Bach’s Six Sonatas & Partitas
December 9, 2013

J.S. Bach’s “Six Sonatas and Partitas” are a staple in any violinist’s repertoire and a must have for almost every audition. This collection, like many of Bach’s popular repertoire, has a story (or legend) behind it; such as the story of Bach’s first wife passing away while he was on a trip with the Prince of Kothen and writing the famously heart-wrenching Chaconne (or ciaccona) in D minor in remembrance of his wife.

When it comes to purchasing a score for these pieces there are many choices and each with their own strengths and weaknesses. This post reviews the features of those editions The Leading Note keeps in stock. (Read more…)

What Is an Urtext Edition?
May 1, 2013


Not all print music is the same. Not all publishers are the same.

Some publishers make a business of selling inexpensive reprints of old edition; some publishers produce practical editions for the student market or another specific purpose.

A handful of publishers, however, create scores called “urtext editions” that are highly regarded by professional musicians, teachers and students. What is an Urtext and how is it different from other musical scores? Read on to find out!

(Read more…)

Urtext Facsimiles of Masterworks from Henle Verlag
May 31, 2012

Thanks to our partnership with the University of Ottawa Music Library, we presently have a collection of interesting books on display at The Leading Note.  Because the Library is currently renovating part of their facility, we are holding onto some new aquisitions that we sourced for them until the Fall.  We are usually unable to keep rare books like these in stock so a special thank you to the Library for allowing us to put them on display for our customers.

The collection includes numerous facsimiles of manuscripts and original publications of masterworks from Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Chopin, Debussy, and other composers.

These facsimiles are published by Henle Verlag and are reproductions of the sources used to make their famous “urtext” editions. The facsimiles are beautifully bound with sewn spines and cloth covers.

Although we cannot stock these facsimiles regularly in our store, they are always available for special order. Come by our shop soon to view the books. They make great gifts for music lovers! You are welcome to purchase any of the facsimiles on the shelf (don’t worry, we will order another copy for the Library).

Product Review: Choral Folders from Small World
December 2, 2011

For years, The Leading Note has stocked a variety of choral folders, including inexpensive models suitable for children’s choirs, folders from Marlo Plastics that are perfectly sized for a standard octavo, and the classic Black Folder Deluxe from Vancouver’s Small World Music Folder company.

To fill the gap between this top-of-the-line folder and the smaller, less-expensive options, we now stock two other folders from Small World. The Choralex and Ringbinder each offer unique features that complement what the Black Folder Deluxe offers, rather than replace it.


The Black Folder Deluxe

The Black Folder Deluxe

The classic Black Folder Deluxe is a durable, lightweight, ergonomic folder with options available to suit a wide range of requirements. This is one of the best folders available for both professional and amateur singers; an elegant lightweight folder at good value that has by far been our most popular seller over the years.

One of the more important features of this folder is the bottom strap, which is attached at the outside base of the folder. It also has a comfortable hand strap at back for you to hold it securely.  It can carry many scores and will stand up to the abuse that daily rehearsals inevitably inflict on overworked choral folders.  It is a large folder which makes it great for large scores, but this same quality means it can sometimes be too bulky for a crowded stage.


The Choralex Compact Folder

The Choralex: The narrower black folder

The Choralex Compact Folder is a perfect substitute for tight performance spaces.   When open, the Choralex is one inch narrower than the Black Folder Deluxe.  This seemingly small difference is surprisingly effective.  Like its larger complement, the Choralex includes the same hinged spine with retainer chords that helps to keep scores in place during performance.

Unlike the Black Folder Deluxe, however, the Choralex does not include the deep gusset pockets that make the other folder a useful storage medium for daily rehearsals.  The rear pocket is narrow and open at one end.  It will hold only one or two scores comfortably.  The unique front pocket adds an extrememly useful feature but also, in my opinion, a weakness to the otherwise solid and durable product.

The front pocket is made of a transparent plastic intended to hold a concert program.  With this feature, the singer can read the program without pulling it out of the pocket.  Singers in lengthy programs will find this feature very handy.  Please keep in mind, however, that the pocket is not intended to store thick scores; consequently the pocket, which is glued to the folder, can tear away if it is overfilled.


The Ringbinder Folder

The Ringbinder with 1-inch rings

You may know already that a 3-ring insert is available for the Black Folder Deluxe (and Choralex).  This handy device attaches to the retainer chords in the folder so that you can put loose sheets or punched octavos in the folder.  Because of the design of the hinge in the folders, only a 1/2-inch ring will fit.  While this is fine for a short program, sometimes a gig requires a wider ring!

Small World’s new Ringbinder Folder fills this need.  Built using the same leatherette exterior and brass corners found on the Black Folder Deluxe and Choralex Folder, the Ringbinder includes a larger 1-inch ring.  Both pockets expand at left and right so you can organize as you are used to.

The Ringbinder is ideal for singers who perform with many loose sheets.  Unlike cheap 3-ring binders from stationary stores, the Ringbinder has a hand strap and retention strap to prevent sore muscles in the hand.  Pencil holders and business card slots are also standard.


