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On the one hand, there are scholarly editions, the editions most likely to be familiar to readers of .These editions are prepared in order to serve as "standard" texts of the works they represent; they are intended for use by historical musicologists, their students, and knowledgeable performers.
These are what we may call "historicizing" editions: each offers a text that reproduces as closely as available evidence permits a text that existed at some specific moment in the past, often the moment at which the composer decided his composition was finished and laid down his pen.
Concerned with a particular historical moment, these editions endeavor to avoid the introduction of anything that is not of that moment.
At first these editions were partial—e.g., Bach's works for keyboard—but by the second half of the nineteenth century complete editions of Bach (begun 1851), Handel (begun 1859), Beethoven (begun 1864), and Mozart (begun 1876)—were in progress.
It is not unfair to say that German editions—especially those published by Breitkopf & Härtel—defined the musicological edition in the nineteenth century, just as the editions published by the German firms of Brenreiter, G.
These editions were intended to preserve England's musical heritage; they were the musical counterparts of the collected editions that had long been testifying to—and contributing to—the stature of English literary figures and Classical authors.
With the rise of national (or, more precisely, ethnic) consciousness, German-speaking editors set about to preserve the German musical heritage, and editions of major German composers' works were undertaken.
Prior to the eighteenth century, interest in music of the past was not a notable feature of European musical taste.
It was in England, towards the middle of the eighteenth century, that interest in "ancient music" led to the first large-scale modern "historical" editions: William Boyce's (1763-93), and Samuel Arnold's Handel edition (1787-97), to name the most important.
It is with music of the past—sometimes the quite recent past, but viewed in historical perspective—that editing music is largely concerned.
For music of the present, the two factors that most concern editors—the authority of the text and the need to make the work accessible to the edition's users—are not at issue.