New Critical Complete Edition of Gustav Mahler’s Works
The New Critical Complete Edition of Gustav Mahler’s works is presented by the International Gustav Mahler Society in cooperation with various music publishers, whereby those publishers who held the copyright to the work in question before the end of the protection period are usually involved. The aim of this New Critical Complete Edition is to provide academic, philologically elaborated editions both for musical practice and for historical and analytical research. The sources are sorted, compared, and evaluated in order to determine the main source(s) as the basis for the edition of the respective work and to define the corrective or supplementary role of the other sources.
The focus on practice as well as the peculiarities of the source situation for Mahler’s works led to the decision not to include any correction lists of all deviations between all sources in the Critical Report: this would hardly be of any use to the user. Rather, individual comments, in which a careful selection of aspects worth communicating are made, are listed and commented on, making transparent editorial decisions that require special justification. The accompanying texts include information on the creation of the work, its publication and performance history, as well as a chapter on the editorial features of the respective volume and comments on performance practice.
The core of the content of the Complete Edition consists of all of Mahler’s works, which the composer himself decided to print. There is also a supplement that includes early versions (e.g. the three-movement first version of Das klagende Lied), fragments (e.g. the “Piano Quartet movement”) but also Mahler’s own piano version of Das Lied von der Erde.
Mahler performed his own works throughout his life and made revisions in the process. These revisions mostly concern more precise formulations and a refinement of orchestration; they were a constant companion of Mahler’s compositional activities. Attempts to revise are occasionally already recognizable in the sketches, can be found in short and draft scores, then massively in the revision of the engraving template and are found throug the printing and the performance materials, whereby up to his death Mahler also made revisions to earlier works. Mahler’s revisions usually differentiate between changes that had become necessary for a specific performance and those that he wanted to preserve for future versions.
Mahler stated several times that only the latest version of a work is valid for him. It was therefore the intention of the Complete Edition from the very beginning to try to present Mahler’s will as the one “final version.” In some cases, however, early versions of works also deserve attention: They allow enlightening insights into the composer’s workshop and are increasingly attracting the interest of performers and audiences. In any case, however, versions are strictly separated in the New Critical Complete Edition and mixed versions are avoided; this also applies to those songs that are available in piano and orchestral versions.
The New Critical Complete Edition (NKG) differs from the previous Critical Complete Edition (KGA) published between 1960 and 2001 in that the musical texts are newly created instead of, as in the past, taking over the old engraving images and merely repairing them. Since performance materials are also presented in all cases (orchestral parts, choral scores, piano reductions), this new production ensures that the score and performance materials correspond. The second difference is the inclusion of detailed accompanying texts (foreword, critical report, notes, and others) as described above. Finally, the NKG appears in the larger quarto format that was already common in Mahler’s day. The better legibility makes it possible to use the volumes as conducting scores.
Volume V of the Supplement to the NKG, Titan GMW 11,2, an early version of the First Symphony, edited in 2019 by Stephen Hefling, received the German Music Edition Prize BEST EDITION in 2020. In the justification, the jury of the Deutscher Musikverleger-Verband (DMV) acknowledged the editorial achievement of this work: “The edition is modest in design and at the same time beautiful. [...] Furthermore, a lot of praise for the musical notation: many of Mahler’s original annotations have been incorporated into the very neat musical score, so that one comes very close to Mahler’s intention.” In 2023, the NKG volume of the Fourth Symphony GMW 37, published at the end of 2021 and edited by Renate Stark-Voit, received the same award. The jury described the volume as “a scholarly edition that leaves nothing to be desired with beautiful facsimile illustrations that break up the two-column design, an English glossary and a detailed foreword on the genesis, performance and editorial history, and notes on performance practice.”