Sheet Music Review
Published in 1784, Mozart’s Sonata in A major, with its famous Rondo Alla Turca finale, is one of the most popular works in the entire classical piano repertoire. Now, a newly resurfaced section of the autograph has prompted Bärenreiter to issue an up-to-date Urtext edition of this celebrated piece.
According to the publishers,
“The editor, Mario Aschauer, has set new editorial standards and offers the most innovative methodological approach of our time. His scholarly-critical performance edition is the only one to remain entirely true to the sources by presenting the musical text of the autograph and the original print separately.”
Mario Aschauer’s in-depth Preface includes a very well written account of the genesis and sources of K331.
Aschauer demonstrates that the Sonata was certainly written prior to February 1784, and probably the previous year, as a vehicle for Mozart’s own playing and teaching. 1783 was the centenary year of the 1683 Second Siege of Vienna by the Turks, which also gives context to the famous Rondo alla Turca finale to the Sonata.
However, it was only published in June 1784, along with the Sonata in C major K330 and Sonata in F major K332. Together they appeared as Mozart’s “Op.6”, in a first edition published by Artaria. This edition is the primary source for most of the modern editions of the piece, along with the fragment of the Rondo alla Turca which survives in original manuscript form.
It’s important to note that several months, perhaps more than a year, elapsed between the manuscript and the First Edition.
Early in 2014 Dr. Balázs Mikusi, director of the collection of the Széchényi National Library in Budapest, identified another fragment of the original manuscript which includes bb.55-134 of the opening Andante grazioso (i.e. variation 3 onwards), the Menuetto and start of the Trio.
Mario Aschauer takes the view that both versions – the First Edition and the original manuscript, offer authentic versions of the work which should be assessed and evaluated on their own terms. As Bärenreiter explain:
“Both forms of the sonata are historically legitimate; the editor has not merged the sources to produce a new text.”
What we have here then, in essence, is the full version of the Sonata for performance purposes, based on the first edition, followed by the extant sections of the original manuscript reproduced in their own right as an appendix. This provides a source of additional insight into the composer’s intentions.
In reviewing the publication, two questions thus present themselves:
Firstly, how does Bärenreiter’s version of the complete Sonata, based on the first edition, compare to editions published by others?
Secondly – the big question – to what extent does the freshly unearthed manuscript as presented here diverge from the first edition that has been the basis of modern editions?
As Mario Aschauer notes,
“For around half of Mozart’s 18 completed Sonatas known today the first editions diverge from the autographs in various ways…”
I will be answering both questions shortly, but first let’s cover a few basics about the publication itself.
Having not reviewed a Bärenreiter Urtext publication here before, I should start by saying that this is a publisher who take pride in achieving the highest standards in all their publications. In their own words:
“Bärenreiter Urtext is a seal of quality assigned only to scholarly-critical editions. It guarantees that the musical text represents the current state of research prepared in accordance with clearly defined editorial guidelines.
Bärenreiter Urtext: the last word in authentic text – the musicians’ choice.”
This is not mere hyperbole – every aspect of this publication oozes class. from the high-quality soft-touch cover (with a subtly larger format than other publishers), through the spacious and crystal-clear music and text engraving, to the gorgeous cream paper, and no-expense-spared priority given to generous critical commentary, editorial notes, preface and footnotes.
The Preface appears in both German and English, and includes four pages of fascinating and highly readable information about the work’s provenance, background and the sources. This is followed by four pages offering advice on historically appropriate performance practice; this is highly informative, brilliantly written and clearly argued, adding considerable value to this Edition over many of the Urtext alternatives.
Happily, this also includes a facsimile of the Menuetto in Mozart’s hand, reproduced from the autograph manuscript itself.
The Sonata in A major K331 follows, in the complete performance version based on the first edition of Artaria, 1784. The music notation seems very spacious here, although a close comparison with the old Henle Urtext version (HN2) which I am used to playing from revealed that the pagination is identical between the two. The notation in the Bärenreiter is very slightly smaller, adding to the sense of space, and actually leading to a cleaner impact on the page. And, important to note, Bärenreiter do not include suggested fingerings, leaving these to the performer, which also lends the notation a less cluttered look.
