New collectibles from our treasury
The Bach Archive Leipzig received three volumes (I, III, V) of the German edition of the »Sämtliche Orgelwerke« (Complete organ works) by J. S. Bach, edited by Charles-Marie Widor and Albert Schweitzer, as a gift from the Musikhochschule Münster. The volumes are very rare and not preserved in any other German library.
Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965) studied organ in Paris with French organist Charles-Marie Widor (1844–1937) and the two became good friends. Widor encouraged Schweitzer to write down his ideas about Bach’s works in French: In 1905 his book was published under the title J.-S. Bach, le musicien-poète; the completely revised and expanded German version was published in 1908. The main emphases of this Bach book were not biographical aspects but rather the interpretation of the essence of his music. Schweitzer declared: »As a musician I wanted to talk to other musicians about Bach’s music«.
In 1907 the New York publishing company G. Schirmer commissioned Widor and Schweitzer to edit a new edition of Bach’s organ works with detailed analysis of each work in three languages (English, French and German). Schweitzer insisted that the score should show Bach’s notation with no additional markings, which was different to the previous editions. The first five volumes were published between 1912 and 1914. The last three volumes were published 1954 (VI) and 1967 (VII+VIII) and only in English language; a continuation of the German and French edition was not planned.
A long-lost portrait of the Berlin composer and Bach’s grandson Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach (1759–1845) was given to the Bach-Archive as a permanent loan by the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin. The picture is as ascribed to the Berlin portraitist Eduard Magnus who painted it at the behest of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy around 1844. In 1843 Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach has been travelled to Leipzig to join the inauguration of the Leipzig Bach monument that was founded by Mendelssohn. In 2012 the portrait appeared at an art dealer in Munich. In Leipzig it will be hang up in the treasure room of the Bach-Museum.
In the year of the 200th anniversary of Matthias Claudius’ death the Leipzig Bach Archive was able to acquire a long-lost letter by the poet, reporting about a private concert at Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Hamburg apartment in October 1768. (Deutsche Fassung)
It must have been a great pleasure to listen to C. P. E. Bach playing the clavier. In October 1768 the German poets Matthias Claudius and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing were guests at Bach’s Hamburg apartment. In a letter to his friend Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg Claudius reported about that event: »I myself was not able to make him play; that is why I asked Lessing to take me along.«
At that time Bach was the director of music in Hamburg for not even a year. Meanwhile not only his playing but also his special instrument was known throughout the city: »The famous little Silbermann Clavier has a clear, pervasive, sweet sound, the basso is particularly not powerful, the descant is particularly not soft and reaches just e’’’. On this clavier Bach played two Adagios and an Allegro, which he had composed particularly for this clavier.«
Claudius compares Bach’s playing with the prudent talk of an orator. Maybe this view on his playing caused him to ask Bach to play his Fantasia in C minor (from the sonata Wq 63/6). The piece was considered to be the paragon of the so called ›speaking principle‹. To illustrate the powerful eloquence of this Fantasia, Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg goes so far to set several lyrics to its tune.
Moreover: Please find Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's Fantasia in C minor in our youtube-Channel, played by Jean-Christophe Dijoux, prize winner of the XIX. International Bach Competition Leipzig 2014
After 265 years, the famous 1748 portrait of Bach by the Leipzig painter Elias Gottlob Haussmann has returned to Leipzig. This was made possible by the late American musicologist and philanthropist Dr. William H. Scheide, who designated Leipzig Bach Archive as the beneficiary of the painting on the occasion of his 100th birthday. The portrait is now part of our collection and will be permanently exhibited in the Bach Museum.
The portrait shows Johann Sebastian Bach in a formal pose at around 60 of age. In his right hand, he holds a sheet bearing the Canon triplex à 6 Voc: per J. S. Bach as proof of the sophistication of his craftsmanship. Haussmann painted two versions of the portrait. The second original, painted in 1748, is in a much better state of conservation. This is a captivating portrait, not only because of its glowing colours and sharp outlines, but also because of its moving history. The 1748 portrait was part of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s share of his father's inheritance and was once displayed as part of the voluminous collection of portraits belonging to Bach’s second-eldest son in Hamburg. The catalogue of the estate of the »Hamburg Bach« from 1790 describes it as follows: »Bach (Johann Sebastian) Kapellmeister and Music-director in Leipzig. Painted in oils by Hausmann. 2 feet, 8 inches high, 2 feet, 2 inches wide. In a golden frame«.
From the early nineteenth century, the painting was owned by the Jewish Jenke family from Breslau (now Wroclaw). Walter Jenke, a descendant of the erstwhile purchasers, was forced to emigrate from Germany in the 1930s. To protect the painting from air raids, Jenke kept the portrait at the country home of his friends, the Gardiners, in Dorset. As a result, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, today's President of Bach Archive, grew up under Bach’s gaze.
