Select a Date

March 2015
S M T W T F S
« Feb   Apr »
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Long-Lost Bach Masterpiece Unearthed, Hailed as Major Discovery

Before the discovery of the St. Mark Passion, this manuscript found in a shoebox in 2005 represents another recent Bach discovery.

Before the discovery of the St. Mark Passion, this manuscript found in a shoebox in 2005 represents another recent Bach discovery.

Before the discovery of the St. Mark Passion, this manuscript found in a shoebox in 2005 represents another recent Bach discovery.

Before the discovery of the St. Mark Passion, this manuscript found in a shoebox in 2005 represents another recent Bach discovery.

A complete manuscript version of John Sebastian Bach’s St. Mark Passion (Markus-Passion) was discovered in the National Library of Poland (Biblioteka Narodowa) and constitutes one of the most important recent finds for performers, scholars, and lovers of classical music.

Though Bach’s St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion, both narrating the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, have long been considered some of the great masterpieces of Western music, a complete manuscript score St. Mark Passion was long thought to be lost.

First performed in Leipzig, Germany on Good Friday, March 23, 1731, the St. Mark Passion contains music from other previously composed works, including the whole of the Trauer Ode “Laß, Fürstin, laß noch einen Strahl,” BWV 198, as well as two arias from “Widerstehe doch der Sünde,” BWV 54.

However, not all of the music was borrowed from earlier works. Bach composed several original arias for the St. Mark Passion, as long as newly composed recitative linking the work’s many arias, ensembles, and grand choruses.

The score for the St. Mark Passion was stored previously with along with a large collection of opera scores by Johann Adolph Hasse, the Kapellmeister at the Dresden court and a friend and colleague of J.S Bach, and was overlooked until the library began digitization efforts earlier this year.

The manuscript will be digitized and published in facsimile by the Bärenreiter-Verlag New Bach Edition, the historical-critical complete edition of all works by the composer. A modern, performing edition of the St. Mark Passion is being planned as well, Bärenreiter reports, though the date that scores will be available for purchase and rental has not yet been confirmed.

Before this landmark discovery, there have been many attempts to reconstruct the St. Mark Passion. Harpsichordist and conductor Ton Koopman, known especially for his interpretations of Bach, reconstructed the work in 1999. The most recent significant attempt at reconstructing the previously lost score was by Alexander Ferdinand Grychtolik in 2010.

The Library has been overwhelmed by the response from Bach lovers around the world. The Editor in Chief of the New Bach Edition of the Bach Archive Leipzig is considering many proposals from various conductors and ensembles to premiere the St. Mark Passion before its digital release later this year. The Editor also added, “Happy April Fools’ Day!”

  • Claire Maude

    Dating this March 31 is cheating. Ugh.

  • James Reeves

    BWV 401?