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Cantata BWV 10
Meine Seel erhebt den Herren
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of June 25, 2006 (2nd round)

Eric Bergerud wrote (June 24, 2006):
June 25: Introduction BWV 10

Introduction to BWV 10: Meine Seel erhebt den Herren

Good things happened when Bach got near Latin texts. Think about it: the Mass in B, the "Lutheran Masses" and the Magnificat - all winners. Perhaps Bach was trying to get the attention of some Catholic ruler with deep pockets, like the gent running Saxony in Dresden. Maybe he thought the heavenly chorus sung in Italian - and Latin was as close as all of those wonderful vowels as a Lutheran of his era could get. Or maybe, like Luther, Bach had a love and respect for the music of the Latin Mass.

BWV 10 isn't Latin but it is a German version of Bach's first version of the Latin Magnificat composed for Christmas in 1723. The next summer Bach deleted some Christmas chorales he'd added, translated the text to German (an old custom) and served up a "German Magnificat" for the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin. Ten years later it was back to Latin and the famous Magnificat BWV 243. Bach knew a good work when he heard it and I can see why he came back to BWV 243a/BWV 10. It opens with a bouncy chorus, has two fine arias and terrific duet.

I suppose when analyzing a performance one should take stock of the instruments used and how well they're used. Sadly, I don't have the background to judge matters like articulation, tempo or other fine points of Bach's art. However, I do have preferences concerning the instruments used. In this work (you could say the same about many others) the differences are modern versus period instruments; boys versus women sopranos, women sopranos versus each other and mezzos versus counter-tenors. My guess is that these matters outlined above will weigh pretty heavily on influencing other list member preferences also.

I have Leonhardt [4], Leusink [11] and Rotzsch [6]. I admit to a strong preference to period performances. I love the often delicate tone of the winds, the reedy strings and brass & drums that sound like they were stolen from Frederick the Great's band. And to the extent that period performances are associated with quick tempos, I generally like that too. That said, Rotzsch and the Leipzig forces always put on a good show. (They do use boys in the choir of course - that compensates for many sins.) The tempo is quick for it's genre - faster than Leonhardt's. I'm not sure I'd put soprano Mitsuko Shirai at the top of my list, (sounds a little like she's singing Puccini to me) but she certainly doesn't offend. Tenor Peter Schreier teams up wonderfully with mezzo Doris Soffel in the great duet. This CD also carries BWV 243 if you want to compare versions. As noted the boys are back from 1724 vacation and Leonhardt's boy soprano sounds very good to me. Others might not agree because the lad in question does sound like a boy. The rest of Leonhardt's crew is in very fine form in my opinion. Leusink's ensemble does not sound at their best to my ears, except for Ruth Holton's aria. (For some reason there are folks on the list that find Holton a minor talent to put it kindly. Please refer to her discography - she's duped the world's finest conductors into giving her parts.) Leusink's cycle has some very good works in it, but I fear it would have been better had he employed a mezzo instead of counter tenor Sytse Buwalda. Maybe Buwalda's not the best male alto in town, maybe I simply prefer mezzos or perhaps it's both. This is no small matter when one considers how many parts Bach wrote for alto, much more than for soprano I'd wager.

Members of the list in 2002 were in a discriminating mood (maybe cranky is a better word) and didn't find much to admire outside of Richter [5]. There was a very interesting discussion concerning Mary in the Lutheran world. I don't have much to add other than Luther's most famous writing about the subject were very early - at a time when he didn't really know he was about to run the religious applecart off of a cliff. Except for the little matter of Papacy, Luther was conservative in his own way. In addition, I would never expect perfect consistency from a very prolific and hyper-imaginative writer. You sure don't get it from Luther. I do hope to hear others views, especially from Koopman [9] or Suzuki [14] fans.

Details:

BWV 10: Meine Seel erhebt den Herren (My soul doth magnify the Lord)
Chorale Cantata for the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Readings: Epistle: Isaiah 11: 1-5; Gospel: Luke 1: 39-56
First Performance Leipzig July 2, 1724
Text: Luke 1: 46-48 (Mvt. 1); Luke 1: 54 (Mvt. 5); Anon (Mvts. 2-4, 6)
German-English Text: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV10-Eng3.htm
BWV 10 Discussion from 2002: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV10-D.htm
Complete Leusink Performance [11]: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV10-Mus.htm

Excerpt from liner notes accompanying Leusink performance by Dingeman van Wijnen [11]:

BWV 10 is the German version of the Magnificat. The joyful opening chorus, employing Bach's joy motive, is full of fine runs and "ecstatic leapings" (Whittaker); the sopranos and then the altos sing two verses of the plainchant version of the Magnificat. A strong soprano aria deals with the power of God, opening with three loud cries of 'Herr' (reminding us of the opening of the St. John's Passion) and a very high note on 'God'; the continuo is very active as well. The tenor then sings a dramatic recitative about pride and arrogance being scattered, and a colorful bass aria follows in which the bringing down of the mighty and elevating of the humble is evoked vividly. A very moving duet for alto and tenor is next, with a descending figure in the continuo illustrating mercy coming down; the trumpet once again plays the Magnificat plainchant. The tenor recitative has a waving arioso, inspired by the sea that is referred to, and then the Magnificat tune is sung two more times to round out this great work.

Structure and Timings (from Leusink performance [11])

1. Chorus [S, A, T, B] (3'49)
Tromba, Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

2. Aria [Soprano] (6'31)
Oboe I/II all' unisono, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

3. Recitative [Tenor] (1'14)
Continuo

4. Aria [Bass] (2'54)
Continuo

5. Duetto (e Choral) [Alto, Tenor] (1'45)
Tromba e Oboe I/II all' unisono, Continuo

6. Recitative [Tenor] (1'55)
Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

7. Chorale [S, A, T, B] (1'07)
Violino I e Oboe I/II e Tromba col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo

Peter Smaill wrote (June 25, 2006):
Dürr summarises the point of this work and reflects much of the fascinating analysis on BCW from 2002 as follows:

"Among Bach's chorale cantatas this work occupies a special place. It is not based on a Protestant hymn, and yet if ever a work deserved the description "chorale cantata" it is this, for it is based on a genuine (Gregorian) chorale melody, that of the ninth psalm-tone."

Of note is Thomas Braatz work on the provenance, the score having passed through the Wittgenstein family (Paul, the composer-mowner by descent was brother of the famous (Jewish) philosopher Ludwig, who was at the same school in Linz as his contemporary Adolf Hitler).

As to the potential musical discoveries: the fact that the cantus firmus is passed from soprano to alto is noted by Robertson, but its significance as a unique instance is mentioned in the last discussions. Since we have noted
(Stephen Daw is my source) that the preceding four cantatas which open the second cycle use the voices in succession as the source of the chorale/cantus firmus, it is thus in Bach's scheme of things, "unity by inclusion, diversity amid order" to lead on to a further permutation!

