August 19, 2019, 5:51 AM · Hello,
How many of you use this? What are the benefits to it? Have any of you used IMSLP for music for an actual live performance or for learning any of the mainstream concertos (ie Tchaik, Brahms etc.)?
I'm curious as I've not really used it before.


Replies (64)

August 19, 2019, 6:26 AM · Not for live performance or to access mainstream material, but all the time for obscure chamber music to satisfy my curiosity. There's a truly vast amount of out-of-copyright material that would otherwise be completely lost. I've also used IMSLP to post my own manuscript transcriptions and arrangements that aren't public domain but are protected (a bit) by Creative Commons Licence 4.0. This means that anyone can do what they like with them as lot as they make due acknowledgement. It was nice to discover from Google that my string arrangement of an Elgar organ piece has been performed in 3 continents!
August 19, 2019, 6:31 AM · It's a great research resource, if you want to check how some piece of music works.

You can't use it for performance, because IMSLP uses lapsed editions, so chances are you would be playing a different score than the next desk.

August 19, 2019, 7:14 AM · I'm not talking about orchestra playing haha
August 19, 2019, 7:41 AM · For classical musicians it is the Library of ALexandria.

Not only can you find just about anything before 1920 - it also have a lot of the autograph copies where you can see exactly what the composer wrote - and also how he wrote it. Try that with an urtext.

Please subscribe to them - don't take it for granted and the $20 is drop in the bucket for what you take out.

August 19, 2019, 7:51 AM · I use for "sheet music" all the time. For the past 8 years I've been playing in a chamber orchestra that gets most of its music from IMSLP. As a fairly newly "minted" violist almost all my viola music has come from IMSLP, which I have helped support for the past few years.

I agree with Elise - 100%.

August 19, 2019, 8:39 AM · Agree totally with Elise and Andrew. IMSLP is an immensely valuable resource for string players for all the reasons discussed. While sometimes I buy sheet music, in many cases I print it off of IMSLP. It's free, and you can try things out without cost. Use it well.
August 19, 2019, 8:47 AM · I have a friend who plays the violin, and I like to play thi gs with him on duos for 2 vln and vln/vla. I've found a lot of stuff this past week for it. I was just wondering if anyone used it to seriously study a piece
Edited: August 19, 2019, 8:57 AM · IMSLP is great; a lot of orchestras use it to provide practice parts / audition parts, and some orchestras even use it for their performance parts (smaller community/hybrid orchestras, chamber festival orchestras, etc.). The "Orchestra Scores Project" is really handy.

There's also a lot of great violin-specific stuff in the way of old methods and etudes. For example the previously unknown to me Kayser "Paganini Studies," and also Kayser's own violin method book which is, I believe, what Heifetz first learned from when he was a tiny sprogling. Unfortunately it's only in German, but still cool!

Edit: Also, Jake, to the second part of your question, for some of the big concertos there are facsimiles of ancient parts that are really cool, and there are also Sevcik's "study versions" which were hard to get ahold of anywhere else in the past, and still are if you don't want to put money in Stephen Shipps's pocket.

August 19, 2019, 9:29 AM · In general, if you are going to buy editions like Kalmus or Schirmer -- i.e. editions that haven't had a significant recent scholarly update and that are not urtext -- IMSLP will essentially be be equivalent. Some of the IMSLP editions have bowings/fingerings from older pedagogues and virtuosos, like Joachim, Flesch, and Auer.

If you ordinarily buy Barenreiter, Henle, etc. it will not be equivalent.

In general, I buy high-quality recently scholarly urtexts where available for solo music that I am studying, and International edition for etude books. I'm mostly doing that for chamber music intended for performance as well. I use IMSLP when I want quick access to something, for chamber-music reading or for anything where the IMSLP version is easily readable and "good enough", and for a lot of orchestra music.

August 19, 2019, 9:34 AM · Some of the 2 violin things I found I tried googling to try and find like a Peters or Schirmer or something. And there was nothing. @Lydia, I only use IMC for transcriptions. As an example, I have an edition of Bach's 2 part inventions for vln/vla
August 19, 2019, 9:53 AM · I love IMSLP, and happily pay the subscription/membership fee. I've found some little known gems there, and it's such fun to browse. Thanks to those gems, my listening repertoire has grown quite a bit, and that's what it is all about for me. Broaden those horizons!