While the Black Folder Deluxe remains the top-of-the-line product from Small World and The Leading Note’s best all-purpose choral folder, the Choralex and Ringbinder provide unique features that fill particular needs: the Choralex is more compact and the Ringbinder has a 2-ring binding twice the size of the Black Folder Deluxe.  Ideally, these folders serve as supplements to the Black Folder Deluxe rather than replacements.


The Coming of The Messiah
October 20, 2011

As Messiah Season quickly approaches, we thought it might be useful to our customers to clarify what makes each edition of Handel’s masterpiece special.  We currently stock seven different editions of The Messiah and each offers something of value to singers both professional and amateur.

Barenreiter Urtext

Based on the latest scholarly edition produced by Max Schneider and Georg Friedrich Handel-Gesellschaft, this is the closest thing to an “authentic” or “historically informed” edition of the work available.  The vocal score we keep in stock does not contain the critical commentary published separately by Barenreiter but does provide a clear and transparent text that conforms to the Urtext criteria: no editorial dynamics are shown, the continue realization is shown in small notes, and textual variances are indicated.  Barenreiter has produced a beautiful engraving of The Messiah that uses high-quality paper; this makes it the heaviest and thickest of our soft-cover vocal scores.

The Barenreiter edition is also surprisingly affordable.  The publisher offers a special price for North America that is about half what Europeans would pay.  Because the books are shipped from Europe, however, bulk orders for choirs will find the shipping expenses for these heavy books may ofset any savings.  If you are buying a single copy for yourself it is very affordable.

I recommend this edition if you like a clean and beautifully engraved score or want to mount an “authentic” performance that is up-to-date with the latest scholarship.

Novello Edition

Watkins Shaw began editing Novello’s Handel Edition in 1972, the year this publication was first released.  The release of the Revised Edition in 1992 marked his retirement from the project.  During his tenure, Shaw has made a lasting impression on the textual history of The Messiah.  The Novello vocal score has become the standard choice for choirs throughout the world.  It’s distinctive orange cover is easily recognizable and a classic.

The Novello edition is marked by a few distinct qualities that make it a very attractive edition: editorial additions are shown by square brackets or small notes; these include dynamics shown throughout the vocal parts.  This detail will be attractive to large choral societies or choirs looking to produce a crowd-pleasing performance; it may not, however, be desired by specialists of early music who want their editions void of editorial additions.

The printing of the latest incarnation of the Novello edition is clear and and precise but small.  Singers with poor eyesight might find it difficult to read the small type.  The layout is more compact than the Barenreiter edition but this also makes for a thinner book.  The soft, white paper is also a smaller weight than Barenreiter’s off-white, making it more transparent but lighter.

The Novello edition is my top choice for most singers, especially those performing in sing-along performances.  The edition is so widely used that you will be sure to benefit from page numbering and layout that matches your neighbours.  The edition is affordable but not the cheapest.  Owning this edition will help you fit into the crowd.

Schirmer Edition

This option has the distinction of being the earliest attempt at producing an “Urtext” edition of The Messiah.  First published in 1912, Max Spicker aimed to create an authentic and usable vocal score that bypassed the reception history influenced heavily by Mozart’s re-orchestration of the work.  Because it is a reprint of an old edition, the Schirmer does not qualify as a modern Urtext.  Editorial decisions are not clearly distinguished from details found in the source material.

The Schirmer Edition is most valuable to modern choirs for one reason: price.  It is the least expensive of the modern editions and easily affordable in bulk; it may not be desirable for all singers, unfortunately.  The printing is not razor-sharp like that in the Novello and Barenreiter editions due to the age of the engraving.

I recommend this edition if you want a basic edition for little money.

Novello Hardcover Edition

This is the same as the softcover edition above includes an attractive burgundy cover with gold inlay and an accompanying CD.  The hard cover makes it a more durable product that is sure to live a long life.

I recommend this edition as a great gift for your favourite singer or for those who care a great deal about the quality and appearance of their books.

Novello Large-Print Edition

You won’t want to hold this for a full three-hour performance.  This blown-up version of Watkins Shaw’s edition is very large.  It’s best for conductor’s leading performances with piano accompaniment or for table-reading by multiple singers.  Leave it on your music stand.  The huge spiral binding means it stays open on any page.

I recommend this for conductor’s mainly but keep in mind that it is not a full score.

Dover Study Score

Dover’s reprint of Alfred Mann’s serial edition dating from 1959.  Alfred Mann’s scholarly research that produced the present edition proceeded concurrently but independently with Watkins Shaw’s attempt to make a modern edition for Novello.  At the same time, Handel scholars were discovering new information about the works genesis and performance practice while the ”authentic performance practice” trend was starting to pick up steam.

The Dover reprint is the only full score that we keep in stock throughout the year.  It is useful for those who want to study the unusually sparse orchestration that Handel used in the interest of economy but is not very practical as a performing edition.

I recommend the Dover study score for students or those interested in what is happening in the orchestra.