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We have over 100,000 pieces of manuscript music and 1.5 million items of printed music! This blog is written by our team of music curators and features news and information about the British Library's rich collections of music and sound recordings. Read more

24 April 2014

Mozart Manuscripts Online

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250 years ago, on 23 April 1764, the eight-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart arrived in London with his father Leopold, mother Anna Maria, and sister Maria Anna (Nannerl).  The visit formed part of an ambitious European tour, in which the Mozart children were presented as musical prodigies in public concerts and to private patrons. 

Their visit to London, which would last for 15 months, has special significance for the British Library, since Mozart may be counted as the first in an illustrious line of composers to have presented manuscripts to the Library.  This event took place during the course of the family's visit to the British Museum, in July 1765.  On that occasion, Mozart deposited a copy of his first sacred composition (and only setting of an English text), God is our Refuge, written with the assistance of his father Leopold, together with copies of two sets of keyboard sonatas published the previous year in Paris. 

Mozart, God is our Refuge, K. 20

Since that time, the Library has maintained a long tradition of collecting printed and manuscript sources for Mozart’s music, cultivated both under its previous guise as part of the British Museum and in its present incarnation as an autonomous library based at St. Pancras. 

The Library’s Mozart holdings have therefore grown apace, with items acquired individually from dealers and at auction, via the legal deposit of music published in the UK, and as part of larger collections – notably those amassed by Vincent Novello, Edward Meyerstein, and Stefan Zweig.  

The most spectacular single acquisition came in 1986, with the donation by Stefan Zweig’s heirs of his collection of musical and literary autographs, which contained among other treasures twelve Mozart manuscripts.  Most notable among these is the thematic catalogue ('Verzeichnüss aller meine Werke vom Monath febrario 1784 . . .') that Mozart maintained from 1784 till his death in 1791, in which he noted - among other details - the date, title and first few bars of music for each work.  In 2006, this rich and revealing document became the first of the Library’s Mozart sources to be digitised and was made available via the Turning the Pages website to mark the composer’s 250th anniversary.  It is also available as an e-book and via the Library's Digitised Manuscripts portal

The Library has now digitised the remaining Mozart autograph manuscripts in its collection. For ease of reference, we thought it would be helpful to provide the following classified list with a brief title or description of each work and a hyperlink (embedded in the shelfmark) to the digital images.  Unless otherwise specified, the manuscripts are full autograph scores of the respective works.

For anyone curious to explore a little further, click on the Köchel numbers for links to the relevant entries in Wikipedia (where available), where you'll also find links to public domain recordings and editions available from the Neue Mozart Ausgabe and the International Music Score Library Project.  Using these resources will make it possible to compare Mozart’s notation with various editions, or to follow the composer’s score while listening to a recording in the comfort of your own home. 


Chamber music

Minuet in F (K. 168a): Add MS 47861a, f. 10v (lower portion of divided leaf) and MS Mus. 1040, f. 1v (upper portion of divided leaf)

String Quartet in B flat (K. 172): Add MS 31749

String Quartet in D minor (K. 173), movement IV only: Zweig MS 52

String Quartet in G major (K. 387): Add MS 37763, ff. 1r-13v

String Quartet in D minor (K. 421): Add MS 37763, ff. 14r-22r

String Quartet in E flat major (K. 428): Add MS 37763, ff. 34r-44r

String Quartet in B flat major Hunt (K. 458): Add MS 37763, ff. 23r-32v

String Quartet in A major (K. 464): Add MS 37763, ff. 45r-56r

String Quartet in C major Dissonance (K. 465): Add MS 37763, ff. 57r-68r

String Quartet in D major (K. 499), Hoffmeister: Add MS 37764

String Quintet in C minor (K. 516b): Add MS 31748

String Quartet in D major (K. 575): Add MS 37765, ff. 1r-14v

String Quartet in B flat major (K. 589): Add MS 37765, ff. 29r-44v

String Quartet in D minor (K. 590): Add MS 37765, ff. 15r-28v

String Quintet in E flat (K. 614): Zweig MS 60

Adagio and Rondo in C minor/major for armonica, flute, oboe, viola and cello (K. 617): Zweig MS 61


Keyboard music (with or without accompaniment)

Minuet no. 3 and trio no. 6 of a set of dances for orchestra, arranged for piano (K. 176): Add MS 14396, f. 13r-13v

