Over the summer, as I was thinking about a piece for the Craighead-Saunders inauguration, I learned the Music Library at Yale had purchased at Sotheby’s a mid-eighteenth-century manuscript of sixteen chorale preludes from the Orgelbüchlein. A hitherto unknown contemporary source as a starting point seemed almost too good to be true! The 1747 volume belonged to a Johann Christian Kleingünther, about whom we know practically nothing at this stage except he is almost certainly the copyist. Needless to say the emergence of this volume raises intriguing questions of a textual and a biographical nature. Looking at the small oblong manuscript, roughly 6 by 8 inches, I was struck by its decorative paper cover. From my colleagues at Yale I found out the technique is called Kleisterpapier (paste paper) or Buntpapier (colored paper). Pigments are put into a paste, which is laid in blobs of color on the paper then an instrument – as simple as wadded paper – is used in a repeating fashion to make the decorative graining in the wet paste. The kaleidoscopic texture of the cover for me reflected Kleingünther’s fluid hand especially in the rhythmic patterning of the chorale preludes in compound time such as Herr Gott nun schleuß den himel auf, Wir Christen Leuth, and Komm Gott Schöpfer heiliger Geist.
I would like to thank Suzanne Lovejoy and Kendall Crilly of the Music Library at Yale University, Jae Rossman, Curator, Arts of the Book Collection at Yale, Martin Jean, Director, Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Tiffany Ng, and, of course, Hans Davidsson.
Commissioned by the Eastman School of Music for the inauguration of the Craighead-Saunders organ, Christ Church, Rochester, NY
18 Oct 2008: Performed by Hans Davidsson at the Eastman School of Music, Christ Church, in Rochester, New York, USA