The Pavane Op.50 by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) is blessed with one of the most delectable and beloved melodies ever composed, and was from the start one of its composer’s most popular works, exuding the spirit of Paris’s fêtes galantes at the turn of the century.
The piece was originally composed for orchestra in 1887, described by Fauré at the time as “carefully crafted but not otherwise important”. Before the end of the year, there followed a version for chorus and orchestra. Some three decades later, the iconic impresario Serge Diaghilev had it choreographed for his Ballets Russes, a sign of its continuing great popularity.
Many transcriptions of the Pavane have existed, including the solo piano version published in 1889 (the composer’s duet version was also advertised, but if it ever appeared it has sadly been lost).
Many simplified versions have and continue to appear, but for those wanting to explore the original version (most likely prepared by Fauré himself, who performed it several times and even recorded it for player piano), Bärenreiter have just issued a superb urtext edition, BA 11832, the subject of this short review…
The two books of Préludes by Claude Debussy (1862 -1918) are undoubtedly among the most important and popular piano compositions of the early twentieth century, and have exercised a truly seminal influence on the piano music of subsequent generations.
Published in 1910 and 1913 respectively, each book contains 12 pieces, each one of them an invitation to another unique, fully imagined world. In many ways a summation of Debussy’s extraordinarily vivid piano writing, these miniatures are self-contained miracles of sonority, impressionistic and colourific effect; they are equally a lesson in taut compositional clarity and structural genius.
Originally published by Durand, the Préludes are now available in various combinations and editions from most of the major publishing houses, including Henle Verlag, Wiener Urtext, Edition Peters, Schirmer, Alfred and Dover.
In this review I am looking at the new urtext edition by Thomas Kabisch, published by Bärenreiter in two volumes; both volumes are exemplary in their scholarship, also including helpful editorial fingering supplied by the pianist Martin Widmaier.
Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) lived a life of music, but it was in his mature phase that he created the most enduring of his masterpieces.
Works such as The Cunning Little Vixen, the orchestral Sinfonietta and Taras Bulba, the Glagolitic Mass, and two popular string quartets have ensured that Janáček’s reputation is now immortalised as one of the greatest ever Czech composers, and a leading figure in the narrative of European music in the early twentieth century.
Janáček composed for the piano throughout his career, from his younger days as a student in Leipzig through to Vzpomínka [Reminiscence], composed in his final year. However, his major published works date from between 1900-1912:
On an Overgrown Path (1900, 1908, 1911)
Sonata I. X. 1905 (1905) and
In the Mists (1912).
In this survey I will take a look at each of these works, followed by a recent compilation of Janáček’s less well-known solo piano music.
In all cases, I will be turning to the benchmark editions from Bärenreiter, which can be regarded as the authoritative performing versions.
Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was undoubtedly a towering giant among the pianist-composers of the nineteenth century, but the significance of his late piano pieces has been the subject of much debate.
On the one hand these works are considered heralds of the elderly Liszt’s waning inspiration; on the other, they are often praised as visionary pieces, stark in their radical simplicity, bold in their chromaticism and opaque relationship to the highly evolved tonal system of their time.
Dusting off some of these most remarkable compositions, a new edition by Michael Kube has recently been published by Bärenreiter, which deserves investigation by players, teachers and academics alike…
Reviewing the new Denis Herlin edition of the Second Livre of Pièces de Clavecin by François Couperin ‘le grand’ (1668-1733) when it was published by Bärenreiter back in 2019, I concluded:
Occasionally I receive for review a volume that is, quite simply, above any reproach. This is one such edition. For any harpsichord player, this must surely be an essential and immediate purchase; for pianists keen to explore this too-little-known keyboard repertoire, this new edition must also be the one to seek out and highly prize.
Here’s an interesting idea – and a superb collection of music!
German music publisher Bärenreiter have had offices in Prague since 1991, and have done more than any other publisher to champion Czech music.
For their new Expedition into Czech Piano Music collection they have worked with leading Czech pianist and educator Ivo Kahánek to produce a collection of 21 solo piano pieces composed from the 18th to 20th centuries, including representative music by 15 composers.
Though rather ambitiously billed as being for “early intermediate pianists” (and such definitions are always loose), I would suggest the pieces here would suit later intermediate to advanced players, from around UK Grades 4-8, several pieces having appeared in the higher grades.
“Of all the truly seminal composers in the evolution of the piano repertoire, Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) remains one of the less performed, his significance little understood, his extraordinary music too easily overlooked.”
How joyous, then, to see Jean-Pierre Bartoli’s new scholarly-critical performing edition of the 5 Impromptus from leading publisher Bärenreiter, based on the musical text from the corresponding volume of their Oeuvres complètes de Gabriel Fauré of 2020.
These ravishing treasures are suitable for the advanced performer at diploma level and above (the second Impromptu, and best known of the five, is presently included on ARSM, DipABRSM, ATCL and ALCM syllabi).
“By 1790, ‘without question the living composer most loved by young and old’ was not Haydn or Mozart but Leopold Koželuch.”
So writes Christopher Hogwood (quoting from Ernst Ludwig Gerber’s Historisch-Biographisches Lexicon der Tonkünstler, Leipzig, 1790) in his deftly compelling introduction to Bärenreiter’s new score Koželuch: Six Easy Sonatas, BA 11565.
This opening claim is not the only surprise in this excellent new publication, which is surely an essential purchase for anyone teaching intermediate pianists, and for players of all ages at this level. So let’s find out more…
Reviewing Modern Piano Studies by the acclaimed Czech pianist, teacher and composer Jakub Metelka back in 2019 I concluded:
“Above all, Jakub Metelka’s Modern Piano Studies offers a set of fun little pieces which marry the benefits of piano studies to the delights of musically engaging bonbons suitable for informal performance and student recitals… I suspect that teachers who try this book with a single student will soon find themselves returning to it with others, and that it will quietly establish itself as an essential studio favourite.”
It is no surprise that Modern Piano Studies has become an international bestseller, and as a follow-up Bärenreiter have now also published his collection Little Virtuoso, which earlier received the Bronze Medal at the Global Music Awards in 2017.
Bärenreiter’s new urtext edition of Beethoven’s beloved Bagatelle is one of the most unexpectedly fascinating publications to arrive in a while, offering as it does a radically different version of the piece alongside the one we know so well.
Believed to have been composed between 1808-10, the autograph manuscript of Für Elise remained in private hands until 1865, at which point one Ludwig Nohl discovered it in the possession of a local piano teacher in Munich. Nohl published this version (we’ll call it “Version 1”) in 1867, and it’s the one we all play to this day. It’s really not bad.
How surprising to learn, then, that in 1822/3 Beethoven went back and revisited his earlier sketch, substantially revising it for publication within a planned (but unrealised) collection of 12 Bagatelles. Version 2.0.
Those sketches survive, and for Bärenreiter’s new edition Mario Aschauer presents not only the most authoritative text of Version 1, but also includes his fully performable completion of Version 2.
The review below includes Aschauer’s own recording of Version 2, so you can hear it for yourself and make up your own mind. Be prepared for a bit of a shock, though; right from the start, Beethoven’s revised version is very different to that which we know…
In early 1819, the well-known composer and music publisher Anton Diabelli (1781-1858), sent a 32-bar waltz to the most reputable composers of the Austrian Empire, together with an invitation to submit their variations for publication as a collaborative collection.
Among those who responded to the call were Czerny, Hummel, Moscheles, Schubert, and the eleven-year-old Franz Liszt, and from their contributions Diabelli was able to assemble a set of 50 Variations on his theme.
We only know for sure of one composer who explicitly declined Diabelli’s invitation to collaborate: Beethoven. It remains unclear why he did not want to participate directly, but he nevertheless composed his own monumental set of 33 Variations, not directly for Diabelli but exploring alternative avenues of publication.
Beethoven’s 33 Variations on a Waltz Op.120 quickly established itself not only as one of his most important keyboard works, but one of the pinnacle summits of the entire classical piano repertoire, entirely overshadowing the rest of the project.
Delivered for the recent Beethoven 250 anniversary year, Mario Aschauer’s landmark new scholarly performing edition of the Beethoven Diabelli Variations is an essential score for serious students of the work, published by Bärenreiter, BA 9657.
Perhaps even more interestingly however, Bärenreiter have also brought us their edition BA 9656, which includes Beethoven’s masterpiece together with Aschauer’s new edition of the 50 Variations on a Waltz composed by his contemporaries in response to Diabelli’s call.
Let’s take a closer look at this ambitious and exciting publication…
“I am grateful that this beautifully presented edition of the Fantasy Sonata has given me a fresh opportunity to explore such a magnificent work – and with this Bärenreiter edition to hand, it becomes still more enticing. The Fantasy Sonata must surely be among Schubert’s greatest piano works, and one of the more accessible of the later Sonatas. And whether for studying or performing this masterpiece, this new edition from Bärenreiter is undoubtedly the one to own!”
Now that edition reappears as the opening work in Volume III of Bärenreiter’s complete Schubert Sonatas edition, in which is is joined by the great Sonatas in C minor, A major and B flat major, D 958, 959 and 960 respectively, surely three of the most hallowed pieces in the entire classical piano repertoire.
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.
