New Edition of Barber's Concerto for Violin

New Edition of Barber's Concerto for Violin
The new performing edition of Samuel Barber's Concerto for Violin came about serendipitously, triggered by the switch from old, large diazzo-process printers to compact digital printers along with the extensive errata lists compiled by the Major Orchestra Librarians' Association.

Questions arose while examining original and revised scores and parts created between 1939 and 1956, publication records of print runs and revisions, and Barber's correspondence. How could there possibly be so many errors remaining in a set of parts for a work which was premiered over 70 years ago, that had been heard and recorded numerous times, and was even conducted by the composer himself?

Considering the care Barber took to revise the orchestral parts in preparation for the 1949 performance by Ruth Posselt with the Boston Symphony and Serge Koussevitsky, why weren't the hire materials later corrected to "match" the 1956 full score — unless the score itself is what contains "errors" or the choices Barber's editors made? In this edition, choices have been made, for the most part, reflecting Barber's conducting score with the original manuscript always referenced when a question arose.

With the new edition, conductors, soloists, orchestral musicians, and orchestra librarians will be able to place this work on their stands with the full score, orchestral parts, and piano score finally in agreement.
Scores and parts reviewed:
  1. 1939 full score manuscript completed November 20, 1939; on file at the Library of Congress
    (missing first page of music measures 1-6)
  2. 1942 piano score; in the special collections of the New York Public Library
  3. 1948 revised full score, Barber's personal copy; on file at the Library of Congress
    (Barber conducted the work in Germany in 1951 with soloist Charles Turner)
  4. 1948 revised orchestral parts from the Schirmer Rental Library
  5. 1949 revised edition of the 1942 piano score (sold as HL50337010)
  6. 1956 published full score (sold as HL50339370)

This edition contains both alterations and corrections to the 1956 full score. Some of the differences have been footnoted in the score while others (true copying errors substantiated by reviewing Barber's scores) have simply been made. The most changes appear in the phrasing marks of the solo violin line which now reflects what is found in Barber's personal score prepared for the 1949 performance by Ruth Posselt with the Boston Symphony.

While there are changes in phrasing and dynamics, the most distinctive change is found in the second movement at rehearsal 8, where trills are found on the held notes in the first 5 bars followed by the soloist being tacet in the descending line in bars 6 and 7 where the pitches are covered by the orchestral violins. This edition does not eradicate what was printed in the 1956 score but provides an option to see and perform the work as it was revised in 1948 by Barber and as he conducted it in 1951. This alteration appears as an ossia, with the solo line as printed in the 1956 score left intact.

In the third movement, in measures 184 and 185, each "A" (the first 16th-note of each beat) is found in Barber's score written an octave higher than in the 1956 full score and piano reductions. The "A's" as placed in this score reflect Barber's conducting score.

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