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A Collection of Georg Rhau's Music Editions and Some Previously Unnoticed Works

Richard Charteris (notes)

Abstract

Georg Rhau (1488–1548) was an important figure in the Reformation, the beginning of which is celebrated in this quincentenary year.  Rhau published for the famous German theologian, author and teacher Martin Luther (1483–1546) and his circle a substantial body of works, many of which enjoyed considerable popularity.  A close friend of Luther and other Reformation leaders, Rhau was based in Wittenberg and his publications played a central role in the foundation of Lutheranism.  The dimensions of Rhau’s achievements can be determined from the materials in the British Library, which owns a broad cross section of his published works dealing with religious subjects and music.  In particular, his music editions in the British Library encompass all the genres used by Luther and his followers and represent a significant repository of compositions used in Lutheran institutions.  The works are scored for voices and were composed by a variety of early musicians, several of whom achieved much fame during their lifetimes and whose music continues to be performed, including that of the first Lutheran Kantor Johann Walther (1496–1570).  Until now it has not been realised that Rhau’s British Library music editions contain invaluable new material, such as:  thirty-five previously unnoticed printed hymn settings which have long been concealed in an unrelated edition and date from the early 1540s; many sixteenth-century handwritten extra verses, scattered throughout various editions, which transform specific through-composed printed hymns into strophic settings; and handwritten annotations in a number of partbooks from five editions, now distributed among seven shelfmarks, which reveal that they were once owned by the eminent German musicologist and Lutheran scholar Otto Kade (1819–1900).  The discoveries enhance the importance of the collection and emphasize the vital role of hymns in early Lutheran Churches and Schools.

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