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01 February 2017

13. The best and worst of amateurism

...which is the third installment of the Settling Scores

Having discussed descriptive and prescriptive notation in my last post, I find an opportunity to explore an example (and which is it supposed to be?) relating to Bach.  Here is a surprising recent publication:

SOURCE:  Anthony Tommasini, "Glenn Gould's Every Detail.  But Why?" nyt.com (June 1, 2016)
This curious edition presents two texts of the Goldberg Variations on facing pages throughout.  The left-hand [verso] pages are labelled Original Version, while the right-hand [recto] pages are labelled Goulds 1981 Version.  I reproduce an extract of the beginning of Var. 29 below, although with the twin texts arranged here vertically rather than horizontally just to be more legible in the blog medium:

SOURCE:  cropped scans of pp. 146-147 of Hopkins, ed., Glenn Gould's Goldberg Variations.

From what I can tell, Hopkinss transcription of Goulds 1981 performance is impressive, even if it leaves me with some questions.  (In the example above, what distinction does Hopkins intend between Bachs triplet notation and his transcription of Goulds performances as sextuplets? I found no explanation of this idiosyncracy, and the only thing I can imagine from it is that Goulds performance downplays the half-beat.)   This project was clearly a labor of love for Hopkins, and the right-hand pages thus reveal the very best of amateurismdoing something for the love of it, going far beyond what might be asked or imagined.

It is the left-hand pages that leave me disturbed.  Even just the use of the word version for both the original (and Im coming back to that word in a minute, too) and the performance troubles me.  I would have favored different wordsmaybe text for what Gould read, and interpretation for what he played.  Granted, the interpretation is filtered through Hopkinss interpretation into score.  Whatever.  There would be great value in comparing what Gould had studied with what he played.  Of the text Gould used, Hopkins asserts that it was the 1938 G. Schirmer edition prepared by Ralph Kirkpatrick:
We know that Gould used the Kirkpatrick edition, and only this edition, because three copies of this edition are presently housed in the Glenn Gould Archive (the official repository for Goulds archives) in the National Library of Canada (NLC).  On the basis of Goulds editorial markings in these scores (or lack of markings), each copy was seemingly used by him at various points in his career for various purposes. [p. 10]
Hopkins suggests that one of these three copies (almost entirely free of markings, such as fingerings, articulations, dynamics and tempos) was likely the one that Gould used as he learned the work prior to the 1955 recording, and informs us that some pages have gone missing; a second copy seems to be a reference score during the post-production process for the 1981 recording.  (I wondered if it is a more recent printing; Hopkins doesnt give any such information, still less any shelf-mark or locating information.)  The third copy, also incomplete but with very neat and comprehensive fingerings added for the aria and the first eight variations, belonged to Goulds girlfriend during his conservatory years.  Hopkins concludes
The relevance of the three copies of this edition is that they show Gould had little concern with the quality of editions that he used over the course of his career.  There is no evidence that he ever researched or consulted other editions for the purpose of critical analysis. [p. 10]
And yet a page later Hopkins quotes Kevin Bazzana discussing films made immediately after the 1981 recording saying in [NLC] videotape no. 50A, [Gould] can be seen with the 1979 [recte 1978?] Henle edition of the score.  Well, what was he doing with that?  Is that not evidenceat least circumstantial, if not an actual smoking gunof Gould consulting another edition?  And I noticed an instance (Var. 26, b. 14, 2nd beat, middle voice) where the note Gould plays in 1981 (D) is in the Henle text and NOT in the Kirkpatrick text (which has E; in 1955 he had played E).  As Hopkins uses these tapes to determine Goulds fingering as best he can (and an impressive job it seems to be), clearly he deems the videos relevant to the 1981 audio recording.

If a facing-page edition is going to have some value, the facing pages need to relate to each other.  I can imagine two ways that this might have been done:  1) on the left-hand pages, provide a transcription of Goulds 1955 recording, so that the two performances might be compared, or 2) on the left-hand pages, reproduce the Kirkpatrick text that Hopkins claims Gould used.  (Probably there would be copyright issues with that.  Did Hopkins ever pitch this project to Schirmer, who presumably holds that copyright?)

