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Cantata BWV 140
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme
Discussions - Part 7

Continue from Part 6

Discussions in the Week of October 21, 2012

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 21, 2012):
Introduction to BWV 140 -- Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme

Weekly reminder:

This week we conclude Trinity season cantatas with BWV 140, the sole work for the 27th Sunday after Trinity. Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion for this week are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV140.htm

The commentary by Julian Mincham, music examples included, is especially recommended as an introduction to listening.

The BWV 140 page has convenient access to notes from the Gardiner, Koopman (notes by Christoph Wolff), Suzuki, and Leusink (and more!) CD issues, via link beneath the cover photo.

The chorale text and melody are accessible via links at the BWV 140 page. Francis Browne has recently added new commentary on the cantata texts to his interlinear translations, linked via [English 3]. We can expect these to continue, not necessarily weekly. Douglas Cowling and William Hoffman are also posting relevant to chorales and other music for the Lutheran Church Year, accessible via LCY pages

I do not always take the time to check all links before posting. Special thanks to the folks who provide timely corrections. I hope to be able to continue to provide weekly reminders for our current discussion cycle, which continues through next year (2013). If someone would like to provide more detailed introductions, that can be easily arranged through the moderator, or simply as responses to my posts (ala Will Hoffman and others).

This weeks topic, Wachet Auf, provides a classic bit of sophomoric humor for American (and other?) music students, which I only learned recently via a presentation of solo violin works and stand-up comedy by local (Boston) treasure Dan Stepner (Together Again!)

Charles Francis wrote (October 22, 2012):
BWV 140 – Wohltemperierte

All but one of the movements in this cantata are notated in five flats (Cornet-Ton), with the duet in four. The surviving performance parts can be viewed online at the Bach Digital website and they include a fully-figured transpose for organ (Cornet-Ton) and an explicit bassoon part (Cammerton). As with other Leipzig cantatas, the range of the bass notes in the organ part goes below the normative C, and in this case it cannot be readily explained away as a bassoon artefact, given the explicit surviving parts.

Three chorale melodies occur in this cantata and the fourth and seventh movements which I have set for organ are both in Db major, giving rise to barbaric sounds when performed in meantone. We may accordingly be rather confident that in 1730 Bach's Leipzig organ was tuned in a 'Wohltemperierte' manner, a paradigm he had referred to in his 1722 collection of keyboard pieces in all tonalities.

A video with my organ realisation is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeRrmhNpFKE

William Hoffman wrote (October 22, 2012):
Cantata 140: Trinity 27 & Late Trinity Time Chorales

See: Motets & Chorales for 27th Sunday after Trinity

Julian Mincham wrote (October 22, 2012):
[To Charles Francis] It occurred to me when watching your realisation that the u tube clip would sit very neatly with my description of this movement in the essay on 140--

see link http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-55-bwv-140.htm

The different colours allow the three main elements, melody (whether on strings or sung by tenor) bass and chorale (in green) to show how they inter-relate in this veritable jig-saw construction.

For this reason I would like to include, with your agreement, a link to your u tube version in my essay, particularly if it remains permanently accessible. Uniting the written description with the 'colour version' would be particularly helpful especially for the music lovers who don't read music well (or at all) but want to explore the ways in which music is constructed.

Charles Francis wrote (October 22, 2012):
[To Julian Mincham] Currently, there are at least three rights claims against this particular video from US capitalists who seek to monetise it. Needless to say I have launched a dispute with them, which based on past experience I will win. The unfortunate thing is that further claims may arrive randomly at any time and Google/Youtube does not proactively inform me of them. As I do not want the chore of endlessly checking for new rights claims, and feel some moral duty to prevent exploitative practices, I prefer to remove these videos when no longer needed.

Below the text of the latest claim (one can at least admire, or perhaps be worried by, the intelligence of the Google algorithm that identified "BWV 645" - I certainly didn't mention it to them as I only checked the BGA and Bach Digital manuscript for BWV 140!):

"Your video may include the following copyrighted content:

• "Wachet auf! Ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 645 (from Schübler Chorale", musical composition administered by:
One or more music publishing rights collecting societies
• "Wake, O Wake With Tidings Thrilling", musical composition administered by:
Kobalt Music Publishing
One or more music publishing rights collecting societies

What does this mean?
Your video is still available worldwide. In some cases, ads may appear next to your video. Please note that the video's status can change, if the policies chosen by the content owners change. Learn more about copyright on YouTube.
This claim does not affect your account status."

So there you have it!

