The Johann Jacob Heinrich Westphal Collection

Johann Jacob Heinrich Westphal (1756-1825) was an organist employed at the court of Schwerin from 1778 as well as the churches of St. Nikolai and the city cathedral in addition to teaching at the city’s Gymnasium. Besides his activities as an organist, he was an active music collector. Westphal most likely began his collection at the same time as his professional career as an organist. Several works in the collection are marked with the name “A. Westphal” which, according to German Bach scholar Ulrich Leisinger, is most likely the name of his father. Johann Jacob Heinrich’s collection consisted of manuscripts, scores and books concerning music as well as portraits of musicians. These works were not only purchases made via music printers and distributors of the time but also manuscript copies he made directly or ordered from the composers themselves, C.P.E. Bach most notably.

Upon Westphal’s death in 1825 several attempts were made to sell the collection to Prussia, Austria, the city of Hamburg, the Archduke of Mecklenburg, the King of Saxony and Prince Oskar of Sweden, all unsuccessfully. Four years later it was still in the hands of its inheritor. François Joseph Fétis, the first director of the Brussels Conservatory, appears to have purchased the collection around 1835 but all records regarding its sale were destroyed. The Ministry of Public Works began negotiating the purchase of the Westphal collection from Fétis for the use of the conservatory in 1840 and the purchase was final in 1846. Despite this sale of the entire collection, Fétis kept many works in his private collection for his continued use. This private collection was purchased by the Belgian government after Fétis’ death and is now in the Royal Library.

Fétis most likely had the intention of further researching certain aspects of the Westphal collection and kept several of the more valuable and useful works in his private collection for this purpose. This would also explain his refusal to make an inventory of the collection upon its sale to the conservatory. This “typically Belgian” maneuver also resulted in the Belgian state paying for the same works twice.

During Westphal’s lifetime, his collection was described as containing more than 600 works on music theory and over 3,000 scores. His collection of portraits of musicians contained more than 400 pieces. Westphal’s own handwritten catalogue of his collection does not appear to have been included in the purchase made by Fétis.

Due to multiple re-organizations of the Brussels Conservatory Libraries’ collection and the lack of a proper catalogue of the Westphal collection, the entire extent of the original collection is not clear. Many of these works can however be identified thanks to Westphal’s signature or initials as well as his own catalogue markings.