As often happens, some of the critics miss the especial pleasure of the final chorale. Dürr ": The two verses of the doxology are set in a plain four-part texture". Robertson "The doxology. The sopranos have the first phrase of the Tonus Peregrinus, sung twice, and completed in the last line." That's all they say.

But try playing it out of Riemenschneider and the Whittaker analysis comes to life:

"After this spell of enchantment the doxology bursts into full force. The harmonization is one of great dignity.......During the last line, contrary to Bach's practice in simple chorales, basses, tenors and altos enter one after another in imitation. The extended Amen makes a noble peroration to this splendid cantata". Just as the first movement seems unique in its use of voices , so in the last movement, the chorale in effect, at one point there is I think an unparalleled reduction (relative to the chorales as a whole) to two voices (B/S), then three, then four.

Bach's purpose in this exceptional chorale treatment, IMO , is to emphasise the upward walking figure which originates in the bass, indicative not only the the path of faith for the believer but reflective of the emphasis on the supreme trust and faith exemplified by Mary in the theological tradition of the Church.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 25, 2006):
BWV 10 - Chorale & Chant

Peter Smaill wrote:
"Among Bach's chorale cantatas this work occupies a special place. It is not based on a Protestant hymn, and yet if ever a work deserved the description "chorale cantata" it is this, for it is based on a genuine (Gregorian) chorale melody, that of the ninth psalm-tone."
The chorale is based on the "Tonus Peregrinus", the "wandering tone", so-called because the recitation tone, which is usually the same pitch in the two halves of a psalm tone, 'wanders' down a tone in the second half. Bach uses the peculiarly German version which has an opening intonation of a rising third. The French and Italian form uses a rising semitone.

There are several other examples of chant which became chorales probably even before the Reformation -- the Easter Sequence, "Victimae Pashcali Laudes", was arranged as the metrical chorale for "Christ Lag in Todesbanden".

Bach used chant in several works. The "Credo" of the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) opens with a fugue on the chant "Credo in Unum Deum" and closes with a psalm-tone quasi-cantus firmus on a chant tune in the "Confiteor" (note how the two halves of the melody recite on the same note, unlike the Tonus Peregrinus" The F Major Missa Brevis has the chant of the litany in the winds in the Kyrie.

Chris Kern wrote (June 26, 2006):
The same pattern appears from BWV 135 where Rilling [7] takes the opening chorus movement slower than Leonhardt [4], but the arias are both faster.

1. Chorus
Rilling [7] - 4:56
Leonhardt [4] - 4:02
Leusink [11] - 3:49

The opening chorus doesn't seem to fit the words at all. I know that Bach was constrained by the chorale melody that came down to him, but the mood does not sound like "my soul magnifies the Lord" at all. This is particularly evident in Rilling's version, which sounds so heavy and dense that you would think this was one of the chorales about sin or the hopelessness of mankind. At least the lighter textures and quicker tempos of Leonhardt and Leusink give it a better chance to sound upbeat (that being said, Rilling's version is musically good). Of the HiPs I like Leonhardt's version better -- I know some people are bothered by the fragmented articulation but it sounds fine to me.

2. Aria (S)
Leonhardt [4] - 7:27
Rilling [7] - 6:46
Leusink [11] - 6:31

This is the highlight of the cantata for me. I like all three versions of the aria, although the best for me is Rilling's. The soprano manages a great exuberance without too much operatic vibrato, and I found myself humming the melody to myself later. The boy soprano in Leonhardt has the usual weaknesses of boy sopranos, but I always like to listen to the L&H boy sopranos because they really do bring a different tone and sound to the movements -- I find it odd to say this, but I wish Leonhardt had used a faster tempo! Ruth Holton does a good job for Leusink but I would have liked to hear her sing a bit louder (this could be the fault of the sound mixers).

(This is more like what the Magnificat should sound like...)

In the end, I actually found myself humming the tune after listening to Leonhardt's version too...I guess Bach's music always shines through in the end.

3. Recitative (T)

This recitative starts off as a standard secco recitative but develops more "life" in the second half; all the conductors handle the buildup well, and all three tenors are good. I would give a slight preference to Rilling here.

4. Aria (B)
Leonhardt [4] - 3:27
Rilling [7] - 2:59
Leusink [11] - 2:54

My favorite version here is probably Leusink -- Rilling's soloist is better, but Rilling's harpsichord sounds horrible in this movement because of the many quick chords and scales. It's like the tinkling of a child's toy piano or something. Leonhardt has some odd phrasing and accentuation; it sounds like the music keeps slowing and speeding up again which is sort of disorienting, and the whole playing of the aria seems less emphatic than normal for H&L.

The words in the beginning seem odd -- "The mighty God casts from their thrones, down into the sulphurous pit" doesn't seem to fit the sprightly tone, but maybe to Bach's Lutheranism this is a good thing?

5. Duet (A,T)
Leonhardt [4] - 2:19
Rilling [7] - 2:00
Leusink [11] - 1:45

This is a nice little duet. Rilling's alto has too much vibrato for my taste, but the trumpet part is well done. I think that Leonhardt has the best mixing of voices and the slower tempo seems to add to the effect.

6. Recitative (T)

This one starts as secco but turns into accompanied halfway through. Rilling's buildup is not quite convincing enough for me because his tenor starts at full volume. Leusink handles it much better. But Leonhardt is my top choice for this one -- the singing and the careful buildup are very well done.

7. Chorale
Rilling [7] - 1:17
Leonhardt [4] - 1:07
Leusink [11] - 1:07

The articulation of L&L seem to bring a strange effect given the praising nature of the text, but the chorale melody itself (as I said before) seems odd.

Julian Mincham wrote (June 26, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< As to the potential musical discoveries: the fact that the cantus firmus is passed from soprano to alto is noted by Robertson, but its significance as a unique instance is mentioned in the last discussions >
What has not, in my own reading been acknowledged is the possible (and typically Bachian) textural and word painting reason for this most unusual splitting of the cantus firmus between soprano and alto. It may be a musical expression of the line referring to the 'lowliness of the hand'. It is at this point in the text that the choral melody moves down to the lower (alto) voice.

Musically this had the advantage of leaving the sopranos free to soar high above as befits an expression of the magnification of the Lord. And this may be another reason. But the uniqueness of this way of presentating the cantus firmus in movements of this kind leads me to suppose that the word painting argument may well be a strong one.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 27, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>>What has not, in my own reading been acknowledged is the possible (and typically Bachian) textural and word painting reason for this most unusual splitting of the cantus firmus between soprano and alto. It may be a musical expression of the line referring to the 'lowliness of the handmaiden'. It is at this point in the text that the chorale melody moves down to the lower (alto) voice. Musically this had the advantage of leaving the sopranos free to soar high above as befits an expression of the magnification of the Lord. And this may be another reason. But the uniqueness of this way of presentating the cantus firmus in movements of this kind leads me to suppose that the word painting argument may well be a strong one.<<
I concur with this observation which is a reasonable possibility reflecting the manner in which Bach might treat this text even if no directly analogous situations are found elsewhere in Bach's oeuvre.