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (October 22, 2012):
[To Charles Francis] Very well put Charles.

Indeed, in the Baroque era, modern researchers have found (Barbieri for Italian countries, Ortgies for German countries) that most (sometimes even all) the extant direct evidence of a region shows all the organs tuned in strict meantone. This notwithstanding, a few strong pieces of evidence (like the work of Riccati in Northern Italy and Bach's BWV 140 in Saxony) show that advanced musicians would have their organs tuned to a circular temperament.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 22, 2012):
[To Charles Francis] How interesting. I was unaware that a person's individual performance could be copyrighted in this way--or, more accurately that people suppose that it can be.

It's a pity. I was thinking that the combination of such colour coded performances with written analysis could be an enormously effective means for students to explore musical structures.

George Bromley wrote (October 22, 2012):
[To Claudio Di Veroli] for the benefit of us mere mortals, please explain.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 22, 2012):
Charles Francis wrote:
< Currently, there are at least three rights claims against this particular video from US capitalists [..]
"Your video may include the following copyrighted content:
• "Wachet auf! Ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 645 (from Schübler Chorale", musical composition administered by:
One or more music publishing rights collecting societies
• "Wake, O Wake With Tidings Thrilling", musical composition administered by:
Kobalt Music Publishing >
EM:
US capitalists? Just tell them to *Wachet Auf*, they will probably understand!

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (October 22, 2012):
[To George Bronley] I understand you wish more clarifications about the main subject of the posts by Charles and myself

Indeed, they are assume the knowledge (common among Baroque music performers) of the following specialised topics:

a) the problem of temperament in the tuning of musical scales in pre-Romantic music.

b) discussing the type of temperament required by the music of JSBach.

Either topic requires dozens of pages just to explain the basics. Not surprisingly, I have been unable to find any good free introduction online. Even the Wikipedentry is scarcely of any use.

The only available good introductory writings on Musical Temperament known to me, are the introductory chapters of a few available specialised books (like my own http://temper.braybaroque.ie/). They are meant for students and performers specialising in Baroque music, and are possibly too much to digest for others. However, several non-specialised readers have found them worthwhile.

Charles Francis wrote (October 22, 2012):
[To George Bronley] It's easier to hear the tuning issue than to explain it. Two meantone examples for comparison:

1) Pachelbel - almost certainly in the intended tuning: www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUkrD9YHRwA

2) Bach - sounding challenged: www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zrB5wN5D6k

William Hoffman wrote (October 23, 2012):
In addition to the widespread fact that most organs in Bach's time were tuned to meantone, I believe two other practices have a bearing on the discussion:

1. Most chorale cantos were set by composers in the mode or key in which they were first used in a hymnbook. Usually they are confined to the five major modes and five basic keys of no more than two flats or sharps. BWV 140 is an exception, originating in F Major but adapted by Bach in E-Flat Major to accommodate the horn playing the canto. Interestingly, the Schuebler Chorale transcription, BWV 645, also is in E-Flat Major, suggesting that a Bach student may have done the adaptation.

In C Major is the doubtful Miscellaneous Organ Chorale Prelude with the trumpet playing the canto, BWV Anh.II 66 (NBA KB IV/10: 150 (Emans 169). Peter Williams in <The Organ Music of JSB> 2nd ed., has no comments on the work's authenticity. Reinmar Emans in the Preface to the Baerenreiter 2008 Edition, Organ Chorales from Miscellaneous Sources (NBA IV/10), simply notes: "BWV Anh. 66 is the only piece attributed to Bach that calls for a trumpet in addition to the organ. Accordingly, it has no stylistic parallels" (translated by J. Branford Robinson).

There appears to be two organ two chorale prelude settings and one fantasia setting of "Wachet auf" by Bach student Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780). One prelude and the fantasia have a trumpet playing the canto. On-line Recordings:
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HL4oOo-NHE0 -
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lvcxl-0dF30
Peter Hurford recording: http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=167113

2. In some of the Orgelbuechlein planned settings of chorales, some of those that Bach did not set, for which there is in an hymn incipit, Bach in his handwriting indicated the melody should be set a tone lower, in the Weimar kammerton practice. This is found in the Riemenschneider files.

Anthony Kozar wrote (October 24, 2012):
[To Claudio Di Veroli] I am rather surprised that the key of a cantata chorale would be taken as evidence for how an organ was tuned. I hope that someone here will know more about the specific circumstances of organ building and tuning in Germany at the time and will be able to explain more.

