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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 51
Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen!
Discussions - Part 6

Continue from Part 5

Equal volume and quality [Continue]

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 13, 2006):
[55] Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>Could the trumpet alteration be considered an embellishment?<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
>>I have yet to read any primary historical sources which document this as a performance possibility in Bach's time.<<
"Der Terzentriller" (a trill consisting of the note, then a third above it, then the note again, in other words, a trill using an interval of a third rather than a second) is primarily an Italian innovation. As presented by Ganassi (1535) who calls it a 'tremolo' in his instruction book, it was restricted to use on recorders. It appears that its use elsewhere in Europe was sporadic and restricted to the late Renaissance and early Baroque with Italians being the main proponents of this type of trill.

Quantz ("Versuch....", Berlin, 1752) mentions that despite the fact that it may have been used in "olden times" [back to the time of Ganassi] and despite the fact that several Italian violinists and oboists still use it today [1752], it should not be used by vocalists nor by instrumentalists with the exception of bagpipers. A trill, according to Quantz, may only vary a semitone or one whole tone from the bass note. (Chapter IX, Paragraph 4).

HIP trumpeters who use this 'Terzentriller' in playing Bach are very likely ill-informed about performance practices in Bach's time and believe that they can apply a 'Terzentriller' thereby avoiding the normal trill which they are unable to play cleanly on their natural trumpets.

Eric Bergerud wrote (August 13, 2006):
Just as we have said good bye to the Bach_Cantatas list, I am sure they had a file of boy soprano singing the major movement in BWV 51 with considerable impact. The boy was a South African named Clint Van der Linde [42]. Before we conclude it was impossible for Bach to have written what he did, to all appearances, write, is it possible to track this piece down?

Aryeh Oron wrote (August 13, 2006):
BWV 51 - Boy Soprano

[To Eric Bergerud] [42] Only a couple of days ago I answered a similar query.
See: Message from August 11, 2006.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (August 13, 2006):
[To Aryeh Oron & Eric Bergerud]
[42] Thank you both for reminding us of this recording to which I just re-listened (I had saved it when it was first uploaded).

My conclusion is the same now as before. It is a tour de force and this very capable young man (what age was he, if anyone knows?) ably performs. However it does not bring me a great deal of pleasure.

If indeed Bach heard all his soprano and alt voices in form so different from what our own aesthetic concepts are, then we must accept that with the passage of time the world is different. Of course this is one young man. However the recording of Max Emanuel Cencic of WAM's Exsultate, jubilate is also a wonderful testament to the skills of this singer when he was quite young. Nevertheless it is a specialty item which would not be my first choice.

In real life, as opposed to recordings, when I attended weekly mass at the Hofburgskapelle in Wien where the Wiener Sängerknaben every week sang WAM, Haydn, Schubert, etc., between all the magic of the place and the total lack of heating one simply fell under the spell of the music in the mass (of which only the celebrants partook).

Eric Bergerud wrote (August 14, 2006):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] I understand and sympathize with your viewpoint although my only regret was that we didn't have Linde's entire performance - what was there made my ears very happy. I certainly find joy in the wonderful cantata singing done by women - such works constitute most of my collection. That said, I think it extremely unfortunate that no one today has tried to build upon what H&L did thirty years ago. At present we have available cantata recordings representing a very large range of performance styles. (Let's hope some of the older works stay in print or we're going to be looking at a lot of OVPP works down the road.) It is ironic, I think, that the one style we know Bach did compose for and conduct is not available at all among works in print. Nothing is more subjective than the human ear. I personally would jump at the chance to listen to an all male cantata performance. But I doubt I'll ever get the chance live or on CD. As it stands I am very glad I have as many of the old Harnoncourt works as I do. But just as I think someone could improve upon them, I doubt anyone will try. I really hope that the sniping from critics like Taruskin who like to remind the period performance musicians of the things they can't do hasn't blunted an appreciation of what they have done and can do more of. But maybe Doug is right. Maybe the voices that sung for Bach have "fallen silent." It would be very sad if they've done so as a result of a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Raymond Joly wrote (August 14, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< [...] I certainly find joy in the wonderful cantata singing done by women [....]. That said, I think it extremely unfortunate that no one today has tried to build upon what H&L did thirty years ago. [...] It is ironic, I think, that the one style we know Bach did compose for and conduct is not available at all among works in print. [...] I personally would jump at the chance to listen to an all male cantata performance. But I doubt I'll ever get the chance live or on CD. As it stands I am very glad I have as many of the old Harnoncourt works as I do. But just as I think someone could improve upon them, I doubt anyone will try. [...]
Maybe the voices that sung for Bach have "fallen silent." It would be very sad if they've done so as a result of a self-fulfilling prophesy. >
It is hard to disagree with anything Eric Bergerud wrote below. May I offer two (hopefully) consoling remarks?

