9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


Bach in America during the shellac era (1900–1950)

Martin Elste

Although the Bach revival took place chiefly in European musical centres like Berlin, Leipzig, Paris, and London, America’s record industry output of 78 rpm recordings of works by Johann Sebastian Bach was, in terms of repertoire and style, more advanced than the European record production. The first recordings of the St. Matthew Passion, of the Art of Fugue, and of several cantatas were recorded and released in North America – neither in England, nor in continental Europe. And furthermore, performances by historically informed musicians such as organist Carl Weinrich and harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick were produced.

The paper investigates the recorded output of early American Bach performances – both, commercially produced and distributed recordings as well as instantaneous recordings, and discusses them. It looks at the influence of native musicians (such as Arthur Mendel) and of immigrant musicians and scholars (like Paul Hindemith and his Yale Collegium Musicum, and Emanuel Winternitz at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and examines their role for the establishment of a Bach performing style. For this research, documents in various American archives, libraries, and museums have been consulted.

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Last updated on 21 March 2000 by Yo Tomita