KUNTZE AND BACH

Johann Christian Kuntze (1747-1821) was born, lived, and died in Grumbach, near Dresden. Civil and ecclesiastical documents show that he was a farmer and a municipal functionary, but there is no documentation of his musical activities. He is not listed in standard modern reference books (although there are entries for others with the same family name). The only surviving evidence of his musicianship is in the manuscript of his composition, H. Joh. Sebastian Bachs Denkmaale Jedes von 6 Fugen auf Tasten-Instrumente ueber Dessen Namen [Mr. Joh. Sebastian Bach's Monuments, Each Consisting of Six Fugues for Keyboard Instruments, on his Name].

J.C. Kuntze's composition is divided into six "Monuments," each consisting of six "Fugues." Thus, the number of pieces is 6 x 6 = 36. This is obviously a gesture of homage, imitating J.S. Bach's custom of compiling his works into groups of six (e.g.: the Motets, the Schuebler Chorales, the Brandenburg Concertos, etc.). However, Monuments 5 and 6 are apparently separate in some way from the first four Monuments. The order of the title pages is different,[1] and the opus numbers are discontinuous.[2] Perhaps Monuments 5-6 were added later to complete the cycle of 6 x 6 pieces?

In 1988, Walter Huettel, in an article in the Bach-Jahrbuch, gave an account of this amateur composer and his composition. Huettel wrote: "...it is extremely unusual that a simple man of the soil not only honored Johann Sebastian Bach -- and this at a time when general recognition had not been accorded to the latter for a long while -- but actually was able to express his admiration in sound through fugues on his name."[3] Based on an entry in Eitner's Quellen-Lexicon,[4] Huettel stated that the manuscript of Kuntze's work was to be found in the library at Hamburg. He also stated that the head librarian at Hamburg had informed him that the manuscript no longer exists, having been destroyed by fire during the Second World War.

Huettel, writing in 1988, apparently did not know (or perhaps he misunderstood?) or perhaps the Hamburg librarian did not tell him (or perhaps -- although this seems highly improbable -- did not know himself?) that the manuscripts in the Hamburg library were removed for safekeeping to East Germany in 1943-4. After the war, the Soviet army removed them once more, this time to East Berlin, Moscow, and Leningrad. The J.C. Kuntze manuscript was held in Leningrad, and was only returned to Hamburg in 1991.[5] Each Monument bears a stamp from the Leningrad library, with
a hand-written index number. The fact that the Leningrad librarians gave random index numbers to the six Monuments shows their indifference to the actual content of the manuscript.[6]

Neither Huettel nor the librarians at Hamburg seem to know that there is another manuscript in the New York Public Library, containing only the first "Monument" comprising the first six "Fugues". This is written in the same handwriting as the Hamburg manuscript and, since it shows similar emendations of the second "Fugue," was probably written at about the same time

The provenance of both manuscripts is unknown. The Hamburg manuscript was acquired in 1875, as part of the private library of Friedrich Chrysander. No one seems to know how or when Chrysander acquired it.[7] Similarly, the New York manuscript was acquired in 1888, as part of the private collection of Joseph Drexel. Here also, no one seems to know how or when Drexel acquired it.[8]

J.C. Kuntze's Denkmaale is based entirely on the "B-A-C-H motive": the four notes B-flat, A, C, B-natural, which in German terminology spell out the name Bach. This "B-A-C-H motive" was employed by J.S. Bach himself as a sort of musical signature (notably in Die Kunst der Fuge) and subsequently by many other composers as a homage to Bach. This is what Kuntze means when he indicates in his title that the fugues are ueber Dessen Namen (on his name).

