I've found two type-settings of the prelude:

  1. One via IMSLP
  2. One via youtube

The original manuscript/facsimile is also available via IMSLP.

I'm not sure if I can trust either typeset versions. While a single A♭ in these editions, per the manuscript the second beat in the treble clef of measure six is clearly a G♭-B♭ chord.

The manuscript is incomplete, error-prone, and difficult to read. Are there any reasons to assume the typeset editions are correct?


A picture is worth a thousand words. Measure 6: typeset on the left, manuscript on the right. The manuscript's sixth measure excludes a would-be crossed-out measure 5. Notice that the manuscript's tie seems to contradict the G♭-B♭ chord. While A♭ is the better choice harmonically, melodically the G♭-B♭ chord isn't too out-of-place, and sounds more "haunting". Rhythmically G♭-G♭-F, E♭-E♭-D♭ is more symmetrical than A♭-G♭-F, E♭-E♭-D♭. Also, there's no way the G♭-B♭ chord is a typo; it was explicitly written with the octave D♭ in the bass clef as the 2nd inversion of the IV chord.

  • Truthfully, it took me quite a while to figure out what this question was about -- the manuscript version just looked like an Ab to me. But after a bunch of staring, I see now how it can look like a dyad. My suspicion, but without a way to back it up, is she wrote an Ab that didn't extend far enough below the ledger line to be clear, so she then added a correction below it, which wound up looking like a separate note.
    – Aaron
    Jan 31, 2021 at 6:45

1 Answer 1


Manuscript study always involves some interpretation on account of some unclear notation by the original composers. As such, the best way to guarantee the accuracy of a reproduction is by verifying it yourself. Whenever you're unsure what a specific pitch/rhythm is, oftentimes an analysis of the piece can limit your options of even clarify what the pitch/rhythm "should" be.

And this last sentence is what informs this particular question you're asking. I agree: at first glance, the manuscript does look like G♭/B♭. But a quick analysis of the piece shows that everywhere else in the music, this top line is a single voice (like in page 2/system 1/measure 3):

enter image description here

That alone, in my opinion, is enough to show that this is just a single A♭. But we can take it one step further: Boulanger wrote only one dot in m. 6; a G♭/B♭ dyad would demand two dots. But perhaps this is just an idiosyncrasy of her notation; let's look elsewhere to see whether she ever wrote both dots for pitches a third apart. Consult page 2/system 3/measure 1, left hand:

enter image description here

Based on these two facts (and your two points about the tie and melodic contour), I agree with the single A♭ in m. 6, and not a G♭/B♭ dyad.

And all in all, the IMSLP typeset version looks pretty accurate. If you were to play this piece, or offer a lecture on it, you would want to clarify that you are using that particular typesetting. This would also allow you the opportunity to discuss any disagreements you have with that typesetting. (You could also just play straight from the manuscript, and use that as your score!)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.