Pavel Haas: The Manuscript (2/3)

The manuscript of the Suita is a unique document that is essential for a comprehensive understanding of the piece. It provides important information about it’s history, original conception and possible interpretation.


It was not easy to locate the manuscript of the Suita but, eventually, I found it in the Moravian Museum in Brno (Moravské zemské muzeum). When I started concerning myself with the Suita, I was already taken aback at the beginning by some inconsistencies in the Tempo Praha/Bossey&Hawkes edition by the Haas biographer Lubomír Peduzzi. In the following, I would like to explain that several questions were answered by the study of this manuscript. Unfortunately, it is not written by Pavel Haas himself but a copy made by František Suchý, who, at that time, was a professor for oboe and music theory at the Janáček Academy in Brno. Apparently, a score from the composer himself is nowhere to be found at the moment but, hopefully, it is waiting to be discovered in a private collection …


Lower part of the third page with unusual quaver beamings


While reckoning the manuscript, Suchý’s diligence when creating the copy is immediately striking. He meticulously notates the smallest details of the original, seems to stick to all of the unusual beamings and denotations and transfers even short text notes by the composer. All in all, we seem to have a detailed copy of the original text in front of us – nevertheless, it needs to be regarded critically, since it presumably originates from a time long before our standard of an “urtext” came into being. Suchý also was music theorist and composer and maybe therefore strongly focused on conserving the composer’s intentions in the score. Two passages are particularly moving, where Haas documents personal events in the: He notes below bar 90 (one bar after 16) in the second movement: “today we have to hand over our radio (forever) 29/09/39” and at the end of the movement “finished 04/10/39, today, they ring the victory over Poland” .


At first glance, it becomes apparent that it is not an ordinary oboe part but that this music was originally written for voice and piano, eventually as a song cycle: Throughout the entire composition, almost all the groups of quavers and semiquavers are notated with separate beams, as in a voice score. Also, the original range from c1 to b-flat 2 (some sections have been transposed by an octave in the TempoPraha/B&H edition) suggests a conception for soprano and or tenor and by far still does not utilise the whole range of the oboe.



The end of the second movement with the comment “dok[ončeno] 4. X. 39 . dnes vyzvánějí vítězství nad Polskem” (finished 04/10/39, today, they ring the victory over Poland)


This has to be the reason why Peduzzi and Suchý massively altered the text in the first edition: They wanted to publish a playable version for oboe and piano in order to make the composition accessible to a greater audience. One must, in conclusion, not forget that the Suita was almost entirely unknown and therefore, I am extremely grateful to the editors for their work. Albeit, I am convinced that the changes are partially this drastic that the composer’s intentions often are not entirely comprehensible anymore or even sophisticated. Listing every deviation would by far go beyond the scope – innumerable details in the text, like dynamics, tempi, transpositions etc. do not conform with the manuscript – this even includes omitted tempo indications and fermatas. The two most significant differences are a “poco a poco cresc. e accell.” in bar 62 (2 before 23) of the third movement until a „♩ = ♪ di Tempo I“ in bar 65 (23), an actual doppio tempo until the end of the movement, completely absent in the edition. The other one is the oboe part of the last six bars, that is completely “newly” added by the editors. In both cases, the manuscript seems much more coherent to me: Only in doppio tempo the large phrasing of the final passage becomes understandable. Moreover, a solo piano postlude is much more typical for a song cycle. So, entirely different phrasings and bows of suspense come about, which seem a lot more logical to my musical instinct – but which, as a start, will surprise everyone who is familiar with the common edition. A critical re-edition of the oeuvre would certainly enable a new, deeper insight into the composer’s intentions.