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Number of Cantatas

Regarding the number of Bach’s cantatas

Juozas Rimars wrote (December 18, 2001):
I heard only 40% of Bach's cantatas are available today. Is there any information about the approximate total number of the cantatas composed by Bach?

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 27, 2001):
[To Juozas Rimas] According most of the sources J.S. Bach composed about 300 cantatas, of which 209 are extant.

If you are fond of the Bach Cantatas, you are invited to join the Bach Cantatas Mailing List (BCML). The instructions how to join appear in Kirk's Bach site: http://www.mcelhearn.com/bach.html . The cantatas are discussed on weekly basis, and so far we have already discussed 108 of them.

Enjoy and Happy New Bach Year,

 

300 and 2/5 of cantatas

Juozas Rimas wrote (September 30, 2002):
It is written at
http://odur.let.rug.nl/Linguistics/diversen/bach/cantatas/introduction.html
that

"Bach wrote more than 300 cantatas during his life, of which about two-fifths are lost"

In the Teldec Bach complete edition, there are no less than 215 cantatas, so this is around 70% of the said 300. Is it considered now that JSB wrote considerably more than 300 cantatas or have new ones been found?

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (September 30, 2001):
[To Huozas Rimas] Or someone can't do math...

Ludwig wrote (October 1, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] If anyone on the list has any more recent information please feel free to correct me.

No new Bach Cantatas have been found in more than 50 years but there are somne intriguing places that could be searched such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

What is going on is the saving and restoration of the original manuscripts that we do have. Many of yhe original MSS are deteriorating rapidly due to the Ink Bach used in combination with the paper.

Bach's ink was a Iron and oak gall bases--the same ink that Leonardo da Vinci used. Oak Gall based inks are marvelous in the things that can be done but in the very long run are very distructive to the paper used.

Juozas Rimas wrote (October 1, 2002):
Ludwig wrote:
< No new Bach Cantatas have been found in more than 50 years but there are somne intriguing places that could be searched such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. >
Why England? Incidentally, I have read a new quartet by Mozart was found in England last year (I may be mistaken - I don't have the source at hand) – so there is hope :) Anyway, I'm very surprised that 230 separate chorales (BWV 253 to BWV438) have been saved but the accompanying arias and recitatives have been lost with no trace. The saver had no sense of priority... :)

< What is going on is the saving and restoration of the original manuscripts that we do have. Many of the original MSS are deteriorating rapidly due to the Ink Bach used in combination with the paper. >
I remember visiting the website of the Digital Bach project devoted to digitize all the JSB's manuscripts.

Ludwig wrote (October 2, 2002):
[To Juozas Rimas] Why England because Her Majesty the Queen personally owns a great wealth of original manuscripts including Leonardo da Vinci just for starters. What she does not have the Libraries of Cambridge and Oxford do.

One of Bach's sons immigrated to England where he served various members of the Nobility.

I would not doubt that a 'new' Mozart quartet had been found in England as many of the French Aristocrasy fled there during the French Revolution. Do you know if it was up for auction at Christies, Southebys or Parke=-Benet??

Other places to look for manuscripts are in castles in Germany, Austria and Switzerland where Haydn manuscript scores have turned up.

< Anyway, I'm very surprised that 230 separate chorales (BWV 253 to BWV438) have been saved but the accompanying arias and recitatives have been lost with no trace. The saver had no sense of >
When there are people in the world like Haydn's wife--once can understand this. Haydn's wife thought nothing of using her husbands manuscripts as paper to curl her hair with or to light candles with.

Enrico wrote (December 2, 2002):
Juozas Rimas wrote:
< Anyway, I'm very surprised that 230 separate chorales (BWV 253 to BWV438) have been saved but the accompanying arias and recitatives have been lost with no trace. The saver had no sense of priority... :) >
And if the chorales where written without arias and recitatives?

Juozas Rimas wrote:
Ludwig wrote:
< I would not doubt that a 'new' Mozart quartet had been found in England as many of the French Aristocrasy fled there during the French Revolution. Do you know if it was up for auction at Christies, Southebys or Parke=-Benet??

Other places to look for manuscripts are in castles in Germany, Austria and Switzerland where Haydn manuscript scores have turned up. >
LOL, we now have to wait for another Indiana Jones who would be hunting for Bach's manuscripts instead of the Holy Grail :)

Dick Wursten wrote (October 2, 2002):
Just an intuition:
IMVHO it thingk we have almost all cantatas.

That there should be 5 complete cycles is stated in the necrology of Bach (Mizler-society, by Carl Philip Emm. The same necrology mentions 5 passions (!).

Both are conjectures from CPhE, no historical facts.
He himself wrote about this necrology that is was 'zusammengestoppelt 'together with J.F. Agricola. And evaluates: 'Es ist nicht viel wehrt' (is has not much value). 'Der Seelige war, wie ich u.alle eigentligen musici, kein Liebhaber, von trocknem, mathematischen Zeuge' (The deceased (blessed be he = JSB) was, like myself and all true musicians, no lover of dry, mathematical witnesses..)

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (October 3, 2002):
Juozas Rimas wrote:
< I remember visiting the website of the Digital Bach project devoted to digitize all the JSB's manuscripts. >
ooh-do you remeber the url?

Riccardo Nughes wrote (October 3, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer]
http://www.bachdigital.org/

If you want to see the interesting videos featured in the site you must install a special IBM player and have a broadband connection.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (October 3, 2002):
Juozas Rimas wrote:
< LOL, we now have to wait for another Indiana Jones who would be hunting for Bach's manuscripts instead of the Holy Grail :) >
I can see it now-
"Indiana Jones and the Fifth Evangelist"

Boyd Pehrson wrote (October 4, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] Now that IS funny :-)

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (October 5, 2002):
[To Boyd Pehrson] Why thank you Boyd!

If only I could be funny in face to face conversation...

 

CPE and the cantata cycles

Continue of discussion from: Psalm 51 BWV 1083 Tilge, Höchester, meine Sünden - General Discussions [Other Vocal Works]

John Pike wrote (April 12, 2005):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] But I think I am right in saying that CPE Bach tells us in the obituary that there WERE 5 cycles of cantatas. I suppose it is just about possible that CPE Bach was unaware that his father never got round to doing 2 complete cycles of cantatas but this seems most unlikely. It is surely more likely that they are lost.

Doug Cowling wrote (April 12, 2005):
[To John Pike] I'm more inclined to assume that Bach's contract to provide a cantata each week did not necessarily mean that he would compose a new cantata every week for the next couple of decades. Rather that the Leipzig authorities could expect to hear a cantata each Sunday whether it was Bach or another composer.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (April 12, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] They meant for Bach to write a new Kantate every week.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 12, 2005):
CPE and the cantata cycles

< But I think I am right in saying that CPE Bach tells us in the obituary that there WERE 5 cycles of cantatas. I suppose it is just about possible that CPE Bach was unaware that his father never got round to doing 2 complete cycles of cantatas but this seems most unlikely. It is surely more likely that they are lost. >
Given that CPE himself was employed as harpsichord tuner at the Thomaskirche for some of those years, it's pretty likely he knew what music was being done there in performances and rehearsal schedule.

Doug Cowling wrote (April 13, 2005):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Would you quote the specific clause in the contractº

Thanks

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 13, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Given that CPE himself was employed as harpsichord
tuner at the Thomaskirche for some of those years... <<
Only 1 3/4 years between 1731 and 1733, to be exact. Source: p. 62 of Arnold Schering's "Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik" [Leipzig, 1936.]

