Parts of Franz Liszt's œuvre remain unexplored to this day. Preparation of a scholarly edition of his complete musical works, writings, and correspondences as well as their arrangement in a thematic catalogue have begun, but are still far from completion.
In 1970, Editio Musica Budapest (aiming to modernize and finish the old complete edition begun in 1907 by the Franz Liszt Stiftung in Weimar) launched the New Liszt Complete Edition, of which nearly 60 volumes have already been published.
Series I and II of the new complete edition (published between 1970 and 2005) contain the final version of all the composer's solo piano works and also, in appendices, earlier versions that differ considerably from the final forms of the works. In every volume the musical scores are accompanied by a detailed foreword in English and German, critical notes in English, and several facsimile pages of certain sources. Series I, consisting of 18 volumes, contains the original compositions while the 24 volumes of Series II contain free arrangements and transcriptions of works by other composers. From the outset every single volume has been published in two forms; the bound version designed for practical purposes differs from the linen-bound volumes only in that it does not include the critical notes.
In the 35 years that elapsed during the publication of the 42 volumes of Series I and II, changes in the requirements for critical editions also altered the publishers' basic principles significantly.
Dr. Zoltán Gardonyi and István Szelényi, who launched this complete edition, focused mainly on the needs of performers. In contrast, those who inherited the senior publishers' positions in 1973, Imre Sulyok and Imre Mező, placed the emphasis on the genesis of each work and on comparing all the accessible contemporary manuscripts and printed sources.
Thus through increased refinement of the research methods and especially of the preparation of the critical notes, the complete edition could become of greater value to musical scholarship.
The supplementary volumes (launched in 2005 and edited by Adrienne Kaczmarczyk and Imre Mező) complement the first two series; the contents include early versions of the solo piano works, hitherto unpublished compositions that have recently come to light, album leaves, and unfinished works. The 14 volumes so far completed have made available to a large number of musicians exciting complete pieces such as the early versions of some works in the Harmonies poétiques et religieuses and Années de Pèlerinage I-II (including two versions of the Dante sonata), the transcriptions of the Beethoven’s fifth, sixth, and seventh symphonies, and Berlioz’s Harold in Italy. Furthermore, the Freischütz fantasia appears here in print for the first time.
The New Liszt Edition (NLE) was launched in 1970 in order to provide a reliable edition of the complete works of Franz Liszt. Of the planned ten series to be published between 1970 and 2005, Series 1 and 2 (containing the definitive version of all the works for solo piano) were completed.
During these 35 years, in accordance with changes in the requirements relating to critical complete editions, the principles followed by the NLE publishers also changed. Zoltán Gárdonyi and István Szelényi, who initiated the complete edition, bore in mind principally the needs of performers when they concentrated exclusively on the final version of each of Liszt's works ("Fassung letzter Hand").
In 1973 the positions as editors-in-chief were inherited by Imre Mező and Imre Sulyok, who from the outset devoted more attention to the genesis of the works and the preparatory phase of the editorial tasks. This activity included the preparation of an apparatus documenting descriptions of the collected contemporary sources as well as justifications for editorial additions for every composition. Thus, the NLE is valuable to musicology as well. The research into the sources has not only resulted in a more reliable edition of the score, but has also provided insight into Liszt's compositional method. The most important feature of this is that the final form of a work is often preceded by a composition of one or sometimes more than one clearly divergent version.
Though the primary purpose of the NLE is still the publication of the final version of each work, earlier versions of many of the works which differ significantly from the final version have been included in the appendices of the volumes, especially in the second series.
The NLE Supplement volumes, which have been published since 2005, are the successors of those appendices; in making available the earlier versions, their function is to enable the reader to look into Liszt's compositional process and to provide an opportunity for pianists and musicologists alike to better acquaint themselves with Liszt as an artist. Publication of the Supplement volumes is also justified and supported by the quantitatively and qualitatively significant achievements within Liszt philology during recent decades. These findings are, as always, fully taken into account and utilized by the NLE editors in preparing the Supplement volumes for publication.
The main aim of the editors (Adrienne Kaczmarczyk and Imre Mező) in compiling the Supplement volumes has been to make the earlier versions of every solo piano work published by the composer or others accessible. In addition, they have included in them complete, fully worked-out compositions and earlier versions surviving in manuscript form which are of indubitable musical value and thus may find a place in the concert repertoire.
Finally, the appendices to the planned volumes will also contain some fragments which would be of interest chiefly to musicologists. Since some of these have been issued on recordings (e.g. Leslie Howard's complete recordings of Liszt's piano oeuvre), respect for the composer and the interest shown by pianists justify their publication. Though the magnitude of Liszt's piano oeuvre is such that it is impossible to publish every sketch and draft of each individual work, by publishing the compositions that have survived in manuscript the Supplement volumes make it easier for researchers to survey and study his oeuvre.
Series IX. - Vocal Works with Orchestra or with Several Instruments.
Sardanapalo, Act 1 (Fragment) is the first of the planned volumes for this series.