The Kirkpatrick edition is apparently still in print, and it is also very widely available in libraries (and, I imagine, in piano benches here and there)indeed, more available in libraries than this Gould transcription will ever beso interested individuals should have no trouble getting their hands on a copy to make the comparison.  (At a glance, WorldCat lists over 450 library copies of various printings of the Kirkpatrick edition, with just over 30 of the Hopkins/Gould score.)  Comparing the two is particularly interesting because Kirkpatrick often resorts to extra staves to realize Bachs ornamentation or (yet more significant in this context) to modify the part-crossing to facilitate performance on a piano.  Here are two examplesthe aria, where Goulds ornamentation is somewhat slower than Kirkpatricks instructions (32nd-notes rather than 64th-notes), and an example of adapting the music for a single keyboard:

SOURCES:  first sixteen bars of the Aria, in scans of Kirkpatrick p. 3 and Hopkins p. 49.
SOURCES: the end of Var. VIII in marked-up cropped scans of Kirkpatrick p. 23 and Hopkins p. 75.
Instead of either of these strategies, on the left side Hopkins provides an entirely new text, which he explains thus in his introduction:
Each of the variations [and the Aria] is presented in its original form on verso pages, accompanied by Gould's realization on recto pages, thereby allowing for ease of comparative analysis.  The original forms, labelled Original Version, were produced from the Bach-Gesellschaft Ausgabe edition (BGA) of 1853, the Hans Bischoff edition of 1883 and the Ralph Kirkpatrick edition of 1938.  The Handexemplar, Bachs personal copy of the first engraved edition, was likewise used for this purpose, yet the editions produced by the Neue Bach-Ausgabe (NBA) of 1977 and Henle of 1979 could only be consulted, due to copyright restrictions.  Discrepancies amongst these editions are noted in the Critical Notes on pp. 45-47.  (p. 9)
Bach’s Handexemplar, corrected in many places by the composer, was rediscovered in 1975.  It was naturally the most important source for Christoph Wolffs NBA text and its discovery also prompted Henle to issue a revised version of Rudolf Steglichs 1973 edition (with the revisions undertaken in 1978 by Paul Badura-Skoda).  What does Hopkins mean by could only be consulted?  All of the sources he lists were presumably consulted, and as his critical notes list variants in each of these texts, it is unclear how copyright restrictions have impinged on his task at all.  No, what we have here appears to me to be a reinventing of the wheel:  a new edition that presumes to be scholarly, but executed, in my opinion, in an haphazard way.

Before giving some examples of this, I should note that the NBA text of the Goldbergs has not been universally acclaimed.  In particular, in a 1990 article in Performance Practice Review, Erich Schwandt took Wolffs edition to task for a number of perceived deficiencies, concluding
Something must be broken in the mechanism when musicological overkill produces 27 pages of Critical Apparatus (roughly two-thirds of a page of words per page of music) and then gets the notes wrong.  I believe that the Neue Bach Ausgabe should seriously consider withdrawing Christoph Wolffs edition of the Goldberg Variations. (p. 69) 
I have examined Schwandts critique closey, and I see no warrant for such a charge.  Wolff has not gotten the notes wrong.  An edition is an interpretationa performance, if you likeand although I would like to see every alteration to a source text logged in the critical report, I find only four instances where this not is the case, each having to do with an added appoggiaturas that are not clearly marked in the score as editorial additions.  Schwandt may disagree with Wolffs and the NBAs editorial principles (over the ornamentation symbols particularly), but in the critical report Wolff articulates those principles and the decisions that proceed from them.

It must be stressed that in a critical edition, the printed score and the critical report are equally necessary for an understanding of the textual situation.  This seems to have escaped Nicholas Hopkins as he prepared his new original version for his Glenn Gould project.  His basic editorial principle seems to be that the Handexemplar, bearing corrections in Bachs hand, establishes a final text for the Goldbergs once and for all.  His original version thus aims to be essentially a resetting (following modern notational practices) of the corrected reading of the Handexemplar, and his critical notes detail differences between his new text and the other five published texts he cites above.  In fact, the vast majority of his critical notes list places where an accidental is missing in the Handexemplar but appears in the other editions.  There is a good reason for this:  the first edition (of which the Handexemplar is a copy, of course) is a product of different notational conventions than ours today:  an accidental was regarded as affecting only the note to which it was affixed.  As an example, in Var. XXVIII b. 23, the left-hand part is crowded with repeated sharps for the recurring note:
SOURCE: cropped scan of the Handexemplar, p. 30 (my mark-up)
This would be too many accidentals by our current standards; the following bar has one too many, while also lacking two that would now be needed:
SOURCE:  ditto
The second natural sign seems superfluous by todays standards, but we would now expect a natural sign for the last note in both handsno longer D-sharp but D-natural.  As Hopkins seems unaware of the older practice, he documents it as if it is news.  More than half (at a rough count, 37 out of about 70 total) of his notes deal with this, an item not even worth noting.  Several of Hopkinss notes record details such as a dotted tie is notated ... in the NBA.  This tie is found in no other sources.  Exactly:  the tie is dotted because it is an editorial emendation.

