Collections and Libraries
Location of sources and library holdings

Where the historical performance practice of music is concerned, nothing is more important than to look at the original sources and library holdings. The hardships endured by the beginnings of the early music movement regarding sources and the development of a repertoire no longer arise, thanks to well stocked libraries and their network.

The Federal Republic of Germany enjoys a densely connected net of well-catalogued and professionally-staffed public libraries, where much of the music of the 18th century is kept, without any significant losses. Most institutions already work with online catalogues. Orders of MS copies, microfilms and CD-ROMs are easily made and experience has shown that they may be delivered against invoice in a few days.

Printed music can be accessed via the international lexicon of sources RISM (Repertoire International de Sources Musicales), hand-written sources with the encyclopaedia Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG).

Courtly music of the 18th century

In essence, it may be said, that the compositions written for courtly music purposes in the late Baroque and Classical periods remained at their place of origin, or have been transferred to a larger library nearby. However, we find for example most of the instrumental works of Georg Philip Telemann's in Darmstadt, but these are almost without exception in diplomatic copies in the hand of the local Hofkapellmeister Christoph Graupner. Telemann's autograph MSS 'wandered' as it were to the State Library in Berlin, where they are held today. It also owns the world's richest collection of 'Bachiana', brought about by the skilled collection policy that has preserved here almost the entire œuvre of Johann Sebastian Bach, his sons, and composers in their immediate musical environment.

One hardly needs to explain much about the case of Dresden: the way art was collected by the Princes of Wettin meant that they were privately owned anyway and thus were destined to remain 'in house'. The precious collections in possession of the city were relocated and managed to survive the allied bombing in February 1945 with virtually no losses.

The music of the Mannheim Court, however, can be found in Munich. When Elector Charles Theodore succeeded on New Year's Day in the year 1777 to what was now an extinct House of Wittelsbach, he took with him not only his famous orchestra, but also the many art treasures, such as the gallery of paintings along with the music library itself. The remnants of these 'golden years' for Mannheim are to found not only in Stuttgart, but especially in the nearby town of Darmstadt. Of special importance was the relocation of the manuscripts from the famous chapel of Oettingen Wallerstein to the University Library of Augsburg. Materials belonging to the Princes of Bentheim-Tecklenburg – mainly printed ones in this case – went to the University Library Münster.

Private libraries

In addition, there exist comparatively small, still private collections – which also include the music collection of the Counts of Schönborn in Wiesentheid, Bavaria and especially the collection of the House of André in Offenbach/Main. It is important to mention here that their materials remain available today only with express permission of the family and are by no means cheap.

It is also worth mentioning that all Bavarian libraries and their holdings are described in the excellent publication by Henle, and that complete catalogues for the music of Telemann and Bach have been published, and that a catalogue of music held by the Berlin Sing-Akademie exists – in general, music of the 18th century is well documented in Germany.

Manuscripts of the 17th century

The same praise can hardly be expressed for the materials of the 17th century. On the one hand, the majority of this repertoire is missing as a result of almost endless armed conflicts in Central Europe (and thus the later Germany) between 1600 and 1700 (that which was not a victim of war was lost in unnecessary attempts to reduce stock). On the other hand, all known attempts have failed so far to create a full directory of original German instrumental compositions.

However, it should be noted that, in addition to huge losses, this repertoire has been at least partially reconstructed: thanks to the wonderful Düben Collection in Uppsala/Sweden, and its French counterpart, the Collection Brossard, as well as the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the collection in Kromeriz in what is now the Czech State (all are accessible by excellent catalogues).

It is remarkable that courts and monasteries encouraged their music to be shared. And there came about channels of musical communication between Kassel, Dresden and Stockholm. Connections existed too between Dresden, the formerly Habsburg Lausitz and the Moravian Kromeriz, as well as between various locations and the Alsace, occupied in 1681 by France.

At least the musical materials themselves were not lost, not the case in Germany, unfortunately, and may still be found in the three places just referred to. One should always be ready for surprises nonetheless: the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel/Lower Saxony has a tremendous inventory of MS collections from the 17th century, even if the breadth of its scope is only appreciated by various insiders.

The history of a collection

As ever, when searching for that 'lost masterpiece', it is always worth looking properly through all the known catalogues. The repertoire of the Bonn Hofkapelle at the time of the young Ludwig van Beethoven is – one would hardly believe – held in the Italian town of Modena. Thus an important but unlikely issue comes to the fore: a collection and its provenance history. This is where questions like "What came when, and in particular why to this institution?" might well be answered. This is still not really applicable to the majority of German libraries. The wrong turns taken by many a story of provenance are truly innumerable in this formerly so fragmented country.

He who searches, finds

In German libraries there is certainly nothing more to found that might be classed as revolutionary. The well-trained staff has searched in vain – several times in fact – for at least 150 Bach cantatas no longer extant. The missing tiles in the mosaic that is the history of music between 1600 and 1800 may nevertheless not be that uncommon: quaerendo invenietis (seek ye, ye who shall find).