Vivaldi a minor and what is the point in the different editions?

May 20, 2019, 11:24 AM · My girl is playing a different edition of the a minor than the one in the Suzuki book. I forgot to ask the name of the edition she is playing from the teacher, so did some googling. And now, well, what is the point of having different editions? How can one even have different editions, didnt Vivaldi composed it fully? Seems odd to change notes from the composers, is this common practise in violin playing?

So, could someone explain this oddity to me, what is the history of the editions and how do I know what the edition is that my girl plays? It the one Perlman plays on youtube.

Replies (52)

May 20, 2019, 11:34 AM · Many composers were too buys to put in fingerings and bowings. There is a general feeling also that these are features of a piece that can be individualized without disrupting the composer's musical intent.
May 20, 2019, 11:40 AM · Thanks Paul, I get the fingerings and bowings changes, but there are some notes that are different too. The suzuki editon of the first part has some terrible fingerings and bowings thats for sure, the edition my daughter played is much easier. But the different notes? And which is more like Vivaldi wrote it, the Suzuki edition or the other one?

By the way, what a nice piece, though the third movement really drills in shifting.

May 20, 2019, 11:44 AM · Differences are usually in the articulation, dynamics, ornamentation and other details (including tempo, whether specified or not). Note (pitch) differences should be rare and imply that the editor interpreted it as a mistake in the original (or whatever copies survived and were used in place of the original). Of course that interpretation is in some cases wrong, so another downstream edition might make a different choice, or do so because it's based on a different upstream edition.

Baroque music in particular was not as specific in many of these aspects as say modern music, so left many of these details unspecified. Romantic interpretations took them in the opposite direction - over-specifying them according to the tastes of the day/editor, and subsequent ones have sought to improve upon that by removing them and going back to what is currently interpreted as more historically correct practices.

You've probably heard much of this already, and might be thinking that there should be some single definitive modern version, but, well, things don't always work like that.

May 20, 2019, 12:12 PM · For most Violin solos, you can find something close to an unedited, "Urtext" version by looking at the fine print in the Piano part, or, on-line at the Petruci library. I am glad that my first teacher, at the young beginning to intermediate levels, asked me to work out my own bowings and fingerings. It's like working on puzzles. I think that is part of the reason that, as a concertmaster, I have been told that I do a good job at setting orchestra bowings. Most of the published editions are edited by a prominent soloist or teacher. They can have out-of-fashion 19th century technique, or the idiosynchratic opinions of players with exceptional technique, very long fingers and flexible hands.
Composers and arrangers should only notate phrasings and articulations, and leave the bowings, fingerings and diviisis to the players.
Edited: May 20, 2019, 3:43 PM · The Suzuki version of the Vivaldi A minor is by Nachez (early 20th century), and was clearly influenced by 19th century romanticism. Don't forget that in Nachez's time Baroque music was just starting to emerge from obscurity (Vivaldi is an example), and there must have been a lot of confusion about how to play it. Thankfully, this has more or less settled down.

When I started on the Vivaldi A min some years ago I was worried about the non-Baroque technical ideas in it and promptly raised the issue with my teacher. She agreed with me and I downloaded an Urtext edition to work from. And all was well.

Edited: May 20, 2019, 12:17 PM · "which is more like Vivaldi wrote it, the Suzuki edition or the other one"

Good question. We can't tell without seeing the other edition, but the Suzuki edition is generally considered not definitive or historically accurate. IMSLP has the first edition, which you can use as a reference.

"the third movement really drills in shifting."

Teachers like doing that, although Baroque practice wouldn't necessarily have had as much shifting. (Writing generally - don't recall the details of this movement.)

May 20, 2019, 1:04 PM · The early edition of the Suzuki Book 4 that I had to teach from had completely ridiculous bowings. The only point I could see in them was to teach the students to be able to do that. That was why I provided them with an alternate edition.

I don't know if the current edition has kept those bowings. Anybody??

May 20, 2019, 2:01 PM · "I don't know if the current edition has kept those bowings."

Comparing my Suzuki 'Revised Edition' (2008) printed book with online versions of the two in Smart Music, for the first movement, I see that there are some changes, but they're not say radically different. I'm going to guess that if you objected to the original Suzuki, you'd probably object to the revised Suzuki.

