Music blog

Music news and views

10 March 2017

Music and poetry from the Zweig Collection (20 March, 7pm)

As regular readers of this blog will know, the Stefan Zweig Collection is one of the jewels in the crown of the British Library. Featuring works by Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner and Stravinsky, to name just a few of the principal composers, the collection offers a treasure trove of iconic musical masterpieces from the 18th to the 20th centuries. 

Beethoven  Der Kuss

Beethoven, Der Kuss, song with piano (words by Christian Felix Weisse), op. 128.  Autograph manuscript (Zweig MS 10.)

Zweig’s stated aim was to assemble a collection that represented the entirety of high European culture, literally bringing under his hands key works by what he considered to be a ‘magical circle of sublime figures’ – not only composers, but also literary and historical figures. Largely assembled between the two World Wars, the collection also gave tangible expression to Zweig’s hopes for European unity, an ideal dashed by the rise of Hitler and Zweig’s exile from the continent he loved. 

A handsomely illustrated catalogue of the music manuscripts in the collection, with detailed descriptions and commentaries by Arthur Searle, was published in 1999. A companion volume exploring the literary and historical manuscripts, issued to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Zweig’s death last month, brings to life the breadth of his interests and literary sympathies, from Goethe to Balzac to Byron.  To mark this publication, we are hosting several events at the Library in St Pancras: a free exhibition of selected items from the collection in the Treasures Gallery (‘Stefan Zweig: the Magic of Manuscripts’, until 11 June), a study day with invited speakers to explore the historical and cultural contexts for Zweig’s collecting (‘Stefan Zweig: European, Humanist, Collector’, 20 March); and a recital of music and poetry from the collection (‘Music and poetry from the Zweig Collection’, 20 March at 7pm).  

Schubert  An die Musik

Schubert, An die Musik, for voice and piano (words by Franz Schober), D. 547. Autograph manuscript (Zweig MS 81A.)

The recital will conjure up in words and music the culture that Zweig inhabited and the social and political climate that shaped his life. Featuring the actor Samuel West, with pianist Simon Callaghan, soprano Ilona Domnich and baritone Simon Wallfisch, the recital will include some of the most beautiful songs from the collection, ranging from Mozart and Beethoven to Hugo Wolf and Richard Strauss.  These will be interspersed with a narrative charting Zweig’s life and approach to collecting, with readings from works by Shelley, Keats, Verlaine and Wilde, among others.  Tickets for this event and the study day are available through the links above.

Wolf  Gesang Weylas

Hugo Wolf, Gesang Weylas, song with piano (words by Eduard Mörike). Autograph manuscript (Zweig MS 130.)