University of Leeds



Ferdinand David as editor - Clive Brown

Ferdinand David’s residence in Leipzig between 1836 and his death in 1873 was a crucial factor in his becoming the most prolific and influential editor of music in the mid-19th century. Leipzig was already the centre of German music printing when David took up his duties there and as a result of Mendelssohn’s reputation and achievements it quickly became one of most prestigious musical centres in Europe (out of all proportion to its importance as a town). David’s effectiveness as leader of the Gewandhaus Orchestra was soon acknowledged; his position as head of the violin department at the Conservatorium that was founded at Mendelssohn’s instigation in 1843 gave him a prominent position as a pedagogue. His editing activities began in the year the Conservatorium was founded with his edition of Bach’s solo Sonatas and Partitas, which was already linked to his work there by the statement on its title page ‘Zum Gebrauch bei dem Conservatorium der Musik zu Leipzig mit Fingersatz, Bogenstrichen und sonstigen Bezeichnungen versehen’ (for use at the Leipzig Conservatorim for Music, supplied with fingering, bowing and other markings). For a while this edition remained an exception in David’s output. During the rest of the 1840s he continued to publish his own compositions as well as making violin arrangements of cello sonatas by Mendelssohn, Moscheles and Chopin, but from the early 1850s he began to focus increasingly on producing annotated editions of Baroque, Classical and contemporary works, developing an approach to this task that was to provide a valuable record of his own practice (within limitations that are discussed below) as well exerting long-term influence on the concept of the annotated edition.

After demonstrating his exceptional musical abilities as a child, the 13-year-old David was sent to Kassel where he spent the years 1823 to 1825 studying violin with Spohr and theory with Mortiz Hauptmann. Spohr’s tuition encompassed not only solo violin technique but also chamber and orchestral practice; he encouraged his students to take part in chamber music and made them play as members of the theatre orchestra, which he conducted. It seems probable that many of David's stylistic precepts were forged at that time, for Spohr had very decided views about the style of playing that was appropriate to particular repertoires and instilled these into his students. Spohr had been recognised by Friedrich Rochlitz as early as 1805, in a review of his performances in Leipzig at that time, for his sensitivity in giving each composer's works a distinctive character appropriate to the music. Rochlitz considered that one of the things that made Spohr a great artist was ‘his insight into the spirit of the most different compositions, and his skill in reproducing each in that spirit’ (seine Einsicht in den Geist der verschiedensten Kompositionen, und sein Kunst, jede in diesem ihrem Geiste darzustellen). Furthermore, Rochlitz enthused: 

He is almost a different person when he performs, for example, Beethoven (his darling, whom he handles splendidly), or Mozart (his ideal), or Rode (whose grandiosity he knows so well how to assume without, like him, occasionally letting himself verge on scratching and scraping, particularly in producing a big sound), or when he plays Viotti and gallant composers; he is a different person, because they are different people. (Er ist fast ganz ein Anderer, wenn er z. B. Beethoven, (seinen Liebling, den er trefflich behandelt,) oder Mozart, (sein Ideal,) oder Rode, (dessen Grandiose er sehr gut anzunehmen weiss, ohne mit ihm an das Scharfe und Schneidende zu streifen, und ihm nur Weniges, besonders in Dicke des Tons, zuvorlassend,) oder wenn er Viotti und galante Komponisten, vorträgt; er ist ein Anderer wie sie Andere sind.) 
[Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 7(1804-5), cols 202-3]

