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J. Brahms. Important series of 44 autograph letters signed, to Friedrich Chrysander, mostly unpublished, 1869-1894

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December 13, 11:21 AM GMT


80,000 - 120,000 GBP

Lot Details


Johannes Brahms

Important series of 44 autograph letters and one document signed ("JBrahms"; "Joh. Brahms"; "J.Br."), to Friedrich Chrysander, THE MAJORITY UNPUBLISHED

CONCERNING BRAHMS'S WORK WITH CHRYSANDER EDITING HANDEL AND COUPERIN FOR THE DEUTSCHE HÄNDEL-GESELLSCHAFT AND DENKMÄLER DER TONKUNST SERIES, SPECIFICALLY DUETS AND TRIOS OF HANDEL AND COUPERIN'S CELEBRATED PIÈCES DE CLAVECIN, ALSO DISCUSSING EDITORIAL QUESTIONS SURROUNDING MOZART'S REQUIEM, EDITED BY BRAHMS FOR THE FIRST MOZART GESAMTAUSGABE, commenting in extraordinary detail on Mozart's autograph, in addition remarking generally on the state of music, mentioning Clara Schumann, Joachim, Simrock, Hanslick, Weber, Otto Jahn, Heinrich von Herzogenberg, Ottilie Ebner, Gotthardt, Avé-Lallement, Franz Espagne and others, referring also to the Ministry of Culture, the publishing firm of Peters, the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, and many times to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, singing the praises of its library to which he has free access, and reporting on his travels and other matters

...Ich weiß nicht ob Ihnen aus Jahn u. m. flüchtigen Notizen die Sache klar ist. Es sind 2 Handschriften da; die eine enthält Mozarts Partitur-Anlage, die andere Süssmayrs Partitur. Nun haben 2 Männer versucht jenen Entwurf auszufüllen u. ein Dritter hat die Handschrift Mozarts mit Bleistift einzäumen wollen. Alle 3 haben aber merkwürdig schwach u. unsicher gearbeitet. Bei Letzterem zeigt es sich deutlich durch vielfache Aenderungen u. Radierungen jener Einzäumungen.

  Ferner ist leicht zu sehen u. zu beweisen daß Süssmayr Mozarts Entwurf copirte...

c.100 pages in all, various sizes, with two currently unassigned envelopes, one postmarked Leipzig 9 February 1884, plus a 1-page letter to Chrysander signed "J.J. Brahms", postmarked Hamburg 13 March 1883, the letters dated Vienna, Bad Ischl and elsewhere, 1869-1894, where indicated




There are many facets of Brahms's legacy to posterity, active as he was as a composer, performer, collector of musical autographs (Mozart's own score of the G minor symphony K.550 once graced his rooms), (reluctant) letter writer, and, as this astonishing horde of mostly unknown letters reveals in greater clarity than ever before, music scholar and editor.

Brahms's services to musicology were legion, the composer making contributions to the complete editions of Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart (editing the Requiem in 1877), Schubert and Schumann, as well as involving himself in smaller projects concerning works by C.P.E. Bach, W.F. Bach and, famously, Couperin (his engagement with the latter's music led surely to Brahms's appropriation of the enigmatic spirit of French Baroque style brisé in some of his best-loved piano works, such as the B flat intermezzo op.76 no.4 and the B minor intermezzo op.119 no.1). Brahms's familiarity with the continuo tradition - a hotly contested subject in the nineteenth century - was esteemed enough by the German music scholar Friedrich Chrysander for him to ask Brahms to provide keyboard accompaniments for a number of Handel's Italian duets and trios, which were intended to be published by the Deutsche Händel-Gesellschaft's complete Handel edition: in vol.32, which appeared in 1870, Brahms realized the accompaniment for nos.7-13 (HWV 191, 196, 185, 197, 188, 181, 201, 200; those for nos.1, 2, and 4-6 were provided by Chrysander, and that of no.3 by Joseph Joachim); when the volume was enlarged in 1880 to include nine further duets, Brahms undertook to supply the continuo parts for six of these too. To some extent overlapping Brahms's work on the Handel duets was his involvement in Chrysander's Denkmäler der Tonkunst series edition of the celebrated Pièces de clavecin of François Couperin ('Le Grand', 1668-1733), originally published as twenty-seven ordres in four books (1713, 1717, 1722 and 1730). Book 1 of the Pièces appeared in volume 4 of the 1869 series of Denkmäler volumes; in a second instalment, published in 1871, volume 4 was expanded and revised to include book 2 of the Pièces. Much later, in 1888, books 3 and 4 were published through Augener in London.

