I Composed This While Bowling
Gino Francesconi, director of Carnegie Hall's Archives and Rose Museum, introduces Vienna's Musical Giants: Treasures from the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde–the exhibit that coincides with Carnegie Hall's Vienna: City of Dreams festival.
"One of the most important music collections in the world has loaned Carnegie Hall an extraordinary selection of musical artifacts, now on view, for the first time in the United States. They are in Carnegie Hall's Rose Museum on the First Tier level of Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, where they will be until the first week of May.
Imagine in our display cases the first sketches Beethoven did for the “Ode to Joy” right next to the third movement of Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony; a piano transcription of The Blue Danube in Johann Strauss’s hand next to Mahler’s Fourth Symphony; a ticket to a concert given by Haydn—which he numbered and signed to keep track of box office receipts—next to a manuscript of Mozart’s, at the top of which he wrote, “I composed this while bowling.”
Last year, I asked Dr. Otto Biba—director of the archives, library, and collections of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Society of the Friends of Music) in Vienna—if he had any music manuscripts of the repertoire the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Vienna State Opera would perform at Carnegie Hall during the Vienna: City of Dreams festival in February and March. He replied that he did indeed have manuscripts and artifacts from every composer in the festival. Dr. Biba chose 25 items that depict different aspects of a composer’s life, from the everyday to acts of genius. He smiled when he showed me the Schubert. I personally didn’t know the composer had started to write a third movement. “Exactly,” he said.
The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde was founded in 1812 for the purpose of promoting music in every way possible. Their major goals were to produce music events, establish a conservatory for the teaching of music, and collect everything and anything related to music. No mean feat! Before long, it became a major center of musical Vienna with a distinguished membership. Schubert was a board member; Brahms was one of its directors. They built the Vienna Conservatory in 1819 and the magnificent Musikverein in 1869. Its stunning Golden Hall became legendary for its near-perfect acoustics, in which they still produce events today. It’s also the home of the Vienna Philharmonic, who rent it for their own independently produced events that include the famous New Year’s Eve Gala.
Carnegie Hall is grateful to Dr. Biba and his deputy Dr. Ingrid Fuchs for this wonderful exhibition, allowing us to share with our patrons and visitors a unique opportunity to see priceless artifacts rarely on display.
—Gino Francesconi, Carnegie Hall’s Archives and Rose Museum Director
The Rose Museum is located on the second floor of Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage. It is open daily, 11 AM–4:30 PM, and before concerts and during intermissions of events in Stern/Perelman.
Admission is free.
This exhibition is funded in part by the Susan and Elihu Rose Foundation.
Lead funding for Vienna: City of Dreams is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.