Neumeister Collection

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The Neumeister Collection is a manuscript compilation of chorale preludes for organ assembled by Johann Gottfried Neumeister (1757–1840) after 1790.[1] It has been suggested that the collection may have been copied from a single source, possibly a Bach family album put together in Johann Sebastian Bach's early years.[2] The five works by Neumeister's own music teacher, Georg Andreas Sorge, were a later addition.[3] Some time after 1807 the manuscript passed to Christian Heinrich Rinck (1770–1846),[4] whose library was bought by Lowell Mason in 1852. After Mason's death in 1873, his collection was acquired by Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.[1]

There the Neumeister volume lay as manuscript LM 4708 until it was rediscovered "early in 1984" by musicologists Christoph Wolff (Harvard) and Hans-Joachim Schulze (de) (Bach-Archiv Leipzig) and librarian Harold E. Samuel (Yale).[5] After satisfying themselves that the manuscript was genuine, they announced the discovery in December 1984.[6] Their conclusions were confirmed in January 1985 by German organist Wilhelm Krumbach (de) (1937–2005), who had been working on the same material independently, and with a fatal lack of urgency, since 1981.[5][7][8] Wolff acknowledged that he brought his announcement forward when he learned that Krumbach was in the field.[6][9][10] Krumbach was unhappy with the way things turned out.[5][11]The collection was published by Professor Wolff in 1985–1986, both in facsimile and as part of the Neue Bach-Ausgabe.[12][13]

The chorales[edit]

The Neumeister Collection consists of eighty-two chorales, most of which were previously unknown (one or two of the attributions in the manuscript have been questioned):

Johann Michael Bach[edit]

The rediscovery of the Neumeister Collection quadrupled the number of keyboard works indisputably written by Johann Michael Bach, from eight to thirty-two, with six more arguably also his.[14] Of the twenty-five pieces attributed to him in the manuscript, seven were known but incorrectly credited to other composers and eighteen were entirely new, making this the largest single trove of his work.[15] This remains the case even if, as some have suggested, one of the chorales that appears under his name is actually by Johann Heinrich Buttstett.[16] Professor Wolff has proposed that the five unattributed works in the volume could also be by Johann Michael Bach—confidently in three cases, less so in the other two.[17]

Johann Sebastian Bach[edit]

The rediscovered manuscript prompted revisions to J.S. Bach's catalogue and reconsideration of his musical development.[18]

The collection includes thirty-eight works by Bach, now sometimes referred to as the Arnstädter Chorales. Five of them were already known from other sources:

  • three in near-identical form (BWV 601 and BWV 639 from Das Orgelbüchlein; and BWV 737, the authenticity of which had been considered doubtful, from a miscellaneous manuscript); and
  • two in similar form, which, despite being included in the Bach catalogue, were believed to be written by others (BWV 719, wrongly attributed to Johann Christoph Bach;[19] and BWV 742, wrongly attributed to Georg Böhm).

The other thirty-three were partly or wholly new:

  • two previously known only from fragments, the authenticity of which had been considered doubtful (BWV 714 and BWV 957); and
  • thirty-one previously unknown works (BWV 1090–1120) now identified as the Neumeister Chorales Nos. 1–31 (including BWV 1096, a somewhat different version of which was, in fact, known from another source, but wrongly attributed to Johann Pachelbel).

The Arnstädter Chorales are considered on stylistic grounds to be early works, probably dating from 1703 to 1707, when Bach was active at Arnstadt, and possibly even earlier.[20] They provide a new window on his formative years as a composer and cast the chorale preludes in Das Orgelbüchlein, previously considered his earliest essays in the form, in a fresh light: the Orgelbüchlein pieces are not the work of a precocious beginner, but of an already practised hand.

