These three pieces from the Morgan’s music manuscript collection tell a lovely little story, moving the listener from the cold bleakness of winter into the brightness of spring. They are also three of the most popular digitized manuscripts on our website. Explore the whole collection here.
Franz Schubert: Der Leiermann, from Winterreise
Probably the single best-loved musical manuscript in the Morgan’s collection, Schubert’s Winterreise is a musical setting for voice and piano of winter poems by the German poet Wilhelm Müller. When Schubert’s friends first heard this music in 1827, they were struck by its bleakness. The final song in the set, Der Leiermann (heard here), depicts a hurdy-gurdy player in the stark cold landscape.
George Frideric Handel: Comfort Ye, from Messiah
Handel’s Messiah is one of the most famous and often-performed classical pieces of all time. It has been performed every year since its premiere in Dublin, Ireland in 1742. This music gave rise to the popular Christmastime tradition of the “Messiah Sing” in which the audience sings along with the catchy choruses. Less than half of the text is about Christmas, however, and the work was premiered in April during the lenten season leading up to Easter. This aria, shown here in a copyist’s manuscript, sets to music the biblical verses from Isaiah 40:1-3, beginning “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.”
Achille-Claude Debussy: Salut printemps
Debussy wrote this sprightly choral work (the vocal score is shown here) when he was just twenty years old, as he prepared himself to enter the Prix de Rome competition, France’s most prestigious composition prize. The text, by d'Anatole de Ségur, Comte de Ségur, begins:
Salut Printemps jeune saison
Dieu rend aux plaines leur couronne...
Hello Spring young season
God returns to the plains their crown...
Assistant Curator of Music Manuscripts and Printed Music
The Morgan Library & Museum