Oskar Fried: Complete Songs

Time to break the silence. 😉

If you follow this blog you will have noticed that there has been quite some time since the publication of the previous post. Well, both Janek and I have been quite busy with other things and haven’t received any casual contributions by others in the meantime. Janek has for example been working hard to improve the handling of slurs in LilyPond, and I have dived into understanding Frescobaldi’s code in order to contribute more to it in the future.

But there is also another project that kept us busy lately, and we will now present it in a little series of three posts: A critical edition of the songs of Oskar Fried.

(click on the player button to the left to listen to the example).

Oskar Fried: “Heiterkeit, güldene, komm!” op. 7,1 (click for full page excerpt)

Oskar Fried: “Heiterkeit, güldene, komm!” op. 7,1 (click for full page PDF excerpt)

Oskar Fried belongs to the “Great conductors of the 20th century” and can be found as such on numerous CD compilations. Among his achievements are many premiere performances, for example the first Schoenberg performance outside of Vienna (Pelléas and Mélisande in Berlin), or the first recording of a complete Symphony of Gustav Mahler. But he was also a gifted composer, which is far less known. Deutschlandradio Kultur and the record label Capriccio started a “campaign” by releasing a CD with orchestral music, and in that context they asked me if I wanted to produce a recording of Fried’s songs, as a follow-up to the 4 disc edition of Schoenberg’s songs I was preparing at that time.

Of course I was interested and started working on what seemed to be a clean and easy project, simply learning and rehearsing the music and doing a recording, without all the logistical and intellectual overhead of the Schoenberg production. But at one point it became necessary to get transpositions of some of the songs. It was quite urgent and therefore I couldn’t do this myself and we commissioned the task to a few members of lilypond-user. This actually was the occasion of my acquaintance with Janek. 😉

Realizing it was so much more comfortable to play from nicely printed LilyPond scores than from the xerox copies of greyed-out 100 year old editions, and having already a considerable share of the songs already entered as LilyPond files the idea of preparing a new edition slowly emerged. I quickly convinced Alexander Gurdon, a musicologist who is working on his doctoral thesis on Fried and who was our inofficial advisor on the subject, to participate. Janek’s interest was raised just as fast, and off we went to an adventure we didn’t expect to be so big.

We intended to enter the music of the remaining songs, correct a few errors of the original editions, beautify LilyPond’s output and release the results, but as it turned out it become much more. I’d never expected that you’d have to do so much scholarly editing on pieces that only exist as printed original editions – no comparison of different sources at all, but still loads of issues to correct or decide. And the scores proved to push LilyPond and Janek to their limits, but in the end they produced overwhelming results. Janek will talk about this in more detail in the second post of this series.

But this project was even more of an adventure for me in another respect. From the beginning I was aware that LilyPond’s text input allowed us to edit the scores collaboratively, which would be much more difficult using closed file formats and graphical tools.

Initially we had been using a shared Dropbox folder for the LilyPond sources and compiled pdfs, but it soon became inconvenient to manage the files. For example I didn’t have an online connection in my working-room and worked on a copy from a USB device these days. So each time I returned home I had to check if Janek by chance had edited the same file(s) on that day. This post on lilypond-user expressed my uneasiness, and the following discussion triggered my journey into the world of source code versioning!

In the meantime I have written a lot about text based work and version control, and all this originated in this project. In the same context I started using LaTeX for compiling the volume, developed lilyglyphs for our critical report, and by now I really can’t imagine how I could ever have worked differently. But we’ll go into more detail on the subject of collaboration in the last part of this series.

(Click on the player button to the left to listen to the example).

Oskar Fried: Die Sonne singt op. 5,1 (click to view full page PDF example)

Oskar Fried: Die Sonne singt op. 5,1 (click to view full page PDF example)

As I’ve said, we’re approaching the release date and are determined to ship the first copies before the end of the year (and perhaps before Christmas ;-)). Of course this edition will be available for sale, and if you’re interested in supporting this project (which is enriching, but only in the spiritual sense) you can pre-order for subscription until Dec 1st. The subscription prices will be € 25.- for the softcover and € 40.- for the hardcover edition (as compared to the official retail prices of € 34,95 / € 50.-).

The volume contains 23 songs and three duets (comprising 94 pages of music scores or 70 minutes of music), biographical notes, nice pictures, and a meticulous critical report. It will be printed on a beautiful creamy-yellow Munken Pure paper and processed with robust thread-stitching.

Update: you can see all posts related to this edition here.

18 thoughts on “Oskar Fried: Complete Songs

  1. Bruce

    Inspirational blog you have here. So much to learn from. Would be interesting to see a “beautified” vs lilypond stock output overlay (like the regression changes), even for the first page (before differing pagination makes comparison futile).

    1. Urs Liska

      Although it is an interesting idea this wouldn’t be so telling in such a case.
      You have to consider two independent steps here: A general ‘style sheet’ and the individual tweaking. The style sheet isn’t really related to quality but more of taste, but it would already make a comparison somewhat meaningless.
      What is interesting will be a comparison of the unbeautified (but styled) result with the final result. I think Janek will show examples of this (although probably not overlaid) in his upcoming post.

      1. Bruce

        I look forward to checking this out. Also discussion regarding the decision-making around the style sheet would be very useful. I like the stock lilypond output generally, but find (especially for snare-drum patterns) spacing needs tightening a bit.

        1. Urs Liska

          Well, the first thing we had to do is to reduce the overall staff size. With LilyPond’s default output I’m just not getting enough music onto one page.
          When reducing staff size I find the results become to skinny, so we decided to make many things (like line-thicknesses) thicker or bigger. That’s something which could perhaps be improved in LilyPond’s default behaviour

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    1. Urs Liska

      The official way to do this is to write an email to mail [at] sou nd-rel [dot] de
      If you’re in time and referring to the subscription offer please state so explicitly.

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