- Symphonie Nr. 5 in fünf Sätzen für großes Orchester
By 18 October 1904 when his Fifth Symphony was premiered in Cologne, Gustav Mahler already had twenty-four years of experience in front of an orchestra. During those years, Mahler had become one of Europe's most skillful and inventive masters of orchestral sound, achieving enormous success, evident in the mere fact of his Vienna appointment, as well as equally grand controversies surrounding his perfectionism and interpretive decisions. Thus even Mahler's contemporaries would have expected the score of his ﬁrst purely instrumental piece since the First Symphony (completed in 1888) to undergo several revisions throughout the composer's lifetime. But the notoriously complex and numerous revisions that the Fifth Symphony experienced—between its ﬁrst drafts from the summer of 1901, the ﬁrst autograph score from 1902/3, and the last known set of orchestral parts for the symphony that Mahler worked on in 1911—were exceptional even for such an uncompromising composer as Mahler. In anticipation of some revisions after the ﬁrst rehearsal, he announced in November 1903 to Henri Hinrichsen, his publisher at Peters, that he should expect "possible minor changes in the instrumentation . . . which usually happen at such occasions" (Eberhardt Klemm, "Zur Geschichte der fünften Sinfonie von Gustav Mahler: Der Briefwechsel zwischen Mahler und dem Verlag C. F. Peters und andere Dokumente," Jahrbuch Peters 2 (1979): 26, my trans.). No one at Peters was prepared, however, for years of dispatches across Europe carrying yet a new revision of the Fifth Symphony.
Otto Singer, who made the ﬁrst four-hand piano arrangement of the symphony in 1904, in fact warned Hinrichsen of what was to come when he complained: "With Mahler, it's a calamity—he changed his mind about what should be altered from day to day, only to choose what he originally, without thorough understanding, had wanted to reject" (Klemm, 54). It is clear then that Mahler had difﬁculties with the various details of this work already in its early stages, and the extremely complicated situation with the primary sources conﬁrms Mahler's long struggle to ﬁnd a satisfactory sound for this symphony. In fact, the work has become notorious among scholars attempting to tackle its critical edition and those working on the history of its creation. Donald Mitchell, for example, warns about the difﬁculty of establishing a detailed creative evolution of this symphony, and offers a "largely conjectural" timetable of the Fifth's chronology, due primarily to "relatively few ﬁrm dates" surrounding the stages of its conception and revision ("Eternity or Nothingness? Mahler's Fifth Symphony," in The Mahler Companion, ed. Donald Mitchell, Andrew Nicholson [Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, 2002], 241). What Reinhold Kubik almost singlehandedly has accomplished in his new critical edition of the Fifth Symphony for the Mahler Sämtliche Werke is therefore of monumental signiﬁcance. Kubik provides us with a far better understanding of the chronology of the revisions, as well as insight into the relevance and interrelationship between the numerous layers of revision, thereby eliminating the doubtful or [End Page 701] conjectural aura surrounding the history and performance issues of this important work. Furthermore, the editor's highly responsible and systematic reexamination of all the sources makes this volume a reliable and informative resource for both performance and scholarship.
Considering that there exist altogether eighteen known sources (excluding the ﬁve lost ones; see the list of sources on p. 334 of the Kritischer Bericht), ranging from the earliest 1901 sketches and the 1902/3 autograph score to a plethora of orchestral parts, study scores, and conducting scores dating between 1903 and 1911, which belonged to or were used by not...