(Presented in alphabetical order)
It seems like almost by storm Bärenreiter has taken the sheet music market in the last 15 years, but this company is almost 100 years old, and has been consistently publishing pretty decent editions prior to going heavily into the "urtext" market. As a young cellist, I remember running into Bärenreiter with their edition of Alkan's sonata and a few complete editions like Neue Bach Ausgabe and Neue Mozart Ausgabe. But in the last 15 years they have become more aggressive in their marketing campaign. They have a good reputation to fall back on.
Today, Bärenreiter markets itself as primarily an "urtext" publisher of public domain music, but they also publish quite a bit of contemporary works by composers like Matthias Pintscher and others. Bärenreiter seems to have a good relationship with Henle, their direct competitor in the "urtext" market, even publishing orchestra parts for Henle's complete Haydn edition.
Every company has a slogan: "Bärenreiter Urtext: the last word in authentic text - the musicians' choice." This is where I take issue with Bärenreiter. You might say, "it's just a slogan." But I believe that a slogan should honestly reflect reality.
Bärenreiter's scholarship is hit or miss. They have some world-class scholars working for them as editors. Saying that these editors have the "last word" on any type of scholarship makes anyone who disagrees with their research look like a fool. I've seen this and experienced it myself by disagreeing with editions like Beethoven's symphonies and sonatas, Dvorak and Elgar's concertos. Bärenreiter's editors do not present an airtight case for any of their more "unconventional" choices. The musician should not be shamed into playing something because a famous editor says so. With much knowledge comes much responsibility. Stay humble!
Bärenreiter recently published what they call "Cello Sonata No. 3" by Saint-Saëns. Their editor presents a very weak case for this work. I find it curious that Bärenreiter charges $25 for an incomplete work based on rejected sketches. How is this a "musician's choice?" The part is not even annotated with fingerings or bowings. A performance edition would be more of the "musician's choice." The editor doesn't even hide that he is fudging the evidence in the preface by taking Saint-Saëns's words out of context and changing some words to scotch tape his weak argument.
My last issue with Bärenreiter is their engraving. In addition to wrong notes (which I've never seen fixed) and spelling errors, Barenreiter's engravers don't consider page turns for string players, and tend to cram too much music on page (see Debussy's Cello Sonata, second movement as one example of many). In the case of "urtext" editions of chamber music by Dvorak and Smetana, they just take the old Supraphon editions and do a whiteout job on them like the International Music Company used to do. These editions still have many bad page turns and unintuitive multi-bar rest groupings. Some of their Neue Bach Ausgabe vocal scores have very bad alignment issues.
Conclusion: use caution when purchasing Bärenreiter. If the piece is also available from Henle, that would be a preferred route. If Bärenreiter is the only publisher, proceed with caution.
Boosey & Hawkes, Sikorski, and Wise Music Classical (formerly Music Sales Group)
You've probably heard of the first two publishers, but what about the last one? Wise Music Classical is one of the biggest firms in the world to control classical publishing and licensing. They are the equivalent of the Universal Music Group that loves to demonetize YouTube videos. Whether you like it or not Wise Music and Hal Leonard control most of the classical music publishing in the world. In my estimation, the larger the company, the weaker the quality control.
Boosey and Sikorski are under the Hal Leonard umbrella. Chester, Chant du monde, Schirmer, Novello, and many others are under the Wise Music umbrella. But get this, Hal Leonard is technically under the Wise Music umbrella. So even though Wise doesn't list Boosey and Sikorski in their publisher list, Hal reports to Wise.
So basically anything on your stand that is not Breitkopf, Peters, IMC, or Barenreiter somehow has a tie to the Wise Music Group. Why did I include Wise in a review about Boosey and Sikorski? Because Wise controls Chant du monde, which is the publisher that brings Soviet music to French-speaking countries, like Boosey to English-speaking, and Sikorski to German-speaking. If you want to rent orchestral parts to Shostakovich, Kabalevsky, or Khachaturian (all published by Sikorski) in the US, you must contact the Schirmer rental office; and Schirmer is controlled by Wise. I hope you are catching all of this. To find out which office you need to get in touch with for your rental needs, you can check on zinfonia.com. In most cases you will be talking to Boosey or an affiliate of Wise.