My understanding (from much reading on organ history although my memory is ofen poor) is that the tuning and temperament of an organ during the Baroque period were fairly fixed at the time the instrument was built. The reason for this was that (open flue) pipes were cut to the necessary length and did not have the usual tuning aids that organ pipes have had in later periods (either slots cut near the top of the pipe that are rolled up and down or "tuning slides": short cylinders of metal that surround the top of a pipe and slide up and down). Without these, the only methods that I am aware of for tuning a pipe are to adjust the size of the opening of the pipe's toe ("coning") or to flex the ears of the pipe in or out (if the pipes have ears which many might not). Coning or widening the toe opening changes the loudness, timbre, and speech of the pipe too and is thus not a terribly desirable way to tune a pipe. Perhaps coning the tops of the pipes would allow for small modifications to the pitch as well, I can't remember for sure.

So, I was under the impression that because of this "fixed-length" construction of organ pipes, many Baroque organs were able to maintain a relatively consistent tuning for decades. And conversely, I would assume that modifying the temperament of an instrument would be a major undertaking, requiring cutting-down some pipes and perhaps even lengthening others.

Charles Francis wrote:
< We may accordingly be rather confident that in 1730 Bach's Leipzig organ was tuned in a 'Wohltemperierte' manner >
Are you saying that one of the organs in Leipzig is known to have been retuned in 1730?

As it has been years since I have read much on these subjects, I would be happy if someone were to point out any errors in my thoughts as well as provide some context for how this issues may have affected the tuning of
Bach's organs (and thus the performance of his music).

Thanks much!

P.S. I did listen to Charles' rendition of BWV 140:4 and the temperament does sound dreadful :)

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (October 24, 2012):
Anthony Kozar wrote:
< My understanding (from much reading on organ history although my memory is ofen poor) is that the tuning and temperament of an organ during the Baroque period were fairly fixed at the time the instrument was built. ...
>
Meantone can be turned into a barely-circular temperament by retuning two or three pipes out of every 12. There is evidence that this was done in France in late 17th c.

< And conversely, I would assume that modifying the temperament of an instrument would be a major undertaking, requiring cutting-down some pipes and perhaps even lengthening others. >
Indeed.

<< We may accordingly be rather confident that in 1730 Bach's Leipzig organ was tuned in a 'Wohltemperierte' manner >>
< Are you saying that one of the organs in
Leipzig is known to have been retuned in 1730? >
We don't know. No Bach organ is extant, not even any document on how they were tuned at the time Bach played them. So we have only to rely on which music was played using them.

Publications by myself (http://temper.braybaroque.ie) and Dr. Ibo Ortgies delve deep into all these matters.

(pls note: will be away from Ireland, and the internet, for 3 weeks, starting NOW)

Julian Mincham wrote (October 24, 2012):
[To Claudio Di Veroli] We don't know. No Bach organ is extant, not even any document on how they were tuned at the time Bach played them. So we have only to rely on which music was played using them.

I thought that the organ at St Jacobi in Sangerhausen came close. The dedication service was in 1728 (five years into Bach's stint in Leipzig) and alterations were made, as one would expect, in the 1850s and 1907 with a reconstruction in 1976. Does anyone know any more about its history?

If you are having a holiday Claudio (up the Amazon??) I hope it's a good one!

Anthony Kozar wrote (October 24, 2012):
[To Claudio Di Veroli] Thanks very much Claudio! (and for replying before you left)

More below ...

Claudio Di Veroli wrote::
< Meantone can be turned into a barely-circular temperament by retuning two or three pipes out of every 12. There is evidence that this was done in France in late 17th c. >
<< And conversely, I would assume that modifying the temperament of an instrument would be a major undertaking, requiring cutting-down some pipes and perhaps even lengthening others. >>
< Indeed. >
Only needing to retune 1/4 of the pipes certainly makes the task easier but it still sounds as if altering the temperament would require substantial physical modification to an . Not like today where (theoretically) the temperament of most pipe organs could be changed by moving the tuning slides and springs and a daring organist might perform the change to suit his/her own taste. This is I suppose then part of the reason that meantone persisted in some places until the mid-19th century.

I should mention that I did find one reference in an organ report by Bach that, in his opinion, certain faults in the organ's voicing could be corrected "when the whole organ is once more thoroughly tuned" (NBR #72, pp. 84-5). I just can't recall right now how that would have been done.

<<< We may accordingly be rather confident that in 1730 Bach's Leipzig organ was tuned in a 'Wohltemperierte' manner >>>
<< Are you saying that one of the organs in
Leipzig is known to have been retuned in 1730? >>
< We don't know. No Bach organ is extant, not even any document on how they were tuned at the time Bach played them. So we have only to rely on which music was played using them. >
This logic assumes then that musicians would avoid playing in keys that sound bad on a particular organ, yes?

