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#1007500 - 06/04/07 03:43 AM Your Comments on Editions of Music?
al_spinner Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/21/05
Posts: 129
Loc: San Francisco
I'm a newbie to classical music...can anyone tell me which are the popular editions (publishers) of music that are widely available and what their differences are? For example, which publishers are considered the best, or the most economical, the most adult-beginner-friendly...etc. I would really appreciate any comments, especially on your favorite editions. Thanks! :p

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#1007501 - 06/04/07 04:26 AM Re: Your Comments on Editions of Music?
jwjazz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/07
Posts: 278
Loc: New York
Schirmer, the yellow books, are usually the most economical. The printing is legible.

The most expensive publisher is Henle, blue cover, and also the most attractive. The page color is off-white which makes the contrast of notes to the page easier on the eyes. Also, the printing is very precise. It never looks like a photocopy the way some cheap editions do, such as Dover (although I have a Dover version of the Marriage of Figaro, full-score, which looks great) or even Schirmer.

In between Schirmer and Henle, but closer to Henle pricewise is Edition-Peters. It has a pale-yellow cover with a green border design. The page color is off-white.

Either of the latter two publishers usually include a preface and all three should have fingerings.

Henle makes an effort to be as close to the original manuscript as possible, and thus call their editions Urtext. German for original text.
Peters also has Urtext editions.
working on:
Goldberg Variations

#1007502 - 06/04/07 09:02 AM Re: Your Comments on Editions of Music?
Donna R. Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/26/07
Posts: 794
Alfred have some nice collections in their "An Introduction to His Works" series (part of the Masterwork Library). There's always an introductory section with notes about particular techniques required to play that composer's work - for instance in the Bach book there's a discussion of ornaments and in the Scarlatti book an overview of figured bass. They're clearly printed and the pieces are arranged pretty much in order of difficulty. I have several of them and I'd recommend them for anyone just starting out with classical music.


#1007503 - 06/04/07 09:22 AM Re: Your Comments on Editions of Music?
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
I second what Donna said about Alfred Masterworks; I especially admire the scholarship of Willard Palmer's editions.

This thread explored this topic a few years back, and is in the FAQ (Pianist Corner).


"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

#1007504 - 06/04/07 10:42 AM Re: Your Comments on Editions of Music?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
Dover editions are not bad, and quite acceptable in many cases. but my teacher said that there's a few things (dynamics etc.) sometimes are not quite the same as on more authoritory editions (such as Henle?). for non-professional playing however, editions are not as important, but still if you intend to learn a piece for performance, be sure to check on several editions to compare the differences.

last time my teacher decided to add 'Fur Elise' to his recital program, he got 3-4 editions of it, and i bought mine to him as well.

#1007505 - 06/04/07 03:53 PM Re: Your Comments on Editions of Music?
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
I agree with Donna, Steve, jwjazz and Signa. The editions they listed are what I would consider inexpensive to the more expensive.

In general here's a summary of editions.

Schirmer - The yellow with green borders.

These are relatively inexpensive, however, they are sometimes overly-edited, and are based on very old 19th-century practices, which can be questionable when it comes to Baroque and Classical music. If you're looking for something for just the notes, they're okay sometimes, but in general stay away from them because there are many errors.

Dover - Various covers; usually nice paintings.
These are both good and bad. For the Romantic period, they can't be beat. You can get the complete collection of Mendelssohn's Piano works for example. The Baroque music varies by the composer. Their English music, like the Virginal Books is excellent. Their Bach is based on the old Geselschaft Library publication, and there are some errors. They're priced moderately, and for the value they can't be beat.

Peter's Edition - In general excellent and based on the older Peter's and Breitkopf and Heirtel from the early years. There are both Urtext and regular edited editions. It depends upon the library and the composer. They range in price too from not too expensive to really expensive.

Wiener Urtext, Universal Edition - These are a vermillion (red-orange) cover with the composer's signature on them. Only one caveat. Don't get them wet because they will bleed (I found out the hard way). The paper is slightly glossy, which unfortunately makes them kind of difficult to read sometimes. They also fall apart easily. They are not cheap, by the way, but are usually nicely edited by famous people like Paul Badura-Skoda, Christopher Landon, and others.

Universal Edition (proper). A yellow cover with the composers name and some horizontal stripes. Not cheap by any means, and are an authoritative edition mostly. They also have some Urtext as well. They are not cheap either.

Kalmus - Varies in cover. Some show the manuscript on the cover; others have a simple cover with the composer's name and music title. The quality varies too. With the red cover that has the music on it, Stay away from them! They are reprints (photographically reproduced copies) of old Schirmer editions that have gone out of print. I have a few of them, and they are poor - like crooked pages and cut off copywrite information at the bottom. They've also reduced the size of the music so it's smaller than the original, which can make things difficult to read. The other editions are reprints of their old Kalmus (better quality) of the previous years. They again reduced the size and made the bindings cheap so the books fall apart. The other thing too like their Bach WTC, which I got as a gift, is a reprint of a much larger (9 x 14) size volume. With the reprint, you end up turning pages every 2 seconds because there are so many foot notes at the bottom and so little music on the page.

Barenreiter - Various colors, very nicely printed and very expensive. I have Bach's Partitas and Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 7. These are Urtext usually and really nice.

Alfred - Very nice edition, especially their professional series which are spiral bound. They're not too expensive and have a generous amount of notes about performance and interpretation. The covers vary from pictures to simple white covers.

Henle - The blue-gray covers. These are very expensive and very nicely printed Urtext and authoratative publications. Totally execellent, but really expensive. The editors have also gone through great lengths to make sure that the music is easily turned by ensuring that the page turns happen in such away that they don't impact the performance too bad.

There are many other publishers out there of music besides the ones we've listed here. In general when looking for music, you not only want to find the best quality, you don't want to break your wallet either. Today when I go looking for music, I look for the Urtext or Authoritative because they are not only easier to read, but also have removed many of the old 19th-century practice of overly editing the music with so much editorial garb that the music is difficult to read.

What I've listed here are the editions that I have purchased or received as gifts over the years. Unfortunately the prices of these editions is probably well beyond what I could afford today.

My Universal Edition of Beethoven Sonatas cost me $7.95 per volume in 1975/76, and are now well over $40 per volume today!



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