In addition to Soviet music, Boosey publishes many contemporary composers from English-speaking countries, composers like Bernstein, Copland, Bartok and others. Sikorski, in addition to Soviet music, publishes many contemporary composers from German-speaking countries: Auerbach, Schnittke, Kancheli, and others.
Historically, both Boosey and Sikorski have relied heavily on reprinting Soviet music, which is full of mistakes and poorly engraved. Some decent old engravings of Boosey's include Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures, Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2, and Bartok Concerto for Orchestra. Sikorski's Prokofiev and Shostakovich cello sonatas from the 1960s are well-engraved. Those are the plates that IMC now uses in their reprints. Please avoid the newer publications of those works from Sikorski (read my blog on yuriyleonovich.com to see why).
In recent years, Boosey has stepped up their game by hiring a team of top-notch engravers in New York to overhaul their catalog. You will find Copland's Symphony No. 3 and Billy the Kid, and a few Prokofiev works in the standard repertoire with the new facelift. I got to perform Copland 3 from one of these new engravings. It really looks great. Prokofiev's Concertino solo/piano edition (edited by Blok) and Cello Concerto orchestra parts have also been overhauled. But then again, they are still selling things like Prokofiev's Sinfonia Concertante in the old edition for $70. Also, keep in mind that Boosey might be correcting some very obvious mistakes, but they are generally not working with editors who know their sources. So the updated editions of Prokofiev will not be fixing any pitch errors like several dozen in Sinfonia.
A short story about Boosey and Prokofiev's Cello Concerto, Op. 58: when Prokofiev met Rostropovich in the late 1940s, many project ideas opened up. One of the ideas was to rewrite the Cello Concerto into what would become Sinfonia Concertante. Meanwhile, in the western Europe there was a copy of the unpublished Cello Concerto floating around. Boosey jumped to the opportunity to be the first to publish this work in 1951 without the composer's knowledge. In 1951, Prokofiev and Rostropovich were well on their way to revising the Concerto, and the publication the piece in its original form was far from Prokofiev's mind. I got the chance to review the composer's autograph of the piano reduction. In fact, Boosey's premature publication contains text that is not congruent with Prokofiev's final thoughts on the work. Thus, the recordings by Starker, Walevska, Isserlis, Gerhardt, and Solow do not reflect the most accurate reading of the work, but just a reading, perhaps passing towards the final version of the original Concerto, Op. 58.
Sikorski, on the other hand, seems to be getting worse, while still charging an arm and a leg. Their engraver team is not trained to produce top-notch work, and the glossy paper they print their music on is atrocious. You can't read it or write on it. Avoid at all costs!
Conclusion: in our day, it's difficult to avoid buying from Boosey, Sikorski, or the two giants: Hal Leonard and Wise Music. Avoid Sikorski, if there is another option. Understand that you will most likely be buying music with dozens of mistakes in it.
Breitkopf & Härtel
Breitkopf is the grandfather of all contemporary publishing companies. It was established in 1719. Whether classical musicians realize it or not, they are the most familiar with this publisher over any other because Breitkopf published 99% of all the major orchestra repertoire we play. We use their original parts or the reprints, but the Breitkopf signature look is immediately recognizable.
Breitkopf is the publisher of Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann (Clara and Robert), Schubert. You might be surprised that the first edition of Fauré's Violin Sonata No. 1 was published by Breitkopf. This is the publisher of Klengel, Fitzenhagen, Grützmacher . They also published modern music by composers such as Jean Sibelius and Günter Raphael, and others. In fact, Dvorak's Cello Concerto in A major in Raphael's arrangement was published by Breitkopf.
Affectionately called Barenwronger, Breitkopf has had a spotty history with regards to accuracy, primarily because of Grützmacher's editions. Otherwise, their historical publications are worthy of their high esteem.
In the last two decades, Breitkopf has entered the "urtext" market, and is producing some amazing updates to their old classics with the help of leading scholars and very competent engravers. Breitkopf works with Henle on Henle's orchestra projects, providing orchestra parts. Having said this, Breitkopf still publishes many of their old standards, so if you are interested in their new editions, make sure you look at the "urtext" symbol and/or publication date.