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 13, 2005):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
>>They meant for Bach to write a new Kantate every week.<<
Doug Cowling wrote:
>>Would you quote the specific clause in the contract<<
Konrad Küster, in his "Bach Handbuch" [Bärenreiter/Metzler, 1999] p. 187:

"Überhaupt hat Bach als Thomaskantor nie ausdrücklich den Auftrag erhalten, die aufzuführenden Kantaten selbst zu schreiben.<<

["Besides, Bach, as 'Thomaskantor' never expressly received the assignment/order that would require him to compose and perform his own cantatas."]

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 12, 2005):
I observed:
> >>Given that CPE himself was employed as harpsichord >tuner at the Thomaskirche for some of those years... ><<
And that was summarily and immediately "overruled" thus, by someone who considers himself better informed and more reliable in all such matters, or who at least likes to give that appearance:
< Only 1 3/4 years between 1731 and 1733, to be exact. Source: p. 62 of Arnold Schering's "Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik" [Leipzig, 1936.] >
I recall that a member of this list regularly denigrates that same Schering book as allegedly unreliable in some matters of performance practices, but then allegedly (and self-servingly) more reliable than recent research on other matters of performance practices, whenever needing a source to trump somebody else's remarks in the discussion. Kind of arbitrary there in its value and usage, in the pseudo-objectivity (i.e. the meta-claim that the user is well placed to make such a value judgment about the book, in all matters of its accuracy). Not that such an allegation about the Schering book, as to its allegedly spotty quality (i.e. that it's correct in all details only when its owner says so), would render any particular information in it necessarily false; nor can it be assumed to be absolutely reliable in matters where it's the only source at hand. Information is tested and refined in later research.

Anyway, as to CPE as the Thomaskirche tuner, see also Bach-Dokumente II, p122ff (1969); Ottenberg's bio of CPE, p15 (Oxford, 1982/7); and Landowska on Music, p129 (New York, 1964). Ottenberg cited that BD2 entry. Landowska didn't give a citation, but obviously BD2 didn't exist yet.

And BD2 itself is based on extant account books. How do we know, one way or another, whether CPE was additionally a tuner at the Thomaskirche before and/or after those years where account books aren't extant? (Case in point: account books for my own years as a harpsichord tuner, on staff for a music department at a college, probably aren't extant anymore; is that lacuna any proof that they never hired me during the years I claim, or that I never tuned their harpsichords additionally for free?)

What's the proof that CPE didn't additionally tune for JSB's ensembles whenever he happened to be in town with some spare moments? And what's the proof that CPE allegedly worked as tuner for "ONLY 1 3/4 years between 1731 and 1733, to be exact", as if that takes something away from CPE's reliability as a witness to his father's church music, and as if that "exact"ness trumps the initial observation, removing some of its reliability?

The fact, as I stated it the first time, is that CPE was right there tuning the harpsichord for rehearsals and performances at the Thomaskirche. Why the attempt to discredit CPE and/or me, in that regard? Why must restrictions be clamped around so many musical and historical observations I offer in this forum, as if I don't know what I'm talking about and can simply be trumped by looking up things selectively in reference books, applied illogically?

Anyway, CPE himself supplied the information for JSB's obituary that nobody else could tune to JSB's satisfaction except JSB (and, by implication, CPE himself when available as that entrusted deputy at the Thomaskirche). That tells me that JSB and CPE likely had a particular way to do it, to get it to sound right; all the more reason to let CPE do it as deputy whenever JSB himself was too busy.

But no, it's been asserted here in no uncertain terms "to be exact" that CPE did so for JSB for a period of less than two years. So much for logical reasoning, and for practice and experience, and for my personal use of (what I believe to be) the same method JSB and CPE used, i.e. knowing directly why everybody else's tuning methods would have sounded wrong to JSB.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 13, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>I observed: "Given that CPE himself was employed as harpsichord tuner at the Thomaskirche for some of those years...
And that was summarily and immediately "overruled" thus, by someone who considers himself better informed and more reliable in all such matters, or who at least likes to give that appearance:<<
I had succinctly stated the fact that "Only 1 3/4 years between 1731 and 1733, to be exact. Source: p. 62 of Arnold Schering's "Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik" [Leipzig, 1936.]

Comment #1:

Presenting a valid, reliable, verifiable fact when a wide-ranging implication (that CPE Bach spent years tuning the harpsichord at St. Thomas Church, hence, for this reason, would be acquainted with all five yearly cycles composed by his father) can not be confirmed by reliable evidence, would seem to be information kindly offered for the benefit of other readers of this list. This really has nothing to do with what else might be conjectured regarding CPE's possible acquaintance with almost all of the cantatas which his father had composed. It is a fact that CPE attended St. Thomas School from 1723-1731 and then continued at the University of Leipzig from October 1731 until the fall of 1734. CPE, in my estimation, would have had sufficient opportunity to hear and participate in the performances of church music which Bach composed during this period - almost all of Bach's cantatas were composed in these early Leipzig years.

However, this is not what is being questioned here. On the contrary, it is the incorrect assertion with a far-implication that CPE served quite a number of years as the official harpsichord tuner for St. Thomas Church, and the attempt to have this understood as a verifiable fact with good evidence to back it up.

>>I recall that a member of this list regularly denigrates that same Schering book as allegedly unreliable in some matters of performance practices, but then allegedly (and self-servingly) more reliable than recent research on other matters of performance practices, whenever needing a source to trump somebody else's remarks in the discussion. Kind of arbitrary there in its value and usage, in the pseudo-objectivity (i.e. the meta-claim that the user is well placed to make such a value judgment about the book, in all matters of its accuracy). Not that such an allegation about the Schering book, as to its allegedly spotty quality (i.e. that it's correct in all details only when its owner says so), would render any particular information in it necessarily false; nor can it be assumed to be absolutely reliable in matters where it's the only source at hand.<<

Comment #2:

It is very important in an objective approach to any subject (book or article) not to adopt a simplistic approach: if anything part of such writing is incorrect, inaccurate, unreliable, etc., then every other part is thus likewise subject to the same criticism. Similarly, Arnold Schering (look up his biography in the OCC) was one of the foremost Bach scholars who ever lived, but to simply place him on a pedestal and say that this 'hero' could do no wrong would be just as bad as not recognizing where his merits and his weaknesses are. The process of winnowing fact from fiction and careless from solid scholarship goes on continually. It is ludicrous to accuse anyone of vacillating between believing or not believing the contents of an entire book or article based solely on the simplistic decision between either/or, black/white, plus/minus, etc.

>>Information is tested and refined in later research.<<

Comment #3:

This depends upon a number of factors which are frequently overlooked. One common mistake that is made is that "if the research is more recent, it must, by the very fact that it is later in history, be more true, accurate, reliable, etc." One common error committed by researchers in musicology is that they may rely too much on secondary sources and if the latter are in a different language or are not easily accessible for study, they may be overlooked or misinterpreted or even incorrectly quoted. Somewhere the process of ascertaining the validity of the original source fails. Now the opportunity arises for other researchers to believe, based on an assumption on their part, the initial researchers as 'having properly done their homework.'

>>Anyway, as to CPE as the Thomaskirche tuner, see also Bach-Dokumente II, p122ff (1969); Ottenberg's bio of CPE, p15 (Oxford, 1982/7); and Landowska on Music, p129 (New York, 1964). Ottenberg cited that BD2 entry. Landowska didn't give a citation, but obviously BD2 didn't exist yet.<<

Comment #4:

Landowska can be excused from not citing a reference that did not yet exist! She simply did not bother to examine the Schering source from 1936. This does not prove that Landowska was a bad performer (I grew up with recordings of her harpsichord playing and always loved what she did), only that she was in this instance, in this regard, a poor researcher and should probably have asked someone else to look up this information for her, if it was important for her book.

