The Work of Karl Kohaut in the Context of Central European Collections
Karl Kohaut is mainly known as one of the last lutenists and composers for this instrument, which was losing its past glory during the second half of the 18th century. A detail study of his career shows his close relation as musician and civil servant to the imperial family and to count and later prince Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz-Rietberg, with whom he sojourned in Paris in 1750 to 1753. New discoveries of his musical career permit to reevaluate also his muscial output, which ranges from large vocal and instrumental works to chamber and solo instrumental pieces, including today best known lute concertos and chamber music with lute obligato. The most numerous and widespread Kohaut’s works are nevertheless his chamber and orchestral works for strings à 3 and à 4, including divertimentos, sonatas, partitas and sinfonias.
Investigating the dissemination of Karl Kohaut’s musical output during his lifetime with a closer view into main collections permits not only to precise his career but also to evaluate his notoriety. The survey of collections going from church and monastic collections to different aristocratic libraries shows the geographical scope of the dissemination of Kohaut’s works as well as it allows to discover principal ways of diffusion. The role of Viennese ateliers of copyists seems to be predominant for the dissemination of Kohaut’s instrumental music. The Breitkopf’s publishing house in Leipzig, generaly considered as one of the most important diffuser of manuscript copies in Central Europe, was only little involved in the dissemination of Kohaut’s works. Only his concertato and chamber lute works were diffused by Breitkopf’s copyists and apparently with only limited coverage. Such situation is probably due also to the high virtuosity of Kohaut’s lute works and to progressive disappearing of lute at that time.
The survey of Karl Kohaut’s musical output and its dissemination during his lifetime, as an insight to the ways of diffusion of works of Central-European musicians in 18th century, shows also the notoriety of Kohaut as composer, that merits to be rediscovered as well today.
Keywords: Karl Kohaut; lute music; 18th century music; Wenzl Anton von Kaunitz-Rietberg; Joseph Kohaut; Johann Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf; Jean-Baptiste Venier