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Edition Comparison - Bassi: Rigoletto Fantasy

Comparing the following editions:
Publication Year
Breitkopf (BRK)
2015, 2017
Nicolai Pfeffer
Molenaar (MOL) ? ?
Ricordi (RIC)
Alamiro Giampieri

The Ricordi and Molrenaar editions are traditionally engraved by hand, and the Breitkopf edition is digitally engraved.  The Ricordi and Breitkopf are both readable, and the Molenaar less so.  However, considerable favor is given to the Breitkopf edition; especially, the clarinet part's accidentals are easier to discern in the smaller-notation cadenzas.  The Molenaar edition's lower quality print reproduction results in "bleed" for some 2- or 3-beamed notes and accidentals, and occasional blemish artifacts.  In other areas, the Molenaar's print is under-exposed, resulting in smaller notations like staccato dots sometimes almost disappearing.

The Breitkopf edition has the most generous spacing; its clarinet part is 8 pages, compared to Ricordi's 7 pages at a virtually identical page size.  The Molenaar edition is printed on slightly smaller paper, about 10% smaller than the Ricordi page size; this isn't a significant issue for the clarinet part, but the piano part is cramped as a result.  The Breitkopf's spacing benefit is even more pronounced for the piano score, covering 16 pages compared to the Ridcordi's more packed-in 13 pages.

The Breitkopf edition's clarinet part includes four instances of helpful tutti cues during rests, the Molenaar edition includes only the opening 11 measures' tutti cues, and the Ricordi edition has none.

All clarinet part page turns are completely acceptable in all three editions.

The Breitkopf edition is "...primarily based on the first print of 1865, published by Ricordi, and a new engraving of 1900 by the same publisher" (from preface).  Mistakes were corrected with no signalling, and there are also four corrected areas with accompanying footnote explanations.  Editor Pfeffer made personally-preferred edits to the clarinet part's dynamics and articulation (none to the piano part); these are marked using square brackets [ ] and dashed lines for hairpins and slurs.  The Ricordi edition has no transparency in the editing by Giampieri, and the Molenaar edition has no crediting of an editor.

There are various differences in notes, rhythm, and articulation between the editions.  A few of these have been highlighted below.

Two of the tutti sections are slightly longer in the Breitkopf and Molenaar editions:

  • Bar 89's tutti takes material from the beginning of the opera's Act I introduction; the Breitkopf/Molenaar (BRK/MOL) editions' interlude is 8 measures longer at a total 24 mm. compared to Ricordi's (RIC) 16 mm., briefly including the lively, grace-note embellished music of the banda interna.
  • The tutti starting in bar 153 BRK/MOL (bar 145 RIC) is based on the "Scorrendo uniti remota via" chorus from Act II; the Breitkopf/Molenaar editions' interlude is 16 mm., compared to the Ricordi's 7 mm.

Besides these piano-part differences, there are a few clarinet-part changes to be aware of:

  • m. 80: second to last note of the measure is a B3 in the Breitkopf/Molenaar editions, and a chalumeau G3 in the Ricordi edition.
  • m. 82 (and analogous spot in m. 84): beat 4's second thirty-second note remains a G4 like its surrounding neighbors in the Breitkopf edition, and is an F♯4 in the Ricordi/Molenaar editions.
  • The clarinet's first eighth note in m. 113 BRK/MOL (m. 105 RIC) is a chalumeau G3, where the Ricordi edition has a clarion B4 in the clarinet line of the piano score (but, a G3 in the actual clarinet part!).
  • The clarinet's concluding note of the cadenza (chalumeau C4) in m. 87 is a half note in the Breitkopf and Molenaar editions, and a quarter note in the Ricordi edition's clarinet part (but, a half note in the clarinet line of the piano score!).

The notation of rhythm and beam groupings sometimes differ in the cadenzas; for example, m. 14's descending line is a single beam of ten sixteenth-notes in the Breitkopf/Molenaar editions, where the Ricordi edition has thirty-second notes followed by a separate beaming of four sixteenth-notes.  The Breitkopf/Molenaar editions sensibly emphasize the uninterrupted nature of this fragment, solely relying on the separated articulation and four accents at the end of the line to signal the opportunity for a dramatic slowing down of the rhythm.

Articulation markings are frequently different between editions.  For example, the Andante from Act III's "Bella figlia" quartet at m. 50 has the following articulations (Breitkopf top, Ricordi bottom):
Bassi Rigoletto fantasy articulation differences
(The Molenaar edition is identical to the Breitfkopf in this instance.)
The first instance of this three-note descending fragment highlighted in red represents a single word from the opera, "amore" (along with the preceding eighth note).  The Breitkopf edition "chops" this fragment with a staccato-marked lift, which might be interpreted as an effective and charming gesture appropriate to the Duke's seductive intentions, whereas the Ricordi's articulation seeks to maintain the original singer's uninterrupted line with a full slur.  Differences like this are abundant, and clarinettists are encouraged to consult the original full score, as well as listen to recordings, to make their own informed and intentional decisions about phrasing.

For those clarinettists interested in playing from the score, both editions have a transposed clarinet part that can be read directly.

What's Inside
The Breitkopf edition includes a second work for clarinet and piano, Bassi's prior adaption of the same opera, titled "Introduzione e Quartetto"; the work is roughly half the length, and would make a fine choice for any player who needs a shorter-duration work for programming or exhaustion considerations.  You can read a more detailed description of the work here.

Summing Up
Although more costly, the Breitkopf edition offers an cleaner, updated appearance to an important clarinet work, including a level of editing transparency not seen in the Ricordi or Molenaar editions.  It also includes a second related work in a single volume, helping to justify the higher price.  Aside from a few minor discrepancies between score and clarinet part that will need ironing out, the Ricordi edition has no glaring issues, and would still suit the needs of today's clarinettists.  Although it has few redeeming qualities, the Molenaar edition does offer an inexpensive avenue to acquire the score with extended tuttis, since it is significantly cheaper than the Breitkopf.  Regardless of edition, musicians should delve deep into the source material to clarify some of the markings, and make subsequent performances their own.