Autograph Manuscript - Johann Sebastian Bach

BACH, Johann Sebastian (1685-1750). Autograph manuscript signed (‘Joh. Sebast: Bach’), the title page for the cantata BWV 178, ‘Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält', n.p. [Leipzig], ‘Dominica 8 post Trinitatis’ [30 July 1724].

Two leaves (305 x 215mm; 305 x 185mm), originally a bifolium used as a wrapper: the text on upper leaf, a group of musical notes offset onto recto of the integral blank, integral blank leaf now detached, watermark of a post-rider, (staining chiefly to the margins and not touching the text of the title page, small loss to the bottom edge, tape reinforcement at inner edge, modern pencil ruling and annotations).

Dominica 8 post Trinitatis
Wo Gott der Herr nicht bey uns hält
4 Voci.
2 Hautbois
2 Violini
Joh. Sebast: Bach

[8th Sunday after Trinity / Where God the Lord stands with us not / for / 4 voices / 2 oboe / 2 violins / viola / & / continuo / by / Joh[ann] Sebast[ian] Bach]

Provenance: Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784; eldest son of the composer) – ?part of the Wilhelm Friedemann Nachlass auctioned in 1827 in Berlin – Carl Philipp Heinrich Pistor (1778-1847; inventor and pioneer of optical telegraphy), bequeathed to his son-in-law – Adolf Friedrich Rudorff (1803-1873) – Friedrich Wilhelm Jähns (1809-1888; musicologist and composer) – Alfred Bovet, Valentigney (1841-1900; Swiss industrialist and autograph collector) – Leo Liepmannssohn, Berlin (Catalogue XXVIII, 1901) – Sir Edgar Speyer, 1st Baronet (1862-1932; financier, philanthropist and patron of the arts) – Edwin Franko Goldman collection.

A calligraphic title page by Bach for his church cantata Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält, the original wrapper prepared for the parts and including his full signature. A rarity at auction: we are aware of no other such manuscript to have been offered on the market. With an eye for artistic presentation, Bach extends the title text through almost half the available space on the paper switching from a Latin cursive into a gothic hand for the German title 'Wo Gott der Herr nicht bey uns hält': the result is particularly aesthetically appealing, not least 'because it is unmarred by any library stamp, owner's name or other inscription' (Herz, 'The Human Side of the American Bach sources'). The original set of parts for the church cantata BWV 178 was divided at Bach's death, with the primary set passing via Anna Magdalena Bach to the Thomasschule in Leipzig in the mid-18th century (now at the Bach-Archiv, Leipizg, D-LEb Thomana 178); the present wrapper, together with Bach's autograph score (now lost) and duplicate parts for 1st and 2nd violin and continuo (as well as a horn part not noted separately in the original score) passed to W.F. Bach (these parts are now in the Musikbibliothek Peters collection, also on deposit at the Bach-Archiv (D-LEb Peters Ms. R 6)). The present title page appears to have been separated from the Peters set in the course of the 19th century, apparently together with further parts for continuo and Basso (with which it was offered in the Leipmannssohn catalogue: these are no longer traced). Both the Thomasschule and Peters parts have substitute title pages copied from the present text.

Composed in Bach's second year as Thomaskantor in Leipzig, BWV 178 is a cantata for the eighth Sunday after Trinity: it was first performed on the 30 July 1724. The text for the cantata comes from a Lutheran hymn of the same name by the theologian Justus Jonas (1493-1555), which first appeared in the Erfurt Enchiridion (1524): Bach's second cantata cycle at Leipzig consisted mainly of such freshly composed chorale cantatas, with text and music based on Lutheran hymns.


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