Anthology for Analysis and Performance for Use in the Theory Classroom by Matthew Bribitzer-Stull

February 17, 2016


Oxford University Press, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0199857234 

How do we choose music for our students to study as part of their coursework in music theory? I think many theory instructors would recognize a (perhaps transparent) priority for exposing students to the pieces that are pivotal musically or historically, and that serve as paradigmatic examples of the concept we hope to illustrate, of the genre represented, or—most broadly—of music as an art form. Matthew Bribitzer-Stull’s Anthology for Analysis and Performance (hereafter AAP) proceeds from a different premise. His philosophy, which he eloquently articulates in his preface to this volume, is encapsulated in the work’s title: he is passionate about the need to forge a greater connection between students’ lives as performers and the analytic work they do in music theory classes.

In order “to help instructors make the workings of tonal Western art music from the medieval period to the present day relevant to undergraduates,” AAP “broadens the standard anthology assortment . . . to include repertory for all the instruments typically studied by music majors” (p. xiv). To convince students to buy into the practical value of theory and analysis, the thinking goes, we should provide opportunities for such analysis in music that students already know or could easily imagine performing themselves. Indeed, Bribitzer-Stull explicitly places high value on in-class student performances of music being considered. Thus, AAP includes solo and chamber works for nearly every imaginable undergraduate performance major. The music included here features solo flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, clarinet, saxophone, violin, viola, cello, double bass, and transcriptions of baroque works for marimba, saxophone, and harp. Works for brass quintet, string quartet, and all manner of other chamber combinations also appear. Two wind band works are provided (as well as Wagner’s “Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral” from Lohengrin, which is often performed by concert bands in transcription), alongside choral works and many compositions highlighting solo voice.

All this music appears beside other typical anthology fare: piano sonata and symphony movements, keyboard fugues, piano preludes by Debussy and Scriabin. The simple inclusion of so much music, the anthology’s chronological organization, and its clear intention to represent well each of the traditional historical epochs of Western music all suggest that, in addition to his explicit intentions to get students doing analysis of music they might actually perform, Bribitzer-Stull also wants for them to get a broad exposure to the Western music tradition—a tradition that necessarily transcends the repertoire of any single student’s applied area of study.

Meeting both these goals—focusing on repertoire accessible for performance by modern undergraduates, and grounding those students in a wide range of genres and styles—requires a great deal of literature, as demonstrated by the heft of AAP. This is a spiral-bound book of over 900 pages that weighs just under 4.5 pounds. And despite its size, there remain inevitable tradeoffs in the effort to include more easily performed music for more student musicians.

There are certain to be both instructors who find merit and who find fault in AAP’s representation of Western music. On the one hand, some would decry the absence of certain standard warhorses that “everyone should know,” and might reasonably ask whether the pieces chosen to represent certain student-performance opportunities are also representative of essential historical trends or analytic skills. For instance, the only Stravinsky work found in AAP is the theme-and-variations movement from the Octet—no Le sacre, L’histoire du soldat, or any of the other works typically held up as emblems of the composer’s style and historical contributions across the first part of the last century. From my own perspective, I might prefer to see, in a collection intended to be historically comprehensive, some music by Purcell, Berlioz, Clara Schumann, Franck, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Ives, Vaughan Williams, Copland, Barber, or Britten; none of these composers is represented in AAP. The popular music of the twentieth century is absent as well, nor is there any space given to the swath of American music with at least one foot in this stream (no Gershwin, Bernstein, Sondheim, Schuller, etc.).

But there is room for lesser-known music from “peripheral repertories,” as the preface calls them, by Giovanni Battista Pescetti, Anton Reicha, Ferdinand David, Franz Strauss, Jean-Baptiste Arban, Alexandre Guilmant, Victor Ewald, Sergei Koussevitsky, and Bernhard Heiden. Including such works allows AAP to reach further into the literature of students’ applied studio and university ensemble experiences. This is the counterargument encapsulated by this anthology: its emphasis on creating curricular chances for student performance provides a sense of immediacy and even urgency to analysis, and makes more obvious to budding performers, conductors, and educators the practical consequences of thinking analytically about music in the first place. Bribitzer-Stull all but admits that some of the music in AAP may not always be of the same quality as that of the “established canon of masterworks,” but seems quite comfortable with this conscious choice if it gets students engaging analytically with “the rich bodies of works often known only to the players of the instruments for which they were written” (p. xiv).

