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New Critical Edition by The International Gustav Mahler society

A new full score of Mahler’s Symphony No.7 has just been announced by Bote & Bock in the New Critical Edition by The International Gustav Mahler Society. Edited by Reinhold Kubik, the score has been newly noteset, and matching performance materials released, incorporating all corrections since the earlier critical edition by Erwin Ratz. An extensive foreword maps the history of the work and the musicological sources for the new edition, which was first performed in 2007 by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra directed by Mariss Jansons.

The story of how the seventh symphony, the most abstract and puzzling of the Mahler canon, joined the Bote & Bock catalogue is intriguing. Following its composition in the summers of 1905 and 1906 the composer offered the score in succession to Peters and to Breitkopf & Härtel, but was disappointed that neither accepted the work. It found its way instead to the small Leipzig publishing house of Lauterbach & Kuhn, but publication was delayed when the firm put itself up for sale much to Mahler’s alarm. The composer would have expected Peters to acquire Lauterbach & Kuhn, but they were outbid by Bote & Bock and the symphony moved to the Berlin publisher.

As Vienna increasingly turned against him, the composer succeeded in placing the premiere at the Prague Jubilee Exhibition in 1908, but performance conditions were far from ideal. The concert venue was a free-standing structure primarily used as a restaurant and Mahler described how he had "to figure out how one can make a kettledrum out of a sausage pan, a trumpet out of a rusty watering can, and a concert venue out of a wine tavern." Early performances can only be counted as moderate public successes with critical praise reserved largely for the two Night Music movements and the nightmarish central scherzo. The Bote & Bock study score finally appeared in 1909 and Erwin Ratz’s first critical edition launched the Critical Complete Edition in the Mahler centenary year of 1960.

Over the intervening half century up to Reinhold Kubik’s New Critical Edition, the seventh has cast off its Cinderella status and claimed its rightful place within the Mahler symphonic cycle. With its almost schizophrenic shift from darkness to sunny optimism it is now viewed as one of the composer’s most personal creative statements, attracting the world’s leading conductors.

The first performance of this edition took place at the Gasteig Philharmonic Hall on 8 March 2007 with the Bavarian Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Mariss Jansons.

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