The Bach chorales in the Neumeister Collection attracted the interest of organists even before they were published. They were first performed privately by Wilhelm Krumbach at Utrecht in January 1985, and publicly by John Ferris and Charles Krigbaum at Yale in March.[5][21] Later the same year, Joseph Payne made the world-premiere recording for Harmonia Mundi at St. Paul's Church in Brookline, Massachusetts, working from a photostat of the Yale manuscript, and Werner Jacob (de) made the first recording of the Wolff edition for EMI-Angel on a restored Johann Andreas Silbermann organ at Arlesheim cathedral.[22]


Performed by Ulrich Metzner

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  1. ^ a b Manuscript LM 4708 in Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (USA); the so-called Neumeister Collection. Accessed 2 March 2014.
  2. ^ Richard D. P. Jones, The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach, Volume 1, 1695–1717: Music to Delight the Spirit (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 74.
  3. ^ Sara Ann Jones, The Neumeister Collection of Chorale Preludes of the Bach Circle: An Examination of the Chorale Preludes of J.S. Bach and Their Usage as Service Music and Pedagogical Works, Doctor of Musical Arts Dissertation, Louisiana State University, 2002, p. 10.
  4. ^ Christoph Wolff, "The Neumeister Collection of chorale preludes from the Bach circle", in his Bach: Essays on His Life and Music (New Haven, CT: Harvard University Press, 1991), p. 110.
  5. ^ a b c d "Dispute over Bach discovery", The New York Times, 13 April 1985. Accessed 13 March 2014.
  6. ^ a b Will Crutchfield, "Organ preludes attributed to Bach found at Yale", The New York Times, 19 December 1984. Accessed 13 March 2014.
  7. ^ Russell Stinson, "Review: The Neumeister Collection of Chorale Preludes from the Bach Circle (Yale University Manuscript LM 4708)
  8. ^ Orgelchoräle der Neumeister-Sammlung / Organ Chorales from the Neumeister Collection", Journal of the American Musicological Society, vol. 40, no. 2 (Summer, 1987), p. 353.
  9. ^ Stinson, "Review", p. 353.
  10. ^ Christoph Wolff, "Bach's organ music: studies and discoveries", The Musical Times, vol. 126, no. 1705 (March, 1985), p. 152, n. 7.
  11. ^ "Opus 33: Who really found Bach preludes?" Chicago Tribune, 28 April 1985. Accessed 16 February 2015.
  12. ^ Christoph Wolff (ed.), The Neumeister Collection of Chorale Preludes from the Bach Circle (Yale University Library LM 4708): A Facsimile Edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986).
  13. ^ Johann Sebastian Bach, Orgelchoräle der Neumeister-Sammlung / Organ Chorales from the Neumeister Collection, edited by Christian Wolff (New Haven and Kassel: Yale University Press and Bärenreiter-Verlag, 1985), later appearing as Johann Sebastian Bach: Neue Ausgabe sämtliche Werke, Serie IV, Orgelwerke 9: Orgelchoräle der Neumeister-Sammlung (Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag for the Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Institut, Göttingen and the Bach-Archiv, Leipzig, 2003).
  14. ^ Wolff, "The Neumeister Collection of chorale preludes from the Bach circle", p. 116.
  15. ^ Sara Ann Jones, pp. 3–4.
  16. ^ Russell Stinson, "Some thoughts on Bach's Neumeister Chorales", The Journal of Musicology, vol. 11, no. 4 (Autumn, 1993), p. 456, n. 4.
  17. ^ Wolff concludes from the state of the manuscript that the five unattributed works were written by composers represented elsewhere in the collection, whose names were omitted by accident. Weighing both textual and stylistic evidence, he proposes Johann Michael Bach as the author of all five, while allowing that one could also have been written by J.S. Bach and another by Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow. See "The Neumeister Collection of chorale preludes from the Bach circle", p. 121.
  18. ^ This section is based on Sara Ann Jones, chs. 1 and 2.
  19. ^ This is Johann Sebastian's cousin, Johann Christoph Bach (1642–1703) of Eisenach, not his uncle Johann Christoph Bach (1645–1693) of Arnstadt, or his older brother and teacher Johann Christoph Bach (1671–1721) of Orhdruf. See David Schulenberg, A Bach Manuscript Recovered: Berlin, Bibliothek der Hochschule der Künste, Spitta Ms. 1491, typescript, 1998.
  20. ^ Stinson, "Some thoughts on Bach's Neumeister Chorales", p. 457.
  21. ^ Eleanor Charles, "Bach works make debut today", The New York Times, 17 March 1985. Accessed 13 March 2014.
  22. ^ Allen Hughes, "New Bach chorale-preludes vie for favor", The New York Times, 15 September 1985. Accessed 13 March 2014.

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