Academic journal article Notes

C. P. E. Bach Sources at the Library of Congress

Academic journal article Notes

C. P. E. Bach Sources at the Library of Congress

Article excerpt

The story of the Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach sources at the Library of Congress consists of several different threads, each spun out of the inter- ests and motivations of musicians and collectors over nearly three hun- dred years. As a whole, this collection of C. P. E. Bach materials documents the acquisition practices and strategies of a fledgling American research li- brary at the beginning of the twentieth century. At the same time, separate groupings of materials help to fill out a picture of eighteenth-century per- formance history in northern Europe, and documents the music collect- ing of private individuals in the nineteenth century. Besides the eighty- five examples at the Library of Congress of Bach's music printed during his lifetime, which in all but a few instances were authorized by the com- poser, the collection includes only one autograph manuscript, of a single keyboard fantasia.1 The library also holds three autograph letters from C. P. E. Bach. More interestingly, the Library of Congress holdings in- clude seventy-four individually classed copyist manuscripts (and five manuscripts misattributed to Bach) offering evidence of how individuals within and beyond C. P. E. Bach's immediate circle of colleagues en- gaged with the composer's music. These materials document the strong interest in C. P. E. Bach's music during his lifetime reflecting a fame that far surpassed that of his father's and providing a useful counterweight for balancing our perspective on the waxing and waning reputations of composers over time.2

A body of literature on these manuscript sources has developed steadily over time, but it remains dispersed among a variety of publica- tions.3 This article consists of two parts, each seeking to describe the sources at the Library of Congress documenting C. P. E. Bach's music in an effort to organize the existing information on these materials and to propel further research. The first, narrative portion of the article places primary emphasis on describing groupings of manuscripts that share common characteristics. The physical characteristics of manuscripts pro- vide the indicators of the earliest origins of the objects, including similar paper, consistent copyists, and coherent numbering schemes. Later addi- tions, including new numbering schemes and owners' marks provide evi- dence of subsequent transmission of the objects. As later owners often acquired groups of materials, identifying these later owners helps con- firm observations about commonalities in the physical characteristics of the manuscripts, and also offers clues about the earlier sources from which these successive owners might have acquired their collections. While the narrative portion focuses exclusively on manuscript sources, the second portion of the article contains a checklist of all early manu- script and printed C. P. E. Bach sources held at the Library of Congress.

"ON AN EQUAL FOOTING WITH . . . THE GREAT EUROPEAN LIBRARIES"4

On about 1 August 1902, Oscar Sonneck began his duties as the sec- ond chief of the Music Division at the Library of Congress. He would conduct his initial work while still in Europe, armed with letters of intro- duction to European libraries and book dealers from the ambitious Li- brarian of Congress, Herbert Putnam. Putnam had served as the Li- brarian of Congress since April of 1899, and had embarked on a mission proposed in 1896 by him and nine other witnesses before the Joint Con- gressional Committee on the Library of Congress to create more than a repository of copyright records or a legislative library, but a true national library.

Sonneck embraced Putnam's charge and sought "to provide a reason- ably comprehensive collection of all material bearing in any way on music in America, and more particularly on American music." In this, Sonneck held the view, as described in 1908, that "American music, as the product of American brains and American industry, is deemed to be of paramount importance in our national library; yet the peculiar devel- opment and status of music in America, being mainly a reflex of music in Europe, compel the Library of Congress to collect the musical prod- uct of European brains and industry in the same manner as European li- braries do or would like to do. …

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