Biennial Meeting of the American Bach Society
May 7–9, 2010
University of Wisconsin–Madison
While Bach’s personal faith and musical theology have received considerable attention from both scholars and church musicians, little attention has been paid to Johann Mattheson’s faith or theology. As a result, the dominant image of Mattheson is of an urbane, enlightened man of letters, not a devout Lutheran. In fact, however, Mattheson studied the Bible daily and interpreted Scripture in the manner of Lutheran orthodoxy. He defended the letter of the Bible against those who might interpret it in rationalistic fashion. Throughout his writings he defended orthodox doctrines such as original sin, Christ’s atoning sacrifice, redemption, and the resurrection of the body. Like Bach, he regarded music as a means of proclaiming God’s Word and honoring God, and he contended against those who would lessen its role in worship.
I believe there is a scholarly consensus that Bach was an orthodox Lutheran, however much he may have been influenced by Pietism and the Enlightenment. It will not be my purpose to revisit this question in depth but rather to argue that in this respect he was not unusual among German musicians of his time. I intend to focus primarily on Mattheson’s theology as it is evidenced in his dispute with Buttstedt, his involvement in the cantata debates, his defense of the reality of music in heaven, and his emphasis on praise of God as the core of Christian life. Where there is comparable source material from Bach, I will also take that into account.
In 1737 Johann Adolph Scheibe published a “Sendschreiben” by an anonymous author, which gives a detailed report about a journey through central Germany and a specific – and quite critical – evaluation of several musicians holding influential positions. Although none of the persons criticized in the “Sendschreiben” is identified by name, it marked the beginning of a long-lasting conflict between Scheibe and Johann Abraham Birnbaum, who defended Johann Sebastian Bach, who was one of the nine, unnamed criticized musicians. The discovery of a printed copy of the “Sendschreiben” with handwritten annnotations by a well-known member of the Bach circle provides all the names of the criticized dramatis personae. This finding provides new evidence for a reevaluation of the intentions of the “Sendschreiben” and Scheibe’s role in it. On the basis of some additional new sources my paper will show, that the conflict between Scheibe and Bach extended also on some other (hitherto unknown) ‘battlefields’.
Recent findings of printed textbooks and musical sources (see BJ 2008, contributions by T. Shabalina, M.-R. Pfau, and P. Wollny) have shed new light on Bach’s Leipzig performance repertoire of the 1730s and pointed to an almost dramatic shift towards the works of other contemporary composers, providing a new facet to the theme “Bach and His German Contemporaries.” For his weekly cantata performances Bach apparently refrained from presenting exclusively his own compositions (as he used to do in the first few years of his tenure as Thomaskantor), and instead made use of annual cycles such as the “Saitenspiel-Jahrgang” by Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel. This decision not only provided the necessary time for him to focus on ambitious projects of his own (e.g. the Clavier-Übung collections and the oratorios) and to undertake engagements outside Leipzig, it also may have had a significant impact on his artistic development and on the way he defined his office. My paper will discuss the various implications to be drawn from Bach’s decision to broaden the scope of his cantata repertoire. It seems that Bach, after he had completed three cantata cycles, reserved his own works for special occasions and may have seen them as highpoints within the annual sequence of church music. This concept also provides a new vantage point on the mysterious Picander cycle, which is illuminated by a newly discovered source that will be discussed here for the first time.
It is commonly known that, in September 1717, Bach was invited to the Dresden residence of Field Marshall Jakob Heinrich Flemming (1667-1728), the highly influential Prime Minister in the Privy Cabinet of August II the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. The idea was to hold a musical competition (a “harpsichord duel”) between Bach and the royal organist Jean Louis Marchand. The incident was colorfully narrated by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Johann Agricola in the famous obituary of J. S. Bach (1754): “Tag und Ort, wurde, nicht ohne Vorwissen des Königes, angesetzet. Bach fand sich zu bestimmter Zeit auf dem Kampfplatze in dem Hause eines vornehmen Ministers ein...”. The episode subsequently became the stuff of legend, and was frequently mentioned by Bach’s later biographers, even though there is no documentary record of it actually having taken place.