Spohr’s seriousness of purpose clearly had a decisive impact on David’s future career, and when he left Kassel at the age of 15 he seems already to have been a rounded artist with a well-developed technique capable of tackling his master’s most difficult works. During the years 1825 and 1826 he and his pianist sister Louise (later, as Louise Dulcken, to become one of the most successful pianists in London) made a series of concert tours to Copenhagen and a number of important north German cities. At the Leipzig Gewandhaus in December 1825, David played Spohr’s 'Gesangsscene' Violin Concerto (of which he was later to make an edition) and Potpourri on Irish songs, while his sister performed works by Moscheles. During this concert tour David first encountered Felix Mendelssohn and laid the foundations of the friendship that was later to have such a profound influence. Their friendship deepened after David moved to Berlin to take up a position in the orchestra of the Königstadt Theater and became a regular participant in chamber music at the Mendelssohn house, especially playing quartets with Mendelssohn (viola) and the brothers Edouard and Julius Rietz (violin and cello). For six years (1829-1835), David occupied an unusual post as leader of a private quartet for Carl von Liphart at Dorpat (now Tartu) in Estonia, where he had an exceptional opportunity to familiarise himself with the whole repertoire of string quartets that were performed at that time. 

Although the basis of David’s violin playing was formed predominantly through his study with Spohr, he was also alert to the new and different approaches to violin technique that he encountered in later life. As his 1863 Violinschule demonstrates, aspects of these were incorporated into his own playing to supplement the techniques he had imbibed from Spohr’s teaching. In March and April 1829, shortly before he moved to Dorpat, he had the opportunity to hear Paganini in Berlin and may even have met the Italian virtuoso when he dined with the Mendelssohn family on 19 March 1829. According to David’s pupil August Wilhelmj, the experience of hearing Paganini was a revelation, which, although causing a momentary crisis of confidence, was to be a productive influence on his development. While in Dorpat, David was able to make occasional concert tours to St Petersburg and other nearby musical centres, and although during his years in Leipzig his only major concert tours were to London in 1839 and 1841, he had excellent opportunities to hear and associate with the many celebrated European violinists who included Leipzig in their touring itinerary. As a player and teacher, therefore, he absorbed these experiences and allowed them to mould his own playing style and pedagogy. According to an account written shortly after his death: 

After hearing [Paganini] for the first time, he actually - according to Wilhelmj - wanted to give up violin playing entirely. But luckily for art he did not carry out this intention; for his work was, in fact, epoch-making for the history of violin playing, because, while cultivating the broad, so-called German playing style of Spohr, he sought to unify and amalgamate it with the acquirements of Paganini and the Franco-Belgian School. Thus he became the reformer, indeed according to Wilhelmj, the “Father of the modern German school of violin playing”. (Nachdem er den Erstgenanten [Paganini] zum ersten Male gehört, zwar hatte er - so erzählt Wilhelmj - das Violinspiel ganz aufgeben wollen. Doch ward er zum Heile der Kunst dieser Entschluss nicht zur That; denn geradezu epochmachend wurde sein Wirken für die Geschichte des Violinspiels dadurch, dass er das breite, sogennante deutsche Spiel Spohr's weiter ausbildend, die Errungenschaften eines Paganini und der französisch-belgischen Schule mit dem classischen alten Geigenspiele in Einklang zu bringen und eine Verschmelzung derselben anzubahnen suchte. Solchergestalt ward er zum Reformator, ja, wie Wilhelmj ihn bezeichnet, zum “Vater der modernen deutschen Geigerschule.) 
[La Mara, Musikalische Studienköpfe. Vol. 3 Jüngstvergangenheit und Gegenwart. (Leipzig: Heinrich Schmidt und Carl Günther, 1878), p. 61]  

It seems likely that David’s early training with Spohr (who included bowing instructions and detailed fingering in the published editions of his own music) may have encouraged his habit of marking detailed bowing and fingering into the copies from which he performed. He certainly adopted it at an early stage. In a letter to Mendelssohn in 1844 he commented: 

It is a joy to hear young Weissenborn play quartets; he plays from Grabau’s copies, which I precisely marked up in my first winter here [1836] and he imitates every little quirk of mine with hair’s-breadth precision. (Weissenbornchen spielt Quartett, dass es eine Freude ist; er spielt aus den Grabauschen Büchern, die ich im ersten Winter hier genau bezeichnet habe, und macht mir jedes kleine Mätzchen genau aufs Haar nach.)  
[Julius Eckardt, Ferdinand David und die Familie Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (Leipzig: Duncker and Humblot, 1888), p. 204.]