The importance of the present collection of letters, which provides the largely missing half of a notable musicological correspondence, lies in the light it sheds on the nature of Brahms's contribution to the above-mentioned Handel and Couperin editions. Although Brahms clearly doubted his capacities as editor, and while Chrysander appears to have done much of the actual editorial heavy-lifting and unquestionably used the composer's association with the editions as a publicity tool, a number of the letters demonstrate that Brahms's input, especially regarding the Pièces, was by no means a token one. One astonishing letter in particular stand out here: one which appears to be Brahms's hitherto lost, and highly detailed, reply to Chrysander's letter of 25 July 1869, which refers to the interpretational problems surrounding the vexed issue of a particular dotted rhythm. In general, Brahms's approach seems to have been 'less is more': his light-touch editorial policy indeed resulting in an edition which remains of practical value today. No less revealing, this time concerning Mozart, is an undated letter containing Brahms's remarkable description of Süssmayr and Mozart's manuscripts of the Requiem, a work (somewhat trepidatiously) edited by Brahms for the first Gesamtausgabe (1877). 

The indefatigable Friedrich Chrysander (1826-1901) was at the forefront of the development of modern musicology with such publications as the Jahrbuch für musikalische Wissenschaft (1863, 1867; see lot 57) and the influential Vierteljahrsschrift für Musikwissenschaft, which he founded together with Philipp Spitta and Guido Adler in 1885, and through his editorship of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (1868-1871 and 1875-1882). Although he produced essays and articles on a great array of musical subjects and composers, his abiding love was Handel, with whom his name is today indissolubly associated, just as that of Ludwig Ritter von Köchel is linked to Mozart. The author of a seminal (unfinished) Handel biography, published by Breitkopf & Härtel in three volumes between 1858 and 1867 (see lot 37), Chrysander, together with G.G. Gervinus, in 1856, also founded the Händel-Gesellschaft, with the goal of publishing a collected edition of Handel's works (some 48 volumes in all were eventually published by him - a stupendous monument to his industry).  

The online Brahms-Briefwechsel-Verzeichnis records only 17 letters by Brahms to Chrysander, 14 of whose autographs are noted as being preserved in a private collection, the remaining three autographs being either unknown (Vienna, 10 November 1867) or preserved elsewhere (Vienna, 25 February 1883 and 21 April 1891: Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Carl von Ossietzky, Hamburg). The 14 known letters in private hands are also recorded in copies in SUB Hamburg, as well as documented in publications (sometimes only fragmentarily) by Gustav Fock (1856) and Hans Joachim Marx (2007). Chrysander's letters to Brahms, from which many of the composer's replies could hitherto only be inferred, are preserved for the most part in the Archive of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. 

The autograph letters comprise [content summaries abbreviated]:

1) No place or date, [after 25 July 1869?]: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, DISCUSSING EDITORIAL QUESTIONS RELATING TO COUPERIN'S PIÈCES, concerning especially the treatment of a particular rhythmic figure ("...Ich habe so viel Fragezeichen wie möglich hineingesetzt - um Ihnen zu zeigen wie gern ich für Sie arbeiten würde. Ich bin dafür...daß die Figur...stehen bleibt..."), also referring to his addition of various accidental signs in the score, noting that he has often regretted that they are publishing the first part, enquiring whether a continuation will soon follow, and discussing aspects of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung ("...Ihre Zeitung geht hoffentlich auch pecuniär voran..."), 4 pages, large 8vo, composer's printed monogram 