I see much more interesting differences with the first edition from IMSLP.

It seems that Suzuki got some things exactly reversed, and that there are differences in the notes as well - not harmonically huge, as the ones I've noticed are simply differences in octaves, but I think these differences are musically significant. There are parts where a group of sixteenth notes are slurred and the other group of sixteenth notes in the same bar are articulated, but Suzuki and the original reverse which slurred. Suzuki also has some repeated notes with no dynamic marking, but the subsequent notes with a decrescendo, which I might read and play the other way - with a crescendo, movement, on the repeated notes. Places with the octave changes are also interesting - if the octaves aren't changed (as in the original), they're a pattern of two repeated notes, which then highlight the rhythm. So changing the octave might make it more interesting in pitch/tone, but lose the rhythmic meaning.

I'd prefer to play the IMSLP version.

May 20, 2019, 2:06 PM · Joel - I too prefer urtext editions because I also like the puzzle-piecing aspect of learning the music. I often find myself making some fingerings needlessly complicated - but they have reduced in number recently.

Andrew - I have a book purchased in late 2016/early 2017, and Suzuki still used Natchez... playing that concerto (way back when, and then again in 2016) was enough to turn me off Vivaldi for the foreseeable future. I wish I had insisted upon the Urtext edition when the piece was assigned to me.

May 20, 2019, 4:17 PM · If you possibly can its often very instructive to get the 'autograph' - that is the version as penned by the composer. Often so much is lost just by transferring it to printed paper. If you look at the Galamian edition of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas there is the conventional sheet music at the front but the Bach autograph is also appended at the back. I hope I am correct in assuming that this really is in his own hand and not a copy at the time, but if so, there is a real dynamism to the way he writes the notes, not just to their values. Its hard to not be influenced by the spirit of the writing.

But maybe someone knows more...

Edited: May 20, 2019, 4:44 PM · Remember that a Baroque Urtext is hundreds of years out of copyright (if there was indeed any), and is therefore free. A modern edition may be a revision with a selection from bowings, fingerings, phrasing, dynamics, tempi and layout (but I draw the line at tampering with the music itself, as Nachez seems to have done, perhaps with pedagogical intentions). The point is that a modern revised edition of a Baroque piece means that someone has put in some creative thinking, which automatically generates a period of copyright where there was none.

Copyright protection is used to prevent others from copying your creative work without permission (otherwise you can sue them – a potential source of money), or someone can ask you if they can publish your copyright edition, in which case you say “yes” if you wish, and accordingly charge them suitable licence fees for the privilege. Either way, money is at the heart of it.

I'm with Joel Quivey's thoughts on this matter.

Edited: May 20, 2019, 5:25 PM · Elise, Bach really was a great master and an outstanding example of creativity, not only in his compositions themselves, but also by "drawing" dynamics and phrasings in his autographs. When I was working on his Goldberg variations on piano way back time, reading his autographs was some sort of eye-opener, reading them almost felt like watching pantomime... (And they weren't accessible as easily back then, there wasn't any internet, and I was very lucky to have a teacher who was a Bach nerd and had a collection of autographs on microfilm copy, God will know the source...) I'm not sure if other composers had these skills developed to a similar extent, but I'm not an expert on baroque autographs. What I've seen yet looked rather honest and well-behaved in comparison to bach, but probably often we cannot know if it's an original autograph or a mediocre copy.
Fast forward - anybody out there who might enjoy reading Beethoven?!?
May 20, 2019, 5:30 PM · In 1973 Paganiniana issued an enlarged (~12"x16") publication of the Eduard Herrmann edited Schirmer edition. A facilile of the entire manuscript is included at the back of the book.

As far as I can see the manuscript is essentially a "blank slate" open for player interpretation. (That's how I hear it too - the cello suites seem to be widely (or wildly) interpreted too.)

