Welcome to the Catalogue of the Music Collection of the Dresden Catholic Court Church 1765

This resource presents the music collection of Dresden’s Catholic court church (the Hofkirche) as it was catalogued in 1765. The collection, parts of which Johann Sebastian Bach would have known through his connections with the musicians and composers of the Dresden court, comprised works that were either composed for, or collected and adapted for use in the royal chapel of a court renowned for its musical taste and excellence of its musical establishment.

The data is presented in the order of listings given in the only known surviving complete thematic catalogue of the music collection of this court church which was compiled in three volumes and finalised on 9 March, 1765. Titled ‘Catalogo [Thematico] della Musica di Chiesa [catholica in Dresda] composta Da diversi Autori - secondo l’Alfabetto 1765’ and assembled soon after the end of the Seven Year’s War (1756–1763), this inventory now is held in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Musikabteilung (D-B, Mus. ms. theor. Kat. 186).

Of a later catalogue compiled circa 1784 only volume 3 survives. Titled ‘Catalogo della Musica di Chiesa, composta da diversi Autori secondo l’alfabetto [sic]. Armaro IIIzo, principiando dalla littera S sino al Z con con l’aggiunta degl’Autori senza Nome’, this volume is held in the Sächsische Landesbibliothek — Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden (D-Dl, Sign. Bibl. Arch. III H 788,3). Carl Uhle, the Dresden court copyist of this volume died in 1784, providing a terminus ante quem, at least for volume III, and I propose that this later catalogue was compiled in or about 1784. This date is suggested by a court record of 2 March 1786 which shows that a sum of 20 [thaler] 20 [gr.] was paid to a bookbinder known only as ‘Wenzel’ for volumes which included ‘Catalogum derer Kirchen Musicalien, in 4. Englische folio Bände’. (D-Dla, 10026 Geheimes Kabinett, Loc. 910/8, ff 163b–164a).  I suggest that three of the four volumes were the Catalogo of circa 1784, and the other was the ‘Catalogo della Musica di Chiesa composta Giov: Adolfo Hasse’ (D-Dl, Bibl. Arch. III Hb. 790a Nr. 242). This catalogue includes a listing of Hasse’s final mass of 1783, his ‘Messa ultima’ (see Wolfgang Hochstein, ‘Der ‘neue’ Hasse-Katalog [HK-Dresden’]), which places the time of preparation in or after 1783 when the ‘Messa ultima’ was composed.  A number of catalogue labels (Titel Etiketten) that were prepared to accompany items entered into both catalogues are still found with the collection of about 800 items held in SLUB mainly as manuscripts. 

Apart from the inclusion of a small collection of published music (which probably was acquired for use by the Kapellknaben of the Dresden Catholic court church) the growth of this important library of sacred music for the Catholic service was due to the resourcefulness of the Saxon Electress Maria Josepha who was crowned Queen of Poland in January 1734. At her instigation the Dresden court acquired the musical estates of (among others)

Compositions and collections of Heinichen, Zelenka, and Ristori form the backbone of the collection catalogued in 1765. Other notable collections seen in the Catalogo (1765) are

This investigation is an outcome of an ARC QE II Fellowship (2000–2005) titled ‘The other side of the coin: Catholic liturgical music in Lutheran Saxony during Bach’s era’.

 For further details see this detailed foreword.