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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: which Bach Sonatas and Partitas edition(s) do you have?

December 29, 2007 at 7:10 AM

Violinists tend to agree on one thing: the Six Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo by Johann Sebastian Bach are some of the greatest music written for violin. This music garners our most profound respect, even our awe.


Just look at the first page, in the composer's hand. You don't even need ears to understand that this is a work of deep beauty.

It's actually amazing that this page even survived the apathy of time. The introduction to my Galamian edition tells me that these gorgeous manuscripts -- the center of our violin universe -- narrowly escaped a pile of papers destined for use as wrappings in a butter shop in St. Petersburg.

It's a good thing they survived, because without this music, we violinists would be without something that causes almost as much argument as shoulder rests. Violinists tend to disagree, with passion equal to their love for these works, about how this music ought to be played. And no one, NO ONE, wants to play it "wrong," despite the inevitability of the fact that your interpretation will surely offend the good taste of another violinist or teacher.

This disagreement has given rise to many different editions of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas, as the various interpretations fall in and out of favor.

I'm not asking in this poll which edition you prefer; if you'd like to say, then leave a comment. Instead, I'm asking you which editions you actually have in your pile of music; actions speak louder than words. I actually have three editions (well, four, if you count that manuscript in the back of one), and I do refer to all of them.

From Albert Justice
Posted on December 29, 2007 at 7:38 AM
Well, I'm sure my interpretation is the correct one. Actually the only comment I ever heard was Hahn speaking of Szeryng's influence on her interpretation.
From Bart Meijer
Posted on December 29, 2007 at 10:03 AM
The editions I have (Bärenreiter and Schott/Szeryng) are in many people's possession. I have had the Bärenreiter for a long time, and only recently bought the Szeryng with it. For those few who don't have it: the Bärenreiter edition does not have bowings or fingerings. Szeryng's edition obviously has both.
Having been on my own for a number of years helped me to appreciate the thoroughness of Szeryng's editing.
I love them both.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on December 29, 2007 at 12:04 PM
My teacher always told me to buy Schirmer editions, so much so that nearly my entire music library from the pre-viola era consists of yellow-covered Schirmers: the Bach S&P and concertos, the Mozart concertos, the 4 seasons, Kreutzer, Dont, Rode. They were the cheapest, I think, which was important in those days.

My teacher then proceeded to mark them up quite a bit, changing bowings, fingerings, and dynamics. I always found that process rather mysterious: from his head to the page. I'm enjoying as an adult discovering what goes into it.

From Lawrence Price
Posted on December 29, 2007 at 4:09 PM
In addition to the Barenreiter Urtext and the Galamian International, I also have a version by Raphel Bronstein which includes some technical analysis. My most precious version is the Fischer Auer which is the one I had with Szigeti and has my accumulated markings from a lifetime of playing these great works.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on December 29, 2007 at 6:56 PM
Lawrence, who is the editor on the Bronstein edition?
From Laurie Niles
Posted on December 29, 2007 at 6:57 PM
I realized I didn't say which ones I have: Galamian, Joachim/Moser and Szeryng. I'd get the Barenreiter or Henle, but the Galamian has the entire manuscript in the back, and that seems sufficient as urtext!
From Lawrence Price
Posted on December 29, 2007 at 7:45 PM
Laurie, it appears to be Paul Paradise, although that is not entirely clear. It was published by Paganiniana Publications, Inc. in 1981. The ISBN is: Z-30 ISBN 0-87666-647-0
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on December 29, 2007 at 8:26 PM
I tried Henle’s Urtext in the past and my current teacher encourages me to use Schott’s Szeryng primarily with some of her modifications.
From Sung-Duk Song
Posted on December 29, 2007 at 11:36 PM
In addition to many of the ones listed above, I have an interesting edition by Raphael Bronstein. I find some of his fingerings and bowings to be very logical and it was wonderful when I found out that Ida Haendel uses the same fingerings/bowings as in the Bronstein edition for many of the S&P's.
From Jasmine Reese
Posted on December 30, 2007 at 1:49 AM
I have the Mel Bay publisher, Lawrence Golan scholar edition.
From Ben Clapton
Posted on December 30, 2007 at 2:30 AM
I've got the Peters (Flesch) edition, and also the Werner Icking edition, available from
Comes in both Urtext and Edited, A4 or A3 editions (to avoid page turns)
From Shawn Smith
Posted on December 30, 2007 at 3:48 AM
If only I could master them all!
From Vadim Mazo
Posted on December 30, 2007 at 5:09 AM
The teacher of Ivan Galamian-
Konstantin Mostras published his Bach edition by Soviet "State edition-Moscow" in 1963-about6-7 years before I.Galamian's...
It has been used by many Russian performers/teachers and has less mistakes that in other later publications.

I'm sorry K.Mostras's edition was never(yet?) published in The West ...

From Nancy Foreman
Posted on December 30, 2007 at 8:15 PM
I have a Ricordi version marked "Polo", but it is arranged for violin, not viola. Not sure if it's the same as the one referenced above.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on December 30, 2007 at 8:23 PM
I think you can give it your vote, even if it's not arranged for viola! I was going off of Shar, SW Music and then checking also with Haus der Musik. Maybe that one is not really arranged for viola, or maybe there are two versions....anyone know?

Laurie :)

From Lawrence Price
Posted on December 30, 2007 at 8:38 PM
The Werner Icking edition also has a version for viola.
From Nancy Foreman
Posted on December 31, 2007 at 4:14 AM
Wrong piece, my mistake... stressed out. Sorry. Also have Schirmer's, will vote for that!
From Laurie Niles
Posted on December 31, 2007 at 5:37 AM
I wonder if it's Galamian's editing, or that manuscript in the back, or just a trend (Galamianization of the world ;) ), that so many people have the Galamian edition. Are there any other editions with the handwritten manuscript reproduced in the back, besides the Galamian?
From Stewart Siu
Posted on December 31, 2007 at 6:14 AM
I have the Galamian edition, but I bought it because it has the manuscript printed at the end - I suspect many people bought it for the same reason. Both my last teacher and I actually hate the Galamian fingerings.
From Ian S
Posted on December 31, 2007 at 6:52 AM
I think that the Galamian edition makes Bach's music more accessible violinistically, but occasionally taints the stylistic purity.
From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on December 31, 2007 at 10:29 PM
I'd have to agree it's the manuscript in the back that makes the Galamian edition so popular. Galamian's editing is fine, but I do change the fingerings/bowings on a regular basis.
From Alex Shiozaki
Posted on December 31, 2007 at 11:15 PM
Perhaps it's just a phase, but I refuse to use any edition but Baerenreiter when it's available to me. That being said, I personally own the Galamian edition, which I sometimes return to for reference--all the bowings/fingerings provided by my teacher are in that copy.

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