Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

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 51
Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen!
Discussions - Part 5

Continue from Part 4

Equal volume and quality

Continue of discussion from: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf - General Discussions [Performers]

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 10, 2006):
< http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV51-D.htm >
The following several sentences from that page stopped me dead in my tracks:
"However, sometimes a soprano voice appears on the scene that seems to have it all. This would be the rare type of voice that Mozart had in mind when he composed many of his soprano arias: an extended range of notes with equal volume and quality throughout the entire range. BWV 51 also has quite a large range that a soprano voice must project with equal volume throughout, but Bach makes a further demand, that many coloratura sopranos find more difficult to fulfill: the lyrical inner mvts. of the cantata."

There's a vast gulf between these two concepts: [being ABLE TO use equal volume through the range] and [deliberately producing a generally equal volume in interpretation]. The vast difference here is: basic technique, vs artistic choice in awareness (or sometimes unawareness) of style.

Saying that another way: just because some singers CHOOSE to make the notes varied in volume, as part of their interpretation, doesn't mean they're UNABLE singers.

Nor should anyone's performance be judged by such a restrictive standard as [did they perform everything at a fairly constant volume?], on deciding if they're capable to do their jobs.

Evenness is a rudimentary thing (and sometimes remedial thing) for beginning and intermediate musicians to work on. It's not interpretation. It's not style. It's basics. One has to be able to perform evenly, just as a matter of firm control of the instrument/voice, before choosing to perform unevenly to accomplish greater things.

Same type of principle applies in piano, violin, clavichord, clarinet, modern trumpet, any other instrument that is capable of playing a broad range of dynamics: just because players work for years to BE ABLE TO play with absolute evenness, for some music where it's appropriate, doesn't mean they should necessarily play that evenly in all music; nor should their abilities be judged as faulty, when they choose not to do so. Scales, arpeggios, trills, and the other technical exercises for evenness are to foster control of the instrument; not to constrain style as to how one should play in real music.

So, I firmly disagree with the following bit from the above, especially:
"BWV 51 also has quite a large range that a soprano voice must project with equal volume throughout (...)".
MUST project with equal volume throughout, as if it's some inherent and immutable part of the composition? Since when?

People don't speak in evenly-accentuated or evenly-paced syllables. To do so is dull, dry, deadly monotonous to listen to, and it tends to kill meaning. Similarly, good musicianship includes the art of varying the tone and the delivery, bringing out the music's syntax and meaning, and not being dull. Sameness is for the "trained birds" (as CPE Bach would put it, and did in his treatise), not for those who would bring out meaning. Perform from the heart, bring out meaning: which is put across through flexibility and expressive range. Music communicates in the same ways speech does: through interesting and carefully-controlled variation, in keeping with the grammatical and syntactical behavior of language.

And, those of us who play instruments that don't offer so much of a touch sensitivity to dynamics--such as harpsichord and organ--work for years on being able to simulate dynamics via a similarly careful control of UNEVEN articulation and timing. Deliberately. We CAN play evenly, but choose not to, because too much evenness makes the music sound dull and meaningless.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 11, 2006):
BWV 51 [was: equal volume and quality]

Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>There's a vast gulf between these two concepts: being ABLE TO use equal volume through the range] and [deliberately producing a generally equal volume in interpretation]. The vast difference here is: basic technique, vs artistic choice in awareness (or sometimes unawareness) of style. Saying that another way: just because some singers CHOOSE to make the notes varied in volume, as part of their interpretation, doesn't mean they're UNABLE singers.<<
The first priority for a singer in Bach's time was to be clearly heard in a large space such as a church. Even today with miking tricks to amplify the voice sufficiently in the recordings we hear, many Bach soloists simply do not have the capability to project their voices unaided with sufficient volume to be heard in such a space [for the sopranos singing BWV 51, for instance, this would mean primarily the notes from middle C to the G above middle C].

A Bach soprano, in the "Alleluja" section at the end of Mvt. 4 after the chorale, simply has no CHOICE based upon FREEDOM of interpretation to reduce the volume of the voice in order to avoid the 'SAMENESS in delivery which is for trained birds, as CPE Bach did put it'. First of all, which reasonable soprano in mm 191-197 would, for interpretative effect to avoid 'rudimentary evenness' decide to create an 'echo-effect' by singing the lower section at mm 191-194 softer, with less volume when it is so obvious that the trumpet will hit a high D while the soprano is near the bottom of its range at a D above middle C? Add to this the fact that the violins (probably 4 first violins) also enter on a high D as well with their running 16th notes which parallel those in the voice. There are other similar examples of this contained in the same mvt. Any soprano who claims in performing this mvt. that the volume of voice was reduced for interpretative reasons to provide variation just at those points where the voice reaches this low range and possibly to express the meaning of the word "Alleluja" in a manner never before envisioned (perhaps a 'sadder' "Alleluja"?) has not considered that the trumpet, even in its Baroque incarnation, is not one of softer instruments in Bach's instrumentarium. [While trumpeters can modulate their volume considerably and also play softly, what sense would that make in hitting a soft high D in an 'Alleluja' conclusion to a great cantata? The sense of joyful praise is thereby lost.] Such a soprano needs to consider as well the volume being produced by 4 violins, 1 or 2 violas, and the continuo group (there are 3 original continuo parts available. Now let the reader (and the 'interpretative' evenness-shunning soprano solist) consider the performance of this cantata given by W. F. Bach who arranged and 'improved' it by adding a 2nd tromba part and timpani. Ok, now you have 2 trumpets, timpani and the rest of the orchestra as already composed by J.S. Bach.