A couple of years ago, a newly resurfaced section of the lost autograph prompted Bärenreiter to issue an up-to-date Urtext edition of this celebrated piece, which appeared as edition BA 9186.
Now, another source has surfaced with the appearance of a previously unknown contemporaneous copy of the complete manuscript, which has prompted the esteemed publisher to update their urtext edition again.
The newly discovered source by a professional Viennese copyist sheds new light on the numerous discrepancies between autographs and first editions of many Mozart sonatas. It supports the assumption that the revision of the text for the first edition resulted from the change of target group from Mozart’s inner circle to an audience of connoisseurs and amateurs, but that this did not render the original autograph text obsolete; rather, both versions of the sonata represent historical realities.
According to the publishers,
“To achieve a truly faithful scholarly-critical performance edition of Mozart’s sonata, the editor, Mario Aschauer, has set new editorial standards and offers the most innovative methodological approach of our time by presenting the musical texts of the autograph and the original print separately without merging the sources editorially to a new text. On the basis of the newly discovered source, it is possible for the first time to reconstruct the autograph of this famous sonata and offer it to the performer as a self-contained playable version.”
As publishers prepare for the 250th Anniversary of the birth of Beethoven, several have been revisiting his Piano Sonatas, a steady flow of which have been arriving for review over recent months.
First to deliver their new version of the complete cycle are Bärenreiter, whose edition of all 35 Sonatas (including the three early Sonatas WoO 47) is now complete and available in a variety of formats.
An epic achievement, this new edition has already won the hearts and minds of some of the world’s greatest Beethoven interpreters; those giving glowing endorsements include Marc-André Hamelin, Angela Hewitt, Stephen Hough, Robert Levin, Leslie Howard and Igor Levit (whose recording of the cycle I recently reviewed here).
To quote Paul Badura-Skoda:
“Jonathan Del Mar’s Beethoven edition is unparalleled in terms of its precision. What I value most about it is the use of lesser-known or previously unknown sources, the commentary, which is the most extensive to date, and the discussion of problematic sections. I wholeheartedly recommend this new edition of Beethoven piano sonatas.”
“…the wellspring of all the pianistic innovations which have been thought to be found in my work.”
So said composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) of his breakthrough composition Jeux d’Eau, completed on November 11th, 1901 and dedicated to his teacher Gabriel Fauré. As such, the work is surely a milestone not only in Ravel’s compositional development, but also in that of the classical piano repertoire.
In this post I will consider the genesis and significance of Jeux d’Eau before taking a look at Nicolas Southon’s brand new urtext edition of the piece, with fingering and notes on the interpretation by concert pianist Alexandre Tharaud, recently published by Bärenreiter.
Jakub Metelka’s Modern Piano Studies is an educationally useful and thoughtfully produced collection of 30 miniature pieces which address aspects both of technique and notation-reading at upper intermediate level.
The book is certainly novel, and may have what it takes to establish itself as a contemporary classic in the pedagogy literature…
Otilie Suková was the daughter of Antonín Dvořák and the wife of Josef Suk. A gifted musician, she played the piano and wrote several compositions of her own, inspired by her musical surroundings. Four of her piano pieces have survived; three were published in her lifetime, a fourth ‘To Dear Daddy’ has never previously been published.
Now Bärenreiter have produced a typically gorgeous urtext edition of the four pieces, edited by Eva Prchalová.
I’ve been playing them, and they are lovely. Here’s my review…
François Couperin ‘le grand’ (1668-1733) was undoubtedly one of the great keyboard composers. His seminal influence is not only evident in the music of later French composers from Rameau to Ravel, but as an antecedent finds echoes in Chopin’s piano miniatures and even perhaps (by way of Creole migrants) the rhythms of New Orleans Jazz.
And yet his music remains too little known, and too rarely performed. But now we have an even better chance to explore his glorious solo keyboard output, thanks to Bärenreiter’s recent publication of a stunning new edition of the Second Livre (1717) of Couperin’s Pièces de clavecin.
It’s fair to say that in the last three years or so I have received more sheet music by Bartók for review than any other composer, the renaissance of interest in publishing his works no doubt a result of the fact that they are no longer in copyright. Bartók is without doubt one of my very favourite composers, so in my book, this commitment to producing excellent new editions of his music is a great thing.
Latest to arrive, Bärenreiter’s Bartók: Easy Piano Pieces and Dances, which brings together miscellaneous pieces of easy to moderate difficulty (including many familiar favourites), is ideal for teaching purposes.
The Easy Piano Pieces and Dances series is one of the many highlights in the Bärenreiter catalogue, with nearly a couple of dozen great composers already given dedicated volumes suitable for the intermediate pianist. I have already given glowing reviews to the collections dedicated to Debussy (read the review) and Martinů (read the review here).