Ottenberg's biography, on the other hand, is a more serious matter. Here is a researcher, for reasons that we will never understand, did not accurately record his source and overstated the information given, or perhaps could not read and/or understand the German-language source, BD II, which he allegedly consulted. This is a serious charge.

Let's examine Ottenberg's reference more closely. He, according to what is given above, lists the BD II with "p122ff" which, I would assume, means that beginning with page 122 is where the pertinent reference (proof for a statement made) is found. In a footnote on p. 122 in fine print can be found "C. Ph. E. Bach 1732/1733" as reference to his only payments for tuning the harpsichord at St. Thomas. This is slightly less precise than the information given by Schering which documents that, for 1/4 of the year 1732, CPE was not the official tuner at St. Thomas Church.

Since I do not have the Ottenberg biography of CPE, it would be interesting indeed if it could be determined whether Ottenberg 'stretched' this information or rather that we can blame this 'stretching' on the reader of this book rather than the author, the reader having read more into a statement than was actually presented in print.

>>And BD2 itself is based on extant account books. How do we know, one way or another, whether CPE was additionally a tuner at the Thomaskirche before and/or after those years where account books aren't extant?<<

Comment #5:

The account books are 'extant' and are fully presented in Schering's book, but only summarized in a footnote in the BD II, p. 122.

>>(Case in point: account books for my own years as a harpsichord tuner, on staff for a music department at a college, probably aren't extant anymore; is that lacuna any proof that they never hired me during the years I claim, or that I never tuned their harpsichords additionally for free?)<<

Comment #6:

This 'case in point', in light of the above, amounts to unnecessary self-promotion and is beyond any kind of 'logical' argument.

>>What's the proof that CPE didn't additionally tune for JSB's ensembles whenever he happened to be in town with some spare moments? And what's the proof that CPE allegedly worked as tuner for "ONLY 1 3/4 years between 1731 and 1733, to be exact", as if that takes something away from CPE's reliability as a witness to his father's church music, and as if that "exact"ness trumps the initial observation, removing some of its reliability?<<

Comment #7:

Coming back to the original assertion: "Given that CPE himself was employed as harpsichord tuner at the Thomaskirche for some of those years..." to which I added the correction: "Only 1 3/4 years between 1731 and 1733, to be exact. Source: p. 62 of Arnold Schering's "Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik" [Leipzig, 1936,]" we now leave the realm of verifiable facts and wander into the abyss of speculations which musicologists arrogate to themselves and are extremely reluctant to grant others with reasonable minds to contemplate and express. Here an intended confusion of fact and suppositions and conjectures occurs. Let the reader be aware of this maneuver.

>>The fact, as I stated it the first time, is that CPE was right there tuning the harpsichord for rehearsals and performances at the Thomaskirche.<<

Comment #8:

Here is more evidence of the confusion of facts and assumptions not backed up by proof documented in the records surrounding Bach's life and activities in Leipzig.

>>Why the attempt to discredit CPE and/or me, in that regard?<<

Comment #9:

How can an established fact serve as an attempt to discredit CPE Bach or the individual who disputes the existence of such a fact?

>>Why must restrictions be clamped around so many musical and historical observations I offer in this forum, as if I don't know what I'm talking about and can simply be trumped blooking up things selectively in reference books, applied illogically?<<

Comment #10:

Why must statements presented with a firm foundation in factual evidence be perceived as an accusation against whatever is presented in this forum, or perceived as an uncovering of one's lack of reliable information, or as a threat posed by reliable reference books? What is being 'applied illogically' here? How has the fact under discussion here been chosen 'selectively' with an intention other than to inform the reader about the validity of a statement under dispute here?

>>Anyway, CPE himself supplied the information for JSB's obituary that nobody else could tune to JSB's satisfaction except JSB (and, by implication, CPE himself when available as that entrusted deputy at the Thomaskirche). That tells me that JSB and CPE likely had a particular way to do it, to get it to sound right; all the more reason to let CPE do it as deputy whenever JSB himself was too busy.<<

Comment #11:

This begins to sound like wishful thinking, or wild conjecture at the least, without much in the way of real evidence to back up this statement. There were other tuners employed to tune the harpsichords at both the St. Thomas and St. Nicholas Churches. What proof is there, that they too knew how to tune Bach's harpsichords the way he wanted? Reconcile this with the statement supplied by CPE Bach in the famous obituary which states that only J. S. Bach could tune his instruments the way he wanted them to be tuned (except, by implication, CPE, CL, ZH, JCH, etc.) Somehow this statement does not seem to stand up to closer scrutiny.

>>But no, it's been asserted here in no uncertain terms "to be exact" that CPE did so for JSB for a period of less than two years. So much for logical reasoning, and for practice and experience, and for my personal use of (what I believe to be) the same method JSB and CPE used, i.e. knowing directly why everybody else's tuning methods would have sounded wrong to JSB.<<

Comment #12:

This is another self-promoting 'plug' under the guise of attacking the illogical reasoning of others as well as their lack of practice and experience. Despite all the unfounded accusations leveled against me in the previous message, I am comforted somewhat by the qualification in the comment made about the recently 'discovered' tuning method: "what I believe to be" Bach's method. This will enable more fruitful discussions in the future, discussions devoid of personal animosity caused by imagined injury coming from factual statements relating to the discussion of Bach's life and work in these forums.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 12, 2005):
< Ottenberg's biography, on the other hand, is a more serious matter. Here is a researcher, for reasons that we will never understand, did not accurately record his source and overstated the information given, or perhaps could not read and/or understand the German-language source, BD II, which he allegedly consulted. This is a serious charge. >
And a ludicrously reckless one, demonstrating the willingness of the accuser to make up such anti-scholarly charges on any excuse and any shoestring, to make himself look smarter than scholars (present and otherwise).

H-G Otterberg's book (which the accuser has just admitted he has not read) was first written IN GERMAN, and published in Leipzig in 1982. Then the English translation of it (by Philip Whitmore) is Oxford, 1987, which I have read and have right here on my desk (a library copy). Otterberg has no claim in it as to any particular years of CPE's work there as tuner; nor did I in turn state one. That's all been read improperly into the dialogue here.

Otterberg's claim, using the citation from Bach-Dokumente II, is simply this: "So Carl Philipp Emanuel's formative years were filled with musical stimuli of many different kinds. (...) Given his father's interest in the development of instrument manufacture and his reputation as an outstanding authority on the organ, the young Bach's familiarity with the mechanics of the harpsichord is hardly surprising. He tuned harpsichords himself[FN to BD2] and would also have quilled the jacks. Although still a law student at Leipzig University, C.P.E. Bach made his first attempt to start a musical career in August 1733: he applied for the post of organist at St Wenceslas' Church in Naumburg--albeit without success. Consequently the young Bach remained at university." [Otterberg, tr. Whitmore, p15]

Personally, I think it's a strong endorsement of the teenaged CPE Bach's musical abilities that his father entrusted the harpsichord tuning to him. Harpsichord tuning is both a thankless and non-trivial task.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 13, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Otterberg has no claim in it as to any particular years of CPE's work there as tuner<<
So it it true that the reader, relying on Otterberg, 'stretched' Otterberg's research into more than it actually had stated in the first place. This is what leads to confusion regarding the issue under discussion.