A more serious problem is thatas he gives no indication that he has seen the NBA critical reporthe is apparently utterly unaware that of the seventeen other copies of the original print which Wolff examined, six have corrections that Wolff is able to attribute to Bach, and no two of these copies have exactly the same corrections:
SOURCE:  cropped scan of Kritisher Bericht for NBA Ser. V, Bd. 2 (1981), p. 93.
In Wolffs table, source A1 is the Handexemplar, but not all of the corrections made it into the Handexemplar.  (This table only lists corrections found in the other six copies, noting when they are or are not duplicated in the Handexemplar; there are quite a number of corrections unique to the Handexemplar which Wolff documents elsewhere.)  Evidently not knowing of this, Hopkins re-introduces errors into this text which Bach had corrected:
SOURCE: Var. XVI, from marked-up cropped scan of Hopkins, p. 102.
As the table above indicates, in five of the seven copies with corrections traceable to Bach, this E has been changed to F-sharp.  The note is given as F-sharp already in the BG edition (1853), as the copy Wolff identifies as A5 was the source for the edition and has the correction.  Kirkpatrick was working from a different copy, lacking the correction, and so gives E.

Another instance concerns a missing accidental:

SOURCE: marked-up cropped scan of Hopkins, p. 130
The circled A is given as A-flat in all of the editions that Hopkins consulted save the original print; it had been changed to A-flat in only two copies of the first edition (Wolffs A6 and A8)neither of which was used as a source for editions prior to the NBA, although it did show up in an early manuscript copy (Wolff's C1) which Bischhoff and Steglich had used.  All of these editors recognized the musical sense of A-flat; even in the intensely chromatic vocabulary of Var. XXV, the A natural is jarring.  Try it for yourself.

Hopkins did catch a genuine lapse in all of the editions he used, and apparently hitherto unnoticed.  It again concerns a missing accidental in this same movement, and it seems clear how it was missed for so long:
Composite of Var. XXV, b. 10
SOURCES:  marked-up cropped scans of  (top) Handexemplar p. 25; (lower left) NBA Ser. V Bd. 2 p. 104; (lower right) Hopkins "original version" p. 130.
The natural sign (missing in the NBA and all the other editions) would not have been expected in the original print, given its conventions regarding accidentals; but subsequent editors may have missed it because 1) in the original print there is a system break before beat 2 of this measure, so that the preceding D-sharp is out of sight and out of mind; and 2) it is so manifestly obvious musically that it was implied even when not on the page.  Neither is a satisfactory excuse.  But has anyone ever played a D-sharp here?  I wonder.  Hopkins is the first of these editors to publish the work as a computer-set (rather than engraved) score, and this is the sort of detail that computer-setting captures more readily than the weary eye.

That said, Hopkins also introduces what is, in my opinion, a shocking error:
SOURCE:  cropped scan of Hopkins, p. 60.
The first two notes in the right hand are a third too high.  That might be regarded as a typo, but the error is compounded on the facing-page transcription:
SOURCE:  cropped scan of Hopkins, p. 61.
These are not the notes that Gould playshe plays B-G, exactly as notated in every other edition.  And although this could be a simple copy-and-paste error if Hopkins used his own original version as the base text for his Goulds 1981 version, it is further compounded by a footnote at the bottom of the same page, explaining the asterisk and even naming the notes (incorrectly) D and B.

SOURCE:  ditto
This is not a typo, but rather an editorial blunder.  That there could be an error of this magnitudeeven redoubled in a footnotesuggests to me the possibility that there was no editorial oversight whatever to this production.  (Hopkins apparently set this edition himself.)  Lack of editorial oversight would be par for the course for a product that appears under a Creative Commons license on the IMSLP; it is astounding in a publication from a house of the reputation of Carl Fischer.  Granted, there is no backlist of urtexts at Carl Fischer, but now Hopkinsoriginal version (that is, the left-hand pages) has just been issued as a new urtext of the Goldberg Variations.  I have not examined that publication, but I hope thatat the very leastthis error has been fixed.  Even so, given the rest of the concerns voiced above, Hopkinsoriginal version presumes too much.  As followers of the blog will know, I am all in favor of the proliferation of editions offering valid texts of all sorts, but I think the market has no need of this urtext edition of the Goldberg Variations.

The right-hand pages show the best of amateur devotion (although I think the introduction sometimes veers over into hagiography); the left-hand pages appear, in my view, to manifest ad hoc amateur naïveté presented as serious scholarship.  Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.