The diverging sources conundrum

The first source for this problem I know of is Franz Kroll discussing the BG edition of Bach’s works (1860s). Let me state it a very systematic way.
Sometimes we have different sources for the same piece, and one of them has a difference.
Here many possibilities are open:
A) A common occurrence is that the diverging source is obviously in error.
B) However, sometimes there is an obvious error in all the copies except the diverging one.
C) Sometimes, e.g. in the WTC, when Bach revised the same autograph over the years, while his students were making copies of its different stages, we find that an error is found in many sources (i.e. a copyist made an error, and others copied the error!), until only the final version of the composer’s MS has the error corrected. Bach was able to spot an error that none of his copyists was able to. We have therefore a variant of case B) above: here the diverging source is proven to be the correct one.
D) Alas, very common also is to have different sources with no way of knowing which was what the composer intended. We have found this in today’s discussion of L.Couperin’s harpsichord pieces. Some editors prefer a “clean” copy of one of the sources, correcting only the few and very obvious errors. Other editors prefer to add to it also, between brackets, suggested variants from other sources (typically missing ornaments). This requires a skilful hand, to avoid two common opposite pitfalls (we have seen examples of both in our L.Couperin discussion):
D1) Suggesting in the score something that, however stylish, in no way can be attributed to the composer (Dennis noted this about Curtis’s “ribattuta” for L.Couperin Pavane).
D2) For the sake of faithfulness" to the preferred source, to omit a correction from the other source. We have seen the case when an ornament is found only in one source, yet by comparison with other passages of the piece this is an obvious omission in the other source(s): the editor should indeed suggest this ornament, in my opinion.

I am sure most of us are familiar with many examples of all the situations above.

As for music, maybe, but the problem you describe was hugely known from the XV century, from the Humanists’ editions of the Latin and Greek classics (Lorenzo Valla, Poliziano and many others).

I agree for the most part with Claudio’s post. As for editorial technique, I guess we all agree “errors” are to be corrected in a critical edition. But what is an “error”? An error is not a grammar or syntax or harmony error according to current or past grammar, syntax or harmony rule. The author could (and in fact often this happens) break the rule for artistical purposes or just by ignorance, and in those case we are not allowed to correct him. This is what Longo did in his Scarlatti edition. An error is “a reading probably or surely not meant by the author” (I quote the definition of error in philology). Thus it is an innovation brought in by a copyist.

Here I don’t agree with Claudio anymore. In my opinion, ornaments should strictly follow the autograph or authorized print, or kept to a minimum if such privileged sources do not exist. This way there is less probability to go beyond the author’s intention. Sure, as Claudio suggests, putting more ornaments, editorial or from discarded sources, could be of help to the non-specialist player, or better to the player who doesn’t want to be bothered reading the introduction. But it would be a very very little help: he may not miss some ornaments here and there, but he will still play them the same way each performance; and he would still not variate refrains in a stylish way; and he would still not have a clue of the tempo, or of the articulation; and he would still not add a petite reprise where appropriate; and he would still not play with an appropriate degree of rubato; and he would still not play inégales where appropriate; and so on: dotting/overdotting, octaves, and a million things Claudio has extensively written about.
So I ask (rhetorically): is it worth risking to go beyond the author’s intention just to give the player a little help on just one out a million things needed for a good and stylish execution?
A score can’t possibly substitute a thorough knowledge of how that score should be played.

(just my opinion)


Of course I agree, Domenico: it is not worth risking as you say. However, when those additions, like in the case of the Parville MS, may well reflect what the author would have given to the press, then the matter is different, and in my opinion worth including between parentheses. This is after all what the great German printing houses do with their renowned Bach editions.

Edit: Oh, and by the way, precisely in the case of Bach there is a good counter-example of when NOT to add ornaments. I have encountered more than once (do not remember exactly, should search …) a few pieces by Bach that are extant in different sources, and some editors found in a single source lots of ornaments which were added between parentheses. “Precisely what Claudio wishes!”, you will say. Not at all! These “minority source” ornaments appear to be in a very different style, hardly ever found in Bach, whether MS or publications, and reflect a different taste. I disregard those ornaments.

Le 04/08/2022 13:25, Domenico Statuto via The Jackrail écrit :

So I ask (rhetorically): is it worth risking to go beyond the author’s
intention just to give the player a little help on just one out a
million things needed for a good and stylish execution?

