I’ve received so much feedback on the Blind Leaders of the Blind, and everyone is asking, “Okay, so which editions are the best ones to use?” It’s impossible to give a definitive or universal answer, naturally. The main thing generally is to obtain an Urtext whenever possible. But here’s a quick list of what I’ve found to be truest, from Scarlatti to Prokofiev.
Ricordi/Fadini (but certainly not Ricordi/Longo!), Kenneth Gilbert, Schirmer/Kirpatrick (every once in a blue moon a Schirmer edition of “old” music is actually worth getting, and this is that rare case).
I prefer Bärenreiter to Henle, but you won’t go wrong with either one. For orchestral works, you need Bärenreiter.
Henle for piano sonatas and string quartets. Landon (not Henle or Bärenreiter) for the symphonies. For the Creation, try Oxford.
Bärenreiter is king, hands down. Two notable exceptions would be the recent Wiener Urtext open-score rendering of the four-hands works (thank you, Bob Levin!)and the Oxford/Maunder edition of the C-minor Mass.
For the symphonies. the overwhelmingly obvious choice is the groundbreaking Jonathan del Mar set from Bärenreiter. Nothing I’ve seen comes close. For all the concerti—Henle. For the string quartets, the only choice is Henle, now that all sixteen quartets are finally available from them. For the piano sonatas, the situation is more complex because the sources are more problematic. I have been tremendously impressed by the new Associated Board/Cooper edition. I could never have imagined playing the sonatas from anything but Henle, but the plain fact is that Cooper’s version is more detailed, more current, far more informative, and even more thoughtfully laid out. Amazingly, the legendary Schnabel edition continues to be tremendously relevant (as a study-aid, not as your primary text); if you prepare a Beethoven sonata without availing yourself of Schnabel’s unique insight, you are doing yourself a serious disfavour. For a primary-text backup, use Henle; for an “opinion” edition, don’t forget the wonderfully quirky, yet meticulous, Arrau offering from Peters.
For the symphonies—Bärenreiter. For the piano sonatas—Wiener Urtext/Tirimo is clearly the way to go, although Henle and Bärenreiter are certainly acceptable.
Whenever possible, go with the ongoing Leipzig complete works project.
The consensus choice seems to be that Ekier ekes it out over his great predecessor Paderewski, and probably over Henle. I don’t disagree, but it seems that we’ll never see a“definitive” Chopin collection.
Draheim for the symphonies, Henle for the piano music and chamber music.
Henle. But it begins to matter less as, together with Brahms, we cross the mid-point of the nineteenth century.
Oops. “It begins to matter less??” True generally… but spectacularly not so in Bruckner’s case. No room to even broach that topic here.
Boris Berman has just brought forth the best edition of the piano sonatas yet available, correcting numerous lingering errors.
DSCH edition is the new standard.