The nature and level of detail of David’s markings is graphically illustrated by his surviving personal copies. Most of these cannot be dated with precision, but in a couple of instances we can be fairly certain when they were annotated. This is the case with two Volkmann string quartets (opp. 9 and 14) in the Uppingham Collection, on the covers of which David has noted the date of first performance at the Gewandhaus quartet concerts during the 1850s (these dates are confirmed by the programmes of the concerts, listed in Claudius Böhm Das Gewandhaus-Quartett und die Kammermusik am Leipziger Gewandhaus seit 1808 (Altenburg: Klaus-Jürgen Kamprad, 2008)).

Perhaps the earliest known surviving example is his personal copy of Viotti’s Six Duets op. 1, which is bound into a volume of duets by Viotti, H. Ries, Hauptmann and Spohr in the Uppingham collection (see my note in the red box on the first page of music). With our present knowledge of David’s orthography it is impossible to be completely certain that the detailed markings throughout these duets are by David, but it seems extremely likely. Markings in his mature hand occur on the first three staves of the first violin part of the first duet, apparently emphasising and revising the original markings, but these are absent thereafter. The extremely neat and comprehensive markings that follow (including some realizations of ornaments) are, if by David, clearly from a much earlier date, They exhibit similarities to the mature hand, for instance his for (forte) and p (piano), but the formation of the fingering numbers show some quite different forms. The 1, which he later mostly wrote as a simple, slightly forward-slanting stroke, has a ^ on top of it, and the bottom stroke of the 2, which later is generally straight, tends to curl upwards. Furthermore, the down-bow sign, which he wrote in the modern manner in his mature hand, is written upside down (see examples). The most persuasive argument for David’s authorship of these early markings, however, is their highly detailed nature, which is so typical of his later approach and so very uncommon in other surviving sources from this period.

Although David's 1843 edition of Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin marked the beginning of his seminal career as an editor of other people’s music, it is, in some respects, untypical of his later editorial work. In the first place, it includes what was believed to be Bach’s original text on a smaller stave below the editor’s performing version. A note on the title page states: 'For those who want to mark up this work themselves, the original text, which is taken with the greatest exactitude from the composer's original manuscript, is added in small notes'. This 'original manuscript' cannot, however, have been Bach's autograph; it was either a copy by Anna Magdalena Bach, or one by an unknown copyist, both of which were obtained by the Royal Library in Berlin in 1841 from the estate of the Hamburg music teacher and Bach collector Pölchau. At that time and for many years afterwards they were both believed to be autograph. The autograph itself was only recognised towards the end of the nineteenth century and was still in private hands when it was used as the basis for the 1908 edition by Joseph Joachim and Andreas Moser. It is possible that  the decision to include the composer’s text unaltered below the edited version was influenced by Mendelssohn, who had become increasingly strict in his attitude towards editing and adapting Baroque music for contemporary use. When Mendelssohn came to edit Handel’s Israel in Egypt for the London Handel Society in 1844-5, he adopted a much more purist approach than had been observed in the Society’s other editions, observing in his preface

I think it of paramount importance that all my remarks should be kept strictly separate from the Original Score, and that the latter should be given in its entire purity, in order to afford every one an opportunity of resorting to Handel himself, and not to obtrude any suggestions of mine upon those who may differ from me in opinion.

Mendelssohn did, however, provide an editorial organ part ‘written down in the manner in which I would play it if called upon to do so at a performance of this Oratorio.’  (See Brown, A Portrait of Mendelssohn, pp. 40-46.)