I am not knowledgable enough to draw any conclusions, but I found this interesting passage in the NBR #400, pp. 410-11:

"The tradition runs that whenever Sebastian Bach observed Silbermann among his select circle of auditors, he used to say to him, in perfect good humor, 'You tune the organ in the manner you please, and I play the organ in the key I please,' and thereupon used to strike off a Fantasia in A-flat major; the contest invariably ending in Silbermann's retiring to avoid his own 'wolf'".

Make of that what you will.

Charles Francis wrote (October 25, 2012):
William Hoffman wrote:
< In addition to the widespread fact that most organs in Bach's time were tuned to meantone, I believe two other practices have a bearing on the discussion:
1. Most chorale cantos were set by composers in the mode or key in which they were first used in a hymnbook. Usually they are confined to the five major modes and five basic keys of no more than two flats or sharps. BWV 140 is an exception, originating in F Major but adapted by Bach in E-Flat Major to accommodate the horn playing the canto. Interestingly, the Schuebler Chorale transcription, BWV 645, also is in E-Flat Major,
suggesting that a Bach student may have done the adaptation. >
BWV 140-4 remains within range of the organ keyboard/pedal-board when transposed to F, consistent with its three-part texture having originated in that key. Once in F, it sounds pleasant enough in the traditional (quarter comma) meantone tuning: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVsoZbb7kk4

Charles Francis wrote (October 25, 2012):
Anthony Kozar wrote:
< Are you saying that one of the organs in Leipzig is known to have been retuned in 1730? >
With regard to the query of Anthony Kozar, there are various retuning possibilities to consider. Did Bach's predecessor at Leipzig, Johann Kuhnau, get the organ retuned, for example? Although we don't apparently have
documentary evidence of Bach performing such retuning himself, we do know he acted as an expert consultant in connection with newly built organs, working alongside Gottfried Silbermann, for example, and, moreover, that an older member of his family, Johann Nikolaus Bach had, according to two reports, out-tuned Johann Georg Neidhardt at the organ. Silbermann had obtained a legal ruling banishing his upstart apprentice Zacharias Hildebrandt to compete in the surrounds of Leipzig and, given that Bach acted as a quality controller for both Hildebrandt's and Silbermann's work, it's conceivable that logistical tuning assistance would have been rendered as a favour to Bach. Some ten years ago, I recall Thomas Braatz mentioning that he had not unearthed any receipts that would support retuning work during Bach's Leipzig tenure. He also pointed me to contemporaneous reports whereby a single register would be retuned for ensemble accompaniment (recent musicological awareness of this practice was reported on group by Douglas Cowling).

The proposal of one modern scholar has been referenced by Claudio Di Veroli - specifically, the thesis of Ibo Ortgies on North German organ tuning that written organ music was not intended for performance in church, so can tell us little about tuning: https://sites.google.com/site/iboortgies/phd-dissertationiboortgies

Extrapolating from Buxtehude to Bach, the implication would be that performing the organ music of either in church is anachronistic, and, for example, no significance can be drawn from the three flats in the opening prelude of BWV 552 (notwithstanding that Bach appears to have carefully crafted its pedal range for that key). However, such modern argumentation breaks down in the case of BWV 140, where we have an existent performance part with figured bass in five flats that, by virtue of its transposition, can only have been intended for the Leipzig organ. So perhaps yet another thesis is needed, e.g., that Bach omitted problematic bass notes, thirds and fifths, which he only notated to avoid losing his way during performance?

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 25, 2012):
BWV 140 - Congregational Singing

Charles Francis wrote:
< BWV 140-4 remains within range of the organ keyboard/pedal-board when transposed to F, consistent with its three-part texture having originated in that key. Once in F, it sounds pleasant enough in the traditional (quarter comma) meantone tuning: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVsoZbb7kk4 >
The glorious chorale which closes this, the greatest cantata that Bach ever wrote, is set in a celestial tessiatura which precludes congregations joining in spontaneously (unless you are prepared to accept congregations dropping the octave). It always reminds me of the angelic chorale which closes the St. John Passion.

After the Bach Revival, congregational hymn books in the late 19th century rushed to include Bach harmonizations. This led to the standard modern practice of repeating the harmonization for succeeding verses. The gaucheness of repetition is a custom to which even the most scholarly musicians still meekly submit.

