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Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
#1292432 10/23/09 12:22 PM
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I posted last month that I'm learning Schumann's Toccata. The Henle is my study score; for comparison, I have a long out-of-print edition by Joseffy and the public-domain ones of Clara Schumann and Henry P. Eames.

I recently found the Harold Bauer edition, also long out-of-print, on eBay. While most any out-of-print score published by G. Schirmer is inherently valuable to me, this one has turned out to be a disappointment. The most interesting part may be the editor's prefatory remarks, a predictable (and predictably entertaining) feature of classic Schirmer scores:

[Linked Image]

One immediately notices the bizarre caricature of the dedicatee, Ludwig Schunke, which Bauer acknowledges in his closing paragraph bears no resemblance to this sketch:

[Linked Image]

(Unfortunately, the source of the "curious" one—and the rationale for its inclusion here—is unacknowledged.)

I think the most important statement in the Preface is this one:

Quote
The piece is perfect in form and content and must be ranked among the best works of the great composer....

In its final revision, the Toccata, although taxing to the capacities of the average pianist, is perhaps not as difficult as the composer thought it was, and certainly not as difficult as the notation, sometimes unnecessarily complicated, makes it appear at a first reading.

Though my familiarity with Schumann's works that don't involve piano is limited, I completely concur with Bauer's assessment. But it seems evident, too, that this appraisal is not universally shared; my impression, from all information I've gleaned about present-day opinion of the Toccata, is that its musical worth is underrated while its technical difficulty is overrated.

Quote
The present editor ... has occasionally modified the original method of notation in the interest of clarity and fluent execution. It is hardly necessary to say that these minor alterations have been made without sacrifice of a single note of the text.

Bauer obviously treats such altered notation as a point of pride, but the changes are more minimal and probably of far less impact than he imagines: his modifications consist almost exclusively of notating the right hand's double-note passages as single-stemmed dyads rather than in separate voices, and I don't understand the basis for thinking that represents an improvement.

More serious criticism can be made as to whether Bauer's changes "have been made without sacrifice of a single note of the text," especially in light of his footnote to measure 237 explaining why he eliminated seven tied notes in the figures where a new voice enters with dotted rhythm:

Quote
The original notation in this and all similar places is confusing to the eye and serves no purpose, since the sound of the final tied 16th note cannot be heard.

This seems inexplicable and incongruous with Bauer's decision to prolong the value of notes in measures 70-71, 74-75, 209 and 211, introducing unneeded awkwardness without discernible musical benefit.

Worse still is that he alters the harmony in a couple of important cadences in the episode of alternating loud chords and soft passagework that commences the conclusion of the piece. In Schumann's original (and all other editions I've seen), bars 221-222 and 225-226 have identical structure but for one significant difference: in the first iteration, the seventh chords are dominant sevenths; in the second, they contain a sharpened fifth.

Incredibly, Bauer alters the first occurrence to match the second! And instead of the appealing piquancy of intentional variety, we have the bland banality of a sameness that spoils Schumann's surprise and denies his inventiveness—in a way comparable to some editors' infamous alteration of the last chord of the Largo introduction of Chopin's Op. 23 to eliminate the dissonance of an E-flat added to the G minor chord.

Another surprise to me, for what it's worth, is the dearth of fingering suggestions provided by Bauer. Usually, for me, that's the biggest reason to compare numerous editions. Here, Bauer's are nonexistent except in the solitary case of bars 33-35, and these lonely specimens are both odd and useless: for the thirds in bar 33, for example, he advises 2-4 repeatedly in both hands for each successive third of the entire ascending scale.

As Bauer mentions in the preface, Schumann's original direction for the Toccata was the following footnote: "In order to leave the performer as much attitude for the expression of the music as he feels it, markings are indicated olnly in those places where the performing technique makes heavy demands upon the player." Like Bauer, other editors have "availed [themselves] to the full of the permission thus granted" by adding suggestions for dynamics, articulation and phrasing. And other editors seem to grasp how very important fingering advice is; Joseffy certainly did, even proposing alternatives in many passages to his primary suggestions.