Conclusion: Breitkopf is a great publisher and is highly recommended. I would choose Breitkopf Urtext over Bärenreiter any day. Their new engravings are beautiful, clear, and accurate. Please avoid anything with Grützmacher's name on it.
Carl Fischer is your home for musical hoaxes. Fritz Kreisler, anyone? They also have the "Telemann" Sinfonia arranged for orchestra, actually composed by Robert Bennett Brown in the style of Vivaldi. You might have played it in high school if you went down the US public school track.
Carl Fischer has some decent performance editions of Goltermann and Saint-Saens concertos (don't buy them for the notes, though!). This publisher used to be much more popular before 1970 when they used to publish pedagogical rep like Popper's Hungarian Rhapsody, and even their own cello method.
You are probably familiar with Alwin Schroeder's 170 Foundation Studies, which was great in its original 1916 printing, but is the worst place to spend your money with the new Robert Hughey edition (avoid at all costs... spread the message far and wide... tell all of your colleagues). I posted the original edition Volume 1 on IMSLP for your use.
Carl Fischer also publishes 20th century contemporary works by composers such as Howard Hanson, Ernest Bloch, and others.
Conclusion: as a cellist, you will rarely run into Carl Fischer. The only things I see worth buying from their catalog are Kreisler pieces, Bloch's cello collection, and 15 Favorite Contest Pieces edited by Collier, maybe Saint-Saens's Concerto No. 1 for decent fingerings.
Looking for British or Australian composers from the last 100 years? You will, no doubt, run into Faber Music (with their signature fortissimo mark). This is the publisher of Britten's Suites, Malcolm Arnold, Thomas Adès, Peter Sculthorpe. Faber was the publisher of Deryck Cooke's completion of Mahler 10. Bridge's Oration? Faber. Colin and David Matthews? Faber. Steven Isserlis editions? Faber.
Faber prides itself for having Elaine Gould, the author of "Behind Bars," as their editor. Behind Bars is an engraving manual that many typesetters swear by. This book is sort of a sequel to Gardner Read's "Music Notation." Both are very good books to fine tune your craft of engraving.
While I am not a huge fan of Faber's font choice, I can't deny that their engravings are done very well.
Conclusion: I highly recommend all of Isserlis's collections. Faber's catalog is well worth exploring for Carl Davis's Ballade, Malcolm Arnold's Fantasy (great for intermediate students), and other contemporary, yet tuneful cello gems.
International Music Company
What a complicated story. First of all, the Rose, Gingold, and Francescatti editions we grew up on were not engraved by IMC. They were "customized" from the first/second editions. Basically, they photocopied the first edition of, let's say, Lalo's concerto, whited out what they didn't want, and entered the new fingerings and bowings by Rose (which I hear is questionable). IMC was a pro at this. The "mistakes" that IMC is notorious for, many of them are also found in the first/second editions.
Supposedly, they did some engraving for Cassadó's arrangements in the 1940s, but I think that those editions were engraved by Schott (Cassadó's previous publisher), and then something happened to their contract which led IMC to publish those arrangements (Elfentanz, Minute Waltz, CPE Bach Concerto, Aeolian Etude, etc.).
You can see IMC starting to engrave their own music in the software called "Score" for their Edmund Kurtz editions and later. From an era when Schirmer was producing beautiful scores of Adams and Corigliano's music engraved in Score, IMC was showing themselves as novices in contemporary music engraving techniques, and selling those, instead of hiring able engravers. Why would you expect anything else from a company that spent decades whiting out public domain music.
I will give them credit in one thing, Soviet music. You can expect to buy the best sonata editions by Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Kabalesky, as well as Shostakovich's 1st Concerto from IMC. That speaks to how bad the Sikorski edition of those pieces really is.
Conclusion: If you really want Rose's fingerings, buy Henle and copy Rose's fingerings and bowings from a library copy. Just remember that there is no good edition of Rococo Variations. Get Soviet music from IMC.
