Critical Edition
of the Complete Works

RCW Prospectus

Methodological principles


Publishing principles

The present Critical Edition of the Complete Works of Sergei Rachmaninoff represents the first scholarly publication of the great composer’s legacy.

The Critical Edition sets itself the task of publishing authentic texts of the composer’s works which correspond with his ideas, taking into account of the specific features of the artistic legacy of the great musician in whom the creative arts of both composer and performer were closely bound up one with the other. This determines the general scope, contents and structure of the Edition.

The first steps in the text-critical and source studies of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s legacy were taken in the posthumous editions prepared in Russia at the turn of the 1940s and the 1950s. The Complete Collection of Piano Works, the Complete Collection of Songs and a series of symphonic and chamber-instrumental works not published during the composer’s lifetime were published at that time.

It is difficult to overestimate the significance of these publications, because it is thanks to them that the opportunity of studying and performing the composer’s music arose at all. The overwhelming majority of these editions, however, were exclusively of a practical character, being without any extended commentaries or information about the history of the works’ texts.

Until the time when work began on the Complete Works the treasury of the composer’s manuscripts was practically uninvestigated, both from the standpoints of scholarly description and research into his creative process.

Particular importance is attached in these circumstances to the creation of an information bank for source texts for the Complete Works. Because of Rachmaninoff’s forced emigration from Russia in 1917, his archive is now scattered in different libraries, museums, archives and private collections in Russia, the USA, and Western Europe. A number of important sources have been lost.

The most important repositories of the composer’s archive are the Russian National Museum of Music (former The State Glinka Museum of Musical Culture (in Moscow) and the Library of Congress (in Washington). Valuable individual manuscripts are preserved in archives in Moscow, St Petersburg, London, and other cities.

On the whole, Rachmaninoff’s music archive can be counted among those which have survived well. The overwhelming majority of works are represented in clean manuscripts intended for publication. These manuscripts are as a rule dated, localized, and signed by the composer. Significant preliminary creative materials as well as a number of the composer’s proofs of printed editions have been preserved.

The Complete Works rely on the aggregate of sources which have come down to the present day. They are based on the study of all forms of manuscripts: drafts, sketches, fair copies, and authorized copies.

The most important sources for establishing the texts of the compositions are editions published during the composer’s lifetime whose proofs were corrected by the composer himself. From his first attempts at composition, the work of Rachmaninoff enjoyed favourable conditions from the point of view of the number and quality of contemporary editions. For two decades — until 1915 — Karl Gutheil was the publisher of Rachmaninoff’s works. Practically everything which the composer considered worthy of publication was accepted by the publisher without reservation.

After the closure of the firm of A. Gutheil, Rachmaninoff’s works began to be published by Edition Russe de Musique with which the composer enjoyed the closest creative contacts — together with Serge Koussevitzky Rachmaninoff was involved with this publisher right from the start, and on its founding in 1909 he became a central figure on its Artistic Board.

During the period when the composer lived outside Russia his works were published by his own firm ‘Tair’, and also by the publishers Carl Fischer and Charles Foley. The editions of Rachmaninoff’s works published during his lifetime are marked by a thoroughness and high degree of professionalism of the composer’s proof-reading — the publishers themselves called Rachmaninoff ‘a superb proof-reader’ — and must be regarded as one of the reliable sources for establishing authentic texts.

Performance remarks by the composer about already published scores of his own compositions acquire great significance. A whole series of essential details are contained in letters, memoirs, interviews, and comment of a proof-reading character.

The composer’s sound recordings of his own compositions are of special importance, unique in its own way, in solving certain text-critical problems.

At the basis of the Edition’s conception lies the historic-encyclopedic principle, which assumes a close mutual connection among the most diverse sources, both of a creative and of a biographical character.

From the perspective of Cultural Studies, the Complete Works are regarded as a Reproduction of Monuments of the art of music, which determines the flexible combination of maximum accuracy and satisfactory transmission of the author’s texts with the possibility of their real use in present-day concert and performance practice.

As regards Scholarship and Methodology, the Critical Edition of the Complete Works of Sergei Rachmaninoff relies on the research methods developed in classical text-criticism and historical-criticism as a whole, and also on present-day theories of the artistic text, systems of signs, and hermeneutics. This approach applies to the publishing and text-critical interpretation of both sources using music notation and literary sources.

The concept of a publishing interpretation introduced in the present Edition gives rise to the phenomenological method in studying the texts of compositions by Sergei Rachmaninoff, which corresponds to the real practice of their existence in sources which have been preserved. (More detailed see section ‘Methodological Principles’).

The founding principles of the Edition stipulate the maximum completeness in making use of all known texts and sources which may be of interest in one way or another to different specialists. The concepts of avant-text, denoting the preliminary materials (sketches) and intertext, which presupposes the examination of Rachmaninoff’s creative legacy as a phenomenon in universal musical culture, are employed. (More detailed see section ‘Publishing Principles’).

Problematic topics which arise in the course of preparing the volumes for publication are illuminated in periodical scholarly symposia accompanying the present Edition. A range of problems concerning textual criticism and the study of publishing, information, and source matters affecting the legacy of Sergei Rachmaninoff are being worked out.