For a while in the second half of the twentieth century, the concept of the Fassung letzter Hand held sway in scholarly editions of music, particularly those of 18th and 19th century music. To a certain extent it still does. It doesn’t really translate well: “the version of the last hand” doesn’t convey much. It really means something more like “the last authorized version.” The concept has even been stretched to mean the version the composer indicated in some way that (s)he preferred, even if (s)he never documented it precisely. (A good example of this is William Walton's opera Troilus and Cressida. The version that appears in the William Walton Edition is not one the composer ever heard or even put down on paper, but it is consistent with the comments he made about the 1976 Covent Garden revision: he preferred the cuts, but he didn't like the transpositions and other alterations to accommodate Janet Baker's lower tessitura.) And of course the idea of “new and improved” is a good marketing tool for selling another copy of something to someone who already owns it. So even if some musicologists have moved on to “process editions” which document a piece in various stages of its existence, commercial publishers love it when a composer’s final thoughts can boost sales in an already established work.
In the course of looking into something for quite a different post appearing months hence, I stumbled across an interesting example of this. I knew already that Leonard Bernstein's Candide has a complex textual history. The show has been different things at different times, not only with lots of music scrapped and then resurrected (sometimes with entirely new lyrics, assigned to a different character), but the whole book replaced and then later patched and re-patched. A good sign of this textual confusion is the copyright page of the only published full (i.e., orchestra) score of any version of the show—billed on its title page as “”SCOTTISH OPERA EDITION OF THE OPERA-HOUSE VERSION / (1989).”
’t account for the further vicissitudes this work has undergone since Bernstein’s death in 1990. I don’t expect to live to see a comprehensive critical edition of Candide. It would probably take at least four volumes: the 1956 version, the 1973 version (in which Bernstein took no active part, but which had great consequences for the subsequent manifestations), the 1988 version, and a huge appendix of all the other material, including details of at least the 1971 and 1982 versions. The only project I have run across that seeks such comprehensivity in a work with such textual complications is this edition of Bizet's Carmen, but I don't know how much of it has actually come to fruition, as all of the information detailing what it was supposed to encompass has disappeared from the web. [Here are scans of a few pages I downloaded a few years ago.]
Regarding the 1994 full score, the Bernstein website acknowledges:
While this publication encompasses the complete score, it by no means reflects a final, frozen show. Like its hero, Candide is perhaps destined never to find its perfect form and function; in the final analysis, however, that may prove philosophically appropriate.Fine. But Boosey & Hawkes seems to want to have it another way. In this self-same 1994 score, we find the following notice:
|SOURCE: detail of scan of p. [i] of 1994 score|
|SOURCE: detail of scan of p. viii of 1998 score|
Listening to the 1989 recording, one finds that Bernstein actually used the full symphonic scoring for the overture, and the reduced scoring for the rest of the show. (Just listen to the percussion at the beginning. If in doubt, watch the live performance given a few days before the recording was made.) Thus, despite the apparent contradiction because of the different scoring, both statements reproduced above could be true, as both texts do relate to the 1989 recording. But it seems more complicated than that.
Although the 1994 publication is the only edition of the orchestral score of the complete show, the overture has been published in score three other times (not counting arrangements for band, etc.): in 1960 (G. Schirmer), reprinted with a few alterations in 1990 as “corrected edition” (Boosey & Hawkes), and newly computer-generated in 1998 as “corrected edition” (in the Boosey & Hawkes Anthology mentioned above). I do not want to bog down this blog with all of the textual variants of these three editions, but the findings of my somewhat hasty collation of these sources are here, for the most indefatigable of readers.
A few of the most audible differences are worth mentioning. One is the tempo: the 1960 version is quite a bit faster (half-note = 152 at the beginning; whole-note equals 96 at the coda) than the subsequent editions (half-note = 132 at the beginning; half-note equals 152 at the coda), although the original metronome marks appear in the 1976 vocal score of the 1973 version. This slowing down of the whole piece is consistent with Bernstein's own recordings. His recording with the New York Phil made on Sept. 28, 1960 is at the tempi published in 1960; his 1989 London Symphony recording is at the tempi published in 1990. In this respect at least the scores published in the 1990s can be said to reflect his performances in 1989.
This is not always the case. The 1998 score (which claims to reflect changes made in 1989) includes an interesting change made at some later point. Bernstein's performance 1960 recording, 1989 recording (and indeed the 1989 concert performance) all give this reading for the cymbals. Note particularly the two clashes in b. 51
|SOURCE: detail of scan of 1960 G. Schirmer score, p. 10, bb. 47-53|
|SOURCE: detail of scan of 1998 Boosey & Hawkes anthology, p. 9, bb. 47-53|
I think the most curious variant reading is one that was revised at some point before the 1989 performance and recording. The 1960 reading of the horn line in the final canon before the coda was this:
|SOURCE: detail of scan of 1960 G. Schirmer score, p. 38, bb. 225-230|
The three scores printed in the 1990s all give the syncopated figure, yielding a more conventional strict canon:
|SOURCE: detail of scan of 1998 Boosey & Hawkes anthology, p. 34, bb. 225-230|
I will return periodically to instances of publishers accumulating more confusion than clarity. That works exist in multiple versions doesn’t trouble me in the least. Indeed, I find such differences to be of consuming interest. But I am irked when a publisher makes a text more difficult to access, and particularly so when the information is ambiguous or misleading. Still, it does give me something to write about.