Quibbling about the repertoire included in or excluded from a particular anthology is an occupational hazard for music theory teachers, of course. But selecting the music is only the first editorial decision in preparing the collection: the presentation of that music also demands critical attention. AAP presents nearly every work in new, consistent engraving—the exceptions come near the end of the (roughly) chronologically ordered book, with works by Lutosławski, Xenakis, and Crumb in the composers’ original notation. The choice to unify the notation across the whole anthology is interesting, and (at least in recent memory) unprecedented. Whether one agrees with it or not, at the least it encourages reflection as to whether there is an advantage to exposing students to varied and historical examples of notation and engraving.

The enormous quantity of work represented in this decision doubtlessly helps to account for the large number of notational issues, editorial omissions, and errors to be found in the text. To begin, the physical size of the notation is frequently too small to be easily read. Individual staves are often one eighth-inch tall, and sometimes smaller. For a well-known comparison, the staves of Breitfkopf and Härtel’s printing of Winterreise (as reprinted by Dover) are a quarter-inch tall—twice as large. (AAP’s staves for Prokofiev’s “The Montagues and the Capulets” from Romeo and Juliet are about a sixteenth of an inch tall, rendering the score virtually useless without magnification.) This is an unfortunate problem for an anthology explicitly directed toward classroom performance, a setting where legibility at arm’s length is crucial.

The treatment of transposing instruments is neither consistent nor always explained. A movement from Ewald’s first brass quintet is presented explicitly as a “score in C,” which aids in sorting out the tonal relationships among the instruments but virtually precludes simple performance by a student brass quintet from the anthology; in contrast, the movements from Holst’s Second Suite for Military Band are presented in an untransposed score despite the greater difficulties this presents to students relative to the Ewald. Schumann’s Fantasiestück for Clarinet and Piano and the movement from Hindemith’s Sonata for Trumpet and Piano are apparently notated for solo instruments in A and B-flat respectively, but this must be deduced—these transpositions are nowhere indicated to the reader.

Whether intentional or not, other editorial choices create similar barriers to students’ assimilation (and, perhaps, performance) of the music in this anthology. Neumatic notation is not transcribed into modern notation for the monophonic chants that open the anthology (though it is for medieval polyphonic works). The Kyrie from Ockeghem’s Missa prolationum is presented using C clefs in all four voices (two in soprano clef, two in tenor clef). Dufay’s Nuper rosarum flores has no clefs at all, using instead small tic marks identifying the location of D4 in each staff. In later music, abbreviations for instrument names are inconsistently deployed and potentially confusing. As an example, the brass and percussion used in the first provided excerpt from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake are introduced in the score as follows: “Cr.” (horns, apparently four in F), “Pst.” (cornets, apparently two in B-flat), “Trb.” (trumpets, apparently two in F), “Trbn. e Tb.” (three trombones and tuba, provided across two staves that start in treble and tenor clefs), “Tp.” (timpani), “Trg. 1” (triangle, though no “Trg. 2” is anywhere specified), “P.” (cymbals), and “G. c.” (bass drum). There follow no instrument labels on subsequent pages of the score, even when resting instruments are omitted from a given system.

I mean not to criticize these editorial decisions—many, I think, are defensible depending on one’s pedagogical goals. In the case of the Tchaikovsky, for instance, the namings of instruments with obscure or similar-looking Italian abbreviations, omissions of transposition levels, and omissions of instruments’ names after the first page of an orchestral score are all practices to be found in other editions, and thus should be learned by serious musicians. But the inconsistency of such editorial choices makes their intent unclear. Is it a tacit goal to lead students to do some deductive reasoning by, for instance, identifying the unnamed solo instrument of the Schumann Märchenbild as being a viola (from the clefs used and the “pizz.” indication on the final chord)? Should students figure out on their own that the score excerpt for Berg’s Violin Concerto is provided at concert pitch (following the published score’s precedent) without being told? I suspect that at least some of my queries constitute editorial oversights rather than deliberate decisions, even if they do provide practice with the crucial skill of getting past notational issues to analytic and performance insights.

