Lady Tremine embodies the soul of modern culture very well. With her past attractiveness she seduced two men, who, one after another, got married to her and ended their love story in their own grave. She is now a woman who, being old and no longer able to rely—as the whores do—on her attractiveness lost by now, lays bare her most operational qualities: acidity, perfidy, narrow-minded formalism, envy, lust for power, disdain, falsehood, contempt, arrogance, haughtiness. As patron of the people guilty of cultural crimes her purpose is to prevent the Knowledge, to hide and, if possible, destroy the beauty (Cinderella). She is constantly assisted by her inseparable twin daughters: Ignorance and Bigotry, who do not have the versatile skills of their mother but do their best. This is the soul, which, in the third millennium, gives life to every cultural event and / or product directed in word to promote the Knowledge but in deed to enslave it.

[Unfortunately, we could not find a picture of the prolapse of Lady Tremine's sphincter.]

Vingt-quatre Préludes / pour le piano / op. 28
Prélude pour le piano / op. 45
Urtext Herausgegeben / Edited by von Christoph Flamm
Fingersatz und Hinweise zur Aufführungspraxis von / Fingering and Notes on Performance Practice by Hardy Rittner
Bärenreiter Kassel - Basel - London - New York - Praha / BA 9610 / © (August) 2016

We would have happily done without writing this draft of review, because this new edition of the Preludes by Chopin does not deserve our attention. But in the page concerning the best Chopin's editions we promised our readers to keep them updated. So, even though reluctantly, we take upon ourselves this thankless task. In any case we will try to be as concise as possible. It will seem to the Reader that the responsibility for this edition is to be charged to both the scholars who are the editors, but the real responsibility falls solely and exclusively on the managers of the publishing house who called them to such an unequal enterprise.

The issue, like all the other well-known ones, is defined as "Urtext", but it is not. Who wants to know what is an "Urtext" edition, should read the Allgemeiner Vorbericht to the first "Urtext" edition of the Chopin's Etudes, published in 1899 by Breitkopf & Härtel. Since the market, i.e. the potential buyers, mainly thanks to Henle editions, have been treacherously led to believe that the word "Urtext" has the magical power to transform an edition into the best one available—like the words pronounced by the priest for transubstantiating bread and wine into flesh and blood—, it is necessary to persevere in error, in order to ensure sales. When culture gives way to the market, it is no longer culture, but rather the Lady Tremaine soul's materialization.

