Filling in the blanks for missing manuscripts

While the majority of musical compositions in the Johannes Herbst Collection consists of sacred solos, duets, and choral music, there are occasional pieces to commemorate birthdays and even historical/political events.

As I have been editing records in the Herbst Collection on RISM, I have been intrigued by the music that is missing from the collection. In her catalog of the Herbst Collection, Marilyn Gombosi listed number 31 as “unidentified” but gave the date “Am 22. Nov. 1763.” She apparently obtained this date from Johannes Herbst’s Book of Texts, a collection of all the texts he used in his copied compositions. I looked in Ewald Nolte’s transcription of Herbst’s manuscript and found not only that date but also the following 6 texts:

  1. Alles Fleisch ist wie die Gras, und alle Herrlichkeit der Menschen wie des Grases Blumen; das Gras verdorret und die Blumen fallen ab; aber des Herrn Wort bleibet in Ewigkeit (altered form of I Peter 1:24)
  2. Das ist das Wort, das unter uns verkündiget wird (That is the word that is proclaimed among us)
  3. Du lehrest sie, dass es ein Ende haben muss, und ihr Leben ein Ziel hat und jegliches davon muss. Nun, Herr! wess soll ich mich trösten? Ich hoffe auf dich. (Psalm 39:4)
  4. Siehe! um Trost war mir sehr bange, du aber hast dich meiner Seele herzlich angenommen, dass sie nicht verdürbe, denn du wirfest alle meine Sünde hinter dich zurücke. (Isaiah 38:17)
  5. Wohl denen, die in deinem Hause wohnen, die loben dich immerdar, Sela! (Psalm 84:4)
  6. Unser keiner lebt ihm selber, unser keiner stirbt ihm selber. Leben wir, so leben wir dem Herrn; sterben wir, so sterben wir dem Herrn; darum wir leben oder sterben, so sind wir des Herrn. (Romans 14:7-8)

Now, some of you may recognize certain portions of the texts above from Brahms’ German Requiem, such as “alles Fleisch ist wie Gras” (For all flesh, it is as grass) with its plodding, dark tones and timpani, or the “wohl denen, die in deinem Hause wohnen” from the celestial “How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place” movement. You might also recognize the “Unser keiner lebt ihm selber” text from the anthem “None Among Us Lives to Self” and the rest of the passage from Romans found in our Memorial Service and Burial liturgy (MBW, p.117).

By now you get the idea that the text is a funeral or memorial service, but what’s the significance of the date: 22 November, 1763?

I searched in RISM for the text “Alles Fleisch ist wie Gras” in the Title field and the year 1763 anywhere in the record. This resulted in 4 answers: all in the Herrnhut archives (D-HER) and all by Christian Gregor. Looking at the details of the records, I read that it was an ode on the occasion of the death of Frederick Augustus II, who died October 5, 1763. He would convert to Roman Catholicism in order to become king of Poland. In 1733 Johann Sebastian Bach presented him the Kyrie and Gloria of what would later become the B Minor Mass to Frederick Augustus II.

One of the 4 copies is in a collection with the funeral music for his son Frederick Christian who succeeded him as Elector of Saxony and died just two months after his father on December 17, 1763.

Since we do not own Herbst’s copies of the music manuscript of the ode for 22 November 1763 (Alles Fleisch ist wie Gras), but do have this evidence both from Herbst’s Book of Texts and the Herrnhut manuscripts, I will be adding a record for a handwritten libretto and cross-reference to the Herrnhut manuscripts to fill out what we can deduce about the missing music manuscripts.

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