Types of scores and how to find them

Scholarly editions: Urtext

  • Urtext editions, as defined by The Harvard Dictionary of Music, 4th ed. (p. 936), are: “A text in its presumed original state, without subsequent alterations or additions by an editor; an edition purporting to present a work in such a state.”
  • As defined by Sampsel, 3th ed. (p. 284): “Urtext (Ger.): original text”; “Urtext edition: performing edition intended to be as close to the composer’s original as possible without editorial changes or additions”
  • Urtext editions are intended to reflect the composer’s final intention for the piece as accurately as possible. 

  • Urtext editions are scholarly: Sometimes the collected works edition and the urtext edition of a piece are the same and both created by leading scholars in the field; an Urtext edition is considered scholarly because the creator will include references to the sources they consulted and their own rationale for why they included some material and excluded others.

  • Important tip for all scholarly editions (Collected/Historical Sets/Monuments of Music, Collected/Complete Works, and Urtext): Always read the introduction and editors notes! Conventions for performance practice or ways of notating things could have changed between the time when it was published and when you’re working on the piece, or an Urtext edition might include a mistake because of the sloppy handwriting of a composer or copyist, or it may not take into account newly-researched sources for composers who revised their works frequently. Make sure you know how the editors handled (or didn’t handle) these things!

  • The smaller size and lower price tag of urtext editions usually means that they’re more practical for use in performance.

  • Urtext editions are usually created from the composer’s final manuscript or from the first published edition, and are free from editorial markings (i.e. anything that a later editor might want to add to shape the piece). 

What do Urtext editions look like?

Example of an Urtext edition:

Liszt, Franz. Sonate in h-Moll für Klavier. Edited by Michael Kube. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2013.

Tips for finding Urtext editions

  • Try adding the word “Urtext” to your search in the Libraries catalog (but remember that not every piece has an Urtext edition)
  • Get to know the names of publishers that usually put out Urtext editions for the repertoire you work with; these vary by rep, but probably include:

    • Bärenreiter

    • Henle

    • Universal Editions

    • Wiener Editions

    • Salbert/Heugel

    • Ricordi

    • IMPORTANT: Note that not all scores published by these publishers are Urtext editions! Look at the introduction to the score, description in the Libraries catalog, or the publisher website to learn more. Also, if you notice editorial markings that aren’t the same as other editions (bowings, articulations, etc.), then it’s not an Urtext edition!

Last Updated: Nov 22, 2021 2:06 PM