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Music Basics: Score Editions & Types

Start here if you are just learning how to do music research at Butler.

Editions: Historical or Performing?

What’s the Big Deal about Editions?

Musical scores are produced and made available in a variety of “editions” –

To help you make informed decisions about your personal selection and use of musical editions, below is a brief explanation for some of the more common types …

Urtext – German term = first/prime/original (text); very little editorial intervention; believed to represent composer’s “true” or ultimate intentions.

Historical Editions:

Critical or Scholarly Editions – editor(s) examine “all” available editions of a given work, including sketches, manuscripts, publisher’s proof copies, early printed editions, etc. ; editor’s decisions based on primary sources.  Often sources used and/or variant readings are identified/cited in footnotes or appendices.

Collected Works or Complete Works – [see M 3’s both in reference & stacks] multi-volume sets representing a composer’s complete compositional output; usually edited by musical scholars or even other composers.  A given composer (e.g., J.S. Bach, Beethoven, Handel, etc.) can have more than one published set of complete works.  Generally, new editions are published as new scholarship becomes available.  Complete works are generally organized by genre.  Many include accompanying volumes of critical commentary (Kritische Berichte).  Major publishers include:  Bärenreiter, Breitkopf & Härtel, Editions Durand, G. Henle Verlag, Scott, Stainer & Bell, etc.  Publication is often spread over many years. [For additional info, consult Collected Editions, Historical Series & set & Monuments of Music / George R. Hill & Norris L. Stephens (REF ML 113 .H55 1997); Historical Sets, Collected Editions, and Monuments of Music: A Guide to their Contents, 3rd ed. / Anna Harriet Heyer (REF ML 113 .H52 1980; or “Works” section under major composers in New Grove Online]  Foreign terms associated with collected works include:  German: Werke, Sämtliche Werke, Gesamtausgabe; Italian: Opere; and French: Oeuvres.

Facsimile Editions -  Grove Music Online defines as: “Name given to a genre of book publishing based on photo-mechanical printing techniques that attempts to recreate the appearance of an original handwritten manuscript or printed edition … The most sophisticated try to be as faithful to the original as possible by replicating its size, colours, paper, binding and, sometimes, physical condition. It is important to note that facsimile editions are not fakes or forgeries. They are produced, conceived and used as tools for study or investigation by scholars, researchers, teachers and others who might not have access to the original material …” Facsimile editions are not intended for use in performance.

Monuments – [see M 2’s both in reference & stacks] multi-volume sets usually produced over a period of several years or decades (some are never finished or change publishers) dedicated to works representing a specific genre/repertory, geographical area/region, or time period.  It is not uncommon for individual volumes to have their own specific editors with a general editor or editorial committee overseeing the creation of the series.  Some important monument series titles include:  Denkmäler der Tonkunst in ┼Ésterreich, Denkmäler deutsche Tonkunst, Musica Britannica, and Recent Researches in Music.  Significant publishers include: A-R Editions, Bärenreiter, and Éditions de l’Oiseau-Lyre among others.

Types of Scores ...

Which Type of Score Do I Need?

Full / Orchestral / Conductor's Score - provides notation for all of the instruments and/or voices in an ensemble; parts are arranged in "score order;" conductor's scores are generally the largest and are for use by conductors in a performance - the larger print enables the conductor to easily read all of the parts.

Study Score / Miniature Score - full scores of a reduced size or print; usually 25 cm. high (or less); designed to be used for study and analysis rather than for performance.

Score and Parts - an edition of a musical work composed for chamber or larger ensemble (e.g., string quintet, symphony, jazz ensemble, wind ensemble, etc.) which includes both a full or miniature score and parts for all of the instruments.

Piano Reduction - music originally for orchestra or some larger ensemble that has been reduced so tha it can be played by a keyboard instrument; often concertos are printed in this format with an accompanying part for the solo instrument.

Piano-Vocal Score / Vocal Score - scores of large works (e.g., oratorios, operas, etc.) originally composed for voice and/or chorus and instrumental ensemble which have the instrumental parts reduced for keyboard accompaniment.  Such scores are often used for teaching purposes, rehearsals, and auditions.

Close Score - generally found in hymnals, this score format usually presents all the parts transcribed onto two staves.


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