Last Chance to See Bach Manuscript

A rare manuscript of one of JS Bach’s late cantatas has gone on public view at auction house Christie’s ahead of its sale on Wednesday June 13. It’s the first of his manuscripts to have appeared on the open market for 16 years and is the tenor part for Ich liebe den Höchsten von ganzem Gemüte, BWV 174.

The manuscript also shows the work of what is guessed to be one of Bach’s pupils, Samuel Gottleib Heder, and someone only revealed as ‘Anonymous IV’. Bach’s handwritten contribution appears for the final chorale. 

The manuscript offers admirers of his work a tantalizing glimpse of Bach’s working methods in 1729. At the time of writing this piece, the composer was also employed as the kappellmeister at the prestigious educational establishment, the Thomasschule, as well directing the music at Leipzig’s principal churches. 

"It’s very appealing that it takes you into the practicalities of Bach’s working life," said Thomas Venning, director and senior specialist in the Printed Books and Manuscripts department at Christie’s. 

"It’s not just about writing celestial music – it’s a question of having a short amount of time to put on a show. You can almost imagine him writing it with a sandwich in his hand, having rushed back from church." 

That same sense of urgency surrounds the exhibition of the manuscript. With the piece on exhibition for just one more day, it’s expected that the manuscript will rarely be on display once it’s been sold.