Consider this aspect of stepping down of the cantus firmus from a higher to a lower part in BWV 10/1 as compared with Bach's Magnificat BWV 243a where the textual parallel to the soprano in BWV 10/1 (first half of the c.f. up to m35) is in BWV 243a mvt. 1 (Magnificat) and mvt. 2 "Et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo" (with upward and downward moving motifs) after which Bach inserts in this version "Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her" with the sopranos singing the cantus firmus that emphasizes strong downward moving motifs on "Vom Himmel hoch", "ich bring euch gute neue Mär", and finally on "davon ich singn und sagen will" which ends on the lowest note in the chorale melody thus preparing us for "humilitatem" of mvt. 3 "Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae" which in BWV 10/1 is the equivalent to the text shifted down from the soprano to the alto part and sung as as cantus firmus beginning with m46 "denn er hat seine elende Magd angesehen...". In BWV 243a/3 Bach also emphasizes descending scales and has the Soprano 1 end on the same low Eb which occurred at the end of the CM "Vom Himmel hoch" in the previous mvt.

The keyword representing 'down' here is, as Julian Mincham explained in his comment on BWV 10/1, 'humilitatem' given in the German translation as 'elend' = which means a state of suffering which implies being miserable, wretched, poverty-stricken, pitiable, to be looked down upon as one banished and living in exile and/or as one having a strong feelings of homesickness (think here of an Athenian citizen in classical Greece being stripped of any status or connection with Athens and hence suffering exile, a fate deemed by Athenians at that time as worse than death).

Neil Halliday wrote (June 30, 2006):
On-line scores: BWV 10

I meant to add in my post that the full score (as well as the piano reduction/vocal score) of BWV 10, is available at the BCW, contributed by John Reese: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/index.htm

Neil Halliday wrote (June 30, 2006):
The shifting tonality of the opening movement is interesting: the melody of the cantus firmus (sopranos) appears to be in the relative major at its start (B flat major), even though the continuo in the ritornello has firmly established G minor; but the when the cantus firmus finally appears to plunge into the minor (G minor) at the end of its second part, the score suddenly has B naturals everywhere, as if establishing G major – but this turns out to be the dominant of a form of C minor.

Thus the stage is set for the cantus firmus to be sung at an interval of a fifth lower (in C minor), in the altos. (The possible reasons for the setting of the repeat of the cantus firmus in the lower voice have already been discussed). Thus we end up in F minor (a 5th below C minor) at the close of 2nd statement of the cantus firmus sections, modulating back to G minor at the end of the movement, with the very last chord of course being a serene G major.

The brilliant vocal counterpoint accompanying the cantus firmus reaches its greatest animation in the final section (coda, without cantus firmus) beginning just as the final note of the cantus firmus in the altos is dying away, when the sopranos, then the altos, then the tenors, and lastly the basses present, quasi-fugally, a motive heard previously, containing a three note repeated-quaver figure – a figure which is a rhythmic variant of the figure that occurs in the upper instruments right at the start of the movement, and also occurring prominently in the instruments as well, in this final section of the movement. There are other imitative episodes in the vocal counterpoint, in the previous sections, to be discovered with careful listening.

Suzuki (3.30) is pushing the speed limit in this movement, but the internet sample is difficult to judge whether he succeeds musically. I like both Werner (4.49) and Rilling (4.56) [7]. Richter [5] is certainly lively (3.46), but the articulation sounds rigid at times, and the large choir a bit muddy.

The soprano aria features a continuo part that is as lively as the impressive writing for the upper instruments; indeed, the animated continuo dominates the instrumental writing in the central section where the parts for the upper instruments become fragmentary. Notice the lively figure in the upper strings at the start is inverted in the continuo toward the end of the opening ritornello (this is Bach; imitations and inversions of figures abound). Auger, with vivid instrumentation by Rilling [7], has the strong voice to carry this lively aria. Werner's soprano is not as strong. Suzuki has the sharper articulation of the strings resulting in a less solid, more brittle performance (IMO). Richter/Mathis [5] are fine, with a lively tempo.

The stark continuo only bass aria depends on a successful realisation of the figured bass for a satisfactory performance. Listening to Richter [5] at the moment, I like this rendition with large, stylish church organ figured bass realisation and vigorous continuo bassoon.

In the duet, the simple tonality of the chorale theme on the trumpet is highly coloured by the chromatic nature of the vocal and continuo parts. Suzuki separates all the notes of the trumpet chorale, not to my liking. Richter has my favourite version [5], with expressive vocalists, fine trumpet and ethereal organ part at the end.

The similarity of the string accompaniment, in the second section of the tenor recitative, to that of the "In the cool of the evening" recitative in the SMP has already been remarked upon in previous discussions.

Shifting tonality is featured once again in the final chorale. For music theorists, am I right in saying the final G major chord at the end, arrived at via rich harmonisation in the last 4 bars, is not a `Tierce de Picardie', but the dominant of C minor, in contrast with the G major chord closing the opening movement, which is a `Tierce de Picardie'?

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 30, 2006):
BWV 10

Thomas Braatz wrote:
< in BWV 10/1 is the equivalent to the text shifted down from the soprano to the alto part and sung as cantus firmus beginning with m46 "denn er hat seine elende Magd angesehen..."
The keyword representing 'down' here is, as Julian Mincham explained in his comment on BWV 10/1, 'humilitatem' given in the German translation as 'elend' = which means a state of suffwhich implies being miserable, wretched, poverty-stricken, pitiable, to be looked down upon as one banished and living in exile >
I have the Richter [5] and Leonhardt [4] (brown box LP, with pocket score) recordings. Progress is not always perfect. The LP packaging remains unequaled. I have vols. I to IX (one with score missing), I wish I had found more, haven't seen any for a while.

A couple days ago I thought to write briefly comparing Edith Mathis' and the boy soprano in BWV 10/2, an intimidating idea merely in the writing of it. Mention the A/T duet BWV 10/5, which has already gone by just as you begin to grasp its beauty. Pose a question about the reason for the cf shift from S to A in the opening chorus, BWV 10/1. Then along came Julian and Thomas with an answer to the question, forcing me to think some more. And along came my Leusink [11], for additional listening, with Ruth Holton bridging the S gap between Mathis and the unnamed boy.

