NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Music experts hailed the discovery of 33 unknown pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach and said Wednesday that organists would play and audiences would listen to them until 'the end of time.'
The works, chorale preludes written for the keyboard, were discovered in an obscure 18th-century German music manuscript owned by the John Herrick Jackson Music Library at Yale University.
Harold E. Samuel, head librarian and professor of music, said they 'will increase the volume of Bach's organ music by about 25 percent and will be performed by every organist in the world and listened to by audiences and congregations from now until the end of time.'
Bach, who lived from 1685 to 1750, has been a particular subject of music scholarship lately, owing to plans to celebrate the 300th anniversary of his birth in performances and festivals around the world in 1985.
Surrounded by the manuscripts at a news conference, Samuel said the newly discovered material also includes five pieces known to have been composed but considered lost.
'We believe these were early works, written probably before 1710,' Samuel said. 'I would call this the most significant addition to Bach's work made in the 20th century.'
The pieces were found by Christoph Wolff, chairman of the music department at Harvard University and one of the world's leading authorities on the German composer.
A chorale prelude is a composition in which variations and elaborations are made upon church hymn tunes which were derived from folk material.
Samuel said a facsimile edition of the newly discovered works will be published by Yale University Press within six months.
'We hope to be able to have the first public performance of these works sometime earlier than that,' he said, possibly in time for Bach's birthday March 21.
Of the 38 chorales in the collection, only five were known to exist before the discovery which was announced Tuesday.
Wolff said he was studying all Bach material when he came upon the manuscript.It was Wolff's work on a three volume 'Bach Compendim' that led him to the Yale library.
'I was not prepared to find anything,' he said. 'But it became clear to me right away that this was a special find. To my mind, there is absolutely no doubt that the chorales (are by Bach).'
Scholars said the manuscript was given to Yale in 1873 by American musician Lowell Mason. The volume can be traced back to Johann Neumeister, a pupil of Bach's.
'Quite apart from the edition of genuinely new performing repertory,' Wolff said 'this exciting discovery will assist us in tracing and evaluating the formative stages of Bach's art of composition as well as in illuminating the pre-history of his famous first cycle of chorale preludes.'
The manuscript apparently escaped the attention of scholars because it was inconspicuously labeled 'chorales without text' and no references to composers or repertory were given in the library catalog, Samuels said.
The remaining 45 chorale preludes in the Yale volume are by other composers who were mainly active around and before 1700. Only six works show no author attribution.
Most prominently represented after Bach is the composer's father-in-law, Johann Michael Bach and Johann Pachebel, composer of 'Canon.'