1) The sound Bach had in mind when composing his cantatas was the sound of boys' voices. But that was none of his choosing, and those who had decided it would be so did not act on musical motives. He was happy to write for women's voices when he could.

2) Members of the Bach Cantatas list have read hundreds of times about singers who hit the notes all right, stay well within the bounds of Baroque style and make a pleasant sound, but remain ultimately uninteresting because they do not convey much of the human and spiritual substance of Bach's works. How many fourteen-year olds will bring more depth of knowledge, thought, sensitivity and experience to the task than adults?

Eric Bergerud wrote (August 14, 2006):
[To Raymond Joly] As for your points:

1) It is utterly idle to speculate what Bach would have done had he been in a different place or a different era. Did Bach envy Handel? Maybe, but we have no evidence that he did. (Women, sure. How about a castrati? Common enough in Handel's world.) The Church associated children with innocence and when even Bach talked about the "chorus of angels" I wouldn't dismiss the sentiment. Bach, after all, was not the first composer of Church music that employed boys and he wasn't the last. To write the entire practice off as some form of patriarchy wrecking the arts is a bit much in my view. (Indeed, why have boys choirs today. Wouldn't adults do the job better?) But the point is that Bach did compose for boys and I would think that at least some people would be interested in hearing Bach's works sung by boys for that reason alone.

2) I wouldn't exactly call a 12 year old a child. I went through Lutheran Confirmation in grades 7-8 (learned more about important things there than in any class in school - of course it was also a lot more demanding) and remember being fascinated by the ideas and more than a little eager in finding ways to poke holes in the pastor's arguments. Indeed, I thought more about religion in that period of my life and shortly after than I didfor the following twenty years. Adults are different than children, but I think it very wrong to think that a young adult could not be moved by very intense thought and emotion. And I certainly think this could show up in his or her art. So would a young singer bring the same emotional experience to the task than an adult: obviously not. Would it be, by definition, inferior: justly as obviously not. The only thing I do know is that 13 year old boys are not going to sing Bach cantatas unless adults make it possible. And if adults assume they're artistically and emotionally not up to the job, it will not happen. Nice circle, nicht wahr?

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 14, 2006):
Raymond Joly wrote:
< 1) The sound Bach had in mind when composing his cantatas was the sound of boys' voices. But that was none of his choosing, and those who had decided it would be so did not act on musical motives. He was happy to write for women's voices when he could. >
So important, it is worth repeating, to say I agree. In fact, he could have had alternatives in mind all the way, and was just working within the imposed constraints for the immediate performance. No way to know. But the alternatives often sound superb.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 14, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< Adults are different than children, but I think it very wrong to think that a young adult could not be moved by very intense thought and emotion. >
A very wise guy, Anonymous, said:
No matter how long you live, the first twenty years of your life will be the longest half.

< The only thing I do know is that 13 year old boys are not going to sing Bach cantatas unless adults make it possible. And if adults assume they're artistically and emotionally not up to the job, it will not happen. Nice circle, nicht wahr? >
Excellent point, I'm glad I hung in until the end.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 14, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< So would a young singer bring the same emotional experience to the task than an adult: obviously not. Would it be, by definition, inferior: justly as obviously not. The only thing I do know is that 13 year old boys are not going to sing Bach cantatas unless adults make it possible. And if adults assume they're artistically and emotionally not up to the job, it will not happen. Nice circle, nicht wahr? >
I agree that child artists could sing and play Bach if we had a performance culture which promoted them. I simply don't believe that children are not intelligent or mature enough to do justice to Bach.

There are many adult musicians who will never achieve the level of a teenaged Midori or Yehudi Menuhin. We arrogantly call them "prodigies" as if they are freaks, yet in a culture such as Bach's which cultivated and trained its chiildren and teenagers to achieve high levels of musical achievement, there were young singers who could sing Cantata BWV 51: Bach wouldn't have written it if there hadn't been.

In another posting it is suggested that Bach worked under "imposed constraints". I just don't see Bach sitting there and thinking,

"Mein Gott, this would sound so much better if those male chauninist pigs would let women sing in church."

Might as well have him wishing he had a saxophone in his orchestra.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 14, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< In another posting it is suggested that Bach worked under "imposed constraints". I just don't see Bach sitting there and thinking,
"Mein Gott, this would sound so much better if those male chauninist pigs would let women sing in church." >

Are you suggesting he did not work under imposed constraints? I did not suggest he was thinking <this would sound so much better>, only that he might have thought it could be sung as well (or better) with other voices. But if you are saying <I don't see Bach> and I were to say <I see Bach>, how do we resolve that?

