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  • The Aria-cum-Chorus “Förkunnom högt hans lof och magt”:Using Text to Recover a Lost Work by Joseph Martin Kraus?
  • Bertil van Boer

Within the corpus of music written by any eighteenth-century composer almost certainly lies a certain number of works that have been lost or else have survived only in a fragmentary form. While the bulk of any of these can be said to have originated during that composer’s youth, and thus are of importance primarily in defining the initial development of his or her style, even among the mature late works can be found lacunae, gaps that, if filled, might complete one’s understanding of the complete oeuvre. When added to the fact that, in a number of cases, the missing music may indeed have been distributed or published under the names of other, often better known or more popular figures, the matter of authenticity and recovery becomes a sometimes daunting task. Unless there is prima facie evidence of authorship, that is, a recovered autograph, authentic source, or relevant document, this problem is usually solved only with great difficulty, primarily using such subjective means as style (and stylistic comparison), conjectural source transmission, or a chain of circumstantial evidence. If the latter is logically argued, it can provide persuasive clues from which conclusions can be drawn even without the existence of primary evidence.

In the case of the missing works of Joseph Martin Kraus, there exist many such compositions, ranging from known lost works to those [End Page 29] whose composition remains speculative (van Boer 1998, 311–22). Efforts to date have been rewarding, resulting in the recovery of a number of symphonies heretofore thought lost, as well as other works previously unknown that have turned up serendipitously as the various archives and libraries in Europe have been cataloged through collective databases such as the Répertoire International des Sources Musicales (RISM). There are, however, a substantial number of authentic pieces that remain to be discovered, some of which, if they have survived the vicissitudes of time or have been transmitted in other guises, may be recovered to some degree through a subjective intuitive investigation, such as critical semantic comparison that, in the absence of actual documentation, at least allows for a viable conclusion to be drawn.

Within the sources of Kraus’s music there exists one such work, an aria with choral colophon entitled “Förkunnom högt hans lof och magt” (VB 199; Proclaim on High His Praise and Power). Kraus biographer Karl Friedrich Schreiber called this single-movement piece for vocal solo (either soprano or tenor), four-voice chorus, and keyboard accompaniment a “motet,” no doubt on the basis of either the title or the manuscript compendium (“Mottetter, Arier, Trior, Quartetter” [Motets, Arias, Trios, Quartets]) within which it appears (Schreiber 1925, 478; van Boer 1998, 247). Schreiber also cataloged it among the authentic sacred works, though he was cautious, finding that, due to its being contained in a compendium of various movements, some of which were excerpts from Kraus’s Funeral Cantata for Gustav III, “Es ist deshalb auch noch nachzuprüfen, ob nicht auch die hier verzeichnete Motette einem größeren Krauswerk entnommen ist” (Schreiber 1925, 478) [it therefore still needs to be researched whether the motet cataloged here was taken from a larger work of Kraus].1 The sole surviving source is the aforementioned miscellaneous generically titled volume in the Kungliga Bibliotek [Royal Library] in Stockholm.2 The manuscript is in the hand of an anonymous copyist who appears to have worked in the Swedish capital about 1795–1800 and who was employed by the new librarian of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, Pehr Frigel, to compile various collections of works, primarily concert arias, presumably for use in the curriculum or for some other as yet unidentified group or ceremony. That this [End Page 30] person was at least competent in transcribing music can be seen from his clear and precise handwriting, with no mistakes or emendations in the score, but no further identification is at present possible, either of the copyist as a person or the context for which this was transcribed (see illustration 1).

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