The Afterlives of Brahms’s Library

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Faculty of Music
St Aldate's
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Lectures and seminars
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Housed today in the archive of Vienna’s Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, the collection of books, manuscripts and printed music that belonged to the composer Johannes Brahms has a multi-facetted music-historical significance. As is widely acknowledged, the library offers insights into Brahms’s cultural and musical world, but the collection is also important for the documentary heritage of Western art music more generally: to be found here, in addition to Brahms’s own works, are nineteenth-century collected editions and miniature scores, historical music treatises, as well as autograph manuscripts, particularly from earlier composers in the Austro-Germanic musical canon. Drawing on archival materials, newspaper reports and historical photographs, in this talk I consider the life of Brahms’s library after the composer’s death in 1897 with a particular emphasis on the ways in which this private collection has been brought into public view over the course of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.