>>Otterberg's claim, using the citation from Bach-Dokumente II, is simply this: "So Carl Philipp Emanuel's formative years were filled with musical stimuli of many different kinds. (...) Given his father's interest in the development of instrument
manufacture and his reputation as an outstanding authority on the organ, the young Bach's familiarity with the mechanics of the harpsichord is hardly surprising. He tuned harpsichords himself[FN to BD2] and would also have quilled the jacks...." [Otterberg, tr. Whitmore, p15]<<
It still needs to be explained why, during all the other years in question (1723 onward), other tuners were on the payroll in both churches already mentioned. Also, why would J. S. Bach, as described by CPE as being very particular to tune his own
instruments because only he could tune them the way he wanted, have all these other individuals tuning the harpsichords in the churches. Also, if CPE were living at home, certainly, according to his own report, his father would not tolerate having any of his sons attempt to tune any of the keyboard instruments. Something does not make much sense here!

Eric Bergerud wrote (April 14, 2005):
[To Alain Bruguières] <snip>
As for CPE Bach, I don't see him making a mistake as major as claiming cantata cycles that were not produced by his father. The obituary appears to have been done with great care. I don't see how anyone would be surprised that a large number of Bach's works could have been lost considering Bach's relative musical position at the time and the way his estate was distributed. I think we're lucky to have as much as we do.

 

Bach Cantatas: Doing the Math: What was performed?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 28, 2007):
I'm curious about what we can know that was performed in Leipzig when Bach had finished composinghis five cantata cycles. It's obvios he repeated some performances of cantatas, that's very obvious with revised scores/parts.

But when you do the math-- there were about (and this is a rough estimate mind you) 1144 Sundays that would require a cantata performance (this estimate excludes Lenten Sundays and Advent). There's a lot of music tis apparently lost.

What happened to those pieces that Bach would have obtained from other composers? Would they have been put into the St. Thomas "music" library, and would been thrown out after Bach's death? Would they have been part of his musical estate: if he copied out and performed the music of other composers, he must have valued it greatly ( I don't see Bach performing "bad" music in his churches).

Thanks for any ideas!

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 28, 2007):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
>>I'm curious about what we can know that was performed in Leipzig when Bach had finished composinghis five cantata cycles. It's obvios he repeated some performances of cantatas, that's very obvious with revised scores/parts.<<
This is extremely difficult to ascertain. Assuming that Bach repeated his cantata cycles 4 times after they were composed, then we should be able to observe from a careful study of the autograph score and original set of parts that each of these cantatas would have been repeated 4 more times during Bach's tenure in Leipzig. The evidence from repeats of Bach's cantatas would normally be in the form of changes, some perhaps minor, but others involving reorchestration necessary to adapt the music to the musicians who happened to be available to him.

Without checking for closer accuracy in this matter, my guess would be that about a third of the cantatas composed or reorchestrated for use in Leipzig, do show clear evidence that they were reused 2 or 3 times. Some examples of these were recently discussed and the NBA reprints the various versions/stages of such cantatas. However, more often than not, when I read the NBA KBs, no evidence of reuse or confirmation that the cantata was performed again has been found. The usual statement that follows this is: "It can probably be assumed the cantata was performed again by Bach at a later date." What is disturbing about this is that the original composing score remained unaltered and no changes were made to any of the parts which appear upon closer inspection not to show any evidence of reuse. Usually Bach continues to progress or adapt existing music to make it more suitable for or performable by the musicians he happens to be working with. Can we assume that Bach would look at a cantata he had composed 5 or 10 years earlier and determine that it was perfect in every way for a different ensemble of musicians than the one for whom the music was written?

kpc: >>What happened to those pieces that Bach would have obtained from other composers? Would they have been put into the St. Thomas "music" library, and would been thrown out after Bach's death? Would they have been part of his musical estate?<<
Bach-Dokumente II, Item 170, [Music of the St. Thomas School entrusted to the care of the Cantor - 1723 to 1750), gives, in addition to actual books about music, the following:

30 Cantatas in manuscript form (purchased in 1680)

15 (Sets? of) "little" parts (purchased in 1683) along with Mr. Johann Schelle's music (donated to the library on July 16, 1712) Additional note (probably 1723): These things are in the possession of Cantor, Johann Sebastian Bach, but they are in rather poor condition ("quite damaged") and have become almost entirely unusable.

1 Book "Florilegium Portense", purchased in 1729 to be kept by the Cantor in his apartment and which is to be used by the pupils in church and "for music" ("zur Music") ("teaching music/singing?")

--------------

The question remains as to how many new cantatas Bach could obtain by exchanging with other cantors/composers. Beyond the documented exchange with a member of the extended Bach family (which accounts for only a small number of cantatas), which other German cantata composers would have been on Bach's "Cantata Exchange List"?

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 28, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< What is disturbing about this is that the original composing score remained unaltered and no changes were made to any of the parts which appear upon closer inspection not to show any evidence of reuse. Usually Bach continues to progress or adapt existing music to make it more suitable for or performable by the musicians he happens to be working with. >
It is baffling why the surviving parts show no evidence of being used at all. If they were exemplars from which copies were made, have we really lost thousands of pages of Bacg? Doesn't seem logical. There is a huge mystery here.

Shawn Charton wrote (March 29, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] I understood from my JS Bach class at Oberlin that fully 1/3 of Bach's cantata output has been lost. They were apparantly less than appreciated by the church administration and used for things like cratch paper, etc... dunno how true this is but it's what I was taught.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 29, 2007):
Shawn Charton wrote:
< I understood from my JS Bach class at Oberlin that fully 1/3 of Bach's cantata output has been lost. >
That's definitely the case for the Leipzig cantatas-- Bach's obituary mentioned 5 complete cycles (if you estimate that there are roughly 60 cantatas per cantata cycle-- that will give you circa 300; and we have about 200 surviving cantatas).

But those figures leave out important music in Weimar-- and Dr. Wolff has done estimates on paper orders that survive along with other methods, and the losses become just heart breaking. Did Bach take copies of those pieces with him as he moved from job to job? Or were they kept in the Weimar music library only to be burnt in the horrible fire in 1789?

Someone mentioned earlier today how few Easter cantatas survive-- my hunch is there are quite a few missing Bach Easter cantatas, given the importance of this holiday in the Christian calendar.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 29, 2007):
Bach Cantatas: Doing the Math: What was performed?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< But those figures leave out important music in Weimar-- and Dr. Wolff has done estimates on paper orders that survive along with other methods, and the losses become just heart breaking. Did Bach take copies of those pieces with him as he moved from job to job? Or were they kept in the Weimar music library only to be burnt in the horrible fire in 1789? >
I lean towards the supposition that Bach planned five cantata cycles as a single. unified project. When he completed this project, he stopped writing cantatas, knowing that he had a repertoire of five items for each Sunday and festival. That seemed to satisfy his notion of producing a "new" work every Sunday.

It would be very interesting to make a table of Sundays and Festivals for the Leipzig years, add the known cantatas and see if there are any patterns. It might be possible to extrapolate further performances for which we don't have documentary evidence. We might also see where performances of other composers' works fitted in.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 29, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
<< What is disturbing about this is that the original composing score remained unaltered and no changes were made to any of the parts which appear upon closer inspection not to show any evidence of reuse. Usually Bach continues to progress or adapt existing music to make it more suitable for or performable by the musicians he happens to be working with. >>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< It is baffling why the surviving parts show no evidence of being used at all. If they were exemplars from which copies were made, have we really lost thousands of pages of Bacg? Doesn't seem logical. There is a huge mystery here. >
One of lifes mysteries is why they put the g next to the h. No, that's not it, why the q next to the w.

And why, when this sort of silliness slips through, it is repeated in triplicate?

