Tim Crawford’s response 

Published by Legacy of Matanya Ophee on

By Tim Crawford 

Editor’s note: for a back ground on the events leading to this response, please see my article What is this about Danby?

This is a response to some e-mail correspondence from Art Ness that Matanya Ophee forwarded to me since it explicitly mentions me, my work and my presumed responses to events.

All I am trying to do here is put the record straight. I have asked Matanya to present this statement complete, not to quote selected portions. I also trust him to place the statement in its true context (I have no idea about the various newsgroups and e-mail lists from which the original messages originated).

Points raised by message 1.

When I first joined in discussions about MOLA, I suggested that Danby would be a good project, as it was an easily-accessible source in the US with music of interest outside the immediate lute-community, and therefore a better sales prospect than most.

The other editors seemed to accept this, and Matanya said (as far as I recall) that we could perhaps consider it when the Moscow Weiss MS and Swan MS projects were out of the way. Both of these were, and are, extremely attractive propositions to me and I leapt at the chance to work on both of them. I thoroughly enjoyed the work, and I am proud of both editions, though I can now see things that could have been done better, as always. The lion’s share of the work on the Swan MS was done by my co-editor, François-Pierre Goy, and I am not aware of any serious dissatisfaction he feels about the edition—at least he has expressed none to me in the several times we have met since.

It is quite incorrect for Art to say: 

“Tim didn’t want to do those editions, and only after [Matanya] and I held out the promise of Danby, did he agree.”

It is sort of true that 

“Tim finished work on that edition 20 years earlier.” 

Only the figure is wrong—12 years earlier would be more accurate; it is now about 17 years. In fact I started work on it in about 1982—that’s now 20 years ago. I visited Rochester to look at the MS when the edition was almost complete in 1984.

For that very reason, I knew that getting Danby ready for publication would be a far less challenging (and therefore far less interesting) proposition. So waiting for a while did not seem a problem.

I should say that my priority at that time was to get Danby into print in transcription, so that Handel scholars should have access to it. The MOLA scheme would have accomplished that and given it to lute and guitar players as well.

In the event, the poor sales of keyboard transcriptions in the MOLA series convinced Matanya that my favoured approach was not commercially viable. I do not recall whether I explicitly refused to contemplate a guitar and lute tablature only edition, but I would not support that very strongly today, even though it might sell well, as I feel there are more important lute sources around which should be published in that way. But its importance as a Handel source makes transcription vital.

However, as Matanya says, ‘There was never any agreement between us to publish this, and Tim had never submitted a “finished work.”’ Matanya has had for many years various materials which relate to the project, none of which represents the current state of my research, etc, but were supplied to him by me for estimates, etc.

I never did any engraving of the edition. However, it was completely (manually!) engraved in c. 1985 for Faber Music, who at that time intended to publish it (in keyboard transcription with separate modern tablature) until a radical change in their US distribution arrangements forced them to cancel it and several other projects. Copies of the music proofs for this are amongst the material I supplied for Matanya’s consideration.

There are many reasons why this engraved score could not be used. It had been paid for by another publisher; the copyright rested with the engraver; the format was wrong; the page layout was far too lavish; I had changed my mind about certain aspects of the transcription. But I have never heard any criticism of the “quality of the engravings” from Matanya; in any case this would have been completely irrelevant.

In the 1980s, there were problems about getting rights to publish a facsimile of the entire MS. In the event Faber Music secured permission to publish certain a few selected pages in facsimile, and Eastman supplied photographs.

“Poor Tim.  He asked for permission after he’d almost finished all his work.  He should have asked before starting.”

Art’s kindly-meant expression of support is again irrelevant to the publishing history. I bear no resentment against the library for their ultra-scrupulous interpretation of the then new and poorly-drafted copyright laws (which were the basis for their refusal), nor against any of the publishers involved.

There was never any question of Eastman refusing to allow an edition of the MS, in transcription or in tablature—it was a complete facsimile that caused them the problem then, in 1985. Subsequent clarification of the legal position has meant that Sylvie Minkoff had no difficulty in getting permission (and photographs) for the full facsimile which should appear before too long.

