But this is one of my rare posts from the “job” side, straight out of the classroom. It’s not that the others don’t deal with issues that might be useful in a classroom, but I tend not to write about what I do in the classroom. In the blog I often dive deep into geeky details, but in class I seldom wade into textual waters, maybe for fear of drowning in digressions, or of scaring my students away. But there are times where a textual matter is so central—a veritable elephant in the room—that it must somehow come up in class.
I have usually taught music history classes without a textbook as such, using anthologies instead—one of scores and one of primary sources. (For years I did this happily pairing the W. W. Norton survey score anthologies with the Weiss/Taruskin Music in the Western World source readings.) More recently, my approach to music major courses has changed so much that I find no text worth my students’ money, and so I have sometimes opted to make my own anthology—particularly with the easy access to public domain editions via the IMSLP. I have kept my eye on the products out there, though, so I know pretty well what I am foregoing.
The only thing that I don’t like about the Norton anthologies is that they have recently opted sometimes to computer-set an item anew rather than reprinting an early edition. Here is an example:
|Source: scan of Norton Anthology of Western Music (6th ed., 2010), pp. 238–9.|
Enough quibble about Norton. A far larger disservice to students has been done by the competing Oxford Anthology of Western Music, three volumes conceived as an ancillary resource for the textbook version of Richard Taruskin's Oxford History of Western Music. Whatever one might say about Taruskin’s accomplishment (and many people have... including the bloggers of The Taruskin Challenge), he is a significant voice. Whether adopted or rejected, his retelling of the story of Western music will inevitably influence the classroom (and music journalists, for whom he seems to have become a one-stop shop), despite his particular interests and lacunae. If Oxford University Press has its way, Taruskin’s version will supplant all others for the next generation.
My criticism in this post has to do not with Taruskin but with the companion score anthology, which was prepared by others. As far as I can tell, the editors have—understandably—resorted to public domain editions as often as possible to keep the costs down. I have no problem with this: I am convinced that you can teach effectively from any source (although some sources are better in one context than another); furthermore, in a music classroom there is no such thing as a “bad” edition, as long as we consider what precisely that edition can teach us. What frustrates me is when the editors fail to realize the value of the eccentric edition they have chosen to reprint. I will offer two examples here.
First, Beethoven’s “Pathétique” Sonata, op. 13:
|Source: cropped scan of Oxford Anthology of Western Music (2nd ed., "2019" [sic!]), Vol. 2, p. 204.|
|SOURCE: bb. [11–13] cropped from the IMSLP scan of the 1799 first ed.|
Second, the overture to Rossini’s Barber of Seville:
|Source: cropped scan of Oxford Anthology of Western Music (2nd ed.), Vol. 2, p. 281.|
Oxford reprints this from a 1900 G. Schirmer piano/vocal score. It includes a very common textual variant in the first theme of the Allegro: the opening motive is immediately repeated note-for-note—with three pick-ups—rather than with only two, as here in a Choudens vocal score of 1897:
|SOURCE: bb. 25-28, cropped scan of 1897 Choudens piano/vocal score "Edition conforme au manuscrit de Rossini", with piano reduction credited to L. Narici; scan from IMSLP 280519.|
Perhaps these are nothing more than missed opportunities. Most troubling in the Oxford anthology is the cavalier identification of some of the sources in the first volume.
|Source: cropped scan of Oxford Anthology of Western Music (2013), Vol. 1 p. 530.|
It appears to me that whoever put this list together regarded its purpose as indemnifying the publisher rather than citing the sources. To say merely that items 56, 68, 70–73, 75, 76, and 78–91 are “public domain” tells us nothing about the identity and, consequently, the quality of the texts before us. Some of these are newly typeset by OUP (although what the source text was, or how much intervention has occurred, is not shared). Others are lifted from major nineteenth-century editions—Denkmäler deutscher Tonkunst, the Bach-Gesellschaft edition, and the like—and as such they represent a variety of different editorial approaches (including the piano reductions included on the full scores of the old Handel edition). Why these editions are not identified is a mystery to me, unless no one thought any of this mattered. It does to me. And it should matter to students, as I daresay their instructors would never let them get away with citing a source merely as “public domain.”
But it’s not like I have been a paragon of textual transparency in the classroom. For years I have had indistinct qualms about an example I have taught in which there is a huge textual departure which I never mention to my students. I have regularly used the last portion of Act III of Le nozze di Figaro in my core-curriculum music course (the sort of course that has generally supplanted “appreciation” courses). Even though the bit of the act I assign in the course starts just before the dictation duet (“Canzonetta sull'aria”), I have found it useful to screen the whole of Act III for the class. It takes about 40 minutes, and so with a few minutes of contextualizing, and occasionally interrupting to make some comment about form or technique, it just fits in a 50-minute period. The students always seem to enjoy it.
|SOURCE: DG website|
What I have always failed to tell my students, however, is that Gardiner modifies Mozart’s sequence in Act III to accord with a hypothesis of Christopher Raeburn and Robert Moberly—essentially moving the Countess’s aria to before the legal proceedings. This scheme puts two soliloquy scenes back to back and removes altogether any solo numbers from the second half of the act. Nonetheless, I like the pacing, and I think it works very well in that production.
Raeburn and Moberly published their idea in Music & Letters in 1965, at a time when Mozart’s autograph score of Acts III & IV was still missing as a casualty of World War II, but even among various copyists’ manuscripts and printed libretti they could produce not even a single document that would support them. Subsequent scholars (in particular, Alan Tyson) have revisited the hypothesis now that the autograph has resurfaced, and still there is no documentary evidence to back it up. As sensible as the revised Act III sequence is, it never seems to have been part of da Ponte’s or Mozart’s plan for the piece. And yet this is the version I show to my students—and with no comment from the lectern to say that this is an eccentric ordering of the material. (Granted, I don’t show the class Act IV, where Gardiner makes an even more daring departure from the text, bisecting a recitative in order to reposition later numbers in the midst of it, but even then I’m not sure that I would mention it.)
My vague qualms notwithstanding, I’ve never lost any sleep about my silence in class about any of this. Although (as should be clear from my blog) text is a matter of enormous import to me, the textual situation isn’t what I’m trying to teach in that particular general-education context. I want my students to be moved, amused, shocked, transfixed by Figaro and by that performance of it. In another context—this one, for example—the textual issue is my subject. I expect that most of my students wouldn’t care about the manhandling of Mozart’s score. Even if one did, given a 50-minute class period for a 40-minute act, I have no time for it, and it is scarcely worth returning to at the next class meeting, particularly when it isn’t even the assigned portion of the act. (Then again, I also don’t tell them that the fandango in the Act III finale—very much part of my assigned section of the piece—is absent from most of the early Viennese sources, apparently cut after just a few performances.)
I remember once hearing a senior scholar respond to a graduate student’s idea, “Well, that's something you might tell undergraduates.” I hated that. I understood what he (sic) meant—something like “that is a hideously oversimplified explanation, but it is pedagogically useful as it is easily understood and would allow you to move on to other material.” I don’t ever want to condescend to my students like that. But I also don’t want to obscure the subject by belaboring them with my textual hobby. While it is fun to have a hobby and a job that so closely intertwine, I’ve got to keep the two distinct enough that the everyone in the room is aware if I am momentarily digressing (or transgressing, really) into the hobby territory. Such transgressions can be valuable—as sometimes I have had to see someone being passionate about something in order to understand why it matters. And I don’t mind being geeky if my students can understand why I care about something. Actually, I just don’t mind being geeky.
My conclusion is so trite as to not need saying, perhaps, to anyone but me: What shall we tell the students? Whatever works.