BACH, Johann Sebastian (1685-1750).
Autograph music manuscript, titled and signed in autograph ‘Prelude [-- Fuga – Allegro] pour la Luth. ò Cembal. Par J.S. Bach’, for the Prelude, Fugue and Allegro for lute or keyboard in E flat major, BWV 998, n.d. [c.1735-1740].
COMPLETE. In keyboard notation, the conclusion of the Allegro compressed in German tablature into the lower margins of pp.4 and 1, the second and third movements titled ‘Fuga’ and ‘Allegro’ in autograph, approx. 18 autograph corrections, marked 'Fin[e]' at the conclusion; the numbering ‘nr. 22’ inked over a pencil annotation at the head (perhaps a catalogue number of the collection of the Counts von Voss of Buch), a few additional musical notes in another hand at the foot of p.1, possibly intended to be read in inverse orientation and suggesting that Bach may have reused the paper; and a few light pencil markings, apparently by an editor. Four pages, folio (approx 345 x 213mm), on a bifolium (the two leaves now separated).
The complete manuscript for one of Bach’s ‘finest solo instrumental works of the mid- to late-1730s’ (Richard D.P. Jones. The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach, vol. II: 1717-1750)
An original instrumental composition, with movements in three of Bach's most characteristic forms: prelude, fugue and a dance movement.
Offered for sale for the first time since 1969.
One of only three complete autographs to come to the market in the last 30 years, and the first since 1996. Fewer than twenty Bach manuscripts of any kind, including fragments and partially autograph or amended orchestral parts, have been offered for public sale since 1970: all were scores or parts for church cantatas. According to our research, no manuscript of any kind for a secular or instrumental work has appeared at auction since the present manuscript in 1968.
No more than ten of Bach's complete autograph manuscripts are thought to survive in private hands: the present manuscript is one of only three for instrumental compositions.
Introduction to BWV 998
The autograph of the Prelude, Fugue and Allegro in E flat BWV 998 captures Bach in the moment of composition. The fluent, unhesitating calligraphy suggests his confident conception of the piece. That he was writing down the composition for the first time is shown by his various corrections and his difficulties fitting the piece onto the available paper. Normally Bach carefully planned the layout of his music manuscripts before he started writing; here he ran out of space for the final movement, and had to squeeze the last 19 bars onto the bottom of the fourth and first pages, using the concise notation of keyboard tablature.
The manuscript indicates that the piece is ‘pour la Luth ò Cembal’. Lutes were still regularly used in Bach’s lifetime: a particularly valuable instrument, worth as much as a small harpsichord, was listed in the post-mortem inventory of his estate. He was acquainted with the leading lutenists of his day, notably Silvius Leopold Weiss (1686–1750). In August 1739 Bach was visited by Weiss and other Dresden musicians including W. F. Bach and Weiss’s pupil Johann Kropfgans; Bach’s secretary commented on the ‘extra fine musical things’ they enjoyed during this stay. The low tessitura of BWV 998 (never exceeding eb’’) suits the lute, although a few chords in the second and third movements cannot be played on an eighteenth-century lute without modification.
Alternatively the piece could have been played on the lute-harpsichord (Lautenwerk), a keyboard instrument with gut strings plucked by quills. Although no eighteenth-century examples of the Lautenwerk survive, two were listed in Bach’s post-mortem inventory. His pupil Johann Friedrich Agricola remembered seeing and hearing a lute-harpsichord designed by Bach in Leipzig around 1740; he claimed that even professional lutenists could be fooled into thinking it sounded like their instrument. Perhaps Bach played a Lautenwerk in the encounter reported by Johann Friedrich Reichardt: ‘Weiss, the great lute-player, challenged J. S. Bach, the great harpsichordist and organist, to improvise fantasies and play fugues.’ (The anecdote was probably relayed to Reichardt by his father, a lutenist who had been taught by one of Weiss’s pupils.) One can imagine the two men spurring each other to new heights of improvisation, Bach using the Lautenwerk to emulate the sound and broken-chord textures of Weiss’s playing.
