Questions of source, style and interpretation have been central to the work of the Budapest Bartók Archives over its first half-century. The author looks at various issues of work genesis, structure, and interpretation, in works by Mahler and Riley, before considering the “definitive” state of Bartók’s Viola Concerto and the Sonata for Solo Violin, and the current availability of different editions of Bartók’s late works. He then outlines ways in which correspondence, both to and from Bartók, illuminates the rich and varied path from sketch to score to work première, and on to the earliest stages of performing interpretation. The paper concludes with seven examples where performance practice is enlightened by observations in Bartók’s correspondence: innovative work combination, comparative work quality or difficulty, compositional archetypes and models, processes of work revision, song-text translations, section or movement timings, and issues of correction versus revision.
The paper summarises the lessons and conclusions of a large study of over 100 recordings of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Passions, Brandenburg Concertos and Goldberg Variations issued between around 1945–1976. In the first part it gives an overview of the state of performance practice scholarship in the first three quarters of the 20th century. In the second part it deals with the role of instruments, vocal practices, tempo, ornamentation, rhythm and articulation in creating the style of a performance. It argues that articulation stemming from early instrumental technique and based on the metric organisation of rhythm is the key element of a historically oriented style. This, however, has not been fully recognised during the period. Among scholars only Sol Babitz discussed it at length prior to the mid-1980s while on record it appeared sporadically from late 1960s onwards, but almost exclusively in the performances of Leonhardt and Harnoncourt. 7 figures, musical examples, summary list of recordings referred to in the text.
The renaissance of Palestrina's music, which in the 19th century was of particular interest to musicians music-lovers in Italy and abroad, was largely influenced by the performance practice given to it by the Cappella Sistina, the despositary of this heritage.
Mária Comensoli, who studied under Bartók in the mid-1920s, reports that her teacher used “peculiar fingerings and peculiar wrist and arm technique.” Examining such comments and the recordings of the composer-pianist, it becomes clear that Bartók played the piano partly according to the 19th-century performance practice. He frequently played chords in arpeggio, even when there were no markings of arpeggio in the score, and he respected the tone color of each finger by relying on the technique of leaping. Contemporary documents suggest that one of Bartók’s technical advantages was the flexibility of his wrists. In Bartók’s case it may have been a fruit of a conscious training by István Thomán. The writings of the Liszt-pupil Thomán suggest that, like his master, he valued the “active” use of wrists, even though he basically supported the modern, “synthetic” piano technique propagated by Breithaupt, who consistently recommended the “passive” use of the wrists. It is likely that, through Thomán, Bartók learned many things from the 19th-century performance practice.
The world premiere recording of Bartók’s Violin Concerto, played by Zoltán Székely has been a classic for seventy-two years now. Since that time, dozens of artists have committed the work to disc and hundreds more—from concert artists to conservatory students—have played the Concerto. Székely’s extremely subtle, almost chamber-music-like interpretation has been widely admired but many violinists in past decades have favored, by and large, a more robust approach, one that stresses the work’s connections to the Romantic concerto tradition. The question is: can a careful reading of the musical text—the final version as well as the various manuscript sources—help a player make practical stylistic decisions? A comparative examination of the performance of the first 16 measures from a number of older and more recent recordings will be set against what textual analysis can tell us, as a test case for a productive dialog between scholarship and performance.
This essay tackles some aspects related to the attitude of the Romanian officials after George Enescu left his country definitively (in 1946). For example, recent research through the archives of the former secret police shows that Enescu was under the close supervision of Securitate during his last years in Paris. Enescu did not generate a compositional school during his lifetime, like for instance Arnold Schoenberg did. His contemporaries admired him, but each followed their own path and had to adapt differently to an inter-war, then to a post-war, Communist Romania. I will therefore sketch the approach of younger composers in relation to Enescu (after 1955): some of them attempted to complete unfinished manuscripts; others were influenced by ideas of Enescu's music. The posthumous reception of Enescu means also an intense debate in the Romanian milieu about his “national” and “universal” output.
To this day, Joseph Haydn’s symphonies are often performed and recorded in a way that does not meet the composer’s intentions. This concerns certain variants of instrumentation, e.g. the rendering of violoncello obbligato with a single instrument, the use of trumpets and timpani or of horns in high C, respectively. Using the violoncello part of the slow movement of symphony Hob. I:102 as example, it is argued that Haydn in spite of the “solo” mark at the beginning of the movement did not intend the part to be played by one instrument alone. The same applies to most of the passages for violoncello “solo” in his late symphonies. Additionally, it can be established from the sources that before 1768 Haydn did not write for horns in high C and that the parts for trumpets and timpani in some of the early symphonies do not originate with the composer. That these alternatives of instrumentation, though not authentic, have found widespread acceptance in today’s performances is demonstrated by selected recordings from the 1950s to date. A short survey of the history of Haydn’s symphonies on record serves as an introduction to this essay.
The concept of the historisch-kritische Gesamtausgabe series of the 1950s (the New Bach, Mozart, Haydn, etc., editions) is rightly questioned today. Not least because for the sake of making an impeccable text of a scholarly edition a certain kind of selfdefensive attitude of editors had priority over the interest of the intelligent user: the text should be eternally valid, the editor would not take the responsibility to answer justifiable questions of the performer. In case of 20th-century composers the source chain of a work from sketches to the printed and revised version(s) is not only much better documented than in the music of Baroque and Classical masters, but some composers (Schoenberg, etc.) explained their special use of performance instructions. In this respect Bartók is an intriguing and well-studied case, however, performers are often mislead by contradictory information or supposed authentic traditions. The forthcoming complete critical edition will offer two texts in each volume — not within the Critical Commentaries but before the score On Bartók’s Notation (partly standard, partly genre-oriented basic information), and Editorial Notes for the Performer (on each composition in the volume).
The term coniuncta appears in some Gregorian, and occurs sporadically in theoretical sources in the second half of the 14th century, and on a wider scale during the 15th century. Related texts are to be found in Polish collections. This group contains a number of anonymous texts preserved in manuscripts held in the Biblioteka Jagiellońska in Kraków, and the University Library and Ossoliński Library in Wrocław. These manuscripts are examined. The treatises provide detailed information concerning the notational and performance practice connected to the coniuncta in cantus planus that they sometimes seem to be situated further towards the “practice” side than the “proper” musical records presented in graduals and antiphonals. All the instructions and guidelines relating to the transposition of melody, or the introduction of mutation and the use of appropriate intonation, are particularly worthy of scrutiny. They provide the evidence that the modification of the pitch system was closely related to a careful revision of the chant repertory.