Chou Wen-Chung

Edited Varèse Scores

Amériques (1929)

Year New edition with corrections, 1972
Duration 24 minutes
Published By Casa Ricordi

The manuscript of Amériques bears the inscription of 1922, but the composition was apparently completed in 1921. It was then revised in 1927 with a reduction of instrumentation, eliminating seven woodwinds, eight brasses and a few percussion instruments. The revision includes a considerable amount of reorchestration and some substantial omissions, additions, and replacement of certain passages. There are also some changes in dynamics and performance instructions.

The original version premiered at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra on April 9, 1926; the revised version premiered at the Maison Gaveauin Paris by Gaston Poulet and the Orchéstre de Concerts Poulet on May 30, 1929.

The original version was published in 1925 by J. Curwen & Sons of London and the revised version in 1929 by Editions Max Eschig of Paris. The Curwen edition is full of misprints, including wrong pitches and time-values as well as missing, misplaced and mistaken dynamics, ties, slurs, accents and special signs or instructions. There is no manuscript of the revised version. Instead, two copies of the Curwen edition exist in which Varèse has pasted new pages over the old, inked-over parts or deleted measures, and otherwise made revisions and additions. There is no evidence (and it appears unlikely) that Varèse ever proofread the Curwen edition — certainly not against the manuscript. At any rate, most of the errors found their way into the Eschig edition and some were even incorporated into Varèse’s revisions or additions. The Eschig edition, appearing to be an improvement, actually represents a further mutilation of the score, contributing to an even larger amount of misprints and omissions. While there is again no evidence of anything more than a cursory check by Varèse, he apparently did make a number of revisions and deletions in the master copy of the Eschig edition after it was prepared. These are mostly in the percussion, out of practical considerations in the disposition of percussion among players. However, he also made some revisions in dynamics, some of which may have been influenced by the misprints. In the early 1960’s, anticipating proposed recordings, he again made corrections, additions and deletions in two reference copies of the Eschig edition.

The present edition is based on the Eschig but with corrections made on the basis of collating all details that are at variance with one another including the original manuscript, the Curwen edition, the two copies used for preparing the revised version, the Eschig master, and Varèse’s reference copies bearing his final changes. This edition also consulted a copy of the Curwen edition that Stokowski used for the first performance, and another used by Varèse at that time. In all such matters as dynamics, accents, ties, slurs, numbering of instruments, use of mutes, instructions for percussion, whenever doubts exist, an evaluation is made of their clarity and consistency, and their relation to the structure and texture of the passage and of similar passages. Priority was given, in order, to (1) the manuscript, unless there are reasons to believe revisions have been made in subsequent versions; (2) the two copies of the revised version by Varèse for added or revised materials, unless there is suspicion that further revisions or errors have been made; (3) the Eschig master for revisions made therein afterwards, unless such changes appear to be questionable; and (4) Varèse’s reference scores for new additions and revisions made shortly before his death. Whenever such signs are missing, or are confusing or contradictory, they are supplied editorially, clarified, or collated as much as circumstance permits. If not, no new information is added.

The composer’s style in notation and format for scoring are retained, except where it is felt that common practice today demands modification for ease in performance such as the elimination of the C clef for bass-clarinet. Cancellation and cautionary signs, certain chromatic spellings, abbreviations for instruments, and translated terms for percussion are by the present editor. The percussion parts in this edition still exist in the original format with the instruments assigned to staves regardless of the player in question, conforming to the practice at the time the work was composed. This disposition of instruments (not included in the Eschig edition) involves some problematic doubling by some players. Taking advantage of today’s practice of employing more than one of the same small instruments to be distributed among the players when necessary, and of sharing the same larger instruments by players, a new disposition is devised for this edition. The players are specified in the score by circled numbers.

The number of corrections is so large that it is impossible to enumerate them all. The following lists only those that require explanations and those made by Varèse in the Eschig master.

By Chou Wen-chung

A grant from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, which helped make this undertaking possible, is gratefully acknowledged.


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