Kunzelmann (associated with Schott and Eulenburg)
Buy at your own risk. While their catalog looks impressive, their quality leaves a lot to be desired, especially at their astronomical prices. You might have bought their 6-cello arrangement of Popper's Requiem, 5-cello arrangement of the Carmen Suite, Chopin's Polonaise Brillante, or concertos by Monn, Weber, CPE Bach, which claim to be scholarly editions. Most their cello transcriptions of violin rep done by Werner Thomas-Mifune have wrong key signatures and are sloppily done, usually transposed down a 5th.
This year I've carefully reviewed their "scholarly" editions of CPE Bach A major concerto, Weber's Grand Potpourri, and a performance edition of the Lalo Sonata (which they maintain has scholarly aspects). Their edition of Lalo blindly copies all of the rhythmic mistakes and obvious wrong notes of the first edition, while adding dozens of new mistakes.
The Weber edition has dozens of wrong notes, clefs, articulations, etc. When I say "wrong clefs," I mean that the notes are correctly placed on the staff if there was a different clef preceding them.
The CPE Bach solo part has a page turn in the middle of practically every solo passage. They also claim to base their edition on the manuscript (which one?). Having seen both manuscripts of the cello concerto, basing my edition on one of these, I don't find their readings plausible. At best, the orchestra parts are ok for performance. Their suggested fingerings in the solo part make the piece more difficult than it is. Their critical notes spend most of the time comparing the cello, flute, and keyboard versions.
Conclusion: avoid Kunzelmann if at all possible.
Edition Peters, in addition to working with their own publications, is actually an umbrella company that also controls Belaieff, Schwann and Kahnt. Belaieff was one of the publishers of Russian music from the Romantic Era; composers like Borodin, Taneyev, Glazunov, and others.
Peters is the edition that comes to mind after Breitkopf for our core orchestra and solo repertoire. You might own Beethoven's Sonatas, Mendelssohn's cello works, Schumann's cello works, and Mozart and Haydn String Quartets in a Peters edition. These are trusty warhorses.
Peters is also the publisher of Alan Hovhaness, George Crumb, Georgs Pelecis, and other modern and contemporary composers. Peters brought Soviet composers to Germany and the US, so you might also own a salmon-colored edition of Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Kabalevsky, Khachaturian, and others.
Peters has dabbled in the "urtext" market, but is not depending on it as their primary source of income. You might have run into the urtext edition of Rococo Variations, edited by Raphael Wallfisch. It's a decent edition, not my favorite (if there can be one for this piece). It's well-engraved, but does contain errors beyond the sources for the piece. Just note that this is the original version of the piece (which I fully endorse). Peters is also working on urtext editions of Haydn, which are solid rivals to Henle.
Conclusion: If I had a choice between my time tested Peters copies of Beethoven quartets and Henle or Barenreiter, I would most likely stay with Peters and pencil in anything noteworthy from scholarly critical notes.
In many ways I would put Ricordi in the same category as Universal. Ricordi has exclusive rights to many 20th Century Italian composers, which makes this publisher unavoidable when looking to play Puccini, Respighi, and others. You will frequently encounter Verdi's music published by Ricordi (or reprinted from Ricordi by Luck's or Kalmus).
For baroque music, there are editions of Degli Antonii (avoid), Bach Suites, Tartini and Leo concertos, and the complete Vivaldi edition. You will see many of the Vivaldi "Ricordi-urtext" posted on IMSLP, edited by Malipiero and Ephrikian. Don't buy into the "urtext" aspect of it. Although these editions use the manuscripts as sources, the editors freely added a bass part (different from the basso continuo) and an unreliable cembalo part. If you are a novice at Vivaldi, you might appreciate the prescriptivism, but period ensembles won't use these as printed. The alternative to Vivaldi would be the Ars Antiqua edition, which is not good either. I usually make my own editions of Vivaldi's concertos if I need to program them.
For the classical period we have Boccherini's sonatas and concertos. The sonatas were edited by Paternoster. They are pretty decent. There is nothing better on the market right now. Avoid the Piatti edition of the 6 sonatas. As of Boccherini's concertos edited by Aldo Pais, those are not reliable. You can still learn the pieces from these editions, though. Schott publishes 5 of the 12 concertos, too. Once again, you have to make a choice between two editions that are not that great. I hope that there will be a push to make a reliable complete Boccherini concerto edition that won't cost an arm and a leg. The Ricordi edition of the quintets by Boccherini is usable.
