The publication of an Urtext edition of Syrinx is a significant event in the publishing history of the flute repertoire. Syrinx was the first important composition for solo flute in the 20th century, and its extraordinary sensual and musical qualities inspired a whole genre of solo works for the instrument. It has remained a staple of the repertoire since its first performance by Louis Fleury in 1913. This Urtext edition uses three sources: an autograph (presumed lost) referred to in a letter by Debussy in which he makes several references to the piece; the manuscript copy of Louis Fleury; and the first edition published by Joubert in 1937. The Fleury copy was not, it is apparent, the source of the Joubert first edition, which contains a number of variances. Bärentreiter takes the first edition as the primary source, although the Fleury is acknowledged as the foundation of the performance tradition and corroborates most of the readings in the Joubert. One significant area of discrepancy, however, lies in the number of breath marks found in the Joubert first edition, and this Urtext prefers to consider them as later additions. As the Fleury souce is most likely to reflect Debussy’s autograph, this edition uses those marks and, thus, assumes one alteration in bar 31, tying the first two notes of the bar, on the assumption that the tie was broken to accommodate the first edition breath at this point. As usual with Bärenreiter editions, this offering is beautifully printed and is likely to become the edition of choice henceforth; for those already in possession of a copy of Syrinx, however, the small number of changes does not make a purchase of the new Urtext a matter of urgency.
First published in FLUTE, December 2011