Progressive correction in op. 54

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John Ruggero
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Re: Progressive correction in op. 54

Post by John Ruggero »

You are probably right. But I was thinking about evidence that can sometimes be revealed by deep analysis in music, since I am of the opinion that a great piece of music is often as tightly and rigorously organized as a mathematical proof. This is only possible because such music operates within its own closed world according to "simple" rules, which I don't think is true of most text. So if there is doubt about a note, one is not left only with the various written sources to consult, but one can also consult The Source, that is, the work itself to see if the note is appropriate on both the small and large scale. There must be equivalents in textual analysis, but it is hard for me to imagine that they could be as convincing as in music, where a single note can be the nexus between the horizontal and the vertical within different levels of structure.
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Harpsichordmaker
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Re: Progressive correction in op. 54

Post by Harpsichordmaker »

This can only be true for truly great pieces of music, no? I mean, music with a very high degree of consistency, and from an era when the music was not mainly occasional. In the romantic era, yes. In the baroque era, less so. Bach himself did change melodic shapes to comply with keyboard extension, and he was the very meticolous and spriritual composer we know (I believe something similar did Beethoven with horns or trumpets). An Italian as Scarlatti or Corelli or Frescobaldi wouldn’t blink an eye in changing a note or a phrase. In fact their music was written to be varied.
And what about composers less organized and consistent than Beethoven?

As for the texts, sorry to disagree. There is a very long tradition of editing ancient texts, a tradition dating back to Angelo Poliziano (XVI century). Well before the invention of stemmatic by Karl Lachmann (1851), techniques were established for the “restitutio textus”, very refined techniques, never abandoned. Among those techniques, there are techniques similar to the one you describe, but of course enriched by centuries of meditations and applications. All in all, music editing is still far behind texkritik. Single composers are very well studied, of course: it’s a known fact that the mere enterprise of the Neue Bach Ausgabe has caused a jump in the musicological level. Overall, however, textkritik has a story of about six centuries on thousands of texts of incredible difficulty (just think of the 6,000 ancient manuscripts of the Bible, the 300+ of the Dante’s Commedia, or the papyruses, etc). Music doesn’t need the same degree of sofistication, of course. After all we don’t comply with works by 3,000 years ago nor 2,000 nor 1,000.
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John Ruggero
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Re: Progressive correction in op. 54

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Thanks for sharing that Harpsichordmaker. I'm learning a lot from this thread.

I agree that not all music is as consistent as that of the high classical period and may not yield to the same kind of approach. Every composer and case is different. In the difficult cases that I have encountered, the sources carry one only so far. After that trying to understand the music itself provides the only key to a solution, in some cases by means of deep analysis, in some cases not.

It does sound like musicians who edit music would do well to study the tradition you describe. And evidently some, like yourself, have. But as you said, perhaps music editing doesn't require such sophistication. At least that has been my experience.

Someone editing Chopin's Etudes, for example, is faced with the original manuscripts of all the etudes, three roughly contemporaneous first editions, all related to but at variance with each other and the manuscripts, a proof copy of exactly one of the etudes, and printed copies of the etudes with Chopin's annotations. Since almost all of the proof copies are missing, it is impossible to know which of the differences between the manuscript and the three first editions were the result of Chopin's later changes and which are errors or editorial interventions.

The only way I was able to deal with this was to make the autograph the controlling source (as I always do in my editions) and make informed decisions about deviations based on knowledge, musicality, common sense, and analysis, not through use of textual criticism. And this is much the way other editors have proceeded, for example, the editor of the New Polish Edition, who may have started out trying to create a critical edition of Chopin's complete works, but never issued the critical reports. I would say that a critical edition isn't possible of any of Chopin's works where the manuscript(s), proof(s) and first edition(s) are not extant. It is all informed quess work based on nothing more than the editors's opinion. And I would say the same about Beethoven's piano sonatas, where the situation is yet worse.

On the other hand, a work like Bach's Inventions and Sinfonias exists in two autographs and no edition was published during Bach's lifetime. We know which source is the primary source. The text is quite clean. Preparing the text of an edition is therefore relatively simple. Dealing with the ornamentation and other matters of performance is much less so, and a matter of informed, personal decision-making, since no one will ever know how Bach performed these pieces, no matter how much research is conducted.

Actually, the only difference between current editions and the ones of the past is that we are now trying to be much more faithful to the original sources. (In my case, I am trying to preserve more of the original notation than one usually finds even in critical editions because it provides such valuable insight into interpretation.) Personal opinion has always played and I think, must play a larger role in editing music than what might be allowed in true textual criticism. But that opinion is based only on a very superficial understanding of textual criticism, so please forgive me if I am way off track on that.

