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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 43
Gott fähret auf mit Jauchzen
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

BWV 43 - Chorale

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (June 3, 2003):
The final chorale of BWV 43, "Ermuntre dich, mein schwacher Geist", I find puzzling. The harmony, voice-leading, and meter seem very little like other Bach chorale settings. There is also the matter of the odd trumpet arrangement, without drums, and also in the wrong key for the C trumpets. I suspect, therefore, that this chorale may have been borrowed by Bach from a different author, like the closing chorale of BWV 27 (a 5-part setting of "Welt, ade, ich bin dein müde" by Johann Rosenmüller).

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 3, 2003):
[To Alex Riedlmayer] Bach set the same chorale melody (4 pt.) now appearing as "Nun lieget alles unter dir" in the Ascension Oratorio BWV 11/6 where it appears in the same 3/4 meter as in BWV 43/11.

The chorale melody appears also in the Christmas Oratorio BWV 248/12 where the text is the famous "Brich an, o schönes Morgenlicht" [Break forth, o heavenly light] and the meter is 4/4.

Regarding the trumpet part for the final chorale, Dürr in the NBA KB 1/12 indicates that it could not be one of the 3 trumpets from the 1st mvt. This leaves the possibility that it was a tromba da tirarsi. This is confirmed by the Csibas in their "Die Blechblasinstrumente in J. S. Bachs Werken" (Kassel, 1994) who give this part to a tromba da tirarsi in G major (the original part {the c. f.} is notated as it sounds) and have the tromba II in C play the alto part (also notated as it sounds.) The 1st tromba does not play along; presumably this player switched instruments to the tromba da tirarsi in G major. This seems to be a reasonable solution to the problem with the parts. [Dürr, in desperation, suggested the possibility that the 1st tromba player switched to play the c. f. on the violin --following the model of Bach's father and the fact that Gottfried Reiche was also a 'Stadtpfeiffer' who could presumably play both instruments.

I don't believe that Bach borrowed from a different composer here as he did in that remarkable Rosenmüller setting in BWV 27. I can't remember seeing another cantata where Bach borrowed the setting directly as he did in that cantata.

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (June 3, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Bach set the same chorale melody (4 pt.) now appearing as "Nun lieget alles unter dir" in the Ascension Oratorio BWV 11/6 where it appears in the same 3/4 meter as in BWV 43/11. >
Not quite the same - note the peculiar accent in bars 6-7 (BWV 43/11).

As for the 2nd trumpet in C, the alto part is rather too low for an instrument without valves or slides.

< I don't believe that Bach borrowed from a different composer here' as he did in that remarkable Rosenmüller setting in BWV 27. I can't remember seeing another cantata where Bach borrowed the setting directly as he did in that cantata. >
Although the chorale has not been traced, there was a lot of borrowing in the 1726 cycle, which includes both BWV 43 and BWV 27.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 3, 2003):
[To Alex Riedlmayer] I agree with Alex' observation here: stylistically, this chorale setting looks to me like something from the late 16th or early 17th century. Like the work of Melchior Vulpius, or Jakob Handl (Jacobus Gallus), or somebody like that. This chorale setting is in an earlier style than the chorales in Samuel Scheidt's Goerlitz collection (1650).

It's the bass leaps, and the harmony being almost always in root position (those two observations being nearly equivalent); Bach and Scheidt both tend to be smoother than this, with more passing tones and inversions, and more sevenths.

And contrapuntally: those direct fifths (alto and tenor) at the hemiola of "einen schweren Krieg"...again, rare for Bach. They're not parallel fifths, but Bach doesn't use direct fifths or parallel fifths very often. (And then it's in his own earliest works, as he's still learning the craft: the B-flat Capriccio, the "Neumeister" chorales, ....) This too argues for an older style, probably somebody earlier than Bach.

Anybody have a copy of Jahn handy to check out the history of this chorale?

=====

There's a funeral anthem (for chorus and orchestra) by G F Händel that's going along normally, and suddenly has a page where he quotes directly from a motet by his namesake, Jakob Handl. Really startling. I was playing in a performance of it last year, and the conductor pointed this section out to us in rehearsal: he had us perform that page like 16th century music (which it is--those wild Renaissance rhythms!) to emphasize the contrast with the rest of the piece. It made G F Händel sound extremely modern by comparison: which he was.

It's approximately the same time differential as Brahms writing piano variations on a harpsichord piece by Händel; or, a few years earlier, Brahms' "Sarabande and Gavotte in the Style of Bach." Clara Schumann responded to this by giving Brahms a Christmas gift: the new first volume of the Bach-Gesellschaft, ten Bach cantatas.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 3, 2003):
Alex Riedlmayer responded to my comment::
<< Bach set the same chorale melody (4 pt.) now appearing as "Nun lieget alles unter dir" in the Ascension Oratorio BWV 11/6 where it appears in the same 3/4 meter as in BWV 43/11. > >
AR: "Not quite the same - note the peculiar accent in bars 6-7 (BWV 43/11).
TB: A very possible reason for this is the text itself as the verses of a chorale are not always perfect copies of the original chorale melody or the 1st verse of the text of a chorale. Extra syllables keep popping up here and there. Bach, not leaving anything to chance, makes a very specific, not entirely unique, choice with the syncopation that you point out. This type of distribution of rhythm was common in the 1st half of the 17th century. Look at the original, unmodified version of Praetorius' "Es ist ein Reis entsprungen!" Samuel Scheidt's "Görlitzer Tabulaturbuch" (1650) has numerous examples of this older rhythm that became more and more standardized in the hymnbooks that Bach used in Leipzig (mainly quarter notes in 4/4 time.)

AR: "As for the 2nd trumpet in C, the alto part is rather too low for an instrument without valves or slides."
TB: The Csibas have tromba II (a tromba in C) playing in addition to the tromba tirarsi in G (the c.f. part.) The tromba II in BWV 43/11 plays the notes that are written as they sound: F# (1) - the number indicates the distance from middle C; g a b c(2) c# d d# e f# g = the notes to be played which are all playable on such an instrument and need not sound like some of the tromba players heard on the earlier HIP recordings.


TB: >>I don't believe that Bach borrowed from a different composer here' as he did in that remarkable Rosenmüller setting in BWV 27. I can't remember seeing another cantata where Bach borrowed the setting directly as he did in that cantata.<<
AR: "Although the chorale has not been traced, there was a lot of borrowing in the
1726 cycle, which includes both BWV 43 and BWV 27."
I do not see any evidence of that Bach copied this 4-pt setting (BWV 43/11.) It sounds like Bach, although he is using an older form of notation and perhaps a different, older version of the chorale melody. He could rely on his choir to sing the chorale this way, but perhaps not the congregation. Bach possessed a book, or is it books, that contained a very large collection of chorale melodies. Certainly, he would have found this choralmelody in this meter. I have no way of checking this against the contemporary hymnbooks that Bach may have (been forced to) use(d.) It could be quite possible that the meter of the hymn was changed to a standard 4/4. I know that I have heard "Es is ein Ros entsprungen" performed this way because the notion is that it is simpler to sing than with the older form of meter with syncopation (but, unfortunately, the charm of the original has been extricated by this process.)

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 3, 2003):
< Anybody have a copy of Jahn handy to check out the history of this chorale? >
That's Otto Jahn's Gesammelte aufsätze über musik, but an easier book to find would be John Julian's A dictionary of hymnology.

I see there's also a microfilm of Andreas Creutzberger that might be useful: Melodien-Concordanz : worinn 2072. Lieder aus verschiedenen Gesangbüchern zusammen getragen und unter ihre gehörigen Geschlechter und Arten gebracht worden : auf alle Gesangbücher eingerichtet und zur Beförderung der Andacht und des Vergnügens. Zullichau: In Verlegung des Waysenhauses : bey Joh. Jac. Dendeler, 1755.