The side effect of the episode is that the name of Jakob Heinrich Flemming gets a mention in almost every Bach monograph. However, Flemming’s musical interests and his artistic patronage have been otherwise unknown. My research in various archives in Dresden, Warsaw and Vilnius fills the gap. In fact, Flemming turns out to have been a keen amateur musician himself (in a letter to Petronilla Melusina von Schulenburg he wrote: „je suis musicien c.a.d. par inclination”). He played the viola da gamba, he entertained many famous virtuoso musicians and lavished them with gifts, and he sought contacts with the most eminent composers of the day. Flemming retained an orchestra and owned a sizeable assortment of music instruments as well as an interesting music collection. He was also involved in the process of hiring musicians for the famous royal orchestra at the Dresden court.
In my paper, which is based on the archival material I have newly brought to light, I would like to present the figure of Jakob Heinrich Flemming as a musical patron, and point out the possible forms of his contact with Johann Sebastian Bach.
From a commercial standpoint, the most successful collection of music published in J. S. Bach's Leipzig was certainly Johann Sigismund Scholze's Sperontes Singende Muse an der Pleiße. The first installment of this beloved song collection appeared in 1736 and popular demand inspired the production of three further volumes in 1742, 1743, and 1745. While the 18th-century bureaucrats who prepared estate catalogs in Leipzig did not usually bother to distinguish individual works of music in libraries of the deceased, preferring to leave them as undifferentiated "Musikalien" or "Noten-Bücher", the Singende Muse was so popular that it was regularly identified by name. Despite its central place in Leipzig's music history, scholars have devoted relatively little attention to the collection. Scholze's name was completely unknown before the pioneering detective work of Philipp Spitta in the late 19th century. My presentation will reexamine the Singende Muse and its author in light of a hitherto unknown source: Scholze's own estate catalog, prepared upon his death in 1750. Beyond offering a rare glimpse into the author's daily life, the catalog serves to illuminate practical challenges faced by self-publishing authors in mid-18th-century Leipzig, many of which would have confronted J. S. Bach as he produces his Clavier-Übung series.
No genre in J.S. Bach's oeuvre presents such problems of chronology and of authenticity as does his chamber music. The paucity of Bach’s own contributions in his later life raises questions concerning his priorities as compared to his contemporaries.
Bach’s student Johann Gottlieb Goldberg (1727 – 1756) wrote five trio- and quadro-sonatas. These, as well as his cantatas written under Bach’s supervision in Leipzig, are remarkable examples of a profound reception of Bach’s compositorial principles. The Sonata in C major (BWV 1037) was even attributed to both Bach and Goldberg (with some difficulty, Alfred Dürr finally decided in favor of Goldberg). The sonatas show a high standard of compositional technique; they are an independent contribution to the musical landscape of the 1740s and 50s. Furthermore, they provide insight into Bach’s teaching methods and into the stylistic direction of Bach’s school, incorporating contrapuntal rigidity, formal creativity, and gallant ‘Melodik’. In the context of these works, Bach’s Trio Sonata from the ‘Musical Offering’ is easier to place; it appears to be less an occasional experiment than an exemplary statement.
A detailed examination of Goldberg’s trio sonatas as well as works of Johann Ludwig Krebs and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach suggests that Bach’s sonatas for organ (BWV 525 – 530) were used not only as practice and performance pieces, but also as a pattern book for three-voice concertante counterpoint.
It is generally believed that music of the Bach family was poorly received by the eighteenth-century Prussian court. The argument rests on the paucity of extant court copies and documented performances — but a similar situation exists for instrumental music by the Grauns, Bendas, and other court composers.
Evidence to the contrary includes a court inventory of instrumental works that were presumably performed at the Prussian court's grosse Hofkonzerte. Among the composers is C. P. E. Bach. King Frederick II's better-known thematic catalogs of flute works—listing only his own compositions and Quantz's—were prepared circa 1765 and do not reflect a more varied court repertory before the 1756–63 war. Nor do these catalogs account for thousands of pages of “solos,” “concertos,” and “arias” documented as having been copied for the king's soirees.
Documents not previously cited in relation to the Bach family demonstrate that Sebastian's Brandenburg Concertos could have been performed in the household of Margrave Christian Ludwig. Chamber works by Emanuel and Friedemann Bach were also owned by Quantz and taught to his pupils, perhaps even the king. One of these, Emanuel's D-major concerto W. 13, probably originated as a work for flute and shares distinctive features with compositions by Quantz and Frederick, among them a previously “lost” concerto by Quantz that I have identified in a Russian archive. Such stylistic parallels strengthen arguments for Quantz's influence on the development of Emanuel's so-called “empfindsamer” style.
