Former Directors

  Max Seiffert (1935-1941)

The Prussian Main Catalogue


National Socialism

Staatliches Institut für deutsche Musikforschung

Max Seiffert (1935-1941)

Max Seiffert was born in Beeskow on the Spree on February 9, 1868. He attended the »Joachimsthalsches Gymnasium« in Berlin and initially studied classical philology, later musicology with Philipp Spitta. At the age of 23 he received his Ph.D. for his dissertation »J. P. Sweelinck und seine direkten deutschen Schüler«. He was appointed permanent secretary of the Prussian committee for historical monuments and established the series »Denkmäler deutscher Tonkunst« with an edition of Samuel Scheidt's Tabulatura nova in 1892. Numerous further editions were published under his name in this as well as in other publication series until 1943, among them the Dutch Sweelinck-Edition in ten volumes, the complete works of Pachelbel, Krieger and Walther, and numerous practical editions of Early Music. His most important theoretical work was the enlarged (and comprehensively revised) new edition of Karl Friedrich Weitzmann's »Geschichte des Klavierspiels I«. From 1909 onwards he taught at the »Berlin Akademie für Kirchen- und Schulmusik« and at the »Akademische Hochschule für Musik«. In his tutorials he also used the »collection of old musical instruments« that was located at the conservatory. As early as 1893 he had reported on the opening of this collection in the »Allgemeine Musik-Zeitung«.

In 1912, Seiffert was appointed senator at the »Preußische Akademie der Künste«. In this capacity he developed a plan that he introduced to the public in the form of a »Kaisergeburtstagsrede« (a speech on occasion of the Emperor's birthday) two years later. He thought of an »Archiv für deutsche Musikgeschichte« to serve all musicological research as an »intermediary, central source of information«. The archive was to include a main catalogue of written and printed music, an index of instruments, copies of archival references relevant to music, a picture library, etc. His ideas largely corresponded to the ideas raised at the same time by Carl August Rau, a musical director and music instructor from Bückeburg, who wished to establish an »Institut für musikwissenschaftliche Forschung«. It was opened in 1917 under the patronage of Prince Adolf zu Schaumburg-Lippe in Bückeburg; after Rau's untimely death in 1921, Seiffert is acting director of the institute. The »Fürstliches Institut für musikwissenschaftliche Forschung zu Bückeburg« kept biographical and archival catalogues, provided photocopies of rare works and published the first volumes of the periodical »Archiv für Musikwissenschaft«. During its annual foundation meetings the institute assembled many of the most distinguished musicologists of that time. The deflation of its capital - which Prince Adolf had donated - during the inflation as well as insufficient governmental funds forced the institute to stop all publications in 1927. Seiffert kept leading the institute provisionally from Berlin.

The National Socialist seizure of power brought an unexpected revival of the institute, even if under the sign of »Gleichschaltung« and centralisation. The Bückeburg institute under the direction of Seiffert moved to Berlin in 1935 and was generously developed as the »Staatliches Institut für deutsche Musikforschung«. In 1936, the instrument collection of the conservatory was incorporated into the institute and in 1937 the former »Archiv deutscher Volkslieder« in Berlin-Charlottenburg followed.

Apparently, it was Seiffert himself who pushed the relocation to Berlin. How easily German musicology - if not forced into exile - accepted the Nazi patronage, is reflected in a speech of appreciation which Heinrich Besseler wrote on the occasion of Seiffert's 70th anniversary. It was published in the periodical »Deutsche Musikkultur« in 1938:
In Bückeburg, »year after year« one had to put up with the depressing situation that »institutes to research foreign cultures were publicly funded whereas for the care of the German musical heritage only insufficient facilities and modest allowances were available«. For that reason, it now might fill the jubilee »with proud satisfaction to realise his plans, if late but still with juvenile energy, and to see his life's work discharge into the great development of the Third Reich«. Besseler also edited a luxuriously designed Festschrift for Max Seiffert (»Musik und Bild«, Kassel 1938).

Not until 1941, at the age of 73, did Seiffert retire. He died on April 13, 1948 in Schleswig.

Andreas Meyer