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«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 ...»

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But the most significant contribution of The Neumeister Collection was the appearance of thirty-eight chorale preludes by J. S. Bach, thirty-three of which were previously unknown, including three which were incorrectly attributed to other composers. These thirty-three works augment the number of known organ chorale preludes by J. S. Bach by one-fifth; they also provide an insight into Bach’s earliest work, dating from approximately 1702 to1708, before the Weimar years when Bach became active as a teacher.7 The Neumeister Collection also serves as a link between the early years and the Orgelbüchlein, even suggesting a prototype for the genre of chorale prelude contained in the later collection. Most importantly, The Neumeister Collection has changed the criteria used in dating the chorale preludes of J. S. Bach, providing evidence that existing time frames should encompass a much earlier period than previously thought.8 The Neumeister Collection also provides the first concordances for three of the previously known chorale preludes written by J. S. Bach: BWV 719, Der Tag, der ist so freudenreich; BWV 742, Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder; BWV 957, Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt. These chorale preludes were transmitted individually and classified as doubtful works. The discovery of copies which pre-date existing sources enabled scholars to use the Neumeister chorale preludes as models for authorship of these writings.9

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The importance of The Neumeister Collection cannot be overstated; however, these chorale preludes have been virtually ignored by organists and teachers since their authentication in 1985. Publications concerning this collection have been confined to studies verifying their authenticity, and involve only a few of the most eminent musicologists, such as Christoph Wolff, who authenticated the collection, Hans JoachimSchultz, colleague of Dr. Wolff and co-discoverer of the manuscript, Russell Stinson, Peter Williams, as well as several artists who recorded the collection, including Christopher Herrick and Joseph Payne. The pieces themselves are rarely performed, probably due to a misleading prejudice concerning their simplicity. In addition to this, three of the chorale preludes originally contained in The Neumeister Collection are not published today with this collection; these three works represent the only overlap of two virtually identical settings (i.e., having little or no discrepancies between copies) of the

same chorale prelude contained in more than one collection. This is a unique occurrence:

BWV 601, Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn, and BWV 639, Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, are contained in both The Neumeister Collection and the Orgelbüchlein, with identical BWV numbers; BWV 737, Vater unser im Himmelreich, can be found in The Neumeister Collection and an independent manuscript. These three chorale preludes represent a mature style of writing, involving elaborate text-painting, sophisticated counterpoint, full pedal lines, and advanced keyboard techniques not found in the other Bach works contained in The Neumeister Collection. They are associated with a more complex style of writing which was previously thought to originate during the Weimar years and the beginning of the Orgelbüchlein. It is to be expected that these three chorale preludes represent the latest compositions in The Neumeister Collection; their placement in a collection of such early Baroque music changes the criteria used to date Bach’s

works. Indeed, Christoph Wolff states concerning this:

It is particularly significant that two works from the Orgelbüchlein are preserved in LM 4708; slight variants would indicate that these are earlier versions.

The repertoire of the Neumeister manuscript may therefore be reasonably ascribed in a very general sense, to the period antedating the Orgelbüchlein and, at least in part, may be dated in Bach’s earliest period (before 1705).9 Unfortunately, modern editions of The Neumeister Collection, in an effort to systematize and simplify the classification of the works of J. S. Bach, have omitted these three chorale preludes.

The overall purpose of this study is to familiarize readers with the early chorale compositions of J. S. Bach contained in The Neumeister Collection which have been overlooked by musicians because of their recent appearance and apparent simplicity. This oversight is unfortunate, for the compositions by J. S. Bach in The Neumeister Collection offer a variety of forms, styles, and techniques to students, and the diversity of chorales chosen by Bach affords the practicing church organist an accessible and functional repertoire. This study will offer general background information about The Neumeister Collection, categorize the works of J. S. Bach contained in it according to their liturgical usage, chart their occurrences within other collections of Bach, and present these chorale preludes as teaching pieces which clearly demonstrate many styles, forms, contrapuntal techniques, and keyboard and pedal techniques. In addition, this study will focus on the

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pedagogical aspects of two works: BWV 1093, Herzliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen and BWV 957, Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt. These two chorale preludes demonstrate a variety of forms and styles, as well as organ performance techniques, making them ideal teaching pieces for Baroque organ music.





The chorale preludes in The Neumeister Collection offer a beginning time frame to chorale composition by J. S. Bach; the ending chorales, namely the Leipzig Chorales or the Eighteen Great Chorales, are already well known and accepted as Bach’s final and most complex efforts in the genre. The collection was authenticated in 1985 by Christoph Wolff, and this study will neither attempt to confirm nor deny this authentication. Other parameters of this monograph will include limiting the subject matter to only those chorale preludes by J. S. Bach contained in The Neumeister Collection; those chorale preludes by other composers contained in The Neumeister Collection, as well as other chorale preludes by J. S. Bach contained in other collections are outside the scope of this project and may be used only as a point of reference if necessary to enhance the understanding of the chorale preludes under discussion. Furthermore, discussion of organ building, registration, the secular and “free”compositions of J. S. Bach, and genres unrelated to the

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In appearance, The Neumeister Collection is a leather-bound volume of approximately one hundred and fifty pages containing eighty-two chorale preludes by several prominent German organists. Its neat, consistent writing suggests that a single scribe was responsible for its writing, probably Johann Gottfried Neumeister himself. The notation conforms to the standards of the time; a “C” clef is used in the treble to avoid the use of ledger lines and to facilitate reading. Occasionally, a sharp is used to cancel a flat, and, in general, there are many errors in writing, primarily concerning the use of accidentals. All of the pieces in the collection are short, usually two pages or less in length, and involve a short playing time.10 The works use all styles of organ chorale composition, including cantus firmus and cantus planus treatments, and a wide variety of forms such as chorale motet, chorale canon, chorale fugue, etc. Techniques of the day are also employed, including echo effects, gigue rhythms, and various contrapuntal devices.11 These will be discussed in greater depth later in this writing. The inscription on the inside

cover by Christian Rinck reads:

