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Wednesday, 26 April, 2000, 23:41 GMT 00:41 UK
New Bach composition discovered
JS Bach
Bach: One of last compositions uncovered
By BBC media correspondent Nick Higham

One of the last pieces of music written by Johann Sebastian Bach has been published for the first time in a new biography of the composer.

The new work is a motet -a style of choral music - adapted from a composition by Bach's long-dead uncle, also called Johann.

It was discovered in an archive in Kiev in the Ukraine which also contains scores of unpublished and unperformed works by Bach's son, Carl.

Johann Sebastian Bach
1685: Born in Eisenach, Thuringia (now Germany).
Earned his living as a musician from the age of 15.
Often in trouble for the elaboration of his organ playing, which confused congregations.
1708: Appointed court organist to the Duke of Weimar.
Held many posts in Weimar and Coethen, composing some of his best-known works such as the Brandenburg Concertos.
1723:Moved to Leipzig to become musical director of St Thomas' choir school.
Fathered 19 children
1750: Died 28 July in Leipzig, Thuringia.
It is believed to have been written at around the end of 1749, only six months before Bach's death.

Professor Christoph Wolff of Harvard University, thinks the motet may have been written to be sung at the composer's own funeral.

However it is not the great composer's last work.

Even on his deathbed, and despite having suffered a stroke, Bach was dictating improvements to a chorale he had written some years before.

But the new motet is probably the last surviving musical manuscript in Bach's own handwriting - which had become stiff, uneven and unnaturally large due to the blindness which affected his final months.

Professor Wolff, author of a new biography of Bach, found the manuscript in Kiev last summer.

It is part of a huge archive of more than 5,000 18th century musical manuscripts which disappeared from Berlin during the Second World War which also include 20 Passions, more than 30 keyboard concertos and many other works, all previously unknown, by Bach's son Carl.

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