The Harrach Manuscripts
Unknown lute music by S.L. Weiss discovered in an Austrian castle
by Michael Freimuth and Tim Crawford

The residence of the Harrach family at Schloss Rohrau, 40 km from Vienna, although seriously vandalised at the end of World War II, was lovingly restored some years ago and is now the home of the family’s sumptuous and world-renowned collection of art treasures, one of the best in private hands in the world.

Rohrau has long been a place of pilgrimages for scholars and music-lovers interested in the life of the great composer Josef Haydn, who was born in the village in 1732; his mother served the Harrachs as cook, his father was master wainwright and later mayor. The Harrach family took great delight in music, and assembled an important music library, including many manuscripts, over several generations, from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Almost all of this music was dispersed privately or at auction in the 1950s, including the four bundles of 18th-century lute works which are among a large collection of ex-Harrach music manuscripts acquired by the New York Public Library (MSS Harrach 11-14). A single lute manuscript also survives among the Harrach family papers deposited in the Vienna state archives (Wien, Allgemeinen Verwaltungsarchiv, Archiv Harrach, H. 120); a few more musical items, including chamber music by Telemann, Albinoni and very early works by Haydn, can be found in the same archive.

Some time during 2004, the administrator of the Harrach art collection at Schloss Rohrau, Count Ulrich Arco-Zinneberg, found seven books of 18th-century manuscript music among the books in the Harrach library, which had been preserved together with the art collection. He alerted the director of the baroque music ensemble, Concilium Musicum Wien, Paul Angerer, who immediately understood the significance of the discovery, which included important unknown chamber works by musicians such as Antonio Vivaldi, Gottfried Finger, Angelo Ragazzi and Francesco Alborea, as well as two large books of lute tablature. Plans were immediately made to perform some of these works at a concert and on a CD, for which funding was sought from the government of Lower Austria. For an immediate evaluation of the lute books Herr Angerer contacted the lutenist of his ensemble, Michael Freimuth, who realised that this was a very significant new S.L. Weiss source, and wrote the following text in support of a grant proposal:

Amongst the music recently discovered in Schloss Rohrau are also two volumes written in tablature. The tablatures, which with the exception of a few pages with numbers, are written throughout in French tablature notation, contain music for eleven- and thirteen-course lute, the so-called Baroque lute, and most of the works are by Silvius Leopold Weiss. They apparently belonged with the holdings of the Harrach family that are today preserved in the New York Public Library. This can be seen from the matching hand writings as well as from the similar title pages and numberings.

Already at first glance it becomes clear that these very large volumes, a total of over 200 pages, are of great importance for musical research, on the one hand, and for lute players, on the other. In the future, these tablatures will represent a third main source of Weiss’s lute music, beside the two Weiss manuscripts in London and Dresden known up to now. Since they contain pieces from the early creative period, they close a gap, as it were, in our knowledge of Weiss’s oeuvre. The first volume carries the title “Weiss Sylvio-Lautenmusik,” and is certainly the younger of the two. Many of the pages display Weiss’s name. In this volume alone there are eleven multi-movement suites that were hitherto entirely, or at least partially, unknown.

Three things are especially noteworthy:

A complete 4-movement Duet for two lutes, found here for the first time.

The suite in A, that is passed down in various other sources as a lute solo, is included here with a violin and bass part as a Trio.

One Caprice within a suite is ascribed to ‘Mr. Schaffniz’. He was a lutenist and contemporary of Weiss and is mentioned in literature by Walther (lexicon) and also by Baron. No compositions by him were known before this.