Good fingering is everything! It's rather mind-boggling that, in the end, Bauer apparently believed that the considerations of notational clarity were the main obstacle to the Toccata's accessibility and the biggest challenge to anyone in approaching it. From one of the most highly regarded pianists of history, such a miscalculation is stunningly off the mark.

Steven

Re: Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
sotto voce #1292611 10/23/09 05:32 PM
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That caricature is just plain weird. [Linked Image]


Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.
Re: Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
Horowitzian #1292622 10/23/09 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Horowitzian
That caricature is just plain weird. [Linked Image]


... or ugly weird!



BruceD
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Re: Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
BruceD #1292627 10/23/09 06:03 PM
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It kind of looks like an old lady at a sewing machine, but maybe I've been watching too much Project Runway. blush

It would have been great if Hirschfeld had done portraits of composers.

Steven

Re: Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
sotto voce #1292743 10/23/09 11:25 PM
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I can't help but seeing a monkey on the guy's neck..But then I don't watch Project Runway as much as the Discovery Channel.

Re: Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
sotto voce #1292755 10/24/09 12:12 AM
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Originally Posted by sotto voce

One immediately notices the bizarre caricature of the dedicatee, Ludwig Schunke, which Bauer acknowledges in his closing paragraph bears no resemblance to this sketch:

Hmmm... Ludwig Schunke, an interesting footnote in Schumann's biography. smokin

Some years ago I heard a recording of Schunke's piano music. If that was representative of Schunke's muse, then sorry to say, he was no Julius Reubke (a very precocious talent cut off ridiculously early), and the CD was only of archival interest.


Jason
Re: Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
argerichfan #1292941 10/24/09 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by argerichfan
Originally Posted by sotto voce
One immediately notices the bizarre caricature of the dedicatee, Ludwig Schunke, which Bauer acknowledges in his closing paragraph bears no resemblance to this sketch:

Hmmm... Ludwig Schunke, an interesting footnote in Schumann's biography. smokin

Some years ago I heard a recording of Schunke's piano music. If that was representative of Schunke's muse, then sorry to say, he was no Julius Reubke (a very precocious talent cut off ridiculously early), and the CD was only of archival interest.

"Only of archival interest" may turn out to be an apt description of this thread.

At least there was some interest in that creepy sketch. smile

Steven

Re: Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
sotto voce #1292968 10/24/09 01:43 PM
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And I thought it was creepy enough that the only surviving depiction of Schunke was of his corpse!


Bach - WTC I in C major & C minor (BWV 846-847)
Mozart - Sonata K 282
Chopin - Polonaises Op 26
Schumann - Fantasiestücke Op 12
Re: Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
akonow #1294183 10/26/09 02:31 PM
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This is mm. 221-228 from Clara Schumann's edition:

[Linked Image]

The circled chords in 221-222 are the ones that Bauer's edition treats as identical to the ones in 225-226 by sharping the top notes of each (A and G, respectively).

As I've given this matter more thought, I wonder if this wasn't Bauer's idea at all but rather an engraving error of the sort one occasionally encounters in Schirmer's scores ... with perhaps greater frequency than other publishers. smile

It's just too hard to believe that someone of Bauer's stature, knowledge and skill could have made such a choice deliberately!

Steven

Re: Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
sotto voce #1294187 10/26/09 02:44 PM
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Harold Bauer made a piano roll recording of the Toccata. You could listen and find out whether it was a printing mistake or not.

I had a customer who studied with Bauer and played the Toccata, but she died some time ago.


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Re: Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
sotto voce #1294193 10/26/09 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by sotto voce

It's just too hard to believe that someone of Bauer's stature, knowledge and skill could have made such a choice deliberately!

Not necessarily. If you check Bauer's edition of Schumann's Introduction & Allegro Op. 134, he plays free with one of the passages in the cadenza. And quite unapologetic about it...

Times were different back then. Schumann's lack of consistency may have bothered the tidy-minded Bauer. And look at Sauer's edition of Liszt for Peters: there are a number of editorial suggestions, most of which cast Liszt in a more conventional light.



Jason
Re: Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
argerichfan #1294467 10/26/09 09:40 PM
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Performances are not about notes. They are about music. I have never played Schumann's Tocatta, only his Novelleten, G minor Sonata, Humoresque and a few others. I do have some reference recordings of the Tocatta, but none by Bauer.