This suspicion is reinforced by other conspicuous omissions. Editors and arrangers for particular works are not usually named; even poets for sung texts are not consistently credited. Who composed the many figured bass realizations (such as that for the Largo from Corelli’s Trio Sonata Op. 4, No. 11, which the introductory prose explicitly invites the student to critique)? Who created the arrangements of works by Bach and Tchaikovsky for marimba, and by Bach for soprano saxophone? Who provided the copious fingerings for the D-major fugue from Book II of the Well-Tempered Clavier (and why are fingerings given in this but no other keyboard work in the entire volume)? Who wrote the poetic texts set by Richard Strauss in his two songs from Op. 27? The somewhat misleading presentation of Berg’s “Adagio from Concerto for Violin and Orchestra” in relation to the larger work is of greater musical importance. The Universal Edition score shows that this concerto consists of two movements, the second of which is described as “Allegro und Adagio”; yet the excerpt given here is simply titled “Adagio” with measures numbered beginning with m. 1 (rather than with m. 136 of the larger movement). Certainly an unfamiliar student would be led to believe that this “Adagio” is a complete movement based on its editorial context here; clearly this would be regrettable. (Other multi-movement works are sometimes—but not always—presented with continuous measure numbers across all their movements. Compare, for instance, the measure numberings of Telemann’s Bassoon Sonata and Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Oboes.)

In addition to these editorial issues, the musical texts themselves contain many errors. Those that I have noticed (such as an empty extra staff at the bottom of every system of the Telemann Bassoon Sonata, and the places where two trumpets are called upon to play three simultaneous dissonant notes in Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony) are most likely by-products of the choice to re-set the notation instead of reprinting previous editions. Mary Wennerstrom’s review of AAP cites several specific and glaring notational mistakes, and I have stumbled upon others that I won’t catalog here. Wennerstrom’s entreaty that “any user should check every score for accuracy” is well-founded. 1  To his credit, Bribitzer-Stull announced in September 2015 (via the Society for Music Theory’s smt-announce email list) that he has prepared an errata list and corrected scores. These are available via direct correspondence with him for now, and should appear on Oxford University Press’s planned site dedicated to the anthology when it launches.

The introductory prose provided before each musical selection varies widely in focus and specificity, making it difficult to generalize about the extent to which useful analytic thought or dialogue might spring from these introductions. For instance, the editor’s forward to the first movement of Schubert’s “Arpeggione” Sonata consists of two sentences describing the instrument for which it was originally intended and noting that the sonata is “now usually performed by viola, cello, or trombone” (p. 301). Certainly some aspect of the music itself might merit being brought to students’ attention: the role of the Neapolitan chord in the opening theme, the relative conservatism of the movement’s formal or tonal approach, or the frequent phrasal expansions with direct consequence for performance decisions all come to mind. In fact, the very next work in AAP, the opening movement of Schubert’s Piano Sonata in A Major, is prefaced by the editor with reference to its lack of innovation in its “motives, themes, and key areas” (p. 309). In contrast, the introduction to Strauss’s “Ruhe, meine Seele” is quite substantial. While drawing on two published analyses of the song, it compares the texture and striking tonal approach of its opening to recitative, points out later hypermetrical regularity, cites a slow-moving four-note piano motive as potentially significant for performance, and implies two competing formal interpretations based on the contradictory points of view of the singer and the pianist. Such a wealth of productive prompts for analysis and discussion would be a welcome amplification for many other works included in AAP.

Despite the issues noted above, many of AAP’s thoughtful editorial choices deserve to be lauded. For instance, it places nine different settings by Bach of the same chorale (“O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden”) side-by-side for comparison, creating a brilliant opportunity for studying (and appreciating!) the art of harmonizing a given melody. And given this anthology’s particular philosophy, it’s delightful to find Monteverdi’s madrigal “Cruda Amarilli” provided. It’s a fine example of a piece with monumental historical significance (vis-à-vis the Artusi controversy) that is also eminently performable by the varied student forces available in a given class (even if in an ad-hoc “transcription” with, e.g., string players taking on the high voice parts). Other included works that nicely fulfill these dual functions include Mozart’s Ave verum corpus, K. 618; the Kyrie from Josquin’s Missa La sol fa re mi; and Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood.

