Detroit Symphony librarians track millions of Beethoven notes

Posted on: January 31, 2013

“To appreciate the scope of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming Beethoven Festival, Feb. 6-24, let’s start with some numbers,” writes Chris Felcyn in Wednesday’s (1/30) Detroit News. “There are nine symphonies (plus four overtures and a ballet suite); 12 distinct concerts in less than three weeks, with anywhere from 50 to more than 100 musicians on stage, each with meticulously annotated parts on the music stands before them. That’s a lot of notes.… A major responsibility for preparing every one of those little black dots falls on the DSO librarians, Robert Stiles and Ethan Allen. ‘Even though there’s all kinds of new critical editions coming out, usually while they fix some of the old mistakes, they often create new ones,’ says Allen, ‘and so we have to go through each and every part to make sure all these mistakes are corrected.’ ” Stiles points out that the job also “ ‘involves transferring, by hand, marks in pencil that include what we call bowings.’ … So how many notes is it? Allen offers his professional assessment: ‘I just did a rough estimate of Beethoven’s Eighth and came up with about 150,000-200,000 notes… So over the course of the entire festival, we are looking at roughly two million notes, minimum.’ ”

Posted January 31, 2013