And two other promising-looking leads listed in Duckles (along with the Julian):

- RISM, Das Deutsche Kirchenlied (DKL): kritische Gesamtausgabe der Melodien herausgegeben von Konrad Ameln, Markus Jenny und Walther Lipphardt. Kassel: Baerenreiter, 1975-80. (RISM, series B, part VIII, 1-2) That's a chronological list of all traceable sources of German hymns that contain at least one melody in musical notation.

- Wackernagel, Philipp: Das deutschen Kirchenlied von der aeltesten Zeit bis zu Anfang des 17. Jahrhunderts. Leipzig: Teubner, 1864-1877, 5 volumes.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 3, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< I do not see any evidence of that Bach copied this 4-pt setting (BWV 43/11.) It sounds like Bach, although he is using an older form of notation and perhaps a different, older version of the chorale melody. >
Alex' point, with which I agree, is that it does NOT sound like Bach.

Neither does it "feel like Bach" in the fingers when played through, compared with the other 370 Bach chorales in Riemenschneider...but I'm sure that form of assessment (what it feels like in my fingers) is too unscientific to convince many people. This one is at #102 in Riemenschneider. The more familiar Bach harmonization of this chorale
(from the XmasO) is at #9 and #361.

If this (in 43/11) really was original Bach, he was deliberately using a style from 100+ earlier...right down to the root motion and the direct fifths that I pointed out. That internal compositional evidence (even if there isn't a historical record to say so, one way or another) suggests that he copied it from somewhere old, or else he set out to make a clever stylistic forgery. Writing a cantata quickly, which explanation seems more likely?

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 5, 2003):
BWV 43 chorale, and Basso, and knuckleballs, and NBA

[To Thomas Braatz] Tom, even if you don't trust Alberto Basso's work (evidently in the same manner that some people don't trust your work), that doesn't automatically mean that everything he says is wrong. Even a notably haphazard researcher might be accurate about something once in a while (and I'm not saying that I think that of Basso, necessarily...).

If you don't trust Basso's connection between the Christoph Peter harmonization and Bach, go check out the standard reference books about German chorales, the ones I mentioned here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/5283
to see if he's wrong or right. Do some scholarly work, check his tracks. Prove or disprove the hypothesis itself instead of simply knocking at the guy who presented it (which ad hominem gesture proves nothing). Check the Peter source itself, if it's available!

That is, it's not good enough (not even close) to simply say Basso's work is "notably unreliable", as if that adds any substance to your own hypothesis about the music, or as if that closes the discussion of the point. I say "Tom Braatz' research is notably unreliable, especially in the area of performance practices" all the time, but that observation itself doesn't prove any of the points under discussion.

Knuckleballs do sometimes go through the strike zone, or get the batter out even without going through the strike zone; hurrah for Jim Bouton. And I think a "knuckleball" approach in performance of music is a wonderful way to play; but that approach doesn't belong in research, musicological science! The chaotic knuckleball stuff is the art that can sometimes trump the science...it lets the right side of the brain do its job. Thoughts about that: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/why.htm

But back to the science. Tom, I'm wary of your assumption (which you use all the time) that the editors of NBA are automatically right about everything, or even have the most up-to-date scholarship. For example, in the Summer 2002 issue of JAMS, David Schulenberg reviewed three of the recent keyboard volumes and pointed out substantial problems in all of them (especially with regard to variant readings in the sources, variants not shown thoroughly enough in the KB). As Schulenberg points out, Smend's goal at the beginning of NBA compilation was to put together one 'true' 'best' reading of each composition; but some pieces have so many variants from Bach and his circle, that notion of 'best' is an arbitrary modern choice. Once a piece has been composed, it takes on a life of its own and accretes further ideas (some from the composer himself); who's to say what is best, either musically or philologically?

And the details from different sources are mixed together to form a reading that never (as such) existed in Bach's lifetime; that's what a conflationary edition (such as the NBA or Musica Britannica) does as editorial policy. That's a minefield.

And I have a theory of my own (now two years old already, but still brewing) about one of those Bach keyboard works, a hypothesis that editor Wollny and reviewer Schulenberg both don't mention. Neither did Robert Marshall in an especially prominent essay. When I get more time to check things out, I'm planning to contact Schulenberg to run my idea by him: a place where I believe Wollny's (and Heinz Lohmann's) editorial choices treat some of the most important sources as the least important. What we really need to see is a facsimile or clean edition of those "unimportant" sources themselves, not just a dismissal by a modern editor. (The editorial thinking by Lohmann and Wollny appears to have been: "Oh, those two sources over there are in the wrong key, and fragmentary, therefore they must be corrupt later copies; we don't even need to show them" without consideration that perhaps they reveal a valuable earlier version of the music!)

That is, I think the NBA on the whole is fairly reliable, but anything in there could still be wrong if the editors have proceeded from wrong assumptions (Schulenberg points out some of those), or if they were just sloppy, or if their conflations stem from bad musical judgment. Blind faith in the NBA reading of something is just as bad as blind faith in anything else: it's bad scholarship.

Tom Brannigan wrote (June 5, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
".....That is, I think the NBA on the whole is fairly reliable, but anything in there could still be wrong if the editors have proceeded from wrong assumptions (Schulenberg points out some of those), or if they were just sloppy, or if their conflations stem from bad musical judgment. Blind faith in the NBA reading of something is just as bad as blind faith in anything else: it's bad scholarship........"
I don't know if your blowing off steam or if you have a very valid point.......or both ! Either way, this list is a fantastic resource for somebody, like myself, to really start reseach in this area. Just finished off the Wolf bio and the two volume Schweitzer opus.......now it's on to the Eric Chafe book "AnBach Cantatas". This is fun :)

I also really appreciate knowing a gentleman from Mr Suzuki's ensemble is a member of this list. I missed their performance in Berkeley due to a family funeral......a double loss !

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 6, 2003):
Brad Lehman stated:
>> Blind faith in the NBA reading of something is just as bad as blind faith in anything else: it's bad scholarship.<<
Likewise, blind faith in what you learned in your university experience which then gave you a specific set of ‘blinders’ for the performance practices that you uphold, is just as bad as blind faith in anything else.

Regarding the NBA, Musica Brittanica, et al.: physical limitations, particularly finances needed to publish complete editions (with all the time for competent researchers to assemble and make an editorial assessment as to what the ‘conflationary’ results that finally make it to print should be,) prevent the publishing of all existing 18th-century manuscripts and copies. In an ideal world (that may still lie in the future) all pertinent facsimile materials will be made available on the internet for anyone to examine and copy. Until such a time, we need to refer to the NBA KBs which contain most, if not all, of the variants that exist. An interested individual can take a copy of a work from the NBA and, by using the NBA, reconstruct the version (if it is considered a significant one) that may be of interest by placing all the variants that have been excluded back into a copy of the score. Certainly, this involves some investment of time, but that is all that has been available to us for the past 50 years. The future of Bach scholarship may be quite different as much effort is being expended in creating digitized copies of these manuscripts which may otherwise be lost to the result of decaying documents (chemical decomposition of the paper, the ink eating into the paper, etc.)

>> And the details from different sources are mixed together to form a reading that never (as such) existed in Bach's lifetime<<
Take, for instance, the SMP: The NBA editorial policy, which seems reasonable on the surface, requires the printed version to represent the composer’s final intention. As a result, the editors were forced to include the latest bc version where the secco recitatives showed a shortened accompaniment while Bach’s beautiful autograph score of the revised SMP shows only long notes in the bc for these recitatives. The notes in the NBA and the NBA KB suggests some reasons why this last-minute change was undertaken, but anyone using the Bärenreiter Urtext (with the set of parts) will not be informed about the considerations involved. In the NBA score, you do not see Bach’s revised autograph score, but rather the results of the conflation from the set of parts. Ideally, The NBA should have printed both Bach’s autograph score as one edition and another version which is based solely upon the existing parts. Where are the corporations that could fund such a worthy enterprise?

What is more important? Bach’s original conception of a cantata from the 1720s or a later revisitation of the same cantata when certain instruments (good players thereof) were not available to him and he might quickly change a difficult solo trumpet part in an aria to an oboe or a violin, the only instruments available to him at the time. Sometimes even the obbligato part was modified to make it fit the instrument of a later performance. Should not the NBA print the original version which was most likely a better fit between the text and the original choice of instrument, than to take the latest existing version that has come down to us? [Sometimes the NBA does include these different versions.]