Even worse, in order to include as many Bach chorales as possible, editors transpose harmonizations down to make them congregational. Believe it or not, hundreds if not thousands of churches will shortly sing "Wachet Auf down a third in C major in Advent in December!

Despite the begging of clergy, choir member and congregations, I have never consented to such an assault on Bach. (The isorhythmic "Wachet Auf" is lots of fun)

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 25, 2012):
BWV 140 - Bach Organ Performance

Charles Francis wrote:
< The proposal of one modern scholar has been referenced by Claudio Di Veroli specifically, the thesis of Ibo Ortgies on North German organ tuning that written organ music was not intended for performance in church, so can tell us little about tuning: https://sites.google.com/site/iboortgies/phd-dissertationiboortgies >
This is a very radical hypothesis which impacts on the performance of the cantatas. Below is the English summary provided by the author in his dissertation. I've marked the portion of greatest interest to this list with an arrow: ==>

***************************************
English Summary
One of the essential tools for influencing the sound of an organ is the choice of the temperament. Accordingly, musical temperament has, for centuries, been treated recurrently and extensively in the literature.

Since the Orgelbewegung of the early 20th century, the most significant influence on modorgan building and performance has been the North German organ building tradition of the 17th and 18th centuries, as represented by builders such as Gottfried Fritzsche and Arp Schnitger, who were active even outside their own region. This period coincides with essential discussions about various kinds of organ temperament. By influencing the temperaments that organbuilders used, theoreticians aimed to bring organ building practice in line with current musical taste, especially regarding the changed use of tonality. But while many printed sources from the 17th and 18th centuries discuss the theoretical background, they scarcely ever mention any practical application of non-meantone temperaments in either old or new organs. In consequence, this study will generally not consider the various theoretical temperaments, which have received ample attention elsewhere.

Preserved historical organs have generally been altered too much to reveal how they once were tempered. It is, therefore, of fundamental importance to establish which temperaments were in fact used, which developments took place (or did not take place), and how organ temperaments met (or failed to meet) the demands of contemporary musical practice.

This study begins with three introductory technical chapters, which contain text annotations, a preface, and an introduction divided into "Questions" and "Methods."

The discussion proper begins in Chapter 4, "Temperament, pitch and keyboard compass on and around the North Sea coast." The chapter is essentially a collection of facts together with commentary, more or less extensive as the material requires. The material presented consists mainly of modern source studies and monographs about organ building in the areas in question. The order of the presentation is geographical, moving along the North German coast and including the Hanseatic cities of Bremen and Hamburg. The information is complemented with occasional references from the North German inland and from the former Northeast German regions.

This material has, by virtue of the added commentary, a significant value of its own, but it will also be used as a reference in the following chapters. Material dealing with pitch and keyboard compass is also included here, since both have frequently been discussed in connection with temperament issues. These fields have at times considered to be connected causally. The plausibility of this idea will, in the following chapters, be discussed against the background of the historical documents.

Tuning an organ was mainly a practical matter of a craftsman¹s circumstances and requirements. These are discussed in Chapter 5, "The tuning process: its technique and duration." Tuning technique depends on the positions of the pipes and the pipe material; it is discussed here together with an account of the various tuning devices and tools. External circumstances, such as pitch deviations due to temperature changes in the unheated rooms of the 17th and 18th centuries, greatly influenced the duration of the tuning session, and could be just as cumbersome as an unstable wind supply (or even just a 'living' one). To alter an organ from one temperament to another implies, as a rule, substantial mechanical intervention. Many pipes must be shortened and re-voiced. The duration of any proposed re-tempering

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would to a large degree depend on the exact makeups of both the starting temperament and the desired new temperament.

This duration can often be deduced from the payments to the bellows treaders. Their work during a tuning session was generally not part of their ordinary duties, so they received additional payments. The tuning sessions at the organs of the Marienkirche in Lübeck during the 17th and 18th centuries are very well documented. The appendix (section 11.1) presents the tuning-related entries in the accounts of the Marienkirche between 1622 and 1707 in full transcription. A careful analysis of these entries can be found in section 5.2. The evidence indicates that a re-tempering of the organs (which were used by Tunder and Buxtehude) cannot be assumed. The full significance of this fact is explored in Chapter 8.

