Errors in Kenneth Gilbert's edition of F. Couperin pieces

Back in the 1970’s this Heugel edition (in 4 volumes) was hailed as a milestone.
(In spite of K.Gilbert’s scholarship being marred by the poor quality of the printing and binding, not to mention their preposterous sale price).
What I had hardly realised at the time is that this edition has quite a few errors: at this stage I estimate something like one error every 2 or 3 pieces!

I found some of these errors while preparing my baroque-fingered edition: I have my fingerings pencilled down in my copy of the KG edition, and I insert them into scans of the Chrysander 1888 edition. Whenever I spot a difference, I check with Couperin’s original editions. Some errors are indeed in Chrysander, but others are in KG!

Unfortunately, this procedure spots only some of the errors (those where Chrysander and Gilbert differ), and only in the pieces I have fingered. I estimate that my list of errors in KG is incomplete (about 1/3rd of the total). Once my edition is finished, I will gladly post here a document with it.

Since many harpsichordists still use the KGilbert edition, they will find very useful to have a complete Errata list. Unfortunately, I have been unabled to find any such a thing online.

If, as I fear, such an Errata does not exist, I am ready to go through all my fingered pieces (more than 50% of the total), and perform a full revision and complete Errata list of KGilbert’s ed., provided somebody else does the same for the remaining pieces (I am ready to prepare a full list).

Any takers? :slight_smile:

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To do the work you only need a printed copy of Heugel’s edition. The original editions by F. Couperin can be downloaded for free from IMSLP.

There are quite some mistakes in KG’s Scarlatti edition as well, especially in the first volume. As for Couperin: I prefer Chrysander. Looks much better and seems more reliable. In case of doubt I check the original edition, which is also not without some ambiguities.



You are right, Pieter, Scarlatti’s KG also has errors. Which is not surprising: Gilbert produced this “in a hurry”, as attested decades ago personally to me by his friend Hubert Bëdard, who was not happy with this way of working.

Back to the F.Couperin edition, having collated Chrysander and Gilbert for about 50% of the total, I find Gilbert preferable for the following reasons:

  1. Heugel printing may not be stellar, but is more legible than Chrysander (of which I once had original printings and now have the excellent hi-res-scan Dover reprint).

  2. Chrysander converted all the straight and square slurs in Couperin onto the modern curved slurs: Gilbert reproduced Couperin’s originals.

  3. Chrysander often changed the beams: Gilbert reproduced the originals.

  4. I estimate that Chrysander has about twice the errors than Gilbert.

5. Whenever Rondeaux had to be repeated identically, Couperin marked this with signs (e.g. “Rxx”). Gilbert wrote always “D.C:”. Chrysander instead reprinted the Rondeau each time.

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Given the popularity of Chrysander, perhaps I should aim at TWO lists!

Errors in K.Gilbert

Errors in Chrysander

I keep my promise of doing about 50% of the work, provided somebody else agrees to do the rest! :slight_smile:

There is a new edition of Couperin by Barenreiter. I do not have it, but would it not have corrections such as you have mentioned? Why the need to correct the other two editions? Of course, nobody gets everything right, but I would have thought the Barenreiter new edition would be fairly good. No?

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Le 24/04/2023 14:18, Claudio Di Veroli via The Jackrail écrit :

Given the popularity of Chrysander, perhaps I should aim at TWO lists!

Errors in K.Gilbert

Errors in Chrysander

The worst aspect of the Heugel edition, in my opinion, is the numerous
page turns. Some pieces (Les Amusemens) have six page turns in Heugel,
compared to zero in the original edition. Which is why many
harpsichordists, including myself, prefer to play from the facsimile. So
the most interesting list for us would be “errors (and ambiguities) in
the original edition” (taking into account the different reprints). I’m
lucky to own a copy of the superb Broude facsimile edited by… Kenneth
Gilbert. The Bärenreiter edition is much better, page-turn-wise, but has
its own issues.

I worked for years with Kenneth Gilbert, and know that he himself had a
list of errors in his editions.

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Could you elaborate?

The new Baerenreiter is excellent. Denis Herlin has exhaustively collated the numerous changes and corrections Couperin himself seems to have made between almost every printing of each volume. It seems clear from Herlin’s notes that Couperin kept on finding details that needed to be added and sometimes deleted. So just looking at IMSLP at one particular printing of the original may not be the “last word”.

Le 25/04/2023 11:04, Andrew Bernard via The Jackrail écrit :

Could you elaborate?

A thorough review of this edition would require pages and pages. Others
have mentioned its many qualities. I’ll point out a few of its shortcomings.

  1. This is a “modern” edition, but it doesn’t use conventional modern
    notation. In some aspects, it’s closer to a diplomatic transcription of
    Couperin’s idiosyncratic notation. Just one example: it doesn’t use any
    of the three modern repeat signs we find in Gilbert’s edition (:expressionless:

: :||:), but Couperin’s ambiguous sign, without any comment in the
preface or critical notes as to what it means: repeat what precedes,
repeat what follows, repeat both what precedes and what follows? In many
cases it’s fairly obvious. Still, it’s strange that a critical edition
doesn’t even mention the fact that it uses non-standard notation. Nor
does the edition raise (let alone answer) the question of repeats in the
rondeaux: should the rondeau be played twice after each couplet, or only
twice the first time.

  1. Page turns: as I wrote, this edition is much better than Heugel. But
    still… the Preface says there are only two page turns in the first
    book, one in La Garnier and one in Les Agrémens. But if one plays the
    latter piece, there are actually three page turns and not one. And two
    of them are particulary absurd, since in the first measure after the
    turn one has to turn back for the Petite Reprise, and then turn again.
    (Of course, no page turns at all in the original edition.)

  2. Sources: there were many reprints of the first two books, and there
    are long lists of textual corrections that have absolutely no musical
    significance, since they concern mostly accents (or punctuation). On the
    other hand, the main secondary source is a manuscript copy of the
    edition by Pingré dated “after 1742”. Many of the Bärenreiter
    corrections are taken from this manuscript whose authority I fail to see.

  3. This is in my opinion the major drawback for those who don’t read
    French. There are incomprehensible blunders in the English translation.
    Just one example. Denis Herlin mentions the fact that Couperin uses
    “quintuples croches” (i.e. 128th notes, or quasihemidemisemiquavers
    (!))*. These become “quintuplet eighth-notes”. There are many other
    inconsistencies and mistakes. Couperin’s “tremblement appuyé et lié” is
    translated as “trill tied to the previous note” in Book I and then
    “extended trill beginning on the note tied to the previous note” in Book
    II. Both are wrong. And I don’t have Book III. The word “Renvoi” is
    translated three or four different ways (in an identical context), and
    then sometimes simply omitted. Likewise, “coulé” can be “flowingly”,
    “slidingly” (??), “in the manner of a portamento”. Some of Couperin’s
    indications become very hard to understand: “Repetition of the first
    repeat, without repeat sign” (???). “La seconde notte de chaque tems
    doit être plus appuyée”: “the second eighth-note of each quarter-note
    beat should be played more crisply”. And then, I won’t mention the
    thorny subject of the titles. Most of them are impossible to translate.
    They are nevertheless translated, often very unsatisfactorily. It would
    have been preferable to have explanations and comments (in both French
    and English) on the obscure titles.

  • Couperin even uses 256th notes in /L’Art de toucher le clavecin/

Thank you Dennis for your very thorough review of the Bärenreiter edition!

Needless to say, had I the money and time to spare, I would get it just to have fun collating it with my own good-old-annotated-fingered-whatsoever Heugel.