The fact that the winds first found their way into our catalogue in 1972 after a delay of two and half decades was already once before a topic of our blog. Typically enough, this happened with Beethoven’s Opus 16 (HN 222) – that odd hybrid work that’s come down to us as both a piano quartet with three strings and a piano quintet with four winds (as you can see from the cover of the first edition).
The piano and optional string parts in this work virtually formed in those days the bridge to the publishing house’s traditional repertoire. Following by now in its footsteps has been a whole host of editions for winds: from the baroque trio sonata down to the classical duo sonata via various mixed settings and the great solo concertos. Chamber music just for winds is rather seldom to be found among them, but more recently we have been able to offer complete for one composer this portion of his œuvre – and again it is: Beethoven!
It is, of course, no coincidence that within a few years we have managed here to go from “zero to a hundred”, but it is due to our efforts to get the music text of our scholarly complete editions out to the public as quickly as possible in practical editions. And so, following the 2007 presentation by Egon Voss of the volume Kammermusik mit Blasinstrumenten [Chamber Music for Wind Instruments] (HN 4172) within the New Beethoven Complete Edition, Beethoven Werke, has been a total of ten different Urtext editions and seven accompanying study editions including the recently published Parthia op. 103 for wind octet (HN 1254/7254).
And why has it taken so many years? The answer is very simple: Because although the complete edition does, in fact, provide a superb basis for our Urtext editions, its contents have to be edited in many respects for the musician. This is first and foremost true, of course, for music text taken over from the score in the form of parts. Certainly, this so-called “parts extraction” functions almost automatically in the age of computer music engraving, but an optimal page layout with the customary good page turns and the correct selection of cue notes is really hard work – and may take a while longer in the case of large scored works such as the octet mentioned.
Furthermore, with winds we always have to bear in mind that we’re playing on other instruments and in other tunings than in Beethoven’s time. Just as today who has a clarinet in C or even reads the trombone part in the alto clef? Consequently, our edition of the Drei Duos for clarinet and bassoon WoO 27 (HN 974) contains an additional part for the B-flat clarinet, that of the Drei Equale for four trombones WoO 30 (HN 1151), options in the bass clef; and the numerous works with horn in E flat or B flat are supplied as a matter of course with an optional part for horn in F (for the extra contrabass part added in the Sextett op. 81b to turn the sextet into a septet, see the earlier blog posting “So, how much bass do you want”, 6 February 2012).
As a rule, a study edition also appears in tandem with the edition of the parts, but it often makes more sense to publish the closely-interlinked parts in the duo compositions in performance scores – as in the case of the Flötenduo WoO 26 (HN 973), where this can be combined in a three-page leporello binding that does not require musicians to turn any pages in the movement.
But showing up when a complete edition is converted into a practical edition are, along with such “external” layout aspects, also questions of content – and especially so in the case of Beethoven’s chamber music for winds. Evidently, Beethoven regarded this portion of his œuvre as of lesser importance after 1800 and hardly bothered about its dissemination. Our editor Egon Voss conjectures that for him as an independent composer in Vienna wind chamber music was linked too much “with the divertimento and serenade genres, kinds of entertainment music for the aristocracy”.
Many of the works are, therefore, only badly handed down, whether in incompletely marked autographs or less reliable parts editions – which is to be documented for a start in the best possible text in a complete edition, though sometimes demanding explanation in a practical edition. So, lacking in Beethoven’s little Marsch WoO 29 for two clarinets, two bassoons and two horns are any dynamic and articulation details, because the edition can be based solely on an unmarked autograph score. Where other editions would boldly add their own performance details, we are obliged as an Urtext publisher to adhere strictly to the original text. But nevertheless, in order to give the musician an indication of how Beethoven might possibly have imagined the execution, we reprint in the Comments on the music text a piano version of the march somewhat marked up by Beethoven, which is merely mentioned in the complete edition (HN 922).
Now and then, the late birth of the practical edition is also a blessing: Thus, for the parts edition of the Duos WoO 27 for clarinet and bassoon, published in 2010, a source could be procured that was not yet available for the relevant complete-edition volume published in 2007. This print proved, in fact, to be an error-ridden earlier issue of the revised issue used as the main source, so that nothing was altered in the source evaluation and music text. But it caused us to offer several footnotes in the music text referring the musician to differing pitches in this error-ridden early issue. For since the 19th century these were further disseminated in numerous editions as reputedly the correct music text and are therefore perhaps familiar to musicians. So, the practical edition becomes to some extent the defender of the complete edition and can hence still more convincingly stand for disseminating the best possible music text of the Beethoven wind chamber music.