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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

Cantata BWV 206
Schleicht, spielende Wellen, und murmelt gelinde!
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of October 26, 2003

Neil Halliday wrote (October 27, 2003):
Title: "Schleicht, spielende Wellen, und murmelt gelinde"; but in the next line of the text, the unknown poet changes his mind, with "Nein, rauschet geschwinde..."

This secular cantata, written for the occasion of August II's birthday, contains enjoyable music from beginning to end.

It consists of opening chorus (with trumpets and timpani etc); four pairs of secco recitatives and adjoining arias, in the order B, T, A, S, respectively; an accompanied recitative (for S, mainly); and final chorus, making 11 movements in all.

I find the text to be forgettable - something about four rivers vying for the right to praise August etc, etc., but the music, especially in the rousing opening and closing choruses ,is well worth hearing.

Rilling's recording of this work [6] is very fine indeed, with choir, soloists and orchestra all performing flawlessly.

He redeems himself, in my estimation, with the performance style of the four long secco recitatives, in contrast with BWV 205, about which I commented negatively in this regard. Here we have the continuo cello (and double bass) tastefully playing the score as notated, decorated with pleasing improvisation of the figured bass, on the harpsichord.

The four vocal soloists - Schaefer(s), Danz(a), Olsen(t) and Volle (b) - are all exceptionally pleasing; Schaefer's strong, clear voice reminds me of Arleen Auger, and there are no objectionable vibratos in evidence from any of them.

I note that this recent recording of Rilling [6] is quite a bit faster than his earlier one (total time 38:33 c.f. 45:20), but here the music sounds lively rather than rushed (in BWV 205, I believe the opening chorus is too fast.) I have not heard Rilling's earlier recordings of these works [2].

Aryeh Oron wrote (October 27, 2003):
BWV 206 - Introduction

The chosen work for this week’s discussion (October 26, 2003) is the Dramma per Musica ‘Schleicht, spielende Wellen, und murmelt gelinde!’ (Glide, playful waves, and murmur gently!).

The commentasry below, quoted from the liner notes to the original issue of Rieu’s recording on Telefunken [1] (the name of the author is not mentioned), was contributed by Thomas Shepherd.

Schleicht, spielende Wellen
Kantate, BWV 206

Drama auf das Geburtsfest August III, Konig von Polen, Kurfurst von Sachsen,
am 7. Oktober (1733)

The "Dramma per musica" "Schleicht, spielende Wellen" is one of a series of cantatas of festivity and homage for the Saxon-Polish royal family, which Bach composed in the years 1733-35 and presumably performed with the members of his students' Collegium Musicum. The public concerts of this Collegium were one of the best attended and most richly traditioned features of Leipzig's musical life outside the churches. They were held nearly every week, in summer in Zimmermann's coffee garden before the gates of the town, in winter in the same proprietor's coffee house. On special occasions, most of all of course on festive days connected with the royal family, large-scale festive cantatas composed 'ad hoc' occupied the central place in the programmes. The ruling couple, if in residence at Leipzig, came to receive this homage in person, or the Town Council gave the events an official colouring by their presence. Such festive concerts were advertised in detail in the Leipzig newspapers as, for instance, "a solemn music with illuminations in Zimmermann's Garden". There is sure to have been no lack of audiences on these occasions.

"Schleicht, spielende Wellen" was composed for the birthday of the Elector Friedrich August III. (as King of Poland August III.) on the 7th October 1733. Two days previously the anniversary of the Prince's election as King of Poland had been celebrated in great splendour, likewise with a festive cantata (BWV 215) composed by Bach. The Elector was in residence at Leipzig at the time, together with his wife and the entire court, and thus it can be assumed that he attended both performances. Perhaps he was particularly pleased with the birthday cantata, for the composer performed it again three years later for the Elector's birthday or name day without any important changes and evidently did not incorporate any music from it into other vocal works< two facts are most unusual for Bach's mode of working in this field. A special preference on the part of the Elector for this work would be quite understandable, for it is one of the finest of Bach's festive cantatas, although its text (perhaps by the Leipzig cantata writer Henrici-Henrici-Picander) is no better than most of the devout rhymings of this genre. In accordance with the traditional formal scheme of such a "Dramma per musica" (which was, of course, a drama only in the sense of imaginary action and not performed on the stage), four allegorical characters investigate in a dispute which of them has the greatest claim to the ruler, the Polish Vistula, the Saxon Elbe, the Austrian Danube (the Electress was a daughter of the Emperor Joseph I.) or the Leipzig Pleisse, who finally mediates in the noble dispute and exhorts her sisters to jOill with one another to glorify the House of Princes.

