Author Topic: The "error" in Brahms 76/2  (Read 7085 times)

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Offline (poco) Sforzando

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The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« on: March 09, 2011, 04:45:11 AM »
The following appeared (excerpted from a longer article about the US financial crisis) in the New York Times a few days ago.

Quote
Op-Ed Contributor
The Young and the Perceptive
By JOSEPH T. HALLINAN
Published: March 5, 2011

Boris Goldovsky, who died in 2001, was a legend in opera circles, best remembered for his commentary during the Saturday matinee radio broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera. But he was also a piano teacher. And it is as a teacher that he made a lasting — albeit unintentional — contribution to our understanding of why seemingly obvious errors go undetected for so long.

One day, a student of his was practicing a piece by Brahms when Goldovsky heard something wrong. He stopped her and told her to fix her mistake. The student looked confused; she said she had played the notes as they were written. Goldovsky looked at the music and, to his surprise, the girl had indeed played the printed notes correctly — but there was an apparent misprint in the music.

At first, the student and the teacher thought this misprint was confined to their edition of the sheet music alone. But further checking revealed that all other editions contained the same incorrect note. Why, wondered Goldovsky, had no one — the composer, the publisher, the proofreader, scores of accomplished pianists — noticed the error? How could so many experts have missed something that was so obvious to a novice?

This paradox intrigued Goldovsky. So over the years he gave the piece to a number of musicians who were skilled sight readers of music — which is to say they had the ability to play from a printed score for the first time without practicing. He told them there was a misprint somewhere in the score, and asked them to find it. He allowed them to play the piece as many times as they liked and in any way that they liked. But not one musician ever found the error. Only when Goldovsky told his subjects which bar, or measure, the mistake was in did most of them spot it. (For music fans, the piece is Brahms’s Opus 76, No. 2, and the mistake occurs 42 measures from the end.)

Goldovsky’s experiment yielded a key insight into human error: not only had the experts misread the music — they had misread it in the same way. In a subsequent study, Goldovsky’s nephew, Thomas Wolf, discovered that good sight readers report that they do not read music note by note; instead, they rely on their recognition of familiar patterns and on their ability to organize the music into those patterns and dependable cues.

In short, they don’t read; they infer. Moreover, this trait is not unique to musicians: pattern recognition is a hallmark of expertise in any number of fields; it is what allows experts to do quickly what amateurs do slowly.


Already the article is the subject of a thread on CMG, where no one has found the error and one person has alleged it may not be one. My question to all here who are interested is whether you can find the supposed mistake and identify if it is one and why. (In fact, Goldovsky was absolutely correct as far as some editions go, though it has been corrected in the edition linked from CMG. However, I'm banned from CMG and can't reply there. And what's more, in 40 years of playing this piece, I have always "unconsciously" corrected the misprint as I've found it in the Peters edition. But I'll hold off on why until others have replied.)

Are there any other scores you know of where a clear mistake has crept into all editions?
« Last Edit: March 09, 2011, 05:09:52 AM by (poco) Sforzando »
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Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2011, 05:26:30 AM »
And how can we be sure it is indeed an error? Composers sometimes write things that sound awkward or "wrong." Many times I've seen innovative pieces denounced as consisting of "wrong notes" (or "too many notes," or whatever).

I figure that a composer (esp. on the Brahms level of quality) knows what he's doing. But I admit to being puzzled sometimes. Here, for instance, is the Beethoven Bagatelle I've been fooling around with lately. In bar 8, the first F natural always throws me, it sounds so out of place:

http://icking-music-archive.org/scores/beethoven/Op33/Bagatelle-op.33.3_Beethoven.pdf

Maybe it's just my semi-competent playing that's the problem, but that note just sounds "wrong" to me.
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Offline MishaK

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2011, 08:19:05 AM »
The following appeared (excerpted from a longer article about the US financial crisis) in the New York Times a few days ago.
 

Already the article is the subject of a thread on CMG, where no one has found the error and one person has alleged it may not be one. My question to all here who are interested is whether you can find the supposed mistake and identify if it is one and why. (In fact, Goldovsky was absolutely correct as far as some editions go, though it has been corrected in the edition linked from CMG. However, I'm banned from CMG and can't reply there. And what's more, in 40 years of playing this piece, I have always "unconsciously" corrected the misprint as I've found it in the Peters edition. But I'll hold off on why until others have replied.)

Are there any other scores you know of where a clear mistake has crept into all editions?

Intriguing. Since Op.76/2 is part of the repertoire that I used to play, I will have to go and check if I can see the "error" in my Dover edition when I get home tonight. Of course the only way to know it is an error, is to compare to the autograph, which the piece you posted doesn't mention that Goldovsky did. If the "error" is not in the autograph, it may not be an error, but just one of those "wonderful dissonances" that Brahms so admired in Mozart and recreated often in his own music.