The real question, what is the condition of the parts, and what conc(preliminary, for sure) can be drawn, should not be obscured by my obscure sense of humor.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 29, 2007):
Shawn Charton wrote:
<< I understood from my JS Bach class at Oberlin that fully 1/3 of Bach's cantata output has been lost. >>
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< That's definitely the case for the Leipzig cantatas-- Bach's obituary mentioned 5 complete cycles >
I am winging this from memory, so corrections welcome. Are you sure the obituary says 'complete'? Contrary to current practice, it was published several years after his death, and was perhaps as much general respect as precise summation?

< (if you estimate that there are roughly 60 cantatas per cantata cycle-- that will give you circa 300; and we have about 200 surviving cantatas). >
The arithmetic is agreeable.

< But those figures leave out important music in Weimar-- and Dr. Wolff has done estimates on paper orders that survive along with other methods, and the losses become just heart breaking. Did Bach take copies of those pieces with him as he moved from job to job? Or were they kept in the Weimar music library only to be burnt in the horrible fire in 1789? >
Given the amount of material he reworked, my hunch is that he took what he felt was importnat.

< Someone mentioned earlier today how few Easter cantatas survive-- my hunch is there are quite a few missing Bach Easter cantatas, given the importance of this holiday in the Christian calendar. >
It is refreshing to see an honest, American English, word like hunch on these lists!

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 29, 2007):
Shawn Charton wrote:
< I understood from my JS Bach class at Oberlin that fully 1/3 of Bach's cantata output has been lost. They were apparantly less than appreciated by the church administration and used for things like cratch paper, etc... dunno how true this is but it's what I was taught. >
This is a serious question. If they are lost, how do we know how many there were?

Shawn Charton wrote (March 29, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] I have always agreed with that supposition, Doug. Bach seems to me to be a guy who does things in sets (like the WTC, and the Musical Offering, etc...) It seems perfectly logical that he'd complete a certain number of cycles and then move on. Do we know how many rotations were in the Lutheran cycle of the time? The Episcopalians I used to sing for use a three year, I believe...

I would LOVE to see the chart you mention... talk about a project!

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 29, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< This is a serious question. If they are lost, how do we know how many there were? >
Surviving cantata texts but no music, reference to the pieces performed (especially the secular cantatas), but nothing survived (and you can be sure that Bach used these cantatas for sacred cantatas much in the way he did the suriving secular cantatas), the obituary mentioned five completed cantata cycles, but we don't have nearly that many, Dr. Wolff's research into Bach's ordering of music paper at other courts before Leipzig, his contractual requirements mentioned specific cantata compositions, all of this can give you a rough estimate of what's missing.

And also, logic comes into play as well: Holy Week is one of the most important times in the church liturgically, yet we only have 3 cantatas for Easter Sunday, and only 1 for Palm Sunday. On the other hand, we have four cantatas typically for specific Sundays in Ordinary time, so it seems more than likely Bach wrote more cantatas for those important celebrations than have survived.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 29, 2007):
Shawn Charton wrote:
< I have always agreed with that supposition, Doug. Bach seems to me to be a guy who does things in sets (like the WTC, and the Musical Offering, etc...) It seems perfectly logical that he'd complete a certain number of cycles and then move on. Do we know how many rotations were in the Lutheran cycle of the time? The Episcopalians I used to sing for use a three year, I believe... >
Until the 1970's, Lutherans, Catholics and Anglicans used the same 1 yr pre-Reformation Sunday calendar although there were some differences in the readings presented. The 3-yr lectionary was adopted after the influential reforms of the Second Vatican Council II which sought to restore the late Patristic form of most rites.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 29, 2007):
Kim Patric Clow wrote:
< Holy Week is one of the most important times in the church liturgically, yet we only have 3 cantatas for Easter Sunday, and only 1 for Palm Sunday. On the other hand, we have four cantatas typically for specific Sundays in Ordinary time, so it seems more than likely Bach wrote more cantatas for those important celebrations than have survived. >
It's helpful to look at the Lutheran rites for Holy Week and Easter and see how they relate to the cantatas which Bach was required to write. Although most of us would be surprised at how "catholic" a Lutheran mass looked like in Bach's time, the catholic ceremonies of Holy Week had been all but eliminated by Luther. The outdoor procession with Palms on Palm Sunday, the Mandatum, the washing of feet, on Maundy Thursday, the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, and the lighting of the Paschal Candle on Holy Saturday had all been suppressed.

In Leipzig, Palm Sunday was treated like the last Sunday in Lent and there was no cantata (other cities had cantatas throughout Lent). The only reason that "Himmelskönig Sei Willkommen" was performed was that the feast of the Annunication fell on Palm Sunday that year and there was always a cantata on that festival (a fascinating indicator of how persistent Marian devotion was).

In the pre-reformation rite, all four of the Passions were sung each year: Matthew on Palm Sunday, Mark on Monday, Luke on Tuesday and John on Good Friday. Lassus wrote four settings for use at the Catholic Chapel Royal of Bavaria in Munich. Those settings may well have been sung in Dresden and it is intriguing to speculate whether Bach may have known them.

Luther changed the pattern of singing the Passion Gospel so that there was one recitation on Good Friday. It appears that there was a tradition of alternating which Passion was sung but I've never seen any scholarly work which relates Bach's various Passion performances to this presumed pattern. Again, a table of Sundays and Festivals and Bach's sacred works might tell us a lot about what was expected and what might be missing.

The pattern in Bach's time was to celebrate principal feasts like Easter and Christmas as a three day event with a cantata each day. The survivng cantatas are:

Easter Day (1st Day of Easter): 4, 31, 249, 15, 160
Easter Monday: (2nd Day of Easter): 66, 6, BWV Anh 190
Easter Tuesday: (3rd Day of Easter): 134, 145, 158

If we are speculating that Bach wrote five cycles, then we could conclude that not much has been lost or that the works of other composers were performed.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 29, 2007):
<<< I understood from my JS Bach class at Oberlin that fully 1/3 of Bach's cantata output has been lost. >>>
<< That's definitely the case for the
Leipzig cantatas-- Bach's obituary mentioned 5 complete cycles >>
< I am winging this from memory, so corrections welcome. Are you sure the obituary says 'complete'? Contrary to current practice, it was published several years after his death, and was perhaps as much general respect as precise summation? >
If somebody wants to compile a master list of all the Sundays during Bach's Leipzig tenure, and plug in the cantata performance dates: all the known dates are given conveniently with each entry in the BWV. (That doesn't prove, however, that the pieces were never done at some additional time where documentation has been lost....)

Peter Williams's 2004 book The of Bach goes through the Obituary line by line, in most cases giving several pages of annotation about each topic. This one: Amazon.com
(It says some used paperback copies are available for under $2.00...)

His newer book (2007) allegedly takes a similar approach, again from the Obituary, but in much more detail, and with a closer look at the music. I'm eager to see it but my copy hasn't arrived yet. This one: Amazon.com
In some parts that I've previewed so far, Williams reuses some of his same sentences and paragraphs, but then enriches it in several new directions: which is typical of his writing style, in free-ranging thought about anything and everything.

Shawn Charton wrote (March 29, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Did you get a chance to read through my proposal yet? I'm anxious to see what you think. =-)

 

How many Bach cantatas?

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 18, 2008):
John Pike wrote:
< A small point. He refers to 199 sacred cantatas. Is this correct? Cantata fragment BWV 200 is sacred, but a number of those between 1 and 200 are known not to be by Bach (as he remarks), while others exist in multiple formats. Has anyone on this list added the number known to be by Bach up, and can give a quick answer, or will I have to do it myself?! >
I haven't added it up recently, but it depends how one counts. Do pairs such as BWV 30 and BWV 30a count as two cantatas or one? How about BWV 36a, BWV 36b, and BWV 36c? And the other cantatas that exist in substantially different versions from different Bach performances/arrangements? What's the tipping point of a substantial difference, for purposes of numbering?