>>Tom, I'm wary of your assumption (which you use all the time) that the editors of NBA are automatically right about everything, or even have the most up-to-date scholarship.<<
Just as I am wary of your assumption (which you use all the time) that your sources are automatically right about everything, or even have the most up-to-date scholarship.

>> even if you don't trust Alberto Basso's work (evidently in the same manner that some people don't trust your work), that doesn't automatically mean that everything he says is wrong<<
Brad, I thought you had once characterized yourself as not wanting to be boxed in by thinking only differentially, but rather of being capable of thinking and experiencing multifariously many fine distinctions that can be made when assessing the relative importance or truth of a matter, particularly in regard to music and musicology. Thus it seems very unlike that to which you profess when you continually attempt to push your opponents into such black/white categories.

Using one of your home-spun examples, would you accuse a neighbor of offering a negative opinion about a local plumber (called ‘labeling,’ or ‘exhibiting prejudice’ in your book) after having had some shoddy plumbing work done at his house, and tell this neighbor, who never wants to hire him again, “Even a notably haphazard plumber might actually be able to fix a pipe once in a while.” After this encounter would you ask the same plumber to renovate your kitchen or bathroom completely? Be honest!

>> If you don't trust Basso's connection between the Christoph Peter harmonization and Bach, go check out the standard reference books about German chorales, the ones I mentioned here:http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/5283 to see if he's wrong or right. Do some scholarly work, check his tracks. Prove or disprove the hypothesis itself instead of simply knocking at the guy who presented it (which ad hominem gesture proves nothing). Check the Peter source itself, if it's available!<<
Brad, some reasons why you bring up these scholarly works may be as follows:

1) You know that they are very difficult to come by, because they are not readily available. [You don’t even seem to have access to them yourself!]

2) You are too lazy to do this work yourself (or even to ask one of your highly educated and very professional colleagues to do a favor for you by simply looking this up because they do (I assume at some colleges and universities that they might actually have these books available) have access to this information. In this day and age of information availability through various sources (I suggest e-mailing one of your colleagues, whose names you continue to refer to in your messages,) it would enhance your position as one offering much advice to others if you made even the slightest effort in solving a simple musical problem such as this (a single reference lookup) on your own and telling us what you have found.

If Alberto Basso were your local plumber and had messed up a job for a neighbor, would you hire him despite a single bad report from a neighbor because “it's not good enough (not even close) to simply say Basso's work is "notably unreliable", as if that adds any substance to your neighbor’s hypothesis about the quality of Basso’s work, or as if that closes the discussion of the point?”

You (or anyone else who reads my opinion based on my personal experience) are free to cast away any opinion which I may offer. Who knows? Perhaps the plumber simply had a very bad day and nothing worked out for him. He could remodel your kitchen and bathroom to your satisfaction, but then, what if he did not? Sometimes small indications should not be overlooked because they can point to larger problems. That would remain to be seen, it is true.

Tom Brannigan wrote (June 6, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
"......Ideally, The NBA should have printed both Bach’s autograph score as one edition and another version which is based solely upon the existing parts. Where are the corporations that could fund such a worthy enterprise? ......."
I sure don't want to get involved in this little controversy, but you struck a nerve when you mentioned sponsorship of worthwhile artist goals. I can't help but notice that Masaaki Suzuki's Cantata series is being underwritten by NEC. This should be happening far more often.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (June 6, 2003):
Tom Brawrote:
< I can't help but notice that Masaaki Suzuki's Cantata series is being underwritten by NEC. This should be happening far more often. >
It would be great, but the deal must expressly ensure that the corporation stays out of the musical direction. This kind of thing has the danger of making music into merely a money machine-thus exploiting Suzuki, his group, and worst of all, Bach-almost like corporations giving money to political parties to influence the policy-making. Fortuneatly Prime Minister Cretien is trying to curb this in Canadian election campaigns, and hopefully there isn't any more artistic restriction. Still, it would be a worthy risk to take provided there's a way out if it gets messy

my political rant!

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 6, 2003):
BWV 43 - Chorale

I have finally had a few moments to look into the MGG & New Grove to see what I could find out about Basso’s contention that there is a connection between the BWV 43 chorale and Christoph Peter. Here is a summary of points that might lead to thinking in the right direction:

1. Christoph Petraeus/Peter (1626-1689) described as one of the ‘lesser lights’ as a composer.

2. Had a strong connection with Johann Franck (1618-1677) (lived in the same area of Germany as Peter did.)

3. Franck’s Geistliches Sion (Guben, 1672), contains 110 religious songs, provided with some 80 melodies [not settings], of which 40 are by Christoph Petraeus/Peter. Other composers include Schein, Gesius and Crüger, who eventually composed 14 melodies [not settings] for Franck.

4. There are still a few of these melodies from Franck’s collection found in Protestant hymnals today. Bach composed 14 settings of seven of his texts (to melodies [not settings] by Crüger, Albert and Peter), the most famous being the motet Jesu, meine Freude BWV 227.

4. Peter’s style of composition of his few masses and motets is decidedly under an Italian influence.

5. Despite the vivacious, melodic aspect of Peter’s melodies [for chorales], most of them were not particularly well-suited for congregational singing [Konrad Ameln in the MGG.]

6. Basso’s date seems to point to: “Andachts Zymbeln, Oder Andächtige und geistreiche ... Lieder ... in vier und fünf Stimmen,“ Freyberg in Meissen 1655. : This is a collection of ‚songs’/’hymns’ with texts by J. Franck, P. Gerhardt, J. Rist in settings by Crüger, Schop, J.H. Scheidemann, etc. [Peter is not specifically mentioned as contributing any of the settings; he may have simply collected them.]

Tentative conclusion:

There is a good possibility that the chorale melody [the quirkiness of the rhythm is one characteristic that would disqualify it from being commonly used in congregational singing] could be by Christoph Peter, but the setting still seems more likely to be Bach’s (or could it be by Schop, Scheidemann, Crüger, etc., because they are mentioned specifically?)

Roland Wörner wrote (June 6, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Lehman's utterances about the NBA reminds me to what Harnoncourt said in many interviews. He is not interested in reading the comment volumes of the NBA, because after this he would need weeks of holydays to relax. So he wants to trust only in the manuscripts or facsimiles. IMO a lazy, hybrid and ignorant attitude, which ignores the historical efficiency of a musical work, which the NBA is part of.

Ivan Lalis wrote (June 6, 2003):
[To Roland Wörner] It may be hybrid and ignorant, but definitely not lazy, I would say.

Uri Golomb wrote (June 6, 2003):
[To Roland Wörner] I know of only one interview which Woerner's statement might refer to, and I am not at all sure that Wörner's intepretation of Harnoncourt's stance there is correct. Here is what Harnoncourt actually says (the interview in question is from the notes to his 2nd recording of the B minor Mass (BWV 232); the interviewer is Manfred Wagner):

"I take a critical attitude towards any interpretation of a work. I would prefer to get hold of as much as possible without anyone else's interpretations - but always remaining aware of the fact that the results of this interpretation are only valid for myself, and that others may come to different conclusions. Every edition is also an interpretation by its editor. The greater its claim to objectivity, the more it annoys me when the edition clearly indicates the interpretations of its editor. My critical view of the Bach edition [here, he refers specifically to Friedrich Smend's edition of the B minor Mass (BWV 232) for the NBA] is due to the fact that it contains very serious errors. The Scotch snap rhythm of the Domine Deus is mentioned neither in the volume nor in the critical commentary [this is true - I checked], yet the piece has an entirely different character depending on whether it is executed in that way or not. In the autograph parts this rhythm is quite clearly notated. In the old Bach edition it was retained at least for the flute part, though not in the string parts. [I am not sure if that's accurate. I only have the old Bach edition score: there the rhythm does not appear anywhere in main text, but there is a note in the introduction that points out its presence in the flute part; in reality, it also appears in the 2nd violin and viola parts, once in each, as Gerhard HErz pointed out. I have not seen the parts of the Bach edition, so maybe Harnoncourt is right about those. However, no performance based on the Bach-Gesellschaft edition features the Lombard rhythm]. Apart from that, it is an imposition on the interpreter to have to read and study a vast amount of material in order to discover how the editor arrived at his text In this edition the parts - i. E. the performance material which was either written out by Bach or else by his closest associates and corrected by him - have been virtually disregarded. That is unforgivable, since the tempo marks and articulation are indicated on the parts. The argument that the user can glean this information from the critical commentary is of doubtful value, because I know of no user other than myself who does this. When I have read a critical commentary I am usually in need of a holiday. It should surely be possible to incorporate the information required for the Auffuherungspraxis in the main volume, and to dispense with the highfalutin' padding."

