Catalogue of Letters and Other Documents

By Bonnie Lomnäs

Statens musiksamlingar
Stockholm 1998

Published with Stiftelsen Musikkulturens Främjande


In the Nydahl Collection, and not least in its holdings of letters and other documents (about 6000 items), Sweden has one of its most precious music treasures. The letters in the collection are written by and to composers, musicians, music historians, critics etc. The documents are such as contracts, librettos, articles and reviews.

Rudolf Nydahl acquired most of this material in Paris and in Germany. He was one of the major purchasers of Wilhelm Heyer's collection of letters and sheet music when this was auctioned in 1927.

In the beginning of this century numerous letters to music publishers were sold at auctions in Europe. Thus Nydahl could obtain correspondence to the publishing houses Breitkopf & Hartel, Kistner, Peters, Schlesinger, Schuberth and Senff. The Swedish letters in the collection were mainly bought at book auctions in Stockholm, or came into Nydahl's hands via private intermediaries.

The letters are mainly in French, German and Italian, however, in all eleven languages are represented. The oldest letters are from the end of the 16th century, and the most recent from the 1970's, the majority, however, dates from the 19th century. Among the letters from composers some are written by the most celebrated, e.g. Georg Friedrich Handel (1 letter), Christoph Willibald Gluck (5), Joseph Haydn (1), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1), Ludwig van Beethoven (2 and 2 leaves from a conversation book), Carl Maria von Weber (6), Felix Mendelssohn (22), Frederic Chopin (8), Robert Schumann (9). Franz Liszt (16), Richard Wagner (14 and 11 telegrams), Giuseppe Verdi (5), Anton Bruckner (2), Johannes Brahms (13), Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1) and Gustav Mahler (2).

Since Rudolf Nydahl was strongly French-oriented in his tastes - he chose to study music at the Paris Conservatoire, and spent several months a year in Paris - it is only natural that a major portion of the collection consists of letters in French. These often relate to the Conservatoire, the Opera and the Opera Comique.

The body of letters from French composers is truly amazing. Here we find letters from Etienne Mehul, Fromental Hafevy (79), Adolphe Adam, Ambroise Thomas, Charles Gounod, Jacques Offenbach, Camille Saint-Saens (74), Leo Delibes, George Bizet (103), Jules Massenet (47), Charles-Marie Widor, Gabriel Faure, Vincent d'lndy, Claude Debussy, Paul Dukas and others. The Italian composers are represented by letters from e.g. Luigi Chembini, Ferdinando Paer, Gioachino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti, Giuseppe Verdi, Ruggiero Leoncavallo and Giacomo Puccini.

Letters from great singers are frequent in the collection. Both the Swedish singers Jenny Lind (several) and Christine Nilsson are represented. Among foreign singers we find Angelica Catalani, Paulina Anna Milder-Hauptmann, Giuditta Pasta, Wilhelmine Schroeder-Devrient, Henriette Sontag, Maria Malibran, Celestine Galli-Marie, Luigi Lablache, Giovanni Battista Rubini and Enrico Caruso.

There are letter-writing pianists: Clara Schumann, Julius Schulhoff, Raoul Pugno and Teresa Carreno, and also violinists: Nicolo Paganini, Ole Bull, Hubert Leonard, Joseph Joachim, Henri Wieniawski, Wilma Neruda (-Norman), August Wilhelmj, Eugene Ysaye, Henri Marteau, Fritz Kreisler and Camilla Wicks.

Swedish composers, or foreign composers active in Sweden, are of course represented, though to a lesser degree, and include Abbe Vogler, Edouard Du Puy, Bemhard Crusell, Franz Berwald, Adolf Fredrik Lindblad and August Soderman. An extensive letter from 1777, written by Johann Gottlieb Naumann and acquired from the above mentioned Heyer-collection, depicts Sweden and the Swedes as "ein rauhes wildes Land, und eine gantz eigene Nation". In the beginning of his stay in Sweden Naumann was obviously considering returning home to Germany.

Among musicologists we find such names as Friedrich Chrysander, the extremely productive Fran9ois-Joseph Fetis, the Bach researcher Philipp Spitta, August Wilhelm Ambros and Max Friedlaender.

Nydahl also had literary interests; thus a smaller portion of the collected letters are written by foreign authors, e.g. Charles-Simon Favart, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1 letter and 4 text fragments), Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, E.T.A. Hoffmann and Romain Rolland. Among Swedish writers represented are Carl Michael Bellman, Carl Jonas Love Almqvist and GustafFroding.

The collection of letters and other documents contains some separate collections, of which five are of particular interest:

1. The oldest of these collections relates to the family of Jean-Philippe Rameau. It consists of family correspondence, a checklist of the scores and music literature of his eldest son, as well as Rameau's last complete theoretical treatise, Verites egalement ignorees et interessantes tirees du sein de la nature. The treatise is a copy, however, with corrections made in Rameau's own hand……..