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Just in: Unknown J. S. Bach manuscript turns up

It is dated 1740 and is a transcription of a Mass by the Italian composer Francesco Gasparini. It consists of four pages, found in an archive in Weissenfels, where local experts suggest it reveals the intensity of Bach’s late interest in stile antico. Here’s what it looks like.

Bach Handschrift

You can read more about it here (auf Deutsch).

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  1. That would be GaspArini, I think.

    Thanks for the great work over the years, Norman!


  2. Keven E. says:

    Although the range of this piece being an octave (plus the lower leading tone) lends itself to feel very stile antico, this melody has so much breathe room (very un Bach-like) I’d say: although it may be a transcription of a Bach piece, it’s clearly an oversimplification and misses much of what Bach was most likely saying with his skills of compositional obfuscation. kevene

  3. Well, Google Translate’s rendition of the article (which you can find here) is actually pretty useful.

    It’s a transcription of Gasparini’s 1705 Missa canonica, a setting for SATB voices with continuo. Bach and his assistant copied out the Kyrie and Gloria only, since those were the movements regularly performed as concerted music in Latin on feast days at the Thomas- and Nikolaikirchen. The manuscripts were evidently used in performance several different times. There are 13 parts written out: one for organ, four for voices, four for strings and oboes, and four for cornett and sackbuts; indications are that the instrumental groups alternated rather than playing tutti throughout.

    • I always wondered about Bach and his assistant(s) for copying out music. He had a whole houseful of kids. Maybe they were impressed more often than not in helping out Dad?

      • Rosalind says:

        “If you don’t finish writing out all the vocal parts for that cantata before supper-time, there’s no food for you…”

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