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Raphael Georg Kiesewetter
Geschichte der europaeisch-abendlaendischen
oder unsrer heutigen Musik

(Leipzig: Breitkopf und Haertel, 1846)

Raphael Georg Kiesewetter, Geschichte der europaeisch-abendlaendischen oder unsrer heutigen Musik

Like many other music historians, Raphael Georg Kiesewetter (1773–1850) had a day job far removed from music; for decades he held a high-ranking position in the Imperial war office in Vienna. In 1843 he was ennobled for his service to the Austrian empire. In his spare time, he was an amateur musician as well as a scholar; he played several instruments, and as a young man he studied with J.G. Albrechtsberger, who also numbered Beethoven among his pupils. Like Fétis, Kiesewetter organized historically-oriented concerts to disseminate his interest in the music of earlier eras. Such activity was not altogether without precedent in Vienna; in the 1780s and ’90s, Baron Gottfried van Swieten had supported performances of Bach, Handel, and others, and thus helped bring these composers to the attention of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.

Kiesewetter wrote numerous books and articles, of which the Geschichte der europäisch-abendländischen oder unsrer heutigen Musik is the most important. He portrays the history of western music in terms of the achievements of great men; he divides the years from 901 to 1832 into 17 epochs, which he made a point of naming after prominent composers (or theorists, in the case of a few of the early periods). The only exception is the 12th century, which is “Ohne Namen,” or “without names.” Many of Kiesewetter’s choices are predictable, such as the epochs of Dufay, Monteverdi, or Haydn and Mozart, but others might be more surprising to modern readers: the period from 1725 to 1760 is styled the Epoch of Leo and Durante (leaders of the Neapolitan School), with Bach and Handel playing only a supporting role. Kiesewetter’s final period, from 1800 to 1832, is the Epoch of Beethoven and Rossini, a pairing that would probably have seemed completely natural to his contemporaries.

The page displayed here is from an appendix dealing with neumatic notation.

Aside from this and other works on western music, Kiesewetter also wrote a pioneering study of the music of the Arabs, which is notable because he used sources in Arabic as well as western languages, thanks to the linguistic assistance of Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall. Up to that time, research on non-western music had relied almost exclusively on secondary sources in European languages.

Kiesewetter was the uncle of August Wilhelm Ambros, whose Geschichte der Musik is also on display in this exhibit.

The full text of another copy of this book is available online.


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