May 20, 2019, 6:01 PM · "Fast forward - anybody out there who might enjoy reading Beethoven?"
As in the autograph versions? Wow...
Edited: May 20, 2019, 7:38 PM · Oh ... the notes. Yes. Very often we do not have what the composer originally wrote. We often have a copy, which might have been made by someone else, or it might have been made by the composer in some state of inebriation. As such there are mistakes. In all such cases -- including the original in the composer's own hand -- there is the possibility of mistakes. A forgotten accidental that was in the composer's ear that didn't make it onto the page. Or there might be smudges or other imperfections in the surviving document. Scholarly editions are supposed to help us with these issues.
Edited: May 21, 2019, 12:46 AM · Thanks all :)

J Ray is so right about the octaves. In the Suzuki version (Nachez) the part where the octave changes are, doesnt really make sense. And with the bowings it feels to me too that it is just there to teach a point and not musically important changes. The other version is a lot easier musically and also easier to play. Part of me is very relieved and a part of me feels that its almost like cheating to not play the difficult Nachez additions . The easier edition is more of a ”play through” thing almost where as the Nachez edition would have required a lot more practise.

May 21, 2019, 7:29 AM · So maybe its really a question of playing the piece or playing the etude … Etudes are sometimes fingered and bowed in constrained ways and you advance by conquering those restrictions. Perhaps you should do both...
May 21, 2019, 10:59 AM · I believe the Suzuki changes to the Nachez are deliberately pedagogical. If a kid is going to learn the work for its pedagogical content, the Suzuki edition is likely to be explicitly desirable if it's being taught by a Suzuki teacher. If a performer is going to learn it for general performance, starting from the urtext would be better.
May 21, 2019, 11:14 AM · Nobody has yet pointed out another difference between editions: The technical and graphic quality of the edition: How many errors are in it? Are there measure numbers or at least rehearsal marks? Is the print readable and sight-readable?* Are the page turns manageable or not?**

The top publishers: Bärenreiter, Henle***, Peters, B&H are usually at least acceptable in those categories. Others (Universal for example) are much less considerate to the player. If your pocket money suffices I strongly recommend to invest in one of those top publishers.***

* If the notes and/or lines are too crunched together readability suffers and sight readability suffers even more. Plus there are more subtle factors, e.g. the care taken with the spacing of notes of different values (correct spacing makes reading rhythms easier).

** This is not very important for solo parts in concertos but important in orchestra parts and essential in chamber music.

*** A violist I used to play with once said: "If I play from Henle I can play passages I am not actually supposed to be able to play."

May 21, 2019, 11:34 AM · "* If the notes and/or lines are too crunched together readability suffers and sight readability suffers even more. Plus there are more subtle factors, e.g. the care taken with the spacing of notes of different values (correct spacing makes reading rhythms easier).

** This is not very important for solo parts in concertos but important in orchestra parts and essential in chamber music."

YES! reading from Barenreiter for quartets is definitely easier/clearer because of the careful attention to spacings and readability. Thanks for pointing this out, Albrecht.

May 21, 2019, 11:57 AM · Oh yes, I will buy the Barenreiter (first choice), Henle (second choice) over other editions whenever possible - I don't care about the price. For me, it's not just accuracy with regards to the composer's original manuscript (and interpretive freedom re: fingerings/bowings) but the paper quality too. Barenreiter's paper is fantastic - it's not only easy on the eyes but it is also easier for marking and erasing.
May 21, 2019, 3:52 PM · I think personal choice of sheet music editions depends on your music history, your current eyesight, and how you use the music.

I grew up mostly with Schirmer, Fischer, International and Peters Editions so I like their spacing and notes size. My eye motion for sight reading follows their "pace" as well. For a few years before my cataract surgeries I liked 15% to 29% bigger music. I like intelligent editiong of fingering and bowing, as well, even if I choose to ignore it.

May 22, 2019, 2:35 PM · I agree with Pamela that Barenreiter is the first choice when possible. However, sometimes, I want another edition because I like the interpretations of a particular artist, e.g., Oistrakh's edition of the Beethoven violin sonatas, or for historical reasons, e.g., Joachim's edition of the Brahms violin concerto because Joachim had substantial input into the writing of the piece and has special insight. One thing to remember about Beethoven is that he was not a terrific violinist, and the urtext of his violin pieces tend to have few bowing or ones that do not make a whole lot of sense, IMHO.

@Elise - it is my understanding that the facsimile of the Sonatas and Partitas in the Galamian edition is, in fact, in Bach's hand and is not a copy.

May 22, 2019, 3:10 PM · "One thing to remember about Beethoven is that he was not a terrific violinist, and the urtext of his violin pieces tend to have few bowing or ones that do not make a whole lot of sense, IMHO."