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2011, 10:06:45 AM »
Intriguing. Since Op.76/2 is part of the repertoire that I used to play, I will have to go and check if I can see the "error" in my Dover edition when I get home tonight. Of course the only way to know it is an error, is to compare to the autograph, which the piece you posted doesn't mention that Goldovsky did. If the "error" is not in the autograph, it may not be an error, but just one of those "wonderful dissonances" that Brahms so admired in Mozart and recreated often in his own music.

Once it's identified, I think you'll see that this error is in a different category from a "wonderful dissonance," or from the enigmatic shift from D major to minor (thus leading back to F major) in the Beethoven piece that Velimir mentions. Composers can make mistakes notating their autograph manuscripts, too. This is more a case where the first printing, (see IMSLP), as well as subsequent editions like the Peters (Emil von Sauer) that I myself use, make a mistake that if read literally, makes harmonic hash of the measure in question. But I wouldn't be surprised if you yourself make the same adjustment in playing the piece that I do. Julius Katchen on his recording does as well.

An interesting and surprising irony, BTW, is that Brahms himself, when editing the Schubert Unfinished, "corrected" a "wonderful dissonance" in the first movement, and I don't know how many performances perpetuate the blander alternative. My sole source for this information is the notes to the von Dohnanyi recording that was coupled with the LvB 8.
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Offline Brian

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2011, 10:23:25 AM »
Brahms himself, when editing the Schubert Unfinished, "corrected" a "wonderful dissonance" in the first movement, and I don't know how many performances perpetuate the blander alternative. My sole source for this information is the notes to the von Dohnanyi recording that was coupled with the LvB 8.

The Harnoncourt set, at least in its original Teldec incarnation, came with an essay by Harnoncourt in which he listed an entire page of "wonderful dissonances" which were "corrected" by Schubert's posthumous publishers, when public interest dictated that the symphony cycle finally be printed. There are Schubertian harmonies in essentially every movement of the eight symphonies which were "normalized" by such tinkering. A surprising number are plainly audible - I "grew up on" Harnoncourt's Schubert, and when I bought the Kleiber Unfinished it surprisingly and fairly comprehensively felt like a different work altogether.

Offline Luke

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2011, 10:44:54 AM »
Are we supposed to give our ideas here, or in PM?

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2011, 10:47:24 AM »
Are we supposed to give our ideas here, or in PM?

However you prefer. I think, however, I'd like to quote a bit more from the NYT article:

Quote
Goldovsky’s insight offers a useful metaphor for understanding the crisis on Wall Street: Not only did hedge-fund managers, bankers and others misread the danger involved in many of their investments, but they misread them in the same way.

As Paul E. Kanjorski, a former congressman who served on the House Financial Services Committee, put it, “Why does it appear to the general public that all the finest minds in finance missed the most obvious?”

It appears that way because they did miss it. These types of errors are most likely to be discovered by those who, like Goldovsky’s young student, look at the world with new, unblinking eyes.

In 2009, for instance, a first grader in Virginia noticed that a popular library book depicted a meat-eating dinosaur as an herbivore. A year before that, a fifth grader from Michigan discovered an error at a Smithsonian exhibit that had gone undetected for 27 years.

And in 2007, another error was caught, this time by a 13-year-old boy in Finland. The mistake involved an image of a submarine that a Russian TV company had used to illustrate a report about a Russian submarine voyage to the Arctic. The image, distributed by Reuters, was used by news outlets around the world. No one noticed anything awry. But the boy, Waltteri Seretin, did. The sub, he thought, looked suspiciously familiar. His suspicions were right: it was a film clip taken from the movie “Titanic.”
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Offline PaulSC

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2011, 10:49:31 AM »
And how can we be sure it is indeed an error? Composers sometimes write things that sound awkward or "wrong." Many times I've seen innovative pieces denounced as consisting of "wrong notes" (or "too many notes," or whatever).

I figure that a composer (esp. on the Brahms level of quality) knows what he's doing. But I admit to being puzzled sometimes. Here, for instance, is the Beethoven Bagatelle I've been fooling around with lately. In bar 8, the first F natural always throws me, it sounds so out of place:

http://icking-music-archive.org/scores/beethoven/Op33/Bagatelle-op.33.3_Beethoven.pdf

Maybe it's just my semi-competent playing that's the problem, but that note just sounds "wrong" to me.
I'm confident that Fnat is correct; it converts D maj to D min abruptly but effectively in preparation for the return to F maj. A change of color and/or a slight postponement or lengthening of that note might enhance the performance.

I'm also confident the contested note in Brahms' Op. 76/2 is an error, even if it appears thus in the manuscript. Played as literally printed, the result is unidiomatic for Brahms, both locally (the sonority it produces) and in context (the pattern it arbitrarily disrupts). Brahms would surely have supplied a cautionary accidental, rather than relying solely on the cancelling effect of the barline, if he had intended what is literally printed.