>>Perform from the heart, bring out meaning: which is put across through flexibility and expressive range. Music communicates in the same ways speech does: through interesting and carefully-controlled variation, in keeping with the grammatical and syntactical behavior of language.<<
All of these well-meaning suggestions come to naught if the voice cannot be properly heard or needs to be supported by unnatural means.

Instrumentalists learn from and emulate the human voice, not vice versa! There are numerous primary sources from Bach's time (Mattheson and others) who state this quite clearly.

BWV 51 is a true test of a soprano's vocal stamina and vocal range. The extended vocal range is a gift that few sopranos have. To interpret the text, the vocal range must be relatively even in its strength from top to bottom. This prerequisite is one that only a few sopranos during the past half century have been able to fulfill. I still contend that most of the HIP-style sopranos, trained as they may have been in their own special style, do not really possess a full-range voice that can adequately fulfill all the requirements which Bach calls for in this exqcantata.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 11, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< And, those of us who play instruments that don't offer so much of a touch sensitivity to dynamics--such as harpsichord and organ--work for years on being able to simulate dynamics via a similarly careful control of UNEVEN articulation and timing. Deliberately. We CAN play evenly, but choose not to, because too much evenness makes the music sound dull and meaningless. >
Despite the odd shout, a paragraph worth repeating. It seems paradoxical that these dynamic subtleties are more easily grasped in live performance. Perhaps because the player who has mastered them has usually also mastered the concept that music is communication, and visual clues help, whether they are practiced or spontaneous.

There are harpsichord and organ recordings aplenty which sound like a machine, a piano roll equivalent. I know I have a few, but I cannot easily recall which they are to give specific examples. Mostly played only once.

Richard Raymond wrote (August 11, 2006):
Don't you think that the problem is different if BWV 51 was written for a soprano castrato, whose voice was more powerful, as it is possible if Bach composed it to be performed in Dresden.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 11, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Despite the odd shout, a paragraph worth repeating. It seems paradoxical that these dynamic subtleties are more easily grasped in live performance. Perhaps because the player who has mastered them has usually also mastered the concept that music is communication, and visual clues help, whether they are practiced or spontaneous. >
Bach's performers were all invisible in the choir loft.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 11, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Bach's performers were all invisible in the choir loft. >
Invisible? Mirablile dictu! Perhaps I should have been a Protestant after all.

Point taken, I was speaking from my own experience.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 11, 2006):
Richard Raymond asked:
>>Don't you think that the problem is different if BWV 51 was written for a soprano castrato, whose voice was more powerful, as it is possible if Bach composed it to be performed in Dresden.<<
No doubt a more powerful castrato's voice would very likely cope with the difficulties of this cantata with greater ease.

It does not appear that Bach wrote this for a performance in Dresden.

Christoph Wolff (Bach bio chronology) lists the following visits to Dresden:

September 19-20, 1725 (Organ recitals)

[Absent for 3 weeks from Leipzig prior to March 20, 1729 - destination unknown]

circa September 14, 1731 for several days, performances at court, organ recital, attendance at the premiere of one of Hasse's operas

The investigation regarding the dating of BWV 51 by Alred Dürr has determined that the autograph score must have been written out sometime between late 1729 and early 1731. This excludes the 1731 visit to Dresden as well as the one in 1725. Robert Marshall, however, has catalogued the quality of the score as not being a composing score (it is too clean and free from errors for that). This means that the actual composition of this cantata could come from a yet earlier, undetermined time, perhaps even the mysterious, undocumented trip that Bach took early in 1729, or it could even be earlier than that. The association of BWV 51 with Dresden is quite tenuous or rather unlikely at best.

Richard Raymond wrote (August 11, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] It is nevertheless impossible that it was composed for a child voice. Women being unthinkable in Leipzig churches, where was this Cantata performed for the first time ?

Chris Rowson wrote (August 11, 2006):
[To Richard Raymond] Well if I ask myself "what place do I connect with J.S. Bach, trumpets and a soprano?" I come up with the answer Weißenfels.

But apart from this, I would point out that the list of visits to Dresden that Wolff has documented is not necessarily the complete list.

On the other hand, were there really any male singers at all who could make those top notes? Can we not safely say that it was written for a woman?

Aryeh Oron wrote (August 11, 2006):
Richard Raymond wrote:
"It is nevertheless impossible that it was composed for a child voice. Women being unthinkable in Leipzig churches, where was this Cantata performed for the first time?"
Of the 58 complete recordings of Cantata BWV 51, there is one by boy soprano - Clint Van Der Linde of the Drakensberg Boys' Choir, South Africa [42].

The album is NLA. However, the opening aria was uploaded by Boyd Pehrson into the file area of the BCML:
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/files/
IMO, this boy is certainly capable with powerful delivery and beautiful voice, if not clean from imperfections.
Even H&L recorded this cantata with a woman, assuming probably that it was written by Bach to a female singer (Anna Magdalena?).

