The Austrian National Library and the Europeana Sounds Project

Looking over the composer’s shoulder

Europeana Sounds is a new project within the Europeana cultural heritage galaxy. The partnership of 24 institutions from 12 European countries started in February 2014 and aims at making audio recordings as well as audio-related material available to the wider public. As a project member, the Austrian National Library is contributing digital copies of autographs by composers from the 17th to the 19th century, which provide insight into compositional practices.

Music notation builds THE foundation for expressing and communicating musical ideas in Western music culture. Autographs and sketches are most valuable in this regard because they allow for deeper insight into compositional techniques and creative processes, thereby helping us to better understand the composer’s creative process.

The music manuscripts selected for Europeana Sounds comprise some of the most important historic holdings of the Library’s Department of Music. They derive mainly from two collections: the so-called “Safe Collection” and the Bedroom Library (“bibliotheca cubicularisʺ) of Emperor Leopold I. They include sketches, full scores, transcripts, copies, particells (condensed scores), correspondence, libretti and biographical material.

The “Safe Collection”, which focuses on Austrian music, represents the core of Austrian National Library’s music collection and is responsible for its reputation as one of the major historical musical collections in the world. It consists of autographs by Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Anton Bruckner, Joseph Haydn, Gustav Mahler, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Johann Strauss, Richard Strauss, Richard Wagner and many others.

Schubert, Franz (1979-1828): Deutsche Messe, D 872. 1st part: Zum Eingang. Mus.Hs.41542

This autograph of the first  movement of the Deutsche Messe (D 872) for mixed chorus and organ shows how Schubert changed his mind while composing the first theme: he chooses to use two identical phrases instead of keeping the first version, which has different endings for each phrase.

Mahler, Gustav (1860-1911): Symphony No. 10 in F Sharp Major (particell). Last page of the 3rd movement. Mus.Hs.41000 Mus

Mahler 10.SinfonieGustav Mahler is known for adding personal remarks to his scores, which give an insight into the music as well as the composer’s mental and emotional state. The Image shows the last page of the third movement entitled “Purgatorio” (as particell). Mahler began composing the 10th symphony, his last and unfinished work, in July 1910 in a time of deep emotional crisis triggered by the love affair of his wife Alma with the architect Walter Gropius. Citations from the bible such as “Mercy!! O God! O God. Why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27, 46) added above the notation system give an idea of what he was going throug through.

Passport of Anton Bruckner (1824-1896); Mus.Hs.28257 Mus

Bruckner Reisepass 1Bruckner Reisepass 2The items contributed by ONB are not limited to autographs of compositions; they also include personal items, which typically have found their way into collections via the composers’ estates. The Department of Music, for example, was fortunate to acquire not only all of Bruckner’s main works but also many types of biographical material such as calendar notes, letters, and documents . They are part of the unique “Bruckner Archive”. The two images show Bruckner’s passport, signed in his own handwriting and including a physical description.

Whereas the “Safe Collection” represents a wide range of musical styles and eras, the Bedroom Library reflects musical life at the Austrian imperial court in the baroque period. The manuscript scores wrapped in white parchment show the baroque monarch’s desire to represent the court and his love of music. Collected for personal use, the emperor’s library shows the whole array of court and baroque musical culture (except for liturgical music) with compositions by court conductors, court composers and court organists; it includes operas, light operas, music for Jesuit dramas, oratories, sepolcri (a genre closely related to the oratorio), motets, cantatas, arias, serenades, ballets and other instrumental forms.

Passerini, Francesco (1696-1731): Il sacrificio d’Abramo: Oratorio. Front page. Mus.Hs.17660 Mus.

Passerini Il sacrificioThis Image, taken from the Bedroom Library shows the richly ornamented front page of the oratorio “Il sacrificio d’Abramo”, composed by Francesco Passerini in the second half of the 17th century and dedicated to Emperor Leopold I, who is depicted on the cover.


Discover the wealth of the musical collection and feel inspired by famous as well as still unknown compositions; explore the genesis of works by viewing sketches, full scores, transcripts, copies, composer’s comments, correspondence, libretti and gain an insight into the composer’s studio at

Author: Ute Sondergeld


Europeana Newspapers Project Information Day

As the Europeana Newspapers Project is slowly but surely coming to a close, the Austrian National Library will be hosting an Information Day presenting some of the project’s outcomes, especially highlighting the TEL Content Browser. The event is free of charge and will open its doors at 9 a.m. on October 16, 2014.

What can you expect? The scope of the Information Day is practice-oriented and structured around the central theme: ‘The digitized, historical newspaper as a source’. We will provide a profound overview of how this medium can be utilized in different fields. Technical aspects of newspaper digitization will be covered as well as how the accessibility of this source aids the search for answers to historical questions. Other topics include the relationship between digital humanities and newspaper digitization and the integration of historical newspapers into school teaching. Finally, all of the questions that arise during the Information Day can be discussed with experts in a more practical-oriented Q&A session.

For more information on the agenda or to register follow this link:

We hope to welcome you in autumn at our Information Day!

Author: Martin Schaller