August 19, 2019, 9:54 AM · @Pamela, when i first started on the viola around 2 years ago, I used it to look up a load of rep too
August 19, 2019, 10:01 AM · I browse it at work between tasks, it's become such a fun little hobby.

My teacher uses it a lot for student rep. I'm typically more than happy to buy the sheet music and support the industry, but they insist on using IMSLP whenever possible.

August 19, 2019, 10:22 AM · Probably just trying to save you money
Edited: August 19, 2019, 4:10 PM · One of the best things about IMSLP is that for solo string music or chamber music, there are often transcriptions for instruments other than the ones for which the piece was written. For example, you can get transcriptions for other instruments for the Bach Cello Suites and S&Ps or the Arpegionne Sonata. As someone who plays viola in a chamber trio with a pianist and clarinetist, there is not a lot of repertoire. However, Beethoven's op. 11 trio for piano, clarinet and cello, which I have always loved, on IMSLP offers a transcription of the cello part for viola. It was wonderful to be able to play that piece. And, I have not seen a transcription for viola commercially available (although there are commercially available transcriptions of the clarinet part for violin). So, that's another great thing about IMSLP.
August 20, 2019, 10:32 AM · Would I be okay to use the duo parts I mentioned above in a duo recital thing out of interest? If we're both playing from the same IMSLP edition
Edited: August 20, 2019, 1:07 PM · Whatever you're playing as a duo, trio etc it makes sense if you all play from the same edition, otherwise odd things can happen. Many, but certainly not all, IMSLP editions are out of copyright and in the public domain. There shouldn't be problems if the user takes care to read the detail first.

As a separate general principle, when giving a recital don't leave sheet music lying around unattended during the refreshment break for inquisitive audience eyes to look at. I've known of one or two sad cases where sheet music has mysteriously disappeared from the platform during the break, never to be seen again :(

August 20, 2019, 12:00 PM · @Trevor, that must be some sad audience member to go stealing
August 20, 2019, 12:36 PM · Trevor - this simply isn't so. Music available from IMSLP isn't all public domain and copyright free. As I mentioned in my post up above, recent editions and arrangements may still be the copyright of the editor or arranger and made available under the terms (albeit very liberal terms) of Creative Commons Licence 4.0. Follow the links on IMSLP to get the full picture
August 20, 2019, 1:04 PM · Steve, thank you for putting me right on that! I've reworded my post to make it clear that "many but certainly not all" IMSLP editions are free of copyright restrictions. It is up to the user to read the detail first.
August 20, 2019, 1:31 PM · @Steve, so if I was going to play Boccherini or Spohr I'd be oksy?
August 21, 2019, 1:41 AM · Certainly anything in the original or an early edition, as for example Spohr's Op148 Duo. Note that the page says "Copyright Public Domain". But to take another example at random, a piece for violin and viola by Christine Snowdin called Bingham Market Trilogy says "Copyright Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Noderivs 4.0" which simply (!) means that if you are making a public performance you should acknowledge the composer/copyright holder. It's unlikely there'll be an undercover copyright policeman in the room but it means the composer technically retains her right to restrict access to and performance of her music.
August 21, 2019, 1:51 AM · I see. Who wouldn't put all the details for a concert in a programme?
August 21, 2019, 3:31 AM · Bad people! It would be easy to forget to acknowledge for example someone who has produced a new edition of a Haydn quartet. But it's the principle that's important
August 21, 2019, 6:42 AM · Different countries have different laws. In Germany a new edition (Urtext for instance) of a public domain piece (say a Haydn quartet) is protected by copyright, but in other countries (such as Sweden) it is not possible to protect the edition and therefore it is perfectly legal to copy that edition (even if it may be morally wrong). IMSLP has a courtesy policy to not allow such copies for 25 years after publishing, but they could decide to allow them for the countries where it is legal. There are plenty of examples of scores on IMSLP with notes that it is public domain only in certain countries. They tend to treat EU as one country, but we are still individual countries with our own legislation.

