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


The Austrian National Library, Europeana and World War One

An meine VölkerAs part of the best practice network Europeana Awareness, the Austrian National Library has teamed up with Europeana to promote not only Europeana, but especially Europeana’s contribution to the commemoration of the First World War in Austria.

On Friday, August 1, 2014, a Collection Day will be held at the ORF Radiokulturhaus, Argentinierstraße 30a, 1040 Vienna from 10:00 to 18:00. Bring your memorabilia of the Great War such as letters, diaries, postcards, photographs, etc. to be digitised and included in the vast collection of World War One material that has already been made available through the project Europeana 1914-1918.

In Europeana 1914-1918, stories from the public such as unpublished letters, photographs and keepsakes from the war are being collected and digitised. To date, twenty countries have taken part in Europeana 1914-1918’s family history roadshows, digitising over 130,000 items.

But you cannot only find personal memorabilia on Europeana 1914-1918; the World War One portal gives you access to institutional material as well. You can research digital objects from the projects Europeana Collections 1914-1918 and the European Film Gateway 1914 (EFG 1914), but you will also discover sources from Australia (Digital Public Library of America, Trove) and New Zealand (Digital New Zealand).

Within the project Europeana Collections 1914-1918, a consortium of 12 partners including ten national libraries (the Austrian National Library was one of them!) digitized over 400,000 documents representing the full range of their collections including books, newspapers, trench journals, maps, sheet music, children’s literature, photographs, posters, pamphlets, propaganda leaflets, original art, religious works, medals, coins and much more.

EFG 1914 has digitized 660 hours of films and 5,600 film-related documents of its 26 partners including newsreels, documentaries, fiction films, propaganda and anti-war films. The films can be watched on the Europeana website as well as at the European Film Gateway.

All these digitisation efforts should serve the need to understand our common history and to learn from it. Digitisation nowadays plays a vital role in discovering interesting artefacts to illustrate history and to enable transnational perspectives on historic events. Hans Petschar, Historian and Librarian at the Austrian National Library: “Europeana 1914-1918 permits to overcome National stereotypes and nationalist historical views on the First World War dominating the Centenary events 2014. Looking at the fascinating individual memories from all regions and parts of Europe we can imagine the scientific potential of transnational and global views on the Great War.”

The Austrian National Library is commemorating the Great War with the exhibition  “An meine Völker! Der Erste Weltkrieg 1914-1918” (“To My Peoples! The First World War 1914-1918”), which runs until November 2, 2014. Curated by the renowned historian Univ.-Prof. Dr. Manfried Rauchensteiner, the exhibition presents the war from the perspective of the exceptional World War I collection of the former Imperial Court Library. A large amount of objects was only able to be made available and is now on display because of the Europeana Collections 1914-1918 project.

Since the exhibition has been such a great success, we have decided in the course of the promotion for the Collection Day to make it available online. Based on the physical exhibition, aspects of the First World War’s history are presented in seven chapters and illustrated by material accessible through Europeana. It guides you through the Emperor’s manifestos, from announcements for mobilisation, to administering shortages, to dealing with prisoners of war and refugees. It focuses on the role of Emperor Franz Joseph and his successor and grandnephew Karl. The big influnce of the Great War on children is presented in remarkable drawings and letters by students in the chapter “My dear Pupils”. The exhibitions ends with a selection of photographs from the front, the hinterland and life in the field.

Or browse through other digital sources developed by Europeana Collections 1914-1918 partners:

Author: Susanne Tremml