I'm wondering if you are confusing bowings with slurs. Beethoven knew exactly how and why to slur passages. And he knew that much of his music was awkward or didn't make sense to people of the time.
He had little concern for the specific problems of string players, and even said as much.

The fact is, no one in the late 18th century wrote in bowings.

May 22, 2019, 4:08 PM · Thanks for the clarification, Scott. Yes, I meant slurs, and I have never found his slurs all that insightful or helpful.
May 22, 2019, 4:38 PM · Tom - I think his slurs are phrasings, as expected for a pianist for whom slurs are a very different beast. I think it helps to look at the music as transposed to violin, rather than written for it..
May 22, 2019, 6:01 PM · Vivaldi's Violin concerto in Gminor (a rare key for him) is in Suzuki Book 5. Does anyone know if that Suzuki version has been "edited" by Nachez or another? My recollection is that I was not aware of anything significantly out of the ordinary compared with the Aminor when I worked on the Gminor a few months later, but I may be wrong.

I'm asking because I have mislaid or lost Suzuki 5, so can't refer to it.

May 22, 2019, 6:13 PM · There is a Nachez edition of the G minor. I don't know if that's the version Suzuki uses.
May 23, 2019, 2:40 PM · Elise - I think you probably have a valid point. Thanks.
May 23, 2019, 5:03 PM · Yes, the Book 5 G minor is Nachez. The orchestral accompaniment is dreadful, although some of Nachez's "improvements" to the harmony can sound more convincing to a classic-trained ear.
May 23, 2019, 5:18 PM · Adrian, thank you for that information. It confirms my lingering suspicion that if Suzuki used Nachez for the Aminor then Nachez for the G minor would be a real possibility.

I haven't heard the Nachez version of the G minor with an orchestral accompaniment but I have heard it played by a professional Baroque ensemble, and they of course would having been going back to the original autograph and knew what they were doing.

May 24, 2019, 7:20 AM · I am a bit surprised by the general agreement that Beethoven was not familiar with the violin. I challenge anyone to go over the op. 18 quartets (or the violin sonatas) and point out genuinely unviolinistic passages. I don't recall any in there and I have Urtext editions (i.e. the slurs as in the originals) of both the quartets and the sonatas.

In later works you may find a few instances of "written not for but against the violin"* but even in the late quartets some passages could only have been written by a composer familiar with the instrument.

There is the issue of Beethoven's handwriting: My edition (Henle) has a facsimile of a page from sonata op. 96 in it. It does not even look like music. How an engraver could possibly work from that page and be correct I can't imagine. I have done some typesetting from manuscript and I can tell that the positions of the beginning and end of a slur are often doubtful even if the writer was much more careful than Beethoven.

BTW even Dvorak (whose credentials a string player are above suspicion) did not always write comfortably for the violin.

* This was actually said by someone about the Brahms concerto when it came out.

May 24, 2019, 9:32 AM · Slurs are not meant to be helpful. They are groupings with musical meaning. Different slur patterns emphasize different notes due to the bow. It's not quite the same as slurs for a piano or other instrument.
May 24, 2019, 11:39 AM · "I am a bit surprised by the general agreement that Beethoven was not familiar with the violin."

Me, too. Beethoven took violin lessons in Bonn and again in Vienna, with well-regarded players. Before leaving Bonn, Beethoven was appointed violist in the Elector's court orchestra (which was by no means an amateur-level group). I don't think there's any evidence to suggest that he achieved on strings anything like the virtuosity he had on piano, but there's plenty of evidence to support the claim that he was a competent string player and knew his way around the fingerboard.

Beethoven's handwriting was awful! If you read Thayer's biography or LvB's letters, you find Beethoven spending an enormous amount of time and energy correcting printer's proofs of his works (and complaining about it).

May 24, 2019, 12:19 PM · Even if he was a terrific violinist (and you are right: one could not write the quartets without quite an impressive understanding), it remains likely that he did not 'think in violinese' (;) ); he was surely primarily a pianist/composer and would, I believe, have written his music as how to be heard and not with regards to the technical demands or even musical ones specific to any instrument. That surely, is what makes his music so interesting to play, you have to discover the musical message.

