FOR THE RECORD
Haussmann’s portrait dates from 1748, two years before Bach died
The most important portrait of JS Bach returns home to Leipzig
The most important portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach has returned to Leipzig, the city in which its subject lived, worked, and composed some of the most remarkable and profound masterpieces in musical history.
The portrait – made from life – was painted by Leipzig artist Elias Gottlob Haussmann in 1748, depicting Bach aged around 60 and holding a score bearing the title ‘Canon triplex à 6 Voc: per J. S. Bach’.
It was most recently owned by American musicologist and philanthropist William H Scheide who died last November aged 101, having on his 100th birthday bequeathed the portrait to the Leipzig Bach Archive. It is valued at US$2.5m.
The portrait was initially part of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s share of his father’s inheritance, though from the early 19th century was owned by the Jewish Jenke family from Breslau (now Wrocław). During the Second World War, the painting’s then owner Walter Jenke, who had fled to England from Nazi Germany, entrusted the portrait into the care of the father of Sir John Eliot Gardiner, now one of the world’s leading interpreters of Bach’s music and President of the Leipzig Bach Archive.
Gloria, recalls how he ‘passed in front of it several times a day all through my Dorset childhood, a time when I was first learning to sing the Bach motets by heart’.
Gardiner presented the painting to the public on June 12 at the opening of Leipzig’s Bach Festival, and it will go on permanent display in the Leipzig Bach Museum. ‘It is both poignant and fitting to see the portrait leave its current home, where it has hung in the living room of the great Bach scholar and philanthropist, the late William Scheide, for the past 60-odd years, and to witness its return to Leipzig,’ said Gardiner.
Haussmann painted two portraits of Bach, though the other (dated two years earlier) has suffered a history of poor restoration and many details are blurred. This second portrait is also displayed in Leipzig, in the local history museum, the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum.
The conductor, who performed all of Bach’s cantatas throughout the year 2000, performances subsequently issued on his own label Soli Deo
8 GRAMOPHONE JULY 2015
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The library estimate that there are more than one million recordings which are at risk of being lost forever unless they are preserved within the next 15 years. These recordings range from ‘underwater recordings of killer whales made in the waters surrounding Shetland (held by the Centre for Wildlife Conservation, University of Cumbria), to a collection of sounds held in the Canterbury Cathedral archives spanning 50 years of services, choral and opera performances and other recordings, many of which are thought to be unique.’