That's the official translation. The German original is as follows:

"Ich stehe generell jeder Deutung eines Werkes kritisch gegenüber. Ich möchte soviel nur möglich ungedeutet in die Hand bekommen und meine Deutungen selbst finden -- das allerdings mit dem Bewußtsein, daß die Ergebnisse dieser Deutung nur für mich selbst Gültigkeit haben, andere können ja zu anderen Ergebnissen kommen. Und jede Ausgabe ist zugleich die Deutung des Herausgebers. Je größer der Anspruch auf Objektivität ist, desto störender ist für mich, wenn in der Ausgabe die Deutung des Herausgebers offenkundig ist. Meine kritische Einstellung zur Bachausgabe rührt daher, daß ganz schwere Fehler enthalten sind: der Lombardische rhyhmus des "Domine Deus" wird weder im Band noch in Revisionsbericht erwähnt, da das Stück eine völlig anderen Charakter hat, ob man den Rhythmus spielt oder nicht. Dieser Rhythmus ist in den Autographenstimmen eindeutig notiert. In der alten Bachausgabe hat man diesen Rhythmus wenigstens in der Flötenstimme festgehalten, in den Streicherstimmen allerdings auch nicht. Außerdem ist es eine Zumutung für den Interpreten, eine Unmenge von Informationen lesen und studieren zu müssen, um zu erfahren, auf welche Weise der Herausgeber zu seinem Text gekommen ist. Die Stimmen -- also das Aufführungsmaterial, das von Bach selbst gekommen ist oder von seiner nächsten Umgebung und von ihm korregiert wurde -- sind in der Ausgabe praktisch nicht berücksichtigt. Das ist unverzeihlich, denn in den Stimmen stehen Tempobezeichnungen und die Artikulation. Das Argument, deBenützer könne sich diese Informationen aus dem Revisionsbericht holen, ist zweifelhaft, denn ich kenne außer mir keinen Benützer, der das tut. Nach der Lektüre eines Revisionsberichtes bin ich in der Regel urlaufbsreif. Es müßte doch möglich sein, die für die Aufführungspraxis wichtigen Informationen in den Band hineinzunehmen und hochtrabenden Ballast wegzulassen".

Is there any other interview where Harnoncourt addresses the same issues -- and where he states that he does not read critical commentaries? Here, as far as I understand, he states that he does read them; though his implications that he's the only one who does so is arrogant and wrong.

There's much more to say on the subject itself, but I don't have time to make a detailed contribution right now... I might come back to it later. Just one question -- which is more lazy, to take an editor at his word, or to check his words against the original material, and/or the work of other scholars?

Roland Wörner wrote (June 6, 2003):
Ivan Lalis wrote:
< but definitely not lazy, I would say.>
How would you call a conductor, who has nearly no experience with the works he is doing. Maybe he has played some of them a few times as a cellist in an orchestra (for the most of the Bach cantatas he recorded I even would deny that). He conducts the works a few times, then rushes into the recording studio to show the world, how the works have to sound (because all the other musicians before did all the works wrong and now we have the redeemer, who knows it best!). Remember a Karl Richter, who did the Bach cantatas since his childhood, first in the Dresden Kreuzchor, then as organist and harpsichordist with Ramin, then as conductor with MBC/MBO. He had performanced a cantata a dozen times before recording it ... This would be my example for a credible interpretation of a Bach cantata.

Riccardo Nughes wrote (June 6, 2003):
[To Roland Wörner] Please can you tell me when & where N. Harnoncourt said something like : "I am the Truth.My rendering of Bach's Cantatas is the only one. Take all other recordings and put them in the trash can."

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 6, 2003):
[To Roland Wörner] It's flattering if I remind anyone of Harnoncourt or his working processes, even if the writer intended it as an insult: but I DO read the comment volumes of the NBA when I'm doing any serious musicological work on a piece, and go through the critical reports of all the editions I play from (Henle in most of the Bach harpsichord works, Breitkopf/Lohmann in the organ works, Beckmann on many other composers, Schott in Froberger, Musica Britannica in Byrd/Gibbons/Tomkins/etc, etc etc). How else is one to know when the editors have changed things, except by comparing editions and manuscripts and looking into these details? This is a FIRST step in preparing a piece for performance: getting or constructing a trustworthy text of it. From this background work, I very often change some of the notes and other details that I see in my playing editions where I believe the reading can be improved...that's before I start to practice the notes, and before starting the other types of analysis that will inform my performance.

Herr Wörner, if you think you're quoting me here (below), why have you quoted back Tom Braatz' message (his impressions and his own insinuations about me) instead of my own words?

Be careful whom you call "lazy" and "ignorant". I said here just yesterday: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/5300
that "I think the NBA on the whole is fairly reliable, but anything in there could still be wrong if the editors have proceeded from wrong assumptions (Schulenberg points out some of those), or if they were just sloppy, or if their conflations stem from bad musical judgment." And I cited an article from the Journal of the American Musicological Society (JAMS) in support of that assessment; it's not just me saying they've left out some things.

And, in the current case, if the KB in NBA for cantata 43 (which volume I don't currently have access to) does not mention Christoph Peter or anyone else as a source of the chorale (else our enterprising Tom Braatz would have told us so, right?), the NBA may be missing something. It IS possible that they have missed something, despite Braatz' (or anyone else's) assumptions about its completeness. Braatz' message here last night, looking further into Franck, Peter, Schop, etc, is a good line of inquiry: especially as there is already plenty of precedent where Bach used Schop's (and Melchior Vulpius') chorale melodies in other works. (I have some right here in my collection of about 50 hymnals, and the handbooks that go with some of them.) The thing we're trying to find here is: in this case (BWV 43) did Bach copy all four parts--not just the melody--from somewhere, and if so, where? Obviously Alberto Basso had SOME evidence to point this to Christoph Peter, and we're trying to trace his tracks. I like the hypothesis that Peter got this from someone earlier than himself.

Also on this chorale's background: one of our universities here in town has the Julian book and I'll take a look when I get a chance. (Serious research time is dear, between having a full-time job outside music, and an infant to take care of, and helping my wife with her dissertation in another field; and my music research time should concentrate on pieces that I'm playing, not on discussions here.) Later this month, on holiday, I'm planning to visit a library in Indiana where I know they have all six volumes of this series: Zahn, Johannes, 1817-1895. Die Melodien der deutschen evangelischen Kirchenlieder / aus den Quellen geschöpft und mitgeteilt von Johannes Zahn. 1963. That is the series that my own mentor (in hymnology, 18 years ago) recommended as a great source for this type of thing. She has had a 50+ year career in hymnology and musicology, I have her own book here for reference, and I trust her expert judgment on this.