2) [Vienna,] December 1869: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, stating that he is ready anytime for Handel and him [Chrysander] ("...Ich...will heute nur sagen daß ich für Händel u. Sie jederzeit bereit bin..."), 2 pages, large 8vo, integral blank

3) [Vienna,] end of 1869 [?]: [Marx, p.232, no.5,] referring to the Palestrina and Corelli volumes of the Denkmäler der Tonkunst series ("...Erst nachträglich entdeckte ich die Doppel-Bände Palestrina u. Corelli..."), 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a correspondence card

4) [Vienna, no date,] postmarked Bergedorf, 28 January 1870: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, disussing proofs, mentioning Gotthardt, Hanslick, Avé-Lallemant, and the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, commenting on the state of music ("...Es ist schwerer hier, Musik aufzuführen...das hat äusserliche Gründe..."), 8 pages, large 8vo, autograph envelope, envelope browned and torn

5) [Hamburg, 13 August 1876]: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, expressing his wish to see him now that he is in Hamburg ("...Seit einigen Tagen...empfinde ich den lebhaften Wunsch Sie...aufzusuchen..."), 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a postcard

6) Postmarked Lichtenthal, 12 September 1876: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, mentioning the two Couperin volumes, the Ministry of Culture and other matters, 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a postcard

7) [Lichtenthal bei Baden-Baden, c.27 October 1876]: [Marx, p.235 no.8,] thanking him for the Urio and Couperin volumes, a birthday present for Clara Schumann ("...Es war ein Geburtstaggeschenk für Frau Schumann..."), 3 pages, 8vo, autograph envelope, some damp-staining, splitting along folds, stamp to envelope torn away

8) [Vienna,] Karlsgasse 4, November 1876: [Marx, p.236 no.9,] concerning a controversy ("...Stört Sie die Lüge von der Musikschule nicht? Darf ich sie so ruhig stehen u. gehen lassen?..."), 4 pages, 8vo, splitting along joints

9) No place or date [before 1877?]: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, DISCUSSING IN DETAIL MOZART'S REQUIEM AND MOZART AND SÜSSMAYR'S ENTRIES IN THE AUTOGRAPH SOURCES ("...Ich weiß nicht ob Ihnen aus Jahn u. m. flüchtigen Notizen die Sache klar ist. Es sind 2 Handschriften da; die eine enthält Mozarts Partitur-Anlage, die andere Süßmayers Partitur. Nun haben 2 Männer versucht jenen Entwurf auszufüllen..."), referring to his faintheartedness at undertaking the editing of the Requiem ("...Alles will gelernt u. geübt sein..."), and also mentioning Otto Jahn, 3 pages, large 8vo

10) [Vienna,] May 1877, postmarked Bergedorf 18 May 1877: [Marx, p.239 no.11,] discussing his edition of Mozart's Requiem ("...kommt zur Versendung; der kritische Bericht aber soll erst später erscheinen..."), 5 pages, 8vo, autograph envelope, stamp to envelope torn away

11) [Vienna, c.July 1877]: [Marx, p.242 no.13,] mentioning his editorial work concerning Mozart and Handel, 3 pages, large 8vo

12) [Hamburg, 28 September 1878]: UNPUBLISHED (copy in SUB Hamburg), discussing a planned journey with Joachim to Bergedorf ("Joachim u. ich haben öfter eine Fahrt nach Bergedorf geplant..."), 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a postcard

13) No place, October 1878: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, illustrating a point by noting the incongruity of adding two clarinets to a Bach cantata or a piano to a Handel aria ("...Ich bin nicht gern in unnötigen Streit hinein gezogen..."), 3 pages, autograph envelope, stamp to envelope torn away

14) [Vienna,] [21] January 1879: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, referring to Chrysander's English friends, Joachim and the violin concerto ("...nur damit er dort mit Dank vergeigt..."), 3 pages, large 8vo, autograph envelope, stamp to envelope torn away

15) [Vienna,] postmarked 15 May 1879: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, informing him that he is at home ("...Ich bin zu Haus..."), 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a postcard

