Original versions …

… did Sibelius ‘improve’ En Saga, the Fifth Symphony or the Violin Concerto; Schumann the Fourth Symphony; Bruckner his Third or Eighth; Brahms his Op. 8 Piano Trio; Beethoven Leonore (ie, Fidelio)? I have a fondness for the ‘original’ Bruckner 8, expansive and unwieldy as it sometimes is, and the tighter-fisted ‘orignal’ Schumann 4. And what about Mahler 1 with or without ‘Blumine’ and Mahler 6 with its middle movements placed either 2/3 or 3/2 (if you know what I mean!)

Comments could be interesting.

12 thoughts on “Original versions …

  1. Sibelius 5 is fine in its first version, but it is sublime in the second! Rakhmaninov’s 2nd piano sonata was far superior in its first version, as was Bruckner 1, Bach’s E flat version of the Magnificat is marvellous. Best thing is, that we don’t have to go to the desert island with a narrowed view, and happily we can hear nowadays practically every version of everything [though I’m still looking for the original ending of Ruddigore…]


  2. I don’t think Shostakovich improved “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” when he rewrote it as “Katerina Izmailova,” but I know many of his contemporaries disagreed. I think my objection to the new version may stem partly to my opposition to censorship of any kind, including self-censorship.


  3. David

    One piece which definitely was improved was Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass. Revised the night before the premier, a lot of the revisions make an overcomplicated score far simpler without removing anything of the essence of the piece.

    In other words, he took away a lot that was superfluous, leaving behind the good stuff!


  4. Stephen Kenny

    As a trumpet player I would love for Blumina to have been there but alas, what’s best for one’s instrument isn’t always what’s best for the piece!


  5. Ian Julier

    Then there are the early Stravinsky ballets. Was the composer’s later bleaching-out of the wonderful colours of the originals more musically or financially motivated in the various suites and revised versions? Whatever the balance in the fifty shades of grey of the answer, I can’t think of many other instances where co-existing versions of the same work are acknowledged with such independent and favoured status.


  6. well the fifty shades of grey that I’d really love to experience is The Rite as originally was – how I’d love to have eavesdropped on what it actually sounded like on that historic night in 1913, rough edges ‘n’ all. I’d suspect more a Glasgow Kiss than a Camden workout.


  7. Steven Swalbe

    Dear Rob. Most conductors like to do original versions. Bruckner 1, 3, 4, 5, 8. it’s usually the scherzo (totally different in 4) that’s modified. LvB did many (original) versions of 5. I prefer “Leonora” with L2 to “Fidelio”. Verdi: I prefer the original “Macbeth, “Simon”, “Aida” with sinfonia (Toscanini). Multi versions of the great “Carlo” Karajan did the 4 act version. He was always looking at his watch. Saw him do (without repeats) LvBs op.36 and 60 at the Musikvereinsaal. Just over one hour’s playing time. Same on discs. Schumann’s op 120 (1st) was altered due to the poor orchestration.


  8. Thanks Stephen … and sorry for the tardy response. Work beckoned. Ever since I first heard the original Bruckner 4 scherzo, I’ve thought it fitted the context better than its ‘hunting horn’ successor. More a prelude to the drama of the finale. Agreed 100% re Fidelio and Leonore 2, though not sure about the Aida Sinfonia (but, yes, Toscanini’s performance of it is electrifying). Re Schumann. so much depends on the performers … my views tend to oscillate depending on how they works are done (esp. Nos. 1 and 3).


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