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On-line Book Review

YO TOMITA

FRONT COVER
OVERVIEW
Dimension
Music: 32.9 x 25.5 x 1.4 cm
Krit.Ber: 24.6 x 17.6 x 0.6 cm
TITLE Johann Sebastian Bach: Toccaten BWV 910–916. Herausgegeben von Peter Wollny. (Neue Ausgabe Sämtlicher Werke. Serie V: Band 9.1)
PUBL. DETAILS Music volume: Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag (1999) xiii + 121 pp. Serial No. BA 5091. Hardback, DM 150,00; Kritischer Bericht:  Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag (1999) 130 p. Hardback, DM 100,00.
ISMN M-006-49461-3 (mus. vol., hardback); M-006-49460-6 (mus. vol., paperback); M-006-49462-0 (mus. vol., half leather); M-006-49463-7 (Krit.Ber, paper back); M-006-49464-4 (Krit.Ber, hard back)
TO ORDER Bärenreiter-Verlag, Heinrich-Schütz-Allee 35, D-34131 Kassel, Germany.
SUMMARY
DESCRIPTION the long awaited volume of the Neue Bach Ausgabe on Bach’s Toccatas.
WORKS COVERED Music Volume: BWV 910–916; Kritischer Bericht: BWV 50, 61, 182, 187, 206, 208, 232, 535a, 537, 549a, 550, 553–560, 575, 588, 718, 735a, 806–811, 825, 903, 905, 910–916, 951a, 955, 971, 996, Anh.88.
READERSHIP all performers who are seeking the definitive text as well as musicologists on sources on this unique genre of Bach’s keyboard works
RESEARCH 
CONTRIBUTION
Definitive reference volume of the keyboard toccatas; most detailed and comprehensive discussion on the sources for these pieces ever produced.

There are seven keyboard toccatas that are known today as Bach’s genuine works (BWV 910–916); they are all written in his youthful days (i.e. before 1714). One may insist that there are ‘eight’ if we include the opening movement of Partita No.6 (BWV 830/1), but this should be treated separately, not because it was composed much later, but because it was stylistically quite different and was an integral part of a unified set of works. There are also two further toccatas that were once attributed to Bach—i.e. BWV Anh. 85 and 178: they are currently regarded widely as the works by other composers (although the possibility of the latter being Bach’s work has been revisited once again by Pieter Dirksen in the Bach-Jahrbuch 1998, pp.121–135, in which he suggests Reincken as the most likely author). The edition and its accompanying critical report under review deal with the first seven only.
 
As expected, its scholarly contribution looks very significant, especially since there are a very few researchers who are specialised in this field (with possible exceptions being Robert Hill and Christian Eisert). For this edition, Wollny identified and examined 71 sources, the figure which is significantly higher than many scholars would have anticipated. Unfortunately Bach’s autograph is still lacking. Yet from this large body of sources, several important facts now emerge more clearly than ever before. Firstly, the fact that only one source contains all the seven toccatas (i.e. B-Br, Ms. II 4093 Mus) suggests strongly that Bach never intended them to be a single set; the same can also be learnt from the pattern of transmission in that each piece was transmitted individually, some penetrated much more deeply into common repertoires of keyboard music during and after Bach’s lifetime. For example, Wollny identifies BWV 910 in five source groups (A to G) in total of 27 sources (including five lost manuscripts), while BWV 915 is represented by only five (of which three are lost!).
 
  
a definitive reference for the toccatas
 
Secondly, some of the scribes were his relatives (i.e. his elder brother Johann Christoph and his nephew Johann Gottfried Walther), well-known pupils and friends (e.g. Johann Nikolaus Gerber, Johann Peter Kellner, and Johann Christian Kittel), the fact which may be pursued further from biographical angles. From my own research interest, particularly fascinating is the inclusion of an English source (i.e. copied in England), Durham Cathedral Library, Mss. Mus. E 24: since Barry Cooper examined this source in his article in the Musical Times in 1972, no one has come up with a credible theory as to how Bach’s early keyboard music reached England during Bach’s lifetime. Wollny offers the following new hypothesis: it was another Johann Christoph Bach (1671–1721), the son of the same name (1642–1703) who was the organist in Eisenach where Bach was brought up, brought it to England via Rotterdam. Nothing further is known about his activities in England apart from a brief mention in Walter’s Musicalisches Lexicon (1732)  that he gave instruction on the clavier. Much remains to be researched as to how many more music he brought into England, and how widely they were disseminated.

Turning to the edition itself, there are many invaluable extras that we can normally find in the NBA editions, i.e. facsimile reproduction of key sources (7 of them), early versions (BWV 912 and 913), and two versions differently embellished with ornaments (BWV 916). But it is quite unusual for the text of BWV 910 to incorporate an ossia text (to show interesting ornaments in Walther’s copy) as well as a footnote text (to give alternative readings found in the text of the other important manuscript tradition), rather than producing two/three separate texts in the supplement. Another marked deviation from the traditional NBA approach is the use of voice-leading indicators: it looks as if the editor decisively took a more friendly approach to performers, a feature which I would warmly welcome.

Published online on 17 January 2001

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