The focus shifts to the Netherlands in Chapter 6, "A case study: tuning and temperament at the Hagerbeer/Schnitger organ of the Grote Sint Laurenskerk in Alkmaar." This chapter depicts the rebuilding of a large city organ, carried out in 1723­1725 by Arp Schnitger¹s son Frans Caspar Schnitger, which inspired criticism from some Dutch organists. Both, the organist in residence, Gerhardus Havingha, who favored the changes, and the opponents published extensively about their opinions during 1727. They agreed on almost nothing except for the advisable (and eventual) temperament of the organ: a meantone temperament with pure thirds. Even after the rebuilding, the organ retained this temperament, which can be considered to be the Dutch standard until the second half of the 18th century.

An important element in the contemporary accounts of the Alkmaar 'Orgelstreit' is the repeatedly stated connection between the temperament question and the usefulness of the organ when playing together with other instruments. The problem arose because of the variety of pitches in simultaneous use in North Germany and the Netherlands. If an organ did not correspond to the local pitch used by other instruments, the necessary transposing in ensemble playing was bound to cause conflicts. The Alkmaar opponents cited an example: when building his large organ for Zwolle a few years earlier, Frans Caspar Schnitger had tried to solve a similar problem by using a modified meantone temperament, but this had been criticized by the organists who inspected the organ. Since the Alkmaar organist Havingha (who was, as mentioned, an advocate of the reconstruction) had also been involved in the Zwolle dealings, it was feared that Schnitger would try a similar solution in Alkmaar (this fear turned out to be groundless). The conflicts between temperament and ensemble playing in Zwolle and Alkmaar highlight the position of the organ in musical practice.

Earlier in the 17th century the Alkmaar organ had been supplied with so-called sub-semitones. This particular feature and its spread in North Germany are discussed in Chapter 7, "Sub- semitones in North Germany and neighboring regions." Sub-semitones are extra keys that are added to the normal 12-note octave to expand the tonal possibilities allowed by a given temperament. Sub-semitones were used chiefly in Germany and Italy between the middle of the 15th century and the end of the 18th century. In Germany, the organ builder Gottfried Fritzsche used them for the first time in 1611 in the palace chapel organ of the influential Lutheran Dresden Residence. This happened at a time when meantone temperament was the general rule, and indeed, the presence of the sub-semitones is a certain indication that Fritzsche¹s organ was tuned in meantone. Fritzsche and his successors built organs with up to 16 notes per octave in, for example, the North German musical centers of Hamburg, Braunschweig, Wolfenbüttel, and Lübeck. Influential musicians and music writers like Michael Praetorius encouraged this trend, which gave the organs a larger supply of tones when used together with other instruments or singers. Again, this had to do with the various existing pitches of the organ and some instruments on one side, and singers, string instruments, and some other instruments on the other side. Remarkably, such organs can not

314

safely be connected with contemporary keyboard compositions. A special interest in the use of sub-semitones on the part of composers cannot be established.

The end of the use of sub-semitones is apparently linked to changing tonal demands on ensemble music. The trend towards a tonal system with major and minor modes with its more complex harmonic structures made the use of sub-semitones less and less practical, even if, towards the end of the 18th century, some voices still mourned the passing of the old system.

Chapter 7 ends with a chronological summary and an annotatedcatalogue of 22 organs with sub-semitones, built either in North Germany, by North German builders, or by builders who were influential in North Germany.

Chapter 8 is titled "Organ building in the large Hanseatic cities." Since we know that even in Hamburg and Lübeck, Fritzsche and his journeymen built sub-semitones into their organs, we can deduce that these organs were tuned in meantone at that time. For Hamburg we even have printed sources that describe a pure-third meantone temperament for all the organs, including the ones by Schnitger, up to 1730. In Bremen, too, meantone temperament is documented for the 1698 organ of the Bremer Dom.

In modern times, various hypotheses about a modified meantone well temperament being, in spite of written documentation and other indications suggesting that meantone temperament was used. Such hypotheses explained the existence of compositions by important organists, such as Tunder and Buxtehude in Lübeck, or Vincent Lübeck in Hamburg, which exceeded the scope of meantone temperament. For support, these hypotheses cited contemporary writings on the theory of temperaments.

A review of the material in the light of musical practice, however, shows an astonishingly clear picture: the demonstrable and probable temperaments of the organs did not allow for the performance of these compositions. Even the compasses of the important organs did not match the requirements of the pieces. Until now, surviving compositions have often been used to judge the original state of an organ, but there is a flaw in this logic. Strictly speaking, a specific piece should only be used to judge the original state of an organ if a performance of that piece on the organ in question can be independently established (problems related to providing positive proof of performances of organ repertoire are dealt with in Chapter 10). Of fundamental importance to modern thinking on this issue has been the supposition of close ties between Buxtehude, the organ builder Arp Schnitger, and Andreas Werckmeister. The proposed ties have been taken to indicate that the composer Buxtehude and the organ builder Schnitger approved of the well-tempered models and had applied them in their organs. In fact, closer investigation shows that the connections were not as close as has been supposed; that neither Schnitger nor Buxtehude made any remark in connection with Werckmeister; and that Werckmeister did not, in promoting his ideas, use Schnitger or Buxtehude as references.

