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:
One immediately notices the bizarre caricature of the dedicatee, Ludwig Schunke, which Bauer acknowledges in his closing paragraph bears no resemblance to this sketch:
(Unfortunately, the source of the "curious" oneâ€”and the rationale for its inclusion hereâ€”is unacknowledged.)
I think the most important statement in the Preface is this one:
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.
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:
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 inventivenessâ€”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.