Several concerts of the Magnificat BWV 243 and Cantata BWV 119 with the Israeli Camerata under the baton of Christoph Spering are scheduled for October this year. Clint van der Linde, a counter-tenor now, is listed among the soloists. I hope to have the opportunity of hearing him and maybe talking to him.

My preferences regarding recorded performance of this cantata remain much the same they were almost 5 year ago. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV51-D.htm
You can see that Schwarzkopf was not one of my favourite, although she could give a lesson or two about intonation and diction to many other singers of this cantata (it is reasonable to assume that she actually did).

To the list of favourite recordings I would add now Malin Hartelius with Gardiner (from his BCP) [55] and Doris Hagel with Ensemble Seicento [60].

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 11, 2006):
[To Chris Rowson] Cantata BWV 51 has "special event" and "special singer" written all over it but it was not beyond the technical abilities of Bach's choirboys. A high C is not a difficult note to sing: I've heard many choirboys deliver not one but eight high C's in performances of the Allegri "Miserere". Bach asks for a high B in the "Gloria" of the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232).

And the coloratura passage-work, although supremely challenging, can find comparable passages througout the cantatas both in the arias and in the choir movements: the coloratura of the "Pleni Sunt Coeli" is A-list in difficulty.

The idea of a castrato in Dresden is appealing because the work itself is such a show-off "bomba". For whatever reason, Bach wants to showcase both the talents of an extraordinary singer and his own genius.

If the evidence from Dresden is not forthcoming, then we are left with the conclusion that Bach wrote Cantata BWV 51 for an accomplished young teenager.

Our problem is that modern singers, both women and boys, find the cantata difficult because they are not singing this kind of repretoire exclusively. Very few women sopranos can attempt Cantata BWV 51 because they are trained in a late Romantic bel canto technique which simply doesn't allow the technical agility to manage the passagework accurately or control the vibrato in their voices. They think they can put on their "white" Bach voice, but it never sounds natural.

What we've lost is the training which Bach gave to his singers which let them sing this music without vocal crisis. It is only really in the last 20 years, that specialists suchas Kirkby [30], Argenta [41] and Nelson have essentially undone their training and found a method which allows them to sing these works without sounding like they're attempting Everest. Even an accomplished singer such as Teresa Stich-Randall can never dispel the impression that this is hard, hard work.

The situation is even more problmatic with modern choirboys. Bach is not a regular part of their repertoire and so the learning curve is very steep even for the major German and English choirs. For every performance of Bach, the choirs have to relearn "how" to sing this music because it is not the normative musical language as it was for Bach's choirs.

Today we are stuck with specialist women sopranos who have developed a "Bach voice" for modern performance. They do the music high service, but I don't believe they sound anything like Bach's voices. Those, alas, have fallen silent.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 11, 2006):
>> music is communication, and visual clues help, whether they are practiced or spontaneous. >>
< Bach's performers were all invisible in the choir loft. >
Yup. All the more reason to do more noticeable stuff with timing/articulation, to help put the music across clearly. (I recall pointing out this same thing here some three or four years ago, but I don't have the handy reference to my postings about that. It was very likely in discussion threads about "gesture" or "gestural performance".)

Several of my older web essays about that type of thing are the "What does a musical performer think about?", "musical performance and preparation", "decoro, sprezzatura, grazia in creativity" at: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/essays.html

A demo of my recordings, trying to demonstrate those principles in practice (links below):

CDs and free downloads: harpsichord... http://tinyurl.com/gd5up
organ... http://tinyurl.com/zhcse
trumpet/organ... http://tinyurl.com/jrn4g
personal web site: http://tinyurl.com/jnjo4

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 11, 2006):
< The first priority for a singer in Bach's time was to be clearly heard in a large space such as a church. Even today with miking tricks to amplify the voice sufficiently in the recordings we hear, many Bach soloists simply do not have the capability to project their voices unaided with sufficient volume to be heard in such a space [for the sopranos singing BWV 51, for instance, this would mean primarily the notes from middle C to the G above middle C]. >
"Simply do not have the capability"?! What speculation.

Please name one, even one, of the current "Bach soloists" whom you have heard personally in a concert in a church. Personally. Live. With no mikes or anything else, but just standing up there and singing it.

Maybe I'm personally spoiled in perspective by really performing this music; but the serious sopranos I've worked with in singing Bach solos all had plenty of capability to project clear sound into medium-to-loud churches and auditoriums. A classmate of mine, way back in college, could sing BWV 51 just fine and we performed it together (with my piano accompaniment) in a hall that seated several hundred. She hit the high C's both in this piece and in the Allegri "Miserere"; I also heard her sing G below middle C, without problem, in other music.

After that I was organist for years in a large-volume church in Michigan, where we regularly had performances of Bach's and other baroque music; again, all the singers had zero problem being heard, with zero miking anywhere. Even I could sing in there, doing one-to-a-part vocal music, and my singing voice is nothing special. Whether we sang from the balcony or the back floor or the front, there was no problem hearing anything in that room.

More recently, I've done some Bach concerts with the professional soprano Amanda Balestrieri here in Virginia, and she has no problem being heard over whatever reasonable size of orchestra.
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Balestrieri-Amanda.htm
Her university students whom I've heard in concerts can also project their voices just fine.

