Gabriel Fauré’s Berceuse op. 16, a captivating miniature for violin and piano, is hardly a problematic piece from an editorial standpoint. There is, however, one detail here that at second glance can cause a bit of a headache. The first edition of 1879, serving also as the main source for our Urtext edition (HN 1101), offers a harmonic alternative to the final tone d3, that is:

This manner of notation does not indicate an effectively resounding tone, but provides the necessary fingering for it: the d2 is fingered normally while another finger lightly touches the same string at the spot where the g2 is located. In that way an overtone d4 is produced 2 octaves above the fundamental tone. The ad-libitum closing would therefore sound an octave higher than the normal final tone – was that really meant to be? Is such an effect right for this simple and intimate cradle song – a final leap into the highest register that certainly would immediately wake up any child from slumber…?

There are as a matter of fact modern editions of the Berceuse that for this reason change the harmonics fingering and notate it an octave lower in order to land on the ‘original’ sounding d3. Circumstance could also suggest a slip-up on Fauré’s part. He was indeed a trained organist and pianist, but not a violinist. And no other harmonics fingerings occur even in his early chamber works such as the violin sonata op. 13, the piano quartet op. 15 or the Romance for violin and piano op. 28. Or was the publishing house at fault, falsely implementing a verbal instruction of Fauré’s or even sneaking in an arbitrary addition? For there is still not even an ossia closing in the autograph sketch of the Berceuse, preserved in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University, and available digitally (see the separate solo part).

Fortunately, there exists another source that makes this speculation unnecessary: in the Bibliothèque de Toulouse is the autograph of Fauré’s own orchestration of the Berceuse that he created a short time later, in April 1880. This manuscript, also accessible meantime as a scan on the Internet, documents the validity of the printed edition.  Here Fauré copies the solo-violin part exactly like the chamber version, including the harmonic tone in question (see the last page of the score). And since Fauré had earlier personally accompanied the première of the chamber version on 14 February 1880 at the piano, he would certainly have known exactly what he was doing here.  Whatever you do at this spot, though, if and when you ever have to play the Berceuse, is best left entirely up to your personal taste…

This entry was posted in Berceuse op. 16 (Fauré), Fauré, Gabriel, first edition, Monday Postings, notation, piano + violin and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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