Preface to Volume 17 A
The present volume contains the music text of Schoenberg’s incomplete oratorio, Die Jakobsleiter, in that form of the work composed mostly between the beginning of June and the end of September 1917, then repeatedly resumed in subsequent years and ultimately abandoned in July 1922. It is in a short-score form totalling 684 bars that has in fact remained fragmentary in two respects: It covers, on the one hand, only about two-fifths of the libretto that Schoenberg himself wrote; on the other, it has in three places in the orchestral portion gaps comprising between two and 16 bars that he apparently intended to close in conjunction with the fair copy of the score, which, however, never materialised. That the work in its present form was nevertheless included in series A consisting of the performable works and edited according to the principles of a “work edition”, was based on the fact that not only is it one of Schoenberg’s chief works, but also that the music text recorded is so extensively indicated in nearly all essential areas (with the exception of an only sporadically specified orchestration), that the musical conception can be clearly enough recognised even in view of an intended performance.
In terms of reproducing the short score where the layout of pages and staves could not be taken over owing to the autograph’s oversize and almost square format, the editor was compelled to compromise between maximally approximating the original appearance, on the one hand, and clearly reproducing the individual parts progressions for intuitive comprehension whilst managing without reference signs. The aim was to achieve a printed image of sufficiently great transparency to facilitate the study of the complex compositional structure, involving several often variously scored choral groups as well as off-stage and elevated orchestras diversely joining in with the main orchestra. For this purpose, various measures were necessary: Thus, for instance, the choral parts diverge from the model in that they were set in full score in order to ensure a clear and consistent text underlay. Furthermore, melodic progressions which Schoenberg showed as belonging together by means of an arrow or voice-leading line were consistently notated on one stave. Finally, rhythmically identical formations were grouped together whenever possible on one stave or – in the case of multi-pitch chords – on two, directly adjacent staves. It goes without saying that all deviations from the original layout of the short score are communicated in the Critical Report, so that the original division of pages and staves can be reconstructed at any time.
A further concession to the score’s transparency and unambiguousness is the standardisation of the orchestration particulars, repeated in parentheses at the beginning of a new accolade only if an interim change of instrument can be excluded. Finally, the libretto for the underlying text, published in 1917, was authoritative – apart from exceptions having to be substantiated on a case-by-case basis – especially in terms of the punctuation predominantly lacking in the short score. In terms of placing accidentals, the present music text follows the recognisable tendency, increasing in the course of Schoenberg’s autograph, to provide every single note with an accidental. Only immediate or unambiguous pitch repetitions are exempted from this principle.
The edition of the short score of Der Jakobsleiter within the context of the Complete Edition may well be doubly regarded as a milestone for the music edition: whereas, on the one hand, it makes Schoenberg’s unfinished chief work from his middle creative period accessible for the first time in its initial, oversized scoring not yet adapted to orchestral practice – as in a later incomplete autograph copy which served as a model for the orchestral score realised by Winfried Zillig and edited by Rudolf Stephan in 1985 in the Supplement to the Complete Edition –, it undertakes, on the other hand, for the first time ever the attempt to present a short score in an historico-critical edition.
Berlin, January 2018
Translation Margit McCorkle