There follows the Urtext edition of the original manuscripts, including from Variation 3 of the Andante grazioso until the ned of the movement, the complete Menuetto and first ten bars of the Trio, and from bar 58 to the end of the Rondo Alla Turca. And completing the book, there are a further three pages of Critical Commentary (although there are also ample footnotes included alongside the musical text as well).
Having considered all the above, readers may be stunned to learn that the Bärenreiter Urtext edition currently has a suggested retail price of just £6.50.
Compare & Contrast
Returning to my first question – how does the new Bärenreiter Urtext edition compare to others – and using my trusted Henle Urtext as comparison, one would not expect any major divergence between two such esteemed publishers, especially given that both use Artaria for their primary source.
There are a few surprises however. To start with, both editions include additional editorial directions in brackets (in order to properly distinguish them from authentic notation markings). And inevitably, the respective editors have made some different recommendations. Beyond that, however, there are a minor editing differences, which I found most interesting. Happily again, the Artaria edition is available online for reference.
The first point I spotted is that the dynamic markings in the Andante grazioso differ even within the first eight bar statement of the Theme. Both editions correctly offer the dynamics Mozart seems to have intended, but when it comes to brackets they differ about what is considered editorial, and what is in the authentic first edition itself. In this instance, the Bärenreiter is the accurate edition.
More interestingly, Bärenreiter include some staccato wedges in the LH, bar 26, which aren’t in Henle, and which so far as I can see aren’t in the Artaria source either.
One could of course continue such an analysis in great detail, but I think it sufficient to say that overall – and while the old Henle Urtext is an excellent edition – I feel far more confident in the scholarship of the new Bärenreiter Urtext edition, and it absolutely reflects the very best editing practices of today.
All that said, Henle have recently themselves published a revised edition of K331 which takes account of the rediscovered autograph. Their new edition differs from the Bärenreiter in that it is a composite, presenting only a single version of the piece, and with differences between the autograph and first edition simply mentioned in the footnotes (in itself, a good approach).
But it’s those differences which are perhaps the most interesting here. What fresh light is shed on the work by this important rediscovery?
By presenting the Urtext Edition of the original manuscript extracts separately as an appendix, Bärenreiter have very helpfully given us the means to compare, and gain insight into Mozart’s use of notation, the subsequent process of Artaria’s editorial and publication, and – in some cases at least – how we might approach interpreting and performing this extraordinary work.
As an example of the latter, how fascinating to find that in the third variation of the Andante grazioso, Mozart does not himself slur the octave repeat of the melody, which players have so struggled to smoothly realise in the intervening centuries. And this despite the fact that Mozart clearly slurs the previous statement of the figure (not in octaves), and the LH alberti bass is slurred throughout.
- Did Mozart feel that slurred octaves were too much to ask for?
- Did he perhaps want a contrast in the phrasing (as is subsequently implied in bars 71-72)?
- Or was he merely using shorthand, and saving ink?
A close comparison suggests that Artaria was perhaps a much more accurate engraver than might be expected, given Haydn’s contemporary suggestion elsewhere – “It is always painful to me that not a single work of mine that you have published is free of errors”, said Haydn, in a letter to Artaria dated 5 July 1789, and cited in Mario Aschauer’s Preface here.
That said, the rediscovered autograph has provided authoritative corrections to a few misprints which have been historically repeated throughout previous editions, such as the incorrect rhythm in bars 95-6 of the first movement. For those who know the piece well, such corrections may come as a surprise!
While there are relatively few surprises in terms of alternative pitches or rhythm, differences in the details of articulation, dynamics, grace notes and beaming are more widespread, and no less fascinating.
I would certainly suggest that anyone planning to perform this Sonata would be wise to acquire the new Bärenreiter Urtext edition for their study and preparation.
You will have guessed by this point that during the process of reviewing the new Bärenreiter Urtext edition of K331, I found myself being tempted down several rabbit holes in terms of research. I recommend that you too succumb, especially if you teach the work or are planning to include it in a recital or diploma programme.
Unless the absence of fingering suggestions is a deal-breaker, I think that the Bärenreiter Urtext edition of Mozart’s K.331 is now the one to own and use. With its painstaking research, outstanding commentary and background information, and above all by presenting both versions of the work, Mario Aschauer’s edition is a singular achievement.
For all students and performers of Mozart’s music, this is a priority purchase, recommended without reservation.
Further information and sample pages: