I have previously praised Jean-Pierre Bartoli’s new scholarly-critical performing editions of Fauré’s piano music from Bärenreiter, reviewing the Pavane Op.50 and the Five Impromptus when they appeared.
The latest arrival in this growing series is a new edition of the Trois Romances sans paroles, which like its predecessors is based on the musical text from Bärenreiter’s Oeuvres Complètes de Gabriel Fauré edition of 2020.
These pieces are wonderful Romantic piano miniatures, accessible to players at advanced level around UK Grade 8, so let’s consider this new addition to the Pianodao Music Library…
The year 2023 marks the 100th Anniversary of the hugely respected publishing house Bärenreiter, and they certainly aren’t missing the opportunity to celebrate!
The company published its first song sheets in Augsburg in 1923, and was officially founded by Karl Vötterle in 1924. Today, Bärenreiter is one of the largest music publishers worldwide, but remains a family business managed by the daughter of the founder, Barbara Scheuch-Vötterle, her husband Leonhard Scheuch, and their son Clemens Scheuch.
With scholarly-critical complete editions of the works of Bach, Handel, Mozart, Schubert and many other great composers from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods, the publisher has consolidated a growing international reputation since the 1950s, their scores enthusiastically endorsed by many of the world’s leading performers.
Today, Bärenreiter Urtext editions regarded as a gold standard by musicologists, and welcomed by students and music lovers on every continent.
To celebrate this milestone in their company’s history, Bärenreiter have released a series of “Jubilee editions at Jubilee prices”, including seven piano scores which I will look at below. They have also launched a Jubilee website packed with behind-the-scenes insight into the history of this most revered publishing house, which is well worth an extended visit.
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…