I have never seen it mentioned in a concert program which edition of the music is used on stage. And I know of several professional quartets who play from photocopies on stage (even if they very likely own the printed edition).

August 21, 2019, 7:29 AM · @Bo, I'm very much for using printed editions when available. I'm using IMSLP for sort of obscure chamber music stuff for me and my friends
August 21, 2019, 10:01 PM · Browsing on IMSLP is the amateur classical musician's Candy Crush.
August 22, 2019, 10:19 PM · To second what Lydia said, IMSLP is great if you're into older versions of the music. I personally love the Auer versions of the Tchaikovsky concerto and Paganini Caprice 24, as well as the Kreisler version of Caprice 21. All are available on IMSLP and I suspect would actually be quite difficult to purchase.
August 23, 2019, 6:00 AM · For this returning beginner, browsing on IMSLIP provides some great fun looking for things that are well beyond my current ability - but fun nonetheless. I've discovered new (to me) composers and pieces that keep adding to my Spotify playlists if available. While there is little there I can actually play (yet), I still pay them monthly - it's a small amount and they need support from the community.
August 23, 2019, 6:24 AM · @Catherine, I totally agree
Edited: August 23, 2019, 7:09 AM · What I love about IMSLP is when I hear on the classical radio station a classical symphony or a classical trio, etc., typically some piece I wasn't very familiar with yet, that has violin part that sounds interesting in some way, I can immediately look that part up and even just try it quickly for fun myself.
August 23, 2019, 7:46 AM · Thats only good if you know what piece it is haha
August 23, 2019, 8:06 AM · The radio presenter says the piece and composer and you can even see it on the text info on your radio receiver. Welcome to listening to the radio ;-)
August 23, 2019, 12:13 PM · LOL! Careful Jean, he may not be ready for the 1990s yet...
[just teasing...]
August 23, 2019, 1:04 PM · Nah not always lmao not on pop radio anyway
Edited: August 26, 2019, 2:27 PM · I can't believe that musicians would imply there's anything the least bit shady about IMSLP. It's a fantastic resource and one of the three greatest things the Internet has done for musicians (the other two in my opinion are streaming services like Spotify, and Youtube instructional videos).

VERY little of IMSLP is not in the public domain. There is NOTHING WRONG with copying a piece of sheet music that was last edited and typeset 100 or 150 years go.

What is shady is all the shenanigans publishers play to extend copyrights ridiculously beyond an author's life plus 70 years. It's absolutely ridiculous that Shostakovich is played and performed MUCH less than he should be simply because Leonid Brezhnev demanded a copyright extension in the 1970s as part of detente -- so Shostakovich parts, especially for orchestral works, are very difficult and expensive to get.

I'm not arguing that IMSLP is a replacement for sheet music. An awful lot of my disposable cash goes to Peters and Henle. It's just too much trouble to print parts and large-format printers are hard to find.

But I do feel a lot better about buying, say, a Henle Urtext that actually required a huge investment in musicology and beautiful typesetting, than I do paying $60 or $80 for a Peters edition that hasn't had any actual work done on it (other than putting plates on a printing press) since the 1860s.

When you're reading Peters Mozart quartets, you are looking at antiquated fingering and bowing that represents the state of the art of around 1850 -- that is four or five generations removed from today. Yes Peters is taking some baby steps with some new editions to compete with Henle but they've been extremely slow about it considering how much money they make on their old Mozart and Beethoven.

August 26, 2019, 2:23 PM · I hasten to add - PLEASE join IMSLP -- for a mere $20 a year you get to help sustain a really good thing, which is good for musicians and also good for the legacy of composers who get played a lot more than they would otherwise.

And for the $20 you get faster downloads and also access to a huge library of Naxos recordings of thousands of works.