The most problematic statements by Art are these

“These are original pieces for lute apparently made when Handel was in  Hamburg, before settling in London. Some of the pieces are otherwise unknown. So some pieces may have been recycled later.  They are ALL identifiable as Handel.  They are NOT transcriptions of the sort made by Richard Yates. These are original works for lute.”

Quite the reverse. I do not regard any of the Danby pieces as authentic, original compositions for the lute by Handel. They are precisely transcriptions of the sort made by … any arranger of music for classical guitar. Yes, some of the pieces are otherwise unknown, and most were recycled later by Handel. But many come from his operas Almira and (probably) other lost works from the Hamburg period.

(BTW Danby contains 93 (I think) pieces, of which I ascribe about 13—some quite tentatively—to Handel.)

It is even quite likely that the arrangements were made by a Hamburg lutenist (perhaps by or for the wife of the poet Brockes?—she is praised in a poem for her playing of ‘Hendels Stücken’ on the lute) after Handel had left Hamburg for Italy, from whence he went to Hanover and England, just missing Lord Danby, as it happens. I have no way of knowing whether the arrangements were sanctioned by Handel. They do not lie well under the fingers, with the exception of some of the minuets. They are in that sense poor lute music. Any player of the instrument would know this after 5 minutes acquaintance with them. That is one reason why I have not pushed harder for their publication. They are principally of academic interest. I am (now) an academic.

I wrote two substantial articles about the contents of the MS and the background to it, and was at great pains to avoid suggesting that Handel ‘wrote lute music’ (despite the Brockes quote, above).

“The book with trashy minuets is Moscow/Weiss (publ. by Ophee–I told him not to, but he didn’t listen).  Most of the music is NOT by Weiss, but by some Russian amateur.  And the Weiss pieces have been tampered with to make them sound ‘Russian.’  That is why Tim was so reluctant o get involved with Moscow-Weiss.”

The best reason for not publishing Moscow/Weiss would have been that there was an earlier out-of-print edition which included a (poor) facsimile. Some lutenists, but not many, would have access to this. But no guitarists knew this music. (I feel that Alan Rinehart’s arrangements for guitar in the MOLA edition really do the music justice, but that’s a personal opinion.)

I do not regard the minuets in Moscow/Weiss as trashy. At all. I do think that some are in a later style than Weiss’s. Some are rather good, actually, but I don’t think Weiss wrote them.

Some of the ‘partitas’, too, are unlikely to be by Weiss, but I doubt that they are by “some Russian amateur,” although the nationality of the composer might well be right. It would be going too far at present to ascribe them definitely to Bielogradsky, but he is the most likely candidate, of course. He was decidedly not ‘some … amateur,’ but one of the most highly-regarded of Weiss’s professional pupils. The Russian royal court gave him a pension for life on his retirement, which is some indication of the esteem in which he was held. See my Introduction.

(Why do I write these detailed introductions when even scholars fail to read them and/or remember what I write?)

However, these pieces are by a ‘Weissiste’ without being by Weiss (IMHO). That does not make them trashy, but it does not make them great music, either.

I showed that in a few places this source transmits a few ‘altered’ notes which give augmented-second intervals, a characteristic of Ukrainian music; I was at pains not to say Russian, as Bielogradsky possibly was from the Ukraine (although he may indeed have been Circassian, as most early sources say—but see my intro to Moscow/Weiss). This needs an expert opinion, which it has not yet had. It would be great if someone further East in Europe could take up this research, but it may not be practical just now. In retrospect I should not have mentioned this rather inconsequential speculation in the edition, but it seemed fun at the time.

Most lute sources ‘contaminate’ their musical content. I am amazed that Art finds this hard to accept. Musicology has moved on from the old notion of a fixed canon of great compositions for which we have to recover an Urtext which represents the composer’s latest, most mature, and therefore highest thoughts about the creations of his genius. Lute tablature sources (such as MSS of M. Newsidler, BTW) show that even composers had a flexible view of their ‘works’ which do not coincide with that former attitude. Who knows that Weiss would have corrected those augmented seconds? He wrote them himself sometimes—and I bet he sometimes played them, even if he didn’t always write them down. They might represent the versions he gave to Bielogradsky around 1733—who knows?

