Trumpets, Horns, and Bach «Abschriften» at the time of Christian Friedrich Penzel: Probing the Pedigree of «BWV» 143

by Don Smithers (Author)
©2015 Monographs 144 Pages


There can be no doubt as to the authenticity of BWV 143 as a genuine cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. While the originals are lost, there are second and third «generation» copies. This study considers all known facts since the work’s composition in the 18th century and discusses in detail the criteria for judging the authenticity of the work.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Titel
  • Copyright
  • Autorenangaben
  • Über das Buch
  • Zitierfähigkeit des eBooks
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • A word about the timpani parts in BWV 143and their relationship to other parts of the cantata
  • The Fanfarenthema
  • BWV 143 and Bach-Überlieferung after 1750
  • The echtheit of BWV 143: the musical and stylistic evidence
  • Bach’s use of the chorale, Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ
  • The Verwendungszweck of BWV 143
  • Tables
  • Table I. The Bach Abschriften of Christian Friedrich Penzel preserved in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (D:SBB), Preußischer Kultur Besitz (Haus 2)
  • Table II. Tabulation in order of BWV numbers of all known works of J.S. Bach in copies made soon after his death by Christian Friedrich Penzel
  • Table III. A chronological tabulation of C.F. Penzel’s dated copies of music by J.S. Bach (and C.P.E. Bach)
  • Table IV. Early Ms. scores (P) and parts (St) to Bach’s Brandenburg concertos (BWV 1046-1051)
  • Table V. New Year Cantatas in the Schloßmuseum at Sondershausen (Thüringen) Additional New Year Cantatas by Stölzel in Berlin and Brussels
  • Table VI. New Year Cantatas by Georg Philipp Telemann
  • Table VII. New Year Cantatas by J.S. Bach
  • Select Bibliography

Musical scholars should not be surprised that intractable problems often arise from the use of second and third generation copies of a composer’s music. As faithful as transcriptions and so-called ‘true’ copies of a musical composition may be to the basic notation of a primary source, copies made from second and third-hand sources several years after a composer’s death not infrequently have anomalies with respect to original choices of keys and clefs, indications of tempo, and even intentions of orchestration. Obviously, not all copies are equally faithful to originals. Some copies of musical manuscripts are better than others. It all depends upon the provenance of the source and of its coherence. It is the task of the musicologist, then, to determine what changes, anomalies, indeed, patently false representations may be found in the copy of a musical work made some time after its composition. When an original source survives that can be used to proof a later copy, difficulties are considerably reduced. But when there is no first generation source to verify later copies, difficulties from the superficial to the intractable may arise as they concern the truth of a copy in preserving the composer’s original intentions, if the copy does, in fact, represent an original, authentic composition in the first instance.

Many sources of Bach’s music are known only through copies that were made from now lost originals. Even some of Bach’s own manuscripts were copies he had made himself of compositions from earlier formats and/or versions which are no longer extant. This appears to be the case, for example, with respect to the oblong folio score copy that Bach made of the six so-called Brandenburg concertos. Most of these works were likely to have been composed some years before 1721 (the year the score was copied from lost originals and dedicated to Brandenburg), and doubtless had existed in the more predictable kind and quality of composing and/or performing media of scores and/or parts for each concerto.

The most prolific copyist of music by Johann Sebastian Bach, soon after his death in July 1750, was the Thomaner and later Leipzig University ← 9 | 10 → student, Christian Friedrich Penzel. His singular dedication to the preservation of Bach’s name and music is manifested in a legacy of many hundreds of pages of scores and sets of parts. Most of the works represented by this extensive legacy of transcriptions are, predictably, Bach’s church cantatas. But there are other works of Bach that Penzel copied, not the least of which are instrumental compositions, including keyboard music, orchestral suites, and concertos (See Tables I, II & III).1

