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For the Haydn Bicentennial

Title page of Henle's facsimile of Haydn's Variation in F MinorTitle page of Henle's facsimile of Haydn's Variation in F MinorThis year has seen many concerts marking the bicentennial of composer Joseph Haydn's death on May 31, 1809. As part of these events, the publisher, G. Henle Verlag of Munich has issued a facsimile of one of the Music Division's prized manuscripts, Haydn's Variations in F Minor, Hob. XVII:6. Composed in 1793, this work contains (in the words of noted musicologist James Webster): "arguably Haydn’s most original and concentrated double-variation movement, with a coda (added in revision) of Beethovenian power."

Binding of the manuscriptBinding of the manuscript

It is not known who owned this manuscript after its composition. We do know that sometime in the 19th century, it was bound in yellow leather by David Bedford of London. 

A fragment from an unidentified mid-19th century German auction or dealer's catalog is pasted onto one of the inside pages, listing this manuscript as lot number 2436. Listing from an unidentified 19th century auction catalogListing from an unidentified 19th century auction catalog

At some point it came into the possession of Frederick Locker, a British poet and book collector. His bookplate can be seen on the inside cover:

(Locker had progressive ideas about women; when he married his second wife, he appended her surname to his and became known as Frederick Locker-Lampson.) He listed the manuscript in an 1886 catalog of his library named Rowfant Library.

After his death in 1895 the manuscript was purchased by Christian Archibald Herter, a physician and pathologist (and father of the same-named Governor of Massachusetts, later Secretary of State under President Eisenhower). He also affixed his bookplate on the inside cover:Bookplate of Christian Archibald HerterBookplate of Christian Archibald Herter

After his death in 1910, the manuscript came into the possession of Herter's friend, Lillie P. Bliss, known for her philanthropy (particularly at the New York Public Library and the Museum of Modern Art). Upon her passing in 1932, the descendants of Herter and Bliss donated the manuscript to the Music Division, where it now carries the call number JOE 72-13.

Henle, one of the world's leading publishers of music, took great care in preparing this edition, even making sure to accurately replicate the colors of the manuscript. In the photograph below, the facsimile (on the bottom) is aligned with the original (on the top), with both open to the first page of music. You can see that the smudges on both original and facsimile resemble each other, and that the red pencil used for the combination of pound sign and circle figure above the staff on the third system looks almost exactly the same. (Henle made the black ink slightly darker than the original, which makes the facsimile much easier to read than the original.)

We are very proud to have had this manuscript chosen to commemorate the Haydn bicentennial in such a beautiful and affordable facsimile.


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I did not know that one of

I did not know that one of Haydn's most beautiful and deeply personal pieces was in the collection of NYPL. What a feather in their (its?) cap. Thank you for this informative article. The Henle website also gives some interesting history: "It was by a roundabout route that the autograph score of Haydn’s most important piano work ended up in the New York Library via a collector. Its four leaves contain a fair copy of the work; two leaves with a sketch-like character follow. Haydn composed the work, at the time still entitled “Sonate”, for “Signora de Ployer” (probably the pianist Barbara Ployer associated with Mozart). The variation movement was apparently intended as the beginning of a sonata with several movements. As can be seen from the second part of the autograph score, Haydn later extended the movement and ended it with an expansive Capriccio Coda. The first print already bears the title “Variations”. The moving masterpiece has been played all over the world under the title “Variations in f minor” ever since."

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