So, I just don't "get" your denigration of the phantom "many Bach soloists" who allegedly aren't up to the appointed task of being heard, not "having the capability" to do their jobs. All the people in my college choirs who sang as soloists had that capability; and, we did an unmiked performance in Ely Cathedral, which is a huge church by anybody's standards. So, what's this allegation that professional Baroque specialists today can't project into a reasonably large space? And allegation that it's all done with miking tricks for recordings? Can you please offer even the anecdotal evidence that you've actually heard one of these specialists sing a live concert, specifically?

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 11, 2006):
Brad Lehman wrote:
Doug:
< Bach's performers were all invisible in the choir loft. >
Brad:
< Yup. All the more reason to do more noticeable stuff with timing/articulation, to help put the music across clearly. (I recall pointing out this same thing here some three or four years ago, but I don't have the handy reference to my postings about that. It was very likely in discussion threads about "gesture" or "gestural performance".) >
Howver, it is an acoustic phenomenon that singers and instrumentalists in a large church building have greater presence when performing in a rear gallery above the audience/congregation's head. Most galleries are in fact small 3-sided rooms which tend to amplify the sound -- it's also a very intimate performing space for the musicians.

Perhaps the worst place to perform is at the front of a large church at the chancel or sanctuary steps. The sound is often muddied or diffuse. And yet this is the favoured placement in modern concerts so that the audience can
see the performers -- the whole placement of performers with soloists placed away from the choir and the choir behind the orchestra shows the persistence of Romantic performance protocols.

There is no point in performing Baroque music in historic locations if the placement of forces is contrary to authentic norms. Bach never performed his music from the front of the church.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 11, 2006):
< Well if I ask myself "what place do I connect with J.S. Bach, trumpets and a soprano?" I come up with the answer Weißenfels. >
Or perhaps Cöthen: where young soprano Anna Magdalena W was one of the highest-paid professional musicians in the ensemble, and came from a family of trumpeters.

Circumstantial evidence only, of course.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 12, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
[As usual, the reader is left in the dark as to the names of the BCML members who submitted these two, separate remarks.]
>>music is communication, and visual clues help, whether they are practiced or spontaneous.<<
> Bach's performers were all invisible in the choir loft.<

Now Brad Lehman states:
>>Yup. All the more reason to do more noticeable stuff with timing/articulation, to help put the music across clearly...A demo of my recordings, trying to demonstrate those principles in practice....<<
Why not submit a demo of the short "Alleluja" at the end of BWV 51/4 in which you participated or of a soloist whom you admire? Then this snippet can be compared with recordings by the other HIP-style soloists of which I wrote on September 5, 2001: "Baird [33], Argenta [41], and Holton [54] all exhibit the characteristics that I have already alluded to above: middle and low range weak, superb accuracy in singing the notes precisely, but frequently this entirely instrumental approach to singing, as much as I enjoy listening to Babeing performed as if no human voice were singing, I then begin to long for the human warmth and emotion (not the overwrought emotion of opera divas, but the genuine emotion that is hinted at in the text) that only a human voice is able to produce, when it has the natural and trained resources to allow the human heart of the singer to reveal itself to the listener."

Why even ask if I have even heard a good, live performance of this work (which I have), when you or I are unable to put such performances before BCML list members for their own comparison? A true test of opinions based upon memories many years old is only possible if recorded evidence can be presented and examined objectively by others. Perhaps you were fortunate to work with such a superlative soprano voice, but there is no way to judge this properly even based soley upon your own musical judgement in this matter. Since you seem to have avoided commenting directly and specifically (what about determining the adequacy or inadequacy of voice volume on the low notes which I pointed out recently giving exact locations in the score?) upon the recorded performances of such HIP sopranos as listed above, it appears to be a fruitless discussion which digresses into past, rosy-colored, personal memories and does not address and focus upon the issue directly. Perhaps you prefer to live with your own memories of performances in which you were involved rather than objectively examine recordings of this music which already exist and which allow for a more objective comparison? Asking a list member whether he or she has heard a live performance of this cantata, possibly one, which more often than not, allows for visual contact with the audience brings in many peripheral issues as well as distractions which lead away from judging the performance objectively. Relistening frequently to a recording and with a score in hand without any other distractions, visual or otherwise, will allow a careful listener to uncover factors which would normally be overlooked during a single live performance. This is the reasonable procedure that has been followed successfully on this list: a comparison of performances of the same music recorded over a wide span of years by a wide assortment of soloists and groups.

It would also be hoped that a similarly fair treatment could also be applied to obtaining a truly objective comparison of recorded performances using different temperaments and performance styles. While the latter has already been discussed on numerous occasions and will certainly continue into the future, the former still needs to be remedied by introducing recordings using other 'near' equal temperaments for comparison.

Aryeh Oron wrote (August 12, 2006):
[To Bradley Lehman & Thomas Braatz] As a test case, I would like to bring forth an example with which both of you should be familiar. This is Malin Hartelius with Gardiner & EBS [55] recorded live in a church during the famous BCP. Hartelius voice is rich and full along the whole range, she tackles easily the high notes and her articulation is good. But what is even more important is the vividness and sheer joy that her singing reflects. The playing of the strings and trumpet is technically excellent and convey pure joy. I am so familiar with this work that I cannot bear listening to some of the other recordings from beginning to end. With Hartelius/Gardiner I find myself being swept and wanting to listen to it all over again. To use already mentioned terms: in my ears Hartelius' singing is both instrumental and emotional.