I also trust my own stylistic analysis from earlier this week, where I said it looks to me like early 17th century at the latest; I'm not just flipping through reference books of names and dates and hearsay to come to that conclusion, it's from a direct analysis of the harmony and counterpoint, and comparison against other 16th/17th century four-part settings that I know (and have here in front of me, along with all the other Bach chorales). It is already very clear to me that this chorale setting in BWV 43 is stylistically much earlier than JS Bach, whether it's composed or collected by Christoph Peter, or whomever. Bach probably copied it from somewhere, note for note; there is no stylistic reason to doubt Basso on that point (unless one prefers the wild speculation that Bach had the inclination and time to do a stylistic forgery). Braatz can assert "the setting still seems more likely to be Bach's" and "it sounds like Bach" as much as he wants to, but on what evidence? The NBA's omission of comment? Braatz' own unfamiliarity with 17th century four-part settings? His mistrust of Alberto Basso? What? As I mentioned above, Braatz' message from last night at least seems to be a better step in the right direction, looking at Schop and Franck and the other people in Peter's vicinity, and entertaining the notion that Alberto Basso might be right and the NBA's KB might be wrong (incomplete).

The volume of NBA (I/12) that contains cantata 43 was published in 1960. Yes, 43 years ago, and before I was born. So was its Kritischer Bericht, written by Alfred Dürr. Is it not possible that later scholarship has augmented and/or overturned the findings that were published there--either by checking Dürr's work more closely, or by finding information that was not available to him?

Tom, what if you'd post a scan of Dürr's KB for cantata 43; then we can all see what you're looking at, and check his work?

And a glance at the rightmost column of the page: http://www.baerenreiter.com/html/completeedi/gabach.htm
shows why not many private collectors (or libraries!) have a copy of the NBA; it's prohibitively expensive, plus some of it is out of print. I read the KB whenever I get the opportunity to do so, but who has that kind of money, or regular access to a library that complete? There's a state university near me that has the NBA but they don't allow anyone to make photocopies from it, or the books to circulate, nor may any patrons even browse the stacks. Books can only be examined under the watchful eyes of their staff. The private university that I have better access to doesn't have NBA, but at least I can do my Musica Britannica research there when I'm working on English virginal music. One takes what one can get.

As for Harnoncourt being lazy or ignorant, why don't you look at the interview with him in the booklet of his recording of "Der Zigeunerbaron" (Johann Strauss)? Or the Bruckner 3rd? Or the Missa Solemnis? Or his analysis of the SMP (both in the booklet of his first recording, and in his book The Musical Dialogue)?

Myself, later this month, I'm going to spend part of my holiday reading a new book that just arrived yesterday: John Butt's Playing With History: The Historical Approach to Musical Performance (Cambridge Univ Press, 2002). In part it's a response to the writings of Taruskin, Kivy, Dreyfus, Adorno et al. Here's the abstract: http://titles.cambridge.org/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521013585

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 6, 2003):
I decided to check the following book that I have in my possession: "Orgelchoralbuch zum Evangelischen Kirchengesangbuch" editor: Hermann Grabner (Merseburger, Berlin - no date) and have found the following (I may have glanced at the setting in this book earlier this week, but quickly disregarded it because it did not contain the setting that Bach used in BWV 43):

The melody of this chorale is definitely by Johann Schop and was first published in Johann Rist's "Himmlische Lieder" (Lüneburg, 1641); then it (the melody? the setting? or both?) appeared in somewhat changed form [changed rhythm or meter?] in "Das große Cantional" (Darmstadt, 1687.)

It would appear that this removes Christoph Petraeus/Peter as the originator/composer of the melody, but Basso never did maintain that he was. All that remains is to determine whether Peter actually created a 4-pt. setting of this chorale melody and whether that setting is the same one that Bach may have used. The setting in the "Orgelchoralbuch" that I have is not specifically identified (some of the others are: "Es ist ein Ros entsprungen" , for instance, is identified as a melody 'from the Middle Ages' related to the melodies "Ein Lämmlein geht' and "Ein edler Schatz", but the 1st connection of the melody and text is documented in "Alte Catholische geistliche Kirchengesäng" (Köln, 1599) The setting in the "Orgelchoralbuch" is that of Praetorius and is marked as such. It is important to realize that the text and melody of "Lo, How a Rose ere Blooming" is not by Praetorius, although his setting has made this chorale/Christmas carol become well known.

What remains to be seen is whether Basso’s assertion is correct that Peter included his own setting of Schop's chorale melody in his “Andachts Zymbeln, Oder Andächtige und geistreiche ... Lieder ... in vier und fünf Stimmen,“ Freyberg in Meissen 1655. : this is described as a collection of ‚songs’/’hymns’ with texts by J. Franck, P. Gerhardt, J. Rist in settings by Crüger, Schop, Scheidemann, etc.

Peter Bloemendaal quoted Basso: "Chorale, consisting of stanzas 1 and 13 of Johann Rist’s hymn “Du Lebensfürst, Herr Jesu Christ” (1651)."

Dürr has 1641. [After my experience with Basso, I would more likely go along with Dürr's information.]

Roland Wörner wrote (June 6, 2003):
[To Riccardo Nughes] This is the overtune in each interview I heard with Harnoncourt on German broadcast since many, many years!

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 6, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Peter Bloemendaal quoted Basso: "Chorale, consisting of stanzas 1 and 13 of Johann Rist’s hymn “Du Lebensfürst, Herr Jesu Christ” (1651)."

Dürr has 1641. [After my experience with Basso, I would more likely go along with Dürr's information.] >
Peter Bloemendaal laid a minefield here [probably unintentionally], and Thomas 'who-needs-to-check-sources?-hearsay-is -plenty-fine-for-me' Braatz has stepped right on a land mine.

Here's Peter's posting about BWV 43: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/5292

Admittedly it's a little tricky to tease apart the parts of his message that come from Basso, and those that do not. Here are the portions that come from Basso (and ONLY those):

"According to Alberto Basso in the accompanying booklet to the Herreweghe CD’s [7], the writer of the libretto is probably pastor Christoph Helm. (...) The aforementioned Alberto Basso also informs us that the musical realization of the concluding chorale, note by note, is not by Bach but by a certain Christoph Peter (1655)."

The intervening portion, "The cantata is unique in its structure: (...) 11. Chorale, consisting of stanzas 1 and 13 of Johann Rist’s hymn “Du Lebensärst, Herr Jesu Christ” (1651)." is from elsewhere. It's not in the booklet notes of Herreweghe's recording [7]! (Peter, can you say more about the source of that interpolation?)

That is: Basso in the Herreweghe booklet notes [7] DID NOT claim a date of 1651 for anything. Of course, that doesn't stop Braatz from taking a gratuitous potshot at him: a drive-by shooting of a scholar whose work Braatz doesn't fancy.

How do I know this? Quite simple, really. After reading Peter B's intriguing posting about this cantata (see above) I pulled out the Herreweghe disc [7] myself and simply flipped open the booklet and read what Basso wrote. Straight to the source. How difficult is that? (I didn't listen to the CD until this morning, though, to make sure my analysis of the chorale wouldn't be biased by anybody's performance of it. Until Peter brought it up, I hadn't even realized I own this recording of BWV 43, because all it says on the spine is HIMMELFAHRTS-ORATORIUM (BWV 11), nothing about the cantatas BWV 43 and BWV 44. I'd been passing over it on its shelf!)

In the booklet, Basso's exact words (in Derek Yeld's translation) are: "The words are probably by pastor Christoph Helm (...)" and "It should be noted that the musical realization of the concluding chorale, note against note, is not the work of Bach, but of a certain Christoph Peter and dates from 1655." [The booklet has three different translations, none of which are the original Italian; the French and German say the same as the English here. There's nothing about a 1651 or 1641 date.]

My copy of this CD is the 1993 issue, and that is what it says. Or have they changed the booklet notes (adding things?!) in the midprice reissue?

Roland Wörner wrote (June 7, 2003):
< This is the overtune in each interview I heard with Harnoncourt on German broadcast since many, many years! >
[To Riccardo Nughes] PS.: The last new theory I heard from Harnoncourt was in a broadcast interview arround his "Don Giovanni" in Salzburg, summer 2002 (analogous): All conductors (before Harnoncourt in 2002) did Mozart wrong, so that Mozart sounded like Rossini. Now Harnoncourt found the right way taking much more slower tempi than all the others. I heard that "Don Giovanni" live in Salzburg. It took 40 minutes longer than Harnoncourt's CD recording. To me it was a caricature of my beloved "Don Giovanni". - Sorry, this is not concerning Ba!

