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Bach to the Future

Discovered in a box of birthday greetings just last month, a previously unknown aria by Johann Sebastian Bach is already getting rave reviews.

"Beautiful and enchanting," says the British conductor who will stage its debut. "Full of a natural pastoral joy," writes a British music critic who's seen the score. "Self-contained and of exquisite quality," comments the director of the Bach Archive foundation in Leipzig, Germany.

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The foundation announced the authentication of this short piece for soprano, harpsichord, and strings this week, and with that, unveiled a stirring tale of a rare work nearly lost in a fire.

Bach had composed the aria in 1713 for the birthday of one of his German patrons, the Duke of Weimar. Set to a 12-stanza poem titled "Everything With God and Nothing Without Him," the aria lay hidden in a box containing other good wishes.

Bach researcher Michael Maul was able to uncover it because the box had been set aside just before a fire destroyed the library which housed it.

Little of the composer's work from this period survives. Nearly 300 years later, this aria - so different from his more serious, involved compositions - comes to light as a reminder of inspiration's staying power and beauty.


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