Bach has endowed this undistinguished text with an overwhelming abundance of musical ideas that raise the work far above the occasion for which it was written, and even subsequently impart considerable dignity to the text. The conventional word imagery seems to be ennobled by the graphic power of Bach's musical language when the latter is set in action by the former, while the courtly occasion and dainty compliments of the less pic torial sections of the text have inspired the composer to an extraordinary unfolding of splendour and an elegance of thematic invention that reveal almost unaccustomed aspects of Bach's genius.

The opening chorus, thematically inspired by the play of the "creeping" ("schleichende") waves, presents the full festive orchestra of the baroque age with trumpets and timpani; it is followed, with intermittent recitative discussions, by the elegant, light, polonaise-like bass aria of the Vistula, the tenor aria of the Elbe in swaying 6/8 time with amazingly "Schubertian" melodic wave figures and the alto aria of the Danube accompanied by two oboes d'amore in strict canon (instruments and part-writing naturally symbolizing the marital love of the Princess from the Danube for her Saxon husband). Finally the Pleisse (soprano) speaks up, whose charm can be resisted just as little by the "mossy heads of mighty streams" as by the modern listener; in its instrumentation (3 flutes and continuo) and melodic character this aria forms the enchanting climax of the entire score. In the jubilant 12/8 dance of the final chorus the dispute is closed in perfect harmony and with respectful bow to "His Serene Highness August"; as firmly as the fame of the ruler stands the radiant tonic key of D major, from which the arias had departed in a carefully planned sequence of keys minor, F sharp minor and G major with resplendent emphasis.

Recordings

I am aware of 7 complete recordings of this cantata, all but one (Rilling’s 1st [2]) are available in CD form. The recordings are listed at the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website (BCW): Cantata BWV 206 - Recordings

Additional Information

In the page of complete recordings mentioned above you can also find links to useful complementary information:
a. Original German text and various translations, two of which were contributed by members of the BCM: English (Francis Browne) and French (Jean-Pierre Grivois).
b. Score from BGA Edition (temporary not available).
c. Commentaries: in English by Simon Crouch (Listener’s Guide) and James Leonard (AMG), and in Spanish by Julio Sánchez Reyes (CantatasDeBach).

I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion. Only 7 cantatas (1 sacred, 6 secular), including this one, remained to be discussed in the BCML!

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 9, 2003):
BWV 206 - Background

The commentary below, quoted from the liner notes to the issue of Rilling’s first recording on the American label Nonesuch (originated from the German label Cantate) [2], was written by Alfred Dürr (translated from the German and adapted by Jason Farrow).

As director of the Leipzig Collegium Musicum, Johann Sebastian Bach, in the years between 1729 and 1740 (with a brief interruption), presided over much lively musical activity, whose considerable extent and importance recent research has only lately begun to delineate (e.g., Werner Neumann in the Bach-Jahrbuch for 1960). The Collegium celebrated the personal and political festivities of the Saxon nobility with performances of cantatas-and a high point in their endeavours occurred when the Elector himself appeared in Leipzig and was the recipient of the students' musical offering.

To such an occasion Bach's cantata Schleicht, spielende Wellen owes its origin. As the text makes clear, the poem was originally intended for the birthday of August III in 1734. But the composition and performance of the cantata was apparently held up for at least two years when an unexpected visit of the Elector to Leipzig, on the anniversary of his succession to the throne and shortly before his birthday, dictated a change of plans (resulting in the performance of the cantata Preise dein Glücke, gesegnetes Sachsen, BWV 215).

