More than 50 years after it was lost in the chaos of World War II, a trove of music written by Johann Sebastian Bach has been discovered in Ukraine.
The music, part of the missing archives of the Berlin Singakademie, a still-performing group established in 1791, was found in Kiev after a 20-year search by a Harvard music professor.
"It was believed lost. There was absolutely no trace of it for well over 50 years," Christoph Wolff, who is also dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said today. "For a long time, we Bach scholars were led to believe that the material was destroyed."
Wolff said the Germans took the Singakademie archive from Berlin in 1943 to protect it from the destruction of war. When hostilities ended in 1945, it fell into Soviet hands.
Wolff had spent the past two decades tracking various leads, but his real break came in April when another Harvard researcher found a Russian document from the postwar years "that described the existence of 5,000-plus music manuscripts in Kiev."
It wasn't until June that Wolff located the archive, cut through significant red tape and spent three days rooting through the old papers at Ukraine's Central State Archive.
"This is really adding a significant new dimension to the study of 18th-century music," he said.
The compositions were found among the 5,000 or so documents in the Singakademie archives as part of the musical estate of Carl Phillipp Emanuel Bach, one of J.S. Bach's sons, himself a well-known composer.
The archive also holds works by some of J.S. Bach's 19 other children, as well as a variety of other 18th- and early 19th-century German composers. It also has letters written by poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Wolff said he hopes the works may someday be returned to Germany, but no decisions have been made about the documents' future.