But that is not unique to Beethoven; even Mozart - who was obviously a very skillful violinist and who clearly spoke violinese, you still have to do a lot of discovery for the 'ah' moment when it speaks. In his case its possibly due to the oft-mentioned idea that he thought in operatic song.

Edited: May 24, 2019, 12:51 PM · Late in life, Beethoven referred to even keyboard instruments as being "inadequate" to the requirements of his music.
May 24, 2019, 5:08 PM · "it remains likely that he did not 'think in violinese' (;) ); he was surely primarily a pianist/composer..."
"...and not with regards to the technical demands or even musical ones specific to any instrument"

The principals of slurring on a bowed instrument are pretty basic, and I find it hard to believe that Beethoven wasn't aware of them. Slurred groups naturally emphasize the first note, with the following notes declining in emphasis. It's not just about connecting the notes smoothly. He didn't slur groups of notes randomly, or in a non-informed or non-musical way.

May 25, 2019, 7:52 AM · I agree but have to add (or rather repeat) that there are two types of slurs: Those that you describe which essentially tell you when to turn your bow. And those larger ones that mean to indicate phrasing and musical context. Those second ones are more common in piano music. But they are by no means absent in many violin parts.
Edited: May 25, 2019, 9:26 AM · No, you're not getting it.
Slurs aren't for "essentially telling you when to turn your bow." Those are bowings. And those larger curved lines indicating phrasing can't be called "slurs" any more than the curved lines for ties can be called "slurs."

Here's a good example:

Look at the Presto from the G-minor sonata by Bach, starting at the sequence from bar 12. Two separate, then three slurred, then one separate in each bar. Bach is not telling us to just play those three slurred notes legato--he's creating emphasis on the second eighth-note beat. The following 16ths under each slur are NOT as important as the the first. Try it without the slur and they GAIN in importance. In effect, Bach is creating a syncopation. Lean on the second beat!

Now go over to bar 75: one slur per bar, and the emphasis in now wholly on the first note in each bar. The rising stepwise pattern is brought out. There's an 3+3 slur in bar that appears just once in the movement at bar 111. Don't play the notes equally or you will not be emphasizing the notes Bach wanted. The first note of each slur is important, and then the next two should have a diminuendo. Also interesting is the slur pattern at bars 117-120. Don't just play it all equally. It's more interesting than that.

Look at the Double in mov't 1 of the first Partita. Mostly, Bach slurs them 2+2. But not always. Try doing them all 3+1. Or 1+3. Each is different.

One more example of how slurs change the metric emphasis: The last movement of Mozart 39, commonly used for auditions. After the opening theme, Mozart launches into the finger- and bow-twisting theme with a pattern of two slurred notes, then 6 separate. In fact, it's a very common pattern in Mozart. Some people have change the pattern to slur the first two notes of every 4-note group, which is not an informed decision. That's not the emphasis he wanted.

Musicians trained in period performance tend to have a much better understanding of what slurs groupings mean. It should be required in every music school because it's so basic, yet so ignored.

May 25, 2019, 3:08 PM · Scott Cole - I agree that Beethoven did not slur the notes in some random way, and you are perhaps correct that slurs are not meant to be helpful. But, I think a skillful violinist/composer would have a good idea of how the slurs might work against or at cross-purposes with the intent of the composition and the slur itself because of the effect on bowing. I have never found this to be a problem with Mozart, who was an excellent violinist. Beethoven, on the other hand, ....
May 25, 2019, 8:50 PM · I don't see the issue with Beethoven. Sometimes you have to split up a slur to make a bowing work out comfortably, but this can easily be done without changing the musical meaning.
May 25, 2019, 10:05 PM · What Scott said...!

To add/repeat what's already said, there are slurs that mean essentially diminuendo (see Leopold Mozart's Versuch), and phrase markings (e.g. in Beethoven and Brahms), which is valuable information indeed.

I'm sure our handy Clive Brown probably has a whole chapter about slurs. Bottom line is that composers spent the time and ink to convey information, and saying they they are not helpful (and about Beethoven, no less!) is quite astounding and not to mention I think a disservice to your audience.

May 26, 2019, 6:45 AM · Scott, I agree with you that a slur has musical meaning, often rhythmic. But nonetheless on the first level of understanding it is about bowing.

BTW not all slurs indicate a stress on the first of the slurred notes. For example if a note or a series of notes are slurred to the note on beat one of the following measure.

