Schubert Autograph Music Manuscripts in Schubert Online

Monday, October 26, 2015

All of the autograph music manuscripts by Franz Schubert (1797-1828) that are housed at the Berlin State Library (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, SBB) - numbering around 60 total - have been digitized and cataloged in the RISM database as part of the project Schubert Online. The digitized music is available through Schubert Online, the digital collections of the SBB, and the RISM database.

Schubert Online provides free, online access to digital images of Schubert music manuscripts, first and early printed editions, and a selection of letters and biographical documents. Hundreds of items from the music collections of the Vienna City Library, National Library of Austria, SBB, and the National Library of Norway are included.

Franz Schubert, as Otto Erich Deutsch’s catalog of the composer’s works impressively demonstrates at over 950 numbers, was one of the the most productive composers of the nineteenth century. The solo lied with piano accompaniment holds a special position within his extensive oeuvre and with it Schubert made a substantial contribution to its establishment in the canon of Romantic art music.

When Franz Schubert died in November 1828 at the young age of 31, his manuscripts were first turned over to his older brother Ferdinand (1794-1859). He went through and arranged the manuscripts and in so doing frequently marked them as authentic with the initials “Schmp” (“mp” for manu propria, ‘with one’s own hand’). Soon after, Ferdinand Schubert sold large parts of the collection to different Viennese publishers, including Tobias Haslinger, Joseph Czerny, and in particular Anton Diabelli, who announced in a Viennese newspaper in 1830 that he had acquired Schubert’s entire Nachlass. In fact, even then Ferdinand Schubert had only sold a portion of his brother’s autograph manuscripts, keeping some for himself and selling them to various collectors later.

The most comprehensive collection of Schubert autographs can be found today in the music collection at the Vienna City Library, which houses nearly 350 original manuscripts. The music collection of the Austrian National Library also has a large number of autograph manuscripts by the composer. This makes the ca. 60 Schubert autographs (containing around 125 works) at the music department of the SBB look relatively modest in number, but the SBB’s collection contains key sources such as a volume with sixteen Goethe lieder in fair copy that Schubert sent to the poet in 1816 (which Goethe subsequently sent back without comment; see image above), the autograph of the Mass in E-flat major (D 950) from the last year of Schubert’s life, and one of the two “Overtures in the Italian Style” (D 591). (The autograph of the Symphony no. 5 in B-flat major [D 485] that used to be in Berlin was moved to Krakow, Poland during World War II, where it has remained at the Biblioteka Jagiellonska [PL-Kj]). In addition, there are manuscripts for numerous lieder in many versions in Vienna and Berlin.

In light of the complementary relationships between the collections in Vienna and Berlin, the Berlin State Library is participating in Schubert Online. This portal has been working for the past several years on making the Viennese sources available online. Through the participation of the SBB and other libraries, Schubert Online will gradually develop into the central point of reference for the virtual study of Franz Schubert’s autograph manuscripts.

Image: Franz Schubert: Erlkönig, D 328. Autograph fair copy in a songbook for Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (D-B Schubert, F. 1, p. 25. RISM ID no. 464000243)

Portions of this text were taken from the SBB’s Schubert Online project website, with kind permission.

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