Department of Music

Music archive of international importance

The Department of Music of the Austrian National Library constitutes Austria's biggest music archive, and is both a modern academic research library and a place where the most valuable original musical manuscripts are kept.

We hold music manuscripts, prints, librettos for operas and vocal works, literature on music studies, recording media and the bequests of important Austrian composers, and make them accessible to users.

Mozart’s “Requiem”, Haydn’s “Kaiserhymne”, Beethoven’s violin concert, the bequests of Anton Bruckner and Alban Berg – the collection of original manuscripts in the Department of Music is of an international standard. The archive of the former Imperial court orchestra provides a unique insight in the musical life of baroque Vienna. And a comprehensive collection of handwritten and printed music from the 16th to the 21st century documents the diversity of Vienna – a cosmopolitan city when it comes to music.

Find out which treasures are held in the Department of Music and how you can use the holdings.

The history of the Department of Music

The Department of Music was not exactly founded, but developed over the centuries from the collections of the former Imperial Court Library

  • As early as 1655, the library acquired valuable musical material with the purchase of Albert Fugger's library.
  • Gottfried van Swieten, Prefect of the Imperial Library from 1777 until 1803, was very interested in music and played an important role in developing the library's musical collections through his friendship with composers such as Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
  • An important acquisition for the Department of Music was made in 1826 with the help of the Prefect Moritz, Prince of Dietrichstein, who arranged for the former holdings of the Court Music Orchestra to be transferred to the Imperial Library.
  • From 1920 until 2005, the Department of Music was located in the Albertina Building, becoming both an archive of Austria's most important musical heritage and also a modern academic reference library.
  • In 2005, the move to the Palais Mollard (Vienna 1, Herrengasse 9) meant an extensive physical and administrative new start for the Department of Music.

Important collections

  • The historically most important collections are the music manuscripts, including original manuscripts by Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert and Anton Bruckner.
  • Large choir books document liturgical practice in the late Middle Ages, while numerous copied documents, especially material from the Viennese Court Orchestra and historic theatre and church archives, are excellent sources of material about musical history.
  • The handwritten scores, bound in white parchment, from the “chamber library” of Leopold I (“bibliotheca cubicularis”), and the scores from the time of Charles VI, all bound in brown leather, give a broad insight into the music played at the Viennese court, where Italian opera and oratorios were most popular. 
  • The Department of Music preserves the bequests of composers and performers, indexed by the individual or the organisation, and other archival material. Of particular importance are the legacies of Anton Bruckner, Alban Berg, Hans Pfitzner and numerous Austrian composers from the 20th century.
  • Our comprehensive collection of about 8,000 first and early editions of works by the great masters, from Bach to Brahms, constitutes one of the largest collections of its kind in the world to be accumulated privately (Hoboken Archive).

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