The Wagner Journal

David Syrus, Review of Webb, ‘Variants in Wagner’s Vocal Lines’

David Syrus, Review of Webb, ‘Variants in Wagner’s Vocal Lines’

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Review of Susan Webb, Variants in Wagner’s Vocal Lines: The ‘Ring’ Operas (Leyerle Publications, 2000).

March 2007, Volume 1, Number 1, 51–3.

To monitor his singers, Beckmesser has the Tabulatur. Wagner suggests to us that this is a fairly fixed, unyielding set of guidelines. We répétiteurs – latterday Beckmessers? – have nothing so reliable to work with. Our scores, whether with piano accompaniments or with the full orchestration, are full of anomalies. How could it be otherwise? A modern composer with Sibelius software can in theory produce a perfect account on paper of his intentions. An editor working from written manuscripts from the days before computers must always to a certain extent be using subjective criteria. Where exactly does that phrase end? Is that a staccato dot over the note (meaning play it short) or is it a ‘wedge’ (meaning give it a decisive, rather longer accent)?

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