Also, in the 1998 edition of the BWV, some of the regularly numbered cantatas are no longer in the main part of the list. The following are moved to the doubtful list (Anhang II): BWV 53, BWV 142, BWV 189, BWV 217, BWV 220, BWV 221. And the following are definitely booted down to Anhang III as being the work of other composers: BWV 15, BWV 141, BWV 145b, BWV 160, BWV 218, BWV 219, BWV 222, and individual movements BWV 8/6, BWV 27/6, and BWV 43/11. For example, in cantata BWV 27, Bach brought in that final movement (6) from a 1649 composition by Rosenmuller.

Ignoring those caveats, the main section lists 199 numbered and full-length (whatever that means) sacred cantatas, extant; BWV 200 is a single aria; the secular ones are numbered starting with 201. But, what's the distinction between cantata and motet? BWV 118 is now in the motets section instead of the cantatas section....

So again, the counting is pretty flexible. Sorry, no easy answer. :)

I'd like to mention another Bach biography worth seeking out for general reading, even though it's out of print: Malcolm Boyd's. It was published 1983 and 1997.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 19, 2008):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Also, in the 1998 edition of the BWV, some of the regularly numbered cantatas are no longer in the main part of the list. The following are > moved to the doubtful list (Anhang II): BWV 53, BWV 142, BWV 189, BWV 217, BWV 220, BWV 221 >
Sigh ... Cantata BWV 53 HAS to be by Bach: it's sooooooooo beautiful and I want it at my funeral.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 19, 2008):
< Sigh ... Cantata BWV 53 HAS to be by Bach: it's sooooooooo beautiful and I want it at my funeral. >
Hope that's not for a long time yet. Meanwhile: join this group about the piece, if you're not already on it: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/GMHof/

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (March 19, 2008):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Hope that's not for a long time yet. Meanwhile: join this group about the piece, if you're not already on it: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/GMHof/ >
>
Although we would enjoy having Doug, we are not in the funeral business. As I have previously noted, BWV 53 was the subject of the first flame I ever received, long before the internet. At some kind of concert in Lincoln Center many decades ago I ran into a workmate and, when I pronounced the name of Hilde Rössl-Majdan with
BWV 53, he said, UGH, the Forrester (or was it the Watts?, I no longer remember). But I think it was really the bells to which he was referring.

William Hoffmann wrote (March 19, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] The Boyd Biography is available in a paperback edition, c 2000, the author noting in a new preface, "the test(sic) has been thoroughly revised...."

As for the fundamental question, I think there's no real answer but, like the search for the Holy Grail, it sure keeps us up at night. I think the Great Bach Myth is that he composed 300 cantatas (5 cycles of 60 each), and with 200 accounted for, more or less -- more more than less! -- there's 100 still out there, more or less. Now, the question comes, what constitutes an "official," Bach cantata? The NBA lists them with numbers, BC with letters and numbers, and there are "deests"; that's fine with me. Bach didn't just revise and improve, he salvaged, adapted, inserted, pasted together, recycled, and parodied. Also, in certain works, like the St. John Passion (BWV 245), we'll never find the definitive version, or in the "lost" St. Mark Passion (BWV 247), the "original" version or even an acceptable version. By the way, how many Passions did Bach write? It's all one beautiful, huge interwoven tapestry with many layers.

John Pike wrote (March 19, 2008):
[To William Hoffman] Regarding the passions, the SMP (BWV 244) also existed in several forms. I have a recording of the earliest version. For the second version, amongst other changes, Bach moved the chorus "O Mensch..." from the SJP (BWV 245).

i tend to think of the 1749 version of the SJP (BWV 245) as being the definitive version, since it represents the composers last thoughts on the matter. I'm not sure that it has been recorded that often, although Suzuki has certainly done so. The differences from the earliest version seem quite minor, but noticeable...a few minor changes in libretto and in a few notes. The second version contained 3 arias not in the first version, but Bach dropped these in a 3rd version from the 1730s (music lost).

The SLP (BWV 245) is not by bach, with the exception of one movement, although the manuscript is in his hand.

The music of the St Mark Passion (BWV 247) is lost. However, scholarship has suggested that much of the music came from BWV 198 (Trauer Ode) andseveral recordings have been made using this as the basis. In the article, the author states that recordings of a reconstructed SMarkP (BWV 247) have almost never been done, but he lists one recording. His comment is not strictly true since I know of at least 2 other recordings. Koopman has also performed a version of his own, not adhering to accepted views about the source material (for example, he does not use BWV 198, I think).

Nicholas Johnson wrote (March 19, 2008):
Unfortunately BWV 53 isn't in the BWV Kleine Ausgabe nor in the wonderful new Bärenreiter edition at the bargain price. By the way the binding (someone expressed reservations.) is perfect so I don't know BWV 53.

William Hoffmann wrote (March 20, 2008):
[To John Pike] Thank you for your summary of the four surviving Passions. Actually, the St. Mark Pasion has been recorded about 14 times in various versions, according to www.bach-cantata.com/VocalBWV247.htm (Recordings). There is supposed to be a fifth Passion, according to the 1754 Obituary. Hilgenfeldt in 1850 probably got it right the first time when he cited the four (now BWV 244-247; SMP (BWV 244), SJP (BWV 245), SLP (BWV 246), SMkP (BWV 247)), and said the fifth was written in 1717 in Weimar (actually Gotha), now BC D1, five numbers surviving in SJP (245a,b,c) BWV 244/35, and BWV 23/4. Terry in 1926 thought it might be based on the 1725 Picander Passion Oratorio text, BWV Anh.169, bits of which went into SMP. Alfred Dürr and others 40 years ago thought it might be a single-chorus SMP (BWV 244). Thanks,

 

The five? cycles

Continue of discussion from: Credo in unum Deum BWV 1081 + Suscepit Israel BWV 1082 - General Discussions [Other Vocal Works]

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (July 4, 2011):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Thus we have five cycles of church music -- remember that Bach himself never labeled most of his cantatas as such. It was son C. P. E. and Agricola, who did in Bach's Obituary.
I think Bach exploited the concept of annual church year "cycles" in the broadest sense possible. >
That's quite a logical stretch.

Evan Cortens wrote (July 4, 2011):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] I must agree with Kim here, there is an awful lot subsumed into the "thus" at the beginning of Will's final paragraph. So much so, in fact, I'm not entirely sure to what is referred.

While I agree that J. S. Bach himself did not often label sacred concerted multi-movement vocal works intended for performance in church "cantatas", his son did. In CPEB's Nachlassverzeichnis, published in 1790, he in fact refers to several of his father's works with this term.

However, that's kind of a side point here, for the obituary actually refers to Kirchenstücke (church pieces). This was a standard term at the time for this sort of music, and I think it's very hard to think that CPEB and Agricola were referring to anything other than sacred concerted multi-movement church vocal works. They go on to list masses and organ pieces separately, in fact.

Anyway, all this to say, the "five full annual cycles of church pieces, for all the Sundays and holidays" is a tough statement to reconcile, unless we allow for enormous losses. While undoubtedly cantatas have gone missing, I find it extraordinarily hard to believe that 100+ cantatas by JSB simply vanished, without any trace whatsoever. Rather I'm more convinced by William Scheide's argument that the obituary number is simply a counting error.

I don't think getting to five by including masses and organ works explains this.