I am in agreement of Argerichfan but in a slightly different way. The whole profile of "performing standards" were entirely different in Bauer's time. Performers, on occasion, would play wrong notes deliberately to highlight the difficulty of some passages for an [presumed ignorant] audience. It was also perfectly acceptable, nay in some cases desirable, to interpret "beyond the score" "enhancing" the composers consideration.

This opens a very interesting sub-debate. Do composers discover their compositions, or does the composition discover the composer? If it were the latter, then it would be acceptable to "improve" a composition.


You play it & I'll hum it, but currently rehearsing:

Bach WTC book 2 no 15 G major, no 20 A minor, no 22 Bb Minor
Mozart A minor Sonata K310
Mendelssohn Op 35 preludes and fuges
Busoni Carmen Fantasy
Rachmaninov Bb prelude OP 23 no 2
Lyapunov Humoreske Op 34
and others
Re: Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
PartyPianist #1294475 10/26/09 10:12 PM
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Originally Posted by PartyPianist
Performers, on occasion, would play wrong notes deliberately to highlight the difficulty of some passages for an [presumed ignorant] audience.


If the audience is indeed ignorant, it would not necessarily pick up the wrong notes either!


Re: Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
Andromaque #1294552 10/27/09 02:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Andromaque
Originally Posted by PartyPianist
Performers, on occasion, would play wrong notes deliberately to highlight the difficulty of some passages for an [presumed ignorant] audience.


If the audience is indeed ignorant, it would not necessarily pick up the wrong notes either!



True. It would depend on what they were ignorant of. And even a sophisticated audience member might not necessarily know whether wrong notes were real wrong notes or bogus wrong notes. Or if they were the right wrong notes or actually wrong wrong notes.


Re: Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
wr #1294609 10/27/09 06:48 AM
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I don't disagree, but I think this present case—alteration of notes in the score by an editor—is more about the scholarship and judgment governing editorial practices than a question of of performance practices.

Steven

Re: Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
sotto voce #1294698 10/27/09 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by sotto voce
...I think this present case—alteration of notes in the score by an editor—is more about the scholarship and judgment governing editorial practices...

In other words, Bauer knew better than Schumann? wink


Jason
Re: Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
argerichfan #1294726 10/27/09 10:31 AM
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In a pig's eye!

I already offered an example of Chopin's chord in the Ballade Op. 23 being eviscerated by some editors, and I thought of another similar though hypothetical affront.

Remember the story of Liszt sightreading Grieg's piano concerto and being brought to his feet by a subtle alteration in the final iteration of the main theme of the third movement (the unexpected G-natural instead of G-sharp)?

Some editor may have thought that it would sound better if it were consistent with the listener's expectation, or even thought Grieg himself must have written the G natural in error!

In those examples, though, the change would be prominent. One reason I think that the alteration in the Toccata may be attributable to the engraver is that the harmony of a dominant seventh doesn't sound all that different from a dominant seventh with a sharped fifth. It doesn't seem significant enough for an editor to make intentionally, and seems more likely to have been accidental.

Steven

Re: Harold Bauer and Schumann's Toccata
wr #1295158 10/27/09 09:51 PM
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Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by Andromaque
Originally Posted by PartyPianist
Performers, on occasion, would play wrong notes deliberately to highlight the difficulty of some passages for an [presumed ignorant] audience.


If the audience is indeed ignorant, it would not necessarily pick up the wrong notes either!



True. It would depend on what they were ignorant of. And even a sophisticated audience member might not necessarily know whether wrong notes were real wrong notes or bogus wrong notes. Or if they were the right wrong notes or actually wrong wrong notes.



LOLOLOL But what about the famous pun/comment on Cortot [live - who was renouned for chronic memory loss] performances "What about all those wrong notes?"....."but what!![fantastic] wrong notes!?!"


You play it & I'll hum it, but currently rehearsing:

Bach WTC book 2 no 15 G major, no 20 A minor, no 22 Bb Minor
Mozart A minor Sonata K310
Mendelssohn Op 35 preludes and fuges
Busoni Carmen Fantasy
Rachmaninov Bb prelude OP 23 no 2
Lyapunov Humoreske Op 34
and others

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