May 26, 2019, 8:56 AM · Albrecht,
I'm not exactly sure what your last sentence means. Going back to the example of the G-minor presto, we find the slur you describe--to the first note of a bar--in measures 33 and 34. In this case, Bach is emphasizing off-beats: G4, then C5, then F5. Bowing is not a disconnected "thing" unto itself. On the first level of understanding we bow certain patterns to emphasize and de-emphasize.

Students so often do things like start pickup notes on down bows, or get backwards and don't bother to fix things. It's the #1 cardinal sin of musical interpretation: emphasizing the wrong beat and putting accents where they shouldn't be. Bowings themselves wouldn't matter that much otherwise.

So no, I don't agree. On the first level of understanding, it is about emphasis and articulation. The bowings serve these two.

May 26, 2019, 11:40 AM · Ok, I see. The Bach example is not a slur that leads up to one but a rather startling arrangement where the tw 4-note slurs are heard (almost) as 2 3/8 measures that start on the off beat and a "2.5/8 measure" that makes things "right" again (if one hears it that way depends of course on the player but I agree with you that this is how they should be played.).

An example of what I mean is the beginning of the adagio of Beethoven's opus 1/1 trio. The piano begins with 3 sixteenths slurred to the first note of the main theme. Here the effect is different: This is an upbeat leading up the main note. If it is done right the effect is as if one woke up in the middle of the piece and just caught the last three notes of some transition measure. Indeed, upbeats slurred to the main note are quite common.

Your last statement is a chicken-and-egg argument not worth debating.

May 26, 2019, 12:29 PM · I don't see how my last statement is a chicken and egg thing. Bows, by their nature (and especially baroque bows), produce one result up-bow and another down-bow. You don't bow something to just bow it.

The chicken-egg conundrum is that one can't say which came first. In music, the music comes first, and the bowings are chosen to serve it. You don't bow a piece first and then consider the music--that makes no sense.

BTW--definition of a chicken: a chicken is an egg's way of making more eggs.

May 26, 2019, 12:54 PM · The "first level of understanding [slurs] is about bowing." That's just not correct...I think we've found the root our misunderstanding.

I would encourage everyone to go even further back and look at early 17th c. prints like sonatas by Marini and Castello. The slurs and almost haphazardly different in the violin part and scores, and they are certainly not to aid you in bowing directions, but as Scott said, for"emphasis and articulation", in other words giving us some kind of information that we realize with our bows.

May 26, 2019, 1:00 PM · Which...hopefully answers Maria's original question about why we have performing editions. Often times the manuscript is unclear, or there are major differences in the score and part, or there are multiple versions floating around, or in the Vivaldi A minor's case, has been transformed into a pedagogical piece by Nanchez/Suzuki.
May 26, 2019, 2:16 PM · Scott's C. comments on Bach bowings are, as usual, wise and informed.
I have been struggling with that spot, G min. Presto ms. 12--, for a long time. One day I discovered that doing it completely reversed worked, but how to get in and out of that ? The piece is full of subtle, hidden, 2 against 3 optional hemiolas, starting with ms. 1. One of my teachers said that if we play these spots smoothly, evenly, the audience will hear what they Want to hear.
In Irish fiddle style we frequently put the emphasis on the middle note of a 3-note slur by simply leaning on it. I am tempted to bow the 9/8 Double like a slip-jig, but not yet in public. Yes, I know, Bach never went to Ireland.
May 26, 2019, 5:50 PM · Having cut my teeth on the Suzuki version of the a minor, is there a version on IMSLP that you all would recommend over others? Here's the page: https://imslp.org/wiki/Violin_Concerto_in_A_minor%2C_RV_356_(Vivaldi%2C_Antonio)
Edited: May 28, 2019, 12:19 PM · For example when Schradieck No. 1 is slurred across the entire page, that's just a "musical grouping". You're not supposed to play all those damned notes in one bow ... are you? :)
May 28, 2019, 12:25 PM · K T i think there is something missing from the end of the link as it doesnt work?

Im so glad now that my daughters teacher gave us the version that is more playable. Ive been thinking about the Suzuki book version and it just doesnt make sense, it less musical. Better to play something else to learn those bowings if they are necessary, we have time for that.


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