I find the textual analysis of humilitatem/elende interesting and satisfying for the shift in vocal scoring, which otherwise seemed somewhat arbitrary to me, simply adding variety. Perhaps it presages the fall of the mighty in the B aria BWV 10/4 as well? In any case, it does provide a nice darkening contrast in the otherwise cheerful opening chorus, described by Oxford Composer Companion as a celebratory Vivace. BTW, does this chorus also fit into the loose classification of chorale fantasia?

These three recordings were commented on extensively in the previous round, and I will just add a few personal observations. The first time through, I listened to Richter [5] through headphones while walking, and was truly startled by the continuo in the B aria, BWV 10/4. Later I read the following and realized I am not alone.

Dick Wursten wrote (July 10, 2002):
< did you really like Richter’s mvt. 4 [5]: the bass-aria ? I was completely stupified, not to say almost petrified, at the overthundering sound of the organ. >
Actually, it sounds like more than just an organ to me, add bassoon and perhaps double-bass, all over-recorded. It is not a sound that grows on you (or me, anyway), but I find it not quite so overwhelming through room speakers. Despite this and a few other shortcomings, the Richter is my preferred recording [5]. As usual for my taste, the outstanding soloists carry the day. Mathis in BWV 10/2 is probably not a sound Bach ever heard. At least not in church. But what about the possibility of Anna Magdalena at home? Authentic or not, I am glad to be able to listen to it. The A/T duet with Reynolds/Schreier is not to be missed, all two minutes of it, what a striking contrast in scope to the extended da capo S aria. Apparently the Richter [5] is now only available in sets. IMO, if the Richter complete set is even remotely on your radar screen, it is well worth the $100 or so, and this is much more cost effective than five individual sets at $30 or so, as I started out to do.

Overall, I find the Leonhardt tempos [4] to be the best, with the exception of the S aria, which is on the slow side. The slowness only serves to accentuate the shortcomings of the boy S, already noted by others. Leonhardt's opening chorus is slower than Richter [5] or Leusink [11], and sounds exactly right. The entire performance is enjoyable to listen to, especially if you can convince yourself that the boy S may in fact represent an authentic Bach church experience, with charming innocence rather than lack of expression.

Leusink [11], on the other hand, is a bit quick everywhere. However, there are simple and clear textures which are consistent with the tempos. Holton's S aria has a delicacy which I find a very listenable alternative to Mathis, and the lightness supports the quickness. Certainly not preferable to Mathis, but neither does it sound incorrect. The A/T duet is not the best, also noted already by others, but I do not find that it spoils an overall enjoyable performance.

As I usually note, if I had only one of these recordings, I would be more than happy with it, as an acceptable and enjoyable presentation of Bach. With one minor exception, worth commenting on. Thomas Braatz has extensively pointed out (July 10, 2002) that Leonhardt [4] badly distorts the bc in BWV 10/2, T rec., with a note written for 19 beats played for only 1 beat, and with no apparent attempt at justification. I find this especially hard to understand for an LP package which provides the score. Seems like there is an obligation to play what is written or explain why not. Or have H&L explained elsewhere?

I hesitated to buy the Brilliant Classics Complete Bach, with Leusink, because of so many negative comments, and because I do not lean toward HIP preferences. When I realized it is readily available (caiman.com via amazon.com) at $160 plus shipping ($3) I could no longer resist, if only to quickly fill some holes in my collection. Based on BWV 10, I don't think I will regret it.

Julian Mincham wrote (June 30, 2006):
[To Neil Halliday] Neil Halliday raises some interesting points about Bach's use of tonality. It is the case that the first phrase of the chorale seems firmly rooted in B flat major while the chorus begins uncompromisingly in G minor.However this is a part of Bach's solution to his continuing problem with these choruses i.e. how to maintain interest over a considerable span of time when limited to the often very constrained tonal range of the chorales. (Look back at the almost relentless E minor tonality of BWV 7). This required him to invent new approaches to large scale musical structures, different one from those he had mastered in the Brandenburgs and concerti.

One of his solutions was to look carefully at the chorale and determine where it had implications of related keys----and to exploit them as much as possible in the larger opening movements. Sometimes he uses the orchestral ritornello to modulate for a degree of variety and then comes back to the key of the chorale. In the case of C 10 though he seems to have looked at the G minor, Bb, C minor implications of the original chorale for exploitation in the larger movement structural scheme.

The point raised about the ending on the dominant chord is an interesting one. Generally ending on the dominant is restricted to slow movements as a lead-in to the final fast movement e.g. keyboard concerto in F minor, double keyboard concerto in C minor. But the opening movement to BWV 135 (the previous week) is amazing in that it not only ends on the dominant chord, it also begins with it. (Historically the next example of this which I can bring to mine is Beethoven's Tempest piano sonata in D minor, 80 odd years later!)

So clealy Bach was experimenting with such techniques--way ahead of his time when convention dictated the tonic chord at the beginning and end of movements.

The end of the chorake for BWV 10 is, as Neil points out, much more enigmatic than the traditional Picardy 3rd (reputed to have been introduced in order to prevent the clash between a resounding minor third in the final chord and the major third, one of the strongest of the harmonics.) This is a very' openended' and non-specific conclusion. I guess it could be described as an extended picardy 3rd, and I tend to think of it in this way rather then, as Neil suggests, a move to C minor. But the tonal ambiguity is certainly very much present. Interesting that Bach should be experimenting with the same harmonic idea in two successive weeks.

Incidentally, do note the four epeated notes which are a characteristic of the chorale (see bar 2) and which Bach has extrapolated to use as a feature of the melodic writing in both sop and bass arias---another piece of internal evidence of his wish fthe cantatas to have an overall sense of unity. In this case it is purely a musical-cum-motivic unity. In cantatas shortly to be discussed he has looked for textual unity (setting every verse of the chorale) and a more obvious unity of quoting the chorale (or part of it) in every movement----new to this cycle although previously exploited by him in the much earlier BWV 4--ironically, to be resurrected for this cycle as the 41st work of the canon.

Peter Smaill wrote (June 30, 2006):
[To Neil Halliday] Thank you Neil for detecting the key ambiguity of the close of BWV 10, the Chorale "Meine seel' erhebt den Herren." It is No. 358 in Riemenschneider and you are I think correct in your analysis. It appears to begin in G Minor and close in G major, but the F sharp in the tenor of bar five from the end is unexpectedly flattened to F natural in end -four, then the bass emphasises the F in end -three with a powerful diminished seventh (?IMO) and we modulate unexpectedly into C minor.

Apart from this effect, there is a scrummy dissonance E flat/D at the opening of bar 12 S/T; and the poor tenors, if Riemenschneider is accurate, have an unusual high register for a Chorale, touching G twice plus the aforementioned F's and f naturals. Almost as cruel as some of Hande' chorus workl! But the effect is brilliant, and the whole amazing when you consider that the Tonus Peregrinus is itself a very simple, repetitive chant which literally droops down to its close; which without Bach's ingenuity would have failed to impart the closing festive character appropriate to the day.

