical edition that lists every variant reading and problem in the primary sources. An urtext edition includes only the most essential comments in foot- or endnotes concerning textual issues, because it is aimed at performers rather than scholars.

An urtext edition usually includes editorial fingering, bowing, explanations of special matters of interpretation like ornamentation etc. A critical edition does not.

Examples of urtext editions would be the complete Beethoven Sonatas by Schenker, which is one of the earliest urtext editions, or the many volumes produced by Henle and Wiener Urtext etc.

There are a few editions that might be called "urtext" because they are faithful to the original but lack an extensive critical apparatus and do not include fingering. Examples are Nathan Broder's edition of Mozart's sonatas and fantasies, Ralph Kirkpatrick's selection of Scarlatti's sonatas, and the complete Scarlatti sonatas edited by Kenneth GiIlbert.

The Fadini edition of the Scarlatti, which I have not seen yet, sounds like a critical edition.

Critical editions tend to be quite expensive and reside mostly in libraries. Urtext editions are less expensive and bought by performers interested in authentic performance practice.
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benwiggy
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Re: The biggest scandal in music publishing

Post by benwiggy »

Here's a website that has ranked all of them in order of "best"....!

https://van-magazine.com/mag/scarlatti-ranked/

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John Ruggero
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Re: The biggest scandal in music publishing

Post by John Ruggero »

Several years ago, when I first played through all the Scarlatti Sonatas, I ranked them with two stars for the sonatas that struck me immediately, one star for the ones that struck me a little less and no stars for the rest. The second time I played then, I added more sonatas to both categories.

This time (I am about half way through) I have stopped ranking them because I am finding them universally interesting and appealing, even the weakest, of which there were not many. So I don't relate to this article at all. But then I don't rank Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven or Schubert sonatas either. For me, Scarlatti's Sonatas are masterpieces of the same ilk. Of course, they are "lighter" music, but of incredible ingenuity and originality. But then, I am actually playing them, not listening to someone else's interpretation.
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