Instead of exchanging messages between you both, trying to prove the impossible, I would like to hear your opinion of this recording.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 12, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
[And I'm including his name here AT HIS INSISTENCE that things be done his way!]
< Why not submit a demo of the short "Alleluja" at the end of BWV 51/4 in which you participated or of a soloist whom you admire? >
I already said here a couple of days ago that my two favorite recording are by Kirkby [30] and Hartelius [55], each with Gardiner, years apart. Why do you need a demo? Just go buy a copy of those, or look for web samples, if you really care to hear them.

< Then this snippet can be compared with recordings by the other HIP-style soloists of which I wrote on September 5, 2001: "Baird [33], Argenta [41], and Holton [54] all exhibit the characteristics that I have already alluded to above: middle and low range weak, superb accuracy in singing the notes precisely, but frequently this entirely instrumental approach to singing, as much as I enjoy listening to Bach being performed as if no human voice were singing, I then begin to long for the human warmth and emotion (not the overwrought emotion of opera divas, but the genuine emotion that is hinted at in the text) that only a human voice is able to produce, when it has the natural and trained resources to allow the human heart of the singer to reveal itself to the listener." >
So: you don't actually "know" that these professional musicians are incompetent, unless you'd actually go hear them perform in some fair number of live gigs and consistently muck it up.

We only really know that you personally don't fancy/respect their published results, on selected recordings. But that's about your taste and preferences: and saying nothing one way or the other about the ability or intelligence of those soloists, conductors, or record producers.

< Why even ask if I have even heard a good, live performance of this work (which I have), when you or I are unable to put such performances before BCML list members for their own comparison? (...) >
Oh, spare us the lecturing [35 lines of text deleted]. As noted above, I've already stated what my personal favorites are. I haven't heard as many recordings of it as you in your web report; I've heard only about eight or nine. But, I'm still most delighted with the two I mentioned. And I've only performed this particular piece with that friend in college, as I mentioned, 20 years ago, as her regular accompanist for a whole school term in lessons; but at least I have performed the piece in a decent-sized hall and with a competent singer. Better than nothing.

I'm glad that you've actually heard it performed live. By whom, in what type of hall, with what type of instruments and in what style, when?

Was it by any of the singers whose work you allege is faulty, which was the point of my question? That is, do you know what any of them really sound like in a live performance situation; or are your allegations against their vocal technique made-up by your impressions from recordings, where you allege that tricky miking makes them sound competent and they somehow wouldn't otherwise?

< It would also be hoped that a similarly fair treatment could also be applied to obtaining a truly objective comparison of recorded performances using different temperaments and performance styles. While the latter has already been discussed on numerous occasions and will certainly continue into the future, the former still needs to be remedied by introducing recordings using other 'near' equal temperaments for comparison. >
Go right ahead, especially if you believe you're up to doing such a "truly objective comparison". Please. [Which, to me, would have to involve actually playing the piece and not merely listening to recordings.... So much of the content in trying different temperaments is in how it affects the performers as the music is happening, and influences phrasing/articulation/timing/accentuation.]

Meanwhile, using my proposed temperament that I believe was Bach's own, the several recordings that have already been produced recently (and merely awaiting release now) are listed at this web page: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/larips/recordings.html

Others frothe past year, performed by various ensembles and broadcast on the BBC and Netherlands Radio, are listed here: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/larips/usage.html

I'm a little curious as to why you're introducing temperament issues now into this discussion of BWV 51, unless you're seriously becoming interested in unequal temperaments now (after such a long period pressing your equal-temperament preferences and your linguistic red-herrings about "aequalitate" etc in Bach's organ examinations). Thanks for your interest in my research! But if you must know: so far, as far as I know, nobody has used this temperament specifically with BWV 51 yet. It almost happened, last year, when my trumpeter colleague (Martin Hodel, member of Minnesota Orchestra etc) played the piece with Rilling in a concert. He showed my paper to Rilling and the continuo players, but they didn't feel they had enough lead time on it to give it a try for that concert. Obviously, it should work beautifully as its point is to be absolutely unproblematic and smooth in all keys. It certainly worked fine all the way through the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244), in the Netherlands Bach Society production this year.

Newest paper here, and see also the September issue of BBC Music Magazine for a shorter printed version of it: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/larips/art.html

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 12, 2006):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< As a test case, I would like to bring forth an example with which both of you should be familiar. This is Malin Hartelius with Gardiner & EBS [55] recorded live in a church during the famous BCP.
I would like to hear your opinion of this recording. >
I would like to hear opinions, as well, for very practical reasons. I have several versions of BWV 51, including the Ely Ameling (LP) [20], which performance Aryeh gave an A+ in the last round. I am too old (early-middle-aged, in my mind, but limited by storage and filing logistics) to accumulate the complete Bach Cantata discography. The Gardiner is a tempting option.

Because of the chat, I listened to Ruth Holton with Leusink (BWV 51) [54] today. Brad Lehman quote (I believe, in reference to other Leusink): Any complaints about that?

I rely on BCW commentary for help in purchasing decisions. So far, very useful in finding best quality and value. Keep it up.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 12, 2006):
I previously wrote (minutes ago):
< Because of the chat, I listened to Ruth Holton with Leusink (BWV 51) [54] today. Brad Lehman quote (I believe, in reference to other Leusink): Any complaints about that? >
In looking over some other recent posts, I realize that Ruth Holton [54] was not one of Tom Braatz favorites. Any added controversy was unintentional. I am the opposite sort. Peace.