Although the editors of the Neue-Bach-Ausgabe dated the autograph of BWV 998 to the mid-1740s, this dating was revised to c.1735 by Yoshitake Kobayashi on the basis of handwriting and paper type. A genesis in the second half of the 1730s would accord with the biographical reports of Bach’s encounters with lutenists and the lute-harpsichord in the years around 1740. The style of the piece also shows similarities with some of Bach’s solo instrumental works of those years, notably several of the preludes and fugues in book 2 of the Wohltemperirte Clavier (assembled 1738–42). This phase of Bach’s compositional career was characterised by his dual interest in learned counterpoint and the melodic delicacies of the galant style. The Prelude, Fugue and Allegro show some galant fingerprints, for instance the sighing appoggiaturas in the Fugue. Indeed the lute with its nuanced dynamics was ideally suited for the subtle melodic expression of the galant.
The Prelude creates the aura of an improvisation, opening with an unfurling melody suggestive of a lutenist or keyboardist testing the resonance of their instrument. This style brisé figuration is then transposed systematically to an array of related keys. The Fugue is based on an unassuming subject whose crotchets provide a foundation for the accelerating motion in the other parts. Bach structured this movement via the da capo principle, similar to his organ fugues BWV 537 and 548. The central section offers relief from contrapuntal working-out, with rapid finger-work over wisps of the subject in the bass line. The movement culminates with the return of the fugal exposition, dovetailed with the semiquavers of the preceding section. The Allegro is a passepied, combining the lightness of this dance with further semiquaver figuration. Throughout the three movements, Bach uses broken-chord patterns idiomatic to the lute, and the improvisatory air lends credence to the notion of him extemporising this piece on the Lautenwerk, perhaps in emulation of his friend Weiss. Stephen Rose © 2016
f.1r ?In 8 systems: Prelude, bars 1-35; under the 8th system, bars 88-96 of the Allegro, in tablature
f.1v? In 9 systems: Prelude, bars 36-48; Fugue, bars 1-32
f.2r ?In 9 systems: Fugue, bars 33-68
f.2v? In 9 systems: Fugue, bars 69-77; Allegro bars 1-77; bars 78-87 in tablature under the 9th system.
The manuscript as recorded by Roitzsch (in his introduction to the Peters Oeuvres Complets, 214, no.1) and Doerffel in 1897 (BG 45, I, p.52) included an additional leaf with a transcription of the tablature in modern notation in the hand of C.P.E. Bach; this was noted as lacking by Kinsky in 1911 and has not been traced.
Watermark: indistinct, but most likely G and a lion within a shield, with the initials ‘SELB’ and the arms of the Burggraf of Nuremberg: therefore paper from the Selb paper mill at the time of Johann Georg Jaeger (d.1749, managed the mill between 1709 and 1747). This watermark is only otherwise known in one other Bach manuscript: BB Mus. ms 1160, an incomplete transcription of G.B. Bassani’s Acroama Missale in the hand of a pupil of Bach’s, with autograph additions by Bach.
Condition: The two leaves of the original bifolium have separated, though remnants survive of an early strengthening at the centre fold. The manuscript shows to a very limited degree the even browning and ink acidification characteristic of Bach's manuscripts (which is frequently considerably more pronounced than here); overall the paper is robust and the text clear. There are a few minor puncture holes and splits and limited damage along the outer margin of f.1, more pronounced at the lower corner. The paper shows traces of old restoration at the margins.
1. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788, second son of the composer): the former presence with the manuscript of a partial transcription in his hand suggests that it was likely part of his inheritance after his father’s death in 1750; it is not however recorded in the 1790 register of his Nachlass, indicating that it may have been disposed of during his lifetime.
2. Breitkopf [subsequently Breitkopf & Härtel], Leipzig, music publishers: possibly one of the three lute works offered for sale by them in 1761 and again in 1836 (a sale at which the suite for lute, BWV 995, was certainly offered). Breitkopf acquired a number of manuscripts directly from Bach’s children.