Although described as Sebastian's most brilliant child, W. F. Bach left few compositions. The three-hundredth anniversary of his birth presents an opportunity for reassessing his oeuvre, including potential additions to it.
Besides six firmly attributed keyboard concertos, Falck's 1913 thematic catalog lists a seventh G-minor work as “uncertain”; subsequent scholars have followed him in discounting Friedemann's authorship. Yet the unique source attributes it to Friedemann, and graphological features suggest direct descent from his lost autograph score. The music reveals numerous idiosyncracies of Friedemann's music, whereas reported parallels to works of Altnickol and C. P. E. Bach are superficial at best.
Although the concerto remains virtually unknown, an ouverture for strings and continuo is often promoted as Friedemann's. Published as BWV 1070, it is attributed to “Sig. Bach” in a 1753 manuscript copy. Although some musical features parallel those in firmly attributed works, others would be uncharacteristic of Friedemann.
Stylistic analysis leads to the conclusion that the ouverture, although possibly an immature composition of Friedemann's, is best viewed as a work possibly composed in the “school” of J. S. Bach. The concerto, however, proves to be one of Friedemann's most important instrumental compositions, as extraordinary in design and expression as any concerto from the Bach circle. Its preservation in a single copy may reflect the fact that Friedemann apparently never quite finished it, therefore not allowing it to circulate and reserving it for his own concert use.
In contrast to J. S. Bach's tenure at Leipzig, where precious little is known about his church singers, there is ample documentation for C. P. E. Bach's Kapelle at Hamburg. Arriving in April 1768, succeeding Georg Philipp Telemann as music director of the five main city churches, Bach had at his disposal seven or eight professional singers to perform the seasonal Quartalstücke for major festivals, Lenten Passions, Einführungsmusiken, and other occasional works. Surviving calendars and payment records indicate that Bach was responsible for more than a hundred services each year. Original performing material, much of which descends from Bach's own library and is now located in the archives of the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin, provides information on singers who participated in these performances.
Building on the work of Reginald Sanders and Jürgen Neubacher, I have documented the singing career of one of Bach's most important tenors in Hamburg, Johann Heinrich Michel, who was also one of Bach's most prolific copyists. Michel frequently sang the role of Evangelist in the 21 Passions Bach performed between 1769 and 1789. In addition, Michel was assigned arias in Passions, cantatas, and other works that Bach composed, including the Bürgercapitainsmusiken (1780 and 1783), Dank-Hymne der Freundschaft, H824e, and Musik am Dankfeste wegen des fertigen Michaelis-Turms, H823. By analyzing the specific characteristics of arias (range and tessitura, affective qualities of the vocal lines), I have constructed a profile of Michel's voice.
Until recently, Telemann’s VI Ouvertures à 4 ou 6 (Hamburg, 1736) were known only through manuscript copies of two overture-suites prepared from the lost publication. But in 2008 a unique copy of the print was found by Rashid-S. Pegah and Peter Huth in the Russian State Library in Moscow. The reappearance of the VI Ouvertures, which were presumably aimed at court Kapellen and Collegia musica such as those at Dresden and Leipzig, fills an important gap in our understanding of Telemann’s overture-suites and sharpens our view of the genre near the twilight of its heyday.
In this paper, I explore the significance of the VI Ouvertures both within Telemann’s oeuvre and for the genre’s history as a whole, consider how the suites of the collection may be heard in a kind of dialogue with each other, and situate the print within the context of Telemann’s self-publishing business. Of particular interest are a number of movements that invoke the musical Other, mediating aesthetically between the foreign and bucolic on the one hand, and the fashionable and humorous on the other. The VI Ouvertures may also be read as an attempt to historicize the overture-suite through stylistic mediation between the Lullian/Lulliste archetype (obsolete dances such as the branle and galliard, theatrical movement titles) and the mature galant idiom of the 1730s (a near total supplanting of traditional dances by up-to-date movement types such as the murky), a duality recalling Telemann’s commentary on music of an earlier generation in his Corellisierende Sonaten (1735).