Concerning analysis. Suppose I could produce a convincing analysis that shows that the famous A sharp in op. 106 must be an error. What would be a corresponding example in textual criticism? And could such an analysis made entirely by internal evidence and without reference to outside sources?
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Harpsichordmaker
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Re: Progressive correction in op. 54

Post by Harpsichordmaker »

John Ruggero wrote: 15 Jan 2023, 23:20 Concerning analysis. Suppose I could produce a convincing analysis that shows that the famous A sharp in op. 106 must be an error. What would be a corresponding example in textual criticism? And could such an analysis made entirely by internal evidence and without reference to outside sources?
First of all, let me state I agree almost totally with you. There are reasons for the difference between music and literary text constitution, too long to be discussed here. In fact, I think "true" textual criticism only seldom can be applied to music. Though, I believe an editor should however examine the sources to see if it's possible to use textual criticism. If not possible or not that useful (maybe the majority of the cases), then he can give up and use other methods. Or maybe the opposite. The important thing is, in my opinion, not to preclude themselves any tool.

As for your question. Literally thousands of examples. I am not at home in this very moment so I can give you only an example off the top of my head. If you wish, I can give you other examples tomorrow when at home. It's simple, because many books have been written on this very topic (emendation in a single source work).
Dante Alighieri, Epistula VI to the Florentines (March 31st, 1311). It's in a single source, not by the hand of Dante but of a copyist. So we have no sources to compare.
The source reads:
"An septi vallo ridiculo cuiquam defensioni confidetis?"
In English (sorry for the poor translation):
"Or will you hope in any defense, when surrounded by a ridicolous shelter?"

Now, the philologist Karl Witte believed "confidetis" is an error to be emended in "confiditis". Both are grammatically correct, of course. Sorry if you know latin and all this is known to you, I make all the explanation because others may take benefit.

Confidetis is future tense ("will you hope"), while confiditis is present tense ("do you hope"). Confidetis is pronounced with accent on -de: confidètis. Confiditis is pronounced with an accent on -fi: confìditis.
Now, there is a rhethoric device called "cursus". It's a rhythm given usually to the final part of the sentences in prose texts, but sometimes in the middle of the sentences as well. It's not mandatory, not as in poetry where rhymes and accents and meters are strictly demanded. But there are many studies on when and where in "artistic prose" it was usually used.
There are three rhythm, three cursus:

cursus planus (the two last words have their accent both on the penultimate syllable)
cursus velox (the two last words have their accents on the third-last and on the penultimate syllable respectively)
cursus tardus (the two last words have their accents on the penultimate and third-last syllable respectively)

Now, "defensioni confidetis" would be a cursus planus. But cursus planus is usually (not everytime, but usually) used in the middle of the sentences.
It can't be a cursus velox, since "defensioni" can't have its accent on the third-last syllable. So it should be a cursus tardus.
Witte asks himself: does exist a word very similar to confidetis but of an acceptable sense and grammar, which can constitute a cursus tardus? Yes: confìditis.

This is the reasoning of Witte and of the scholars who follow him (other scholars don't), not mine of course.

In other cases, corrections have been done on the basis of the knowledge the author shows elsewhere in the text (for example, in geographical books - see the case of the perhaps-fake "Arthemidorus papyrus"). And on and on.

This is not meant to object to your post, John, which I find very sensible and which I agree with, only to show that I still fail to find any textual problem in music which hasn't a parallel in literary texts.
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John Ruggero
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Re: Progressive correction in op. 54

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That was a very convincing analogy and example, Harpsichordmaker. Thank you. So my understanding of textual analysis is exactly what I suspected, very superficial. And my knowledge of Latin is not much better. One year of middle school Latin. But your point was very clear even to me.

I am also glad and somewhat comforted that someone who is an expert of textual criticism agrees that there are problems in music that can only be decided on the basis of taste.

So to try to sum up this discussion, I suspect that is one reason that you object strongly to the terms like "urtext" bandied about in music editing. Music editing is at times a black art, and one shouldn't really pretend otherwise by dressing it up in finery it doesn't deserve. On the other hand, one should try to make use of as much of the techniques of textual criticism as possible if this fits the editing of music.

Would that be a correct understanding of what you are saying?
Last edited by John Ruggero on 21 Jan 2023, 13:24, edited 2 times in total.
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Harpsichordmaker
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Re: Progressive correction in op. 54

Post by Harpsichordmaker »

Yes John, precisely.
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