There can be few better examples of deriving much from little in the Chorales.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 30, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< But the effect is brilliant, and the whole amazing when you consider that the Tonus Peregrinus is itself a very simple, repetitive chant which literally droops down to its close; which without Bach's ingenuity would have failed to impart the closing festive character appropriate to the day. >
The Anglo-Canadian composer, Healey Willan, arranged a setting of the Magnificat in the 1950's which alternated verses between the Tonus Peregrinus chant in unison and verses in fauxbourdons based on Bach's harmonization. Bach as pseudo-Renaissance composer!

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 30, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>I find this especially hard to understand for an LP package which provides the score. Seems like there is an obligation to play what is written or explain why not. Or have H&L explained elsewhere?<<
I might suggest that if you have time (perhaps a lot of time!), you might read what has already been covered on this subject and preserved on the BCW:

On the disappearance of notes, mainly in historically-informed performance/recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Ghost-Notes.htm

An article that I wrote concerning the specific problem of shortened bc accompaniment in 'secco'
recitatives: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/Recitatives-Braatz.htm

For more examples in musical notation, see: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/Continuo4-Sco.htm

And, this is the extended on-going discussion of this subject which has already filled 14 long web pages on the BCW: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Recitatives.htm

In a nutshell, my observations, research and careful listening to the recorded cantata performances have led me tentatively to conclude the following:

1. This performance practice phenomenon might have begun with Leonhardt's recording of BWV 54/2 in the 1950s with Alfred Deller (a recording which I have not heard, but which reputedly follows what is termed an 'unwritten convention which all continuo players followed in Bach's time'.)

2. The H&L cantata series was the first to consistently invoke this type of "shortened basso continuo accompaniment in 'secco' recitatives in Bach's sacred vocal works". [If anyone knows of any other very early instances of this practice, please share this information with the list members.]

3. I am not aware of any published statement by Leonhardt in this early HIP period (1950s and 1960s) which attempts to explain or defend the use of this method of accompaniment; however, Harnoncourt, in his books and articles did make an attempt to do so. It appears to me that Harnoncourt based his explanation or 'proof' on Arnold Schering's speculations which in turn were based upon historical sources from at least a half century after Bach's performances of these cantatas or even a half century after Bach's death! Based on such sources, Schering invokes the infamous "selbstverständlich" ["it is self-understood or self-evident"] to make his readers (including Harnoncourt) understand that this performance practice was a secret known to all practicing continuo players in Bach's time, but that it was so self-evident that it was never written down [explain this to Bach who was ever so careful in notating precisely what he wanted to hear] or explained by any of Bach's contemporary musicians or musical lexicographers (like Bach's close acquaintance and even relative, Johann Gottfried Walther, who, in his extensive musical lexicon records innumerable observations about current musical practices, but not this particular one).

4. Years later, after the H&L series had almost been completed, Laurence Dreyfus, ["Bach's Continuo Group", Harvard University Press, 1987] attempted to validate what had already become an established performance convention among historically-informed performers using shortened bc accompaniment in Bach's sacred 'secco' recitatives. Dreyfus' explanations and proofs are, IMO, based upon misreading and misinterpreting certain key, original sources which would help to resolve the problems related to this issue: Johann David Heinichen's "Neu erfundene und Gründliche Anweisung", Hamburg, 1711 and Friedrich Erhard Niedt's "Musicalische Handleitung" Part III, Hamburg, 1717 [Niedt died in 1708]. The details regarding this are found in the links given above.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 30, 2006):
BWV 10; continuo by well-trained musicians specializing in Baroque music

< As I usually note, if I had only one of these recordings, I would be more than happy with it, as an acceptable and enjoyable presentation of Bach. With one minor exception, worth commenting on. Thomas Braatz has extensively pointed out (July 10, 2002) that Leonhardt [4] badly distorts the bc in BWV 10/2, T rec., with a note written for 19 beats played for only 1 beat, and with no apparent attempt at justification. I find this especially hard to understand for an LP package which provides the score. Seems like there is an obligation to play what is written or explain why not. Or have H&L explained elsewhere? >
Basso continuo practices--and the very nature of recitative as a genre--go all the way back to the beginning of "Baroque" itself, monody, directly expressive (and extravagant) music, the seconda prattica at the beginning of the 17th century: where interesting vocal stuff gets declaimed over a relatively static bass note, and the bass players do whatever sounds stylistically good...which isn't necessarily to hold the whole bloomin' thing out to full printed length on every given occasion. All being in an improvisatory and flexible batch of practices, from taste and training and experience.

=====

The broader issue of Werktreue vs Buchstabentreue has already been discussed here many times before, yea, beaten unto death.

Some people here don't accept Werktreue within their own epistemology (or maybe they just haven't studied 17th/18th century music and styles deeply enough, to understand the roles of notation and improvisation). Therefore, any performers who cross too boldly against Buchstabentreue (i.e. transgressing against the holy relic written score apresented in the Neue Bach-Ausgabe and other fine critical editions) get belittled in public for musical/scholarly efforts.

The "crime" of such musicians is to perplex those record-collectors who don't believe the musicians are indeed trying to be faithful to the work, in honest service of the music. That is, the alleged "crime" against the music--and against Bach!--exists within the perceptions of the consumer, but not necessarily elsewhere.

Hey, the performance doesn't sound enough like the score, when the score is read in a relative naive manner, reading along with the listening to a recording? Well then, it must be the performers' fault, in being inadequately prepared or too willful or whatever or whatever or whatever; the fault couldn't possibly be with the naive manner of reading the score, itself. If the consumer is confused by the musical result that crosses his personal expectations, and is too cynical to grant the performers/scholars any latitude of knowing their own specialty, these experts must be demonstrated to be both academically wrong and dishonest, in public. It's somehow the consumer's designated job to correct the experts, and to squash wrong practices under the heel. Customer always has to be right. Academia gets accused of dishonesty and worse. (This is how it usually goes, and it spirals badly.)

=====

For his part, Nikolaus Harnoncourt has defended his musical practices in several published books. On this particular topic of shortening "whole notes" and related issues of articulation, I have typed extensive excerpts from one of those books, in this forum, within discussion four years ago. See especially the section at the top of the page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/H&L-Gen4.htm

Eventually, the thing inevitably schwings around to various people asserting that they (and they alone) understand "Bach's intentions" better than ordinary expert musicians do, and better than scholars do; and then various substances go splattering all over the walls of the zoo. Consumer preference gets equated with objectivity, and somehow knowing the mind of Bach through extra-sensory perceptions not available to experts, and ba-boom.

Werktreue vs Buchstabentreue in earlier discussions here: http://tinyurl.com/jf2lg

A classic quote inside a Werktreue approach is from Marie Leonhardt, 1976. One can try to perform a piece of music in such a way that the composer would recognize it "at worst, without bewilderment, and at best, with pleasure."

