Date of this Version
Despite two centuries of research into the life and music of J.S. Bach, there is little that can be said with certainty about his organ registration practices. Aside from two short passages (quoted below) that merely assert Bach's understanding of and skill at registration, there is only J.F. Agricola's report that Bach liked reed stops. Up until now, it has not been possible to identify sources, either from Bach himself or from his immediate circle, that offer precise instructions on organ registration. The source described and translated here provides such information.
The source is an article found in Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg's Historisch-Kritische Beytriige zur Aufnahme der Musik (Historical and Critical Contributions to the Reception of Music), Volume 3, Part 6 (Berlin: Gottlieb August Lange, 1758), pages 486 to 518. Marpurg-an author, theorist, and critic closely associated with the circle of Bach's students in Berlin-published the Historisch Kritische Beytriige as a periodical from 1754 to 1762 and again in 1778; it includes book reviews, biographies of musicians, discussions of problems in music theory, and reports on musical inventions. The article under consideration falls into the first of these categories. Ostensibly it is a review of a new collection of organ stoplists, the Sammlung einiger Nachrichten, published in 1757. In fact, only a small portion of the article is devoted to the new publication. That portion, however, begins the article, and this may be one reason why the significant information on registration found later in the article has escaped previous notice.