Four Seasons - Barenreiter

April 14, 2020, 1:36 PM · (I'd have added to a previous post but it's now closed for comments.)

The Barenreiter edition of the Four Seasons has quite a few choices that are different from traditional renderings. Hogwood's notes included in the edition say that in general, when two readings are possible, the less common has been chosen, on the belief that players who want the traditional one can easily change the text. (I wish that an explicit Ossia had been noted in all of those cases.)

Those of you who perform this work from the Barenreiter: Where do you keep the reading in this edition, and where are you choosing to revert to tradition? If you've been performing it with orchestra / intend to do so in the future, how are you dealing with the discrepancies where the orchestra might not be using Barenreiter parts (and therefore, for instance, the accidentals / chord might be different than the solo part)?

Replies (13)

April 14, 2020, 9:54 PM · My son had this happen earlier this year when he played Winter with his high school orchestra. He learned off the Barenreiter, which for Winter is pretty much straightforward, but he still had to ask the school orch to change a few things. The conductor in turn asked him to change a few and it all worked out in the end. However, this was HS would have been an entirely different story had he been playing this with a more professional ensemble.
April 16, 2020, 12:05 AM · Interesting. An old Ricordi is available on IMSLP.

I've generally been switching to learn new works off recent scholarly urtexts. But they can certainly fly in the face of tradition.

April 16, 2020, 2:55 AM · Lydia,
Adjusting notes is a fairly common thing to do on the spot. It happens even with pieces that don't have different sources like the four seasons. Of course it would be great if you could compare your edition with the edition the orchestra has and clear it all up before the first rehearsal, but sometimes this is not possible.
IMSLP has a supposedly urtext edition, as well as a facsimile of the first edition, which is close, but not exactly the "traditional". These could be good resources for you to compare with your edition.
Ultimately which version you choose is a matter of personal taste, but personally I would not be afraid to stay away from the traditional in these pieces.
Edited: April 16, 2020, 6:29 AM · I find Baerenreiter odd. Their Bach double concerto has bowings that are the opposite of a lot of others (e.g. Suzuki and Oistrakh and Menuhin) and make bow distribution very difficult, and I wonder why. I had a problem with something in their Corelli too.
April 16, 2020, 9:52 AM · @Gordon I don't know about all the editors of the Barenreiter editions, but the Four Seasons is edited by Christopher Hogwood who is not a violinist, so it is more a scholarly approach than a technical one.

Sometimes original Baroque editions feel much more comfortable on a Baroque bow than a modern one. Usually when bowings don't "feel" good, we try them out on a Baroque bow to figure out if it is a matter of equipment or a matter of just bad bowings. In general, with Bach, who was not primarily a violinist, adjustments need to made. Corelli's original bowings in my experience are more natural, probably since he was a violinist.

April 16, 2020, 11:19 AM · Opinions vary on that last point. Jaap Schroeder once made a big argument to me that I should follow Bach’s beings literally in the S&P. I didn’t buy that then, though, and would be careful about doing it now.
April 16, 2020, 12:06 PM · I must ask my teacher, of course, and also about my botched Corelli question from the other day. We did one baroque piece in the string orchestra before the lockdown, and my teacher used quite a lot of hooked bowing in that to my surprise.
April 16, 2020, 6:32 PM · Gordon,
It would be very odd if Bärenreiter printed the bowings used by any of these people you've mentioned. Oistrakh and Menuhin are completely old school, when people didn't care as much for the original And the Suzuki edition is for pedagogical purposes.
April 16, 2020, 7:25 PM · A tangential thought about the comment "In general, with Bach, who was not primarily a violinist, adjustments need to made."

I would hazard a guess Bach was quite competent as a violinist and the slurs he wrote weren't random.

Letter from CPE Bach to Forkel, August 9, 1774:
...In his youth, and until the approach of old age, he played violin cleanly and penetratingly, and thus kept the orchestra in better order than he could have done with the harpsichord. He understood the possibilities of all string instruments...
(David, Mendel, and Wolff, The New Bach Reader, 397.)

Since any Urtext is filtered through an editor (even one as knowledgeable as Hogwood), I would probably start from the 1st printed editions (Rogers?) of the Four Seasons first?

April 16, 2020, 10:03 PM · Slurs definitely were not random in Bach -- but they often are sloppy in the manuscripts, which means we can't always be sure what he meant. In addition, slurs are sometimes intended more as musical features than necessarily bowings. If you go through something like the earliest manuscript copies of the Sonatas and Partitas, the bowings never quite work out. You need to make adjustments here and there to make them work.
Edited: April 17, 2020, 7:23 AM · "Slurs definitely were not random in Bach -- but they often are sloppy in the manuscripts"
Yes, that very first cello prelude. The slurs are very perfunctory in the Anna Magdalena original, and there seems to be much interpretation of how full they should be - some interpret them literally, but I prefer those who play them as though she meant them to cover full measures.
April 17, 2020, 1:09 PM · A very interesting argument to be made is the reliability of Ana Magdalena's slurs. Take a look at her copy of the Sonatas and Partitas, for which we have Bach's original, and take your own conclusions...
April 17, 2020, 3:27 PM · Even in Bach's autograph ms of the S&Ps, it is often difficult to tell which notes are contained within the slur. And, there does not always seem to be a lot of consistency. So, the slurs in any urtext of the S&Ps are questionable. With regard to the Cello Suites where there is no autograph ms, we are in difficult territory concerning bowings. The various copies from which the urtext is compiled tend to disagree, so good luck!

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