A notebook that belonged to the Czech-born musician and teacher Antonín Rejcha, who spent most of his life in Paris, was recently discovered lying by some trashcans in the French capital. The notebook and other documents, which are more than 200 years old, were found by a Parisian woman, who donated them to the French National Library.
Antonín Rejcha or Antonie Reicha, as he is known in France, was born in Prague in 1770. When he was ten, he ran away to live with his relatives, who eventually moved to Bonn. That’s where Rejcha started to study music, becoming a life-long friend of Ludwig van Beethoven.
In 1808, Rejcha moved to Paris, where he became famous as a teacher and theorist. In 1818, he was appointed professor at the Paris Conservatory, where he taught until his death in 1835. His pupils included Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, and even César Franck.
Antonín Rejcha was a prolific composer, but with the exception of some of his earlier pieces for woodwinds, his works are not that widely played today.
However, thanks to the recent curious discovery of his notebook, his name has now made headlines in the Czech Republic. Jana Franková is a music expert from the Moravian Library in Brno:
“The notebook was discovered together with other documents by some trashcans outside an apartment house in Paris. A woman, called Pauline Paris, noticed a box with old documents lying by the trash cans. Because she is interested in history, she started to study its contents and came across a notebook with Rejcha’s name.”
By incredible coincidence, the discovery was made just a few weeks after the launch of an online exhibition dedicated to Rejcha, organised by the Moravian Library in Brno together with the French National Library.
When searching the internet for information about Antonín Rejcha, Pauline Paris came across the exhibition and immediately contacted its French curator, handing him all the discovered items.
The documents were apparently thrown out by mistake by Rejcha’s distant relatives. Apart from the notebook, dating roughly to the year 1910, the box also included some earlier papers, says Jana Franková:
“The notebook contains both music scores and handwritten notes. It sheds light on how Reicha prepared for his theoretical work and for his lectures. It also contains notes on the pieces that he was working on at the time.
“So it is quite a unique source of information about the composer and, thanks to the generosity of the founder, it is now part of the French National Library, where it is freely available to anyone interested in his work.”
The exhibition Antonín Rejcha Re-discovered is available in French and Czech on the website of Moravian Library in Brno and the French National Library.