Faculty Advisor

Block, Geoffrey

Area of Study

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Publication Date

Summer 2014


Due to multiple causes, the most dramatic of which is surely the widespread publishing fraud in the during the eighteenth century, but also including the more mundane cases of clerical errors, lapses of memory, and sheer laziness, a great many compositions were attributed to Joseph Haydn that were actually written by his contemporaries. Consequently, one of the major loci of Haydn research (especially in the decades following World War II) was authentication, the attempt to correctly attribute dubious compositions, whether to affirm Haydn’s authorship or to dismiss it and affirm the authorship of one of his contemporaries. This branch of musicology has declined markedly in recent decades (concurrently with the rise of reception studies), suggesting the utility of reexamining the assumptions, goals, techniques, and results of authentication studies, including effects such studies may have had on the receptions of both Haydn and those of his contemporaries whose works were attributed to him. This paper analyzes and critiques dozens of published studies of authenticity in Haydn research, noting their underlying assumptions and how those assumptions affected scholars’ work in this field, and contextualizes these studies in relation to watershed moments in the history of the discipline of musicology. It concludes that, with a few exceptions, attribution studies ultimately made little impact on reception, due to the overly positivistic attitudes of Haydn scholars.


University of Puget Sound

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Musicology Commons