Sonata in B flat for piano duet (K. 358/186c): Add MS 14396, ff. 21v-29v

Sonata for violin and piano in F (K. 377/374e): Zweig MS 53

Rondo for keyboard and orchestra in A (K. 386), fragment: Add MS 32181, ff. 250-252

Leaf containing bar 65 to the end of the first movement of the Piano Sonata in B flat (K. 570): Add MS 47861a, ff. 13-13v


Orchestral music

March for orchestra in C (K. 408, no. 1/383e): Zweig MS 54

Concerto for horn and orchestra in E flat (K. 447): Zweig MS 55

Fugue in C minor (K. 546), in an arrangement for string orchestra: Add MS 28966

Five contredanses for flute, strings (2 violins, cello and bass) and drum (K. 609): Zweig MS 59


Vocal music

Chorus, 'God is our Refuge', K. 20: K.10.a.17.(3.)

Song ‘Das Veilchen’, for voice and piano (K. 476): Zweig MS 56

Aria ‘Non so più cosa son’ from Le nozze di Figaro (K. 492, no. 6), draft: Zweig MS 57

‘Difficile lectu mihi Mars’, three-part vocal canon (K. 559): Zweig MS 58

'O du eselhafter Peierl’, four-part vocal canon (K. 560a/559a): Zweig MS 58

Duettino ‘Deh prendi un dolce amplesso’ from La clemenza di Tito (K. 621, no. 3): Zweig MS 62



Cadenza to the second movement (Andante) of a Keyboard Concerto by Ignaz von Beecke (K. 626a, Anh. K): MS Mus. 1040, f. 10r (upper portion of divided leaf: presented here with the lower portion, Add MS 47861a)

Cadenza to the first movement (Allegro maestoso) of the Keyboard Concerto K. 40, arranged from sonata movements by Honauer, Eckard and C.P.E. Bach: Add MS 47861a, f. 10r (lower portion of divided leaf)

Recitative and aria, "Giunse alfin il momento" and "Al desio di chi t'avora" from Le nozze di Figaro (K. 492): Add MS 14396, ff. 15r-21v (copyist's score, with autograph cadenza on f. 21v)


Copies in Mozart’s hand

Georg Reutter, ‘De Profundis’, in four parts, with organ accompaniment, in score, copied by Mozart, K. 93 / Anh. A 22: Add MS 31748, f. 1

Johann Michael Haydn, Ave Maria in F (for Advent or the Annunciation), for 4 voices with basso continuo and violins (KV3 Anh. 109VI, no. 14, KV6 Anh. A 14): Add MS 41633, f. 60-63



Thematic catalogue, 'Verzeichnüss aller meine Werke vom Monath febrario 1784 . . .': Zweig MS 63

Letter to Maria Anna Thekla Mozart, 5 November 1777: Zweig MS 64

Letter to Maria Anna Thekla Mozart, 28 February 1778: Zweig MS 65

Letter to Maria Anna Thekla Mozart, 23 December 1778: Zweig MS 66

Letter to Maria Anna Thekla Mozart, 10 May [1779]: Zweig MS 67

Letter to Anton Klein; Vienna, 21 May 1785: Zweig MS 68

Contract of marriage between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Constanze Weber, 3 August 1782: Zweig MS 69


17 April 2014

The music of Holy Week in Seville

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For the last seven years recordist Duncan Whitley has documented the events at Seville's Semana Santa in Spain. The results of this dedicated study can be found in collection C1338, which contains recordings in both audio and video of the rituals of Holy Week. Duncan's approach provides a unique and intimate acoustic portrait, allowing the listener to experience Holy Week as if they were there!

 Performer: Susana Silencio

Performer: Susana Sierra Martínez

To celebrate Easter we invited Duncan Whitley to write the following guest blog for the World and Traditional Music section describing his collection:

 The 194 audio and video recordings handed over to the British Library last month form part of an ongoing study of the soundscapes of Seville's Semana Santa, many recordings from which are already available in collection C1338. The collection features field recordings documenting the aural landscapes of Seville's Easter processions, with a particular focus on both processional music and the saetas flamencas. The saetas are short, flamenco prayers sung from balconies and in the streets, as effigies of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary are carried past. The styles of saeta documented in the collection largely fall into the categories of: saeta por seguiriya, por martinete, por seguiriya con cambio a martinete, or por carceleras. With regards to processional music, it is worth mentioning that Seville has a heritage of musical composition for the Semana Santa, which can take on great significance when performed in certain places and times, in accompaniment to particular religious images to whom the marches are dedicated.