=====

From the perspective of a university-trained continuo keyboard player of improvised basso continuo in this repertoire (namely, myself):

I've put together a practical essay describing my reasons, and the source material I consider to be most important/relevant/inspiring: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/recits.htm

As for record-collectors asserting that I and all other university-trained and practicing specialists are all wet...well, that's just their problem in not understanding the work delivered. Their inability to accept sincerely performed music is its own cynical reward.

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 30, 2006):
[To Bradley Lehman] I applaud what Brad has said here. People who have studied Bach a great deal try to present Bach as they understand he might have wished his works performed, but back to when I first came onto this forum...Bach the man was very busy, and he was working with real human beings. I started reading a treatise on figured bass in depth yesterday, and discovered that one reason it was created was to fill in the empty spots if there were not enough choir members available. The people I have known best who play or sing Bach marvelously always talk about the flexibility Bach had, and how he would improvise mightily in his own performances. I think it is really OK to point out the distinctions between scores and recordings, because that is knowledge. However, Bach wrote the Cantatas for the edification of the church, and I think he's probably sitting up in heaven laughing at times at the controversy that gets stirred up over what is right and what he wanted. He could never ! have had the career he did, or the family he did if he was excessively rigid. Go Brad!

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 1, 2006):
Brad;ey Lehman wrote:
>>Basso continuo practices--and the very nature of recitative as a genre--go all the way back to the beginning of "Baroque" itself, monody, directly expressive (and extravagant) music, the seconda prattica at the beginning of the 17th century: where interesting vocal stuff gets declaimed over a relatively static bass note, and the bass players do whatever sounds stylistically good...which isn't necessarily to hold the whole bloomin' thing out to full printed length on every given occasion. All being in an improvisatory and flexible batch of practices, from taste and training and experience.<<
Lumping all the performance practices regarding ‘secco’ recitatives spanning two centuries together, including Italian, French, English and German differences in the treatment of these recitatives, and not distinguishing between sacred and secular music [or Church, Chamber, Theater styles] is indicative of the type of undiscriminating scholarship that gave rise to the phenomenon of shortened accompaniment of ‘secco’ recitatives in the first place. Add to this the misinterpretation and misapplication of crucial sources close to Bach’s time and place in performance practice history along with an inability to discriminate how Bach stands apart from other composers of his time and from the many trends in music which he personally experienced by carefully notating how he wished his music to be performed according to what he thought was 'good taste' in
music. This is clearly stated by Johann Abraham Birnbaum in his defense of Bach’s unique compositional and performance style where the music becomes identical with the performance as Bach himself wished it to be. Birnbaum (Leipzig, March, 1739) expresses this as follows: “Allein urtheilt man von der Composition eines Stücks nicht am ersten und meisten nach dem, wie man es bey der Aufführung befindet. Soll aber dieses Urtheil, welches allerdings betrieglich seyn kann, nicht in Betrachtung gezogen werden: so sehe ich keinen andern Weg davon ein Urtheil zu fällen, als man muß die Arbeit, wie sie in Noten gesetzt ist, ansehen.“ [„You do not judge a composition primarily and most of all according to the way it sounds in a performance of it. If you were not to judge a composition {of Bach in this instance} this way, based upon the performance only – the latter can, to be sure, be very deceptive,-- then I can see no other way to render a judgment {on the quality of the composition} than to judge by the notes as they are written.” and this was an answer to Scheibe’s criticism of Bach’s music: „Alle Manieren, alle kleine Auszierungen, und alles, was man unter Methode zu spielen verstehet, drücket er mit eigentlichen Noten aus….“ [„All mannerisms {including mannerisms such as unnecessarily shortening the long notes in the continuo accompaniment of ‚secco’ recitatives}, all these little embellishments, and everything which is performed according to „the method“ {where notes are added and/or modified by the performers} he {Bach} expressly puts into his musical notation…”]

Why did Bach do this? Because he did not trust most performers, whose competence he was unable to judge, to perform according to what he considered to be the best manner of expressing good taste in his music. How would Bach have judged the present HIP phenomenon of 'shortened accompaniment of long notes in the 'secco' recitatives' of Bach's sacred music? According to the above, would he not have changed the notation of the bc of secco recitatives to represent the reality of performance since he was so meticulous in his manner of notation elsewhere? Would he, in this one aspect of notation, have said to himself: "This is a no-brainer. Here I can make an exception. I can simply write whnotes instead of pauses or rests thereby saving myself about an extra minute or so of time and everybody and anybody who plays this will automatically know what I really meant. Also, occasionally, because I have saved a little time in not writing out all the rests/pauses, I will use this spare time to add extra figures above the rests simply to create some imaginary chords which the continuo players may think but should not play."

Eric Bergerud wrote (July 1, 2006):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thankee for the fine post Brad.

In previous posts I have reproduced portions of Harnoncourt's notes on the Mass in B and SMP giving specific reasons for his interpretation of the scores. I shan't do so again as these are archived.

I might point out, however, that Malcom Sargent, in his notes to the famous 1959 recording of the Messiah, devotes a full paragraph defending his decision to follow the score as it was written in one particular sequence, noting that it was common knowledge that in baroque music a note was not a note in the modern sense and that several conductors disagreed with him on the point in question. Sargent argues that the artist is forced to make decisions with no binding contract to remove the necessity of artistic choice. As Sargent remarked "Given the original score of the Messiah a conductor must make a personal decision at almost every bar." Unless Handel was unusually untidy, I should think much the same could be said about Handel's contemporaries - such as JS Bach.

I might add that Sargent was actually speaking against the "purists" that soon became the period movement that has taken over baroque music at the top level. Of course Sargent was only a musician and might not have known of what he spoke.

I'd like to ask critics of Harnoncourt and other period ensembles that take "liberties" with Bach's scores which group or conductor we should look to for "real" Bach. Surely there must be someone.

Eric Bergerud wrote (July 1, 2006):
To Thomas Braatz] Two points on Mr. Braatz's post.

