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Music Research Guide

Score Editions: Know the Difference

Facsimile – An exact copy of a musical manuscript. Facsimiles allow a form of access to rare archival materials for research. They are not designed for performance.

Historical Edition - The term "historical edition" may be applied to any music publication devoted to a past repertory. For more information, see the "Historical Editions (M2-M3)" tab (Music Research).

Manuscript/ Holograph – A document wholly in the handwriting of its author. These materials are usually held by archives, and they are only accessible to a handful of scholars. A work may have multiple autographs (for example, a composer might have revised an opera for a subsequent performance after the premiere).

Performing Edition – An edition of a score usually prepared from a secondary source, to which the editor (sometimes a well-known performer) adds performance notes and articulations that are indistinguishable from those of the source. Designed to help the modern performer, performing editions include elements of performance practice "written in" by the editor. Performing editions are commonly used in private lessons.

Urtext – A score prepared on the basis of a critical evaluation of all know primary sources, this class of edition is designed to present the most authoritative and authentic version of a musical work. Any editorial material added to an Urtext edition is clearly distinguished from original material. These editions require you to use your own knowledge of performance practice.

Books of Interest

Finding Repertoire