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

Diving into musical incipits (so to speak)

Musical incipits — how does one do this? We followed the leaders.  Since we wanted the musical incipits available to scholars where they work,  we selected OCLC’s WorldCat Discovery for bibliographic access; however, the WorldCat lacks software to display musical incipits.  The other place where music scholars work is RISM (Répertoire International des Sources Musicales), which does display musical incipits. So, it was a matter of making our bibliographic records with incipits in WorldCat and migrating our records to RISM so that the music incipits display.  Another huge factor in this decision was that the Moravian Music Foundation looked for a hosted IT solution that would not require servers and customization at the local level. So, it was not a matter of finding software that could use Finale or Sibelius files, we needed a whole solution.

Musical incipits were baked into the RISM cake from the beginning in the 1970s. An encoding system called, Plaine and Easie Code, is the international standard used for musical incipits in RISM records. It is suited for use without technology, but is made much easier to use with modern tools.  It is said that Plaine and Easie Code is neither plain, nor easy; but using online software Verovio makes creating the code almost as easy as playing the incipit on the piano. The RISM staff and programmers maintain the Plaine and Easie Editor for making  musical incipits.

Our project has a group of three music encoders, who add incipits into bibliographic records for each collection. Here is an example of musical incipits from the source catalog card transformed into an encoded musical incipit in our bibliographic record.

The source information:

Musical incipit encoded into the  bibliographic record:

The display of encoded information in RISM:


The incipit coders apply the codes from the Plaine and Easie Code standard using the Verovio Plaine and Easie Editor, then copy information into field 031 using the MARC 21 Standard for Bibliographic Information.  After the bibliographic record is loaded into the RISM database, it can be displayed to users.

Finding an aria within an oratorio and other such dilemmas

Moravian music collections are a mixed bag of printed editions, manuscript copies of printed editions, manuscripts of original music, manuscripts of excerpts and contrafactum.  By contrafactum I mean the substitution of one text for another without substantial change to the music. So these collections require access to all music down to the lowest movement level. This is essential for vocal music and slightly less essential for instrumental music.

For example, it is not uncommon to identify a favorite chorus from a Johann Heinrich Rolle oratorio, which has been copied as an anthem, perhaps the text has changed and maybe even the choral voicings (such as, SATB to SSTB). Some of these excerpts or contrafactum were copied and appear in multiple collections among the settlement congregations, including Bethlehem, Nazareth, Lititz and Lancaster in Pennsylvania, Dover in Ohio and Salem in North Carolina. The anthems were used during worship services, Singstunden or Love Feasts.

The question for catalogers is how to provide access to all the music, including sub-units such as movements of a larger work.  The answer leads to a complicated, multi-pronged solution.  First, all movements music be cataloged to gain access to the smaller sub-units; secondly, all movements must include musical incipits.  Matching musical incipits is the best way to identify musical works — independent from the texts. Musical  incipits are printed in standard music notation. They typically feature the first few bars of a piece, often with the most prominent musical material written on a single staff.  Here is an example from RISM.  In another post we will dive into musical incipits.

So, if the catalogers are providing complete access to all the music, what cataloging guidelines have been used?

  • Since we wanted to convert all information on the paper cards to online records, we chose OCLC and RISM as the two bibliographic utilities which are the best sources for discovery (bibliographic and musical).
  • Instrumental works are cataloged on one bibliographic record, with the movements noted in the table of content field (field 505) and the musical incipits encoded for each movement in separate fields (field 031).
  • Vocal works are cataloged on multiple bibliographic records, with one “parent” record for the entire work and separate “child” bibliographic records for each movement.  We include all movement titles in the “parent” table of contents (field 505), while the musical incipits are included in the “child” bibliographic record for each movement. The child record also includes additional subject access depending on the item. For example, subject headings, such as “sacred songs” or “choruses, sacred” or “canons, fugues, etc. (chorus), are added to child records.
  • The parent and child records need to be linked together, showing the relationship and providing access to each.
  • Sometimes, the manuscripts include hand-written notes with an alternate text, which is noted on the bibliographic records.  Sometimes, only the alternate text is given on the manuscript; in this case the musical incipit is the way to identify and bring together like works.
  • Use the parent/child bibliographic records model for collections of unrelated works too.

In our online catalog, GemeinKat/WorldCat Discovery, the feature of linking the parent and child records for display is still under construction.  In the RISM catalog the linking of parent and child records is an important feature (and is very cool).