These hypotheses, therefore, have no foundation in the history of organ building and must hence be rejected.

The previous chapters have demonstrated the close connection between organ temperament and ensemble intonation in musical practice. Additionally, Chapter 8 has shown that at least part of the compositional production of important organists could not be performed on these organists¹ own organs, or on most other organs of the same period. Chapter 9, "Ensemble intonation and organ temperament," shows how important authors on temperament questions connected their findings not with the performance of music specifically written for keyboard instruments, but rather with ensemble intonation. The discussion of the Alkmaar ³Orgelstreit² in Chapter 6, for example, shed already some light on this connection.

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In Chapter 9, the organ¹s function as an ensemble instrument is investigated. The pure intonation of all the intervals, requested by 17th and 18th authors, could not be achieved on the organ, where the best one could do was keep the number of tempered intervals to a minimum. If the history of the organ is seen from the perspective of ensemble intonation, a multifaceted picture emerges. Pythagorean temperament suited the ensemble intonation best, as long as ensembles consisted of two or three voices, with the tenor as the basis for ensemble intonation. When, in the 15th century, four voices became common, an increased use of thirds was inevitable. On the other hand, an increased use of thirds impairs the stability of the intonation. One consequence was the emergence of the bass foundation of the continuo, which served as a support for intonation. Until this point, the organ could keep up with the developments, and meantone-tempered organs did provide ensemble intonation with optimal interval quality.

From about the middle of the 17th century, however, tonal developments in ensemble music made the organ less and less compatible with pure ensemble intonation: the tonally limited meantone temperament left little room for distant keys (and these were often exactly the ones required, precisely because of the combined problems of pitch and transposition). On the other hand, neither the ever-expanding group of well temperaments, nor the even more frequently requested equal temperament, delivered the required pure intervals. As a consequence of this insoluble problem, the organ as a continuo instrument was gradually abandoned after about 1750.

Chapter 9 ends with a survey of various known temperaments and temperaments, evaluating them with regard to their usefulness in supporting intonation. It turns out that none of the well-tempered systems is preferable to another. In practice, the particular nature of a circular organ temperament has no importance for ensemble accompaniment. The contemporary tutors for string instruments, woodwind instruments, and singers make clear that temperament did not apply to the musicians of an ensemble: they were always to intonate as purely as possible. Hence, of necessity, in an ensemble accompanied by a well-tempered keyboard instrument, at least two systems of intonation will sound simultaneously. The situation can most appropriately be compared to an organ plenum: while an organ is tuned in one basic temperament, the mutation and mixture stops are all tuned in pure octaves, fifths, or major thirds above the fundamental note. Also here the organ resembles an ensemble. Chapter 10, "Outlook: Organ Repertoire, Improvisation, and Ensemble Intonation," deals with the function of the organ, the tasks of the organist, and repertoire playing. The material presented in the previous chapters has clarified why the meantone temperament with pure thirds survived so long in North Germany. In a few cases we even know about protests against the first re-tuning projects, which in fact came from the organists of large town churches. For playing in the services, meantone temperament was usually sufficient. The problems arose mainly during ensemble playing.

What then was the place of the repertoire? In fact, no single performance of what we today would call organ repertoire can be documented until around the middle of the 18th century. Werckmeister, of all people, in his Harmonologia Musica (1702; the dedication is by Buxtehude), rejects the playing of the so-called organ repertoire in public performances. Indeed, he was only one of many who explained that composed music should be used for study only. The training of organists, however, often did not take place on organs, but rather on stringed pedal instruments such as the pedal clavichord. The aim was not the development of interpretative skills, and a subsequent rendering of a Owork¹ at the organ, but rather the development of the skill to improvise in complex contrapuntal idioms ­ the skill to compose at the instrument.

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===>

The evidence from various sources from the 17th and 18th centuries can be summarized as follows: compositions were either not played at all on the organ, or at least, this would not have been regarded as professional or preferable. Until about 1750, professional organists did not perform their own or other composer¹s compositions on the organ. The playing of repertoire thus being irrelevant, it would not have mattered very much whether an organ had a compass or temperament that did not allow for performing a particular piece. In other w: the compositions do not indicate ³physical² features of the organs at a certain point in history.