However, I would be interested to hear the complaints. A quick, and first, listen to Leusink/Holton [54] sounded unexpectedly good, to me.

Richard Raymond wrote (August 12, 2006):
Chris Rowson wrote:
< Well if I ask myself "what place do I connect with J.S. Bach, trumpets and a soprano?" I come up with the answer Weißenfels.
But apart from this, I would point out that the list of visits to
Dresden that Wolff has documented is not necessarily the complete list.
On the other hand, were there really any male singers at all who could make those top notes? Can we not safely say that it was written for a woman? >
I think that soprano castratos could easily produce very high notes (see Mozart Exultate and some Händel's arias). But this type of voice has completely disappeared and modern counter-tenors are only able to sing alto castratos parts without the necessary power.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 12, 2006):
BWV 51 - Castrati

[To Richard Raymond] There is the case of Michael Maniaci who bills himself as a "Male Soprano". He has incredible range and sang the "Exultate Jubilate" with Toronto's Tafelmusik to great acclaim last season. Interestingly, a friend of mine attended the concert with a doctor who specializes in the endrocrinology of gender, and he noted that the singer's body type probably indicated a unique hormonal situation.

Maniaci's website is: http://www.ffaire.com/aria/maniaci.html

While googling to get the correct spelling of his name, I ran across this perfume: http://www.perfumecountry.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=SOLOSOPRANONATURALSCENT

Makes you want to sing Cantata BWV 51!

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (August 12, 2006):
[To Douglas Cowling]
Two questions:
(1) L: Did Lutheran theology have anything to say on this Catholic voice usage?
Would Bach have theologically used a geschnitten Mann?
(2) Ph: Did you doctor music-loving friend do an examination of the singer?
Otherwise his conclusions have little meaning.

The prefixes L: and Ph: are according to Thomas Braatz's proposed system, resp. Lutheranism and Physical characteristics, a system that might be suited for editors at OUP but would never function on e-lists,

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 12, 2006):
BWV 51 Gardiner-Hartelius [55]

Comments on the Gardiner BCP performance of BWV 51

Technical circumstances of my listening experience:

Normally I would wish to listen to the same recording several times over a period of a few days while comparing it with other recordings of the same work. This time I listened to the same recording only twice in rather quick succession on the same evening. I know that I had heard this BCP cantata along with the others on this CD when it first arrived some time ago. At that time, without reference to a score and possibly involved in some other activity at the same time as well, I was not particularly impressed by this performance. Now, however, I put on my high-quality Sennheiser head-phones and placed my full attention on the performance while following the score carefully. After only a short interruption, I listened to it once again, but this time the sound emanated from loudspeakers in an adjoining room. Previously I have used this type of set-up to obtain a completely different aural ‘perspective’, one that allows me to evaluate the quality and particularly the fullness of a voice whether singing loudly or softly. For instance, in comparing the solo cantatas for bass recorded by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Matthis Goerne and moving the listening environment from close to more distant, there was very little ‘fall off’ in the true quality and substance (other than slightly less, 'in-your-face' volume) of DFD’s voice compared to MG’s, who, on the other hand, possibly due to his fast vibrato and other factors, now sounded rather thin and scratchy in comparison (unpleasant to my ears). Similarly, as detailed below, Hartelius’ voice does not stand up well under this type of ‘distance test’. While her high C’s and the higher coloraturas can be distinctly heard with sufficient power behind these notes, the performance in the slow mvts. tended to become rather boring as her voice remained rather consistently in a sotto-voce mode of singing. The energy and complete emotional commitment in the voice of a great singer singing with a full voice even in the softer passages would still be evident in such a distance test. With Hartelius this type of energy, vocal support and capability are particularly lacking in the slow mvts. and the chorale which are executed with the vocal restraint common among many HIP vocalists. In the fast mvts., Hartelius’ voice begins to sound forced and slightly out of control (see below for details).

General comments:

Gardiner and his inst

The tempi chosen for Mvt. 1 and Mvt. 4 (only the “Alleluja” section) were a bit too fast for the vocalist to handle properly. The awkward sounding trills played by the trumpeter sounded unnatural at times, particularly as he approached the end of a long trill. The instrumental accompaniment to the chorale section (Mvt. 4) sounded rather dull despite Gardiner’s attempt to add what he might consider as a little ‘bounce’ to the movement. The violin-playing in this mvt. is particularly light (without substance) and subdued and in no way bears any resemblance to what Bach’s music for two violins, as that in the Double Concerto in D-minor, BWV 1043, can really sound like when played by world-class violinists. The best violin-playing in this mvt. which I have heard so far is Monica Huggett’s (I forgot who played the other violin part). She and her partner have what is called in German “einen guten Strich” (a good, solid, powerful-in-expression bowing technique that engenders confidence in the listener). This positive, relentlessly forward moving force is lacking in Gardiner’s treatment of this mvt. where the organ and harpsichord ‘poke’ at chords here and there while the other instruments are playing in a light, staccato fashion throughout in a quasi dance-like fashion ‘lightly tripping through the glade’. This is one of the serious failings of many current HIP conductors: by using these techniques, they remove the solid foundation required as support for a voice firmly singing a chorale as an article of faith. What results here is a clinically sanitized version (one with the substantive religious element removed) for presentation as entertainment for a concert-going audience, not as a performance embedded in a church service and directed at uplifting the congregation in fervent devotion.

