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August Wilhelm Ambros
Geschichte der Musik
depuis les temps les plus anciens

Second Edition, (Leipzig: F.E.C. Leuckarts, 1881-93)

August Wilhelm Ambros, Geschichte der Musik

August Wilhelm Ambros (1816–1876) initially pursued music as an avocation; he earned a legal degree from the University of Prague, and like his uncle Raphael Georg Kiesewetter, he spent much of his career in the service of the Austrian imperial government. In his spare time Ambros wrote numerous studies of the history and theory of music, as well as of art and architecture. These works induced the publisher F.E.C. Leuckarts to ask him to write a general history of music. The first three volumes of the Geschichte der Musik appeared in 1862, 1864, and 1868. In the course of preparing them, Ambros visited archival repositories throughout Europe. The depth of his research as well as the breadth of his cultural knowledge made Ambros the most respected music historian of his era. Eventually he was able to exchange his civil service career for an academic one; he taught at the University of Prague, and later in Vienna at both the Conservatory and the University.

Like Fétis and Forkel, Ambros died before he could finish his magnum opus. Gustav Nottebohm (who is still famous for his work on Beethoven’s sketchbooks) completed the fourth volume, published in 1878. The fifth, an anthology completed by Otto Kade, appeared in 1882. None of these volumes—based on Ambros’s own work—went much beyond the Renaissance, so Wilhelm Langhans wrote his own conclusion to the series, entitled Die Geschichte der Musik des 17., 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts in chronologischem Anschlusse an die Musikgeschichte von A.W. Ambros.

The library has the second edition of the Geschichte der Musik, published between 1881 and 1893. Horatio Parker’s Yale lectures (an example of which is also featured in this exhibit) draw heavily on his reading of Ambros.


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