Bach Musical Estate Revealed in Ukrainian Archive

This summer a team of Harvard and Ukrainian researchers rediscovered the long-lost musical estate of Johann Sebastian Bach's second son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach in Kyiv, where it is preserved as part of the music archive of the Berlin Sing-Akademie. The Sing-Akademie's archive, with one of the world's most important collections of 18th-century music including significant and largely unique Bach family materials, had been evacuated from Berlin to Ullersdorf Castle, Silesia (Polish, Oldrzychowice Klodzkie), in 1943 during World War II, but then disappeared. With no information available about its postwar fate, it had been missing for over half a century and long feared destroyed.

Christoph Wolff, professor of music at Harvard University and dean of its Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, had been following several leads to the whereabouts of the material for more than two decades in connection with research on the musical sources of the Bach family. In the mid-1970s Wolff first heard German suspicions that the collection might be located in Kyiv but inquiries through the 1980s met only with denials.

In April of this year, Professor Wolff enlisted the aid of Dr. Patricia Kennedy Grimsted, an associate of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University, who directs a project on Russian and Ukrainian archives. Dr. Grimsted had been searching in Ukraine in connection with her forthcoming book in the HURI publications program, Trophies of War and Empire, and developed a close working relationship with Dr. Hennadii Boriak, Deputy Director of the Institute of Ukrainian Archeography and Source Studies of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. Together, Drs. Boriak and Grimsted were able to close in on the secret resting place of the Sing-Akademie collection: the Central State Archive-Museum of Literature and Art of Ukraine. In early July Professor Wolff, Dr. Grimsted, and Barbara Wolff, music cataloger of Harvard's Houghton Library traveled to Kyiv to identify officially the collection.

Trophy art, library books, and archives from Western Europe transferred to the former USSR after World War II were for the most part kept in hiding throughout the Soviet period. But since its independence, Ukraine has led former Soviet republics in restitution efforts and signed a cultural agreement with Germany providing for the mutual return of wartime cultural trophies. A number of symbolic acts of restitution have taken place in recent years on both sides.

The over 5,000 music scores from the Sing-Akademie Library in Berlin identified this summer in Kyiv undoubtedly represent the most valuable trophy collection to have surfaced in Ukraine. Negotiations between Ukrainian archival authorities and Harvard representatives (including HURI) are currently underway to develop a collaborative project between the University, the Packard Humanities Institute, and the Ukrainian Archival Administration to make these uniquely important materials available for research and performance. It is hoped that the Academy of Music in Kyiv will also be able to participate. The project will also be closely coordinated with the Sing-Akademie of Berlin, one of Germany's oldest continuing performing organizations, and there is hope that the priceless musical sources will eventually be returned to their original home.

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