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In the first bar of Scriabin's third prelude op. 11 he indicates a finger "0" in the left hand as seen in the screenshot (preview from Henle's website) below. What is this supposed to mean? I can imagine that it is very difficult to play this note (C), since the key has just been pressed by the right hand. In fact, if the piece is played at the indicated pace of 200 beats per minute, then the two C's are separated by 1/20 of a second. I can only guess that he allows the pianist to ignore this note. (Question on the side: Why is he suggesting three tempi and not just the range 184-200?)

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2 Answers 2

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This is not an editing error. A zero fingering in some publisher's urtext editions of keyboard music (e.g. Henle) is a heads-up that the same note is also written for the other hand (as when left and right hand figures coincide on a note). In this case, the note is being held by the other hand and is not to be restruck. A zero means that the note is also written for, and to be played with, the other hand.

Henle usually has a general comment (e.g. in the preface) about the fingering (e.g. all was done by the editor) or uses a combination of roman and italics to distinguish the editor's from the composer's (e.g. in Chopin). (In the case of Henle editions, the fingering is sometimes done by someone other than the editor.)

IMO, the fast tempo of the piece rather obviously rules out restriking the note and the way Scriabin (and other composers) notate this is much cleaner and clearer than writing a rest for the one hand.

The note isn't technically omitted -- only the (re)attack is. If you did play the note again with the left hand, you would be shortening the duration of the 2nd note of the corresponding r.h. triplet. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

Another way of thinking about this is that, at tempo, the left- and right-hand notes effectively coincide, and since the right hand also has the melody, it logically should play the note. Also, you want to avoid entangling the hands.


Here is another example of a "zero" fingering from the new Henle edition of the Beethoven sonatas, edited by Norbert Gertsch and Murray Perahia, with fingerings by Murray Perahia:

Piano Sonata Op.31 N.1, Rondo

Henle edition

In m.133 the lower D in the r.h. is assigned a 0 because Beethoven wrote the same D in the left hand. It isn't practical to play the note with the r.h., because the l.h. has to restrike it.

From the composer's (as well as the structural and "musical") viewpoint, it would both ugly and pedantic to write a rest for one hand. It's clear in these cases that the pianist simply has to choose with which hand to play the note, which "belongs" to both hands. The editor is suggesting the more practical choice.


Another example can be found in the slow movement of Henle's edition of Schumann's Piano Trio Op.80, m.22:

Schumann Op.80

The zero fingering is a suggestion to let the l.h. play the F sharp that is written for both hands, which leaves the r.h. thumb free to play the A. Without the heads-up, the pianist is likely to stumble the first time to figure out if it's a misprint or exactly what is going on in this spot with the apparent "colliding thumbs."


With regard to the three tempi, I would point to the piece's title: it's a study. A range suggests that you pick a (one) tempo you like; three tempi perhaps suggest a progression for learning the piece.

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    Is it possible that Scriabin indicates "184-192-200" to mean he allows a range from 184 to 200, but prefers it to be played at 192? Is that 3-number notation common in modern music, or only specifically for a particular composer like Scriabin? Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 8:03
  • @GratefulDisciple the middle number isn't necessarily a preference; it could be that Scriabin recognized that different tempos will be preferable in different circumstances.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 8:39
  • @GratefulDisciple IMO three discrete tempo markings is quite uncommon, but unless Scriabin or other writers discuss this piece elsewhere, I don't think we'll know for sure what his intention was. As I mentioned, my hunch is that it's a practice guide.
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 10:09
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    Thanks for your answer! I just got a reply from Henle, and they confirmed this. Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 13:47
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    Glad to help. I've found that Henle is very diligent about inquiries and usually replies.
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 14:04
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The fingerings are not in the first edition (M.P. Belaieff, Leipzig ~1897) so they've been added by a later editor. The editor obviously considered the note superfluous or too hard to play (or both). If you think the note is important and you're capable of playing it at that tempo, then you're free to do so, otherwise don't feel bad about leaving it out.

The three tempo markings are in the first edition. Maybe 192 was Scriabin's preferred tempo, but he was prepared to accept a bit of deviation from that.

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    The normal way to mark a note as "optional" is to put it in parenthesis; I have never seen a finger "0", nor any indication that it might mean "leave out this note". I think it is much more likely to be an editing error. Scriabin wrote music, not microsecond engineering manuals, so if he wrote a note, it is likely he meant it to be played, at some musical timing. (His own recordings are incredibly flexible with tempo.) Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 4:51
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    @BrianChandler Scriabin intended the note, it's an editor who says it can be left out.
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 8:14
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    @BrianChandler Parentheses around a note are a relatively modern notation. What else could '0' mean except "omit the note"?
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 8:21
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    I wrote an email to Henle. Lets wait a couple of days to see if they have a good answer. Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 16:17
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    @BrianChandler I too have never seen a finger 0 nor an indication that it might mean to leave out a note, but (1) what else could it mean, and (2) what else could it mean in this context? The hypothesis that it's a mistake doesn't have much to recommend it, and I can't think of any other hypotheses that are at all grounded in reality -- can you? That leaves us with "the editor is suggesting the omission of that note," which makes a good deal of sense. As with any fingering indication (even those by the composer), you are free to ignore it or to disagree with it.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 8:45

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