An example of parent/child bibliographic records for a collection is illustrated well with the collection Zum großen Sabbath, 1768.  Johannes Herbst (a collection of 9 sacred songs). At the bottom of the page there is a list of the 9 sacred songs, each linked to an individual record for each song. Each individual song is, in turn, linked to the parent record.


Who is Hendel?

Philhamonic Society of Bethlehem PSB 95 is a folder with manuscript parts bearing this title information: Ihrer war viel tausendmal tausend — Das Lamm, das geschlachtet ist p. … di Hendel.  Who is Hendel?  A check of the WorldCat database, the Library of Congress  authority file and the RISM OPAC did not provide any clues.

Searching RISM by musical incipit did reveal the identity of the work and the composer. The musical incipits matched George Frederic Handel’s Coronation Anthem, no. 1,  Zadok the priest. 

This is a case of contrafactum where the Moravians used Handel’s music and applied another text.  Oh, yes, someone used a phonetic spelling of Handel’s name.


A Collection of Motets by Various Composers Becomes a Set of 7 Motets by Known Composers

The cataloging cards indicated “Collection of Motets” by “Various Composers”.  Three motets were by Christian David Jaeschke; three motets were anonymous and the last motet was by Samuel Friedrich Heine.

A note on the folder was inscribed: “7 Motetten … presented to the C.M. of Beth by their former active member the late Bishop Hüffel–a noted Violoncello players & father to Mrs. Sam. Reincke dec-d”.  This note was the key to discovering what this collection really is.

Deconstructing the information, we know that “C.M. of Beth” is the Collegium Musicum Bethlehem, here in the United States.  “Bishop Hüffel” is Christian Gottlieb Hüffel, 1762-1842, who was born in Kleinwelka, Germany, studied in Nieksy and Barby, was called to service in Dublin, Ireland, and Berthelsdorf, was a teacher at the Pädagogium in Niesky and Barby, called to service in Bethlehem, Pa. (1818 through 1826), called to service in Bethlesdorf and Herrnhut. Of most importance for this puzzle is that he was in Niesky and in Bethlehem.

The three motets by Jaeschke matched the descriptions for the same motets in RISM.  Two motets in RISM are in a collection of 6 motets, all by Jaeschke, from the Christiansfeld, Denmark Moravian archives. The three anonymous motets also match three motets in the Christiansfeld set of motets.  So, we now know that 6 motets are by Jaeschke and the 7th is by Heine.

In addition to identifying the composer, records for additional copies of these motets indicate that they are from the Nieksy Collection, that they are inscribed with the name C. G. Hüffel and dated 1786. Recall that Bishop Hüffel taught in Niesky from 1784 to 1789. He obviously made an additional copy of selected motets that he brought to America. He must have left the manuscripts with his daughter, Charlotte Sophia, who married Samuel Reincke. This manuscript was presented Collegium Musicum Bethlehem after Hüffel’s death.

Furthermore, the 6th motet, “Leben wir, so leben wir den Herrn” has an inscription on an inner folder: “Dank=P[salm] zur Einweih[ung] des Neuerbauten Ki[rche] in Bethl[ehm] am 20st [en Mai] 18[06].  This motet was sung at the dedicated of the new church (now Central Moravian Church) in Bethlehem on 20 May 1806.

Discovering the identity of an unidentified quintet

SCM 432 was a puzzle — no composer or title page, two parts (Ob II and Bsn) of a printed work (PN 1536) with a title “Quintet II” in the key of E♭ major. Using discovery tools and this process….

  • in WorldCat a search in the Publishers Number Index revealed 66 musical works with the publisher’s number “1536”. In the list 2 composers (Mozart and Anton Reicha) appeared with the word “quintet” in the title.
  • in RISM online a search for “Anton Reicha” revealed 85 works. There were 14 published works, which did not include any quintets. There were 30 entries for “quintets (instr).
  • Number 14 in the list of 30 was in E♭ Although we do not have the lead part (flute), the incipts matched up (key, time signature, tempo markings, melodic and rhythmic progression). It was identified as op. 88, no. 2 by Anton Reicha.
  • Further searching in RISM Series AII (paper) revealed a citation for published parts (PN: 1536) by the publisher Simrock.
  • So the unknown quintet is now identified as Anton Reicha’s Quintet for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon, op. 88. No. 2, published by Simrock about 1817 or 1818.

[Dave has a recording of this work]