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Musikalisches Kunstmagazin

(Berlin, 1782-1791)

Prepared by Alexander Staub
Online only (2022)

The Musikalisches Kunstmagazin [MKG] appeared in the years 1782 and 1791 in two volumes with four issues each. While the four issues of the first volume comprise an average of 52 pages, the second volume contains about 30 pages per issue, with no. 6 counting only 24 pages and 40 pages for no. 5. The journal was produced by Johann Friedrich Reichardt.

Both the dedication at the beginning of the first volume— “An Großgute Regenten” [To benevolent princes]— and the postscript are dated 1 October 1782. Due to financial straits the second volume followed nine years later. To cover the costs of the magazine that he published privately in Berlin, Reichardt needed 500 presubscribers. However, he secured only 327 regular readers (and 428 for the second volume) whose paying morale has to be assessed as doubtful. By choosing to dedicate his periodical to “An Großgute Regenten,” Reichardt made a clear statement: On the one hand his periodical was produced for music lovers as a means to help develop their taste, yet on the other hand—and this was remarkable at the time—it was addressed to connoisseurs, intending to equip them with the right appreciation of the art, to convey great enthusiasm to the artist and to draw attention to a better, more appropriate and more refined education of the artist.

The Musikalisches Kunstmagazin has to be considered Reichardt’s main journalistic achievement addressing key issues on music and musicians: The social role of the artist, the aesthetic ideal of the folksong, the need to establish a national opera, and the founding of singing schools. In addition, Reichardt demanded that the listener develop a new receptive attitude that would distance itself from a primarily affective art and instead aim for immediacy and expressiveness. Reichardt wrote most of the contributions himself, and if not, he at least added personal comments.

The section “Merkwürdige Stücke großer Meister verschiedener Zeiten und Völker” [Noteworthy pieces by great masters of different times and peoples], found in every issue of the two volumes, contained editions of complete compositions or larger extracts of works by C. P. E. Bach, Georg Benda, François Couperin, Francesco Durante, Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch, Christoph Willibald Gluck, Georg Friedrich Händel, Reinhard Keiser, Johann Philipp Kirnberger, Leonardo Leo, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Johann Friedrich Reichardt and Johann Abraham Peter Schulz, to name only the most well-known masters. In the second volume Reichardt proceeded to print the musical pieces in one issue and then to comment them in the next, so as to “allow the music lover first to enjoy these pieces undisturbed and in his own way” [“dem Kunstfreunde solche Stücke zuerst ganz ungestört nach seiner Art geniessen zu lassen”]. Under the heading “Fingerzeige für den denkenden und forschenden deutschen Tonkünstler” [Advice for the reflective and investigative German musician] Reichardt published several times commented excerpts of writings on philological and cultural topics. Under “Neue merkwürdige musikalische Werke” [New and noteworthy musical works] he introduced recently published treatises on music; “Kunstnachrichten” and “Kunstanekdoten” [News and anecdotes] rounded off the content of the periodical. Apparently Reichardt was particularly enthusiastic about the works of Handel and Klopstock, which is attested by his contribution “Ueber Klopstocks komponirte Oden” [On settings of Klopstock’s odes] and by the numerous odes he himself composed on texts by Klopstock. Further, the journal proposed nobler and more appropriate poetic texts for sacred compositions, emphasized the significance of musical education for children and the importance of “Genuine music institutions” [“ächte Musikanstalten”]; it also presented practice-oriented contributions on topics like voice physiognomy and musical execution. Bridging the time gap between two volumes is a “Chronologisches Verzeichnis der im Druck erschienenen Werke von J. F. Reichardt” [Chronological inventory of printed works by J. F. Reichardt] in the fourth and eighth issues.

The readers of the Musikalisches Kunstmagazin came primarily from the middle and upper middle classes and not, as Reichardt had hoped, from aristocratic circles. Accordingly, and due to the small number of subscribers, the impact of the journal was rather limited. Still, even contemporary critics regarded it as “die unstreitig beste musikalische Zeitschrift, die jetzt im ganzen aufgeklärten Europa herauskommt” [Indisputably the best musical magazine currently published in the enlightened circles of Europe] (Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart).[1] During Reichardt’s lifetime there was barely another musician who in addition to his compositional output published so extensively: His substantial literary oeuvre comprises books, letters, critical reviews and essays, and he also published three periodicals. His motivation for this enormous output was rooted in the wish to create something that would affect not only his contemporaries but also posterity.

This RIPM index was produced from a copy of the journal held by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.


[1] Quoted in Gabriele Busch-Salmen, Johann Friedrich Reichardt (1752–1814): Musikpublizist und kritischer Korrespondent (Hannover: Wehrhahn, 2002): 174.