Malin Hartelius – the soprano voice

The first impression I had was a good one: she is really hitting those high C’s ‘right on’. This is like a world-class skater hitting triple and quadruple axle rotation jumps during the final competition. Unfortunately, judges will be looking for a lot more than this type of stunning feat which certainly ‘wows’ an audience and definitely adds points to the overall score. The impression I got from hearing her final high C on “-ja” in the “Alleluja” section, however, was that it was not easily achieved, but produced with great effort and exertion, not characteristic of sopranos who have complete control over their voices.

Mvt. 1

After a very joyful beginning section, resembling in some ways Qweksilber’s performance under Leonhardt which also exudes some strength in jubilation uncannily combining some of the traits of boys’ voices with those of an adult female's, Hartelius’ voice begins to settle much more into a sotto-voce mode from which it barely recovers at times (as in the final high C of Mvt. 4). The coloraturas are cleanly executed (often lacking an intrusive vibrato – which is a good thing) in an instrumental fashion, but they tend to lack the emotional depth and appeal of a voice capable of singing with a full voice throughout (even in the so-called softer, lyrical sections).

As Bach soloists even in Bach’s time did not sing their parts from memory, but had before their eyes the parts from which they sang directly, it would appear that Hartelius also would have followed this general custom which still prevails today. Hence, there really should not be an excuse for changing any of the notes which Bach not only had written out in the autograph score, but also personally hand-copied from the score (this is the only part in the entire original set of parts where this occurred!). Yet Hartelius changes the pattern of notes in m. 56 of Mvt. 1. [An even more egregious example of such a change is committed by Niklas Eklund, the trumpeter, in m. 75 of the same mvt.]
[Aryeh Oron will create a URL address to point to score samples showing the differences involved.]

Mvt. 2

The contrasting change from the first mvt. to the second is profound as Gardiner switches to the prayer mode. Here Hartelius’ voice promotes a prayerful attitude by a simple, smooth performance without vibrato accompanied (enveloped as it were) by the lush legato string and continuo playing. In the prayer, both ‘praising God’ (“wir preisen”) which remains subdued and ‘my weak voice’ (“der schwache Mund”) are taken as the key words which allow her interpretation to remain on the sotto-voce level as ‘simple praise’ (“Ein schlechtes Lob”) which becomes ‘half-hearted’ praise. This type of singing is not expressive interpretation of the text, but rather is more comparable to an opera singer who engages in ‘markieren’ (not singing with a full voice) during a rehearsal in order to save strength and voice for the real performance when the full voice is needed and used.

Mvt. 3

In this mvt. the ‘Markieren’ factor becomes very evident. Singing a lyrical Bach aria by hitting all the correct notes as an instrument would, but failing to put sufficient emotive content in the words which are being sung because the singer is unwilling to put full heart and soul into singing them or because the singer simply does not have a full voice to begin with, transforms this aria into one that shows very little gratitude for the gifts received from God each new day because everything seems to remain on the same sotto-voce plane.

Mvt. 4

In singing the simple notes of the chorale melody, Hartelius now makes it quite apparent that this fervent, powerful hymn of praise will remain on the sotto-voce level throughout. This concept of transforming a mvt. such as this into a pretty dance, if it is indeed Gardiner’s and not due to Gardiner accommodating the vocal insufficiencies of the singer, does a disservice to the text and even the entire tradition of chorale-singing from Luther’s time to Bach’s. The notion of strength and conviction in one’s belief in God has been eviscerated and transformed into a light, courtly entertainment treated more as background music than a sign of deep faith.

The “Alleluja” (Mvt. 5)

In this section, Hartelius attempts to put more power back into her voice, but the results are not as good as in the first mvt. since now there is evidence that the voice needs to be forced thus causing the coloraturas to become shaky with vibrato-like insecurities abounding throughout these passages. She is unable to retain sufficient strength for the lower notes, and, although they can be clearly heard, they are nevertheless weak. Her voice lacks fullness unless it is forced and then she begins ‘skating on very thin ice’.

Summaries:

Summary 1: Hartelius’ voice and her performance:

Hartelius’ voice has many of the good as well as the bad attributes that are general characteristics of quite a number of HIP singers (see Summary 2 below). What distinguishes her from her counterparts in this group is that her singing in the faster mvts. does not appear to be as effortless as some other sopranos in the same category. This allows for more excitement to be felt in some of her coloraturas and particularly when she attacks her high C’s with a full voice but then creates a certain degree of insecure wobbling in other coloraturas where she tries to sing them with the same vocal intensity. In such mvts. as those with faster tempi (particularly in the final “Alleluja”), the feeling of great effort being expended by the vocalist begins to detract from her overall performance. This occurs just as she attempts to “to go all out” using the full capacity of her voice, which throughout mvts. 2, 3 and the beginning of 4 (chorale) has been operating on a maintenance level (sotto voce, “markieren”, or ‘rehearsal’ or save- the-voice-for-the-actual-performance mode). In these middle mvts., she fulfills the necessary requirements without the full engagemof the singer in what might be termed “a heart-and-soul performance that represents the heartfelt joy and praise offered to God for one’s day-to-day existence and the blessings received”.

