Printed public domain sheet music

Twice recently I’ve ordered sheet music for scores that are in the public domain. One for Bach’s Musical Offering and one (well, two) for the Sibelius Symphony No. 5, the full orchestral score and the piano reduction.

The Bach work is one I often listen to, passively but with inevitable moments of actively, and it’s also a notable work of creative notation. I wanted to look at the structure of the Ricercar a 6 which is a six-voice fugue performed (most of the time?) on keyboard–ouch!–but each piece in the set has its own interesting characteristics. I listened to the Kuijken/Kohnen/Leonhardt recording from 1975 growing up and so is the “official” one to my ear.

I’ve wanted to study the Sibelius symphony–considered one of the greatest symphonies ever written, ymmv–ever since I started working with orchestral composition. Public domain rules are byzantine and generally I think a score needs to be around 70 years old before it becomes available. Older scores I’ve looked at are notoriously badly edited (with questionable phrase markings or capricious choices of accidentals or just misprints, though not seeing more curated versions I may be wrong), so to mitigate any weirdness in the orchestral score I also got the piano reduction.

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Suite for Orchestra, “Figures in a Landscape”–Working with limited resources

I’ve just started the 5th movement, Fire, in which our heroes are trapped in a conflagration in the field of local villagers. (In my research notes, I have it covering pages 94-115 of the 2020 Penguin/Vintage edition I use as reference.) At this point I am struggling with the idea of program music in contrast with soundtracks. A few months back I had an abbreviated, stumbling Twitter conversation with an individual Much Better Informed but we ended up having the same opinions of soundtracks-as-pure-music. That is: a low one. In these days of a renaissance of quality composers, it’s admittedly a bit unpopular to get all academically scoffy about music written for movies.

5th movement, Fire
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