Studies in Beethoven Bibliography: A History and List of the "Lost Berlin" Beethoven Music Manuscripts

By Elliott, Patricia | The Beethoven Newsletter, Spring 1990 | Go to article overview
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Studies in Beethoven Bibliography: A History and List of the "Lost Berlin" Beethoven Music Manuscripts

Elliott, Patricia, The Beethoven Newsletter



Nearly fifteen years ago, the world learned that many rare music manuscripts which had disappeared in World War II had surfaced in Poland. The news electrified the music community, for among these manuscripts were masterpieces of Western Classical music in the hands of the greatest German composers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Among these treasures were numerous cantatas of J. S. Bach; W.A. Mozart's Magic Flute, Cosi fan tutte (Act 1), Idomeneo (one act), and Figaro (Acts 3-4); and Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto and Elijah).1 The collection was especially rich in Beethoven, including his autographs for the Seventh and Ninth Symphonies, the third movement of the Eighth; the "Archduke" Trio; the first two movements of the String Quartet in E-flat, Opus 127, the first movement of the Quartet in B-flat, Opus 130, all hut the fourth movement of the Quartet in C-sharp, Opus 131, and the Grosse Fuge, Opus 133; the Third Fortepiano Concerto; and many sketches and letters. Evacuated from the Berlin library in 1941, these manuscripts had for all intents and purposes been lost until 1977.

The Beethoven Center recently became one of the few libraries in the west to acquire microfilms of some of the Beethoven manuscripts (see the list that follows). This exciting new acquisition prompts me to recount the fascinating story of the manuscripts' exodus from Berlin, their subsequent mysterious disappearance, the nearly thirty-year search to locate them, and the manuscripts' appearance in Krakow at the Biblioteka Jagiellonska. Given the discussions currently underway planning for the reunification of Germany, it seems an appropriate time to recount what we know of the odyssey of the Beethoven manuscripts which were in Berlin before 1941.

The story is one that that has been told most recently by Nigel Lewis in his meticulous and engaging book Paperchase/Mozart, Beethoven, Bach: the Search For Their Lost Music (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1981). The most frustrating aspect of the book is that Lewis did not publish a list of the "lost" manuscripts he was discussing. To find a list, musicians and scholars have turned to earlier articles by Richard S. Hill (1946),2 Carleton Smith (1968)/and Peter Whitehead (1976).' Their lists, however, all disagreed slightly because information was taken from inventories of the Berlin library compiled either before and during the war, or before the manuscripts surfaced in Krakow. Information in Beethoven's thematic catalog and its supplement citing the location of the manuscripts is incorrect. Because the manuscripts were considered to be part of the East Berlin collection even if they were not physically there, the 1955 Kinsky-Halm thematic catalog of Beethoven's works listed the East Berlin library (at that time called the Öffentliche Wissenschaftliche Bibliothek, later to be renamed the Deutsche Staatsbibliothek) as owner.5 The 1978 Beiträge zur Beethoven-Bibliographie updaied this information in a list compiled by Rudolf Elvers and Hans-Günter Klein of the West Berlin library. They listed the Beethoven holdings of the East and West Berlin libraries as they existed in the mid-1970s, noting that each of the lost manuscripts "gilt als noch verschollen" (should "be considered still missing").6 Apparently a few librarians in both East and West Berlin knew of the disposition of the "lost" manuscripts before 1977 but could not speak openly about their whereabouts because of the sensitive political nature of the situation.

From inquiries made to the Beethoven Center, it is apparent that the present location of the Beethoven manuscripts has not yet filtered down to musicians and scholars. The list published in this article, compiled by Dr. Alan Tyson during a visit to Krakow, is believed to be the first to include information provided directly from the current holding library, the Biblioteka Jagiellonska, and can be used to update the 1955 Kinsky-Halm catalog and Dorfmüller's 1978 supplement.

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Studies in Beethoven Bibliography: A History and List of the "Lost Berlin" Beethoven Music Manuscripts


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