Furthermore, David’s edition of Bach’s solo Sonatas and Partitas, like the much later Baroque collection in his Hohe Schule des Violinspiels, provides rather more detailed instructions for the execution of the music than he was to include in editions of the Viennese Classics that were part of the standard repertoire of his own day. He appears to have considered that pre-Classical music, with no continuous performing tradition, demanded a greater level of guidance for the player and that, in particular, it required a different approach to bowing. Responding to Baroque music intuitively, therefore, David may have been attempting to forge a distinct style in which he believed this music could be made more accessible and acceptable to contemporary musicians and audiences. He thus suggested a varied range of expressive nuances and bowstrokes that were not typically employed in Classical works at that time and were not indicated in his editorial or manuscript markings in works of the Classical masters (see the article 'Violin bowing'), specifying them by means of instructions such as leggieramente, staccato, and largamente in the fugue of the First Sonata; Staccato du milieu de l’archet in the Double to the Gavotte of the First Partita; saltato in the Chaconne; and talon in the Allegro assai of the Third Sonata. In one of the passages in the Chaconne, marked simply arpeggio by Bach, however, David altered Bach’s slurring pattern to one that reflected post-Viotti practice, and also indicated the kind of springing arpeggios that were later to appear in Mendelssohn’s through-composed cadenza for his Violin Concerto op. 64. Here he was perhaps influenced directly by David's realisation of these arpeggios in the Chaconne, which the two friends had played together on several occasions. David’s fingering in the Sonatas and Partitas, which includes portamento effects, together with the frequent use of open strings and harmonics is, on the other hand, very similar to that employed by him for Classical repertoire. 

The influence of David’s edition of Bach’s solo violin pieces was extensive and long lasting. Bernhard Molique’s editions of selected movements with piano accompaniment, published in 1853, also by Kistner, corresponds almost exactly with David’s in respect of bowing and fingering; it seems that Molique’s role was to supply a piano part rather than to revise the violin part (this is implied by the wording of the title page in the English edition). Hellmesberger’s edition of all six (Peters, c. 1865) also owes much to David’s example. Despite Joachim’s highly critical attitude towards David’s editing, his own edition of the Sonatas and Partitas, prepared in collaboration with Andreas Moser and published by Bote & Bock in 1908, the year after his death, retains many of the distinctive characteristics of David’s. (See Clive Brown, ‘Joseph Joachim as editor') This undoubtedly reflects the fact that he had first learned the pieces under David’s tutelage in the early 1840s and that his early performances, at least, will have been from David’s edition, often in those years with Mendelssohn’s piano accompaniment to the Chaconne. (The French edition of Mendelssohn’s piano accompaniment to the Chaconne (1848) included the following comment on the title page ‘executée à Paris dans plusieurs concerts, / PAR / JOACHIM / Member du Conservatoire de Leipsic’. (See John Michael Cooper, ‘Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Ferdinand David und Johann Sebastian Bach: Mendelssohns Bach-Auffassung im Spiegel der Wiederentdeckung der “Chaconne”’, Mendelssohn Studien, vol. 10 (Berlin, 1997), pp. 157-179); for more detailed comparison of editions of the Bach Solo Sonatas and Partitas see Duncan Druce’s article on this website. 

As indicated earlier, David’s letters show that he had adopted the practice of marking up his own performing material in detail from an early stage. It seems, nevertheless, that he (or perhaps the publisher) was only gradually persuaded to include this kind of detailed annotation in the new editions of classical chamber music (replacing earlier editions with more up to date and reliable ones) that began to be issued in greater numbers from the 1850s. At first David did not supply the chamber music editions for which he was the named editor with fingering or bow direction signs, despite the claim ‘Neue Ausgabe zum Gebrauch beim Conservatorium der Musik zu Leipzig genau bezeichnet von Ferdinand David’ (New edition for use at the Leipzig Conservatorium precisely marked by Ferdinand David) on the title page of the  Breitkopf und Härtel editions of Mozart string quartets (pl. nos. 9293-9302), published as individual works from 1857. It was evidently decided at a fairly late stage in the project, however, that bowing and fingering should be included, for while the first seven quartets have no fingerings or up- and down-bow signs (see for example No. 7, K. 499, pl. no. 9299), the last three (in the order K. 589. K. 590, K. 575, pl. nos. 9300-9302) contain editorial fingering and bowing (for example No. 8, K. 589). 

