I just now encountered the 2nd example of the following:

  • established publisher
  • baroque period
  • the piece is clearly in e.g. c minor (related to e flat major, 3 bs)
  • the printed key signature shows less bs (here: 2 instead of 3), adding accidentals, where necessary

Some research in the internet gave these reasons:

  • key signatures were not [up to and including Haydn] standardized for minor (due to melodic vs. harmonic variants, or possible blurring between Dorian mode and minor key)
  • avoid intimidation of potential buyers/players
  • tuning more problematic with increasing number of signature symbols

While I understand at least the first reason, I'm unsure, why a new edition would keep the old tradition.

Is there any further reason for the approach?

Does this practice have a name?

  • 1
    This was already answered here: music.stackexchange.com/questions/50938 Jan 8, 2017 at 18:55
  • " I'm unsure, why a new edition would keep the old tradition." On the contrary, why should a new edition change what the composer wrote, just to satisfy the whims and fancies of the today's "musical notation style police"?
    – user19146
    Jan 8, 2017 at 20:07
  • @alephzero: Do you question the right to exist for any edition not urtext? In my opinion any non-professional player is thankful for any non-intrusive help she can get from the editor. And if, as in the case of Haydn, the incomplete signatures were only kept for historical/habituation reasons, I question them seriously today.
    – guidot
    Nov 13, 2017 at 9:47


Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.