Researcher Christine Blanken of the Bach-Archiv Leipzig has determined that Christoph Birkmann, a student associated with Bach’s choir in Leipzig, was the author of text used in some Bach cantatas and portions of the St. John Passion.
Birkmann (1703-1771) was a theology and mathematics student from Nuremberg who was in Leipzig in 1724-1727. During that time, Birkmann states, “I diligently followed the great composer Mr. Bach and his choir, and in winter joined in with the collegia musica.”1
Blanken matched handwriting found on libretto manuscripts with writings by theologian Birkmann at the Nuremberg State Library.2 The findings were announced by the director of the Bach-Archiv Leipzig, Peter Wollny.3
Blanken’s detailed, yet abbreviated, paper (in English) on Birkmann and his contributions to Bach’s cantatas can be found here. It includes a discussion of how Birkmann’s studies of mathematics and astronomy figured into his libretti (pp 25-28).
A more extensive report will be published in the Bach-Jahrbuch 2015.
- http://www.newsropa.de/index.php?id=115&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=29906&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=7&cHash=361abd1505 [in German]
Image attribution: Portrait of Christoph Birkmann by Georg Lichtensteger, 1759 via http://bachnetwork.co.uk/ub10/ub10-blanken.pdf.