Music archives

For centuries, the tradition of Premonstratensian monasteries included musical activities. Naturally, chorale was sung as part of the Liturgy of the Hours and the Holy Mass. The oldest liturgical books, including sheet music (antiphonary dated 1593 and gradual dated 1594), which are preserved at Strahov date back to the times of Abbot Johann Lohel. Since the founding of "Collegium Norbertinum" (1635) the students received mandatory music education in the monastery. They had an outstanding choirmaster, Jan Lohelius Oehlschlagel (1724–1788). As a composer he enriched the choir’s collection with more than a hundred original church compositions, including Latin oratorios and a Christmas oratorio Operetta natalitia (pastoritia). For the choir he copied by hand many pieces by contemporary composers such as František Xaver Brixi, Jan Antonín Koželuh, Antonín Laube, Josef, Michael Haydn et al. His music collection forms the basis of the Strahov music archives. In 1778 Gottfried (Bohumir) Jan Dlabač (1758–1820) became his successor. From 1796 Dlabač was a member of the Royal Bohemian Society of Sciences. He was the author of Allgemeines historisches Künstlerlexikon für Böhmen und zum Theil auch Mähren und Schlesien (released in 1815). During his time and the time of his successor Gerlak Jan Strniště (from 1807), the organist at Strahov was Jan Křtitel Kuchař (1751–1829) and he was also a harpsichordist at the Estates Theatre (Stavovské divadlo). Kuchař bequeathed part of his music estate - including rare early copies of Mozart's compositions, operas in particular - to the monastery.

At present the music collection at Strahov comprises 6233 units, thus ranking among the largest music collections in Bohemia (in comparison, the collection of music of the Metropolitan Cathedral of St. Vitus in Prague has 1757 units). It is so large due to the fact that as well as the church pieces acquired for the Strahov choir, many other pieces were added to it from the parish churches where the Premonstratensians were active (e.g. Milevsko). Rare musical pieces were sometimes bought at auctions (especially during the time of Abbot Václav Mayer) or were acquired as a bequest. Thus, on the ecclesiastical scene in Prague, an extraordinarily large collection of historical music has been created that surpasses any other. Among the church pieces there are, for example, over 377 pieces by Gerlach Jan Strniště, 330 pieces by Michael Haydn, 249 pieces signed Brixi (there were several composers of that name) and 154 signed František Xaver Brixi. Almost 200 pieces are by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and, as indicated by the great number itself, they are not only church compositions, but also secular. However, there are also many secular pieces in the collection written by other composers that were played at the Strahov Monastery at the turn of the 19th century.

The gradual processing and assessment of the sources preserved in the collection will undoubtedly fundamentally enrich our knowledge of 18th century music in Bohemia.

At present the major part of the collection, including the collection of musical instruments, is stored at the National Museum - the Czech Museum of Music.

Milada Jonášová