The music itself is in some ways banal, but in others interesting and original. The most prominent distinctive features are:
     1. Innovative counterpoints with the B-A-C-H motive. It is surprising that a musical amateur was able to invent so many different counterpoints that fit these four problematic notes.
     2. Innovative harmonizations of the B-A-C-H motive. Similarly, it is surprising that a musical amateur was able to invent so many different harmonizations of these four problematic notes.
     3. Passages containing an extreme chromaticism that is remarkable in the work of a musical amateur who was a contemporary of Beethoven. It is true that the chromatic and essentially non-tonal nature of the B-A-C-H motive would naturally evoke such a response in a composer, but Kuntze's response is often extravagant. His chromatic passages usually consist of sequences, most (but not all) based on the B-A-C-H motive, in which the thickets of sharps and double-sharps become so impenetrable that the only way out is for them to turn into flats.

The work consists of 36 pieces called "Fugues" divided into six sections called "Monuments." Each "Monument" is headed by two title pages and a frontispiece purporting to be a drawing of a "gravestone-monument" for J.S. Bach. The frontispieces of "Monuments" 2 and 3 each include an original canon based on the B-A-C-H motive.

The main subject of every piece in the work is the B-A-C-H motive. The pieces are in eight different keys.[9] Yet in spite of this, In all the pieces except one the first entry consists of the original pitches: B-flat, A, C, B-natural. The exception is Monument 5 Fugue 5, and even there the second entry, immediately after the first, is on the original pitches.

(For ease of reference, the following shorthand will now be employed:
1/2 = Monument 1 Fugue 2; 2/fr = Monument 2 Frontispiece, etc.)

All the pieces are more or less contrapuntal in character, but the implication in the title that all are fugues is not entirely justified. One piece, 4/5, might more plausibly be called a toccata. Several others (1/3, 2/3, and perhaps 2/5) might rather be called two-voiced inventions; and 5/3 is a French Overture (but after the Grave dotted-note introduction the Allegro is appropriately fugal).

As for the fugues themselves, not all follow Bach's model, but most exhibit some of the basic features of a Bach fugue: a clearly defined fugue subject (in all cases, based on the B-A-C-H motive), consistent countersubjects, and expositions alternating with episodes. Almost all the fugues are in four voices, but in two cases, 1/4 and 2/1, the "counterpoint" consists entirely of two pairs of voices in parallel motion. There are two three-voiced fugues (2/4 and 3/1) and two two-voiced fugues (3/3 and 3/6). One piece in two voices (2/5) is ambiguous: it could be a two-voiced fugue or it could be a two-voiced invention.

In ten of the fugues (1/1, 1/2, 2/2, 2/4, 3/3, 3/4, 3/6, 5/3, 6/1, and 6/4) the opening exposition
follows the standard Bach format: the fugue begins with one voice alone stating the fugue subject, and continues with the other voices entering in turn with the fugue subject, so that the full counterpoint is not heard until the last entry. In subsequent expositions the same full counterpoint is repeated, albeit in different keys and disposed differently between the voices. In two of these ten fugues (2/2 and 2/4) the countersubject enters together with the first entry, and subsequently the remaining voices enter in turn.

In nineteen other fugues, the first exposition omits the entries in turn in the opening exposition, so that the full counterpoint (or at least part of it) is present from the very beginning. Ten of these nineteen fugues (3/1, 3/2, 3/4, 4/2, 4/3, 4/4, 4/6, 5/4, 6/3, and 6/5) begin directly with all the voices together. In the remaining nine (1/6, 2/6, 4/1, 5/1, 5/2, 5/5, 5/6, 6/2, and 6/6) the first entry consists of two voices and the remaining two are added in the second entry. In one of the two-voiced fugues, 3/6, the fugue subject is itself a two-voiced canon on the B-A-C-H motive, so that the first entry already constitutes the full counterpoint.

Inversion of the B-A-C-H motive is employed in six fugues (1/4, 3/6, 4/1, 4/6, 5/3, and 5/5). A palindrome:on the B-A-C-H motive is employed in four fugues (4/1, 4/5, 5/1, and 5/2). A canon on the B-A-C-H motive is employed in three fugues (3/6, 5/6, and 6/1) and, of course, in the two canons in the frontispieces, 2/fr and 3/fr.