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The link between J. S. Bach and Gottfried Sorge has been crucial in dating this collection. Bach and Sorge both belonged to the elite Leipzig musical society Sozietät der musikalischen Wissenschaften. It is probably through this association with Sorge that Neumeister became acquainted with Bach’s music. The five chorale preludes of Sorge’s contained in The Neumeister Collection are the only works in this collection derived from a printed source; they were clearly appended to the collection upon its completion. The presence of the music of both Bach and Sorge in the compendium, coupled with an explanation by Sorge in the Preface to his Erster Theil der Vorspiele concerning the difficulty of Bach’s later works signifies that the music was written much earlier than

Bach’s Leipzig years. This direct reference to J. S. Bach states:

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A brief explanation of criteria used in dating this collection is necessary to a more complete understanding of these works. Russell Stinson, in his article Some Thoughts on

Bach’s Neumeister Collection, divides the factors determining dating into two areas:

stylistic evidence, which he suggests is strongly influenced by the chorale fantasy and Wolff, The Neumeister Collection, 6.

external evidence. The most conclusive external evidence is found in concordances, or other existing copies of these works, either complete, as in BWV 601, 639, and 737, or incomplete, as in the case of five others, BWV 714, BWV 719, BWV 957, BWV 1096, and BWV 742. The three virtually identical chorale preludes contained in more than one collection, BWV 601, BWV 639, BWV 737, which were discussed in the previous chapter, offer the strongest proof of Bach’s authorship of these works; they exist as complete works, and there are few discrepancies between the copies. BWV 601 and BWV 737 have very minor changes between the versions found in The Neumeister Collection and settings found elsewhere; the two versions of BWV 639 are identical.14 The five chorale preludes by J. S. Bach in The Neumeister Collection which exist in variants or partial concordances are: BWV 1096, Christe, der du bist Tag und Licht;

BWV 957, Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt; BWV 714, Ach, Gott und Herr;

BWV 742, Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder; BWV 719, Der Tag, der ist so freudenreich. The chorale preludes BWV 719, BWV 1096, and BWV 742 were previously known but incorrectly attributed to J. C. Bach, Johann Pachelbel, and Georg Böhm respectively. The Neumeister Collection correctly established authorship of these three chorale preludes and provided the first known concordances of them. The preludes Ach, Gott und Herr, BWV 714 and Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt, BWV 957, were only partially known prior to the discovery of the Neumeister manuscript. They were, however, correctly identified as works of J. S. Bach. BWV 714 existed as a chorale Russell Stinson, “Some Thoughts on Bach’s Neumeister Collection,” in The Journal of Musicology 11, No. 4 (1993), 456-458.

canon between the soprano and tenor voices at the octave; The Neumeister Collection provided an additional thirty-seven measures which opened the work with a homophonic setting of the chorale tune. Likewise, Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt, BWV 957, was previously known as a keyboard fugue until The Neumeister Collection revealed another twenty-five measures containing the chorale, thus identifying the work as a chorale fugue.15 Table 2 on page thirteen lists the degree of completeness of the concordances and their location.

While the strongest external evidence used in authenticating and dating these works was previously existing copies, whether complete or incomplete, other factors also contributed to this process. Notational characteristics, handwriting analysis, and watermarks provided visible clues; biographical data helped to establish a time frame for the compilation of the compendium. The most convincing proof that these J. S. Bach works are pre-Weimar, according to Christoph Wolff, was their stylistic evidence.16 The Bach works in The Neumeister Collection are amazingly varied; they display evolving forms and harmonies, a variety of motives within a work, passages of virtuosic writing, and monothematic fugues and fughettas. The almost complete lack of pedal also suggests that these chorale preludes are early Bach works. In addition to this, they exhibit features of Bach’s more mature complexity, such as bravura writing and sophisticated counterpoint. Thus, Wolff proposed that these chorale preludes were most assuredly

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________________________________________________________________________

Table 2.

J. S. Bach Chorales in The Neumeister Collection: Concordances & their Locations ________________________________________________________________________

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________________________________________________________________________

Source: Christoph Wolff, The Neumeister Collection of Chorale Preludes from the Bach Circle: Facsilile Edition of the Yale Manuscript LM 4708 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 12-14.

pre-Weimar, encompassing the Arnstadt and Mühlhausen years, and perhaps extending as far back as 1700 to 1708, into Bach’s Orhdruf years with his brother Johann Christoph Bach.17 Wolff further proposes that the chorale preludes of J. S. Bach in The Neumeister Collection not only predate the Orgelbüchlein, but provide a prototype for the compact, highly expressive writings in the latter work. Bold harmonic progressions, increasingly dense contrapuntal textures, highly imitative counterpoint, a variety of cadences, and constantly changing motivic material are features found in the chorale preludes of both of these collections.18 The two collections are also similar in concept and design. Wolff states that the inclusion of BWV 601 and BWV 639 in both The Neumeister Collection and the Orgelbüchlein is not a coincidence; perhaps the Orgelbüchlein was intended to provide a further organization of service music with “alio modo” or alternate settings of chorale preludes previously set in The Neumeister Collection. Whatever the intent, both The Neumeister Collection and the Orgelbüchlein are alike in their function, which is to provide a variety of usable service music for the entire church year, and in their sequence, or order, of chorales.19 The following chapter will elaborate on the similarities between these two collections, and will provide information relevant to their usage as effective service music.

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