Table of contents

Source material


Although, according to his autobiography, Scheibe had composed more than 400 works by 1739, a catalogue presenting the works that have survived in today’s archives and libraries worldwide would only reveal a meagre result. A hasty conclusion might be that musical activities in Copenhagen during the eighteenth century were nearly non-existent; however, focusing merely on the surviving musical material presents a somewhat distorted picture. It is important to keep in mind that the largest collection of music, the royal collection, was engulfed in flames in 1794 when Christiansborg Palace burnt to the ground. In addition, when Scheibe passed away in 1776 many of his private manuscripts were sold, some of them ending up in The Royal Library shortly afterwards; the majority, however, were most likely bought by private connoisseurs whenever a sale was advertised in the newspapers. Even the later Kapellmeister Claus Nielsen Schall (1757–1835) and C.E.F. Weyse (1774–1842) who was court composer obtained works in manuscript. Weyse sold some of them on to the music collector, Georg Poelchau (1773–1836) in Berlin, while keeping others for himself. By the end of the eighteenth century, Scheibe’s music was not popular anymore and he acquired a rather negative reputation. Carl Friedrich Cramer wrote in his musical journal, Musik (1789), that Scheibe was ‘A man without invention and without taste; full of musical scholarship, but was never smiled upon with the genius of music […] His works have, however (thanks to the Muses), already been forgotten for a while’. Scheibe’s fame soon vanished and he was forgotten.

Since the royal collection was destroyed in 1794, one is forced to look for information on the musical repertoire and for information on Scheibe’s works in eighteenth-century sources such as library catalogues, auction catalogues, sales catalogues, newspaper advertisements (concerts, sales, announcements), academic journals, court archives regarding orders and payments, diaries and biographies. The first point of departure is, of course, his autobiography, which he wrote for Mattheson’s Grundlage einer Ehren-Pforte (Hamburg, 1740). Unfortunately, the details he provides are often too vague to enable an unambiguous identification with any of the surviving works. Scheibe only gives a general overview, mentioning for instance around 150 concertos for the flute, 30 for the violin, 60–70 sinfonias, 150 sacred cantatas as well as 2 Passion oratorios and 1 opera. It is not possible to verify his many concertos or sinfonias with those that have survived. Though he does not give any further information on the opera, it must be his ‘Artaban’ which he had finished in 1738 and was the only opera he had composed before writing his autobiography. If he was just as productive while in Denmark, it seems reasonable to assume that he may have composed around 1,200 musical works in all.

During Scheibe’s early years in Copenhagen (1740–48), newspapers were few, and very often they contained only brief information concerning new court employees or descriptions of major events. Gradually advertisements appeared in the papers or journals, announcing concerts performed in the local musical societies and sometimes including the name of the composer. During the 1750s, the reports of major official events and court celebrations become much more detailed, mentioning ‘Kapellmeister Scheibe’ (a title that was used throughout his time in Denmark) though very often they do not include a precise title of the work being performed. This information can be collated with that found in The Royal Archives, since for each official occasion a detailed script was prepared concerning the staging and performance, including not only the placement of the invitees and court employees but also a description of the music and in particular the duration of its different sections. Each event was described as though it was a theatrical staging of a play. Together with the printed librettos, which were given to the audience at the entrance or handed out when a ticket was bought, these documents provide us with an intriguing insight into the musical aspects of the performances and some knowledge of the lost musical material. The material in the archives is vast and sifting through it is time consuming.