The second volume carries the title “Lautenmusik von unbekannten Componisten” (“Lute music by unknown composers”). This shows that the librarian or bookbinder was not familiar with music written in tablature. Although no composers’ names are given explicitly, on the basis of certain concordances one can also ascribe works to S.L. Weiss in this volume. In fact the binding seems to be faulty regarding the order. Incomplete endings of movements are bound before the respective suite. So there can be found in the second volume a movement “Presto” that belongs (as we known from a concordance in the Warsaw source) to the C major suite of Weiss in the first volume. On the basis of this and similar concordances it is possible to attribute also four whole suites in the second volume to S. Weiss. This number will presumably grow upon further research. To be mentioned are also two interesting scordaturas. The first is not unusual (f’ d’ a f d B-flat); the other, for a suite in B flat minor, is certainly exceptional (f’ d-flat’ a f d-flat A/ D F E-flat D-flat C). So we can say that on the whole the second volume also contains music of outstanding quality.

(English translation: Howard Weiner and Markus Lutz)

The resulting CD was released in July 2005, and features Michael Freimuth’s performances (on an original instrument by Anthony Posch, Vienna, dated 1740) of five Weiss items (two preludes, two fantasias and an allemande) from the newly-discovered sources along with some of the chamber music items played by Concilium Musicum Wien. It is issued by Cavalli Records and is entitled Klingende Schätze aus Schloss Rohrau (CCD 446).

This is not the place for a complete description and analysis of the new Harrach lute MSS, but a few words in addition to Michael Freimuth’s initial report might be in order. Close inspection of the music reveals that neither of the two main copyists is absolutely reliable, leaving a certain amount of editorial work to be done on many of the unique Weiss pieces before they can be performed. The repertory seems mostly to be early, including some suites which are found in several other copies. Weiss’s later music (after about 1725) tends to survive only in single copies, and it is known that his music was hard to find even shortly after his death. Most of the pieces are for 11-course lute, and some of those for 13-course show signs that the numbers ‘5’ and ‘6’ were added later.

As Michael Freimuth points out, the most exciting discovery is the pair of items of complete chamber music by S.L. Weiss: the C major duet for two lutes and the A major trio for violin, lute and basso. The duet is explicitly labelled ‘Concerto’ in both parts (of which, strangely, there are two complete copies), but this does not imply the participation of other instruments; rather, it refers to the musical form or genre, being loosely based on the Venetian concerto. The trio presents the tablature of Weiss’s most widely-distributed sonata, No. 44 in A major,1 to which violin and unfigured bass parts have been added which double the outer melodic lines in the manner of the Lautenkonzerte of Hinterleithner, Weichenberger and others, rather than providing new, independent strands of music. As in the five other complete, and four partial, copies of the sonata that survive,2 this chamber-music version lacks the opening prelude and final second gigue that seem to be additions unique to the best-known source, the Dresden Weiss MS.

The two Rohrau manuscripts between them preserve a total of 167 movements of lute music, arranged in 26 suite-like groupings on 233 pages. As well as new sources for around 50 known Weiss items, there are around 44 movements by Weiss that are otherwise unknown; this number excludes a suite attributed to Silvius Weiss that is more likely to be by his brother, Johann Sigismund. In the second volume, music by unknown composers, there are a few suites in a style close to that of Weiss, one of which is probably by Lauffensteiner, as well as a complete suite in D minor which seems more convincingly to be in his early style. Interestingly, three of the Weiss suites unattributed here appear in concordant versions but with different sarabandes which also seem to be from Weiss’s hand.

A new Weiss suite in A minor appears to be based very closely on Jacques Gallot’s beautiful allemande in that key, ‘L’Amant malheureux’, of which Weiss made at least two other arrangements; one, for 13-course lute, is in the London manuscript (ff. 66v-7), and the other, in G minor (in Paris BN Ré, f. 23v), while not attributed to him in the MS, is clearly his work, too. The Harrach suite opens with a Capricio in which motives from the allemande are fleetingly touched upon, then comes the ‘Allemande en double’ which is a varied setting of Gallot’s piece, followed by a courante which alludes to the allemande as much the same way as does the courante (‘Mons. Weis Courante’) which follows the G minor ‘L’Amant malheureux’ setting in the Paris MS. Then comes a Fantasia (recorded on the CD), whose relationship with the Gallot piece is less obvious; but the final gigue is an ingenious and strict reworking of Gallot’s allemande in triple time. This is a fascinating reminder both of Weiss’s interest in the earlier French lute tradition and of the strange and confusing relationship between the allemande and the duple-time gigue in the early 18th century.

