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London Autograph
BWV 891,2 (b.67)

Manuscript Sources of J. S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier II

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Group H Manuscripts

The character of Group H is represented by Hamburg (M B/1974), which came from a non-Bach circle in Dresden. Its main characteristics are summarised as follows:
  1. It seems to reflect an important character of the lost source, H: a copy of L which was made earlier than F; and,
  2. It can be thought of as the source which contains the processes of revisions which form the important character of this Group, which includes V and the early editions.
Firstly, in H the early state of L is reflected in the following areas: In addition, H also contained some unique errors (mainly missing ties and pitch errors) as well as certain minor improvements, mainly of notational significance.

Why (if this was indeed the case) did Bach make a copy set of WTC II which still lacked two pairs of movements? How does PrFg.f come to be a different version in F and A? These questions cannot be satisfactorily answered as long as we do not have documentary evidence. Speculation is justified, however, as there are certain biographical clues. The proposed date, ca. 1741 -- from the chronology of reading -- is the year Bach visited his second son, who was then a harpsichordist at the court of Frederic the Great in Berlin. It is reasonable to infer that Bach brought with him a set of music including WTC II, though it was still incomplete. Also worth considering is that, again around this time, two of Bach's most distinguished pupils, namely J. F. Agricola and J. P. Kirnberger, who later became the centre figures in the musical life of Berlin, finished their studies and left Leipzig: they could have made a copy under Bach's supervision and have taken a set each with them. On any of these possible occasions, it would not be inconceivable that Bach simply moved a leaf (PrFg.f) from L to H if he had already worked out an alternative leaf in S.

This locational information, Berlin, is also suggested by a number of other sources of the Group. For example, amongst the scribes of P 209, we find Kirnberger himself and Anon.302, who was a copyist working for C. P. E. Bach in Berlin. The close link to Group V is also found here: Gottfried van Swieten, who was the Austrian envoy to the court of Frederic the Great in Berlin, is said to have brought several pieces of music by J. S. Bach to the musical circle of Vienna on his return in 1777.

Secondly, it is significant that in Hamburg the missing movements were later supplied from A1 by the scribe different to that responsible for the rest of the movements, and many movements were also corrected subsequently, possibly using the same correction exemplar. All of the other sources belonging to this Group contain all these revisions, except H2 in Pr.d.

Considering all of the evidence gathered from various angles, it is highly likely that H was the source inherited by C. P. E. Bach, who actively promoted his father's composition in Berlin. The relation of sources are shown in the following diagram:
Diagram of Source Relationship H

H is the lost common source, copied from L. As there are several possibilities as to how it was brought to Berlin, we should consider a possibility that two, slightly different, sets of H found their way there. The one originates from the earlier stage of revisions in L. This would explain the origin of the model for V. Group H1 is represented by Hamburg, including its copy P 206. It is highly likely that there were many more similar copies made from H, commissioned for private sales, illustrated in the above diagram as the several layers around the box of H1. That the same complex array of revisions in Hamburg were also entered in the other copies must remain a possibility, however unlikely it may seem. It is noteworthy that the title page, bearing the date '1742', seems very possibly to be an afterthought, as is attested to in Hamburg. From this intense copying activity stems the common source for the early editions. From the revised state of H1 derived the common source of H2 (H2'). This no longer extant source stemmed from one of the H1 MSS (but not Hamburg itself), which appears to have gone through a fairly systematic conversion of notational matters, such as beaming and the manner of application of accidentals. It also contained serious textual corruptions. From this source stemmed two surviving branch of sources, H2i (usually consisting of P 209, 6138 19 and Horn) and H2ii (usually represented by Mus 2405-T-7, referred to as Dresden).

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Last modified: 15 September 1996