Certainly, missing ornaments, however necessary they might be, cannot be
considered as an “error”, contrary to what Claudio writes. Adding
implied ornaments is on the same level as writing out notes inégales,
complicated ornaments, or anything else in performance that diverges
from the apparent notation. Or fingerings. Some consider them helpful
for the performer. Others, including myself, a nuisance. The problem is
that ignoring editorial suggestions (fingerings, ornaments) makes sight
reading more difficult.

Oh yes, fingerings.
They are a nuisance for me as well. Putting one’s own fingering with a pencil, changing it and so on, is a good way to better understand the piece. Moreover, I never saw a fingering suitable for me. In the best cases they are good for pianists.
And, maybe more important: does a harpsichordist or a pianist need a printed fingering to play - say - Bach’s Partitas or Goldbergs or French ouverture? Or Scarlatti’s wildest sonatas? Really? A player has to be able to understand and solve a huge lot of interpretive and technical issues if he wants to play those compositions, and we believe he still needs someone else has to write down fingerings for him which he is not able to write? Come on, writing fingerings is something my teacher taught me when I was in my third year of piano.

To say nothing of ancient fingering. Frescobaldi, Greco, Storace and dozens of 16th and 17th centuries composers, especially (but not only) when played on the right harpsichord with the right keyboard, require fingerings which only seem “natural” when you are well acquainted with them. Does anybody seriously think it will be enough tu put the “right” fingering in order to be played by a non-informed player? He will not understand why a scale is fingered 3-4-3-4-3-4, how the hand shifts, how the longer finger overlaps the shorter and so on. And if he knows how to do all this, he just doesn’t need a written fingering anymore.
As always: you must know how to play if you want to play, and that means everything from the tempo to the fingerings, articulation and all.

“contrary to what Claudio writes”.
Here we come again!
Let us find any crack in Claudio’s armour in order to prove him wrong!
It has become a sort of obsession …

IMPLIED ORNAMENTS. I am not a lone defender of suggesting in the score the obvious implied ornaments: as I already said, this is often found in very well reviewed modern editions of Baroque music. Dennis and Domenico may not like them, but many others (reviewers included) do.

FINGERINGS. For decades now I have written and published extensively on the convenience (especially for playing 18th c. Baroque music using Baroque fingerings), of either writing down fingers or having properly fingered editions.
Again, Dennis and Domenico may not like fingered scores, but surely many others do like them: at the very least they surely include a few thousands (conservatoire teachers included) who find my Baroque-fingered editions worth having.

I was not speaking of your editions which indeed are more than worth having. I was speaking about the fingered editions in general.
Implied ornaments and fingerings are different issue. While I understand why different people would prefer including or excluding them - therefore making it an eminently personal subject - I confess I fail to see any reason for a fingered edition aimed to professional or semiprofessional of otherwise proficient players. I pointed some reasons why I believe the fingering in an edition is useless unless the edition is aimed to learning people in the first months of their musical formation, and I’d like to read some reasons proving the contrary. It’s not a matter of liking or not liking, just a matter of usefulness or uselessness. I could change my idea, just please tell me why I should.

Just to clarify: I do write down my fingerings extensively. As I mentioned, I think it is a good way for me to become well acquainted with the music and to think consciously to the required tempo and articulation. I am questioning fingered editions, i.e. fingerings by others.
As for the importance of Baroque fingering, I obviously agree, as I have written a whole paragraph on Frescobaldi fingering in one of my previous posts.

I understand your arguments, Domenico, and agree with most (not all) of them. My fingered scores have served, among other matters, to prove conclusively (beyond my individual playing) that all the keyboard work by Bach is fully playable with Baroque fingerings. In his milieu this was possible because every single musician played music composed in a familiar style and using the same technique. In today’s busy world most of us play lots of different music, requiring different approaches to the keyboard, do other day jobs to survive, and also we are requested to play to perfection.
Of course, players who are very proficient with Baroque technique and can read the score of advanced Baroque music finding on the spot a convenient Baroque-style fingering, will find printed fingers of scarcely any value. Yet it is not so for the many less advanced players.

You mention also the individuality of the fingering: this is important, of course, yet Baroque technique with its cross-fingerings often gives you no alternative, and it appears from some sources (L’Art de Toucher) that composers had often a “best fingering” in mind. Needless to say, in all my editions I openly state that readers should not feel forced to follow my fingerings, and that occasionally different fingerings may suit better their own hands.