This established the practice he was to maintain in his subsequent editions of Classical chamber music. In a reissue of the Mozart String Quartets as a single volume collection with the new plate number 13168, published around the time of David’s death (1873), he also supplied bowing and fingering for the first seven quartets. In Bach's A minor Violin Concerto, published in 1864, he included fingerings, bowings, and articulations markings (including staccato dots and horizontal tenuto lines). David’s personal copy of this edition (from the Uppingham collection) also contains additional pencil markings , but these almost certainly stem from his son Paul. Other editions from the early 1860s included five Spohr violin concertos (with David's editorial markings  added to the plates of the original editions), Rode's Air Varié op. 10  (listed in Hofmeister, Jan. 1863), and Tartini's L’arte del arco  as Die Kunst der Bogenführung (in Hofmeister, Jan. 1864). At the end of the Violinschule (Hofmeister Dec. 1863) David appended a list of publications ‘which the author principally uses for teaching advanced pupils’ (p. 72) that included all the pedagogic editions he had published up to that time. Under studies, specifying publishers, he included his own editions of Kreutzer, Fiorillo, Rode, Paganini and Tartini, together with the Bach solo violin pieces and his own op. 8 and op. 20 Capricen and op. 39 Dur und Moll studies. Under Concertos and Concert Pieces he included the Viotti, Rode and Kreutzer concertos issued as Conzert-Studien and Rode’s op. 10 variations, both published by Senff. Spohr’s Violin Concertos 2, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 11, and Lipinski’s Concerto Militaire op. 21 were also specified, but surprisingly without mention of the publisher, although David’s editions of all of these concertos had already appeared or were just about to appear in print. His Violinkonzerte neuere Meister, collecting together the concertos of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Lipinski (op. 21), and Ernst (op. 23) was first listed in Hofmeister in January 1865. 

During these years Ferdinand David was editing the core Classical chamber music and concerto repertoire at an almost incredible pace. The rapidity with which his editions appeared during the last decade of his life would scarcely have been possible without his long-established practice of adding detailed performance marking in all the music he performed. In the course of his activities as a quartet player in Dorpat and regular chamber music player in Leipzig for more than thirty years, this must have included almost every major chamber work in the repertoire of his day. When he came to the task of preparing copy for his publishers, therefore, he will already have done much of the preparatory work on performance markings. The process of editing, however, must often have involved considerable work on source materials. Though none of David’s editions can be considered scholarly in the sense of modern Urtexts he undoubtedly took considerable trouble to establish as reliable a text as possible. In the case of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, it seems that David was responsible for the edition in the Breitkopf und Härtel Gesamtausgabe (1864?), for which he must (directly or indirectly) have consulted Beethoven’s autograph, although he did not have access to the Stichvorlage that was in private possession in England at that time. The Gesamtausgabe was the first edition to reinstate the independent cello part at bars 525-533 of the first movement (which, though present in the autograph, was partially omitted in the Stichvorlage and completely absent from the first edition), and the additional bar following bar 216 in the Rondo, which was absent in both those sources. David’s practical edition of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, which was included in his Violinconcerte neuerer Meister in 1865, reflects the text of the Gesamtausgabe in these respects, but includes extensive changes to the bowing and phrasing, as well as comprehensive fingerings, which reflect David’s style of performing the work. In this case we also possess his earlier personal performance copy  of the concerto (a reprint of the first edition from about 1828 containing very extensive bowing and fingering added by David in orange crayon), with which the markings in the Violinconcerte neuerer Meister edition closely, though not exactly correspond. David’s personal performing copy of the concerto also indicates graphically some of the probable differences between what he included in his editions and what, in practice, he may have performed, for it includes additional ornamentsdynamics, and an ossia absent from the 1865 edition. 