Four of Bach’s six Brandenburg concertos are known to exist in transcriptions made by Penzel (See Table IV). It is not known if he ever copied or had even seen the music to the remaining two, i. e., Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (BWV) 1049 and 1051. Their absence may be further evidence that the source(s) of his transcriptions did not include the oblong folio and handsomely copied score of all six concertos that Bach had dedicated and sent off to Brandenburg from Cöthen. Penzel might have seen the dedication score sometime after it had been acquired by Kirnberger. It is not difficult to imagine, however, that Penzel’s sources had been the now lost original parts and/or composing scores which Bach very likely had used to prepare the score he dedicated and sent off to the Markgraf of Brandenburg in 1721. The fact that the third Brandenburg concerto was copied by Penzel in 1755 and the first concerto not copied until five years later might also suggest that the handsome dedication score had not served as Penzel’s source. (One would have thought that if the score sent to Brandenburg had been used as Penzel’s source he would have begun copying the collection of all six concertos from the beginning, starting with BWV 1046.) If Bach’s supposed original sets of parts and composing scores to the Brandenburg concertos had remained in his possession until the time of his death, we might conclude that the fourth and sixth concertos had already disappeared by the time Penzel began making his own copies. One might ask, rhetorically, at ← 10 | 11 → any rate, if the sources used by Penzel had been part of the Bach legacy that was irresponsibly disposed of by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach.

There are several other clues as to the likelihood that Penzel had not used the dedication score of the Brandenburg concertos for his several Abschriften. Not the least of these is the short, nineteen-bar cadenza to BWV 1050/1. found in St 164 and, with particular interest from the purview of this study, the part designation for the solo tromba of BWV 1047 from P 1062. There is, of course, no evidence that such variant departures from Bach’s dedication score were not to have been found with the sources used as the bases for Penzel’s copies. Of course, the possibility cannot be excluded that such variants had been Penzel’s own. Yet, we should not ignore the likelihood that the sources used by Penzel for his copies might have had a number of anomalies in comparison to Bach’s dedication score. But as far as BWV 1047 is concerned, especially with regard to the designation for the intended kind of trumpet found on the title page of Penzel’s copy (P 1062), there is good reason to suppose that it had been of his own making and not Bach’s. It is this instrumental part designation and the comparably anomalous indications of instrumentation in another Bach work, BWV 143, a cantata not in Penzel’s manuscript but copied during the same era, with which this study will be principally concerned.

Christian Friedrich Penzel was born at Oelsnitz (between Plauen and Markneukirchen) in Vogtland (Sachsen) on 25 November 1737; he died at Merseburg on 14 March 1801. During his formative years as a student in the Oelsnitz Stadtschule, Penzel’s teacher of organ, composition and music theory was the Oelsnitz Cantor, Johann Georg Nacke (1718–1804). (Presumably, Penzel had been a chorister in the medieval town’s principal church, the 13th-century Oelsnitz Stadtkirche of St. Jacobi, where Nacke was organist.) Nacke, too, had copied a number of Bach’s compositions while a student at Leipzig University in the early 1740’s and was probably the motivating force for Penzel’s remarkable legacy.2 ← 11 | 12 →

Penzel matriculated as an alumnus of the Thomasschule in 1751 (during the cantorate of Gottlob Harrer). Hans-Joachim Schulze has suggested that Penzel may have been the Präfekt of the Thomanerchor in the autumn of 1755, at which time BWV 126 (Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort) was performed at matins and vespers in both of Leipzig’s principal churches of St. Nicolai and St. Thomas on Monday 29 September 1755, the Feast Day of Saint Michael the Archangel.3 Doubtless, the performance of BWV 126 would have been part of the celebrations of the two hundredth anniversary of the ‘Augsburger Religionsfriede’ (the imperial decree from 25 September 1555 acknowledging the Confession of the Lutheran Evangelical Church as a consequence of the articles of the Protestant faith presented to Emperor ← 12 | 13 → Charles V. at the Diet of Augsburg on 25 June 1530).4 The performance would have been less than three months after the death of Gottlob Harrer, Bach’s immediate successsor. And inasmuch as the new cantor, Friedrich Doles, was not installed until the following January, Penzel seems to have been given the responsibility for organizing the music during the interim.5 His Abschrift of BWV 126 is, however, signed and dated ‘Scr[ipsit]. CF Penzel. d[ie]. 10. Maij. 1756’ (see Table III).


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (September)
Fanfarenthema musical sources Bach´s Cantatas
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 144 pp.

Biographical notes

Don Smithers (Author)

Don L. Smithers is a music historian and a performer on the natural trumpet. Among his achievements are the revival of the authentic historic trumpet and the rediscovery of many important musical works written for it. The author holds a doctorate in the history of music from the University of Oxford and taught at Syracuse University in the United States and at the Royal Dutch Conservatory of Music in The Hague. He has a special interest in the music of J.S. Bach and has recorded numerous works of Bach and other Baroque composers with ensembles in the United States and Europe.


Title: Trumpets, Horns, and Bach «Abschriften» at the time of Christian Friedrich Penzel: Probing the Pedigree of «BWV» 143