1. I think we should look a little closer at what Birnbaum actually said. Below is a quotation from Wolff that includes the Birnbaum argument on the importance of the score:

"Bach's idea of musical perfection, as Birnbaum affirmed, included the goal of perfect execution. He was well aware, however, that performances, especially of larger ensemble works, would not necessarily match the degree of perfection represented in the musical composition." At Bach's urging Birnbaum elaborated in 1739: "It is true, one does not judge a composition principally and predominantly by the impression of its performance. But if such judgment, which indeed may be deceiving, is not to be considered, I see no other way of judging than to view the work as it has been set down in notes." (Epilogue, p. 470)

It is not at all clear whether Birnbaum is countering a criticism by Scheibe to Bach's music in general or to larger scale works like the Brandenburgs or the Passions. I should think that the Birnbaum's caution about live performances refers to one of two situations: 1)performance standards of the era were below Bach's standards, so even if the master himself was leading a performance of, say, the SMP, the result may not be up to what was intended: 2) other players were butchering Bach's music without the master being directly involved. (It would be a little difficult to imagine Birnbaum's remark referring to a well performed work led by Bach himself. That would make quite a review: "The players and singers were splendid, Bach's leadership magnificent and the result spectacular. But please check the score before judging the work.") What is important to note here is how equivocal the statement is. Birnbaum says "may be deceiving." I think it most plausible to believe that Birnbaum was saying, "Bach's works are often badly played: look at the score before you judge." Furthermore, if another musician did look at the score what would he see as opposed to what he heard? The sort of unforgivable mistakes made by Harnoncourt etc or simply that the work was badly played. A skilled musician at the time might very well examine a Bach score and be both very impressed and not at all believe that every note should be played literally as written. Mr. Braatz seems to argue, if I understand him, that Bach took a view toward the score that was rather like Mahler's and not what most musicologists believe was typical of the era in which he worked. That's a tough sell.

2. Below is a section from Mr. Braatz's post. It might get good marks at law school, but would have a good historian scratching his head:
„Alle Manieren, alle kleine Auszierungen, und alles, was man unter Methode zu spielen verstehet, drücket er mit eigentlichen Noten aus….“ [„All mannerisms {including mannerisms such as unnecessarily shortening the long notes in the continuo accompaniment of ‚secco’ recitatives}, all these little embellishments, and everything which is performed according to „the method“ {where notes are added and/or modified by the performers} he {Bach} expressly puts into his musical notation…”]

Please note the use of { } in the quote above. Unless reading carefully one might not pick up that the words between the {} are those of Mr. Braatz but and not Birnbaum. But, let's accept that careful reading is to be taken for granted. There is nothing that I can see in Birnbaum's text that suggests "All mannerisms" means the same thing as "unnecessarily shortening the long notes...". Nor do I see that "the method" specifically refers to "where notes are added and/or modified by performers}. I should think either phrase could refer to a multitude of musical sins, particularly bad playing and overly-creative interpretation of the score. Again, if Mr. Braatz's generalizations should be taken as gospel this argues that Bach gave performers no latitude whatsoever in performing his works including Bach himself I should think. After all, if the "text is everything" then one good Bach performance would be essentially identical to another good Bach performance whether Bach himself was present or not. That's another tough sell.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Continuo in Bach's Vocal Works - Part 6 [General Topics]

Neil Halliday wrote (July 1, 2006):
Brad asks for flexibility in the performance of the basso continuo of secco recitatives (thank God he does not ask for the same license to vary (shorten) the notation of the basso continuo in accompanied recitatives), but can he point to any evidence of "flexibility" in performance of secco continuo accompaniment in the H/L series. Admittedly, the continuous legato of the continuo accompaniment of many non-HIP performances might serve as an example of inflexibility, but the H/L series must serve as the ultimate example of inflexible, non legato, "sameness" for secco recitative performance.

Speaking of flexibility: for non-period performances, how about the flexibility of changing organ registration, typically for the second half of the recitative? How about holding the string note for nearly its whole length, but imperceptibly diminishing its volume, or whatever, so that it does not become intrusive? (And how about a piano on the stage now and again?) And for period performances, how about avoiding the scrappy, inane daintiness and sameness of secco accompaniment that seems to be de rigueur in current practice?

Ed raises the example of BWV 10/3. Does Bach want accompaniment with changing chordal harmony over a sustained pedal point at the start of this recitative? (I certainly do!) There is plenty of room for "flexible", tasteful realisation of Bach's pedal point, as shown in the notation of the score, other than simply ignoring it altogether, as does Leonhardt [4] in BWV 10/3. (Rilling's [7] as notated strings are a bit unvarying, and hence intrusive, in BWV 10/3, but the harpsichord part is quite attractive). I recall the comment of a poster on this list some time ago - "the recitatives are crap, as usual." I believe it need not be so.

BTW, I also prefer Leonhardt's slower tempi [4], compared to those of Richter [5], in the opening chorus, the bass aria, and the accompanied recitative (BWV 10). Leonhardt's less frenetic, more expressive performance of the bass aria is probably my favourite of all the recordings.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 1, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< There is plenty of room for "flexible", tasteful realisation of Bach's pedal point, as shown in the notation of the score, other than simply ignoring it altogether, as does Leonhardt in BWV 10/3 [4]. >
Sorry to reopen old controversy unintentionally. Thanks to Neil for returning the discussion to my original point, and for stating it more clearly than I did. In this particular instance (BWV 10/3, all I intended to raise), it does seem like a stretch to replace 18 of 19 written beats with silence, even if it is justified as <shortening a note>. But what I really meant to emphasize is that the Leusink version [11] is new to me, he plays the entire pedal point, and it sounds better (to me) that way, just as it did to Tom Braatz in 2002. No intent on my part to make a statement on the larger implications, or to take sides on an issue where I am a beginner.

I was unfair to suggest that H&L (or anyone) should justify all deviations from a written score in every set of liner notes, even when the score is provided (ah, the memories, I am glad for a record collection for listening). Which is why I raised as a question whether their justification is stated elsewhere. Thanks to everyone who
provided detailed comments, and sources for more information, on all aspects of what is clearly a thorny subject.

Richard Mix wrote (July 2, 2006):
Chris Kern wrote:
< 4. Aria (B)
The words in the beginning seem odd -- "The mighty God casts from their thrones, down into the sulphurous pit" doesn't seem to fit the sprightly tone, but maybe to Bach's Lutheranism this is a good thing? >
One is tempted to translate "Gewaltige" as "The violent". So maybe there is a case for a note by note harpsichord realization! I usually sing it with VC alone, though I might allow a realization of a separate BC part that follows the harmonic rhythm; has anyone attempted this?

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 2, 2006):
Richard Mix wrote:
Chris Kern wrote:
< 4. Aria (B)
The words in the beginning seem odd -- "The mighty God casts from their thrones, down into the sulphurous pit" doesn't seem to fit the sprightly tone, but maybe to Bach's Lutheranism this is a good thing? >
I may have confused the thread here, but I want to respond before the thought evaporates. This is exactly the spot where Richter [5] creates a startling effect, quite different from others tone, sprightly is a good description. I believe Neil Halliday commented on Richter positively. Maybe Richter is the one who got it right?

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 3, 2006):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
< The people I have known best who play or sing Bach marvelously always talk about the flexibility Bach had, and how he would improvise mightily in his own performances. >
CPE Bach said that his father conducted his cantatas as concertmaster and left the organ continuo to other players. I'm not convinced that continuo realizations should sound like concerto cadenzas.