Edited: August 27, 2019, 1:21 AM · @Thomas - we're off the subject of IMSLP but regarding the new Peters urtext edition of the Haydn quartets, of course it's good to know exactly what the composer wrote but I think the authorities would agree that surely can't be what he expected to hear. Last weekend we played No2 of the Op54 set and found it almost completely devoid of dynamics and articulation marks. Without any dramatic contrasts the first movement in particular made little musical sense, and next time we use those parts someone is going to have to go through them beforehand and make explicit all the little details that Haydn deliberately left to the performers' discretion. Arguably it could be more "authentic" (certainly less work) to stick with a 19th century performing edition than to create a 21st century one of our own!
Edited: August 27, 2019, 1:45 AM · @Bo, on the issue of programme notes detailing which edition is being performed...I have a Madrid opera house programme to hand and see that they acknowledge the publisher. (With opera, there are sometimes huge differences!) Then there are Bruckner symphonies... .
August 27, 2019, 1:45 AM · If you dislike the Peters, there is a Henle. Why not get that?
August 27, 2019, 2:30 AM · It isn't a question of "disliking". Of course there are many editions to choose from but any "urtext" Haydn isn't a good idea if you want a volume you can just set on the stands and play.

And while I'm here could I just emphasise that IMSLP is also an extremely useful portal for living composers, arrangers, editors and players who aren't looking for financial benefit. This adds up to a huge body of material that is licensed for public use but isn't in the public domain.

August 27, 2019, 8:17 AM · Steve - I am not sure I understand your objection to urtexts. Is it the lack of dynamics, bowings, etc., that bothers you? I think many of us enjoy starting with the urtext and making the piece our own. I am not sure why a quartet can't put an urtext of a Haydn quartet on the stand, play it, and then figure out as a group what edits should be made so that the piece plays well and sounds as the group thinks it should. Am I missing something?
August 27, 2019, 8:19 AM · I agree with Tom. I start with the blank unedited version when playing urtext (if there is one)
Edited: August 27, 2019, 9:59 AM · Sure Tom, it's simply a matter of putting the time in but it takes quite a while to decide these things and mark up all the parts. Ideally someone should volunteer to do the job in advance, but then would all the others agree? In addition to dynamics Haydn leaves a lot of semiquaver passages unslurred, but that's not necessarily how he expected you to play them so more decisions to be made there. I'm perfectly happy with the old editions, and as I said I believe their antiquity actually does more to commend them as documentary evidence than condemn them as "out of date". How much did performance practice actually change between Haydn's time and c.1860 when the editions started appearing?
Edited: August 27, 2019, 3:24 PM · Steve, yes, Urtext vs. Peters is kind of a dilemma and something my chamber music partners discuss a lot. As I collect Haydn, I'm collecting both Henle Urtext and the International (edited version) which I think is based on old Peters).

If you're sight-reading quartets, or on your 2nd or 3rd read, it's very nice to have fingerings and some bowings as training wheels.

However, if you're really trying to learn Haydn and figure them out musically, you want just the opposite -- you want to know what the composer actually wrote and start from there. Obviously it is much more work because Haydn and Mozart were assuming the performer would add bowings in performance according to the customs of the period.

There is so much in Peters that is so wrong for Haydn and Mozart. There are slurs added -- sometimes to make passages easier to play but sometimes for no good reason at all.

Peters is full of dots in passagework which suggests staccato or hard spiccato -- when classical bowing was much softer and more gentle. The Urtexts (both Peters and Henle) are much more subtle with the use of hash marks (rounded detache), dots (more space) or no marks at all.

And I am often annoyed by bad 19th century fingerings that are based on 19th century technique -- some of the Peters editors had no conception of 2nd and 4th position, for example.

The final thing I hate about Peters, for Haydn, is the horrible organization and numbering of the Haydn quartets. They should be sold by opus, not by random collections into four volumes. No doubt the decision to issue volumes was made more than 100 years ago for business reasons. They probably started with quartets they thought would be most popular.

Haydn's Opus 20s should absolutely be played and studied as a set, and with Peters I think they're sprinkled into random places in 3 different books, it's absurd. You sit down with your quartet and you want to read, say, Op 64-6 (wonderful quartet by the way), we waste 10 minutes hunting through the Peters volumes to find it.

