History of the New Berlioz Edition

The New Berlioz Edition was founded because:

  • There was a need for a modern edition of the composer’s works
  • Some of the composer’s works have never been published at all
  • Other works have been published in forms that failed to do justice to the composer’s intentions


The New Berlioz Edition (NBE) grew out of the Berlioz Centenary Committee which organized a series of events (including a notable exhibition, Berlioz and the Romantic Imagination) to mark the 100th anniversary of the composer’s death in 1969. The need for a modern edition of Berlioz’s musical works (some of which had never been published, or had appeared in forms that failed to do justice to the composer’s intentions) was first recognized in the late nineteenth century, and a complete edition was begun under the editorship of Charles Malherbe and Felix Weingartner (Breitkopf & Härtel, 1900-1907). Apart from being unfinished, this edition (referred to as the ‘Old Berlioz Edition’) adopted editorial principles which distorted the composer’s text and by the 1960s the need for a replacement edition was widely felt by performers and scholars alike.

Early funding of the Edition

In 1964 the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation awarded the New Berlioz Edition a grant that enabled the project to begin and the foundation supplemented this with a further funding in 1982. Additional grants from the British Academy, various charities and individual and corporate donors have provided the essential financial support in the years since. The first volume appeared in 1967 (volume 19, Symphonie funèbre et triomphale) and the Editorial work was completed during 2005. The Editorial Board is made up entirely of British scholars, but the team of editors is international, with members from France, Germany and the USA as well as Britain.

The Editorial process

Each work is assigned to an individual editor and is founded on a thorough examination of all the surviving primary sources. The NBE text is normally based on a single copy text. Each volume contains a preface which includes a thorough discussion of the genesis and composition, the literary text (where relevant), publication history, and performance practice issues (including instrumentation) of the work or works it contains. The Critical Notes (which in the case of Benvenuto Cellini and La damnation de Faust were so extensive that they were published in separate supplementary volumes) include an account of the editorial strategy adopted and the sources on which the NBE text is based, a detailed codicological or bibliographical description of the principal manuscript and printed sources, and briefer descriptions of all other primary sources, lists of variant readings and editorial emendations, facsimiles, and transcriptions of extensive deleted or revised passages.

In 1989, with funding provided by a Leverhulme award, Ian Rumbold was appointed as Research Assistant responsible for various aspects of the editorial process. As a result of a successful application to the Arts and Humanities Research Board for a major Research Grant, Mr Rumbold continued his work on behalf of the Edition as a Research Assistant based at the Royal College of Music for the period 1999-2001. Mr Rumbold’s post at the Royal College of Music for the academic year 2001-2002 was generously funded jointly by the Landgraf-Moritz Stiftung and the Royal College of Music and the Arts and Humanities Research Board continued the funding of the post to December 2003. The funding page lists all those who have contributed towards the work of the edition. The Edition was completed in March 2006.