As a composer myself I have sometimes tolerated cuts in my operas in performance, but only when dramatic timing on stage made it unavoidable; and I have always insisted (as indeed did Strauss and a host of other composers whose scores were regularly truncated in live performance with or without their permission) that the omitted passages are printed in full in published scores. On the rare occasions when an abridged score is published, there is of course the additional element of sheer laziness perpetuated by performers who continue to adhere to the “concert edition” even when the composer has objected to the “improvements” made by an editor or publisher to the original score.
In the case of Rachmaninov I have little doubt that the cuts he permitted in performances of his scores were made in order to comply with the wishes of performers and promoters anxious not to risk boring an audience, since the passages excised are in no way inferior to what remains; and the balance of the work is frequently imperilled by the abridgements. This interpretation is confirmed by his habit of making sometimes swingeing impromptu cuts in his own live recitals if he sensed that an audience was getting restless or inattentive. It is no excuse for perpetuating these truncations on disc, even though in the case of 78 rpm sets it may have been the only way of getting the music to fit onto the limitations of a record side (as may well have been a consideration in the release of Rachmaninov’s recordings by the same unsympathetic commercial company who declined his offer to conduct the Symphonic Dances for them).
I would say the same about the Vaughan Williams London Symphony, were it not for the fact that the new and overwhelming climax of the slow movement is such an evident improvement on the original; I would dearly love some day to hear this revised climax grafted on to an otherwise uncut performance of the 1913 score, but this sort of ‘new edition’ would I imagine please nobody except myself (and certainly not the RVW estate). In the meantime I will continue in my own reviews to excoriate conductors (who are almost invariably the worst offenders) who set their opinions above those of the composer or their audiences, especially in instances where their gutted and filleted versions of rare or neglected scores are the only representation available to listeners.
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