What I would love to see -- if I were the Emperor I would commission it -- would be a modern edited edition, fingered and bowed like the 19th century Peters editions but according to 21st century violin technique AND 21st century knowledge of classical violin performance practice. I.e. a fully edited Haydn that plays like Haydn would have played it in 1780 instead of, say, Joachim in 1880.

And while they're at it they could fix a lot of difficult page turns, because paper is not expensive today.

August 27, 2019, 10:11 AM · Thomas - your post arrived while I was editing mine. I can't answer all your points but most of them come down to personal preference. We simply don't know how these pieces would have sounded originally, and if we did we wouldn't be bound to play them that way today. Different things annoy me than annoy you. I was recently at a concert in which one established group went so far down the path of what they would probably consider 21st century "reinterpretation" of one of the Opus 20's that I believe they sacrificed most of the essence. Horrible!
Edited: August 27, 2019, 3:30 PM · Steve,

One of the great things about playing Haydn these days is that you have so many choices and you can mix your approaches. There are no Interpretation Police -- or there shouldn't be.

I don't personally care for the slavishly historical recordings of Haydn -- they seem to sap it of vitality -- and plus, we don't know that Haydn played it that way anyway. The lush romantic way Haydn was performed 30 years ago seems wrong too. My favorite recordings are more eclectic in approach, and I'd like to think Haydn would be delighted with the eclecticism as he certainly loved variety.

For my Haydn journey I've found it useful to think about period performance practice and think about what the composer was hearing -- that's not an ending point but maybe it's a starting point.

The Peters editions represent a snapshot in time and lots of 19th century and early 20th century embellishments. I think it's really healthy to strip away those embellishments when you're trying to get to the essence of a work. Kind of like cleaning the soot from a 300-year-old painting so you can see what colors the painter was originally intending.

I had an epiphany while taking a violin lesson some years ago from a brilliant young recent Curtis graduate.

I was working on a passage from a Mozart violin-viola duo and I was trying to play it brilliantly with a very crisp staccato -- the way I'd heard it in a recording. Sure enough, in the Peters there were dots on the notes.

But my teacher played the same passage with slight separation, subtly, softly, sweetly -- instead of this brilliance character it was singing and incredibly lovely.

And it dawned on me that was really the essence of it -- I was trying to turn the passage into a showpiece for my sautille but what I was doing wasn't really Mozart. And the truth is, a real musician would heard the brilliance of my teacher's rendition - what she was doing was vastly more difficult technically.

She suggested I look at the Urtext -- and sure enough, Mozart had no dots on the line. The dots were added by some late 19th century editor. (and for that matter, the dots may not have meant staccato -- maybe only slight separation).

Anyway, back to Urtext, I think the point of Urtext is not purist effort to all play with baroque bows and gut strings and no vibrato. The point is to strip off the Petersisms that most of us have grown up with because Peters is all most of us had to work with for so many years.

The Peters editions represent (at least most of them) a snapshot in time of about 150 years ago. For, say, Brahms, it's not going to differ much from what the composer wrote. But for Mozart and Haydn and to some extent Beethoven, the Peters editions add a lot of things that people, if they knew they were added by Peters, might decide to do differently.

August 27, 2019, 7:00 PM · Thomas - If you look at an urtext of the Beethoven vc, you will see few slurs. However, almost all edited versions of the vc have lots of slurs. You may prefer the edited versions, but at least the urtext allows you to see how Beethoven envisioned the piece.

If I found recordings I liked of Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven, I might well buy the version edited by the performer (e.g., Oistrakh's edits of the Beethoven sonatas) just to see how it compared with the urtext. One advantage to some urtexts such as Henle is that there are edits, but the editor makes clear what the composer wrote and what s/he is changing. Schott's version of the Bach S&Ps edited by Szeryng is a good example. So is the Henle version of Beethoven's vc.

August 27, 2019, 7:00 PM · Thomas - If you look at an urtext of the Beethoven vc, you will see few slurs. However, almost all edited versions of the vc have lots of slurs. You may prefer the edited versions, but at least the urtext allows you to see how Beethoven envisioned the piece.

