Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Bach in a Shoebox

Happy news: our beloved, bejowled, and bewigged one rises again. Out of a shoebox, of all things.

Well, not exactly.

Yesterday, music experts researching in Weimar, where Bach was employed as court organist from 1708-1717, found a previously undiscovered work of Bach's: a "strophic aria" for soprano and harpsichord dedicated to the Duke of Weimar.

From The Guardian:

"The library in Weimar where the music was stored for several centuries recently burned down, but by chance, the box containing the score had already been removed. Two weeks ago a member of the Bach Archive in Leipzig, Michael Maul, stumbled on the composition while looking through material relevant to Bach's tempestuous but thinly documented life. The box contained more than 100 poems and verses, together with a mysterious 'strophic aria'."
British conductor Sir John Gardiner, who plans to record the aria later this year and perform it at London's Cadogan Hall in December, believes the aria is part of one of Bach's many missing cantata. He also says that

"It's a reflective, meditative, soothing piece, as Bach's church music so often is. It's not going to set the world alight - enough of Bach's music from this early to mid period has survived to give us a sense of his musical personality at that time - but it's just great to have this because every one of his cantatas and arias is on a completely different level from all of his contemporaries."
Along with Beethoven's deafness and the premature deaths of Mozart and Schubert, one of the great tragedies of music is the loss of so much of Bach's work after his death. He was known more as a virtuoso organist and less as a great composer, and much of his work was ultimately lost or destroyed when he was no longer there to preserve it. It wasn't until Felix Mendelssohn jump-started a Bach revival in 1829, when he had Bach's St. Matthew Passion performed, that the public would become interested in Bach--and in preserving his music--again.

Many thanks to Malcolm for sending me the link to this article.

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