“But the promise of Danby was the carrot.”

See above for refutation of this.

“You’re a bona fide SOB, Matanya, to treat Tim that way.”

I do not feel in the least badly treated by Matanya. I do, however, feel badly treated in the way my consistent failure to publish promptly/hurriedly has been repeatedly highlighted by others. I am not pleased by, nor proud of, the fact that many projects I am working on have dragged on for an unreasonably long time.

And I am very unhappy that my dirty linen in this regard is often exhibited publicly in this way. Most readers have not the slightest interest in the historical events of minor music publishing in the 1980s, and I would far prefer to spend my days in trying to get work out for them to enjoy, rather than the delicate business of composing messages like this, trying to put the record straight on things which upset others far more than they do me.

So much of this could have been cleared up by asking me privately before making public conjectures about my personal feelings. And it is unnecessary to make childish comments about the musical competence of other people with whom one disagrees. Further points from the second message which I cannot leave unchallenged:

“I know the duos by Weiss about which you speak. Those are really re-composed works.  Stone is doing something quite different.  His is a reconstruction from existing materials.”

If the Weiss duos being referred to here are Karl-Ernst Schroeder’s edition of the Dresden duos and the recording of them by him and Robert Barto, then this statement is quite unreal. Karl-Ernst took huge pains over many years to work out his reconstructions, which in fact require almost no composition as so much musical material is recoverable from the surviving parts. BTW These reconstructions will appear in volume 8 of the SL Weiss collected works that I am currently preparing for Bärenreiter.

To me they sound like wonderful Weiss, though I am the first to accept that Weiss has weaknesses as a composer which are audible here, too. (That’s part of what was so clever about what K-ES did!) I think their recording is truly excellent, and said so in my review for Early Music. (‘ … my must-have lute record of the decade.’) I think my opinion counts for something.

(To judge from the early drafts he sent me, Richard Stone’s versions of the concertos involve somewhat more re-composition than Karl-Ernst did, but both of them have been scrupulous in preserving the surviving lute parts exactly. Volume 8 of the Weiss works will include reconstructions by me and Peter Holman, and by Jerzy Zak, of the concertos, alongside Karl-Ernst’s duos.)

Maybe there is another edition of pseudo-duos by Weiss that I don’t know about? Please give chapter and verse.

“Those duos are rather Matelart-like, wouldn’t you say?  One part of a duet exists, and someone has written a second part to replace the lost second lute part.  There is a good deal of excitement about them in the amateur lute community, but that is because there are so few duets for baroque lutes in d-minor (or any other) tuning.”

Matelart added second lute parts to pre-existing solo pieces by Francesco and others. This is the method that was followed by French composers in the 17th century; the second (ie added) part was called the ‘Contrepartie’. There are many of these in the sources, and a newly-discovered MS from the prewar Danzig library adds many, many more. (See my article on Dufault in the proceedings of the ‘Luth en Occident’ conference, Paris, 1998 for details.)

But, as far as I am aware, there is no music by Weiss which follows this method for lute duos. There are lute parts for chamber-music ensemble items which are identical to tablature parts of solos by Weiss, and some of these solos were undeniably intended to be played as solos; the other instruments were presumably added to make chamber music. This is in the old tradition of the ‘Lautenkonzert’ which was normal in the Austrian/Bohemian lute school of the late 17th century; the treble line of the lute is doubled at the higher octave by a violin, flute or whatever, and the bass line is supported by a cello, or whatever. Any other instruments (inner parts) adopt the role of the French ‘contrepartie’, although the vast majority are trios (lute, violin, basso) without such inner parts.

It is clear from the surviving parts that all of Weiss’s duos are quite different from this. The missing parts were ‘obligato’, whereas in the contrepartie model they are optional.

If someone has published ‘duos’ by Weiss where a second newly-composed part is added to solos (in the way JS Bach added to Sonata 47 to make his Suite BWV 1025) I would like to know about it, and unreservedly withdraw my implicit criticism of Art’s ‘Matelart’ analysis.

Tim Crawford, London, 22 February 2002

Copyright © 2002 by Tim Crawford. All Rights Reserved.


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