Early Editions of Violin Etudes

Edited: August 25, 2020, 10:01 AM · One area I’ve been interested in over the past couple of months is looking at early/original editions of some of the well-known violin Etudes (Fiorillo, Kreutzer, Rode etc). When I studied etudes as a teenager and young adult, I was very much taught using the famous editions of the famous teachers; most of my editions were edited by Galamian. Having the fingerings and the markings of teachers such as Galamian is incredibly valuable to the student violinist; in some respects we are having a ‘lesson’ from the masters of the 20th century. However if we play off these editions as if they are the authoritative way of playing these 18th century studies, are we perhaps losing touch with the composer’s original writing? We as violinists are used to using an Urtext edition of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas, yet will probably not think twice about using a heavily edited edition of Kreutzer, Rode etc.

Luckily many of these early editions are available on IMSLP. I was particularly amazed at Kreutzer 1 (I’ve linked the early edition below). Looking at an early edition compared to the Galamian, the player has much greater rhythmic flexibility in the scalic passages. The notation is completely different, and the end result in ‘performance’ would be very different.

http://conquest.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/9/9d/IMSLP407296-PMLP04613-kreutzer_40_etudes_1805_bsb.pdf

I recorded Fiorillo Etude no.1 from probably the first published edition. There are no dots, accents, dynamics in the score – and I think the result was something completely different to that which I might have produced with one of the better known early 20th century editions. The value of editors’/teachers’ markings such as Galamian are of great important to the violinist. However if we want to produce our own musical interpretation of these miniatures are we better off looking at the older editions with greater attention?

Federigo Fiorillo Etude 1
James Woodrow - Violin
Home recording 02/08/2020

Replies (10)

Edited: August 25, 2020, 11:13 PM · I like your Fiorillo! I looked at an early edition of the Rode etudes (1819) and the metronome markings reference the metronome made by Johann Nepomuk Maelzel, an inventor who worked with Beethoven.

I have a old copy of L.J. Meerts Mechanics of the Violin from 1915 (Schirmer edition) from 1915. I’m finding it fairly helpful so far (it has a second violin accompaniment too). My copy was owned by the Ukrainian-American violinist, Louis Krasner, who premiered the Schoenberg and Berg concertos. It looks he used these studies when he was a student at New England Conservatory (circa 1921).

August 27, 2020, 4:56 AM · Thanks. Interesting Rode took up the use of the metronome as quick as Beethoven.
August 27, 2020, 6:06 AM · Nice playing Mr. Woodrow.
August 27, 2020, 8:08 AM · good idea and good playing
August 29, 2020, 5:38 PM · Thanks!
August 29, 2020, 5:54 PM · I enjoyed your Fiorillo even though the piece itself is utterly unmusical. No. 28 is probably the most often-played one.

Do you think it's possible that the more modern editions (Galamian, etc.) might reflect an evolution in the currently-accepted style of (or approach to) violin-playing since these studies were first introduced?

August 30, 2020, 9:06 AM · On the contrary, I think they are very musical, and I hear opera scenes and stage music. I think we tend forget the Baroque capriccio tradition that these etudes/caprices come from. We can play them as boring etudes or brilliant caprices.

The modern editions are certainly a treasure trove of Romantic, 20th-c, or today's performance practice. In performing these etudes from their 1st editions (in our practices, lessons, teaching studios etc.), the absence of markings does not equate the absence of shapes and phrasing. I also find these fingerings fascinating -- the fingering in 6 measures before Allegro is surely some hint for portamento.

Edited: August 30, 2020, 9:50 AM · Paul - Yes, I think most teachers are teaching technical studies with Galamian very much in mind; nothing wrong with that as he was obviously one of the great all time teachers. What I feel the purpose of my little project was, is doing the same process for a technical etude that the vast majority of violinists would already do with,say,Bach - either looking at an Urtext or an original manuscript which results in the performer doing much more of the decision making.

Dorian - Agree. Yes I followed the original fingering and that little portamento just happened naturally. I'm sure there was much more portamento in the 18th and 19th centuries than a lot of players are comfortable with now.

August 30, 2020, 12:38 PM · First published editions can be just as valuable as the manuscript or Ur-text. One could argue that the definitive versions would be the actual parts from a premiere performance, with the penciled-in notations of the players and conductors.
I have a very interesting version of the Bach S.&P. set; reprint of the Simrock first edition, edited by Sol Babitz, probably out of print.
August 30, 2020, 3:18 PM · Yes, I agree with Dorian that it is a very musical etude, but one must imagine the "orchestration"/accompaniment in one's head to make it work (even much more than with Bach's Solo works.) Its purpose is that it should be played in an interesting, musical manner.

I miss my Fiorillo student days (though my playing from those times, not as much.)

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