Perhaps the most surprising find in the second volume is a group of four items in Italian tablature for a lute in ‘Renaissance’ tuning: a Pastorale in D (like works by Corelli, Handel and others, including Weiss, which imitate the bagpipe-playing shepherds in Rome at Christmas time), followed by a group of three pieces from a sonata in A major (Allemanda, Corente and [Menuetto]), from Giovanni Zamboni’s Sonate d’intavolatura di leuto (Lucca, 1718). Zamboni’s music was, it seems, well-known in Vienna,3 though little is known about the composer, beyond the fact that he was a native of Rome. It is not impossible that he was the composer of the solo sonata for arciliuto and the two ‘concertinos’ for arciliuto with two violins and organ (all anonymous and in staff notation) from the Harrach library formerly owned by Robert Spencer and now at the Royal Academy of Music, London; another similar anonymous concerto for arciliuto is among the newly-discovered items of chamber music at Rohrau.4

There is not the slightest doubt that this is a discovery of major importance for lute-players. The ‘new’ works increase Silvius Weiss’s already large surviving output by around 7%, and the fresh versions of known pieces will be of great value to players and scholars alike. Plans are in progress to make the material available as soon as possible, and the manuscripts will be used in the preparation of the final volumes of the edition of Weiss’s Sämtliche Werke, which is being undertaken by Dieter Kirsch and Tim Crawford for Bärenreiter in association with Das Erbe deutscher Musik.

1 Numbering from T. Crawford, ed., Silvius Leopold Weiss: Sämtliche Werke für Laute, Band 5: Die Handschrift Dresden, Faksimile der Tabulatur, Teil I, pp. 146-151.

2 Complete copies can be found in the following MSS: Dresden SLB, sonata 18; Paris BN Ré (dated Venice 1712), ff. 12v-14v; Warsaw RM 4136 (formerly Breslau Ms. Mf. 2003), ff. 15-17; Brno HAM 372, pp. 45-48; Venice ‘Chilesotti’ MS (transcription made c. 1900 of a now-lost tablature MS), items 504.2-505.3. Partial copies are in: Haslemere (private collection, Dolmetsch library), pp. 127-129; Warsaw RM 4137 (formerly Breslau Ms. Mf. 2005), pp. 121-3; Wroclaw University Library 60019 Odds. Mus. (formerly Breslau Ms. Mf. 2002), 41-3. Isolated movements can be found in: Strasbourg (dated 1740: Bourrée); Köln (Bourrée, here called ‘Scherzo’; Menuet); Warsaw University Library RM 4140 (Breslau Ms. Mf. 2008: Menuet); Warsaw University Library RM 4141 (Breslau Ms. Mf. 2009: Menuet).

3 Several vocal and instrumental compositions (some including lutes) by Zamboni are included in a long list of manuscript music offered for sale in 1731 in the Wiener Diarium. Also included were 8 volumes of solo lute music by Weiss, and no fewer than 14 items of chamber music by him, all lost today, as far as we know. (Hannelore Gericke, Der Wiener Musikalienhandel von 1700 bis 1778, Wiener Musikwissenschaftliche Beiträge, Band 5, (Graz-Köln: Böhlau, 1960), pp. 100-101.

4 A title-page for such a concerto is in the New York Public Library Harrach collection; it reads ‘Concertino per cammera, con arciliuto obligato, violini e basso’, and is incorrectly attached to an anonymous sonata for (?) violin and basso in A minor (NYPL Harrach V. 31, item 1).

  Copyright © 1998-2006 Laurent Duroselle, Markus Lutz

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