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Association of musical amateurs, of central importance to the musical life of Vienna since the early 19th century.

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde was founded in 1812 as an association of noble and middle-class music amateurs in Vienna. It devoted itself primarily to three major tasks: the organizing of concerts, the collecting of documentary materials of all types relating to music and musical life, and the administering of a conservatory. The last of these, officially named the Konservatorium der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, developed into the foremost music-educational center of the Austrian–Hungarian monarchy, and devolved into a state institution in 1909.

The principal instigators of the Gesellschaft were Franziska von Arnstein, the brothers Joseph and Ignaz Sonnleithner, Ignaz Franz von Mosel and Joseph Franz Prince Lobkowitz. Its protector was the Archduke Rudolf, and the members of its administration over the course of its history included such notable personalities as Antonio Salieri, Johannes Brahms, Ludwig Bösendorfer, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Richard Strauss and Nikolaus Dumba.

The concerts organized by the Gesellschaft took place mostly in the Redouten halls of the Vienna Hofburg and in the old Musikverein Building („Haus zum roten Igel“ Unter den Tuchlauben), up to the time that the new Musikverein Building, designed by Theophil Hansen, was built and ceremonially opened in 1870.

Archive

The documentary and scholarly aims of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde were embodied in its Archive, which was subdivided as follows, according to contents:

1. Archive: autographs of music and letters, music manuscripts, the archival records of the Gesellschaft itself and of the Conservatory;

2. Library: manuscripts and printed books (including medieval music manuscripts and tabulatures), songbooks, newspapers and other periodicals, libretti, and printed documents of various sorts;

3. Collections: early and non-European music instruments, musical memorabilia, collections of portraits and pictures, busts, statuettes, reliefs and medals.

The Archive of the Gesellschaft is one of the most important and valuable music collections in Austria. Among the libraries and personal papers acquired by the Archive are those of Johann Gottfried Walther, Antonio Caldara, Ernst Ludwig Gerber, Antonio Salieri, Simon Sechter, Carl Czerny, Ludwig Ritter von Köchel, Johannes Brahms, and Ludwig Bösendorfer.

The Archive was accommodated in the erstwhile Conservatory of the Gesellschaft in the Bösendorferstraße 12, in Vienna's first district. After the Conservatory was taken over by the state, and under its new name of Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst acquired its own building in the Lothringerstraße in 1913, the Gesellschaft acquired extra space in its own premises and was able to move the Archive from its restricted quarters on the ground floor to the second storey, where it remains to the present day.

The Gesellschaft and Heinrich Schenker

Schenker was a regular attender of the concerts organized by the Gesellschaft, and recorded comments on them in his diaries over many years. He also made frequent use of the Archive's resources, his first recorded visit being on April 12, 1907: "In the Archive of the Conservatory; Mr. Mandyczewski shows me sketches, letters, and autograph manuscripts by Beethoven, Mozart, etc, and plays the "Kielflügel with the Jalousieschweller [Venetian swells]." (OJ 1/6, p. 38). In 1908, he sent the Gesellschaft complimentary copies of his Beitrag zur Ornamentik, 2nd edn, and Harmonielehre (WSLB 14; CA 76), both at the request of Mandyczewsky (diary, OJ 1/7, pp. 89a, 94). From 1913, Schenker made particularly intensive use of the Archive while working on his Die letzten fünf Sonaten von Beethoven (1913–20).

Invited in June 1912 to contribute a lecture or group of lectures to a popular centenary series promoted by the Gesellschaft, Schenker's offer of a yearlong course on harmonic theory led to months of acrimony between him and the Society's officials, further fuelling his animosity toward Viennese officialdom. In May 1933, Schenker attended the opening ceremony and at least one concert of the Brahms centenary festival in the Musikverein Building at the invitation of the Gesellschaft.

Schenker's correspondence with the Gesellschaft

The officials with whom Schenker had dealings were Gustav Marchet (President 1912–16), Ernst Kraus (Vice-President 1908–38), Carl Lafite (General Secretary 1912–21), and Friedrich Dlabač (General Secretary 1921–38). Schenker's correspondence with the Gesellschaft is preserved as OJ 5/14 (1912: 2 items) and 11/22 (1912, 1916, 1932/33: 7 items), that with Lafite as OJ 5/23 (1912: 2 items) and 12/29 (1912: 5 items, plus 3 items from 1902–04 unrelated to Gesellschaft business), and that with Ernst Kraus as OJ 12/20 (1925, 1935: 2 items); there are eight items in the Gesellschaft Archive (Akten: 5 items; Briefe: 3 items); some of these items, however, duplicate each other, the total number of items being twenty-one.

Sources:

  • Biba, Otto, "Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien," in: oeML, vol. 1, ed. Rudolf Flotzinger (Vienna 2002)
  • Perger, Richard von & Robert Hirschfeld, Geschichte der k. k. Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien (Vienna: Holzhausen, 1912)
  • Tittel, Ernst, Die Wiener Musikhochschule: vom Konservatorium der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde zur staatlichen Akademie fur Musik und darstellende Kunst (Vienna: Elisabeth Lafite, 1967)
  • Home page of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien: http://www.musikverein.at/startseite.asp
  • Home page of the Archive of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien: http://www.a-wgm.com/
  • MGG, "Wien"

Contributor:

  • Marko Deisinger

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Correspondence

Diaries

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