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Until the early 20th century performers and music teachers were principally concerned with handing on to students and posterity their understanding of great works in editions including their own performance instructions and editorial changes with regard to bowing, articulation, dynamics etc.
„Instructive“ editions were presented, for example, by Artur Schnabel for the Beethoven sonatas or Clara Schumann for the piano works of Robert Schumann.
As a reaction to these editions containing major changes that had not been indicated as such, there was a movement, about the middle of the century, to re-consider the original form of the work with a musical text free from any extraneous input.
How is an Urtext created?
Do the autograph, the first printed edition, the corrected personal copy of the composer or the revised second printing reflect the final wish of the composer? Are we dealing with different versions or pre-stages of the final form? What significance should be attached to comments made by the composer or his contemporaries in correspondence? How are we to evaluate recordings made by the composer?
Editors find themselves confronted by delicate questions of this sort in the meticulous, almost detective-like work of uncovering the “Urtext” of a work. They search for sources throughout the world, decipher almost unreadable handwriting and check for errors, contradictions and deliberate variations. The result is a reliably edited Urtext edition at the highest level.
Find out more about Barenreiter Urtext Editions
[Text taken from www.baerenreiter.com/en/focus/baerenreiter-urtext/]