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Neumeister Collection

The Neumeister Collection is a compilation of 82 chorale preludes found in a manuscript copy produced by Johann Gottfried Neumeister (1757–1840). When the manuscript was rediscovered at the Yale University in the 1980s it appeared to contain 31 previously unknown early chorale settings by Johann Sebastian Bach, which were added to the BWV catalogue as Nos. 1090–1120 and published in 1985.


Neumeister compiled his manuscript after 1790.[1] It has been suggested that the 77 earliest works in the collection may have been copied from a single source, possibly a Bach family album put together in J. S. 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] Wolff acknowledged that he brought his announcement forward when he learned that Krumbach was in the field.[6][7][8] Krumbach was unhappy with the way things turned out.[5][9]

Works and composers

The Neumeister Collection contains 82 chorales, most of which were previously unknown (one or two of the attributions in the manuscript have been questioned):[10]

From the state of the manuscript Wolff concludes 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.[12]

Johann Michael Bach

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.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15] 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.[12]

Johann Sebastian Bach

The rediscovered manuscript prompted revisions to J. S. Bach's catalogue and reconsideration of his musical development.[16]

The collection includes thirty-eight works by J. S. 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 the 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;[a] (it actually may be by Johann Pachelbel, as it is identical to P. 85, T. 27) 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)
  • 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, possibly by Johann Pachelbel)[17][18][19]

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 the 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.


Wolff published the chorale preludes by J. S. Bach in 1985, and a facsimile of the complete collection in 1986.[21][22]

New Bach Edition

Christoph Wolff's 2003 edition Orgelchoräle der Neumeister-Sammlung (Organ Chorales from the Neumeister Collection), Score and Critical Commentary, Volume 9 of Series IV: Organ Works of the New Bach Edition (Neue Bach-Ausgabe, NBA), includes 36 chorales (BWV 714, 719, 737, 742, 957 and 1090–1120):[21]

  1. Der Tag, der ist so freudenreich, BWV 719
  2. Wir Christenleut, BWV 1090
  3. Das alte Jahr vergangen ist, BWV 1091
  4. Herr Gott nun schleuß den Himmel auf, BWV 1092
  5. Herzliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen, BWV 1093
  6. O Jesu, wie ist deine Gestalt, BWV 1094
  7. O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig, BWV 1095
  8. Christe, der du bist Tag und Licht, BWV 1096, a.k.a. Wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ, possibly by Johann Pachelbel,[23] moved to Anh. III (the annex of the spurious works) in BWV2a (1998).[24] The Bach Digital website lists both Bach and Pachelbel as possible composers.[19]
  9. Ehre sei dir, Christe, der du leidest Not, BWV 1097
  10. Wir glauben all an einen Gott, BWV 1098
  11. Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu Dir, BWV 1099
  12. Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 1100
  13. Ach Gott und Herr, BWV 714
  14. Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder, BWV 742
  15. Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt, BWV 1101
  16. Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 1102
  17. Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort, BWV 1103 (on Luther's hymn)
  18. Vater unser im Himmelreich, BWV 737
  19. Wenn dich Unglück tut greifen an, BWV 1104
  20. Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 1105
  21. Gott ist mein Heil, mein Hilf und Trost, BWV 1106
  22. Jesu, meines Lebens Leben, BWV 1107
  23. Als Jesus Christus in der Nacht, BWV 1108
  24. Ach Gott, tu dich erbarmen, BWV 1109
  25. Oh Herre Gott, dein göttlich Wort, BWV 1110
  26. Nun lasst uns den Leib begraben, BWV 1111
  27. Christus, der ist mein Leben, BWV 1112
  28. Ich hab mein Sach Gott heimgestellt, BWV 1113
  29. Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut, BWV 1114[25]
  30. Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr, BWV 1115[26]
  31. Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, BWV 1116[27]
  32. Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut, BWV 1117
  33. Machs mit mir Gott, nach deiner Güt, BWV 957
  34. Werde munter mein Gemüte, BWV 1118
  35. Wie nach einer Wasserquelle, BWV 1119
  36. Christ, der du bist der helle Tag, BWV 1120


A facsimile of the entire collection was published in 1986.[22] In the 21st century facsimile renderings of the Neumeister manuscript became available on the Bach Digital website.[10]

Performances and recordings

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][28] 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 made the first recording of the Wolff edition for EMI-Angel on a restored Johann Andreas Silbermann organ at Arlesheim cathedral.[29]


  1. ^ a b 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.[11]


  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. ^ Jones 2002, p. 10
  4. ^ Wolff 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. ^ a b Stinson 1987, p. 353.
  8. ^ Christoph Wolff, "Bach's organ music: studies and discoveries", The Musical Times, vol. 126, no. 1705 (March, 1985), p. 152, n. 7.
  9. ^ "Opus 33: Who really found Bach preludes?" Chicago Tribune, 28 April 1985. Accessed 16 February 2015.
  10. ^ a b US-NH LM 4708 (Ma21 Y11 A30) "Neumeister Collection" at Bach Digital website
  11. ^ David Schulenberg, A Bach Manuscript Recovered: Berlin, Bibliothek der Hochschule der Künste, Spitta Ms. 1491, typescript, 1998.
  12. ^ a b Wolff 1991, p. 121
  13. ^ Wolff 1991, p. 116
  14. ^ Jones 2002, pp. 3–4
  15. ^ Stinson 1993, p. 456
  16. ^ Jones 2002, Chs. 1 and 2.
  17. ^ Peter Williams. The Organ Music of J.S. Bach (2nd edition). Cambridge University Press, 2003. ISBN 9780521814164, p. 549.
  18. ^ Jean M. Perreault, edited by and Donna K. Fitch. The Thematic Catalogue of the Musical Works of Johann Pachelbel. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8108-4970-4, No. 63 p. 56
  19. ^ a b BDW 1282 at Bach Digital website
  20. ^ Stinson 1993, p. 457.
  21. ^ a b Johann Sebastian Bach, Orgelchoräle der Neumeister-Sammlung / Organ Chorales from the Neumeister Collection, edited by Christoph Wolff (New Haven and Kassel: Yale University Press and Bärenreiter-Verlag, 1985), later appearing as Johann Sebastian Bach: Neue Ausgabe sämtliche Werke, Series IV: Organ Works Volume 9: Orgelchoräle der Neumeister-Sammlung (Organ Chorales from the Neumeister Collection), Score and Critical Commentary (Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag for the Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Institut, Göttingen and the Bach-Archiv, Leipzig, 2003).
  22. ^ a b 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).
  23. ^ Günter Hartmann, "Authentischer Bach-Elbel: Marginalie zu einem der angeblichen Bach-Choräle der Neumeister-Sammlung", p. 4 in Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 1986, Heft 4
  24. ^ BWV2a (1998), pp. 349 and 468
  25. ^ BDW 1300 at Bach Digital website
  26. ^ BDW 1301 at Bach Digital website
  27. ^ BDW 1302 at Bach Digital website
  28. ^ Eleanor Charles, "Bach works make debut today", The New York Times, 17 March 1985. Accessed 13 March 2014.
  29. ^ Allen Hughes, "New Bach chorale-preludes vie for favor", The New York Times, 15 September 1985. Accessed 13 March 2014.


External links