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.


Celebrating Sharing: how having our records on two platforms not only broadens our reach, but deepens insight

The Moravian Music Foundation preserves, shares, and celebrates Moravian musical culture.

Much of my job over the last four years has been assisting in bringing the catalog of the Moravian Music Foundation online. Our OCLC Worldcat catalog is called GemeinKat. This allows anyone in the world to search our holdings of over 10,000 manuscripts and early editions, thus it addresses the “shares” part of our mission statement.

However, we have also decided to make our holdings accessible in RISM (Répertoire International des Sources Musicales), an international database of music manuscripts and early printed editions in libraries, archives, monasteries, schools, and private collections.

Recently I had an article published which detailed how we used pre-existing records in RISM to upload to OCLC for our GemeinKat catalog. Once editing and subject heading enhancements were made, we overlaid records back to RISM (“The Moravian Music Foundation Experience Using Bibliographic Records Downloaded from RISM,” Fontes Artis Musicae, vol. 64 no. 4 (October-December, 2017): pp. 355-366). This summer I had the opportunity to share this at the IAML (International Association of Music Libraries) Congress in Leipzig, Germany.

Having our records available on two platforms (OCLC and RISM) does more than broaden our coverage. There is a complementary aspect to our presence on both platforms. When our card catalog was created in the 1970s, the librarians/musicologists added musical incipits: the opening measures of music, so you would see what the melody of the work was. Currently there is no way to display musical incipits in OCLC (GemeinKat). RISM, on the other hand, does have the capability not only to display musical incipits, but also to search them. This has allowed us to identify, and sometimes correct, attributions to composers and works.

Both platforms allow us to embed URLs to link records from one platform to the other. This means if you find a record in one database it will link you to the corollary in the other, Let’s see some examples:

H 281 GemeinKat

Perhaps you located the record above by searching for settings of John 3:16, or by searching for an anthem based on a Daily Text. In the GemeinKat record you will see information about the music manuscript, but there is no musical incipit. If you click on the link provided at More information which says “RISM catalog record with musical incipits,” you’ll be directed here:

H 281 RISM OPAC top

As you can see, much of the same bibliographic information is still there, but now you have musical incipits which display how the accompaniment begins as well as the Soprano 1 opening measures. The Read online button near the top will link back to the GemeinKat record.

Then, if you scroll down, you’ll see some other interesting options:

H 281 RISM OPAC bottom

In the Notes field, you’ll see a couple links where we have provided images of the title page and the first page of Herbst’s full score:

H 281 ms title page

(detail of title page)

H 281 ms fullscore

(first page of full score in Johannes Herbst’s hand)

We will not be uploading images for every record, but we have uploaded some images to provide examples of our holdings.

Hopefully our efforts to provide information about our holdings will inspire musicologists, musicians, and students to contact us to learn more about our music; and perhaps they will produce new editions like I did for this work:

Also hat Gott