We already expressed what we think of these limited competence pairs (see on this site our article "For a correct recensio of Chopin's Polonaise Op. 44", p. 1 n. 2), and will not repeat here.
The introductions, both in German and English (but the 'Critical commentary' is in English only), are two: the 'Preface' written by Christoph Flamm and the 'Notes on performance practice' written by Hardy Rittner. The 'Preface', seven and a half pages, is divided into six parts: 'Genesis and publication', 'Form', 'Aesthetics and poetics', 'Prélude Op. 45', 'Notes on the edition', 'Acknowledgments'.
The 'Notes on performance practice', that occupy just over five pages, are divided, after a short introduction, as follows: 'Ornaments', 'Finger pedaling[1] and cantilena', 'Pedal', 'Dynamics', 'Rubato', 'Rhythmical particularities', 'Tempo', 'Fingering'.
In the 'Preface' there are some surprising statements, like the following: "The French first edition was published in August 1839 by the Paris publisher Adolphe Catelin, instead of by Pleyel who had fallen ill (gekrankten), however under the latter's supervision, and proofread by Fontana." (p. XVIII, left col.). What does Flamm mean with 'gekrankten'? That Pleyel, being sick, sold the Preludes to Catelin? In the letter of Chopin to Fontana of August 8, 1839 we read: "Pleyel wrote to me that you are very obligeant, that you corrected the Preludes”, but he does not add anything else.[2] Pleyel, who had taken back his word, could not publish the Preludes of course, then sold them to a printer of his acquaintance. On December 2, 1839 Probst wrote to Breitkopf: "Pleyel is fed up with the Préludes and does not want to be binding on him [scil. Chopin] any more."[3] So, “ill” and “supervision” have nothing to do with it.
The skin-deep knowledge of Chopin is quite clear in another statement, where the erroneous hypothesis of M. Brown is repeated: “The fact that Chopin had already for many years saved the opus number 28 for the cycle makes it in any case very likely he had been considering its composition already since late 1835 or so." Actually, as evidenced by the letter of June 30, 1835 published in M.Mirska, W. Hordyński, Chopin na obczyznie, Kraków 1965, p. 174, the opus number 28 had been kept aside for a fourhanded Sonata. As for the Preludes, on March 17, 1839 Chopin answers from Marseille to Fontana: "In Pleyel's receipt I left the Op. blank, because I do not know the number." So, according to Flamm, from 1835 Chopin had saved that number "for many years" just for the cycle of the Preludes, and then, in 1839, he would have forgotten it!
Ignorance of philology is well manifested in the short chapter 'Notes on the edition' and does not need any comment, at least from us.
Hardy Rittner, author of the 'Notes on performance practice', recorded the complete series of the Etudes (Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm MDG 904 1747-6, Detmold 2012), thanks to which he, in the eyes of Bärenreiter's management, has gained credit as a connoisseur of the new piano school of Chopin. Nevertheless, this recording—beginning from the choice of the instrument (a Graf of 1835, subjected to a conservative restoration: a dud)—shows, on one hand, that Rittner has an excellent technical equipment, which, however, on the other, is abundantly exceeded by a complete ignorance of the Chopin's piano idea. In the short chapter about the 'Rubato' (p. XXVIIf., right col.) he writes: "Such a relational action (between the hands) (Umsetzung)[3b] ... must always proceed on the basis of musical logic, which in Prélude No. 15, bars 16f. could produce the following result: [see Fig. 1]”. An absurdity that matches with his rendition of the Etudes. It is evident that Rittner, like the most of the pianists who play Chopin, has not understood what 'rubato' really is.
Shortly after, in the chapter entitled 'Rhythmical particularities', in relation to the 'dotted rhythm'[4] he extracts a passage from von Lenz: “With reference to the Waltz Op. 64 No. 2 Lenz recalls: 'Concerning the 2nd waltz (Tempo giusto, C sharp minor) (Chopin) could hard be satisfied, only he knew how to slur[4b] the one (!) semiquaver (in the 3rd bar) convincingly to the following crotchet (In der 2ten Valse (Tempo giusto, Cis-moll) war er kaum zu befriedigen, nur er verstand das eine (!) Sechszehntheil (im 3ten Tact) dem darauf folgenden Virtelwerth zu verbinden)'. Besides the differentiation between eighth note and sixteenth note value, this difficulty of execution doubtlessly refers to the musical gesture inherent in the notation with a sixteenth rest. [...] Applied to the Prélude No. 10 this would mean that the different gestures of both hands could lead to the situation that the sixteenth notes after the dotted eighth note respectively the eighth note plus the rest should not necessarily be played precisely together.” We ignore if Rittner is a drinker, but such a speech would be perfect in the mouth of a drunk guy who does not realize what he is saying. But, let aside the misprint that Rittner does not correct (Sechszehntheil instead of Sechszehnthel), the most interesting point in the Lenz's text is the interjection mark after 'the one (!)': what does it mean? Neither Rittner nor, before him, Eigeldinger[5] explain it.
However, despite everything, several fingerings are good.

