My doctoral research investigates the musical sources, both printed and manuscript, that were handed down by the Berlin Hofkomponist Johann Friedrich Agricola (1720-1774). A pupil and copyist of Johann Sebastian Bach, Agricola was subsequently employed at the court of Frederick II, and contributed to the great flowering of composition in this ‘golden age’ of music. So far, however, his work has received little attention from musicological scholarship, partly because many of the relevant archival materials have only recently become accessible again.
One of the exciting things about working with manuscripts and early printed scores is that they are direct witnesses to musical history: each has a story to tell about who created it, when and why, and what it was used for. I apply a range of methodologies to these sources – from the study of palaeography and watermarks to codicology, ink analysis and textual criticism – to reveal how musical works were composed, studied, performed and received over time. The transmission histories of the physical materials also inform this research, which intersects with other areas of scholarship such as historical bibliography and studies of material culture.
My dissertation presents the Agricola sources as a case study in the exchange and transmission of musical styles, works and materials during the mid-eighteenth century. It also incorporates the first thematic catalogue of Agricola’s musical works and manuscript copies of pieces by other composers. I have already identified some previously unknown manuscripts in his hand, including two that are in the Bodleian Library’s Tenbury Collection, and I am currently constructing a new handwriting profile for Agricola that can be used to date these sources more accurately. The dissertation aims to lay the foundations for future work on Agricola, the Berlin School, and the legacy of the Bach tradition after 1750.
Merton College has one of the most vibrant musical and scholarly communities at the University of Oxford, and I feel privileged to be a part of it. I’m deeply grateful to Merton for its generous support of my work, in particular for grants that have allowed me to undertake archival work in Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden, and for the wonderful atmosphere of its graduate community.