Conclusion: Ricordi has a monopoly on much of Italian music from 1650-2020. The earlier the period, the less reliable the edition.
If Breitkopf is the grandfather of all contemporary publishers, Schott is the great uncle, established in 1770. Schott is the publisher of everyone from Servais, Swert, Reinecke, to Cassadó (1930-1940), Hindemith (with a new complete edition currently being released), Penderecki, Henze, and Shchedrin. Your first edition of Haydn D was probably edited by Gendron, published by Schott. Many of the Gendron editions and Gendron-Françaix collaborations, including the Chopin Polonaise, were published by Schott,
In the late 1800s, Schott published the "Cello Library," which included the Locatelli-Piatti Sonata, Breval-Cahnbley Sonata in G major, and many misattributed sonatas edited by Alfred Moffat, including the infamous Sammartini G major sonata (composed by Berteau, possibly after Dall'Abaco).
Schott's more recent venture includes the complete edition of Tchaikovsky's music. Although the research is done by top scholars, the quality and accuracy are highly questionable due to poor proofreading (general issue with the current state of Schott).
Another recent edition with dozens of mistakes is their Saint-Saens Suite Op 16 and 16b companion. I recently published an urtext edition of the Suite Op. 16b. I've studied no fewer than 7 sources of the work, including the holograph MS of both the orchestra score and piano reduction, the edition proof and final printed score. The Schott edition of Op. 16b, edited by Maria Kliegel, copies every single mistake in the Hamelle piano reduction, and adds at least a dozen more of its own mistakes. No edition can be farther from what Saint-Saens intended.
Conclusion: For Cassadó, Hindemith, Penderecki, Henze, and Shchedrin, Schott is unavoidable at this point. You will have to hunt for inaccuracies yourself, or with an expert. Françaix's compositions and arrangements are worth exploring. Apart from the Gendron cadenza, I would prefer Henle's Haydn D edition, although I'm not a huge fan of that either. The Cello Library editions are interesting, but I would not use them in performance, especially Breval. Locatelli is decent (IMC reprints the Schott). Stay away from any Saint-Saens published by Schott. If you print Servais from IMSLP, or get a reprint of any of those works, including the 6 Caprices, get ready to make corrections with a red pen.
Schirmer (US distributor Hal Leonard)
There has been a lot of hostility towards Schirmer from the "urtext" supporters in the last couple of decades. Schirmer is faulted for changing the composer's intentions with extra markings. I would like to remind the readers who love to listen to the American greats from the 1930s to 1970s; their preferred edition was Schirmer. This publisher doesn't claim to be scholarly, but Schirmer makes excellent performers' editions. If you like someone's fingerings or bowings, use them, regardless of the publisher. Schirmer editions are very well engraved and they have their own signature look. That's more than one could say of Breitkopf and Simrock of the same period.
Schirmer is the edition of the American greats like Barber, Copland, and Corigliano. Those first editions are incredibly consistent. Since Schirmer went to digital engraving, they've been the first in their class, IMHO. I daresay that they easily rival Henle in quality. Just look at their scores to Corigliano's The Red Violin.
Conclusion: there is no shame in enjoying performing from your Schirmer score. Use it as a reference for fingering and bowings. Learn from the best musicians in the early to mid 20th century.
Universal and Wiener Urtext
When talking about 20th Century composers, we can't get around talking about Universal. Its catalog includes names like Gaspar Cassadó, Richard Strauss, Max Reger, Béla Bartók, Frederick Delius, Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Karol Szymanowski, Leoš Janáček, Kurt Weill, Alban Berg, Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, György Kurtág, György Ligeti and Karlheinz Stockhausen, Arvo Pärt, and others. Universal's cover pages and style very much reflected Art Nouveau.
Universal did engrave their own editions of standard repertoire like Schubert's Trout Quintet, Beethoven's Sonatas, and such. They are comparable to Peters in quality, but definitely with their own signature look; no reprinting here. For anyone who has played Mahler and Strauss works will note that Universal parts are quite messy. This is true, Universal made much better-looking scores than parts. Would you like the task of engraving orchestra parts for a Mahler or Strauss work? It's stressful just to think about. There is no excuse, though. Fortunately, Universal has re-engraved all of Mahler's symphonies. I got the chance to play Symphony No. 5 one of those. It was much better than the "old standard." Sadly, those parts are only available via rental. Universal's new engravings are basic, but they work, nothing special, but they are clean and accurate.
