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Engraving Templates

The Preliminary Stage to the Final Print

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The Stichvorlagen or engraving templates make up the largest portion of the holdings of musical manuscripts at the Institute. They were often revised carefully by Brahms and thus possess enormous historical and editorial importance. They sometimes include extensive handwritten additions that are more than just detailed corrections, as in the supplements to the violin version of the two Clarinet Sonatas op. 120 or the fifth movement »Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit«, added to the piano reduction of Ein deutsches Requiem.

When printing a work, the engraving template takes on a mediating function between the autograph and the first edition. Usually completed by a copyist, the template serves as the model for creating the printing plates. For Johannes Brahms, the engraving templates possess a central importance in the genesis of the works, since they often attest to the »last will« of the composer. He often made fundamental revisions before printing and included changes that were still lacking in the manuscript.

The institute holds engraving templates of around 45 of Brahms works, including almost all genres of his work: orchestral and choral works, chamber music and songs. Many of the institute’s holdings come from a lucky find: in the attic of the Swiss Auckenthaler family, descendents of the Brahms publisher Fritz Simrock, a box was discovered in the late 1980s containing 32 engraving templates for works by Johannes Brahms. In 1990, the valuable manuscripts could be acquired for the Brahms-Institut with the generous support of several foundations. »The engraving template of the first movement of the First Symphony (op. 68) from the estate of Fritz Simrock is especially valuable, since the manuscript of this work has been lost. It is assumed that Brahms himself might have destroyed it to conceal the traces of the movement’s complicated emergence, with numerous corrections and revisions.« (Stefan Weymar in the catalogue Johannes Brahms – Zeichen, Bilder, Phantasien, 18).