In 1952, the Bach researcher and collector William H. Schieide, a Princeton, New Jersey resident, bought the painting in an auction. Scheide, who in the Bach anniversary year of 1985 had already expressed his wish to see »his Bach« return home one day, granted the Leipzig Bach Archive the exclusive right of first refusal when he visited the Leipzig Bach Festival in 2003. Together with his wife Judith, he finally bequeathed the painting to the Bach Archive. Bill Scheide died on November 14, 2014. As a member of the Board of Trustees of Leipzig Bach Archive Foundation since 2001, he had been one of the Archive’s most generous and loyal sponsors.
For several years, the Bach Archive has endeavored to reconstruct Bach's theological library. In the »Specificatio der Verlaßenschaft des seelig verstorbenen Herrn Johann Sebastian Bachs« – i. e. the inventory of Bach's estate from 1750, which has been preserved at the Leipzig State Archives – there is a list of more than three dozen titles of spiritual books, which convey an impression of Bach's far-reaching theological interests. Through acquisitions in the international antique market, the Bach Archive is now trying to reconstruct Bach's book theological library in the form of parallel copies of the works recorded in his ledger.
Bach possessed many editions of the »Apostolische Schlußkette und Krafft-Kern oder gründliche Außlegung der gewöhnlichen Sonn- und Festtagsepisteln« (here shown in the third edition from 1680), a work by the Rostock theologian Heinrich Müller (1631-1675), whose writings were widely used in the 17th and 18th centuries in Protestant areas. Thoughts and linguistic images of his Passion sermons served as a model for Christian Friedrich Henrici, alias Picander, who wrote the libretto of Bach's St. Matthew Passion.
A particularly fine item of the very rare first edition of Johann Kuhnau’s »Neue Clavier-Übung« (1689) was acquired by the Bach-Archive – puchased at the auction house Sotheby’s already in 2012.
An unknown portrait of Bach's mélomane employer from 1717 to 1723, Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Koethen is now part of our collection. The oil on copper miniature (8 x 6 cm) dates back to the years about 1715/20. It shows the prince at the age of 22 years, approximately at that time, when he hired Johann Sebastian Bach to serve as his Hofkapellmeister (director of music).
A long-lost document recording Bach's last official act has returned to Leipzig. It is the receipt, which had last been seen in 1908 at an auction by the Auktionshaus C. G. Boerner (C. G. Boerner Auction house), documenting payment from the »Legatum Lobwasserianum« endowment. The fact that the signature confirming final payment was executed by Bach's youngest son, Johann Christian, who was then 14 year old, is the only evidence of Bach's unstable health after undergoing eye surgery by the ophthalmologist John Taylor.
Today, a single document gives us information on the status of Johann Sebastian Bach after he underwent eye surgery by the English oculist John Taylor in April 1750. The receipt slip – last seen in 1908 at an auction of the Leipzig auction house CG Boerner and presumed to be lost – is evidence of the last proven official act of Thomaskantor. In the beginning of July 1750, Johann Sebastian Bach instructed his youngest son, Johann Christian, who was hardly 15 years old, to receive the resulting annual payout from the »Legatum Lobwasserianum« endowment and to write a receipt for it. That same month, the composer passed away.
The fact that the signature for the receipt of the contractual payment was executed not by Bach himself, but by his youngest son Johann Christian, suggests that Bach was already in such a state that he was unable to leave the Thomaskantor apartment. Since the management and payment of the Lobwasserschen endowment was carried out by a deacon of the Thomaskirche, Bach must have been unable to leave his apartment even to receive the accrued interest payment. The fact that his son, Johann Christian, had to sign for Bach serves as a clear reminder that, after Bach suffered the loss of his vision through the eye operation in April, his health was already so fragile that he was not even able to complete the most basic clerical writing tasks four weeks before his death.
The »Legatum Lobwasserianum« endowment was established with the a 1,000 Guilder principal by the pious Maria Lobwasser, a lawyer's widow who died on April 28, 1610. The yearly interest gains of 50 Guilder on this capital were intended to support the church and school employees of St. Thomas, specifically the cantor, the vice-principal and the third in charge of the Thomas School, who were each entitled to 2 Guilder. (This corresponds approximately to the size of the average weekly earnings of an organist of Bach's time.) Payment was made at the request of the deceased on the day of the Visitation, 2 July.
In December 2014, the lower half of the sheet (with the receipt from 1750) appeared at the Swann Auction Galleries in New York. Documentation was later found that this fragment had been formerly owned at least by the famous harpsichordist Wanda Landowska (1879–1959). With the generous support of three trustees of the Bach Archive – Catherine von Fürstenberg-Dussmann, Elias N. Kulukundis, and Arend Oetker – we were successful in bringing the document back to Leipzig, where it will have a permanent home in the Leipzig Bach Archive.