Among the other works in the Violinconcerte neuere Meister the edition of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto is of particular interest. Some twenty years earlier, when Mendelssohn was in the final stages of composing the concerto, he and David had exchanged detailed letters about figurations, articulation and other markings. Evidence of David’s conscientiousness in respect of bowing and fingering can be seen in his collaboration with Mendelssohn over the publication of the E minor Violin Concerto. On 2 January 1845, he commented in a letter to the composer: 

I have also revised it [the solo part], deleting many superfluous fingerings and bowings that I had written in and adding many new ones. Just strike out everything that’s superfluous. I know from my own experience and with Beethoven and Bach, that it is not good to send forth a violin piece into the uncultivated world of violinists without all the bowings and fingerings. They don’t take the trouble to discover the right ones and would rather say that it is ungrateful and unplayable in places. Therefore put up with anything that your composer’s conscience can tolerate. [Eckardt, Ferdinand David, p. 229] 

The original edition contains a modest amount of fingering, but David added many additional markings in his new edition of 1865, providing a full set of instructions for all bow changes and fingerings, as he did for the other concertos in the neuere Meister collection. David’s other editions from the late 1860s contain a mixture of standard chamber and solo repertoire with arrangements. The chamber works included Mozart’s Violin Sonatas and Duos for Violin and Viola, Beethoven’s complete String Quartets, Piano Trios, Violin Sonatas and other pieces for violin and piano, fifteen of Haydn’s string quartets, as well as Schubert’s Rondeau Brillant op. 70, String Quartet in D minor (Senff), and a two-volume collection of his other quartets for Peters. Solo repertoire included Mozart’s Violin Concerto K. 218 and the Divertimento in D. Alongside this David also made arrangements of cello pieces for violin (notably the Bach solo Suites and the Beethoven Sonatas), an edition of Bach’s Third Orchestral Suite for violin and piano (based on the edition he and Mendelssohn had produced in connection with a Gewandhaus performance in 1839), Mendelssohn Lieder ohne Worte for violin and piano, and a series of heavily edited Baroque pieces that were first published separately and then collectively as the Hohe Schule des Violinspiels. In the few remaining years of his life, David’s editorial activity continued unabated, with editions of Schubert’s Piano Trios and Violin Sonatas (Sonatinas and Duo), Chopin’s Piano Trio, Weber’s Violin Sonatas, Raff’s Violin Sonatas opp. 73 and 78, Bach’s Violin Concerto in E major and Double Violin Concerto, as well as reconstructions of two Bach harpsichord concertos for violin, published as Violin Concertos numbers 3 in  D minor and 4 in G minor, several more works by Paganini, and violin duets by Spohr, Viotti, and Pleyel.  

In his later editions of chamber music, David generally provided much more extensive performance information, of the kind he had previously supplied only in study works before the last three Mozart quartet editions. Whatever inhibition he may earlier have felt about imposing his own musical conceptions on the works of Classical and contemporary composers seems to have dissipated.  Thus there are a greater number of expressive fingerings and more nuanced bowing, employing the tenuto line as well as the staccato mark. There are, nevertheless, distinctions between the chamber music of the great masters and their concertos, the former showing more fidelity to the original text than the latter. It seems clear that this is not merely arbitrary; David will have been well aware that when Beethoven wrote a string quartet or a violin sonata he took care to provide the bowing and articulation in much greater detail than he did in a concerto (where the composer acknowledged the role of soloists in finding the best way to marry their techniques with the expressive requirements of the music). Thus, while the Gesamtausgabe edition faithfully reproduces Beethoven's text (as it was understood at the time) David's Violinconcerte neuerer Meister edition of the Beethoven Violin Concerto contains vastly more editorial bowing (where the composer left the notes unslurred) than his editions of the chamber works. 

