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Jahrbuch der Tonkunst von Wien und Prag

(Vienna, 1796)

Prepared by Alexander Staub
Online only (2021)

The Jahrbuch der Tonkunst von Wien und Prag (JWP) was published in 1796 by the von Schönfeldischer Verlag, whose proprietor, Johann Ferdinand Ritter von Schönfeld, also owned two printing presses in Vienna and Prague. The preface prognosticated a continuation of the yearbook in case the readership responded positively to the publication; this was never realized, however.

It had been Schönfeld’s goal to provide a comprehensive directory of significant musicians active in Vienna and Prague, a patriotic contemporary portrait that would preserve their memory for posterity. To avoid possible accusations of slander, the entries were listed in alphabetical order, as in a biographical lexicon.

Comprising 15 categories each, the yearbook presented musicians and the staff of music institutions as well as the general conditions of music making in the two cities. The first half of the volume provided information on Vienna, and the second, separated by a subheading and in slightly altered form, addressed the situation in Prague. Identical in both parts were the categories “Virtuosen und Dilettanten” [Virtuosos and amateurs], “Dilettantenakademien” [Academies for dilettantes], “Herrschaftliche Hauskapellen und Harmonien” [Noble private chapels], “Liebhaber, welche […] Sammlungen von Musikalien besitzen” [Private owners of music collections], “Kompositeurs” [Composers], “Musikhändler und Verleger” [Music dealers and publishers], “Instrumentenmacher” [Instrument makers], “Opernorchester beim Nationaltheater” [The opera orchestra at the national theatre] and “Orchester [aller bedeutenden] Theater” [Orchestras of [renowned] theatres]. For Vienna Schönfeld listed the additional categories “Besondere Freunde, Beschützer und Kenner” [Special friends, guardians and connoisseurs], “Kaiserlich Königliche Hofkapellen” [Imperial royal court chapels] and “Direktores auf der Violine” [Concert masters], whereas for Prague he added “Fragment eines Testaments” [Fragment of a testimonial], “Betrachtungen über die Musik“ [Reflections on music], “Bemerkungen für Dichter, welche für musikalische Kompositionen zu schreiben haben“ [Observations for poets having to provide librettos] and “Über die Verhältnisse, den Gebrauch und die Wirkung verschiedener Instrumente“ [On the relationship between various instruments, their use and their effect].

Through his Jahrbuch Schönfeld has provided us with an invaluable portrait of musical life and its role in the urban societies of Vienna and Prague, and he certainly has done justice to his own aspiration to preserve this knowledge for posterity.