Editing Versus Altering a Score

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Robert Schumann wrote thickly when thin might have been better(Photo: Lithographie by Joseph Kriehuber)
Robert Schumann wrote thickly when thin might have been better(Photo: Lithographie by Joseph Kriehuber)

Boyce Lancaster talks with Maestro Albert-George Schram, the resident staff conductor of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, about finding the line between editing a composer’s piece, and altering a piece.

[audio src="http://wosu.org/audio/classical/2006/Schumann2.mp3"]

Highlights From This Interview:

Boyce: “When you approach a composer’s score, like a Schumann, what does it take to walk that fine line between editing and cleaning up, and altering things to the point that maybe it gets away from the composer’s intention? Is that a difficult line to walk?”

Albert-George: “It should not be. In the case of Schumann – well, in the case of anybody – the integrity of the composer needs to be first. In other words, you don’t change a note. You just bring out the notes with greater clarity. You can thin things out. Sometimes composers write thick because they have a sense of insecurity. Whereas the composer was paranoid about people not stressing the highlights and phrases, and so they compensate for it by putting accents everywhere.”

Albert-George: “So you thin out textures. Don’t have all four horns wailing away on the same line when one horn is ok. Or all of the woodwinds and the horns are doubling the same thing, and it is covering up the violin line. But you never change notes.”

Albert-George: “Although, there’s always an exception. Later instruments can do more than the instruments of Schumann’s time. In Schumann’s and Beethoven’s time, trumpets did not have the valves. The french horns had crooks instead of valves. So they were forced to play in one sort of harmonic area, and if they wanted to change, they needed to change crooks so they could get a different overtone series. Some of that is in Schumann. Instruments are so much more flexible (now), they can do so many more things. You can see that the composer would have gone with the same instrument on the same harmonic line rather than suddenly give it to another instrument.”