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Music History

Resources for music history library research

Complete Editions (M3)

Oxford Music Online defines a scholarly edition as one which is "prepared on the basis of a critical evaluation of all known primary sources [and] designed to present the most authoritative, authentic version of its contents." While the terms "scholarly" edition and "critical" edition are essentially synonymous, they are distinguished from a "practical" or "performance" edition which is meant primarily for the use of the performing musician and might make interpretive adjustments to assist in its usage. In musicological research, it is important to understand which edition you are studying and to seek the scholarly edition when possible.

In the print Music Collection, many scholarly editions can be found in M2 and M3, although these are far from the only places you will find them. According to Library of Congress Classification, M3 through M3.3 are considered "collected works of individual composers" or "collected editions." Within these collected works, M3 consists of "complete editions" which strive to present scholarly editions of the complete works of a single composer. These complete editions often take years if not decades to produce and then remain authoritative well after their creation. Complete editions by different composers can be titled Opera omnia, Sämtlicher Werke, Werke, Gesamtausgabe, or simply Complete Works. These, however, are all proper titles which each refer to the concept of a complete edition. Distinct from complete editions, the M2s, or "musical sources," compile works by different composers.

For more information about scholarly editions and collected works, please see the entry, "Editions, historical" at Oxford Music Online, or refer to one of the recommended books listed below.

M3 Complete Editions in the Music Collection

The Music Collection includes complete editions for over 160 composers, including many of the major figures in Western classical music. Some editions consist of only a single volume while others number many more. For these more extensive editions, it is essential to use the indexes, typically shelved after the scores themselves, to locate a desired composition. The texts of many editions are in German, French, or another language, but, with some knowledge of the composer's catalog, a user can still navigate the editions and understand their musical contents. Google Translate can also help and, from a smartphone, can even translate Cyrillic characters on the spot. Find below a list of complete editions held in the Music Collection, including range numbers. Hover over the info icon or follow the links for more information. Feel free to ask the Music Librarian, if you need any assistance.

Range #2: Adam to Bach, J.S.

Range #3: Bach, J.S. to Chopin

Range #4: Chopin to Rameau

Range #5: Rameau to Wolf

Range #15: Oversize -- Berlioz to Wagner

Range #16: Oversize -- Wagner to Weill

M3.1 Selections of Collected Works

Beyond the complete editions of M3, Selections of collected works of individual composers are classified in M3.1. Some volumes focus on particular genres in which a composer was prolific while others are broader in their scope. Although less expansive than the complete editions above, many are critical editions all the same and have been carefully annotated by scholars. Find below several of the major Selections held in the print Music Collection. Most are shelved in Range #5 while oversize volumes and miniscores are in Range #16.