In addition, AAP’s topical index holds enormous value for the instructor and deserves special mention. For instructors who are searching for an example of hemiola, or of an enharmonically reinterpreted diminished seventh chord, or of a second-inversion IV7, or even—more obscurely, perhaps—thirty-second notes or polystylism (the last referring to a movement of Schnittke’s String Quartet No. 3), this index is a powerful resource. Its entries include components of Hepokoski and Darcy’s sonata theory (medial caesura, rotational form, etc.), rhythmic topics (hypermeter, conflicting downbeats), and even instances of Riepel’s melodic/harmonic formulas monte, fonte, and ponte. In its encyclopedic coverage this index holds up well against that of any other commercially published anthology.

Putting the strength of this index aside, the unique pedagogical philosophy underpinning AAP leads us naturally to scrutinize more broadly the merits of published anthologies for music theory core curricula. At no time has it ever been easier for an instructor to assemble independently a collection of scores to distribute to students, thanks to the ubiquity of editions now in the public domain, many of which are freely available as electronically scanned documents in online collections such as the Petrucci Music Library. In my own experience, college and university bookstores are eager to help instructors prepare their own course anthologies, and even to assist with resolving copyright issues when necessary (using, for instance, the Copyright Clearance Center to obtain necessary permissions). An instructor-prepared collection tends to be less expensive for students (AAP’s list price is $105.95), and unlike a published anthology, every work in it will (obviously) relate to the course at hand.

So why use any published anthology, let alone AAP? A crucial pair of interlocking factors, perhaps especially for newer instructors, is the dyad of expertise and prep time. There is something to be said, when preparing some part of the undergraduate theory sequence for the first time or with short notice, for deferring to an editor who has already thought deeply about each of the genres, periods, and/or styles to be explored (and in fact selected those genres, periods, and styles in the first place!), culled from the depths of each repertory the appropriate examples, assembled them into a single volume, attended to any copyright permissions required for either the music itself or its editorial context, and arranged to have it physically printed and bound. Collecting and making available recordings of the collected scores is also a time-consuming task. In AAP’s case, Bribitzer-Stull has prepared a playlist for use with NAXOS Music Library, a resource to which many post-secondary schools already subscribe. With a little bit of effort, one can import the playlist to make recordings of the music in AAP accessible to students (with the exceptions of four works for which NAXOS has no recording).

This is what we do when we choose a published anthology instead of creating one: we substitute the editor’s and publisher’s time and expertise for our own. I would stress that this is oftentimes a good decision, so long as one understands and agrees with the editor’s philosophy supporting the important choices being made on one’s behalf. (In this sense, AAP excels—Bribitzer-Stull makes transparent the reasoning behind his selections, and those selections do strongly reflect his explicit rationale.) But the resources now available to aid in collecting and presenting scores chosen by instructors themselves have raised the bar for published anthologies. My own experience as a theory pedagogue has been that, the more longevity I experience with my own curriculum, students, and institutional setting, the more interested I become in selecting just the repertoire that matches their needs, encourages my personal enthusiasm for teaching, and that best illustrates the particular principles, genres, styles, or techniques I want my students to explore. (I also find myself become more cognizant of the money I save students, year after year, by preparing my own score collections instead of asking them to purchase commercial anthologies.)

One of the most crucial contributions of AAP, with its unique philosophy compared with other anthologies, is its pressing of theory pedagogues to think more clearly and deliberately about the rationale behind their own selections of music for their students to explore. Teachers who are persuaded by Bribitzer-Stull’s rationale for focusing on performance music in the classroom—and who can see fit to work around this collection’s editorial issues—might find this an interesting choice. But the simple presence on the market of an anthology with such distinctive curricular goals should cause us to give greater attention to the choices of repertoire, and the means by which we provide it, we already make on our students’ behalves.

1 Mary Wennerstrom, Review of Matthew Bribitzer-Stull, Anthology for Analysis and Performance, Music Theory Online 19, no. 4 (2013), available at

3422 Last modified on March 8, 2019