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Bärenreiter versus Peters continued

Yesterday I roundly criticized the Peters edition for its failure to publish the complete Schubert songs, thus limiting performers choices. I should point out in fairness that Peters have recently brought out new critical editions of some of the songs, adopting an imaginative approach to the question of transpositions to lower keys. We know that Schubert sanctioned this practice, adding as a proviso that the accompaniment should be transposed up. (The vocal line is transposed down say a fourth, the accompaniment down a fifth but up an octave.) This avoids muddly textures on a modern piano, and of course on a period instrument, with its shorter keyboard, the pianist doesn't run out of notes! Peters takes a song such as Der zürnenden Diana and actually prints out the upward transposition for the accompaniment — an editorial sleight-of-hand, but one which is helpful, in my view, and eminently legible, avoiding as it does all those myriad leger lines. Bärenreiter draws attention to Schubert's proviso, but prints all the accompaniments (in the transposed version) downwards, just as it does the vocal part, thus leaving the editorial decision up to the performers.

©Conor Biggs

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