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Missing Bach score reported found in Japan

Scholar sayspart of  ‘Wedding Cantata BWV 216’ found after 80 years
/ Source: The Associated Press

Part of a lost composition by Johann Sebastian Bach has been found in Japan nearly eight decades after it went missing, a Japanese music professor said Sunday.

Eight pages of the 1728 composition “Wedding Cantata BWV 216” by the German baroque master were recently found among the possessions of the late Japanese classical pianist Chieko Hara, said Tadashi Isoyama, a professor at the Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo.

The partial score, consisting of the soprano and alto portions of the cantata, was believed to have been copied by Bach’s students under his direction at the time he composed the work, Isoyama said.

Composed for the wedding of a daughter of a customs official, the cantata later made its way into the hands of collectors and was last known to have been in possession of the family of German composer Felix Mendelssohn in 1926.

Though most of the work remains lost to history, the find is important for Bach scholars because the fragments are believed to be those that were used when the cantata was originally performed in 1728, said Isoyama, who coordinated efforts to the determine their authenticity.

Renewed interestIsoyama said it is unlikely that the piece was performed again because wedding cantatas were normally composed as one-time pieces.

But the discovery has sparked renewed interest in performing the piece publicly, Isoyama said. He hopes the recovered parts will be used to reconstruct the full score as it might have sounded.

Copies of the alto and soprano parts exist but show various discrepancies with the newly recovered originals, Isoyama said.

Scholars are planning to compare them more closely with the originals to see if they reveal more about what happened to the piece after it went missing, he said.

The last owner of the score, Hara, performed mostly in Europe and was married to the Spanish cellist Gaspar Cassado. Cassado is believed to have obtained the score from Mendelssohn’s family.

The Japanese university plans to issue a facsimile edition, Isoyama said.