The work is described as a "Dramma per musica". In the course of the "action", three rivers present themselves as the representatives of their respective lands, the fourth river representing the city of Leipzig: the Vistula (Poland), the Elbe (Saxony) , the Danube (Austria-Maria Josepha, the wife of August Ill, was an Austrian princess), and the Pleisse (Leipzig) .The Vistula, Elbe, and Danube all lay claim to the ruler in behalf of their own lands. In the end the Pleisse settles the controversy: she asserts that, although the Danube certainly may honour the royal couple, he must abandon any real claim upon him in favour of the other rivers; the Vistula and Elbe must then take their turns in basking in the presence of the sovereign. Heavy hearts unite the rivers at this judgement, and they join forces in a musical tribute to August.

The opening chorus presents an extremely inventive musical picture of the rushing floods, with a dramatic contrast effected between the words "murmelt gelinde" ("quietly murmur") and "nein, rauschet geschwinde" ("no, rush swiftly"). In the middle section, all constraint is abandoned, and the chorus floods on in a joyous allegro to the accompaniment of woodwinds and strings.

A secco recitative leads to the bass aria "Schleuss des Janustempels Türen" ("Close the temple doors of Janus”), commenting on the recent resolution of chaotic affairs in Poland. The dance-like movement is accompanied by strings, with the first violin standing out in concerto fashion.

With the following tenor recitative and arioso, the Elbe comes into the picture. The ensuing aria takes on a virtuoso character owing to the demanding obbligato violin part. The projection of the "precious" name "August" is effected by the interplay of tenor and solo violin. No less charming is the picture of the swelling and resounding floods in the extended coloraturas of the middle section.

The next recitative marks the entrance of the Danube. Her aria, which sings of the royal origin of the Elector's wife, strikes a festive note with two obbligato oboes. Finally the Pleisse appears, with a secco recitative and an aria accompanied by three flutes, whose very "concord" encourages agreement among the characters - an inventive use of such unusual instrumentation.

Afterward, the first three rivers proclaim, in a joint recitative, their common will and leave it to Pleisse to introduce the final laudatory chorus. This closing chorus, in the character of a gigue, is cast-as is common in Bach's music for such celebrations-in rondo form: the opening section is twice repeated, the intervening sections providing highly effective contrast. In the first interlude the trumpets are silent, and in the second only the soprano and alto sing above a "bass" of violins and viola - so as to render the final appearance of the first theme all the more effective.

Recordings

During last two weeks I have been listening to 7 complete recordings of Cantata BWV 206:
[1] André Rieu (1963)
[2] Helmuth Rilling (1st recording, mid 1960’s)
[4] Peter Schreier (1979-1981)
[5] Frieder Bernius (1990)
[6] Helmuth Rilling (2nd recording, 1994)
[7] Ton Koopman (1996)
[8] Reinhard Goebel (1996)

Personal Viewpoint

Couple of weeks ago we discussed the topic of how to introduce people to Bach. I wrote as follows:
“Background is important, but not the most important factor. Love for music in general (any kind of music) and open mind are the two basic factors, necessary to turn somebody without real familiarity with Bach's music into Bach's lover. From my experience I have learnt that almost any piece of Bach's music can do the job, given that it is heard couple of times in a raw.”

Cantata BWV 206 supplies another proof to this claim. Almost every movement in this cantata, which includes recitative and aria for each voice, is a gem. Picander’s libretto gave Bach much scope for word tone-painting of nature and water, as almost every movement has its own distinctive wave motif. The lavish orchestration is another mean, which Bach uses with his usual dexterity to paint each river differently. However, I found that the most captivating of all movements is the aria for alto (Mvt. 7): ‘Reis von Habsburgs hohem Stamme’ (Shoot from the high trunk of the Habsburgs). You would hardly guess it from the various commentaries, so you have to believe me when I say that this aria is simply irresistible. The two oboes d’amore, accompanying the singer carry her along this long aria, express love and admiration for the Queen. Their joy-motif includes a lightly rolling wave rhythm in its melody. Not the first time that the Danube gets the best part, is it?

