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In memory of Paul Badura-Skoda (1927 – 2019)

Paul Badura-Skoda (1927 – 2019) passed away at the advanced age of 91 – a superb musician and outstanding pianist, thoroughly Viennese, a passionate expert in original manuscripts and Urtext editions, as well as a connoisseur and collector of historic keyboard instruments. Our friendship goes back many years, to the 1950s, and has continued across the generations until the present day. Paul and I were still engaged in lively email correspondence a few weeks ago, discussing missing bars in the variation movement of Schubert’s Sonata in A Minor D 845 (one of the many favourite subjects that continued to fascinate him). Our archives contain numerous files of letters with Badura-Skoda, going back as far as 1956. Dr Dr Günter Henle was extremely impressed by his book Interpretations of Mozart, published in 1957, which then led to more intensive contact with Paul and Eva Badura-Skoda. Badura-Skoda always went straight to the heart of the matter, to the correct, authentic music texts. He drew from his own never-ending research as well as his amazingly reliable feel for the “textual problems” of manuscripts and his own interpretation of the sources, which was not always easy to follow. Badura-Skoda’s comprehensive knowledge as an expert in original handwritten manuscripts AND a musician enabled us to make detailed improvements to so many of our editions. I still remember very well when I was still a young editor at the publishing company, just after my PhD on Mozart, he insisted that I should take a look at the two markings of “fp” (fortepiano) in bar 19 of the C minor fantasy and place them so that the dynamics come syncopated, not “on the beat”, as did all the editions, including our original edition at the time. (“After all,” he said, “Mozart would never have placed an emphasis on the beat. How banal!”) Yet the only primary source, the first edition published by Artaria in 1785, simply didn’t allow this unusual reading, and we had to refuse his request. However, when Mozart’s original manuscript suddenly appeared in such a sensational way, it immediately became clear that Paul Badura-Skoda’s infallible intuition had been right yet again.

Whether it was Schubert, Chopin, Mozart or Beethoven, Badura-Skoda had countless ideas and suggestions for music text improvements throughout his life, many of which actually appeared in our later editions. Our two-volume standard work of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, for example, owes its unsurpassed closeness to the original and its subtlety to numerous suggestions which he gave us over the decades and which then often took the form of footnotes. While his wife Eva Badura-Skoda was responsible for our Urtext edition of Schubert’s piano trios, I had the privilege in the 1990s of assisting Paul Badura-Skoda in editing volume III of Schubert’s piano sonatas, including those he so superbly completed from fragments (HN 150). It was wonderful to work with him, as I learned to appreciate the keen mind and never-ending gentleness of this master. His knowledge of Mozart seemed inexhaustible, and so did his many anecdotes about musicians. For many years now we have been proud to publish Paul Badura-Skoda’s introductions to Mozart’s complete piano sonatas (and indeed much more) on our website.

I will never forget one of our many encounters – something that beautifully highlights Badura-Skoda’s wonderful spontaneity, gentleness and cheerfulness, both as a person and as a musician: We were sitting together in the Red Salon at Café Sacher in Vienna, poring over some Schubert manuscripts, when one of Schubert’s melodies reminded him of the “Blue Danube” by Johann Strauß. So he jumped up, sat down at the Bösendorfer piano at Café Sacher and, to the delight of all guests, started to play this eternally beautiful music by Schubert and Strauß. And it was such a beautiful sound, such inner joy, such a feeling for the fragility of this only seemingly robust Viennese music.

And now he is gone. His death means that G. Henle Publishers have lost someone whose friendship and companionship goes back many decades. We will always honour him and remember him with fondness.

(Munich, 27 September 2019, Dr. Wolf-Dieter Seiffert)