Summary 2: Some main objectives of HIP vocalists generally:

Hartelius, in my opinion, belongs to the category of half-voice singers that typifies many HIP singers who seem to have the following goals in mind:

1. sing with great vocal accuracy (Swingle-Singer style) – the intonation is perfect, the attack of each note is generally not accompanied by any swooping or obvious insecurities, vibrato-less singing is encouraged (and this certainly helps attain good intonation). [This is a noble and admirable goal that I admire as it does away with performances of Bach’s music by opera stars who inflict their style of operatic singing on Bach’s music without adjusting to Bach’s style of singing.]

2. achieve an instrumental style of singing – the expression of words is secondary to vocalists as the main effort is directed toward getting the notes right, and not necessarily singing from the bottom of one’s heart the meaning which is inherent in the text (the affect of the entire text, not only word-painting of individual words). [This method pursued to its bitter end does away with singing which conveys deep emotive content. This can lead to an unfortunate loss as singers become more and more clinical (soulless) in their approach to Bach’s music and think more of entertaining their audiences with what they assume a modern audience would like to hear rather than uplifting such an audience with a spiritual element and conviction that is beyond words alone and that only music underscoring the words can achieve.]

3. emulate and conform to the ‘lite entertainment’ style of performance supported by numerous HIP conductors: if the instruments generally play with a light, staccato effect, do likewise with the voice by restraining the use of a full voice, if the singer actually has one with a full range, or simply adapting and training the existing voice to sing sotto voce most of the time. [in a sotto-voce style of singing, all the notes are being sung, but without the full commitment of the singer – this amounts to a half-hearted rendition of music which really deserves to be sung as if your life depended on it and not like dashing off just another coloratura exercise that needs to be completed in order to stay in shape.]

4. add embellishments or additional flourishes not indicated in Bach’s score or original parts to demonstrate the interpretative freedom and inventive ingenuity of the performer (no matter that Bach meticulously attempted to record what he considered to be in the best possible musical taste and hoped would represent his musical compositions in such a way to preserve his honor as a composer for all time.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 12, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
[55] >>Yet Hartelius changes the pattern of notes in m. 56 of Mvt. 1. [An even more egregious example of such a change is committed by Niklas Eklund, the trumpeter, in m. 75 of the same mvt.]<<
Aryeh Oron has kindly posted these examples which can now be viewed at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV51-Sco.htm

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 12, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
[55] < Aryeh Oron has kindly posted these examples which can now be viewed at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV51-Sco.htm >
Could the trumpet alteration be considered an embellishment? If the soprano change is only in performance, I suspect the singer probably just couldn't manage the coloratura.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 12, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
[55] >>Could the trumpet alteration be considered an embellishment?<<
I have considered this possibility since I know that I have heard trils with a note a minor third above in some HIP performances where Bach has a 'tr', but I have yet to read any primary historical sources which document this as a performance possibility in Bach's time.

In performance such trills sound rather quirky and distract from other trills that are performed normally by the voice and other instruments.

Harry W. Crosby wrote (August 13, 2006):
I can only address this topic as a loving listener, not as musician or musicologist, but, in every way I could understand, Thomas Braatz's review of the Hartelius/Gardiner BWV 51 [55], reached me. I completely agree; I related; I found my own inchoate reactions verbalized.

For anyone interested, my favorite of this remains Augér/Rilling [28] (and yes, I am aware that some have dealt with her and it rather harshly on this site --- but there it is: It addresses a wonderful challenge, Jauchzet Gott en allen Landen, better to my mind than any other I've been able to hear).

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 13, 2006):
Harry W. Crosby wrote:
< I can only address this topic as a loving listener >
If only there were more!

I intend to continue this thread in a few days, after I have the Schwarzkopf/EMI [3], and especially the Stepner-LaBelle [59] (as yet unmentioned), CD's in hand.

Nothing I have read makes me feel any urgency to add the Gardiner-Hartelius [55], to supplement Leusink-Holton [54] and Baird-Rifkin [33]. I will trust the posted comparisons, no clear favorite in the HIP category. Everyone gets a bad word from one corner or another. I prefer Holton's voice, Rifkin's tempo and overall balance, both versions very enjoyable. Unless that suggested Baird synthetic note bothers you. What can you do, you are listening to a record. What you hear is what you get.

Maybe the nostalgia factor kicks in, but I still love my Elly Ameling LP [20], nice coupling with BWV 199. No doubt, we have lots of other wonderful new stuff, but they don't make them like that anymore.

 

Continue on Part 6

Cantata BWV 51: Details
Recordings:
1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10
Article:
The Need for Bach: A discussion of his life, Jauchzet Gott in Allen Landen, BWV 51 and Ich habe genung, BWV 82 [S. Burton]

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

Introduction | Cantatas | Other Vocal | Instrumental | Performers | General Topics | Articles | Books | Movies | New
Biographies | Texts & Translations | Scores | References | Commentaries | Music | Concerts | Festivals | Tour | Art & Memorabilia
Chorale Texts | Chorale Melodies | Lutheran Church Year | Readings | Poets & Composers | Arrangements & Transcriptions
Search Website | Search Works/Movements | Terms & Abbreviations | Copyright | How to contribute | Sitemap | Links



 

Back to the Top


Last update: ýNovember 5, 2014 ý09:32:30