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On-line Book Review

YO TOMITA

FRONT COVER
OVERVIEW
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Dimension: 22 x 14.6 x 0.9 cm
TITLE Bach-Jahrbuch. Im Auftrage der neuen Bachgesellschaft herausgegeben von Hans-Joachim Schulze und Christoph Wolff. 85. Jahrgang 1999.
PUBL. DETAILS Evengelische Verlangsanstalt. Leipzig (1999) 204p; paper back. Price: DM 24,80.
ISSN 0084-7682
TO ORDER Merseburger, Postfach 10 38 80, D-34038 Kassel, Germany
SUMMARY
DESCRIPTION collection of highly scholarly articles written by some of the leading Bach scholars, covering diverse aspects of Bach research today.
WORKS COVERED BWV 19, 47, 50, 70, 114, 125, 139, 170, 525, 682, 870-893, 1032, 1079
READERSHIP Bach scholars
RESEARCH 
CONTRIBUTION
all very significant
 

Ever since its first publication in 1904, Bach-Jahrbuch led the Bach scholarship. This annual publication normally appears around January of the following year, enough time to incorporate new findings made during that year. The volume 85 (1999), which came out in January 2000, contains fifteen articles of diverse topics plus one book review. The main articles features a number of new discoveries of historical documents. The rediscovery of the Singakademie collection in Kiev that was first reported in the early summer of 1999 is not one of these, however; it is anticipated that the long-awaited report will be included in the forthcoming volume scheduled for January 2001.

There are two articles which provide an important research material in facsimile. The one is the opening article by Reul which examines a hitherto unknown book of text for the birthday cantata (performed on 9 August 1722) which, the author believes, may have been used by Bach to compose a cantata for the prince Johann August of Zerbst. His discussion on the historical background also sheds an important light into Bachís life in 1722, especially since it immediately followed Bachís marriage to Anna Magdalena whose father and brother were known to be active performers in Zerbst. The other article is by Melamed/Sanders which examines the text and context of Reinhard Keiserís Markuspassion which Bach is known to have performed at least three times during his lifetime. The significance of this research lies in the fact that Keiserís Markuspassion, which is thought to have been performed for the first time on Good Friday of 1713 in Weimar, was the piece from which Bach is believed to have learnt the musical genre of Passion Oratorio. Melamed/Sandersís study of the libretto by Heinrich Vöcker of 1707 demonstrates that it is an important source for both our better understanding of the mode of Bachís reception of Keiserís work and the establishment of the background and the circumstances of Bachís performance. Although the article offers many more questions than answers, it is an important piece of research that will have to be followed up by scholars for some years to come.

There are also articles which open up new paths into the biographical studies of J. S. Bach in the future. Braunís article is one of these: in it he examines a hitherto unknown Bachís certificate of organ building (certificate concerning Conrad Wilhelm Schäfer from Kindelbrück who built a new organ in Weißensee in 1738) and its wider historical backgroundóa still under-explored area of Bachís activities that he was well known for during his lifetime. Uwe Wolfís article is another: despite the fact that some of his evidence is weak (esp. Hillerís cases), no alternative theories have been offered in the past as to how we can establish what was performed during the communion. He also offers the suggestion that are very striking, namely the cases where Bachís revisions are exclusively worked out in isolated movements in the cantatas, e.g. BWV 125/2. We tend to think that the revisions were carried out for purely musical reasons; but with a careful analysis of Bachís musical logic and the biographical circumstances in which the revision was undertaken, we often encounter evidence against this, pointing towards a scenario that there was a practical consideration for performance under certain circumstances.

As can be seen in the list of articles in this volume, nearly a half of the articles concern a specific aspect of particular works by Bach. The remaining are those articles which deal with two of Bachís sons, CPE (Horn) and Johann Christian (Roe) and a relative, Johann Christoph Bach (1642-1703). It appears ironical that the last article by Kaiser compliments each other with Melamedís article published from the Music & Letters (1999).

My overall impression of the Bach-Jahrbuch is a mixture of wonder and hope; so much seems to have been achieved in terms of research on the one hand, every article demonstrates, on the other, that there is an endless list of agenda for future investigation. This is nothing better expressed, in my view, than Schaarwächterís admission that German musicology overlooked the significance of Bach reception movement in England. This is exactly what I noticed in recent years; there are quite a number of sources in England that have been neglected by Bach scholars, as I have demonstrated in my own article. It may be appropriate to mention in this context that there is a forthcoming publication from Ashgate (entitled Aspects of the English Bach Awakening from its beginnings to 1837, ed. Michael Kassler) which will hopefully unveil many interesting facts and sources hitherto unknown to the main-stream scholars in Bach Studies.
 

Published online on 4 December 2000

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