16) [Vienna,] [c.13] November 1879, postmarked 16 November 1879: [Marx, p.250 no.22,] mentioning copyists ("...Nach Kopisten wird jetzt wenig gefragt..."), noting that instead of going to England for 3 months he would rather go to Italy ("...Statt 3 Monate nach England zu gehen, gehe ich lieber nach Italien..."), 4 pages, 8vo, autograph envelope, stamp to envelope torn away 

17) [Hanover,] [27] January 1880: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, providing details of his travel plans ("...u. jetzt wartet man in Wien..."), 2 pages, 12mo, with a printed receipt, signed and inscribed by Brahms, autograph envelope, some browning 

18) Vienna 27 May 1880: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, acknowledging what he has sent him and explaining that he has been away since the beginning of April ("...ich war seit Anfang April verreist..."), 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a correspondence card

19) [Ischl,] postmarked 8 June 1880 [?]: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, mentioning proofs, 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a correspondence card

20) [Ischl,] postmarked 4 July (?) 1880: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, referring to their respective libraries and his fondness for that of the Musikverein ("Drüben ist die Vereins-Bibliothek u. ich kann haben so viel u. so lange ich will..."), 3 pages, autograph envelope, splitting along hinge

20a) Ischl, postmarked 4 July 1880: Document signed ("Absender J. Brahms"), a customs "Deklaration" concerning a packet of "Musikalien" for Chrysander in Hamburg, APPARENTLY UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, 1 page, large 8vo, stamps, wax seal

21) [Ischl, 11 July 1880,] postmarked Bergedorf, 12 July 1880: [Marx, p.253 no.25,] referring to Handel's duets and his own difficulties working on them ("...Es ist eben eine Arbeit mit der man (ich wenigstens) so schwer fertig wird..."), 4 pages, 12mo, autograph envelope, envelope browned and torn

22) [Ischl,] postmarked 18 [?] July 1880: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, informing him that he has finished his work on the [Handel] duets ("...die Duetten sind fertig..."), 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a correspondence card 

23) [Ischl,] postmarked 2 August [?] 1880: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, mentioning the proofs and the new [Handel] duets ("...Heute sende ich Ihnen die Korrekturen u. die neuen Duette ab..."), 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a correspondence card

24) [Vienna,] November 1880: [Marx. p.258 no.30,] commenting on the preface [to the latest Handel edition] and his contributions, noting that he has made only a few alterations ("...Ich habe...nicht aus Pietät, sondern aus Rücksicht gegen Sie wenig geändert..."), 3 pages, 8vo, some damp-staining

25) [Vienna,] November 1880, postmarked Vienna, 9 November 1880: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, praising Chrysander's [Handel] preface ("...Ihre Vorrede scheint mir gut u. angemessen wie man es eben von Ihnen erwartet..."), and insisting on not being named as editor, 4 pages, 8vo, autograph envelope, some browning

26) No place, November 1880: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, concerning the proofs [of the Handel duets], discussing the possibility of an edition by Peters, though admitting that that is possibly not a very clever idea ("...Möglicherweise ist das nun ein sehr ungeschickter...Einfall..."), 3 pages, 8vo, upper edge browned

27) [Vienna, 21 December 1880]: [Marx, p.261 no.34,] thanking him for the arrival of the four [Handel] duets ("Die 4 Duette angekommen, freue mich, danke sehr..."), 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a correspondence card

28) Postmarked Münster, 17 January 1882: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, making arrangements for a meeting ("...ein Plauderstündchen wollen wir uns doch vorzeitig einrichten..."), 2 pages, 8vo, autograph envelope

29) Postmarked Kiel, 13 January 1883 [?]: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, notifying him of his travel plans (...Von Samstag Abend bis Sonntag Abend bin ich noch einmal in Hbg..."), 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a postcard

30) Postmarked Hamburg, 5 February 1883: [Marx, p.266 no.39,] expressing the hope that they can meet ("...Hoffentlich sind Sie dort u. mögen ein Stündchen spazieren u. plaudern..."), 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a postcard

