Belfast, 2-4 November 2007


Many problems; different solutions? Editing Bach’s B-Minor Mass

Uwe Wolf

(Bach-Archiv Leipzig, Germany)

The editing history of Bach’s B-Minor Mass is a history of problems. The first edition (Hans Georg Nägeli, Part I 1833, Part II 1845) and the edition in the BG (Julius Rietz, 1856 and 1857, ‘Zweite Hälfte, Neue Redaktion’) were fraught with problems, while the edition in the NBA (Friedrich Smend, 1954) was the object of brisk controversies and strong criticism from the outset. However, it is only in the last 10 years that there have been new editorial approaches to Bach’s B-Minor Mass: the editions by Christoph Wolff (1997) and Joshua Rifkin (2006) as well as an edition of the early version (Uwe Wolf, 2005). Some other editions are in preparation.

Whereas the early editions had to deal with a lack of interest (Nägeli) and unavailable sources (BG), modern editions have to cope not only with methodical and editorial problems but also with Smend’s fundamentally problematic evaluation of the work itself.

There are two types of problems. First of all, editors are confronted with the issue of how the sources of the early versions, particularly the Dresden performing parts, should be used. Is one allowed to use the additional information that is only presented in the parts of the early version? Or, is one allowed to ignore the information that is only found in these parts when editing the B-Minor Mass? Is it at least possible to do so?

The other main difficulties result from the reception of Bach’s B-Minor Mass. The Credo was performed by C. P. E. Bach in Hamburg in 1786 but he revised his father’s autograph score during preparations for this performance. Discerning his additions in Bach’s autograph is only possible with the utmost care and effort. Sometimes C. P. E. has even scratched out the original text; in such cases Bach’s original text can only be reconstructed by referring to early copies of J.S. Bach’s autograph.

How have editors dealt with this situation? Are there any alternative approaches? This paper will examine these questions by using selected examples.

Last updated on 24 June 2007