The picture that finally emerges invites us to pose old questions anew, and adds a number of new ones:

­ How much do we know about the training of organists? ­ When were organs played or supposed to be played at all? ­How much of a performance was actually improvisation? Which performances of genuine organ pieces can be proven? ­ How common were stringed keyboard instruments, with or without a pedal, in organists¹ households? Which compasses were common in such instruments, and did they perhaps accommodate compasses in the pieces, which were not available in the organs?
­ Can the technical state of the organs chronology of the works of important organists?

­ What is the meaning of the registration indications in the sources? Are these true instructions, or rather indications as to the appropriate choice of registers when improvising in a similar genre?

­ How are historical organs to be restored? Is it legitimate, based on current interpretations of a selected group of compositions, to tune them in temperaments that are proven, or assumed, to be irrelevant for any point in the organ¹s history?

I do not intend to reject the current practice of repertoire performance. I do, however, want to draw attention to the fact that the various recognizable historical circumstances and the use of the organ then and now need not necessarily coincide; they need not even be compatible with each other. Today¹s performances of historical ³organ compositions² represent a legitimate practice with its own history. In the pedagogical context of the 17th or 18th centuries these pieces have a completely different function. The connection between ensemble intonation and organ temperaments has in modern times not merely been underestimated. Rather, it has been largely disregarded. Perhaps our present knowledge about performance practice and our accustomed habits have sometimes hampered or will to go to the bottom of the relationship between organ playing, the compositions, organ temperament, and ensemble music--or to see where these elements did not belong together. In fact, until now, historical performance practice for organs has perhaps been more like historical interpretation practice, to show how historical compositions can be performed on organs today. The relationship of organ temperament to almost all aspects of musical practice, however, makes it a key element of historical performance practice whenever ensemble playing is discussed.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 25, 2012):
The glorious chorale which closes this, the greatest cantata that Bach ever wrote,

Now that's a reg rag to a bull Doug,--just a tad controversial maybe??

Ralf Steen wrote (October 26, 2012):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< The glorious chorale which closes this, the greatest cantata that Bach ever wrote, >
I wouldn't exactly subscribe to "the greatest..." myself - though surely we could all consent to "one of the greatest", I believe.

I would be interested in discovering why Douglas considers BWV 140 his favourite, though. Maybe you could share some thoughts, Douglas? Ans which one would be your favourite recording?

Anthony Kozar wrote (October 26, 2012):
Charles Francis wrote:
< With regard to the query of Anthony Kozar, there are various retuning possibilities to consider.
[...]
Some ten years ago, I recall Thomas Braatz mentioning that he had not unearthed any receipts that would support retuning work during Bach's
Leipzig tenure. He also pointed me to contemporaneous reports whereby a single register would be retuned for ensemble accompaniment (recent musicological awareness of this practice was reported on group by Douglas Cowling).
[...]
So perhaps yet another thesis is needed, e.g., that Bach omitted problematic bass notes, thirds and fifths, which he only notated to avoid losing his way during performance? >
Thanks very much for all of this interesting information! And thanks to Doug for the English summary of the Ortgies dissertation. I found that especially interesting for his clear reasoning based on extant facts instead of indirect reasoning based on suppositions.

Nevertheless, the idea that no organ literature was performed in church (services?) seems hard to swallow. And I don't see why the organ "preluding" that I'm pretty sure is known to have occurred in church services would be much different than the literature that was written down in terms of harmonies, keys, etc.

The evidence that some instruments were altered to be bi-temperament (bi-tempermental?) is also extremely interesting and sounds like an excellent compromise to me. I am guessing that modern organ audiences and maybe many organists don't realize how much the change from meantone to equal temperament increased the "roughness" in the tone of the instrument.

A think your hypothesis that Bach (and other composers/organists) omitted problematic notes is very believable. Certainly, in my own experience as an accompanist, when I ran into a piano or organ with notes or stops that were "unacceptable", it was easiest to avoid them.

Well, thanks again for the interesting discussion.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 26, 2012):
Anthony Kozar wrote:
< Thanks very much for all of this interesting information! And thanks to Doug for the English summary of the Ortgies dissertation. I found that specially interesting for his clear reasoning based on extant facts instead of indirect reasoning based on suppositions. >
Hear, hear!

 

Cantata BWV 140: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

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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Last update: ýDecember 29, 2012 ý14:16:01