And let us go no to the text. The first Prelude provides an excellent example of what Flamm means by "Urtext".
– In the first measure (Fig. 2) the first triplet (r.h.) is marekd by a bracket that Chopin never used. Why?
– The whole measure (r.h.) has a dotted slur (!?). Why?
– In the 'Critical commentary' we read: "A, CJF have instead of one continuous phrasing slur two slurs assigned to the triplets; [...] We standardise everywhere whole-bar slurring.” Why?
– Both in A and all sources the eighth rest (l.h.) is put inside the stave. Here it is outside. Why?
– The number 5 marking the quintuplets (mm. 18f.) is in all sources under the slur. Here it is over the slur. Why?
– When a measure in the upper stave has a quintuplet, in lower one Chopin marks the triplets with the number 3, absent elsewhere, to stress the different execution. The fact that the number 3 was added in mm. 24 and 27 is due to an oversight: in fact, when Chopin realized such a careless addition in m. 22, deleted the number 3.
Such contempt for the composer's graphic preferences is one of the "philological principles" applied by Flamm, and in a hardly correct way too. So, at the end of the Prelude No. 8 (p. 13) is reproduced the autograph of the Prelude No. 9. But, while in Peters Edition (Eigeldinger) the same autograph is reproduced in full, here it is mutilated—the Chopin's instruction below is missing. It is a very important annotation, which reveals that Chopin cares a lot about graphic appearances. Because of room reasons, but mainly because he does not like to write notes outside the staff, several octaves in the bass had been marked by the number 8; then he writes: "In the bass the 8ves marked by the No. 8 should be engraved like notes.”
We in general have discussed the question of the importance of the graphic appearance in our edition of the Polonaises. The peculiar use, e.g., of the slurs is still ignored. As to their position, we take a random example (Fig. 3, Polonaise Op. 26 No. 1, m. 16): the slur placed over the arpeggio in small notes is erased and rewritten under it! You can find another example in the Prelude No. 2, mm. 10÷1: in A Chopin strikes off the hairpin between the staves and rewrites it over the slur in the upper staff; nonetheless, Flamm does not care and in his edition the hairpin remains placed between the staves! In Chopin each graphic sign has an exegetical and expressive function—those who ignore that, declare themselves incompetent.
On p. 35 you find the facsimile of the final part of the autograph of the Prelude No. 18, mm. 13 to the end. Here is the comment of Flamm: "The clear traces of revision work suggests that this Prélude was only completed when it was written out.” A statement, which reveals a total ignorance of the Chopinian compositional procedure.
These reproductions, such as that on p. 17 (p. 15 of G) and on p. 26 (p. 8 of I), are the result of a clumsy editorial plan, because their 'critical' function should confine them to a critical apparatus, not before or after the related Prelude.
In the commentary to the m. 14 of the Prelude No. 14 we read: "A, F1, F2 without ♭ before 7th 8th note (l.p.)." Now, looking at the autograph (A, Fig. 4), such an observation looks like nothing but cumbersome ballast.
The best, however, is saved for the Prélude Op. 45.
Flamm ignores the most important representative of the first French edition, that is the copy of F1 belonging to the Glensk Collection, the only one engraved and not lithographed. On p. 57 n. 1 Flamm quotes the ''Annotated Catalogue of Chopin's First Editions (Cambridge, 2010), revised and expanded as online version at Chopin Online... (last accessed: May 2016)." Well, whereas in the printed edition of this fantastic Catalogue the copy from the Glensk Collection is not yet mentioned, in the online revision that sole copy—which we called F1G in our edition—is the only representative of F1. But Flamm, disregarding the online revision of that extraordinary work, without which no critical edition today would be feasible, prefers consult a lithographed copy.
Consequently, in his 'Critical commentary' Flamm is forced to lie, that is to cheat the buyers of his edition. In fact in the commentary to m. 25b writes: «F before 3rd note indistinct or lacking." False! Because in F1G, as we have shown in our edition, the is very clear. Again, in the commentary to m. 87t he writes: «In F1, F2 8th note b1 not dotted.! False! Because in the F1G the dot is very clear. Moreover, in our edition we have shown that the use of small notes in the so-called Cadenza is an arbitrary choice of the publisher and we also observed that the expression 'a piacere' couldn't be ascribed to Chopin. No word about that, of course. Perhaps Flamm did not want to mention our edition. In any case, his behaviour, which has nothing to do with philology, is a piece of evidence of how the soul of modern culture, embodied above by Lady Tremaine, likes to show.
The so-called 'Critical commentary' is the exasperation of the old Revisionsberichte that characterized the 'Urtext' editions. An absurd way of editing as shown by the commentary to m. 79 of the Prelude Op. 45 (Fig. 5): what philological value will ever have such a sterile list? No one will read it!
Finally, the music font used in this new edition by Bärenreiter is bad, as in general the musical fonts of many modern music publishers: the note shape resembles a flattened meatball, slows down the reading and strains the eyes. But stop now, because we have enough.
In conclusion, this edition represents an impressive and reprehensible regression.
At last, of this new Chopin edition a young American musician of good learning, sincere and honest, reading on the back cover "Bärenreiter Urtext: the last word in the authentic text – the musicians' choice" would say: "What? The last word, my ass!" And—thinking that the so-called dirty words do not exist but in the dirty minds defining them that way—we cannot but agree.

[Dorno, September 7, 2016]


[1] We guess the meaning of Fingerpedal translated by 'finger pedaling' is close to what Gieseking meant for 'polyphonic touch'.

[2] There is also a note written by Chopin to Pleyel and dated Saturday, August 18, 1839 (cf. J.-J. Eigeldinger, Chopin et Pleyel, Paris [2010] p. 80 e 125), but the 18th August 1839 was not Saturday!

[3] Cf. H. Lenneberg, Breitkopf und Härtel in Paris, Stuyvesant NY [1990] p. 110: the English translation (p. 68f.) stops a little after the half!

[3b] The English translation (“the execution of the rubato”) simplifies the German text.

[4] There is no 'dotted rhythm', because the rhythm cannot be written: actually—as we have already emphasized elsewhere—you can write the only time division.

[4b] Not 'to tie', as the English translator writes: either he is not a musician or does not know the quoted waltz.

[5] Wilhelm von Lenz, Les grands virtuoses du piano, traduit et présenté par J.-J. Eigeldinger, Paris (1995) p. 174.

[All rights reserved © Franco Luigi Viero]