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 7, 2003):
Brad determined from the translation of Basso's comments:
>>In the booklet, Basso's exact words (in Derek Yeld's translation) are: "The words are probably by pastor Christoph Helm..."<<
Based upon what evidence did Basso come up with this information that is not related elsewhere? Can we simply believe him if he has on occasion been careless with factual evidence? (I am not referring to the assigned date for Peter's composition that Peter Bloemendaal included in his report.)

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 7, 2003):
Uri Golomb kindly shared Harnoncourt’s own words about the NBA in both translation and in the original. It is of utmost importance to consider the circumstances in which these words were spoken (as Uri pointed out they refer specifically to Harnoncourt’s encounter with one of the 1st major publications of the NBA from the year 1954, almost 50 years ago. It appears that the B minor Mass has ‘always’ created serious contention and publication problems: BWV 1 of the BGA in the middle of the 19th century was supposed to be the 1st score of the 1st complete edition of Bach’s works ever to be published. There were problems with Nägeli in Switzerland, not wanting to share crucial manuscripts of the B-minor Mass, the volume of which was to be assigned the number 1 so that it would take its prestigious position at the beginning of this monumental endeavor. As a result of these problems, the B minor Mass is not BWV 1 as it had been originally intended.)

Harnoncourt’s comments:

“Apart from that, it is an imposition on the interpreter to have to read and study a vast amount of material in order to discover how the editor arrived at his text”

and

“It should surely be possible to incorporate the information required for performance practices in the main volume, and to dispense with the highfalutin' padding."

Uri admits the arrogance of such a statement as the latter, but I read into this an anti-scholarly attitude which is evident as well in Harnoncourt’s books and articles. Admittedly, Harnoncourt, faced with daunting task of coming to terms with Smend’s editorship of the B minor Mass KB, which used an approach that was duly and appropriately criticized by other important Bach scholars at the time. After this point in time at the very beginning of the NBA project, the editorial focus was then changed and is now usually included in the preface to each NBA volume. [Generally, as I have explained before, it involves presenting the latest state of Bach’s intentions.]

On the one hand, those who take Harnoncourt’s comments out of context (as they relate to Smend’s B minor Mass NBA editorship including the KB for this volume) will think that Harnoncourt was making a general statement about all subsequent volumes of the NBA. This would be doing an injustice to both Harnoncourt and the NBA editors after Smend. Unfortunately, this is the type of statement by Harnoncourt that has influenced others unduly (as witnessed by Brad’s recent quotation of David Schulenberg’s dissatisfaction and criticism of the most recently issued volume of a portion of Bach’s keyboard works) to criticize the NBA edition generally and to wish for other ‘easier-to-read-and-interpret’ editions of Bach which might serve to promote specific performance practices which they currently uphold and wish to promote.

R. Wörner stated:
>>How would you call a conductor, who has nearly no experience with the works he is doing. Maybe he has played some of them a few times as a cellist in an orchestra (for the most of the Bach cantatas he recorded I even would deny that). He conducts the works a few times, then rushes into the recording studio to show the world, how the works have to sound (because all the other musicians before did all the works wrong and now we have the redeemer, who knows it best!). Remember a Karl Richter, who did the Bach cantatas since his childhood, first in the Dresden Kreuzchor, then as organist and harpsichordist with Ramin, then as conductor with MBC/MBO. He had performanced a cantata a dozen times before recording it ... This would be my example for a credible interpretation of a Bach cantata.<<

and

>> <This is the overtune in each interview I heard with Harnoncourt on german broadcast since many, many years! >
PS.: The last new theory I heard from Harnoncourt was in a broadcast interview arround his "Don Giovanni" in Salzburg, summer 2002 (analogous): All conductors (before Harnoncourt in 2002) did Mozart wrong, so that Mozart sounded like Rossini. Now Harnoncourt found the right way taking much more slower tempi than all the others. I heard that "Don Giovanni" live in Salzburg. It took 40 minutes longer than Harnoncourt's CD recording. To me it was a caricature of my beloved "Don Giovanni". - Sorry, this is not concerning Bach!<<
I think that the latter example is pertinent (I have read most of the German-language newspaper reports of the latter musical event with criticisms which reflect R. Woerner’s comments with even greater color and insight.

From my careful listening to all of Harnoncourt’s cantata recordings which I have compared with the scores from the NBA in hand, it appears to me that Harnoncourt frequently abandons consideration (he developed a distaste early on for studying the KBs and the scores after being frustrated by his ‘Smend’ experience) of the results of careful scholarship and editing in favor of ‘winging it’ with his personal penchant for quirkiness in interpretation which he inflicts upon instrumentalists and vocalists/choir members alike.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 7, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Can we simply believe him if he has on occasion been careless with factual evidence? >
V7 - I.

Uri Golomb wrote (June 7, 2003):
< "It should surely be possible to incorporate the information required for performance practices in the main volume, and to dispense with the highfalutin' padding."
Uri admits the arrogance of such a statement as the latter, >
No, I didn't. The statement I cited as "arrogant" is Harnoncourt's implication that he is the only performer who bothers to read the critical commentary. The request for a more user-friendly format seems to me neither arrogant nor anti-intellectual. It is possible to include more information as footnotes to the main text, rather than as a separate volume of annotation (or at least include, in the main text, indications on where the most important points of difference are between the sources). Christoph Wolff does this in his edition of the B minor Mass.

My own vision of the "critical edition of the future" is a CD-ROM which include -- in addition to the editor's own recommended texts -- facsimiles of the main sources (obviously with comments assessing their provenance and reliability); and the editor's proposed transcription of these sources -- with a facility of "grafting" alternative readings into the main text. The advantage of the computerised format is the greater flexibility it affords: it gives clearer access to the editor's reasoning, and makes it easier to assess and (if the performer so chooses) change his priorities. On the basis of this information, users could then create their own version, and print it out in score or in parts. The use of critical commentary can likewise be made more flexible. Individual users will be able to choose how much (or how little) information they wish to view at a given moment. The computerised format would make it possible to switch freely between various formats on the spectrum between the "purely scholarly edition" (Grove) and a clean performance version.

< Unfortunately, this is the type of statement by Harnoncourt that has influenced others unduly (as witnessed by Brad's recent quotation of David Schulenberg's dissatisfaction and criticism of the most recently issued volume of a portion of Bach's keyboard works) to criticize the NBA edition generally and to wish for other <easier-to-read-and-interpret' editions of Bach which might serve to promote specific performance practices which they currently uphold and wish to prom. >
I have not read Schulenberg's article; nor, I am sure, has Thomas Braatz. But I have read, and encountered in lectures, quite a few other critiques of modern critical editions -- not just the NBA -- and I have seen no evidence that any of them has been influenced directly by Harnoncourt, even though some of them have the same type of reservations (mainly, that editors tend to "normalise" deliberately inconsistent marks. I saw that in action: in one of Mozart's quartets, Mozart quite clearly phrases the first and second violin differently when they play parallel thirds and sixths. .The differnet phrasing is very clear and obvious, both in Mozart's autograph and in the first edition, both of which I saw. This did not stop the Neue Mozart Ausgabe editors from "normalising" the text by making the second violin subservient to the first. Yes, the critical commentary does tell you what it originally looked like. However, why make the change at all? Given that both sources, in this case ,tell you the same thing -- "1st and 2nd violin not consistent with each other" -- why would an Urtext (!) editor insist on "correcting" Mozart's "mistake"? By placing their choice in the main text, and relegating Mozart's own phrasing to critical commentary, the editors placed themselves above the composer...)

Anyway: A critical edition is a scholarly, scientific product. It can and should be subjected to subsequent critique. Has it ocurred to Tom Braatz that Schulenberg's critique simply results from his own familiarity with the same sources used by the NBA editors, that he has examined them to the best of his own ability (which Braatz would doubtless declare insufficient, without bothering to check Schulenberg's credentials), and came to different conclusions? Now, as I said, I have yet to read Schulenberg's article, and praising or defending an article without reading it as just as useless as attacking it without reading it. All I'm saying is that this is what I expect to find in Schulenberg's article.

