Bach Cantata manuscript sells for £337,250

Private buyer acquires music in Bach’s hand

 A manuscript of Bach’s cantata Ich liebe den Höchsten von ganzem Gemüte, BWV 174 has sold for £337,250 at auction. The tenor oboe (taille) part for this Whit Monday cantata is the first piece of music in Bach’s handwriting to appear on the open market for 16 years. It was composed in 1729, during Bach’s Leipzig years, and displays the script of two copyists, along with Bach’s own hand.

The rare manuscript was on public display at Christie’s before being sold on 13 June to a private collector from the US, for more than twice its estimated figure.

This particular cantata is notable for its use of borrowed melodic material from the Third Brandenburg Concerto. Because of the volume of work Bach was required to compose, it wasn’t uncommon for him to reuse music in this way.

‘One of the most appealing things about the original manuscripts of artistic works,’ said Thomas Venning, director and senior specialist in the Books & Manuscripts department at Christie’s, ‘is the way in which they connect the timeless sphere of the work of art to the physical realities of our own temporal world, with such everyday verities as deadlines, contracts, late nights, the scratch of pen on paper’.

He went on to say ‘The result reflects a very buoyant market for autograph manuscripts in which collectors are focusing more on the towering figures who have shaped European culture.’

Rosie Pentreath