R A T H E R C R I T I C A L E D I T I O N S
There are three main categories to describe published compositions: a “Critical Edition” of a work intends to reproduce the original intention of the composer. Sometimes called an “Urtext Edition,” these versions combine original scores with historical performance practices. A second category, an “Interpretive Edition,” offers the editor’s personal opinion on how to perform the work. Changes include alterations to volume, tempo, articulation, and occasionally form. The final category describes a new editorial position: the “Rather Critical Edition.”
A Rather Critical Edition differs from its siblings in that intent is inconsequential to the content of the composer. Furthermore, the changes of volume, tempo, articulation, form, color, density, etc. are made not because of my personal desires or opinions about the work, but because the presentation of the content is inherently flawed. Such perversion results from a composer’s inability to articulate the most efficient delivery of content (due to incompetence of intellect or technology), or from the distortion of Interpretive Editions that have weaseled their way into historical performance practices.
Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5 is an excellent candidate for a Rather Critical Edition: it is performed extremely often, and it is performed poorly extremely often. The Symphony is restricted by the composer’s inability to articulate necessary themes and his limited technology, paired with a persistent and masturbatory interpretation involving a fictionalized “fate” theme which has echoed since the first days of Bernstein.
I’ve yet to find a recording which does not rush the opening figure, and no conductor offers his or her orchestra with guidance beyond “fate, passion, and romantic exhilaration.” No orchestra obeys the inherent rhythmic theme. No piccolo has played the last chord in tune. Theory professors mistakenly titrate the four movements into “four-note motives,” but fail to account for any vestigial content. Their analysis reads like program notes for the retirement homes, pooling over Beethoven’s letters rather than the music before them. My edition of Symphony no. 5 rectifies these changes. The engraving is precise. The form is seamless. The orchestra is efficient. Most importantly, the content flourishes.
If publishers flood their stock with Urtext, then I choose to offer this Ubertext. It is an edition that is critical of Critical Editions-- awfully critical, perhaps overly critical, but certainly Rather Critical.
upcoming rather critical editions.