If I found recordings I liked of Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven, I might well buy the version edited by the performer (e.g., Oistrakh's edits of the Beethoven sonatas) just to see how it compared with the urtext. One advantage to some urtexts such as Henle is that there are edits, but the editor makes clear what the composer wrote and what s/he is changing. Schott's version of the Bach S&Ps edited by Szeryng is a good example. So is the Henle version of Beethoven's vc.

August 28, 2019, 4:47 AM · Thomas - I guess I'm still attached to the "lush romantic way Haydn was played 30 years ago" when I was coached by the Delme, the Maggini and the Alberni quartets. Actually the prevailing style wasn't at all lush or romantic in the sentimental sense - clean but sonorous, energetic but not over-driven, attentive to detail although not in slavish obeisance to the markings. I still have the image of Galina Solodchin of the Delme egging me on to ever greater urgency. Even in those far-off days I was made alert to the HIP movement by the recordings of the English Concert and Simon Standage's Razoumovsky Quartet. I became intensely critical of other groups that I felt failed to realise the full potential contained in the music. And since then I'm afraid as far as prevailing performance practice is concerned I feel it's been downhill all the way. Today so many performances seem to strive self-consciously for an illusory authenticity, or are just plain affected. Thank goodness there are still exceptions, for example the Danish Quartet who I find absolutely terrific in the Op54 No2 So romantic! Actually I think they are playing from the new Peters edition - viz the fold-over page in the second violin part!

August 28, 2019, 5:49 AM · Some urtext editions (Brahms sonatas from Bärenreiter is one example I recently acquired) come with two solo parts - one urtext and one edited with fingering suggestions and some altered bowings which are in brackets to indicate that they are added.

For string quartets the Maggini Quartet has a list of recommended editions. For Haydn they recommend the new Peters edition.

For me another reason to dislike the old Peters editions (apart from strange fingerings and heavily edited bowings and nuances) is the poor layout. The crammed layout makes it difficult to read. But we all have different preferences - this summer when we were reading through some quartets and I pulled out the Bärenreiter Urtext of Beethoven op 18 a friend of mine said: "oh no - not urtext. You have to turn pages all the time!"

September 14, 2019, 7:39 AM · When something has a unedited part, I always use that and add my own fingerings etc into it
September 14, 2019, 9:43 AM · Jake - that's the beauty of it. That's why I try to get urtexts such as Barenreiter.
September 14, 2019, 9:56 AM · Tom, same here. Partly because my previous teacher suggested. But I like to come up with my own soloutions
September 14, 2019, 10:06 AM · The Barenreiter and Henle editions generally come with two booklets. One is pure urtext. The other has bowings and fingerings, usually from a soloist.
September 14, 2019, 10:28 AM · None of the Henle and Bärenreiter editions I have came all in two booklets. Some don't have fingerings (Henle: Beethoven and Haydn quartets; Bärenreiter: Schubert quartets, Mozart piano trios). The Beethoven sonatas (Henle) have fingerings by some famous guy that are so idiosyncratic as to be unusable for the average amateur.
September 14, 2019, 10:36 AM · I agree some fingering choices are difficult to most people. Its why I choose my own ^_^
September 14, 2019, 11:54 AM · @Lydia - I agee with Albrecht. I have a number of Barenreiters and not one has an unedited and edited version. I have a couple of Henles, and they show what is edited and what is not in the same version. So, I haven't seen this. Can you point to a specific one you have with the two versions?
September 14, 2019, 12:06 PM · Bach concertos have 2 pull outs. As do the Mozart ones
September 14, 2019, 12:10 PM · All of my Barenreiter and Henle sonatas and concertos have two booklets. My Henle Paganini Caprices do also. The quintets, quartets and trios have only the urtext.
September 14, 2019, 12:18 PM · Some of my urtext sonatas only have one. For example my Schubert op 137 only has the one booklet
September 14, 2019, 4:23 PM · But most have 2
September 14, 2019, 5:26 PM · I use IMSLP when I wanna get fun playing quickly a piece(but I have a preferance to free score).
I prefer to buy scores because there is fingerings;but you're sure that SACEM won't caught you because of a copyright story);
Edited: September 14, 2019, 7:47 PM · @Jake - the urtexts you have are not for the same pieces I have. Probably true also of Lydia.

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