In the Bach-Jahrbuch 2008 Andreas Glöckner introduced a new primary source that sheds light on Fasch’s early years in Leipzig. On 29 December 1710, the well-liked university student and Thomasschule alumnus noted that he would direct any future performances of sacred music by his Collegium Musicum at the Paulinerkirche “without charge” and “without any hope of receiving any kind of remuneration”.
When Fasch made this generous offer — in reaction to a letter of protest by Thomaskantor Kuhnau who wished to remain in charge of music at the church — he did not seem to have accumulated the “Leipziger Wechsel-Schuld”, a debt of 1000 Thaler that would haunt Fasch even beyond his death.
Drawing from archival sources extant in Dessau, including an autograph letter by Fasch from 5 April 1738, this paper will address some of the mysteries that have surrounded this "Schuldenberg", which equaled over three times his annual salary as Kapellmeister in Zerbst.
In particular, factors that could have contributed to Fasch’s continued financial struggles will be examined. These range from personal choices, faith issues and the need to maintain a certain standard of living as Kapellmeister, to the varying degrees of support offered by the court and the Consistory. Finally, did Fasch’s money woesaffect his productivity as a composer? The answer lies not only in the “Musikalischer Wechsel-Tausch” he organized and the contents of the “Concert-Stube” music inventory from 1743, but also in Fasch’s overall work ethic and integrity as a musician.
Christoph Trautmann’s discovery in 1968 of Johann Sebastian Bach’s personal copy of the Calov Bible and Commentary in the Concordia Seminary Library in St. Louis occasioned considerable excitement in the Bach community. In 1985, the tercentennial of Bach’s birth, Howard H. Cox and Robin A. Leaver issued two separate facsimile editions featuring pages with annotations. A handful of articles (Renate Steiger, 1987, and Mary Greer, 2008) and a dissertation (Thomas Donald Rossin, 1992) have appeared subsequently. However, given the unique nature of this source, it is all the more striking that so few studies of Bach’s Bible have been published over the past four decades. The principal stumbling block is the fact that, in each of the three volumes, Bach wrote his monogram and the year “1733”, in other words, five to ten years after he had composed the great majority of his church cantatas, the Magnificat, as well as the Passions according to John and Matthew. It was difficult to make a case for the annotations in the Bible having any bearing on the genesis of these works if we assumed that he did not take possession of the set until 1733 or a year or two earlier.
By determining which passages in the Bible were almost certainly highlighted by someone other than Bach and linking them to unique biographical details in the life of someone in Bach’s circle, I believe that I have identified who owned the Bible immediately before him. I also cite a host of evidence—completely unrelated to the Bible, including a coded reference to this individual embedded in a piece by Bach—which strongly suggests that he stood in a far closer relationship to Bach than scholars have previously suspected. Moreover, by identifying correspondences between specific passages that are highlighted and a work Bach is known to have composed before 1730, I argue that this individual either transmitted the content of certain passages to Bach well before 1733 or loaned one or more of the volumes to him before giving them to him outright in 1733 or a year or two earlier. The identification of the probable previous owner of Bach’s Bible and the revelation of the scope of their relationship has far-reaching implications for Bach studies.
Johann Sebastian Bach’s output of sacred cantatas, even including the possibility of lost cycles, was dwarfed by those of a number of his contemporaries, including his two higher-ranked competitors for the Leipzig Cantorate, Telemann and Graupner. Yet few cantatas by composers other than Bach are performed today, especially outside of Germany, and for most musicologists and performers, “sacred cantata” means “J. S. Bach.” Yet, during Bach’s own lifetime, there was a vast and vital repertoire of cantatas composed for church use all over Lutheran Germany, and Bach performed works by other composers such as Telemann. While these works bear a general familial similarity with Bach’s works, they often employ movement types, layouts, and a general approach to text setting that either is less common or not used at all by Bach. In this paper, I will outline the ways in which Telemann’s practice often takes paths that diverge from Bach’s approaches to the madrigalian-type cantata as composed in Weimar and Leipzig. Because of the sheer size of Telemann’s cantata repertoire, I will focus on the cantata cycles that Telemann composed during his tenure as director of church music in Frankfurt-am-Main (1712–21).