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 4, 2011):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Thus we have five cycles of church music -- remember that Bach himself never labeled most of his cantatas as such. It was son C. P. E. and Agricola, who did in Bach's Obituary.I think Bach exploited the concept of annual church year "cycles" in the broadest sense possible. >
We certainly don't have five cycles of original works, but some day we may be able to list all the works for the first five years of the Leipzig cantorate and see how Bach regulated the balance between his own works and
those of others.

Given that he carefully produced a Sanctus and Magnificat for his first Christmas, I suspect that the Latin works - Missae, Sanctus, Credo and Magnificat - were part of the well-regulated cycles as well.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (July 4, 2011):
Evan Cortens wrote:
< Anyway, all this to say, the "five full annual cycles of church pieces, for all the Sundays and holidays" is a tough statement to reconcile, unless we allow for enormous losses. While undoubtedly cantatas have gone missing, I find it extraordinarily hard to believe that 100+ cantatas by JSB simply vanished, without any trace whatsoever. Rather I'm more convinced by William Scheide's argument that the obituary number is simply a counting error. >
Again, I give precedence to the eyewitnesses account, regardless of how you try to explain away the inconsistency ("100 cantatas are missing? Well that's impossible, so the eyewitnesses were wrong and couldn't count"): it's a "No true Scotsman" type of fallacy I think. We know specifically of cases where there is a single unique source or a copy of a extant cantata, we also know of several others that survive in only part books or we know cantatas were commissioned, but are not extant, the missing number of cantatas is on par with what's missing from other baroque composers. Plus what we know is missing from the instrumental music, so I don't think it's unreasonable to believe that 100 cantatas by Bach would be missing.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (July 4, 2011):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< we also know of several others that survive in only part books >
That was meant to read "survive with only the title, or a text book with the music missing" not "part books"

Doh!

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 4, 2011):
Evan Cortens wrote:
< While undoubtedly cantatas have gone missing, I find it extraordinarily hard to believe that 100+ cantatas by JSB simply vanished, without any trace whatsoever. >
Indeed, especially since these would be 100+ church works. I believe the majority of the missing works for which there is evidence are secular, occasional works, distinct from the church works which curated for repeat performances.

EC:
< Rather I'm more convinced by William Scheide's argument that the obituary number is simply a counting error. >
EM:
Is it an error, or a misunderstanding of what constitutes a cycle? There are the two relatively complete Leipzig cycles, two other much less complete, but distinct, Leipzig cycles, and a variety of pre-Leipzig works (most of which were ultimately reworked for Leipzig). I count five.

William Hoffman wrote (July 4, 2011):
[To Ed Myskowski] I think it's more a matter of terminology. When we examine the Obituary original list of unpublished works including numbered genre, I personally cannot find any listed work (type) that has not been found and when we look at works found recently and associated with Bach, the only possible exception is the Weimar Ode, BWV 1127?, not part of Bach's estate.

Julian Mincham wrote (July 4, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Is it an error, or a misunderstanding of what constitutes a cycle? There are the two relatively complete Leipzig cycles, two other much less co >
Pretty much to the point. There is very little, if anything apart from a particular interpretation of the comin the Obituary to indicate the loss of 100 cantatas. it is very likely that CPE was not aware of how much of the Weimar work that JS reused for the first Leipzig cycle.

Here is a possible scenario to explain the 'five cycles' noted in the obituary.

Cycle 1 the Weimar cantatas (Possibly also making use of a half dozen or so of the very earliest works)

Cycle 2 the first Leipzig cycle making reuse of many of these works) it is not outside the bounds of possibility that bach kept a pile of both Weimar original and Leipzig reused works in his composing room and that CPE saw and remembered these later as two independent cycles).

Cycle 3 the second Leipzig cycle of chorale cantatas

Cycle 4 listed by Wolfe (pp281-283) as the '3rd annual cantata cycle) nearly 40 works which is fewer than the 53 of the chorale cycle but not by a substantial number. Some of these may be missing.

Cycle 5 listed by Wolfe (p 284) as the 4th annual cycle) just under a dozen works and clearly not 'complete' in the sense of some of the earlier ones. So are there about 40 works lost here? possibly although it is also possible that, as with some of his other grand plans, Bach lost interest in the later stages and didn't get around to completing the cycle. There are about two dozen later works about half of which are the late burst of chorale cantatas which some critics have argued were to be inserted into the second Leipzig cycle, but otherwise it seems pretty clear that Bach had lost interest in producing cantatas, at least not at the rate of those from 1723-5, and relied more on works by other composers or earlier ones by himself.

At the very most, by taking this scenario there may be about 60 lost works. But if so, one has to address the following question, how is it that those up to the end of 1727 have been so well preserved and so many of the later ones lost? What particular explanation covers this scenario?

For myself I think that the confusion of the Weimer cantatas with the first Leipzig cycle and the falling off of Bach's interest in the later years are much more persuasive arguments justifying the Obituary statement. I would guess that the total loss of works is more likely to be between 20 and 30.

Of course that might be wistful thing too!

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 4, 2011):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Here is a possible scenario to explain the 'five cycles' noted in the obituary. >
I wonder if we are wrong to think of five cycles of "original works." Could it not be that Bach always intended from the beginning to use other composers' works, particularly Johann Ludwig Bach? I find it hard to believe that Bach set to work on the cantata cycles and then ran out of steam after a couple of years. Could the five cycles of the obituary not be a reference to a well-regulated project which Bach announced to his colleagues and which was always intended to include other composers' cantatas and Latin church music settings? The Five-Year Plan would have been notable project worthy of mention in an obituary.

Evan Cortens wrote (July 4, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I wonder if we are wrong to think of five cycles of "original works." >
You say "I wonder if we are wrong to think of five cycles of "original works."" It's worth noting that the obituary (in the NBR translation) prefaces the list with "The unpublished works of the late Bach are approximately as follows." (p. 304) How ever they reached the number, it seems clear, I think, that the obituary authors intended to list original works composed by Bach.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 4, 2011):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< At the very most, by taking this scenario there may be about 60 lost works. But if so, one has to address the following question, how is it that those up to the end of 1727 have been so well preserved and so many of the later ones lost? What particular explanation covers this scenario? >
This strikes me as the single most critical question.

Kim has raised the point that 100+ lost works would be consistent with other Baroque composers. Agreed, but the Bach clan is unique, and JSB was especially dedicated to continuing the lineage, with his musically trained and professionally well-placed sons. Hence, an unusually good (and well-planned) preservation of works.

Julian Mincham wrote (July 4, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I find it hard to believe that Bach set to work on the cantata cycles and then ran out of steam after a couple of years. >
So would I. But he didn't really run out of steam in such a short period (if he ever did!) He composed cantatas regularly at Weimar, if less intensively than at Leipzig where he composed them pretty well regularly, for upwards of four years, until 1727. Subsequently he composed (probably)something between 40 and 50 religious and secular works in this format.I think the scenario is more one of getting interested in other challenges rather than of running out of steam.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 4, 2011):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< I think the scenario is more one of getting interested in other challenges rather than of >running out of steam. >
Preparation, printing, publication, and sales of the ClavierUbung series is one such challenge, which is easily underestimated.

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 4, 2011):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< I think the scenario is more one of getting interested in other challenges rather than of running out of steam. >
Since we're all speculating in the absence of any documentary evidence, I still find it hard to believe that Bach lost interest in the cantata as a genre. Lack of interest usually manifests itself in dull conventional work: "Wachet Auf" may be his greatest cantata. It's part of the Romantic Bach Myth that he was "forced" to be a church musician and abused by petty-minded official, his spirit only soaring when he wrote large-scale works like the Passions or his "unperformable" masterpiece-of the-mind, the Mass in B Minor.

