Brahms: Händel Variations Op. 24

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Publication: The American Music Teacher
Author: Gruenberg, Immanuela
Date published: April 1, 2012

Piano Brahms: Handel Variations Op. 24, edited by Johannes Behr and Peter Roggenkamp. Wiener Urtext Edition, Schott/Universal Edition, 2011.; 40 pp., $17-95.

One may wonder what another edition of Brahms's H andel- Variations, Op. 24, might add, especially considering that all the important sources had long been available. Yet, the 201 1 Wiener Urtext, Schott/Universal Edition, edited by Johannes Behr, with fingering and "Notes on Interpretation" by Peter Roggenkamp, does make a significant contribution.

As its back cover advertises, it is a new, critical edition, with "Notes on Interpretation" that incorporate Brahms's notes, and with a clear layout and optimized page-turns.

The extensive "Preface" thoroughly discusses the work's history and context. "Notes on Interpretation" specify relevant interpretation issues, including ornaments, dynamics, touch, mood/ character, accents, tempo, fingering and pedaling. "Critical Notes" describe the sources used to prepare this edition: the 1861 autograph, an engraver's copy, the original 1862 Breitkopf und Härtel edition, and Brahms's personal copy from Breitkopf und Hartéis 1875 Brahms piano anthology. The latter contains Brahms's corrections and revisions, along with notes by two close friends and associates, Eusebius Mandyczewski and biographer and music critic Max Kalbeck. The "Preface," "Notes on Interpretation" and "Critical Notes" are in German, English and French.

Compared with the seven other editions I reviewed, including the original 1862 edition and modern Urtext ones, I found this 30-page edition easier to read than previous 22- to 27-page versions. Its convenient page-turns occur only between variations. Even unavoidable page-turns in the Fugue are at relatively convenient spots, with one exception: the page-turn between measures 61 and 62 would have been easier, in my opinion, had it been between measures 66 and 67.

I found the fingering musically and technically sound, and I particularly appreciate the instances in which redistributing notes between the hands makes some passages easier for smaller hands. Fingerings that "originate partly from Brahms and partly from Clara Schumann" are marked in italics.

This edition is user-friendly in its layout and design. It provides a wealth of information, detailing even small discrepancies between sources in the "Critical Notes," enabling anyone who studies this work to make educated decisions. - Reviewed by Immanuela Gruenberg, Potomac, Maryland

Author affiliation:

-Reviewed by Immanuela Gruen berg, Potomac, Maryland

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