Braatz assumes that Harnoncourt has an almost hypnotic effect on all subsequent performers and scholars (except those that he likes): if any of them does or says anything that happens to partly converge on what Braatz thinks Harnoncourt was doing, then they must be acting under Harnoncourt's spell; it is simply unthinkable that they did their own thinking, and reached similar conclusions.

For what it's worth, I think Gustav Leonhardt was more influential than Harnoncourt (and he and Harnoncourt are not always of the same mind -- just compare their performances!); he definitely had more influence over keyboard players than Harnoncourt has (cf. http://homepages.kdsi.net/~sherman/WTC.htm for a list of Leonhardt's most prominent students). As for Harnoncourt, I have yet to encounter a single musician who regards him with uncritical, unreserved, unconditional admiration, who thinks that Harnoncourt always gets it right The most I have encountered is critical admiration, which is also my own stance. I find some of Harnoncourt's performances infuriating, and he can sometimes make downright ridiculous statements; the fact that I love many of his performances, and find many of his comments perceptive and illuminating, does not make me so blind as to believe that everything he says or does is right! And I have yet to encounter (in person, in writing or in interviews) even a single musician who does subscribe to the thesis: "Harnoncourt says/does so-and-so, therefore so-and-so must be right". Yet Braatz is sure that the world is full with blind followers of the Harnoncourt cult. Where is the evidence for this?

Uri Golomb wrote (June 7, 2003):
Roland Wörner wrote:
< This is the overtune in each interview I heard with Harnoncourt on German broadcast since many, many years! >
I'll admit: I have not heard Harnoncourt speak on radio or television. I have, however, read most of his published writings, and while they do reveal much self-confidence, they do not subscribe to the idea that there is such thing as The One Single Truth, let alone that he possesses it. Perhpas he is less careful when he speaks in German than when he writes, or when he speaks English. However, I'd still like to see a verbatim quotation of Harnoncourt's actual words -- not a paraphrase or a recollection -- that shows that he clearly says that he is right, and everyone else is wrong, in his general approach to an entire work or a composer's oevure.

Not that this would upset me too much. Whether or not Harnoncourt has said it, others certainly have (on their own behalf -- not on Harnoncourt's). I never accept such blatant statements, but if I admire a performance, I would not admire it any less because the performer is guilty of arrogance in his verbal pronouncements. (Gardiner is one prominent example -- though not always. At times, he can be very generous in his tributes to fellow-musicians; at others, however, he does come dangerously close to the "I alone have The Truth" approach. As I said elsewhere, however, "One need not endorse Gardiner's rhetoric, with its often blatant dismissal of rival approaches, to recognise his invaluable contribution to our understanding" of the music he performs.)

I often find, BTW, that performers tend to be somewhat intolerant about alternative interpretations. (Often -- not always!). I remember attending master-classes where such intolerance creeped in surrpetitiously: not in any outward expressions of arrogance, but simply in the sense that the "master" tried to steer all the students towards his/her view of the work, rather than listen to what they were trying to do and help them refine their interpretations. Often these were very fine performers, who gave admirable performances; but their stance did make them less effective as teachers. I remember a joint master-class with a celebrated pianist and a scholar (I wish I could remember the names... But the experience registered well in my mind). I heard both of them play: the scholar was quite good, but not as impressive as the full-time pianist. But the scholar was the better teacher -- he was more open-minded, more ready to help the students along in their understanding of the work. Now, this is not a parable -- it is not a reflection on performers and scholars generally, just on two particular individuals. But still, I would have been more surprised -- and also rather dismayed -- if it had been the other way around.

Perhaps some performerse need this sense of "I know what's right for this music!"; as a performer, after all, you need to be absolutely sure that what you're doing is right; you can improvise on stage, refine your interpretation as you go along -- but you'd better not have a fit of self-doubt! So when a performer is a really good one, I don't mind much if he or she indulges in some over-the-top statements. When scholars or critics, however fine, adopt the same stance, I find it much harder to swallow (unless they really do have powerful evidence on their side).

In a previous posting: (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/5210), I mentioned an article about Quantz and Bach. Well, I read it. It seems very reliable indeed -- because the author, Jeanne Swack, did not reach any firm conclusions: she [well, I think it's "she"] presented several hypotheses (the sonata in question was written by Bach, as an adaptation of a Quantz sonata; the sonata is by Quantz himself, based on an earlier piece, and maybe copied out by Bach; etc.), and explained what evidence supports each hypothesis, and what evidence questions or undermines it. She convincingly claimed that there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that Bach possessed and made copies of Quantz's music, but did not claim that the evidence is anything more than circumstantial. A piece of careful scholarship, clearly separating proven fact from reasonable hypothesis. Nothing is stated with confidence unless there is ample evidence to support it.

A fine model for scholarship, then -- but not for performan. A performer has to display a lot more self-confidence than that; even if in their hearts they feel: "Well, maybe the music can go differently; maybe my proposed interpretation is flawed" -- they cannot project these thoughts to the audience while they play. They should either project confidence, or not perform the piece at all. They cannot just say "the evidence is inconclusive". It's fine for a performance to be deliberately hesitant if they believe the music expresses hesitation and doubt (if you're an opera singer, and your character is singing "I don't know where to turn" with music to match -- there are many examples in Bach cantatas, too -- you shouldn't be too confident...); but to express self-doubt as a performer could be deadly.So ideally, one might expect performers to be utterly self-confident while they play/sing, but circumspect when they speak. Not all of them achieve this ideal, though; and I'd much rather tolerate their over-confident verbal statements (which might still contain much valuable insight!) than have them speak reasonably and perform with too much care and inhibition.

As for Harnoncourt's "rush jobs": well, sometimes, maybe. It's always a danger to commit your first interpretation of a work to disc, not having lived with it first. But it is ridiculous to assume that, if it's the first time you do it, no thought whatsoever has gone into it, and it simply must be a rush job; or that years of experience, on their own, are a guarantee of quality. Sometimes familarity results in deeper appreciation and insight, and lack of familiarity resuts in superficiality. But sometimes, familiarity breeds, if not contempt, then at least stagnation -- the sense that the performer is "stuck in a rut"; and first exposure inspires a sense of discovery and freshness. You have to assess the actual performance; you cannot make a judgement based solely on your knowledge of how many times this performer did it before.

The quotation I gave in my earlier posting accompanied Harnoncourt's second recording of the Mass (BWV 232), made 18 years after the first and so different from it that you could hardly believe the same person was responsible for both. In my view, that performance is one of the most thoughtful, moving and revelatory readings of that work. And Harnoncourt's latest SMP is the product of 30 years' familiarity with the work as a director/conductor. (It's much better than his first SMP (BWV 244), from 1971 -- but that too contains many fine moments, despite, or may because, it was Harnoncourt's first experience directing the work). So some of Harnoncourt's Bach recordings are the result of lengthy familiarity and experience...

Well, that's it for now.

Uri Golomb wrote (June 7, 2003):
Just a small clarification: "The quotation I gave in my earlier posting accompanied Harnoncourt's second recoridng of the Mass (BWV 232), made 18 years after the first and so different from it that you could hardly believe the same person was responsible for both. In my view, that performance is one of the most thoughtful, moving and revelatory readings of that work."

In case there is any doubt: my praise refers to the 1986 (2nd) performance, not to the 1968 (1st performance. There are some fine moments in the 1968 reading, too, but on the whole I find it rather dull... Which is the last thing anyone -- even if its worst detractors -- would say of the 1986 performance.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 7, 2003):
Uri Golomb stated:
>>I saw that in action: in one of Mozart's quartets, Mozart quite clearly phrases the first and second violin differently when they play parallel thirds and sixths. .The different phrasing is very clear and obvious, both in Mozart's autograph and in the first edition, both of which I saw. This did not stop the Neue Mozart Ausgabe editors from "normalising" the text by making the second violin subservient to the first. Yes, the critical commentary does tell you what it originally looked like. However, why make the change at all? Given that both sources, in this case, tell you the same thing -- "1st and 2nd violin not consistent with each other" -- why would an Urtext (!) editor insist on "correcting" Mozart's "mistake"? By placing their choice in the main text, and relegating MOzart's own phrasing to critical commentary, the editors placed themselves above the composer...)<<
This is an interesting example of ‘normalising.’ In this day and age, when ‘expressive’ performers seem to revel in a chaotic desire for differentiation (read complete freedom of each individual voice) rather than “Anpassung” [accommodation, adapting to fit the prevailing circumstances] which is perceived as some possible evil Germanic trait, it becomes almost mandatory to magnify these differences beyond anything that is reasonable or well balanced.

