Complete edition (continuation)

The idea of producing a complete edition dates back to Beethoven himself. More than other composers he was concerned that all of his works should be published and free of mistakes. During his last years Beethoven increasingly committed himself to a project to publish an authorized version of his complete works. With Beethoven's support the Viennese publisher Haslinger had a large collection of copies made - the so-called Rudolph collection -, which is today held in the archive of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. Plans to publish a larger collection of works, including study scores, with a correct musical text for the performer came up for several times, but all the projects remained uncomplete at the time.

The "old" Beethoven complete edition, published in Leipzig by Breitkopf & Härtel between 1862-65 (supplemental volume 1888), was a milestone as far as scope, desire for correctness and use for musical practice was concerned. In spite of her historical impact the nineteenth century edition does not reflect the modern state of research and present day demands.

The Beethoven-Archiv is the general editor of the new scholarly-critical Complete Edition of Beethoven's works. It comprises all of his completed output, including early versions and authentic arrangements; larger fragments and more extensive sketches are also taken into account. The 56 volumes intended for the complete edition are arranged according to genre. The first volume was published in 1961 and since then, about two thirds of them have followed.

The scholars working on the complete edition are employees at the Beethoven-Archiv as well as external editors, who work in close cooperation with those in Bonn. Their task is to deliver a scholarly edition of the musical text and to complement it with a critical commentary, illuminating and justifying the problems concerning the edition. Amongst the most important sources are Beethoven's autograph scores, autograph copies by professional copyists which Beethoven checked for accuracy, as well as original editions published during the composer's lifetime. In addition comments Beethoven made in letters and his correction lists are taken into account. It falls to the scholar to examine these sources, to understand their genesis and relationship to each other and to assess their significance. The editorial guidelines, revised in 1991 to incorporate the experiences to date, offer insight into the working methods of the editors and the problems encountered in the Beethoven edition.

The aim of the new complete edition, published by G. Henle Verlag, is to document the complexity of the sources and their interdependence in a critical apparatus and to shed light on the different editions of the work in question. Only a scholarly-critical complete edition can offer insight into the different versions and variant readings. Thus musicians will be provided with the information necessary to enable them to reach decisions regarding interpretation. In this way music research can be of service to musical practice.