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On-line Book Review


Music: 32.9 x 25.5 x 1.9 cm
Krit.Ber: 24.6 x 17.6 x 2.3 cm
TITLE Johann Sebastian Bach: Sechs kleine Praeludien; Einzeln überlieferte Klavierwerke I. Herausgegeben von Uwe Wolf. (Neue Ausgabe Sämtlicher Werke. Serie V: Band 9.2)
PUBL. DETAILS Music volume: Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag (1999) xii + 187 pp. Serial No. BA 5092. Hardback, DM 195,00; Kritischer Bericht:  Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag (2000) 366 p. Hardback, DM 210,00.
ISMN M-006-49471-2 (mus. vol., hardback); M-006-49470-5 (mus. vol., paperback); M-006-49472-9 (mus. vol., half leather); M-006-49473-6 (Krit.Ber, paper back); M-006-49474-3 (Krit.Ber, hard back)
TO ORDER Bärenreiter-Verlag, Heinrich-Schütz-Allee 35, D-34131 Kassel, Germany.
DESCRIPTION the long awaited volume of the Neue Bach Ausgabe on Bach's individually transmitted works for keyboard, including some of the most brilliant and oft-performed works by virtuoso pianists.
WORKS COVERED Music Volume: BWV 894-6, 903-4, 906, 917-8, 921-3, 933-8, 944, 946, 948-952, 959, 961, 967; Kritischer Bericht: BWV 30, 131, 133, 227, 527, 532, 535, 539, 543, 550, 564, 568, 574, 580, 582, 593-4, 602, 733, 772-805, 808, 812-7, 824-30, 844, 846-893, 894-5, 897-8, 901-2, 903-4, 905, 906, 907-14, 917-8, 919-20, 921-23, 927-8, 933-8, 939-43, 944, 945, 946, 947, 948-52, 953, 955-8, 959, 960, 961, 966, 967, 992, 996-7, 1034-5, 1037, 1044, 1050a, 1079, Anh.117, 180, 205.
READERSHIP all performers who are seeking the definitive text as well as musicologists on sources on this unique genre of Bach's keyboard works
Definitive reference volume of all the pieces it represents; most detailed and comprehensive discussion on the sources for these pieces ever produced

From the headline of this edition—“Six Little Preludes” (BWV 933–938), one may receive the impression that this volume contains many miscellaneous pieces of an educational nature. If you do, this is a wrong assumption! Among some twenty keyboard works that are transmitted individually are some of the most brilliant and oft-performed works such as the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (BWV 903) and the Fantasy in C minor (BWV 906).
In terms of its research contribution, there is no question of its significance. Like many other volumes of this series, each piece receives careful examination in the Kritischer Bericht, starting with the sources (both manuscripts and early editions, as to their physical makeup and how they were transmitted), followed by further discussions on authenticity, dating and piece-specific problems (e.g. intended instruments and ornamentations). The impact it may give to Bach scholarship varies from piece to piece, depending on the state of research already carried out in the past. Even under the case where no new discovery of sources is made, Wolf’s assessment appears to be more thorough than his predecessors’: this can be seen, for example, in his work for BWV 917, which can be compared with the works by Dadelsen and Rönnau (Henle edition, 1970) and Robert Hill (PhD diss., Harvard University, 1987).    
a definitive reference for fantasia and fugue

For many scholars, this volume will be remembered by his discussion of the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (BWV 903), for which he spends nearly 1/6 of the entire Kritischer Bericht. Wolf’s attempt may be seen as improvement on George Stauffer’s detailed study of Bach’s revisions published in Bach Studies, ed. Don Franklin (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 160-182, in which Stauffer considers 40 sources (including 3 lost sources and the 2 editions published in the early 19th century); here Wolf examines further 28 sources, which consist of 4 extant manuscripts, 15 lost manuscripts and 9 pre-1850 prints. Among them is a newly discovered manuscript in the hand of L. F. Berger (c.1740/45–1787) in the Latvian National Library in Riga, which is mentioned in print for the first time; it also contains WTC (both I and II) as well as works of C. P. E. Bach, Handel and a few others, and it will be followed up by other scholars shortly. [According to my own examination of its text for WTC II, it apparently originates from Kirnberger’s circle in 1760s.]

With regard to the text-critical issues, Wolf identifies as many problems as solutions to the puzzles, which seems inevitable as many key sources including autographs are happened to be lost. As a result, no new hypothesis is offered as to the dating of the pair. Yet the manner in which he presented the text-critical data here is clear and sufficient for re-evaluation by other scholars in the near future. His edition is based on Agricola’s copy (D-B, P 651) with ossia text (taken from Kittel’s copy [lost during the War]). Two early versions of the Fantasy (BWV 903a) are also supplied as supplement, which are very useful for a performer who wants to gain further insight into Bach’s mode of developing his works, i.e. how the composer saw the musical buds in the early versions to blossom.

If I am asked to pick the most significant development in research, I would pick the Prelude and Fugue in A minor (BWV 894), for which Wolf examines 15 manuscript sources, of which 4 are studied for the first time in this context, producing four layers of textual development of this work.

Doubtless Wolff made a giant step forward for our better understanding of these works. Other scholars are not idle, however; only a few month ago, a hitherto unknown edition of BWV 933-935 published by Samuel Wesley (London, c.1813) is rediscovered by Michael Kassler, who is currently finalizing a book on "English Bach Awakening" from Ashgate [2001]. While the details of his finding will be reported officially by him in his book, let us hope that more sources will resurface in the near future.

Published online on 21 January 2001

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