Selected Songs, vol. vi*
Schubert: Selected songs, vol.vi: songs to texts by Mayrhofer and other poets, ed. W. Dürr; Bärenreiter-Henle/Novello
I wish someone could persuade the Neue Schubert Ausgabe that commerce is none of its business. Instead of getting on with its complete scholarly edition, it persists in a futile and freakish flirtation with a music-publishing combine, in the forlorn hope of making Schubert saleable by a process of artificial selection. The current project envisages a 17-volume series, i-viii with songs published by Schubert and ix-xvii with “selected songs”. That's the first muddle; all the songs are selected, but some are more selected than others. Then that main division, perplexing enough in itself, is variously subdivided in a welter of weird ways, most of which are neither mutually exclusive nor even clearly definable. A given Goethe song for example might appear in vol. iii, iv or vii, under an opus number; or eventually in vol.x or xiv without one, or in vol. xvi (as a “ballad”) or xvii (as a “bass song”), if it is fortunate enough to be selected; or nowhere at all if it is not. None of this can conceivably correspond to the needs of any actual or prospective purchaser. Take the present case of Mayrhofer. Let us assume, however implausibly, that there is a lively demand for his settings as such. There are about 50 of them. To get the ten that Schubert himself published, you have to buy this volume, which also perforce includes five that are not by Mayrhofer. Then you will have to wait to see what other dozen or so songs are selected from the Nachlass to make the promised vol. xiii; and finally you'll have to turn to Peters or the old Gesamtausgabe for the rest. But why not do that for all 50, in the first place?
One reason for preferring a new Urtext might be that it is better edited and more accurate; but even on those scores there may be reservations. For a start, readers are referred for scholarly details to the Neue Schubert Ausgabe itself. Then the actual texts, though containing many a thoughtful solution to some notoriously intractable editorial problems, seem to me far from infallible. Thus shouldn't Iphigenia d573 appear in the autograph's G flat/D flat rather than what was presumably the publisher's simplified F/C of the first edition? In bar 28, shouldn't the second semiquaver be G (as at the same word in the previous bar) not A? In Sehnsucht d516 shouldn't the chord at the sixth quaver of bar 23 contain a D? In these respects, and others, I would prefer the older text to the new Urtext.
The Musical Times, June 1981 (p. 394) © the estate of eric sams