Most editions of Liszt's "Nuage gris" read as follows in the concluding bars. I'm confident the final chord should contain Bnat rather than Bb in the upper staff, so the nat sign is erroneously placed on G (which has not recently carried any accidentals that would justify a cautionary nat here). I've never heard a performance that plays what is literally printed, although there are several recordings I've not checked.

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Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2011, 11:02:45 AM »
I'm also confident the contested note in Brahms' Op. 76/2 is an error, even if it appears thus in the manuscript. Played as literally printed, the result is unidiomatic for Brahms, both locally (the sonority it produces) and in context (the pattern it arbitrarily disrupts). Brahms would surely have supplied a cautionary accidental, rather than relying solely on the cancelling effect of the barline, if he had intended what is literally printed.

Most editions of Liszt's "Nuage gris" read as follows in the concluding bars. I'm confident the final chord should contain Bnat rather than Bb in the upper staff, so the nat sign is erroneously placed on G (which has not recently carried any accidentals that would justify a cautionary nat here). I've never heard a performance that plays what is literally printed, although there are several recordings I've not checked.

I can't relate exactly to your reading of the Brahms, but the Liszt example is of exactly the same type of printing error. The eye sees G natural in the right hand, and plays B natural. The reason obviously being: G natural is superfluous by virtue of the key signature, B natural makes intuitive sense because it mirrors the B natural in the left hand as well as sustaining the B naturals in the preceding measure. Great catch on your part.
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Offline Cato

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2011, 11:21:12 AM »
In the March of the Symphony #5 ("Leonore") by Joachim Raff which I once adapted for organ, I came across an error in the orchestral score, where the lower voices collided in a tone cluster worthy of Henry Cowell.

The error was easily fixed: it was no mystery what had to happen, but it was interesting that the mistake was there.  (I no longer recall who published the score (the one I used lies in the University of Michigan Music Library).)

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Offline PaulSC

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2011, 11:46:28 AM »
I'm still working on the Brahms. I thought I found it but apparently not. Which surprises me, since the detail I did find occurs in every printed edition I've seen and is "corrected" in every performance I can recall hearing (including Katchen/London, Severin Eisenberger [with such poor sound I can't be certain], and Felipe Sarro at IMLSP). Which prompts the question, can anyone offer a recording where C# is played at the point marked below?

Meanwhile I'll continue my search for the "real" error!

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Offline PaulSC

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2011, 12:15:03 PM »
I've now found a print edition (Simrock 1879) that does not contain the (suspected) error highlighted in my previous post.



In fact the error I spotted may be confined to Breitkopf & Härtel, 1926–27...
« Last Edit: March 09, 2011, 12:18:51 PM by PaulSC »
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Offline PaulSC

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #12 on: March 09, 2011, 12:32:05 PM »
Finally found the "real" error (and read the NYT clip to confirm) -- I had to stare at this spot repeatedly before my brain stopped "fixing" it.
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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2011, 03:13:00 PM »
That does look like an error. Seems he was octave-ing, and an intentional C# would seem unlikely.

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2011, 03:54:09 PM »
That does look like an error. Seems he was octave-ing, and an intentional C# would seem unlikely.

No question that C naturals are required. The "Goldovsky error," however, is elsewhere, and no one has pinpointed it on the thread yet.
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Offline PaulSC

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #15 on: March 09, 2011, 03:57:53 PM »
Sorry, i didn't know we were invited to ID it here. It's the absence of G# in what should be a C# major sonority, 42 bars from the end.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2011, 04:10:24 PM by PaulSC »
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Offline PaulSC

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2011, 04:06:30 PM »
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Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #17 on: March 09, 2011, 04:27:29 PM »
Sorry, i didn't know we were invited to ID it here. It's the absence of G# in what should be a C# major sonority, 42 bars from the end.

Exactly.  :)  And I'm sure I've always played that G#.

But how do we know it's a misprint and not just a wonderful dissonance?
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Offline PaulSC

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #18 on: March 09, 2011, 05:06:47 PM »
Exactly.  :)  And I'm sure I've always played that G#.

But how do we know it's a misprint and not just a wonderful dissonance?
That's a good question, it's plausible as written -- V/V with flat 5th, or an incomplete French +6 in 5/3 position, is conceivable Brahms, and the voice-leading makes sense with G# in the preceding bar, inflected to to Gnat in the target bar , continuing as expected to F# in the following bar.

But I too have always read G# at this point.
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Offline PaulSC

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Re: The "error" in Brahms 76/2
« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2011, 05:16:23 PM »
Okay, this is interesting. Breitkopf & Härtel, 1926–27, the edition with the missing C# 5 bars from the end, does not contain the "Goldovsky error."

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