31) [Vienna,] postmarked Bergedorf, 10 May 1883: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, discussing works by Haydn, Mozart and Handel and various editions ("...Sie sehen, eine kleine Bibliothek!..."), 3 pages, autograph envelope

32) Cologne, 16 May 1883: [Marx, p.270 no.43,] referring amusingly to his travel schedule ("...dann aber nicht wissend wohin..."), 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a postcard

33) Postmarked Wiesbaden, 29 May 1883: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, stating that he is being pressed by Härtel for the critical report to Mozart's Requiem, and commenting on a book about Berlioz ("...sehr schön, sehr der Mühe werth..."), 3 pages, autograph envelope

34) Wiesbaden, Villa Dewitz, postmarked 6 August 1883: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, referring to Mozart's Requiem ("Sagen Sie mir doch ob Sie m. 2 Briefe bekommen haben u. ob das Blatt mit Notizen über Mozart's Requiem - futsch ist..."), 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a postcard

35) Vienna, Karlsgasse 4, 3 March 1894: [Marx, p.273 no.47,] asking him to return his books and scores ("...Bei meiner letzten Anwesenheit in Hamburg meinten Sie, Sie möchten mir den Rest meiner Bücher u. Noten, den Sie immer noch bewahren, auch ungefragt schicken..."), 3 pages, 8vo, autograph envelope, small tear to envelope

36) No place or date, [late 1860s to mid 1870s?]: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHEDsending him examples of his work, mentioning Bach and Handel ("...Ich unterbreche Ihre Arbeit u. sende eine Probe - durchaus darauf gefasst daß sie nicht zu gebrauchen. Ich habe mir abermals so viel Mühe gegeben - mir möglichst wenig Mühe zu geben!..."), 4 pages, 8vo 

37) No place or date [after mid 1870s?]: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, referring to his reading of Chrysander's preface, 2 pages, 8vo 

38) No place [Leipzig], 10 January [?]: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, asking him to send a copy of the Handel duets to Clara Schumann, 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a postcard

39) [Vienna,], 10 December [?]: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, concerning a German translation, 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a postcard, some browning to edges

40) [Vienna,] no date: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, enquiring whether he has returned from England ("...Von England sind Sie natürlich wieder zurück?..."), 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a postcard, postmark excised, affecting text

41) [Leipzig,] 3 [?] January 7[?]: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, concerning his travel plans, 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a postcard

42) [Vienna,] 24 April 188[?]: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, referring to his books and notes ("...Möchten Sie mir mit wenig Worten sagen, ob Sie Alles aus Schrank u. Kiste geschickt haben..."), 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a correspondence card

43) [Vienna,] 29 December: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, requesting a copy of the [Handel] duets volume to be sent to Ottilie Ebner in Wiener-Neustadt and Herzogenberg in Leipzig, 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a correspondence card

44) [Vienna,] [1881?]: UNRECORDED AND UNPUBLISHED, expressing his annoyance that his travels will not bring him in his vicinity ("...Recht ärgerlich ist es mir daß die Reisen nicht in Ihre Gegend führen..."), 1 page, oblong 8vo, on a correspondence card, stamp excised, some damp-staining to one corner


Brahms-Briefwechsel-Verzeichnis (Brahms-Institut, Musikhochschule Lübeck)

Gustav Fock, 'Brahms und die Musikforschung im besonderen Brahms und Chrysander', Beiträge zur hamburgischen Musikgeschichte. Festgabe des musikwissenschaftlichen Instituts der Universität Hamburg an die Teilnehmer des Internationalen Musikwissenschaftlichen Kongresses Hamburg 1956, ed. Heinrich Husmann (1956), pp. 46-69

Elaine Kelly, 'An unexpected champion of François Couperin: Johannes Brahms and the Pièces de Clavecin', Music & Letters, vol.85 no.4 (2004), pp.576-601

Hans Joachim Marx, 'Johannes Brahms im Briefwechsel mit Friedrich Chrysander', Musik und Musikforschung. Johannes Brahms im Dialog mit der Geschichte, edd. Wolfgang Sandberger and Christiane Wiesenfeldt (Kassel etc., 2007), pp.221-274