Chou Wen-chung

Amériques (1922)

The manuscript of Amériques bears the date of 1922 on the last page, although the composing was completed by the fall of 1921, when Varèse turned his attention to Offrandes. Presumably, the copying of the manuscript was completed in 1922. The manuscript bears the dedication: “to my unknown friends of the Spring of 1921.” Varèse never learned of his benefactors. It was Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney who, at the suggestion of Julianne Force, offered the anonymous stipend for Varèse to complete Amériques.

The first set of performances was given in 1926 in Philadelphia and New York by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The following year, Varèse began preparing a revised version with a substantial reduction in its mammoth instrumentation. This version was given its first performance in Paris in 1929, by Gaston Poulet and the Orchestre des Concerts Poulet.

The original version was published in 1925 by J. Curwen & Sons, London, the revised version was published in 1929 by Max Eschig editions, Paris. The Curwen edition is disastrously full of mistakes. There is no manuscript of the revised version other than two copies of the Curwen edition, in which Varèse made revisions by inking over parts and pasting on new pages. The Eschig edition, although an improvement in appearance, actually displays an even larger share of misprints and omissions.

In 1972 I completed a corrected edition of the revised version, based on the Eschig, but with corrections made on the basis of collating all details that were at variance with each other in the manuscript, Curwen edition, the copies used by Varèse for the revision, the Eschig master, and Varèse’s own reference copies. This edition of the revised version, published in 1973, has been the edition in use.

In 1996 I was persuaded by Riccardo Chailly and Andrew Cornall, the producer for Decca Record Company, that the original version, after three-quarters of a century, should again be made available for performance. A performance edition was prepared from the manuscript for Chailly and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and recorded by Decca in 1997.

In contrast to the critical nature of the 1973 edition, this “performance edition” aims at being faithful to the manuscript. Some adjustments in terminology, accidentals, and layout of instruments are made. And a number of Varèse’s own misprints and omissions have been corrected.

The alterations that Varèse makes in ink in the manuscript are verified and incorporated in this edition. All indications made in pencil are examined and compared with other editions before inclusion in this edition. In each case, a footnote is provided. There are exceptions in which Varèse’s pencilled indications are not included or noted in this edition. For example, on p. 74 at m. 3, there are very faint pencil marks suggesting the omission of the next seven or eleven measures. The marks were apparently made while Varèse was preliminarily considering revisions. The revised version, however, actually retains these measures while deleting some subsequent ones in an effort to make the section more concise. The inclusion of these measures is clearly logical for the original version. Thus, no reference is made in this edition.

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