So let’s find out how the new Bartók volume compares …
Brahms’ vivacious Two Rhapsodies Op.79 of 1879 are among his most frequently performed and popular concert works.
The Rhapsody in G minor Op.79 No.2 is also a mainstay of the ABRSM piano diploma syllabus, where its gorgeous sweeping melody line makes it a popular choice with players.
Inevitably there are several printed scores on the market; ABRSM naturally promote their own, while many performers have tended to opt for the Henle Urtext edition.
Now Brahms expert Christian Köhn is presenting these popular pieces in an up-to-date new edition that remains faithful to the sources and reflects scholars’ latest findings. And according to publishers Bärenreiter,
“In addition to the informative Preface the edition offers enlightening details regarding performance practice of Brahms’ day. With a reader-friendly engraving, comfortable page turns including a fold-out page and fingering where required, the edition meets all the needs of today’s performers.”
The Music Book for Maria Anna “Nannerl” Mozart (compiled by Leopold Mozart in 1759) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s London Sketchbook (1764) are surely established at the very pinnacle of the pedagogic keyboard repertoire, their status secure alongside Bach’s Anna Magdalena Notebook, Schumann’s Album for the Young and Bartók’s For Children.
And yet, honestly, how many piano teachers are truly familiar with the contents of these collections, beyond the few favourites that are regularly cherry-picked for exam syllabi and educational repertoire collections? I’m certainly willing, if hardly happy, to plead guilty to the charge of somewhat overlooking this music.
But it turns out that there is a good reason why most of us don’t know these pedagogic collections inside out: while many selections of pieces from these notebooks are available elsewhere, most collections limit themselves to those written by Wolfgang Amadeus and, remarkably there isn’t a full published edition on the market.
Well thankfully Bärenreiter Urtext Edition are now rectifying this situation with a new complete publication based on the New Mozart Edition. According to the publishers,
“Until now the edition The Music Books of Mozart and his Sister has only been available as part of the boxed set of Mozart’s oeuvre for piano (BA 5749) which has gone out of print. Now for the first time, it can be purchased separately. Based on the New Mozart Edition, this is the only publication to contain all the pieces, sketches and fragments found in the notebooks. The Foreword by the great Mozart scholar Wolfgang Plath provides valuable information on the pieces themselves and on the question of their authorship; besides Mozart’s earliest juvenilia, some of which formed the basis of later compositions, the notebooks also contain works by Leopold Mozart and other composers.”
This sounds plausibly irresistible, but as always, we’ll take a closer look …
The Czech composer and teacher Emil Hradecký (b. 1953) has devoted much of his creative output to children and the piano. His pieces are frequently inspired by dance music and jazz, and are distinguished by their fresh melodies and distinctive rhythms.
Several of his collections are published here in the UK by Bärenreiter, including his Little Jazz Album for Piano, Jazz Etudes for Young Pianists and the duet collection Jazzy Pieces for 20 Fingers.
His latest collection is called Two-Part Piano Miniatures on One Page…
20th March 1989 is a date embedded in my memory, as it was on this evening that I attended one of the most magical classical piano recitals!
Although I was seated in the balcony, and towards the back of London’s Royal Festival Hall, I could just as well have been sat in the front row, such was the silent rapture of the audience. In semi darkness, lit by just one small lamp, the legendary Sviatoslav Richter quitly took to the stage and opened the recital with the hushed tones of a simple but fully-fleshed G major chord.
At this point in his career, Richter had given up announcing his programme – which didn’t stop tickets for his recitals from selling out within minutes of going on sale. But that opening chord was sufficient to announce to the pianophile audience that we were about to be served a very special musical treat:
Schubert’s magical “Fantasy Sonata” in G major, Op.78, D.894.
In Richter’s hands, this joyous work took on a new dimension – and not least because of his controversially slow interpretation of the first movement, lasting a full 25 minutes (compared to the more usual 15 – in Wilhelm Kempff’s recording this movement lasts just 10’54”, albeit omitting the repeats).
While I love Schubert’s Sonatas as a whole, the G major is perhaps even more dear to me than the others because of this much-treasured memory. So I was delighted when the brand new Bärenreiter Urtext edition dropped onto my door mat for review …
As many will know, pianists and classical music lovers are this year marking the centenary of Debussy’s death in 1918.
In a previous post I addressed the frequently asked question, “where to start?” exploring his piano works, suggesting Bärenreiter Edition’s Easy Pieces and Dances collection and their excellent urtext edition of the Preludes livre 1 as great entry points.
In this post I will look at a couple of Bärenreiter’s other Debussy editions – the two volumes of Images, but first Pour le piano. These are virtuoso concert works which qualify for the diploma and professional tag in terms of difficulty.