At the outset the piano reduction of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major was on the Henle publishing-house wish list for drawing up a scheduling plan to publish in 2008 new Urtext editions of Ravel’s piano and chamber music works. Why 2008? Abolished in most countries as of 1 January 2008, 70 years after the composer’s death, was copyright protection, though still remaining in effect in France, granted as an extension of 6 years and 152 days for World War I and a further 8 years and 120 days for World War II. This would mean that Ravel’s works published after 31 December 1920 would not be free of protective rights until 1 May 2016, and those published before that date not until 29 September 2022.
Not particularly favourable conditions for bringing out new editions in 2008, as obviously, with reference to the current protection period, numerous sources preserved in Ravel’s homeland and relevant reproductions could be disallowed. Ensuing with respect to the Piano Concerto was also the problem that the then owner of the autograph orchestral score, Jean-Jacques Lemoine, refused to permit its reproduction or on-site examination on the grounds that the manuscript was already ‘the subject of a serious study’ – indicating a publication project by another publisher with exclusive access to the autograph (referring, as it later turned out, to its 2009 publication by the Eulenburg publishing house).
Whereas Henle was able to publish Urtext editions of some other Ravel works having a more favourable source situation (including Jeux d’eau and Miroirs still in 2008), the Piano Concerto project had at first to be postponed owing to the autograph’s inaccessibility. Although there were rumours that Lemoine, who died in 2009, had bequeathed the manuscript in question to the Principality of Monaco, no specific information could be obtained. Only with the appearance in 2021 of Manuel Cornejo’s essay Le fonds de manuscrits musicaux de Maurice Ravel des Archives du Palais princier de Monaco in the Revue de musicologie could the rumour be confirmed and the manuscript’s location precisely given: as the Archives of the Prince’s Palace of Monaco. Since meanwhile the copyright period for the Piano Concerto in G major published by Durand in Paris in 1931/32 had expired (French copyright laws also apply in Monaco), nothing stood in the way of a new edition, recently published as HN 1508.
Our new edition’s main source is the first edition of the orchestral score, to be considered as authorised. Although no documents relating to the publication are extant, we can assume that, as usual, Ravel personally proofread and corrected the now lost galleys. He probably left executing the corrections to his close friend Lucien Garban, editor at the Durand publishing house. For the solo part (omitting here the orchestral parts), the piano reduction prepared by Garban must also be taken into account, both its first edition and an extant galley proof containing not only Garban’s corrections, but also (albeit very sporadically) those by Ravel as well as by Marguerite Long, the première’s pianist. Further consulted for questionable passages were entries by Garban and Long in their personal exemplars of the piano reduction. The list of sources also includes reprints of the orchestral score and piano reduction published after 1966, correcting obvious printing errors but also changing numerous dynamics markings.
But how should the orchestral-score autograph be categorised within this rather rich source transmission? Essentially, it is a double autograph, for alongside Ravel’s notation of the musical text in ink are numerous pencilled entries in Garban’s hand. As he checked through the harmonically and rhythmically complex score, he made corrections and changes directly within the original score – a procedure that had already been successful in the case of other autograph scores (such as in Boléro). Most of Garban’s entries are included in the first edition and are therefore obviously authorised. For those corrections or alterations not included in the first edition, it is not always possible to decide whether these were rejected by Ravel or inadvertently omitted from the edition – musical plausibility here being the guiding principle.
Following are two examples for the solo part.
In the first movement, the two chords for the right hand in measure 115 of the first editions of the full score and piano reduction are b sharp2/d sharp 3/f sharp3 and b sharp1/e2/g sharp2:
A glance at the autograph shows that Ravel inadvertently notated the first chord as b sharp2/d sharp3/f sharp3, though alongside to the left, Garban corrected this to b sharp2/e3/g sharp3. The second chord, is, on the other hand, clearly notated (and without Garban’s changes) as c sharp2/e2/g sharp2:
The passage must therefore correctly read as follows (Garban’s correction of the first note for the left hand, f sharp instead of d sharp, was accounted for in the first editions):
The two chords were already altered in the Durand reprints mentioned above, documenting that in the 1960s the unknown editor must have had access to the autograph.
Whilst these two passages are conspicuous owing to Garban’s striking correction and were therefore also corrected in all other publishers’ later editions, the second example concerns an easily overlooked rhythmic discrepancy between the autograph and the first full-score and piano-reduction editions.
In the printed sources, the right hand first has a quarter-note rest in m. 219 of the third movement, then the eighth-note chord e sharp1/f sharp1/a sharp1, followed by an eighth-note rest:
In the autograph, however, Ravel notated (without Garban’s alteration) eighth-note rest, eighth-note chord and quarter-note rest:
Although we cannot rule out Ravel’s having changed the rhythm in the galleys, our reading of the autograph seems more plausible in view of the analogous passage in measure 22 (clarinet):
As shown by these examples, to which others could be added, the first orchestral-score edition as the main source shows numerous differences from the autograph, despite proofreadings by Ravel and Garban; these differences turn out to be engraving errors, certainly not surprising in such a complex score. Hence, the autograph is unquestionably the most important secondary source for the edition. Waiting for access to this source has thus undoubtedly been worthwhile.