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Vienna: City of Music

Leon Robbin Gallery
March 6, 2009
September 15, 2009



A student-curated exhibition.

Autograph Manuscript of "Appassionata Sonata"

Autograph manuscript, not dated but almost certainly 1804, two pages.

Beethoven worked in sketches, jotting down his musical ideas on scrap paper and refining them later. Presented here is an autograph sketch of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, or the Appassionata Sonata. The "Appassionata" is famous for its dark, stormy character, and Beethoven considered it one of his finest piano sonatas. This sonata was published in 1807 as the composer's opus 57. Leon Robbin Collection.

View of the Ringstrasse, Vienna

Beethoven never saw this view of Vienna during his frequent walks through the city. In his day, a high wall, dating from the medieval period, surrounded the city. But several decades after Beethoven's death, Franz Josef I replaced the wall with a broad boulevard, the Ringstrasse, and lined the streets with new buildings in a range of architectural styles. Seen from left to right are the City Hall (Gothic style), the Parliament Building (Neo-classical style), and the University (Renaissance style).

From Die Wiener Ringstrasse in ihrer Vollendung und der Franz-Josefs-Quai (Wien 2004. Facsimile, originally published 1875). Georgetown Chimes Book Endowment Fund.

Manuscript of "Neueste Grose Symphonie"
1825

Manuscript, 1825, 110 pages plus title.

Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 is the last large-scale symphonic piece he composed, and it is historically significant because it was the first multi-movement orchestral work to make use of a soloist and a large chorus. Beethoven set Schiller's poem An die Freude, (Ode to Joy,) in the fourth movement of the symphony, which is arguably the most influential piece of music ever written.

This manuscript, with easily legible notation, was compiled by a copyist who would have worked from one of Beethoven's own, slightly less readable manuscripts. The second movement shows some variations from the version of the work published in 1826. A small annotation on the title page associates this manuscript with Beethoven's secretary, Ferdinand Ries, who conducted a performance of the symphony at Aix in 1825. Gift of Professor Anton Gloetzner.

Autograph Manuscript of "In diesem Wetter"
ca. 1904

Autograph manuscript, not dated, but ca. 1904, one page plus title.

Mahler attempted to capture the essence of nature in his musical compositions, and he incorporated German philosophy – specifically that of Arthur Schopenhauer – into his music. As a conductor, he was known for his stringent perfectionism, and for using unprecedented numbers of instrumentalists.

German poet Friedrich Rückert composed 425 poems in 1833/34 in an outpouring of grief after the death of two of his children. Mahler selected five of these poems, and set them to music in 1901 and 1904. Seen here is an autograph sketch of the opening of "In diesem Wetter," the fifth song in Mahler's Kindertotenlieder (Songs of the Death of Children). In the score, Mahler has indicated the mood of the song: "Stürmish. Mit ruhelos schmerzvollem Ausdruck" (Stormy. With restless painful expression). Robbin Fund.

Autograph Manuscript of "Schnell-Polka"

Autograph manuscript, undated (probably ca. 1890), nine pages.

Johann Strauss Jr is remembered as a pioneer of dance music. His rhythmically innovative waltzes brought popular music to the fore in his home city of Vienna. People would gather in public spaces such as the Stadtspark (seen in the image above), and hear performances of popular tunes, like Strauss' Schnellpolka.

This manuscript reveals details of Strauss's creative process. An accomplished violinist, Strauss would initially write the music for first violin, establishing the framework of the piece, and arranging the remaining parts afterwards. Note how the barlines for the first violin are written in ink; the barlines for the other instruments were added later in pencil. One can also observe that Strauss's compositional technique was, in some sense, formulaic. He purchased paper already printed with the standard instrumentation for a salon orchestra, and adhered to this orchestration without fail. Leon Robbin Collection.

Autograph Manuscript of "Zwei deutscher Tänze, DEUTSCHE 841"
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
April 1825

Autograph manuscript, signed and dated April 1825, one page.

Schubert, a native of Vienna, is best known for his songs, which elevated the formerly lowbrow genre into the realm of high culture, where it has since remained. Schubert's music was instrumental in the democratization of elite Viennese artistic society. His songs were at once enormously popular and aesthetically valuable. Schubert performed his own songs at Schubertiades, gatherings held in the salons of his friends to showcase his music, a tradition that Schubert enthusiasts around the world continue to keep alive today.

This autograph manuscript shows a pair of German dances that were not published during the composer's lifetime. They were likely written for an informal social gathering. This manuscript is the only known copy of these pieces dating from the composer's lifetime. In fact, the dances first appeared in print, as a facsimile, in a Stargardt auction catalogue in September 1926. Four years later an engraved version was published.

The musical staff is drawn by hand. Spots of ink, which collected at the points where Schubert would lift his hand off the page, can be seen at the end of each line. Leon Robbin Collection.

Color-printed Aquatint of Vienna's Musikverein

Color-printed aquatint of Vienna's Musikverein. Undated (early 20th century).


Brahms' music was celebrated by conservatories across Europe in the early 20th century as the gold standard. Its conservative and systematic style lent itself naturally to scholarly analysis and creative imitation. This print by Karl Schwetz shows the Musikverein, the Viennese concert hall where Brahms debuted many of his pieces. The hall contains a small, gilded chamber called the "Brahms-Saal," named in honor of the composer in 1937. Georgetown University Art Collection.

Autograph Postcard
15 September 1894
p>Autograph postcard, posted from Bad Ischl, one page.


Brahms wrote this postcard to Wilhelm Kupfer, his copyist and friend, on 15 September 1894. The text reads as follows:

Dear Mr. K.

I expect to come to Vienna next week and would be pleased if you could arrange to have some time for me.

                   With best regards,
                   J. Br.

Brahms was returning from his summer vacation in Bad Ischl, a summer resort near Vienna, and is clearly eager to return to work. Leon Robbin Collection.