Presenting the Music Collection at Melk Abbey

Music archivist Dr. Johannes Prominczel

The following is a guest post by one of our RISM contributors Johannes Prominczel, music archivist at Melk Abbey.


The music archive of Melk Abbey in Austria consists of around 10,000 items of notated music and books as well as about 50 musical instruments.

The focus of the collection is on sources dating from between 1750 and 1850, though music from the late nineteenth century up until the present has also been preserved. Only a few works that were copied before 1750 have been handed down, possibly because others were destroyed in a fire.

The Benedictine monks in Melk have had excellent contacts with musical life in Vienna, especially during the First Viennese School and Biedermeier periods. Robert Kimmerling was a pupil of Haydn, and Abbé Maximilian Stadler knew the great composers of the Wiener Klassik personally and frequented the Biedermeier musical salons. For these reasons, many early manuscript copies of music by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven can be found in Melk. Also worth mentioning are manuscripts of the composers who were active in the abbey, especially those by Johann Georg Albrechtsberger and Franz Schneider.

Cover of the
Cover of the "Studentenvalete" by Abbé Maximilian Stadler, 1781 (shelfmark: IV 133).

The archive is also well stocked with historic printed music. Some Benedictines were passionate collectors, particularly of piano and chamber music: an inventory from 1850 of the papers left by P. Robert Stipa, for example, counts around 600 works, most of them prints. A part of the music collection (the exact extent is difficult to estimate) left by Ignaz Ritter von Seyfried, including two prints with handwritten dedications from Robert Schumann, ended up in the Melk music archive. Regrettably, complete inventories were not made of such collections and they can only be reconstructed using older shelfmarks.

Viola in Melk collection

Viola with lion's head by Georg Aman, early eighteenth century

Apart from the fact that only a few manuscripts are cataloged in RISM (siglum: A-M), the Melk music collection is by and large well documented; nearly all works are listed in inventories and can be found in the archive's card catalogs. As the archive is being processed, differentiating and identifying individual hands is the top priority. Subsequently, gradual cataloging in RISM is planned. At the same time, the music history of the abbey will progressively be appraised. Since the time period 1681–1826 has been well researched thanks to the work of Robert N. Freeman, the focus will be on the time from 1827 to 1900.


Johannes Prominczel, music archivist

All photos (c) Stift Melk and used with permission.



Catégorie : Library collections

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