Why not an outline where he planned to recast the Leipzig music over a five year period? In the first two years, he intended to establish his mark through a astonishing stream of original works. After that, he planned "mixed" cycles. Perhaps he even commissioned Johann Ludwig to write cantatas that they both knew would be performed in Leipzig (good promotion for Ludwig!).

Bach's Five-Year Cantata Project is tragically incomplete and the composer a failure if we assume that he planned 5 years of original works. I suspect that the sacred cantata series are not disfigured by loss or incomplete effort. I think we just haven't found a perspective which allows us to understand Bach's strategic encyclopedic plan.

Julian Mincham wrote (July 4, 2011):
The five? Cycles

Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I suspect that the sacred cantata series are not disfigured by loss or incomplete effort. >
I agree I was just putting a reasonable worst case scenario in which some cantatas (but certainly less than 100) might have been lost. My own view is that the likelihood is that we have lost only a few and a fair number of those seem to have been secular works. The letter from Mühlhausen declared his intentions from an early age and runs counter to the romantic rubbish referred to by Doug below.Dürr is pretty good in filling in the gaps of known lost cantatas of which there are only a few.

The evidence from which we all speculate is principally Bach's letter, the existing and known lost cantatas (see Wolff and Dürr) and the Obituary comments. The last of these would seem to be the most suspect.

Evan Cortens wrote (July 4, 2011):
[To Julian Micham] I wonder if the cantata loss isn't ratherlike the loss of concertos. That is to say, there are many Bach concertos for which the original version (for oboe, violin, etc) does not survive, but only a later version (for harpsichord or organ) does.

In other words, perhaps the cantatas we have are a substantially complete representation of the music Bach wrote, but maybe not all in its original form (i.e., reused from earlier sacred, secular or instrumental works).

William Hoffman wrote (July 4, 2011):
[To Evan Cortens] I think it's helpful to view Bach's Cantata Cycles from three varied source-critical perspectives, the best example being the incomplete chorale cantata cycle, 1724-25:

1. The actual cycle as performed, historical dates (June 11, 1724, to May 27, 1725), confirmed best by church libretti as well as manuscript watermarks and signature style.

2. The cycle as Bach later filled gaps, composing new works and adding or removing others.

3. The actual estate division in the fall of 1750, where the music scores and parts sets were stored on divider shelves by church year event (Sundays beginning with Advent to the feast days) in Bach's Music Library, says Gerhard Herz. I accept Wolff's thesis that Bach designated the basic sacred music distribution to his heirs before his death: chorale cantata cycle scores to Friedemann and parts sets to Anna Magdalena. It appears that whomever actually did the physical sorting, probably Friedemann, relied on the manuscript cover where we have the church year service listed as well as the incipit (title, first words), selecting cantatas that have chorale incipits. Herz also says that the individual cantatas were bound and that the "first cycle" was on top, as seen in the C.P.E. Bach estate catalog listings. C. P. E. and Friedemann divided Cycle 1, alternating scores with parts doublets and parts sets. C.P. E. (and Christian?) generally got Cycle 3 and later scores as well as the 18 J.L.B cantatas, Friedemann most of the parts sets. The nine Picander "Cycle 4" cantatas apparently went to Friedemann and the scores eventually were cut up. It seems that Bach was very careful about separating his works from other composers. Friedemann may have taken extraneous works and eventually sold them to Breitkopf about 1760, as well as the St. Luke and St. Mark Passions. As for the some 48 chorale cantata scores, Friedemann apparently sold them off in groups: Trinity +1 to +8, etc. Some groups are still lost and the gaps were filled from Anna Magdalena's parts sets (given to the Thomas School) as well as Perfect Penzel's and Forkel's score copies, 1755-1770.

Apparently, Daddy Bach inadvertently ensured that no heir got the scores and parts sets for the same cantata except for some of the Trinity Time works to Carl.

William Hoffman wrote (July 4, 2011):
Bach and His German Contemporaries
American Bach Society, 2010

Abstract

Bach's Cantata Performances in the 1730s - New Findings, New Perspectives
Peter Wollny (Bach-Archiv, Leipzig)

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" (Saitenspiel Hertzens text by Benjamin Schmolck) 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.

I expect that the full article will be published in the ABS Bach Perspectives 9, due out next year.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 4, 2011):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Apparently, Daddy Bach inadvertently ensured that no heir got the scores and parts sets for the same cantata except for some of the Trinity Time works to Carl. >
I wonder about inadvertently? An effective plan, in any case.

William Hoffman wrote (July 4, 2011):
Addendum,
ABS Bach Notes 13, Fall 2010
ABS Conference Report

Peter Wollny's presentation dealt with a newly discovered cantata by C.P.E. Bach, "Ich bin vergnügt in meinem
Stande
," which was also performed for the occasion by a student ensemble. This piece is the earliest known vocal composition by C.P.E. Bach, who was 19 or 20 when it was premiered, and bears many resemblances to the cantatas of his father. Wollny believes that J. S. Bach arranged for its performance in one or more of Leipzig's main churches around 1733/34. The text is taken from a 1728 publication by Christian Friedrich Henrici (a. k. a. Picander) from which J. S. Bach himself drew the nine cantata texts that constitute the apparently fragmentary Picander-Jahrgang. He argued persuasively that the newly discovered C.P.E. Bach cantata can be understood as a part of the Picander-Jahrgang [Septuagesimae, P-19]. Indeed, it seems entirely plausible that J. S. Bach - in part for pedagogical reasons - would have offered his sons and gifted students opportunities to present their own works in the context of Leipzig's liturgical life, reserving his own compositions for the larger feast days.
Andrew Talle
Peabody Conservatory

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 5, 2011):
William Hoffman wrote:
< The text is taken from a 1728 publication by Christian Friedrich Henrici (a. k. a. Picander) from which J. S. Bach himself drew the nine cantata texts that constitute the apparently fragmentary Picander-Jahrgang. He argued persuasively that the newly discovered C.P.E. Bach cantata can be understood as a part of the Picander-Jahrgang [Septuagesimae, P-19]. Indeed, it seems entirely plausible that J. S. Bach ? in part for pedagogical reasons? would have offered his sons and gifted students opportunities to present their own works in the context of Leipzig's liturgical life, reserving his own compositions for the larger feast days. >
This seems reasonably consistent with Dougs suggested scenario of five Leipzig cycles, including contributions by cousin Ludwig, perhaps others.

Also note that there is no contradiction between Dougs attractive (dare I say seductive?) scenario, and Julians suggestion that a number of lost sacred cantatas higher than 40 is difficult to justify. Fewer is not a logistical problem. More is not impossible, but a credible scenario is lacking.

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 5, 2011):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Addendum,
ABS Bach Notes 13, Fall 2010
ABS Conference Report
Indeed, it seems entirely plausible that J. S. Bach - in part for pedagogical reasons - would have offered his sons and gifted students opportunities to present their own works in the context of
Leipzig's liturgical life, reserving his own compositions for the larfeast days. >
This speaks eloquently to Bach's "guild" heritage in which music was not the product of neurotically isolated, superhuman Byronic heroes, but rather collaborative, collegial attitudes which enthusiastically welcomed the creative use of other composers' works and in which one generation trained the next.

Evan Cortens wrote (July 4, 2011):
William Hoffman wrote:
< I expect that the full article will be published in the ABS Bach Perspectives 9, due out next year. >
Thanks for this Will. I don't know about the upcoming Bach Perspectives, but for those that read German, Wollny's findings have been published in full in the most recent issue of the Bach-Jahrbuch (2010).

 

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Last update: ýJuly 6, 2011 ý20:20:35