An overwhelming number of printed librettos have survived which have been of great importance for the verification of musical works, especially cantatas and oratorios. Besides giving a precise title of the musical work, the printed librettos often provide surprisingly detailed information on the music. Though there is often no clear indication of recitatives and arias in terms of headings, the layout and typography reveal that a distinction was made, but the division between plain recitativo secco and recitativo accompagnato can seldom be determined by merely reading the libretto. A few librettos even describe the orchestration. Scheibe’s many extensive introductions to printed musical works, in addition to his many articles and books on music theory and aesthetics, are also important sources of information, and often include biographical information regarding various events and incidents. Most importantly, Scheibe employs his own works as examples in his analyses and descriptions, and refers to other now lost compositions. It has been assumed that his second opera, ‘Thusnelde’ of 1749, was never composed and that only the libretto which he published was finished. However, Scheibe uses an excerpt of the opera in his ‘Abhandlung über das Recitativ’ (1764) when explaining the intricacies of recitativo accompagnato, and he also mentions that the opera had been revised. In his private copy of the libretto which is housed in The Royal Library, Scheibe has emended some errors and added a note on the title page indicating that at least the text has been revised (‘Diesen Aufsatz des Gedichtes habe ich hernach verworfen, u. ganz umgearbeitet’). The libretto was reviewed by the composer Christian Gottfried Krause in 1754. The long and detailed review is rather original: since Krause did not have access to the music, he relates the libretto to how a composer might approach the opera’s text, setting it to music. Unfortunately, the complete music to ‘Thusnelde’ has not survived, but it seems very likely that it existed.

One of the most important catalogues for establishing part of Scheibe’s musical production is Breitkopf’s Verzeichniß Musikalischer Werke, allein zur Praxis, sowohl zum Singen, als für alle Instrumente, welche nicht durch den Druck bekannt gemacht worden which appeared in 1761. The catalogue is a list of house manuscripts from which those interested could order manuscript copies. The catalogue gives the name of the composer, title (and with vocal music usually the first line) and instrumentation. It includes more than 80 works by Scheibe of which most are sacred cantatas performed by Carl Gotthelf Gerlach (1704–1761) in Leipzig. It seems that most of these works must have been composed while Scheibe was still in Leipzig during his early years; however, there are suggestions in the correspondence between Scheibe and his acquaintance Johann Christoph Gottsched (1700–1766) indicating that the composer also sent music to Gerlach after his arrival in Copenhagen in 1740. Some of the works might therefore have been composed later than 1735 but before the publication of the catalogue in 1761. Three years later, Breitkopf issued a new catalogue which included instrumental music as well as a few secular and chamber cantatas. Breitkopf provided this new catalogue with incipits of the instrumental music for a precise identification of the work, in the same way that the title and first line of a cantata identified the vocal work. Some of the surviving manuscripts of both the sacred music (cantatas and mass sections) and instrumental music prove that the Breitkopf catalogues are quite accurate in their descriptions. Yet errors do occur: in a couple of instances, Scheibe is confused with the Austrian composer Johann Adam Scheibel (1710–1773). In other cases, the instrumentations given in the catalogue do not always agree with that seen in the librettos, and changes occur throughout the different editions of the catalogue, often due to the definition of the basso continuo. It is also possible that some works are wrongly attributed to Scheibe, just as many of the anonymous works might actually turn out to be by Scheibe. Breitkopf’s final auction catalogue of 1836, Grosse Musikalien-Auction. Verzeichniss geschriebener und gedruckter Musikalien, includes a large number of Scheibe’s musical works, mostly his sacred cantatas, though it is evident that quite a few of the works must already have been out of stock by 1836 or might even have been discarded before that date. Like those of other composers of his time, new musical trends and fashions meant that Scheibe’s works were simply not marketable any longer.


When Scheibe was dismissed from court in 1748 with a life-long pension, he and his family, consisting of his wife Ilsabe and their son Christian Friedrich, decided to move to Sønderborg. Here Scheibe established a music school. In order to supplement his income, he started on translating various academic studies as well as fiction. It seems that he might have had a special agreement with one publisher in particular: Franz Christian Mumme (active 1738–56). Scheibe was a fast and efficient translator – sometimes with only a few weeks to carry out the project – who went to great lengths to find the proper terms and definitions. In the majority of his translations, Scheibe included an extensive introduction explaining his working process and problems encountered in the text. It is easy to ascertain that Scheibe is the translator of the books; first of all because his name most often is on the title page or he has signed the translator’s foreword; secondly, the reviews appearing in the literary journals mention his name. One may also find them listed in his 'Lebensbeschreibung’ of 1759, which was published in the literary journal Fortgesetzte Nachrichten. His work as a translator is important for understanding his comprehensive intellectual abilities. Scheibe’s introductions to these translations contain a wealth of information on his life and time in the southern parts of Denmark, providing an important context to merely the musical output.

