I recently completed a project where I typeset the five sources of Dvořák's Cello Concerto in score form, so those desiring to learn the Concerto could see exactly what the sources contain simultaneously. In the article about the project, I mentioned five Urtext editions that currently exist, technically, six if we count my new comparative edition.
There are four Urtext editions that have the orchestral performance material available in addition to the solo part and the piano reduction. These four editions are Supraphon (ed. Bartoš, 1955), Peters (ed. Pommer, 1976), Breitkopf (ed. Döge, 2001), Bärenreiter (ed. Del Mar, 2011). The Henle edition (ed. Oppermann, 2021) only has the solo part and piano reduction.
In this article, I will be reviewing Suprephon, Breitkopf, Bärenreiter, and Henle. I would like to thank Henle for providing me with a review copy of their new edition.
This edition came out as a part of the complete Dvořák edition. The score is based on the autograph and the Simrock orchestra score, while the separately-published solo part mixes in many of the first edition solo part readings. The solo part and piano reduction set edited by Ladislav Zelenka is still available for purchase from Bärenreiter, who acquired Supraphon. However, the solo part may also be downloaded from IMSLP free of charge because it is now in the public domain.
The Supraphon solo part includes some of the alternative readings in the footnotes. It also includes Zelenka's fingerings and bowings, which sometimes makes it difficult to distinguish between the original reading and the edited one. As far as being a critical edition made for performance, the Supraphon edition is solid. The typesetting is allowed to breathe on the page for the most part; one exception is page 12, where the music is a bit crammed to make the last section of the slow movement fit on one page. It's definitely better than Simrock and IMC with regard to page layout, but not as good as Schirmer (Willeke and Starker). This edition also has the most cue notes I've seen in any edition, which is great if you don't want to count rests. One thing that pops out at me every time I look at this edition is the absence of slurs on the infamous sextuplets in the first movement (those need to be added back in).
This edition came out in the early 2000s. I bought my copy at Frank's in New York for $42.75 when it first came out. Soon after it came out, the price halved, and now the price is in the mid-upper $20s. The solo part text is mainly based on the solo line of the Simrock orchestra score. So in the first movement, you will not see a chord on note 4 of m. 94, but you will see a G# on note 10 of m. 314 and octaves in mm. 323-324, along with other readings from the score. In the piano score in the first movement, m. 229, the lowest note in the left hand needs to be an E-natural, not an E#.
The page layout is great and the solo part has plenty of cue notes. One of the drawbacks is the use of letters instead of numbers for rehearsal numbers. You will have to convert A to 1, B to 2, and so on if you want to use a different piano part or use the Simrock/Kalmus orchestra parts. Breitkopf did publish their own orchestra part set. It's definitely a solid set if you are looking to buy new parts. But still, the use of letters is not great.
The solo part contains fingerings and bowings by Heinrich Schiff, which is great, however, Schiff does not play many of the "original" readings from this edition, if you are trying to compare this edition to his performances. If you are looking for a good critical performance edition, this edition is great. But if you want a nice, clean copy, many times it is difficult to see where Dvořák's pen ends and Schiff's begins. The staff size in the solo part is also a bit smaller than what is desirable. This staff size is 6.5mm. 6.8-7.0mm is preferred.
The piano part is clean and easy to read, but the pages do not lay flat because of the perfect binding. Saddle stitch would have been much preferred. So the pianist will need to break the binding or take it to an office store to get spiral bound. The cello cue line in the piano score is a touch bigger and does not have fingerings printed on it, which gives the score a cleaner look than the editions below.
I purchased the Bärenreiter edition a few years ago as I was reevaluating my music library. Currently, the price of the solo part and piano reduction set is in the mid $20s. The primary source for the solo part is the first edition separate solo part. This Bärenreiter edition is great in many respects. The page layout and size, the staff size (6.8mm), music readability, and the staple-bound piano part make this edition ideal for the pianist and for a cellist who has previously learned this work (more on this below).
It is obvious that much scholarship went into creating this edition. The critical commentary, available for purchase separately, is very thorough. Some of the narrative in the commentary comes off as condescending and arrogant, but the data is solid for the most part. I recommend treading carefully in the commentary narrative.
Like the Supraphon above, some of the alternative readings appear in the footnotes, although not as many as above. One unique feature in the solo part is the inclusion of the trill accidentals in the finale mm. 334-346. These accidentals exist in the anonymous manuscript source while being absent from other sources. It is ironic that this edition did not use (or even mention) the anonymous source but silently adds them in. In the piano score, the finale, m. 39, beat 2, left hand should have a B below the F#, as is it in every source.
The solo part does not contain any fingerings, which will make it more labor intensive for a student to learn the work for the first time. The student will need to copy fingerings from somewhere else, a far from ideal situation. Fingerings, presumably Wihan's, are printed in the piano score cello line.
This edition brings top-notch scholarship and weds it with an excellent performance edition. The current price of this edition is in the mid $20s. The primary source for the solo part is the first edition separate solo part. Like with most other editions that require a single, separate string part, Henle prints an unfingered/unbowed part and a fingered/bowed part. This gives the seasoned musician the opportunity to play from the unmarked part, while the student can get ideas from a famous cellist, in this case, Steven Isserlis.
While the staff size is great (6.8mm), the unmarked part is a bit too densely packed for my taste. The marked part breathes much better on the page. I'm not sure why the layout is different between the parts since usually, the layout is identical in other editions. In the case of this edition, the marked part is 4 pages longer than the unmarked part.
As in Bärenreiter, the fingerings/bowings from the first edition are printed in the piano score cello line, which sometimes looks too cluttered with the already tight spacing. As with the Breitkopf piano part, one would need to break the binding in order to make the score lie flat; I much prefer the saddle stitch. In the first movement, m. 229, the lowest note in the left hand needs to be an E-natural, not an E#. Henle said that they will fix this for the next printing.
Unlike Bärenreiter, Henle prints a detailed preface and critical commentary in the edition, without necessitating a separate purchase. The critical commentary includes just enough information without going into dissertation-style minutiae, which will satisfy most cellists, including this one. Henle also offers the preface and commentary free of charge on their product page!
All of the editions I reviewed bring something unique to the table.
Supraphon: if you are looking for a free public domain edition, get the Supraphon on IMSLP, just remember to do the slurs on the sextuplets.
Bärenreiter: if you know this piece inside and out but want a fresh look and treat your pianist to a well-formatted piano score, get Bärenreiter, just remember to have the pianist play the B in the finale, m. 39, beat 2, left hand.
Henle: if you want an all-around great edition for the student and for a fresh look at the solo part, get Henle, just remember to have the pianist play an E-natural in the first movement, m. 229, the lowest note in the left hand.
Breitkopf: if you want to see the Simrock orchestra score text in the solo part. This edition is also good for students because of Schiff's fingerings. Remember to have the pianist play an E-natural in the first movement, m. 229, the lowest note in the left hand.