[Bach, J.S. (1685-1750)] Spitta, Julius August Philipp. (1841-1894)

1876 Autograph Letter to Edmund Astor - "The foreword for the Bach Cantatas will in fact have to be changed..."

Rare autograph letter from the German music historian and musicologist best known for his 1873 biography of Johann Sebastian Bach and as the founder, in 1874, of the Leipzig Bach-Verein. Dated January 24, 1876. Writing to Leipzig music publisher Edmund Astor (son-in-law of Jakov Rieter-Biedermann and director of the Rieder-Biedermann Verlag's Leipzig office), Spitta acknowledges the receipt of a payment and clarifies the terms of an agreement about the publication of an article about the Leipzig Bach-Verein. He details the changes which will need to be made to his introduction to a volume of Bach cantatas which will be published by Rieter-Biedermann, and finishes by mentioning Heinrich von Herzogenberg, his co-founder of the Bach-Verein, who has recently stepped in for Alfred Volkland to conduct a concert. Full translation below. 2 pp. on a bifolium, with one area of light smudging but overall in fine condition. 5.5 x 8.5 inches (14 x 21.7 cm).

"The first volume of [Spitta]'s epoch-making study of Bach appeared in 1873; two years later he was appointed professor of music history at the University of Berlin and administrative director of the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, positions he held until his death. Spitta's approach in the Bach biography reflected the traditional concept of art history as the history of individual artists, but was tempered with a strong, fresh emphasis on historical context. The introductory chapters, for example, present the first detailed study of 17th-century German choral and keyboard music. In subsequent works his concern became increasingly the refinement of musicological research. By his rigorous application of source-critical studies (his aesthetic judgments were strongly influenced by neo-Kantian philosophy), he laid the foundations of a system of historical criticism. He was exceptionally active and productive as a researcher, teacher, writer and editor, and he developed an interest in almost every period of music history, from the early Middle Ages to the music of his own time." (Christoph Wolff, Grove Online.)

Dear Mr. Astor,

While I herewith acknowledge receiving the correct amount of 66 Marks, I notice that the assumption that my article "The Bach-Verein in Leipzig" would be provided free of charge was based on an error. The article also did not appear immediately in the Musikalisches Wochenblatt, but rather was reprinted one month later by this magazine following an agreement of the relevant editors. I may have mentioned to you once that I might accept publications of the Rieter-Biedermann Verlag instead of a payment, an intention which I later withdrew. This just to clarify the situation.
The foreword for the Bach Cantatas will in fact have to be changed. It is no longer quite appropriate. First, the cantatas which are to be published, have now already in part been published by Peters; then, according to the new plan, the organ part will no longer be separate, but underlaid in the music. I will write a new foreword and send it to you as soon as possible.
The concert under the direction of Herzogenberg seems to have gone excellently and I am very pleased that in him an able substitute for Volkland was found. After all these storms, the Bachverein will hopefully flourish again unhindered.
With best wishes,
Philipp Spitta.
Berlin, W.
Hohenzollenstrasse 10
24.1.76 (13799)

Autograph Letter
Classical Music