Fiction, satire and the biography

There is no doubt that Scheibe had a very sharp pen indeed. This is evident in his satirical writings such as the Misogynis (the misogynist or women hater), which was so popular that it received three editions, and his political pamphlet Anekdoten eines Reisenden Russen, criticising the Danish state and national character. However, he also wrote the first biography of his friend Ludvig Holberg (1684–1754), professor at the university and a famous playwright. The biography not only provides information on Holberg but also indirectly on Scheibe.

Studies on music theory, composition and performance practice

Scheibe’s writings on music theoretical issues is quite extensive and full of small anecdotes and details about his life. Scheibe already felt an urge to write on music theory while he was in Leipzig. Around 1735 he finished a treatise, Compendium musices, which he seems to have planned for publication. The treatise was copied by the composer Christoph Graupner, while another transcript carried out by a professional copyist is now located in Leipzig as part of the C.F. Becker collection. At one point, the autograph seems to have been in the library of Niels Schiørring, who was a pupil of Scheibe and might have obtained it from Scheibe’s heirs. Unfortunately, the fate of this important library is unknown. A little known but highly important article on music performance practice appeared as 'Schreiben an die Herren Verfasser' (1765). Provoked by an anonymous critique of one of his cantatas, composed for the celebration of Crown Prince Christian's confirmation (1765) which had been performed at the court, Scheibe wrote a fifty-page long response explaining aspects of performance practice, compositional processes and the approach towards setting music to a text including extensive analyses of some of his own works. It was around this time that Scheibe carried out detailed studies on the relationship between text and music. In 1773, the first of four volumes on composition was published (Über die musikalische Composition); again, Scheibe includes small details about his time in Hamburg as a kind of retrospective view on his life.

Exclusions or doubtful works

A few works ascribed to Scheibe have not been included in the present catalogue. It has not been possible for instance to verify Musikalische Erquick-Stunden, listed in the Breitkopf catalogue of 1763 as being by ‘Johann Adam Scheibe’. Breitkopf’s entry describes the work as being a manuscript dated 1729 and thus from his early period in Leipzig; however, if Scheibe were the composer it seems likely that he would have mentioned it in his autobiography (Mattheson, Grundlage einer Ehren-Pforte, 1740), and ‘Johann Adam’ suggests rather Scheibel with whom Scheibe is sometimes confused. The work has been lost, but further enquiries into the manuscript holdings of libraries might prove that the work should be ascribed to Scheibe.

Scheibe held an extensive correspondence with fellow colleagues and acquaintances in Germany of which only a very small part has survived. His letters to Gottsched are available in a modern edition; two letters to Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767) are located in Estonia and have also been published. However, he must also have carried on a correspondence with composers such as Heinrich Bokemeyer (1679–1751), Johann Joachim Quantz (1697–1773), Carl Heinrich Graun (1701–1759), C.P.E. Bach (1714–1788), and intellectuals such as Friedrich von Hagedorn (1708–1754), Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg (1737–1823), Christian Felix Weiße (1726–1804) and Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724–1803). The letters have not been listed in the present work catalogue, but whenever information provided in a letter has been used, it is referred to in the Bibliography.