What would our review be like if we don't mention the lawsuit threat Universal vs. IMSLP. Universal backed down because IMSLP's server is in Canada, not Austria. Remember, please, that each country has its own copyright law. I live in the US and abide by the US copyright law. If you live in the EU, you should abide by the EU copyright law. But please don't expect me to abide by the EU copyright law with regards to published works especially. If you live in Canada, you have the best copyright law in the Western world. Congratulations!
Finally, Honda has Acura, Nissan has Infiniti, and Universal has Wiener Urtext. Wiener Urtext is Universal's urtext edition division. This catalog is quite modest, but it's of a very high quality. If you can get your hands on it, I highly recommend their editions of Bach's Suites, Brahms's Sonatas, and Vivaldi's Sonatas. In fact, I would get the Wiener Urtext edition of Vivaldi, and avoid Bärenreiter at all costs, because of all of the misprints in Bärenreiter.
Conclusion: for 20th Century music, you can't avoid getting the Universal Edition. If you buy an old engraving, check with the score to see if there are any inconsistencies in the part. The new engravings are pretty good.
To wrap up my edition reviews, I thought it would be a good idea to review my own publishing company YL Edition.
I started engraving when I was in high school, mostly interested in engraving my own compositions and making arrangements of violin and piano music. You can see some of my earliest work on IMSLP. I tried to imitate the style of the scores that I was arranging, so you will see that my layout and approach from Dvorak's Romance is very similar to Simrock (IMC reprint).
I started selling my arrangements and compositions in the early 2010s, printing them at Staples and selling them on eBay. At that point, the goal was just to get the music in print for my own use and to share it with others. This is where most engravers end up.
In 2016, I started making more editions to seriously increase the cello repertoire, which led me to step up my game and improve the quality of my engraving. This is when I went to a completely digital platform on Sheet Music Plus (SMP). My friend and professional engraver Michele Galvagno convinced me to switch from Finale to Sibelius, at which point my editions started becoming more consistent and clearer. The first edition I published using Sibelius was the Schumann Cello Concerto Critical Edition (technically urtext, because my main source was Schumann’s holograph MS, but I also included a couple of markings from the first edition). I was preparing to play Schumann with orchestra and could not find a reliable, clean edition. Breitkopf Urtext is published with Schiff's markings, which I don't like.
After that, my catalogue grew to include Telemann's Gamba Fantasias and Bach Suites (based on Kellner and Westphal), both of these being my bestsellers. I did not intend to sell the Bach initially, just preparing an edition for personal use, but the edition turned out well, and I was encouraged by colleagues that it was a good product.
Most editions I publish still begin as projects for personal use or for students. I conduct a string orchestra at Bob Jones University, which gives me an outlet for some bigger projects like the CPE Bach’s A major Concerto, Vivaldi Concertos, and various transcriptions of the symphonic repertoire.
I have a researcher background, so many of my editions from the last 4 years are scholarly, for example concertos by Schumann and Saint-Saens (No. 2 first urtext edition on the market), Bloch's Schelomo (first urtext edition on the market), baroque works, and many others.
All of my research is self-funded, but I keep my prices low, because I want to give back to the cello community. Many small businesses charge double or triple the price of what is considered competitive, but I charge what I would want to pay for my own edition minus the printing cost. Since my editions are all digital, I am able to update any typos right away for my customers to have the latest and best version of the edition. All downloads for updates are free of charge on SMP. This is something Henle also does with the in-app purchases with regards to misprints in their scores, and in the most recent printing.
As of Fall 2020, YL Edition has an updated look, which uses custom made fonts, designed especially for my company by Jawher Matmati. You will notice that French music uses the French C clef, and the rest of the music uses the "standard one." The idea of the different clef styles flowed out of my colleagues' complaint that Henle and Bärenreiter French music editions don't look "French enough." I really appreciate everyone's support of the YL Edition.