BACH, Johann Sebastian (1685-1750). Autograph music manuscript, a section of the composing score of church cantata BWV 188, ‘Ich habe meine Zuversicht’, [c.17 October 1728], comprising bars 59b-66 and 73-76 of the 4th movement, scored for alto with cello and organ obbligato, on four systems of four hand-drawn staves, two pages, approx. 158 x 195mm, the lower half of f.17 of the original manuscript (the upper system affected by ink acidification causing a number of cracks and losses, as not infrequent with Bach autographs, strengthened with early archival film on recto over an area of 40 x 183mm, now rather discoloured, the lower stave in good condition, with minor ink acidification), window-mounted (198 x 232mm), sealed in an archival sleeve; with blue morocco portfolio.
Provenance: The autograph score of BWV 188 is thought to have been among a group of manuscripts inherited by Bach's impecunious eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, and sold by him at auction in 1774. Parts of the Wilhelm Friedemann Nachlass were again auctioned in 1827, being acquired by the inventor and collector Carl Philipp Heinrich Pistor (1778-1847). Pistor's manuscripts were inherited by his son-in-law, Adolf Friedrich Rudorff (1803-1873), from whom they passed to the musicologist Friedrich Wilhelm Jähns (1809-1888). The present leaf was one of four acquired from Jähns by the Viennese collector Gustav Petter (1828-1868), who is thought to have been responsible for their dismemberment. The last owner of the present fragment traced by the Kritische Bericht of the Neue Bach-Ausgabe (1997) is Nora Kluge (née von Hase) of Lübeck, wife of the composer and musicologist Manfred Kluge (1928-1971), probably inherited from her grandfather, Oskar von Hase (1846-1921), proprietor of the music publishers Breitkopf & Härtel. It was sold at auction at Christie’s, 4 November 1981, lot 144, when it passed into a private collection.
BACH'S DARK, DRAMATIC MEDITATION ON HUMAN SUFFERING. BWV 188 is a cantata for the 21st Sunday after Trinity, composed most likely for 17 October 1728 (or possibly 6 November 1729), the text as often at this period drawn from Picander (Christian Friedrich Henrici. Ernst-Schertzhaffte und Satyrische Gedichte. Leipzig, 1728); the ensemble is made up of four voices, two oboes, viola, organo obbligato and basso continuo. In the fourth movement, the dramatic heart of the cantata, the text 'Unerforschlich ist die Weise' ('The ways of the Lord are past understanding', a meditation on the cross and human suffering) is elaborated as a dark, expressive aria for alto voice set against a virtuoso organ obbligato, 'a complex and ever-changing kaleidoscope of richly entwined rhythms and melodies' (Julian Mincham. The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach). The key, E minor, is one that Bach frequently associates with the crucifixion. The present fragment comprises 11½ bars from the conclusion of the movement, including the words '... Seinen führt, unerförschlich ist die Weise, Wie der Herr die Seinen führt, unerförschlich ist die Weise, Wie …'. Bach’s manuscripts are increasingly rare on the market: THIS IS THE FIRST COMPOSITIONAL AUTOGRAPH TO BE OFFERED AT AUCTION SINCE 1996 (ABPC-online/Americana Exchange)
The autograph of BWV 188 suffered from more vicissitudes than most, with the first 10 leaves (of 18) being lost at an early date (probably before the 1827 auction), taking with them the great majority of the first movement (which can be identified as a reworking of the last movement of a lost violin concerto, also used in the clavier concerto BWV 1052). The remaining leaves are now widely scattered, with four leaves being cut up (as here) into two or even three pieces; but although the resulting fragments are now located in ten holdings in eight countries, they are nevertheless sufficiently continuous to enable the 2nd to 5th movements to be reconstituted without significant lacunae. The present fragment, which comprises the lower half of f.17, is identified in the Kritische Bericht as A14 (‘unbekannter Privatbesitz’). The same source notes that the marked ink acidification which has affected the upper half of the present fragment is typical of the dismembered leaves, and is in part a result of the dense compositional script of the composer, in this instance with many tripletised semi-quavers (‘Der Zerteilung von einigen der anderen Blätter hat sich unmittelbar auf den Erhaltungszustand der Manuskript-Fragmente ausgewirkt, den die Streifen sind im ganzen gesehen in schlechtem Zustand, von Tintenfraß befallen, das Papier ist stark gebräunt, und die Lesbarkeit wird zudem durch die typische Konzeptschrift Bachs, wie sie sich in vielen Partitur-Erstschriften findet, erschwert’).