Browse Topics



For immediate release
June 9, 2005
Chad Campbell, NPR: | 202.513.2404

NPR's Performance Today Performs Undiscovered Bach Aria in Record Time Thanks to Their Team of "Music Detectives"

WASHINGTON - In less than 24 hours, the staff of Performance Today, NPR's signature classical-music show, tracked down and produced the first broadcast of a score by Johann Sebastian Bach that had been undiscovered and unperformed for nearly 300 years - beating the scheduled world premiere by several months.

An excerpt from the widely-publicized, previously-unknown score by Johann Sebastian Bach was performed for the first time in centuries on the June 9 edition of Performance Today. It was based on a two-page handwritten aria, titled "Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn' ihn" ( "If a man does everything with God and nothing without Him,") and composed in October 1713 as a birthday present for German duke Wilhelm Ernst of Saxe-Weimar, for whom Bach served as court organist.

The discovery of the aria made global headlines on June 8th. According to Benjamin Roe, NPR Director of Music, "Once we heard about the discovery, we were determined to track down and perform the score as soon as possible." Although news organizations were prohibited from displaying photographs of the entire score, Performance Today's staff turned into "music detectives." The team of producers (including a Ph.D. musicologist with expertise in Baroque music) pieced together seven lines of the score from the different pictures used in assorted media outlets. Then, they faced the time-consuming task of trying to read these fragments, grabbed from fuzzy faxes and files, sufficiently to transcribe the music and Bach's notes and commission a studio performance.

Finally, late in the evening on June 8, they brought talented young harpsichord player Joseph Gascho and soprano Ah Hong from the Peabody Conservatory faculty into the NPR studios in Washington, D.C. "The sense of excitement and of history being made in front of us - was palpable," Roe recalls. "I'm tremendously proud of our NPR Music staff for putting together such an incredible performance, both in the studio and behind the scenes, in under 24 hours."

Yesterday's broadcast also included an interview with Peter Wollny, head of research for the Leipzig, Germany Bach Archive, which discovered the composition.

Broadcast stations and times for Performance Today can be found at In addition, Morning Edition ran a story about the discovery from the host of Performance Today, Fred Child on this morning's show. Both pieces can also be heard online through

Hosted by Fred Child, NPR's Performance Today is America's most-listened-to classical music radio program, reaching 1.2 million listeners on 233 stations around the country.

NPR is renowned for journalistic excellence and standard-setting news and entertainment programming. A privately supported, non-profit, membership organization, NPR serves a growing audience of 26 million Americans each week in partnership with more than 780 public radio stations. International partners in cable, satellite and short-wave services make NPR programming accessible anywhere in the world. With original online content and audio streaming, offers hourly newscasts, special features and eight years of archived audio and information.