Paul Wittgenstein plays piano for composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Los Angeles, 1934 – CC BY 4.0 Deed, retrieved from:
(The photo has been cropped. The quotations were added by E. Reisinger and are from a draft contract between Wittgenstein and Korngold from 1926, preserved at the Library of Congress, Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund.)

For centuries, the funding and promotion of new compositions in the sphere of “classical” music (in the broadest sense) was provided by the social and economic elites. From the early twentieth century, performers increasingly also appear in this position, for instance, as commissioners for composers. Historiography of music, for a long time focusing on the (autonomous) work and its author (the independent, foremost male and white genius), has barely turned its interest to this phenomenon. The research presented here highlights the involvement of performers in the process of musical creation and repertoire formation, and addresses questions on social, economic, and legal conditions, artistic collaborations, and the afterlife of the musical result.

In the blog section of this website, I will document my research in the field of performer patronage, currently focusing on early twentieth century-musicians, present archival findings, and introduce case studies of outstanding performers, who essentially shaped their instruments’ repertoire. Additionally, announcements for lectures, publications, conferences, and other events (such as concerts) will be published.

“Historical Perspectives on Musical Commissions” – International Workshop

May 17, 2024, 9:30h–18:30h
University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Lothringerstraße 18 (seminar room LS 01 46, Center for Research on Gustav Mahler and Viennese Modernism), 1030 Vienna

Download program and abstracts:

This workshop focuses on the often neglected aspect of musical commissions – a specific form of patronage, which Louis Epstein defined as “premeditated collaborations between patrons and composers to produce new music,” resulting from “formal solicitations, often written, sometimes legally binding” (L. Epstein, The Creative Labor of Music Patronage in Interwar France, Boydell, 2022). Scholars from Austria, Germany, Hungary, the UK, and the US will present their research. The topics range from the early eighteenth century to the present, and from Europe to North America. On this basis, we will discuss, for example, questions of hierarchy and power, the interaction of economic, political, and cultural actors, or the creative possibilities of the individual in collaborative constellations.

Guests are welcome. There is no fee, but we ask that you register by May 9, 2024 via email at: Johanna Stacher, (Please also indicate if you plan to join us for lunch and/or dinner so that we can make reservations.) Upon registration, you will receive some reading material that will serve as a joint basis for discussion.