Location of manuscripts

Although Scheibe spent most of his life in Denmark, many of his works are found in Germany in particular. A large collection of works, many of which come from his early years in Leipzig, are located in Berlin. This collection, once part of the Breitkopf house manuscripts, consists mainly of sacred music. However, among the Breitkopf holdings is also instrumental music which must either have been obtained together with the Gerlach material or sent directly to the publishers by Scheibe himself and for which he might have received a fee. There is clear evidence that Scheibe provided Gerlach with material even when he was Kapellmeister in Copenhagen: some Passion music (e.g. SchW B2:304) and cantatas as well as perhaps the organ sonatas (SchW A4:Coll.001). Other music collections including several works of Scheibe’s are to be found in the Fürstlich zu Bentheim-Tecklenburgische Musikbibliothek. The manuscripts were obtained before 1750 when the librarian, Johann Martin Doemming (1703–1760), dated the catalogue. Among the few sources outside Germany and Denmark is a single cantata in England; a volume of keyboard music by various composers including a concerto by Scheibe, collected by Heinrich Nicolaus Gerber (1702–1775) when he studied in Leipzig – the manuscript is now in the US. Some copies of Scheibe’s instrumental works are located in Sweden and were probably acquired by the local musical societies directly from Copenhagen, during the second half of the eighteenth century.

Organisation of the catalogue

Since establishing a chronological order is not feasible, the works have been listed according to genre, though that at times also proves to be difficult (see Table 1). The music for strings and harpsichord obligato may in some cases be termed concertos by the composer or by the cataloguer of the eighteenth century; Scheibe’s classification is always employed here. The sacred cantatas have been divided according to the appropriate event in the church year, fixed dates and Passion music, rather than according to title or first line; the sinfonias, for instance, have been listed alphabetically according to title (sinfonia, symphonia) except for works in numbered series which are listed numerically and as collections. The separate works which are not part of a collection are listed first, followed by collections: for SchW A1, the thirteen separate concertos (001–013) are listed first and then the collection of four (100–103) which is also SchW A1:Coll.001.



1. Concertos




2. Sinfonias




3. Overtures

4. Sonatas, suites and partitas





duos (keyboard obligato + solo; one instr. + bc.)




trios (two instr. + bc.)




quadros (three instr. + bc.)


5. Incidental music


6. Other


7. Doubtful works


1. Opera


2. Cantatas and oratorios

sacred music (church year)




sacred (fixed date)




occasional and secular




3. Chorales and sacred songs


4. Mass sections and canticles


5. Arias, songs and odes

separate arias, songs or odes with keyboard accomp.


collections with keyboard accomp.



6. Other

7. Doubtful works



1. Music theory, analysis and criticism




2. Poetry


3. Satirical and political texts


4. Translations


5. Biographies and letters


6. Other


7. Doubtful works


Since Scheibe – as far as we know – did not compose overtures, category A3 is vacant and some of the categories only contain a single entry, so the figures of the SchW do not indicate the number of works, only their placement within the category.

Structure and content of each record

Each work has been assigned a number consisting of a letter and figures. A collection of works such as six sonatas or suites has been defined as six distinct works and hence provided with six distinct numbers (e.g. SchW A4:100–A4:105 which are identical to the collection SchW A4:Coll.005); however, a collection of character pieces all in the same key are defined as one work with several movements (e.g. SchW A4:005). Some collections include works by several composers (e.g. SchW A4:006, A4:007). In those cases, Scheibe’s works have been extracted from the collection and catalogued, while the composers of the other works in the collection have been mentioned in the short Introduction. Each work of a collection has a unique SchW designation, and each collection consisting entirely of works by Scheibe includes a list of its contents and also has a unique SchW designation. In Breitkopf’s auction catalogue of 1836, a collection of trios is listed; as it has been lost, a distinction between each work is not possible and so they have only been registered as a collection (SchW A4:Coll.007).

