Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

The Carl Nielsen Edition-Brought to Completion

Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

The Carl Nielsen Edition-Brought to Completion

Article excerpt

1. 'It's a scandal and a mess'

Carl Nielsen Udgaven (CNU) [The Carl Nielsen Edition] was established in 1994 as a project in the Danish national interest, supported by private and public-sector funds, in order to organize and bring forth an all-inclusive, practical-scholarly edition of all the composer's finished works--compiled on a music-philological basis. The Edition completed its work almost 16 years later with the publication of Addenda et Juvenilia, the final volume in the series, in March 2009; in the intervening period, a total of 34 volumes were published in the Edition itself, supplemented by the appearance of approximately 15 volumes with piano arrangements and selected extracts from the volumes in the corpus.

For all the years of its operation, the CNU project was domiciled at The Royal Library in Copenhagen as a special section of the library's Music and Theatre Department, albeit operating with its own budget. For the first years of the project's operations, the Edition was staffed by 3 employees. However, for most of the span of its activity, there were 5 research editors employed in addition to the head of everyday operations, who simultaneously functioned as editor-in-chief. In addition, there was a corresponding editor in the person of a prominent foreign-based Nielsen scholar. (2) In terms of resources, then, the Edition was favorably positioned in many respects--especially in comparison with other corresponding projects in other countries--which is one aspect of the background for the fact that the project was successfully completed within the envisioned time frame and the mapped-out budget.

Being domiciled at The Royal Library, Denmark's National Library, has been a great boon to the work throughout the entire course of the Edition's operations. In the first place, the Edition has accordingly come to be an integral part of the library's specialized music environment, both in terms of research-related and library-related considerations. Second, the Edition's editors were easily able to remain in close contact with each other on a daily basis and could continuously carry on discussions about issues related to resources and to technical questions about the Edition, whenever they arose, and could work together to find common solutions to the various challenges. And finally, on a third--and perhaps the most crucial--note, the vast majority of the source material was readily available, since the extensive national Carl Nielsen Archive, containing letters, notes jotted down in the composer's hand, preliminary drafts, fair copies, first editions and such that all serve to illuminate Nielsen's music are, in fact, preserved at The Royal Library. As a matter of fact, it is only a negligible part of the complete body of work handed down to posterity by Carl Nielsen that is not on hand, right here, today. (3)

The story of the CNU project's establishment in 1993/94 is interesting in terms of perspectives on cultural policy. Ordinarily, it is the researchers or the research institutions that petition government agencies for funds needed to launch major research projects. In this case, though, it was actually the Government (represented by the Minister of Culture at the time, Jytte Hilden, of the Social Democratic party) that called upon the research environment to take on a certain task and concomitantly offered assurances concerning financing--to be sure, the initiative here was motivated by an objective that did not have any relation to the research community, strictly speaking, but was geared instead toward the possibility of generating a wide-scale cultural campaign abroad (i.e., the marketing of Nielsen).

In the first years of the 1990s, there had been a vehement controversy in the Danish daily press, partly surrounding the nation's manner of safeguarding the legacy left by our altogether greatest composer, partly surrounding the substandard possibilities that especially foreign musicians and orchestras had for playing the music; this had much to do with what were claimed to be inadequate and sometimes defective music scores and parts. …

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