Short Review of the Recordings

I am aware that I am in a delay regarding the weekly cantata reviews. Due to the high quality of Cantata BWV 206, I wanted to listen several times to each one of the recordings in its entirety. The length of this cantata (about 40 minutes), the number of recordings (7), and the fact that I have had several rounds of listening to all the recordings, resulted in many pleasurable hours with this cantata. Do not get me wrong. I do not regret of any minute of it. On the contrary, I feel sorry that I have to separate from this wonderful work, no recording of which can be considered as disappointing or even less than satisfactory.

Regarding the aria for alto, I enjoyed all the singers, both contraltos and counter-tenors. Wilhelmine Mattès, who sings the aria with Rieu [1] and the first to record it, has a dark voice, but her singing is smooth and clean and definitely not heavy. Margarethe Bence (with Rilling, 1st recording [2]), whose voice is as dark as Mattès, proves that this aria keeps being charming even when itis sung very s-l-o-w (7:53 against about 6 minutes of most other recordings). Carolyn Watkinson’s (with Schreier) [4] voice is a little bit unstable, but her intelligence and understanding of the idiom makes you forgetting any fault that might be found in her singing. Michael Chance was in good form when he recorded this aria (with Bernius) [5], and so was the much younger Axel Köhler (with Goebel) [8], with lighter and very flexible voice. Ingeborg Danz (with Rilling, 2nd recording [6]) and Elisabeth von Magnus (Koopman) [7] can be considered as mezzo-sopranos rather than a contraltos. Yet their voices sound well-suited to this aria. So wonderful is the material that each singer finds his/her way to bring out the beauties embodied in this aria.

Another point I would like to single out is the surprising similarity between the interpretations of Rilling (in his 2nd recording [6]) and Koopman [7]. Not only the tempos are relatively brisk, but is seems that they accentuate the same places and put attention to similar details. The sharp entry of the trumpets in the opening chorus is only one example.

Conclusion

I know that I might sound as if I am repeating myself when I ask you not let yourselves skipping this splendid work of art. I have uploaded Music Examples of the aria for alto (Mvt. 7) from 6 recordings of BWV 206. See: Cantata BWV 206 - Music Examples
After you listen to them all I would like to see you trying to erase this aria from your memory. I could not! And please write your impressions Although I would prefer staying with this cantata a little bit longer, I have to force myself moving to the next one in the raw: BWV 209.

John Pike wrote (November 12, 2003):
Some months ago, I ordered Volume 5 in the Bach 2000 Edition, Teldec. It has just arrived. It is a very handy box set of 11 CDs covering all the secular cantatas and various incomplete sacred cantatas which were not included in the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt "Complete" Cantata cycle in 10 volumes....very useful to those who have the Leonhardt/Harnoncourt cycle but are missing the secular cantatas and the incomplete secular ones.I have listened to 2 CDs so far, and initial impressions are very good. The recording of Canatata BWV 206 is the one by Andre Rieu [1] with the Monteverdi Choir, Hamburg and The Amsterdam Chamber Orchestra, with soloists Jacobeit, Mattes, Brand and Villisech. It is a fine recording. I entirely agree with Aryeh that this is a gem of a work...every movement is a real joy.

 

BWV 206 and MAK.: 'long' accompaniment

Neil Halliday wrote (May 10, 2004):
I heard this 1996 recording tonight, and discovered that R. Goebel [8] employs long accompaniment (as notated) in the secco recitatives. Very musical and enjoyable. (As noted by contributors to the discussion of this cantata, BWV 206 is an absolute gem).

I had intended to comment on the strange situation of Rilling (modern instruments) using short accompaniment and MAK (period instruments) using long accompaniment, but I discovered this is one of the few cases in Rilling's recent secular cantata recordings' set where he (Rilling) does in fact also use long accompaniment. (Before about 1985, Rilling virtually always used long accompaniment in the cantatas, but changed to short accompaniment for most of the recent secular cantata set).

Anyway, perhaps some period groups (eg MAK) are beginning to see the light....

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 10, 2004):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< I heard this 1996 recording tonight, and discovered that R. Goebel [8] employs long accompaniment (as notated) in the secco recitatives. Very musical and enjoyable. (As noted by contributors to the discussion of this cantata, BWV 206 is an absolute gem). >
Any chance they're doing this as an especially flowing special effect (word-painting), as those recitatives are dialogue among four different rivers, each proclaiming things about their monarchs? (I like the way it sounds, too, by the way.)

