The “Schrank II” or the legacy of Concert Master Johann Georg Pisendel

Johann Georg Pisendel

At his death, in 1755, Pisendel left an archive of approximately 1800 sheet music. Unfortunately, we know that a large part of the collection was lost in the flames during the siege of Dresden and the bombings of the Prussian troops in 1760. The remaining scores were transferred to the cellars of the Katholischen Hofkirche of Dresden .

The Ruins of the old Kreuzkirche in Dresden

The Ruins of the old Kreuzkirche in Dresden after the siege of 1760 – Source: Bernardo Bellotto, 1765 retrieved from Commons Wikimedia


The site of Dresden took place in July of 1760 during the Third War of Silésia (part of the Seven Years’ War) when a Prussian force headed by Frederick the Great unsuccessfully besieged the city of Dresden in Saxony.

The scores were stored in cabinet number “two” (“Schrank II” in German), filed in meticulous alphabetical order and prepared for a hundred years’ oblivion.

After a hundred years of complete oblivion, the composer, conductor and cellist Julius Rietz (1812-1877), who at that time held the position of musical director  of the city of Dresden rediscovered the collection. After the discovery, Moritz Fürstenau (1824 – 1889), in charge of the Königliche Privatmusiksammlung and flutist of the Hofkapelle, took the task of assigning new file numbers to the scores and including them in the royal collection (Königliche Privatmusiksammlung).

Later, in 1896, the manuscripts became part of what is now known as Die Sächsische Landesbibliothek  Staats  und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden (SLUB). In 1926 the collection was relocated again and the scores received the current signature.

Although Pisendel became part of the orchestra of the court of Dresden in 1712, and he took the role of concertmaster officially in 1728, we can assume that the birth of his collection in Dresden took place upon his return from Italy in September 1717, in any case no later than 1728. 

During his work in Dresden Johann Georg Pisendel was in charge, among other things, of the instrumental music of the court of Dresden (Repertoire der Instrumentalmusik) . This charge required Pisendel “to get and arrange own music and that of other composers” for the musical chore of the court. With this purpose Pisendel stored a large amount of music and devoted himself to the search for new compositions and an adequate repertoire.

Mr Pisendel

But the repertoire collected by Pisendel is much richer than that demanded by his official obligations. Pisendel was without a doubt a passionate collector of music. Thus, it is possible to find works belonging to an entirely private collection [Privatsammlung] that did not enter the official repertoire of the Hofpkapelle .

In this way it is possible to find scores that belong to a period before the entry of Pisendel in the court of Dresden in 1712. A special example is the Trio Sonata RV 820 by Vivaldi, copied by Pisendel during his stay as a student of Torelli in Ansbach, possibly about the year 1705. 

Vivaldi Trio Sonata RV 820 (Snakewood Editions)
Vivaldi Trio Sonata RV 820 (Snakewood Editions)

It is very possible that these old scores where put together after his return from his journey to Italy in 1717 to became the first stones of his collection.

Scaramuccia: 1717 memories of a Journey to Italy
Scaramuccia 1717 Memories of a Journey to Italy

Pisendel was collecting music and increasing his collection till his death in 1755. The archive contains about 1800 pieces of music, containing works by nearly 200 composers. Still there are about 190 manuscripts that contain more than 200 pieces in the Schrank II and many pieces remain unperformed. A treasure waiting to be rediscovered.

A look into the Schrank II reveals not only an orchestral archive but the musical memories of a great virtuoso of the 18th century, Let´s see some exciting examples!

During his travel to Italy Pisendel took lessons with Vivaldi and Montanari. The Schrank II keeps the records of those encounters!

Montanari´s annotation in a Pisendel sonata
Montanari´s annotation in a Pisendel sonata.

The following example is a concerto for violin and orchestra by Pisendel.

Pisendel concerto with 
Vivaldi annotations
Pisendel concerto with Vivaldi’s annotations.

Do you see all these corrections and the different font used in the last staff?. This is the hand of Antonio Lucio Vivaldi.

Another memory from Vivaldi. The autograph of the concerto dedicated to Pisendel RV 340 by Vivaldi with a nice annotation by the Venetian master:

RV 340 by Vivaldi
Concerto “Per Pisendel” RV 340 by Vivaldi and the annotation “Per li Coglioni” ( ‘for blockheads’ )

As we do with our scores, it is possible to find a lot of annotations made on the score by Pisendel:

Fingerings:

Pisendel concerto
Some fingerings in the solo part of Pisendel Concerto JunP 1.7

Other instruments parts as a cue in order to lead the orchestra better:

Flute part wrote in Pisendel's part of a Fasch Suite (Mus. 2423-N-3)
Flute part wrote in Pisendel’s part of a Fasch Suite (Mus. 2423-N-3)

Lots of annotations for embellishments and ornaments (I mean really a lot of manuscripts with this kind of annotations).

Like this manuscript containing the concerto RV 202 by Vivaldi.
Pisendel wrote four versions of embellishments for the Adagio of the Vivaldi concerto RV 202, so full that there is not a single bar without ornaments. The manuscript also features four different cadenzas to be included at the end of the solo (without any mark in the tutti parts!), some dynamic annotations, double stops, chromatic scales…

Embellishments by Pisendel for Vivaldi concerto RV 202

A horn part written on the back of a card!

Leopoldo Cesare  Graziani (?). Concerto for Orchestra (Mus.3736-O-1). Extra horn part by Pisendel
Leopoldo Cesare  Graziani (?). Concerto for Orchestra (Mus.3736-O-1). Extra horn part by Pisendel

We are developing an ambitious project that includes several CD recordings (mostly featuring world premiere recordings, with 1717. Memories of a journey to Italy being the first CD), editions of unpublished scores audio, videos and articles that accompany the discovery of a mostly forgotten repertoire contained in the private collection of Pisendel in the Dresden archive, known as Cabinet II.

Stay tuned! Snakewood and Scaramuccia ensemble are going to unveil some musical treasures kept in this Cabinet II.

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