The most noteworthy feature of the work is the extremely chromatic sequences that modulate further and further from the original key of the piece. Twenty-three of the thirty-six fugues contain such passages; and some of these contain more than one. In nineteen fugues (1/1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/6, 2/4, 2/6, 3/5, 3/6, 4/3, 4/5, 4/6, 5/1, 5/3, 5/4, 5/5, 6/1, 6/3, 6/4, and 6/6) the chromatic sequences are based on the B-A-C-H motive. In three others (3/4, 4/4, and 6/5) the chromatic sequences are not based on the B-A-C-H motive and in 5/6 some of the chromatic sequences are based on the B-A-C-H motive, and some are not.

Although this work exhibits some original features and points of interest, it is, when all is said and done, the work of an amateur, and therefore undoubtedly amateurish. The discovery and publication of J.C. Kuntze's Monument will not revolutionize music historiography. But this work is certainly worthy of a footnote to music history.

(In 1997, I was at the New York Public Library collecting information for a projected article about the "B-A-C-H motive" when I noticed a reference to the Kuntze manuscript. I asked for it. It was brought to me covered with dust, and the librarian told me that I was the first person ever to ask to see it. I thought I had stumbled upon a real find, and I followed it up. I had it xeroxed; I got in touch with the Hamburg library, learned what they had to tell me, and had their manuscript xeroxed as well; I made an edition in modern notation, together with an inventory of all the notational irregularities. I offered these for publication. Only one publisher was interested, but with several draconic conditions:
     1. I would get full credit for the discovery and the spade work, but no payment.
     2. I had to buy a new computer, install the software they used, and transfer all the material to that software.
     3. They reserved the right to withdraw from the agreement at any time, without giving a reason and without compensation.
I was just about to retire. I answered them, that they knew what they could do with their draconic conditions, and let it go at that. All the material is still in my computer. Perhaps some day someone else will stumble upon the manuscript, and maybe even do all my spade work over again. Oh well!)

NOTES

1. In Monuments 1-4 the half- title page is the recto of a separate folio; the full title page is the recto of the next folio; and the frontispiece is its verso, followed by the beginning of the first fugue on the following recto. In Monuments 5-6, the half-title page is as before; but its verso is the frontispiece, followed by the full title page on the following recto. The first fugue begins on its verso.

 2. Monument 1 = Opus 395
     Monument 2 = Opus 396
     Monument 3 = Opus 397
     Monument 4 = Opus 398
     Monument 5 = Opus 407
     Monument 6 = Opus 426

3. Huettel, Walter. "Schueler und Enkelschueler Johann Sebastian Bachs im ehemaligen schoenburgischen Territorium". Bach-Jahrbuch 74(1988):111-21, p. 121.

4. Eitner, Robert. Biographisch-Bibliographisches Quellen-Lexicon. 10 vol. Leipzig: Breitkopf und Haertel, 1898-1904. "Kuntzen, [sic] Johann Christian" vol. 5, p. 476.

5. Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart
, 1994. Sachteil, vol. 3, p. 1774b; and letter to the present author from the Staats- und Universitaetsbibliothek Hamburg, 3 June 1998.

6.  Monument 1 = 13641[7?]
     Monument 2 = 13620
     Monument 3 = 13619
     Monument 4 = 13638
     Monument 5 = 13621
     Monument 6 = 13622

7. Letter to the present author from the Staats- und Universitaetsbibliothek Hamburg, 5 May 1998.

8. Letter to the present author from the New York Public Library, 1 May 1998.

9. (For ease of reference, the following shorthand will be employed here:
//1/2 = Monument 1 Fugue 2; 2/fr = Monument 2 Frontispiece, etc.)
A minor1/6 3/2=2
B-flat major     1/2 1/3 2/2 2/3 2/4 3/fr 3/4 3/6 4/1 6/2 6/6      =11
B-flat minor     3/1 3/3 5/1 5/2 5/3                                         =5
C major          1/1 2/5 6/1                                                    =3
D major          1/4 1/5 2/6 3/5 5/4                                         =5
F major           4/2 6/3 6/4                                                   =3
G major          4/3 4/4=2//G minor2/fr 2/1 4/5 4/6 5/5 5/6 6/5  =7