New OrpheusOnFire Editions

OrpheusOnFire Editions presents editions of concert works from the guitar repertoire and seeks to bridge the conflicting worlds of performance and scholarship.

I am pleased to announce the release of eight new editions/transcriptions of concert works for solo guitar. Most are major works. These are performance editions, i.e., neither Urtext nor critical editions, and have been meticulously typeset and include detailed fingerings, interpretive indications, and performance notes. You can get a sense of why I created these editions by having a look at the About OrpheusOnFire page on my website, where you can also see sample pages, or reading the "About OrpheusOnFire Editions" below. There are details about each piece on my Articles and Editions page, where you can purchase them through Gumroad’s secure pop-up window.

The pieces now available are:

  • Aguado, Dioniso: Rondo brillant, Op. 2, No. 2
  • Bach, J. S.: Fugue for Lute, BWV 1000(a)
  • Barrios, Agustín: Estudio de Concierto
  • Giuliani, Mauro: Grande Ouverture, Op. 61
  • Granados, Enrique: Danza Española No. 5
  • Sor, Fernando: Variations on "O Cara Armonia," Op. 9
  • Sor, Fernando: Grand Solo, Op. 14
  • Weiss, Sylvius Leopold: Fantasie

I thought it best to begin this project with a handful of pieces, but I’ll be adding new editions as they’re completed. I’ve kept prices low—seven works are $5.00 and one is $4.00) so that you can see what's behind these new performance editions and maybe get an answer to the question "Does the guitar world really need another edition of Sor's Op. 9?" (I think the answer is "Yes!")

If any of these editions need to be updated, updates are always free to Gumroad customers. Below is detailed information about OrpheusOnFire Editions.

About OrpheusOnFire Editions

Performance editions of guitar music became unfashionable during the last third of the twentieth century. Clive Brown, in Classical and Romantic Performance Practice 1750-1900, offers an explanation:1

Despite the counter-currents of heavily edited “classics” from Ferdinand David and Hugo Riemann in the nineteenth century to Carl Flesch, Arthur Schnabel, and many others in the twentieth century, the cult of the Urtext has grown slowly but steadily until many modern musicians, including advocates of period performance, have invested these editions with a mysterious, almost sacrosanct quality, as if the more literally the notes, phrasings, dynamics, and so on, which constitute the composer’s latest ascertainable version of the work are rendered, the closer the performance will be to the ideal imagined by the composer.

Urtext editions that contain interpretive markings are certainly of value, but what about Urtext editions of manuscripts or early publications that contain only the notes? Guitarists well versed in our literature will see a problem at once: many Urtext editions of guitar music often contain neither phrase markings nor plentiful dynamic indications. Some nineteenth-century guitar publications do contain fingerings, which are informative, but many early publications assumed that one would know a composer’s fingering practices by having read that composer’s method book or by playing pedagogical pieces by the composer. This is true of Fernando Sor and to a lesser extent Mauro Giuliani.

The primary value of most Urtext editions of guitar music lies in an opportunity to check the notes.2 This doesn’t mean Urtext editions aren’t useful as a starting point, if for no other reason than to see if a later editor changed notes or made cuts in the score,3 but there is a risk that those who work only from Urtext editions will develop a naïve relationship between notation and performance.4 In 1995, guitarist Robert Spencer illustrated the traits of those in thrall to what Brown called the “cult of the Urtext”:5

By critical edition, I mean that the original page has been reset or re-engraved, but remains a faithful copy in which nothing has been changed. During this century the word Urtext (German for original text) has been used strictly for this type of transcription. If critical comment is added to help the player, the Urtext becomes a critical edition. The vital point is that any editorial addition must be clearly distinguishable from the original music. Modern editions which do not show this distinction should not be used—they should be burnt!

Modern editions of guitar music by well-known performers (e.g., Andrés Segovia and Julian Bream) often contain the performer’s fingerings (usually more left-hand fingerings than right-hand fingerings), occasional changed notes, little sense of how historical techniques intersect with interpretation, and little that contributes to a cohesive artistic vision of a work. In short, guitar music has not benefitted from interpretive editions, such as those offered by Ferdinand David, Hugo Riemann, Carl Flesch, Alfred Cortot, Arthur Schnabel for piano and violin.6

OrpheusOnFire Editions presents editions of concert works from the guitar repertoire and seeks to bridge the conflicting worlds of performance and scholarship. OrpheusOnFire Editions include left-hand fingerings (including hinge bars, angle bars); detailed right-hand fingerings; the application of historical fingering practices where applicable; interpretive indications; and explorations of high-level technical concepts. All pieces are meticulously typeset and include comprehensive performance notes.

  1. Clive Brown, Classical and Romantic Performance Practice 1750-1900 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 4. ↩︎
  2. One piece published by OrpheusOnFire illustrates this. Agustín Barrios Mangore’s Estudio de Concierto was published by DiGiorgio after Barrios’s death and contains neither dynamic nor interpretive markings, and I’ve yet to see an edition that has suggested any. This is unfortunate because an astute editor could have pointed out some interesting hidden inner voices, the awareness of which can add depth to one’s performance. ↩︎
  3. See Julian Bream’s edition of Mauro Giuliani’s Rossiniana No. 1, Op. 119 (London: Faber Music ltd, 1979). Bream made no secret of the alterations he made, such as replacing the Maestoso section, which is based on themes from L’Italiana in Algeri with the Allegro maestoso march from the pantomime Die Zauberschere, which is in Giuliani’s fourth Rossiniana, Op. 122. Even then, Bream omitted Giuliani’s first variation of the march. Bream did create a viable concert work, however, and it’s always interesting to see how established performers approach a work. Bream referred those who wished to consult Giuliani’s original score to the facsimile edition published by Belwin Mills. ↩︎
  4. At the opposite end of the spectrum from Bream are editions of music prepared by editors who may never have had experience performing works they’ve edited. This is quite different from piano editions of piano music issued by Alfred Cortot, Arthur Schnabel, or Rafael Jossefy, among others. ↩︎
  5. Robert Spencer, “Nineteenth-Century Guitar Music: the type of edition we should play from,” European Guitar Teachers Association Guitar Journal, No.6 (1995): 15–18. ↩︎
  6. For a detailed exploration of this, see my article, “The Re-Imagination of Performance,” (Part One), The Soundboard, Journal of the Guitar Foundation of America, Winter 2009, Vol. XXXV, No. 1, pages 6-18. ↩︎