The Vindobona series by Universal Edition is a unique case among mood music collections for “silent” film accompaniment. It is a collection that, starting in 1927, published salon orchestra adaptations of music by, to name but a few, Strauss, Mahler, Schreker, Janácek, Bartók, Křenek, Weill, and Zemlinsky. This list by itself is enough to make it a document of undoubted historical value—a document that helps us understand the specificities, as well as the limitations, of musical Modernism’s reception in the practice of the musical accompaniment for moving pictures in German-speaking countries.
When it was launched in 1927, the Vindobona was emphatically introduced by its publisher as the first collection of modern music by modern composers for film use. Its importance is limited as far as actual musical practice is concerned on account of evident miscalculations in its editorial design. Nonetheless, the Vindobona Collection has much to tell us. Its analysis allows us to infer, at least indirectly, important information about the routine of music for cinema. The Vindobona project reflects, at least in its approach, a series of significant changes in the aesthetics of cinema presentation and, in general, of the social dimension of cinema.
This essay considers first of all the structure of the collection and its genesis, on the basis of unpublished archive materials from the Department of Music of the Austrian National Library and the Historical Archive of the Universal Edition. It then moves on to analyze the collection’s editorial goals, before finally evaluating its particularly problematic relationship with the contemporary practices and aesthetics of cinematic music.