The notes are not uniformly long, or uniformly anything, but it all "goes with the flow" of the drama and the subject matter. Some of the notes are played long, some are short: it's that flexibility that makes the whole thing so expressive. And Christian Rieger's (the harpsichordist's) improvisations in there are very good, too. Obviously he's reacting to the needs of each moment, and on to the next.

That is: the whole continuo team is playing by listening instead of merely following any restrictive instructions from a page; and they're allowing some of the notes to be long as a valid option, and others to be short as another equally valid option.

That is: they're playing music, thinking and feeling about the meaning of the composition as they go along, to give the performance a focus and flow: as good musicians do. If they performed the same piece again on four different days, they might make those passages different in some ways; so what? Every occasion is different. Each individual performance has to have coherence, and it's the practice of listening during the performance that gives it that coherence.

Didn't we have a similar discussion before, with regard to the recitatives in cantata BWV 82, last September? See about halfway down the page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV82-D2.htm

Charles Francis wrote (May 10, 2004):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< I heard this 1996 recording tonight, and discovered that R. Goebel [8] employs long accompaniment (as notated) in the secco recitatives. Very musical and enjoyable. (As noted by contributors to the discussion of this cantata, BWV 206 is an absolute gem). >
Seems I may need to revise my opinion about Mr Goebel [8]. Who is going to see the light next, I wonder? Harnoncourt, perhaps?

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 10, 2004):
< Seems I may need to revise my opinion about Mr Goebel [8]. Who is going to see the light next, I wonder? Harnoncourt, perhaps? >
It's too late for that pedantic bit of criticism from his irresponsible hecklers. Harnoncourt has already been using lengthened notes (i.e. a dynamic variety of note-lengths, as the music goes along) since at least as early as 1988, i.e. 16 years ago in May 1988, in his recording of the secular cantatas BWV 208 and BWV 212.

Sometimes two or three notes are connected with legato in the bass line, and sometimes there are individual notes with varying amounts of space between them: all going by the meaning of the words and the musical figures, reacting to the singer's delivery. That's what Bach's notation means (do something intelligent using these bass notes and sketched harmonies, to accompany the singer), and that's what these fine musicians play. Harnoncourt knows this basic musical technique from conducting operas and other dramatic works by many other fine composers, along with Bach's music. His keyboard player, Herbert Tachezi, also knows how to do his job as an improviser.

Not that Harnoncourt's approach was ever stiff, unyielding, or unintelligent before that, anyway; he merely gets "bad press" from a small band of self-appointed critics here who don't think he can do anything right, and who don't mind giving distorted reports of his work just to make him look bad.

Of course, such current information as an event of 16 years ago (the 5/88 recording of BWV 208 and BWV 212) would not be known to those who dismiss the work of fine musicians outright instead of listening to it. But that says more about sprejudiced critics than about the music, or about the outstanding musicians who do the work.

Johan van Veen wrote (May 10, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] For some people the whole issue seems to be a matter of 'either ... or' with nothing in between.

Over the years I heard many performances in which sometimes the bass notes were played short, and sometimes were held. What else would one expect from musicians who think about what they are going to do?

And how pathetic to change your opinion on someone's performances on the basis of the way the bass notes are played. As if nothing else happens. I still can't figure out why some on this list are totally obsessed with the realisation of the basso continuo.

Some say that obsessions are a feature of highly gifted. I have my doubts...

Neil Halliday wrote (May 11, 2004):
Bradley Lehman writes:
"Not that Harnoncourt's approach was ever stiff, unyielding, or unintelligent before that, anyway"
I have to differ from this view; from my experience with the sacred cantatas, the HIP examples (including Harnoncourt) are almost all unyieldingly short, as in the Koopman example [7] I gave a link to recently.

Perhaps part of the reason for this is that the HIP practioners all felt they could only use organ (invariably tiny chamber organs with limited 'palettes' and trite figuresd bass realisations), and were not able to explore longer (cello) accompaniment with harpsichord arpeggiation of the figured bass, as in this MAK secular cantata example.

