Piano Quartet op. 60

Ed. H. Krellmann. Henle/ Novello


Brahms saw Clara Schumann in the key of C, in trills, and in pedal points: so he told her, in 1854. Op.60 surely speaks for itself as an address to Clara. Its scherzo gives us a tremendous trill, embedded in 19 bars of C pedal. Its finale, nut to be outdone, ends with 29 such bars, including ten tied semibreve Cs from the violin and 12 from the cello. The whole work, as Brahms also said, embodies Goethe’s Werther (who killed himself for love of another man’s wife). By the time op.60 was revised and published (1875) the anguish had no doubt become less personal – a sort of Leid ohne Werther.

    The Henle Urtext cares nothing for any of this; it has other fish to fry. Its thorough trawl of the sources (including the engraver’s copy of III and IV, not available for the Gesamtausgabe) comes up with a net haul of 11 tiny discrepancies. Of these small fry, five seem to have been rejected altogether. Of the six retained, three were already spotted by Georg Schünemann in his Peters edition. Of the rest, two are self-evident (of course the slur must begin at the half bar in IV/223, cf 7 etc: naturally the cello must make a crescendo at III/91) and one is dubious (the accent on the violas last crotchet in IV/198 looks misplaced in the light of 2, 10, 190, 200 etc). Otherwise everything looks much the same as usual. In particular that old “engraver’s model” is still posing, very unattractively, as the English for “Stichvorlage”.           

     Is it unreasonable to ask that a modern scholarly edition should get the translation right as well as the text, and show knowledge of the composer’s letters as well as his notes?      


The Musical Times, June 1975 (p. 549) © the estate of eric sams