David's editions of chamber music were not, however, free from arbitrary editorial intervention. Thus in Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata he altered the notes of a passage in the first movement for the sake of what he evidently considered to be a more effective version (see the annotation on stave 7); the alteration was amended in Joachim's later Peters edition. In some cases, discrepancies in the text between David's and later editions were not so much the result of editorial caprice as of the unavailability of a reliable text. In many cases it is unclear upon what David based his texts of works that had not yet been included in a Gesamtausgabe. Thus his Mozart Duos for Violin and Viola differ greatly from the text of the later critical edition based on Mozart's autograph (although there are, in fact, grounds for thinking that the early editions contain amendments by the composer that post-dated the autograph). The Mozart Duos also provide a particularly good illustration of David's constant search for the optimum mode of expression, for his personal copy of these pieces reveals him making extensive changes to his own printed annotations in the violin part of both Duos and in the viola part of K. 424, which he evidently performed in public.

Even in the case of works that he had performed for decades, sometimes from memory, David's deep commitment to finding the most appropriate mode of expression led him constantly to revisit and modify earlier ideas. This is strikingly apparent in his manuscript annotations in a copy of his edition of Beethoven's Violin Sonatas from the Uppingham collection. The only work in the volume that contains his hand-written markings is the 'Kreutzer' sonata, of which he and Mendelssohn had given acclaimed performances, playing from memory. In view of the fact that he had long ago committed the piece to memory, it is perhaps unsurprising that his changes to the printed markings are fewer than in many other works. They are nevertheless quite significant, involving changes of bowing , fingering , dynamics and even notes in his characteristic blue crayon.

More surprising, perhaps, are his modifications in chamber works by Mendelssohn, though these occur only in performing copies of works of which he did not make published editions (the String Quintet op.18 and the String Quartets opp. 12, 13 and 44 nos 1-3); his copy of the String Quintet also contains cuts to the slow movement in the composer's hand (in red crayon), but David made additional cuts in blue crayon, for which there is no evidence of sanction by the composer. In other contemporary works, performed but not edited for publication, he could be remarkably free by modern standards, recomposing passages that he considered ineffective in their original form, or making cuts. This is apparent in the copies of string quartets by Cherubini and Volkmann from which he performed at the Leipzig Gewandhaus (the title pages of the Volkmann copies have a note in David's hand giving the date of performance). A copy of Beethoven's G major Romance, probably acquired by him in about 1860, offers another instance of David working out his approach to performing a work. It was evidently annotated first in pencil and then, after a process of modification, marked up in ink. A series of changes leading to a quite different final version can be seen particularly clearly on stave nine of the first page; on stave two of the second page he marked vibrato with wavy lines, first in pencil and then in ink (though he did not ink over all occurrences of the sign, probably through oversight). Without the survival of these and other examples of heavily marked performance material it would have been impossible to demonstrate that David's published editions, despite their highly informative markings, provide only a partial impression of how he interpreted or modified the composer's notation. 

David's personal copy of one of his major projects during his last years, the Hohe Schule des Violinspiels, a collection of twenty pieces, primarily of  Baroque works, provides particularly rich evidence of his restless mind, always seeking new and more effective ways of presenting the music. It is especially interesting because of the clear evidence that his modifications to the text and to his own printed markings occurred very soon after the editions were published and evidently in connection with performances. Sometimes he changes bowing, annotates the music with information about particular styles of bowstroke, clarifies or amends articulation, indicates vibrato, and amplifies dynamics, as on page four  of Biber's Passacaglia, or, on page six , adds tempo and expression markings, or even occasionally instructions for portamento, here with the term rutschen (slide). In many cases he alters fingering, often to enable more expressive use of portamento, as on page three  of a sonata supposedly by Geminiani, where he also changes the tempo term at the beginning. The importance of a highly nuanced and expressive use of portamento in David's playing is clearly demonstrated by his fingering, taken in conjunction with the very detailed illustration of the execution of portamento during shifting in his Violinschule.

Taken all in all, Ferdinand David's activities as an editor and annotator of music offer some of the clearest evidence of a mid 19th-century violinist's performing practice that is available to us. The richness of his legacy, even though available surviving copies annotated in his own hand represent a very small portion of the collection that must once have existed, offers an unparalleled insight into the mind of one of the most important and influential performers and teachers of the period. Much of the editorial practice that followed was indebted to him either as a model, or as a springboard for further development.