Rischel & Birket-Smith's Collection of guitar music

The heart of the collection was collected by the Danish engineer and guitar player Thorvald Rischel (1861-1939). Rischel studied with the greatest Danish guitar player at that time, Søffren Degen (1816-1885). Degen was a friend of Napoléon Coste and in 1855 had acquired in Paris all of Coste's works published up to that time, as well as many of his unpublished works in handwritten copies. After Degen's death, Rischel acquired his collection of music; the rest of the works by Coste, Rischel acquired during a journey to Paris in 1883, when he bought a number of unpublished works in manuscript from Coste's widow, and in 1893, when he once more visited France, this time in search of Coste's Grande Duo. He found only some sketches for the duo, but, nevertheless, succeeded in reconstructing this composition, which was published in Die Gitarre (VIII Hft. 7/8).


       Thorvald Rischel                                         Frederik Birket-Smith

Another part of Rischel's collection derived from the Danish guitar player J.G. Holm, who had also been a friend of Coste, and from P. Schulte, a Swede who had owned most of the handwritten works by Coste in copies revised by Coste himself. Rischel also acquired all the available compositions for guitar by Fernando Sor, many of them in rare first editions, and a great deal of unpublished music by J.K. Mertz.
Rischel's thorough acquaintance with classical guitar music made it possible for him to show that a quartet for flute, viola, guitar and violoncello by Schubert (Deutsch Anhang 11,2), which had been found in 1918, to actually be an adaptation of a workby Wenzeslaus Matiegka ( Notturno pour flute, viola et guitar, op. XXI), a copy of which was in his collection. Rischel's observations were published in Dansk Musiktidskrift, vol. 7, no. 4 (in Danish). 

 Achton Friis trioen               Søffren Degen

After Rischel's death in 1939, his collection of music was dispersed. Most of it came to the librarian and guitar player Frederik Birket-Smith (1880-1952). The rest of the collection was delivered to the Royal Library in Copenhagen. After Birket-Smith death the Royal Library received the joint collections of Rischel and Birket-Smith.

       Napoleon Coste med sine guitarer


The content of the collection can be searched in REX, and the music can be seen online and printed. 

A printed catalogue of the collection has been published together with a description of the individual works:  Catagoue of the Rischel and Birket-Smith Collection of guitar music in The Royal Library of Copenhagen. Compiled by Jytte Torpp Larsson, edited by Peter Danner (Columbus, Editions Orphee, 1989).

Jytte Torpp Larsson