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What Is Urtext?

If you play classical music, there's a good chance you've heard the term "Urtext" before. Do you know what it means and why it matters? Read on to find out! 

One of the most common questions we get in the book department is "What is an Urtext edition?" For famous works and composers, there are often multiple companies who publish these scores. Some of these editions are known as Urtext editions.

"Urtext" is a German word that literally means "original" or "earliest". So what does that mean in terms of a musical score? An Urtext edition simply refers to one that is highly researched by musical scholars to ensure that the score is representative of the composer's intentions. Editors will examine old manuscripts and sources to put together an edition that is as accurate as possible. Non-Urtext editions often have an editor's changes and interpretations that, while not necessarily incorrect, can make the score less legitimate.

Thus, some musicians swear by Urtext editions. They know they are getting a reliable score, and that means they can perform the work as the composer wanted. A very popular choice when it comes to Urtext is Henle-Verlag. Especially for pianists, Henle is the classic blue-grey cover that so many of us envision. And we agree that Henle is awesome, but there are also several other publishers who make Urtext editions of equal quality like Baerenreiter, Wiener Urtext, Breitkopf, and Peters.

Next time you're buying a music score, ask us what the available editions are, and we'll be happy to discuss your options with you. You might discover a new favourite!

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