String Quartets op. 44 nos. 1-3

Leipziger Mendelssohn-Ausgabe, Kammermusikwerke, ii; ed. G. Schuhmacher. Deutscher Verlag/Breitkopf


The perfectionist Mendelssohn was forever revising and amending his work, at each stage of composition. The manuscripts of the string quartets for example often differ radically from the published versions; and those in turn were persistently treated by the composer, to the polite despair of his publishers, as the proofs of a new edition. The new Leipzig Ausgabe seems designed to mirror this perfectionism. It makes not only all possible amends to the once proscribed Mendelssohn, but also all possible emendations. Even his foul papers are treated as fair copy in this handsome volume, which prints (a) the three quartets of op.44 as published in 1839; (b) the manuscript versions of some single movements, viz. I (two versions), III and IV of no.1, and I and IV of nos.2 and 3; and (c) the cancelled text of certain corrected passages in the manuscripts. Insatiable enthusiasts can also obtain (b) in separate parts. So no doubt we can expect a series of closely-documented performances and even recordings, such as a boxed set of Mendelssohn's collected sketches, or even his complete deletions, for string quartet. Meanwhile the present 300 pages of text and data, including a detailed Revisionsbericht plus a dozen pages of general editorial commentary and four of sample facsimiles, must be accounted admirable value for all true Mendelssohn scholars and devotees. The pages make as clean and bright an impression on the eye as the music does on the ear. Unfortunately, errata also leap to the eye. In the version of op.44 no. 1/1 at p.163, bar 11 of the second violin part is obviously misprinted. As confirmed by comparison with the facsimile obligingly exhibited on p. xiii, the alternated notes should be a third higher; B and D, not G and B. Otherwise this edition seems to be very much on the right lines.


The Musical Times, Jan. 1979 (p. 48); © the estate of eric sams