The NBA had adopted the policy quite early on that any such markings in the final printed Urtext that may be in conflict with the existing primary document or missing from it should be indicated as such by using finely dotted lines rather than solid ones. Such details are then discussed in the KB. Sometimes the phrasing marks are placed hurriedly (even by Bach at times) in such a way that it is difficult to tell exactly with which note the mark should begin. Then the editors have the right to use cross-comparison and whatever means at their disposal to arrive at ‘normalised’ solution.

>>. The request for a more user-friendly format seems to me neither arrogant nor anti-intellectual. It is possible to include more information as footnotes to the main text, rather than as a separate volume of annotation (or at least include, in the main text, indications on where the most important points of difference are between the sources).<<
It is interesting that Harnoncourt, in his essays and books, is quite sparing in providing ‘up front’ information that would concern a careful reader so that his articles and books:
When Harnoncourt states (p. 111 of “Der musikalische Dialog” (1984) “Die Begleitung der Rezitative war zu Bachs Zeit Regeln unterworfen, die damals jedem Musiker geläufig waren….die Orgel und das Cello {haben} bei den Seccorezitativen die Baßtöne niemals ausgehalten“ [The accompaniment of recitatives in Bach’s time was subject to rules, which were known back then by every musician….the organ and violoncello never held out the bass notes.] All that follows this is a quotation from Jean Baumgartner’s book dated 1774. What a leap of faith is required of the reader in this instance to believe that this was a hard-and-fast rule that was ‘never’ to be broken. Would it not have been eminently more user-friendly (and perhaps more honest) to back up such a statement with a reference to Arnold Schering’s book from 1936 upon which Harnoncourt apparently relied?

>>I have, however, read most of his published writings, and while they do reveal much self-confidence, they do not subscribe to the idea that there is such thing as The One Single Truth, let alone that he possesses it.<<
One statement that comes very close to implying this can be paraphrased as follows: What does it matter if a musician does not play according to the Urtext (or study it carefully beforehand) or play (or sing) in a technically correct manner or choose the right tempo, etc. etc. and this musician is not ‘kissed (blessed) by the muses?’ “Ein wirklicher Künstler kann sehr vieles falsch, nachweisbar falsch machen, und es wird ihm trotzdem gelingen, dem Hörer die Musik unter die Haut gehen zu lassen, sie ihm wirklich nahezubringen. Das entsteht eben durch diesen „Musenkuß.“ [A true artist {a musician, performer of music in this instance} can do many things wrong, demonstrably wrong, and yet he/she will nevertheless succeed in getting the music under the listener’s skin, to drive it home to him/her as a truth. This is simply what happens when this ‘kiss of the muses’ is present.] p. 130 “Musik als Klangrede” (1982)

As I had reported recently, Bach is known to have been very sensitive to anything in the music which was ‘out of line.’ Whe have tolerated Harnoncourt’s approach to his own music?

In essence Harnoncourt is saying that, if the muses have blessed an individual (such as Harnoncourt,) many mistakes/oversights are permissible, but if the artist succeeds in any way (even through shock, anger, and other strong emotions) to get under the listener’s skin, then the ‘truth of the music’ will have been transmitted from the composer to the listener. On p. 181 of the same book, Harnoncourt speaks condescendingly about listeners who wish only for an experience of “Glück” [this word, in German, can really mean much more than simply shallow ‘happiness’ ‘good luck’ or ‘fortune’] and then are confronted by a disturbing “Mozart-Wahrheit” [a Mozart truth] such as only a few musicians ‘blessed by the muses’ are capable of producing. Harnoncourt’s fairly recent 'Don Giovanni' fiasco is an example of this type of thinking which assumes that the members of an audience have immured themselves completely so as to become oblivious to an ‘ordinary’ well-balanced performance and must therefore be reached through extreme measures of musical distortions and shock tactics.

Santu De Silva wrote (June 9, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
[snip] >> As for Harnoncourt, I have yet to encounter a single musician who regards him with uncritical, unreserved, unconditional admiration, who thinks that Harnoncourt always gets it right The most I have encountered is critical admiration, which is also my own stance. I find some of Harnoncourt's performances infuriating, and he can sometimes make downright ridiculous statements; the fact that I love many of his performances, and find many of his comments perceptive and illuminating, does not make me so blind as to believe that everything he says or does isright! And I have yet to encounter (in person, in writing or in interviews) even a single musician who does subscribe to the thesis: "Harnoncourt says/does so-and-so, therefore so-and-so must be right". Yet Braatz is sure that the world is full with blind followers of the Harnoncourt cult. Where is the evidence for this? >>
A very articulate and balanced statement that will do for me as well. Well said!

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (June 11, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] A week ago heavenly fire struck down my computer, my TV set, the telephone and even the doorbell. Imagine that, just two days before Pentecost. A bit premature. And still the damage is not quite repaired. I installed a new, old modem to be able to get back on line by phone, while still waiting to have my ADSL connection fixed.

Well, I am not an expert. I quoted Dürr and Basso.

1. Dürr first: he gives 1641 as the date for the hymn by Johann Rist, of which stanzas 1 and 13 were used for the final chorale (movement 11) of cantata 43.

2. Basso second: Well, I have the same 1993 Herreweghe issue [7]. It is Alberto Basso who mentions the fact that the musical realization of the chorale (original hymn by Rist, 1641, according to Dürr - see pt. 1) is by Christoph Peter and dates from 1655.

3. Basso also says that Christoph Helm was probably the librettist of the cantata as a whole because the latter's name figures in a collection of which we know a reedition published at Rudolstadt in 1726. He does not mention the year the libretto was written, but it is likely 1726, both on account of Bach's performing of cantatas by his his cousin Johann Ludwig showing certain similarities to BWV 43 (acc. to Dürr) and because it stands to reason that Bach asked Pastor Helm to endite the libretto not long before its actual performance on 30 May 1726.

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (June 11, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< As I had reported recently, Bach is known to have been very sensitive to anything in the music which was ‘out of line.’ Would he have tolerated Harnoncourtâ?Ts approach to his own music?
In essence Harnoncourt is saying that, if the muses have blessed an individual (such as Harnoncourt,) many mistakes/oversights are permissible, but if the artist succeeds in any way (even through shock, anger, and other strong emotions) to get under the listener’s skin, then the ‘truth of the music’ will have been transmitted from the composer to the listener. ] >
Answer to question nr. 1 is speculative, as Harnoncourt does not live in the 18th century, nor Bach in the 21st. Maybe bach would not have liked what Harnoncourt did some decades ago. maybe he would have likes H's second SMP better than the first. We will never know. Bach performed several cantatas by his cousin Johann Ludwig in 1726. I am sure his conducting was not identical with his cousin's. After all, his cousin was the first creator, and Bach was the recreator. I strongly doubt he would deny any sincere conductor of this age the right to perform his compositions in an integer way. What I always read on this list is that certain people think they own the truth and in their framework there is no place for Harnoncourt. Therefore they cherish a prejudice toward him and will always find faults with him. We all owe him a lot, even your precious Rilling [6] and without him we would not have all these fine Bach recordings we can enjoy today and not in the least the many live concerts all over the world.

The second quote "In essence ..." is way out of line and another example of quoting what you want to read in it. It's like washing other people's ears with Biblical quotes out of context to prove you have the right faith.

 

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Last update: ýOctober 2, 2011 ý10:11:41