This most recent batch of recordings dates from Easter 2013, and features interviews with saeta singers Pili del Castillo, Paquita Gómez and José Antonio Rodríguez Sabín, alongside video and sound documentation of Seville's public processions. The material links up with recordings already available in collection C1338, as well as a quantity of material captured across Easter 2011 and 2012 which has yet to be catalogued.

The first video documents the salida (exit from the church) of the Guide Cross of El Silencio, on the Madrugá (early hours of Good Friday). Susana Sierra Martínez sings her saeta por seguirilla from a balcony opposite the church door. It is one of only two places in Seville where it is customary to sing to the Guide Cross (saetas typically being addressed to the religious images of Christ or the Virgin).

En la Calle Silencio, 2013 from Duncan Whitley on Vimeo.

 The following video documents the salida of the procession of Jesús Despojado on Palm Sunday of 2013. Upon completion of the complex manoeuvre of the religious float from the interior of the church into the street, the Agrupación Musical Virgen de los Reyes plays the Marcha Real.

Jesús Despójado, Salida 2013 from Duncan Whitley on Vimeo.

 The next video follows on from the previous, with the Agrupación Musical Virgen de los Reyes accompanying the religious float bearing the image of Jesús Despojado as it makes its way through the Plaza de Molviedro. The marches interpreted are A La Gloria!, which segways into Tu Misericordia.

Jesús Despojado, A La Gloria! 2013 from Duncan Whitley on Vimeo.

 The last video documents the return of the popular Esperanza de Triana ("Hope of Triana") to its neighbourhood, Triana. The brotherhood was not able to complete its Station of Penitence on the Madrugá, and having sought refuge for two nights in Seville's cathedral, the procession returns "home" without musical accompaniment. Upon reaching the Calle Pureza, where the religious images reside all year round, the public accompanying the Virgin Esperanza sing the Salve Marinera.

La Esperanza de Triana, regreso a Pureza (2013) from Duncan Whitley on Vimeo.

 Duncan Whitley



07 April 2014

A Big Data History of Music

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We are delighted to announce that the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has awarded Royal Holloway, University of London and the British Library just over £79,000 towards a research project exploring centuries' worth of documentation of printed and manuscript music.  This collaboration between Royal Holloway and the British Library is bringing together for the first time the world's biggest datasets about published sheet music, music manuscripts and classical concerts (in excess of 5 million records) for statistical analysis, manipulation and visualisation and will, it is to be hoped, provide a paradigm shift in how music history is researched.

Sacred music Wordle

Data from seven existing databases and catalogues is being used as the basis of this project. These datasets (two of which are not currently available online) include: the British Library's catalogues of printed and manuscript music; the bibliographies created by Répertoire International des Sources Musicales (RISM) that list European music printed 1500-1800 and music manuscripts in European libraries; and the RISM UK Music Manuscripts Database and the Concert Programmes Project database. These catalogues and databases are already essential finding tools for researchers of music history and musicology, plus many scholars of performance studies and cultural history. However, until now it has not been possible to analyse these rich collections of data for large-scale trends in the dissemination of music, the popularity of specific composers, or the development of musical taste.

Our project will align and combine the seven datasets so that they can be analysed as big data. Key areas of the British Library data are being enriched and cleaned in order that they can be successfully aligned with the other datasets. The project team will then pilot ways in which the combined dataset can be analysed with approaches taken from the study of big data. By analysing the frequency, spread and distribution of specific compositions and composers' outputs, the project will challenge current thinking about how music was transmitted across borders, how musical taste developed, and how certain composers or repertories were canonised as carrying aesthetic value. The results of this research will be disseminated via a symposium held at the British Library, to which academics and non-academics will be invited. Finally, the data will be made available as an open dataset for researchers to undertake big data research across multiple disciplines.

The project is being funded under the £4 million ‘Digital Transformations in the Arts and Humanities: Big Data Research’ funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council with support from the Economic and Social Research Council.  It is being led by Dr Stephen Rose, Senior Lecturer in Music at Royal Holloway, with Dr Sandra Tuppen, Curator of Music Manuscripts at the British Library, as Co-Investigator, and is due to be completed by the end of March 2015.  For further information, please contact [email protected].