The Introduction deals with the work in question, explaining details regarding performance, genre, contemporary reviews, and Scheibe’s own remarks concerning the work. The Introduction seeks in particular to set the work in a contemporary eighteenth-century context as well as within Scheibe’s overall production. All German quotations in the Introduction have been translated, and if a cited passage is from a secondary source, the original text is placed in the Bibliography together with the reference. Quotations only appearing in the Bibliography have not been translated. If the translated quotation is from one of Scheibe’s works the original language is not included. A reference is provided and the reader is referred to consult the source. Though the titles overall expose a heterogeneous and a seemingly inconsistent practice in terms of orthography, they have been retained rather than modernised; however, capital letters are changed according to modern convention in the language in which the title is given. Cantatas listed in the Breitkopf catalogues do not include genre as part of the title since it is part of the catalogue's heading; in these instances, however, the genre designation has been added to the title. If the genre appears as part of the title, the original orthography has been kept (i.e. 'sinfonia' or 'symphonia') as has the old key designations (e.g. G: G major and D: D minor). Furthermore, the old catalogues of Breitkopf very often use abbreviations and contractions in the titles due to lack of space: these have been expanded. Also the old way of indicating cardinal numbers – that is, often including a full point (e.g. '1.') has been changed to the modern standard writing without full point (e.g. '1'). A few works do not have a title; in those cases, a title has been provided (e.g. SchW A4:001, C4:004). If it is a vocal work with no main title, the first line is employed as title.

The entry also lists orchestration (forces required), headings of movements, and date of work if possible. The definition of the basso continuo part does create problems as it often includes not only the keyboard instrument (a harpsichord or an organ) but also a bass string player. Scheibe does not clearly indicate in his manuscripts whether the part should be interpreted as including the bass string player and/or the bassoon player. The Breitkopf catalogues are also rather vague regarding the understanding of the continuo part, and when comparing their various editions of the catalogue it is evident they often only indicated ‘bc.’ which, in addition to the keyboard instrument, might also include another bass player. Thus ‘basso’ (bs.) or ‘basso continuo’ (bc.) might signify a group of players rather than one single instrument. Below each incipit, the instrumentation of that section is listed if it differs from tutti.

The music incipit is most often in two parts (melody and bass); in those cases where the only surviving evidence of the work is the Breitkopf catalogue including incipits, this has been used. Whenever possible, the extent of each movement, that is the number of bars, is also noted below the incipit’s bottom stave. For vocal works, for which a libretto but not the music has survived, a text incipit is provided. The Source Description includes ink type, autograph/non-autograph, extent, size, precise transcription of title page including line endings (|) as well as secondary title pages, number of staves and size of rastrum, nesting of folios, and paper, wherever possible the watermarks too, if they are relevant for the physical description and reveal information on the work’s genesis or its reception history. The descriptions have been made as uniform as possible in order to facilitate comparison of sources, both internally within each work and externally between different works. Terms employed for the description of printed texts and music follow common bibliographical conventions.

The Bibliography lists those sources mentioned in the Introduction or relevant for contextualising the work in question; the literature listed is from the eighteenth century. Only in very rare cases are modern studies or secondary literature on the works or Scheibe included in the Bibliography; readers should consult Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale (RILM). If secondary literature has been employed in the Source Description, such as reference material regarding watermarks, a short title is given and the reader is referred to the Select Bibliography which includes complete references (see also Preface).

How to use the catalogue

The list of work titles is the catalogue’s primary entry to the records. In a column to the left of the titles, it is possible to modify and limit the search results while at the top of the list there are different settings as to how the results may be displayed.

Filtering and searching

On the menu at the left side of the display, the following possibilities to change or limit the search in the catalogue are listed:

All search limitations function additively, that is, a simultaneous use of several search parameters confines the result further (logically ‘AND’). Each delimiting parameter (filter) is shown at the top of the list of search results when the search has been completed. Each filter may be removed one at a time by clicking on the symbol at the filter in question, thus expanding the search again. Filters may be removed all at once by clicking on the red ‘Reset all’ button in the list of filters.

Displaying and sorting of search results

The search result is displayed as a list of work titles. By default, only twenty search results are shown at a time. The reader may navigate through the result pages using the numbered navigation buttons above the result list. The number of results per page may be changed by selecting a different number in the select box above the navigation buttons.

The sort order of the results may be changed with the other select box next to the works-per-page selector. Possible sort orders are SchW number (default), alphabetically by title, and chronologically by year of composition. The chronological sorting, however, is only a rough approximation. It takes into account only the year in which the composition was completed. Undated works to which the majority of Scheibe's belong are listed first. Clicking on a work's title opens the detailed view.

Peter Hauge