Wolf not extinct

At the 2013 Moravian Music Festival the first modern performance of Ernst Wilhelm Wolf’s Easter Cantata (Ostercantate) took place. Each of the choruses is published as a separate anthem in the Moravian Star Anthem Series, and the complete scholarly edition was published by Steglein Publishing in their “Musical Treasures from Moravian Archives”  series. It has also been recorded by the Bach Festival Orchestra and Chorus with members of the Rollins College Singers under the direction of Dr. John V. Sinclair. Moramus Chorale will be performing the Easter Cantata in May, 2019.

As we progress through our cataloging project, we continually make discoveries and have little “AHA” moments. One of those moments occurred as I went through a manuscript book of A. C. Brown in the Salem Manuscript Books Collection. I was unfortunately not able to figure out who A. C. Brown was or her/his dates. There is also no date given in the manuscript book. My guess, based on the paper, the handwriting, and the other musical entries in the book, is that the manuscript book was probably compiled in the first third of the nineteenth century.

The 20th piece in the book had no title except “Quartetto” and was attributed to E. W. Wolf. Since editing the Easter Cantata, every time I encounter a musical work attributed to Wolf, I approach it as something from a friend long ago. However, as I looked at the music, it was very familiar, but the text was English:

Hark! a thousand harps and voices, sound the song of praise above; Jesus reigns and heav’n rejoices, Jesus reigns the God of love.

Come ye saints unite your praises with the angels round his throne; Soon we hope the Lord will raise us to the place where he is gone. Songs of glory to our King is what we should sing.

King of glory, reign forever, thine an everlasting crown; Nothing from thy love shall sever, those whom thou hast made thine own. Happy objects of thy grace, destin’d to behold thy face.

The text is based on a hymn of Thomas Kelly (1769-1854 or 1855), a man from Dublin, Ireland who’d planned to follow his father in the legal profession, “…but having undergone a very marked spiritual change he took Holy Orders in 1792.” (John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology)

The music is a keyboard reduction of the quartet movement of Wolf’s Easter Cantata with minor changes to accommodate the English text.

This movement presents us with a mystery. The quartet movement was not included in the 1792 Breitkopf score which Wolf had printed; however, Herbst included this movement in his copy of the Easter Cantata. Among the many copies of the Wolf Easter Cantata found in Moravian collections around the world, some include the quartet but others do not. I have also found a setting of this attributed to Johann Gottlieb Naumann (1741-1801) in the Danish National Library under the heading Das Daseyn Gottes in der Natur (The Presence of God in Nature). See my introduction in the Steglein edition for a full description.

The presence of this work in a manuscript book adds to the evidence that Moravians LOVED Wolf’s music, and made use (and re-use) of it again and again.

Wolf 4tet in SMB 29_20

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