Voices from 18th Century: Johann Mattheson and ‘Der Brauchbare Virtuoso’



In 18th-century Germany, it sometimes took a while for a piece of music to go from submission to printing, sometimes taking years before being made available by a publishing house.

In the foreword to Johann Mattheson‘s Der brauchbare Virtuoso (Hamburg: Schiller and Kiβner, 1720)—a collection of sonatas for violin and flute—we find out just how long it took even a successful composer to have his music published (and what his thoughts on the matter were).

These works were finished and placed at the publisher’s disposal three years ago; however, he did not deem it advisable to publish them until now. Now, although I readily submit to all sensible opinions (and I cannot help but boast that I have [never] been associated with [such] a skilful, erudite, and active man as Herr Kiβner), I feel that in practical music three years matter greatly and change many things, and that, were I for example to compose twelve such sonatas now, they would have to be somewhat more galant. (Translation: Steven Zohn)

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