Chris Stanley wrote (July 5, 2006):
I agree with most of the comments made here. In the soprano aria, I note that the short score has a beat of 88 which is rigidly adhered to by Leusink [11] but Leonhardt [4] takes it at 80 which is just a little too measured for this lively piece. Question is, who suggested the tempo here. A pity that the Regensburger is still anonymous after all these years. He desrved better.

Eric noted that the boys were evidently back from 1724 vacation, but it seems to have been too long and at the wrong time. Exams?

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 5, 2006):
< In the soprano aria, I note that the short score has a beat of 88 which is rigidly adhered to by Leusink [11] but Leonhardt [4] takes it at 80 which is just a little too measured for this lively piece. Question is, who suggested the tempo here. >
Ummmm....the metronome wasn't invented until 1812, which was well after anything composed by Bach.

As for meter and tempo issues, and hearing the level of the beat at the appropriate note-value within the musical texture, I'll once again recommend George Houle's book: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Books/Book-Meter%5BHoule%5D.htm

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 5, 2006):
BWV 10 - Metronomes

Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Ummmm....the metronome wasn't invented until 1812, which was well after anything composed by Bach. >
The machine may not have been invented until 1812, but surely there were "metronomic" procedures used with clocks and human pulse. Many Renaissance treatises talk about "normal pulse" or "normal walking pace" as procedures whereby tempi can be fixed. However, I learned very early on that my pulse rate before a performance is only useful if I want 'Presto con fuoco'.

Chris Rowson wrote (July 5, 2006):
[To Douglas Cowling] Quantz says 80 beats per minute for an Allegro.

But he was writing in Potsdam around 1750, and I read somewhere (I think in the notes of the modern Quantz translation) that C.P.E. said something like “they play the Allegro very fast in Potsdam”.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 6, 2006):
[To Chris Rowson] That would be very, VERY fast; 80 per second makes a pitch of approximately low E, by itself. (Sorry, couldn't resist....)

Anyway, the whole concept of beats/meter is also heavily dependent on what type of figuration is included--how many small notes to jam in there--in addition to the meter signature, harmonic rhythm, meaning of the words being sung, etc etc.

Teddy Kaufman wrote (July 6, 2006):
Brad wrote that "....the metronome wasn't invented until 1812, which was well after anything composed by Bach..."
Well, premature metronomes were invented and employed at least 2 centuries prior to Bach (http://www.franzmfg.com/history.htm) :

"In 1581, Galileo Galilei discovered the isochronism of pendulums, that is, he discovered that pendulums (of any given length) vibrated in the same time, whether the amplitude was large or small.

"About a century passed before pendulums were successfully applied to clocks by Christian Huyghens (circa 1659) and George Graham (circa 1715). The problem solved by them was to develop an escapement, the mechanism for delivering impulses to the pendulum, which will keep it in motion and yet not interfere with its motion. This invention was the key to success for it was promptly used by those laboring in the metronome field.

"In 1696, Etieune Loulie made the first recorded attempt to apply the pendulum to a metronome. His "machine" was merely an adjustable pendulum with calibrations but without an escapement to keep it in motion. He was followed by a line of inventors, including Sauveur, 1711; Enbrayg, 1732; Gabary, 1771; Harrison, 1775; Davaux, 1784; Pelletier, Weiske, 1790; Weber, 1813; Stockel, Zmeskall, Crotch, Smart, 1821. Most of these attempts were unsuccessful owing to the great length of pendulum required to beat some of the low tempos used in music (say 40 to 60 per minute).

"In 1812, Dietrik Nikolaus Winkel (b.1780 Amsterdam d. 1826) found that a double weighted pendulum (a weight on each side of the pivot) would beat low tempos, even when made of short length. Johann Nepenuk Maelzel, through some questionable practice, appropriated Winkel's idea and in 1816 started manufacturing "Maelzel's" Metronome. It has been in highly successfuuse to this day. It is manufactured by Swiss, German, French and American manufacturers who vie with each other for the limited business available..."

List members who visit Prague might enjoy the spectacular and 75 feet tall metronome designed by Vratislav Novak.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 7, 2006):
Teddy Kaufman wrote:
< Johann Nepenuk Maelzel, through some questionable practice, appropriated Winkel's idea and in 1816 started manufacturing "Maelzel's" Metronome. It has been in highly successful use to this day. >
The history of science interlude provides a respite (or not) from the ongoing historical musicology debate. What, exactly, was the questionable practice? Theft? Industrial espionage? Worse?

Bill Gates, now the world's wealthiest individual, through some questionable practice, appropriated IBM's idea for an operating system (DOS). It has been in highly successful use to this day. In use, anyway, and changing the world.

Conventional wisdom is that IBM had abandoned DOS. How about Winkel?

Chris Rowson wrote (July 11, 2006):
[To Bradley Lehman] This led me to review the main sections of Quantz relevant to tempo (Section VII §45-58), which once more brought me up against my biggest problem with the book: the four basic classes of common time, and the prescription of 160/80/40/20 beats per minute for these.

Are there really any pieces of music for which Quantz is applicable where 160 beats per minute in common time is reasonable? And likewise 20 beats per minute?

I recently was involved in some recordings where we made great efforts to get slow movements (by Quantz and his Dresden colleagues) to work at not much more than 40, but even this took a lot of adjustment of our habits and conceptions. Can anyone really play any such Adagio at 20 beats per minute in common time?

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 11, 2006):
[To Chris Rowson] With how much improvised ornamentation, as described in the Adagio chapter?

Chris Rowson wrote (July 11, 2006):
[To Bradley Lehman] With Quantz in particular, we had to add a lot of detail in the slow movements. Hasse we left largely alone because he wrote a lot in some places and that seemed enough, while Friedemann Bach was rather like poppa, you can´t put much more in there, partly because what´s there is so superbly done.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 11, 2006):
[To Chris Rowson] Terrific! When and where is your recording available? I'd like to hear it....

Chris Rowson wrote (July 17, 2006):
[To Bradley Lehman] Release is today. You´ll hate it though, we´re playing modern instruments, all in ET, and one or two other aspects are not “historically correct” either. :-)

We did have some results that you might find interesting, though, particularly when we had the notes inegales, the Quantz phrasing and Baroque pace and gesture all working together. Plus it was all just such a joy to play, which hopefully comes across for the listener.

You can sample a few clips at www.rare-roses.com.

 

New article on Bach Cantatas website

John Reese wrote (May 23, 2011):
Aryeh has been kind enough to post an article I have written on the Bach Cantatas website. It introduces the concept of Composition Theory and uses it to analyze the first movement of Bach's cantata BWV 10.

The article can be found at: http://bach-cantatas.com/Articles/Comptheory[Reese].pdf

I would be interested to hear any opinions, good or bad.

 

Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 10: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Article:
Using Composition Theory to Analyze a Work by J.S. Bach [J. Reese]

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

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