I'm surprised some people seem unable to acknowledged this. If Harnoncourt has decided, like Goebel in the case of BWV 206 [8], to imitate what Rilling had done years previously [2], with harpsichord in the sacred cantatas, then this is certainly a welcome development. But I note the Hrnoncourt example you allude are also a secular cantatas.

I suppose this means we lovers of the sacred cantatas will still be denied this welcome development.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 11, 2004):
"Perhaps part of the reason for this is that the HIP practitioners all felt they could only use organ..."
(in the sacred cantatas), and certainly use of the organ, with its unvarying sustaining tone (coupled with unvarying cello/violone tone), may be more likely to run into the problem that Niedt spoke of, when he warned (if memory serves me) of the continuo sounding like a "rattling old mill-wheel". [Niedt, writing in the 18th century, used this as an argument for short accompaniment, thereby seeming to deny the possibility of musicians doing something musically intelligent in the context of long accompaniment, and tossing the baby out with the bathwater, in my view).

However, there are plently of (non-HIP) examples of long accompaniment with organ which are quite attractive, when intelligence, artistry and musicality are present.

My question now is, are there any HIP examples of long accompaniment, with either harpsichord or organ, in the sacred cantatas. It would indeed be strange if this relatively recent Harnoncourt/Goebel [8] use of long accompaniment is to be restricted to the secular cantatas.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 11, 2004):
"My question now is, are there any HIP examples of long accompaniment, with either harpsichord or organ, in the sacred cantatas?"
It seems Brad has pointed to one (Kuijken) or possibly two (Parrott) examples of HIP long accompaniment, for BWV 82, at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV82-D2.htm
(under the heading; "Some longer notes in recitative of BWV 82."

Any more? Only two examples in the whole recorded discography of the sacred cantatas?

Johan van Veen wrote (May 11, 2004):
Bradley Lehman writes:
"Not that Harnoncourt's approach was ever stiff, unyielding, or unintelligent before that, anyway"
Neil Halliday wrote:: < I have to differ from this view; from my experience with the sacred cantatas, the HIP examples (including Harnoncourt) are almost all unyieldingly short, as in the Koopman example
[7] I gave a link to recently. >
May I conclude from this that for you "short" implies "stiff, unyielding, or unintelligent"?

Neil Halliday wrote (May 11, 2004):
Johan van Veen wrote:
"May I conclude from this that for you "short" implies "stiff, unyielding, or unintelligent"?
In the context of the highly instrumental nature of Bach's cantatas, in which the vocal line(s) fit seamlessly into the wonderful variety of the instrumental writing, "short" for me implies an extreme and unyielding method, one that is incompatible with the concept of a 'musically intelligent' treatment of the continuo.

I know of a few instances where, for dramatic effect, the accompaniment may be drastically shortened, but such instances are the exception rather than the rule; 'short', when used as a general method, invariably quickly becomes uninteresting, IMO. (The poetry in the recitatives is no more or less striking than that in the choruses, chorales and arias - not to mention the 'accompanied' recitatives! - and I can see no reason for the vocalist to be suddenly required to carry the argument largely unaccompanied (or accompanied by often widely placed and unattractive 'stabs' at chords) - an impossible task, which nearly always fails as music, IMO.

Hence my pleasure in the alternative approach (to 'unyielding' short accompaniment) which Goebel has adopted in BWV 206 [8].

Johan van Veen wrote (May 11, 2004):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< In the context of the highly instrumental nature of Bach's cantatas, in which the vocal line(s) fit seamlessly into the wonderful variety of the instrumental writing, "short" for me implies an extreme and unyielding method, one that is incompatible with the concept of a 'musically intelligent' treatment of the continuo. >
Could you explain, please, how you define 'musically intelligent'? Is that anything else then what you like?