3. Collection of the Counts von Voss of Buch near Berlin (the numbering ‘Nr.22’ at the head of the manuscript matches numbering found on some other manuscripts of Bach’s instrumental works from the Voss collection). The founders of the Voss collection, Carl von Voss (1755-1823), and his son, also Carl, certainly acquired Bach manuscripts from Breitkopf. The manuscript was evidently alienated before the gift of the Voss-Buch Bach collection to the Königliche Bibliothek in Berlin in 1851.
4. ?Peters-Verlag, Leipzig: Ferdinand August Roitzsch, the editor of the work for the Peters Oeuvres complets (1837-65, nr. 214.1) evidently had access to the original manuscript, and according to Kinsky in his catalogue of the Heyer collection (see below) the manuscript was in the firm’s ownership at that time.
5. Alfred Henry Huth (1850-1910): recorded in his possession by Philipp Spitta in 1880; according to Sotheby’s (1968 – see below) Huth had acquired the manuscript from the London bookseller F.S. Ellis in 1874.
6. Wilhelm Heyer (1849-1913), Cologne, acquired at Sotheby’s in the Huth sale, 12 June 1911, lot 6.
7. Karl von Vietinghoff, Berlin, acquired at the auction of Henrici & Liepmanssohn, 6/7 December 1926, no.17.
8. The manuscript was offered at auction at J.A. Stargardt, Marburg, 28 November 1962, lot 1101 (when it was unsold), and subsequently as ‘The Property of a Lady’ at Sotheby’s, 9 April 1968, lot 373, where it was bought for £5,500 by: –
9. Musikantiquariat Hans Schneider, Tutzing, by whom sold in 1969 to the present owner.
Locations of Bach autographs
According to the comprehensive survey in Schmieder’s Thematisch-systematisches Verzeichnis (1990), as few as 40 complete Bach autograph manuscripts are to be found outside the major holding at the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin. Only thirty of these are located outside Germany, comprising 13 in the USA, four in the UK, three in Switzerland, two each in France, Austria, Poland and Japan, and single manuscripts in Belgium and Denmark.
No more than ten of the surviving complete autographs are recorded in private hands: three of these are in the collection of Robert O. Lehman (on deposit at the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York). Of these ten manuscripts, six are for cantatas: only two (both in the Lehman collection) are for instrumental works.
No complete Bach autograph has been offered for public sale since 1996: this was the cantata Ach Gott von Himmel sieh darein, BWV 2. Prior to that, the cantata Auf Christi Himmelfahrt allein, BWV 128, appeared in 1989, whilst no fewer than six autographs of cantatas were auctioned in the course of 1982, all entering institutional collections. According to our research, no autograph manuscript of any sort for an instrumental work by Bach has appeared on the open market since at least the 1960s.
Hartwig Eichberg and Thomas Kohlhase (eds), Kritischer Bericht (1982) for volume V/10, Einzeln überlieferte Klavierwerke II und Kompositionene für Lauteninstrumente, of the Neue Bach-Ausgabe, 153
Wolfgang Schmieder. Thematisch-systematisches Verzeichnis (2nd edition, 1990)
J.S. Bach. Prelude pour la Luth. o Cembal. (BWV 998), with an introduction by Hiroshi Hoshino. Facsimile reproduction of the manuscript. Tokyo: Ueno Gakuen, 1974.
Georg Kinsky. Katalog des Musikhistorischen Museums von Wilhelm Heyer in Coeln. Cologne, 1916. vol. 4, plate 12
Richard D.P. Jones. The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach, vol. II: 1717-1750
Yoshitake Kobayashi. 'Zur Chronologie der Spaetwerke J. S. Bachs', Bach-Jahrbuch 1988
Bettina Faulstich. Die Musikaliensammlung der Familie von Voss : ein Beitrage zur Berliner Musikgeschichte um 1800. Kassel, 1997
We are grateful to Dr Peter Wollny for his confirmation of the attribution of the superscription and for his suggestion of the likely provenance of the manuscript within the Voss collection, and also to Dr Stephen Rose for his assistance in the preparation of the present catalogue note.