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Cantatas from Blankenburg (Harz) in the Wolfenbüttel regional church archives

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Music manuscripts in the Wolfenbüttel regional church archives 

It is certainly not among the main tasks of a church archive to collect old music prints and manuscripts. However, a recently rediscovered manuscript collection containing church cantatas shows how diverse these historical documents and sources are. The collection, dating from around 1800, was found in the regional church archives in the German town of Wolfenbüttel, where they were indexed and stored. It consists of six boxes filled with music materials that originated in the Church of St. Bartholomew in Blankenburg. There they remained unnoticed for over 200 years before they were transferred to the Archives of the Regional Church of Braunschweig (Brunswick) in Wolfenbüttel. Hans-Jürgen Engelking, who had worked there, organized and indexed the works. Remarkably, there are a number of cantatas by a man named Johann Heinrich Pröbster, who worked in Blankenburg between 1804 and 1808 as a teacher and cantor. Compositions by him are not known to exist anywhere else. In addition, there are church cantatas by musicians who were famous in Pröbster's day, such as Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach and Carl Heinrich Graun.

Since many of the manuscripts contain handwritten annotations, such as on which Sundays the cantatas were heard in a church service, the collection allows one to gain an impression of the musical life in the church at this time in Blankenburg. On many Sundays in the year, a cantata for solo voices, choir and instruments was performed at the Church of St. Bartholomew. As in many other places, especially in the Lutheran regions of Germany, works of famous composers were sometimes used. These were always copies written out by hand. At other times, it was the cantors themselves who had to compose cantatas for special occasions as part of their duties. These were performed during church services, oftentimes sung by pupils from the local grammar schools.

Other music in the collection includes 44 cantatas by Christian Gotthilf Tag, including two that have not been found in any other archive or library.

Category: Rediscovered

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