< I know of a few instances where, for dramatic effect, the accompaniment may be drastically shortened, but such instances are the exception rather than the rule; 'short', when used as a general method, invariably quickly becomes uninteresting, IMO. (The poetry in the recitatives is no more or less striking than that in the choruses, chorales and arias - not to mention the 'accompanied' recitatives! - and I can see no reason for the vocalist to be suddenly required to carry the argument largely unaccompanied (or accompanied by often widely placed and unattractive 'stabs' at chords) - an impossible task, which nearly always fails as music, IMO. >
That is your very personal opinion. I have nothing against 'long held' notes in the bass when there is any historical fondation to practice that. The main point is whether it allows the singer to adapt the right amount of declamation and treat the recitative as a form of speech. You may like the recitative to be sung, I like it rather to be spoken, and I believe this is in line with the character of the recitative. What I have read about the recitative in the 18th century points into the direction of a free treatment of the rhythm according to the requirement of the text. I think the 'short notes' in the bass accompaniment give more opportunity to do that than when the notes are held.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 11, 2004):
Johan van Veen wrote:
"Could you explain, please, how you define 'musically intelligent'
Imagination and artistry, as presented by musicians.

If the musicians (in this case, continuo) aren't doing anything much at all, according to some rigid formula (short accompaniment), the possiblities for the display of artistry and imagination are somewhat limited. Is this a matter of personal opinion?

<"The main point is whether it allows the singer to adapt the right amount of declamation and treat the recitative as a form of speech. You may like the recitative to be sung, I like it rather to be spoken, and I believe this is in line with the characterof the recitative">.
You have probably hit the nail on the head, here. We have different expectations of a recitative - as you say, I want it to sung, or in other words, to be music like the rest of the cantata. (Why should there be such a clear division between 'accompanied' and 'secco' recitatives, that results from the treatment of the latter as "speech"?)

<"What I have read about the recitative in the 18th century points into the direction of a free treatment of the rhythm according to the requirement of the text. I think the 'short notes' in the bass accompaniment give more opportunity to do that than when
the notes are held">.
I have no problem with the vocalist 'directing' the motion of the recitative, but intelligent and capable instrumentalists can judge when a singer is about to arrive at that point in the text where they (the musicians) can be required/or it is appropriate to improvise new material.

Thanks for explaining your point of view.

Johan van Veen wrote (May 11, 2004):
Johan van Veen wrote:
<< "Could you explain, please, how you define 'musically intelligent' >>
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Imagination and artistry, as presented by musicians. >
I agree, but I don't think these qualities can be objectively stated. I recognize a lot of imagination in a 'short accompaniment' which you will assess negatively.

< If the musicians (in this case, continuo) aren't doing anything much at all, according to some rigid formula (short accompaniment), the possiblities for the display of artistry and imagination are somewhat limited. Is this a matter of personal opinion? >
Yes, apparently, since I don't agree. I think coming up with the right chords at the right time, not only giving the singer the support he needs but also illustrating the text requires a great amount of artistry and imagination. The assessment of the 'short accompaniment' as nothing more than following a "rigid formula" is a distortion of the truth. Why would the basso continuo practice be such an important part of the musical education of keyboard players (and others) if it was just a matter of playing the right chords according to a rigid formula? Do you need an extensive musical education for that?

JvV: << "The main point is whether it allows the singer to adapt the right amount of declamation and treat the recitative as a form of speech. You may like the recitative to be sung, I like it rather to be spoken, and I believe this is in line with the character of the recitative">>.
NH: < You have probably hit the nail on the head, here. We have different expectations of a recitative - as you say, I want it to sung, or in other words, to be music like the rest of the cantata. (Why should there be such a clear division between 'accompanied' and 'secco' recitatives, that results from the treatment of the latter as "speech"?) >
Why should there be no clear division between 'secco' and 'accompanied' recitative? If they should be performed exactly the same way, then why would composers bother to write both? Wouldn't it me more practical and simple to choose just one of them?

JvV: "What I have read about the recitative in the 18th century points into the direction of a free treatment of the rhythm according to the requirement of the text. I think the 'short notes' in the bass accompaniment give more opportunity to do that than when the notes are held".
NH: < I have no problem with the vocalist 'directing' the motion of the recitative, but intelligent and capable instrumentalists can judge when a singer is about to arrive at that point in the text where they (the musicians) can be required/or it is appropriate to improvise new material. >
But it seems to me a lot more difficult when the notes are held. That is why I believe that notes should only be held for specific reasons, to underline some words or phrases, or to distinguish a part of the recitative from the preceding and following parts.

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 206: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements| Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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: ýOctober 14, 2013 ý13:58:46