< Might as well have him wishing he had a saxophone in his orchestra. >
If he had a saxophone, he would have been the first to find something to do with it. See traverso extravaganza in current discussions (time out for BWV 33), still waiting for a flautist to join the commentary.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 14, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Are you suggesting he did not work under imposed constraints? I did not suggest he was thinking <this would sound so much better>, only that he might have thought it could be sung as well (or better) with other voices. >
Perhaps I'm not expressing myself well. Bach produced incredibly rich, challenging music. If he had felt himself under constraints we would not have written that music. In fact, Leipzig probably had the best musical conditions with allowed Bach to flourish. It's a Romantic prejudice to assume that Bach didn;t have the resources he wanted.

At the same time, Bach was the consummate arranager and adapter. If he had suddenly moved to Dresden and started composing Italian operas and Catholic masses, I'm sure we might have seen "Himmelsköning sei willkommen" reappear as a "Regina Coeli".

And if Sax had come to town with a working saxophone, I'm sure Bach would have written an unaccompanied suite for him to play late one night at Zimmerman's Coffee House.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 14, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Perhaps I'm not expressing myself well. Bach produced incredibly rich, challenging music. If he had felt himself under constraints we would not have written that music. >
You always express yourself quite well. If we pursue it a bit further, I expect we will find we agree much more than we disagree.

Let it slide for the moment, and I will find some citations (in his own words), which indicate how much Bach chafed at the constraints of the bureaucracy, or concede the point.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 14, 2006):
BWV 51 - Bach the Producer

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Let it slide for the moment, and I will find some citations (in his own words), which indicate how much Bach chafed at the constraints of the bureaucracy, or concede the point. >
Oh, I agree with you totally about the bureuacracy and politics of Bach's situation. He was a high-level government functionary in the city and an astute municipal politician. He was always pushing the envelope to get the resources he needed.

But the constraints were not musical. Anyone who could not only write the Matthew Passion (BWV 244) but produce it was a genius. What composer could ask for more lavish performing forces than the SMP? Even modern ensembles balk (no pun intended) at the formidable logistical and budgetary hurdles of producing the "Great Passion".

I still say that Bach was in the right place at the right time with the right resources to become the greatest composer in history.

Raymond Joly wrote (August 14, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Bach produced incredibly rich, challenging music. If he had felt himself under constraints he would not have written that music. >
I beg to differ. Constraints can be immensely stimulating.

As to my former posting on the subject of boys:
1) Stating the obvious fact that the veto on women singing in church was not based on musical grounds does not make you an anticlerical zealot.
2) I concurred with Eric Bergerud when he wished we could hear performances of Bach's sacred works using boys on the exalted level of achievement some of us are persuaded obtained in Leipzig. My point was that we will never know whether Bach ever gave a thought to whether he found boys ideal or not.
(By the way: has anyone observed differences in Bach's style when writing for women or for boys?)

Julian Mincham wrote (August 14, 2006):
Raymond Joly wrote:
< I beg to differ. Constraints can be immensely stimulating. >
I think that this is one of the (many) keys that we lesser mortals may use in order to attempt to penetrate something of the thinking of a genius like Bach. It seems that time and time again he created constraints (of a technical and artistic kind; I am not here talking of the issues of bureaucracy) and he used them to stimulate his creative imagina. The self imposed 'constraint' of composing all the cantatas himself for several years was one--Wolff makes clear that he was not contracted to do this. The choice of commencing each of the 2nd cycle cantatas (well, 42 out of 53) with a chorale fantasia was another.This decision imposed huge structural contraints of mode & key on Bach, a point I have touched upon before. His use of numbers and proportions is another. The view that 'if you don't hear it in the music it doesn't exist or isn't important' comes into question here. I would prefer to say that it was important for the composer even if the listener cannot pick it up.

Musical history abounds with examples of constraints stimulating creative endevour. Look at Beethoven's reworkings of themes when, in recapitulation, they returned in a higher key than the then keyboard could sustain and often this brought about the most imaginative of solutions (see for e.g., Op 31 no 2 first movement, the inverted pedal note).

I like to think that almost more than any other genious, Bach understood how restriction stimulates a creative response.It almost seemed that he needed it. Why else should he have appeared to have created so many problems for himself which he (on the surface) need not have done?

Incidentally the concept of restriction being a highly stimulating force is also a vital one for education and the teaching of young people who usually learn more and respond better within reasonably boundaries than when given total freedom. Almost certainly it was Bach's deep understanding of this point which made him a superb teacher as well as being so good at everything else!

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 14, 2006):
Raymond Joly wrote:
< I beg to differ. Constraints can be immensely stimulating. >
Actually, I agree. Bach was constrained by convention from using trumpets, horns and timpani in the Passions, yet there is no lack of thunder in "Sind Blitzen und Donner" in the Matthew Passion (BWV 244).

Then there are the constraints which a composer sets upon himself. "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" was written for Easter Day when the full festive orchestra was available. What does Bach do? He restricts himself to the austere sound of strings with double viola and then proceeds to pen what must be the greatest piece of Easter music ever written.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 14, 2006):
Saxes, etc (was: BWV 51 - Boy Soprano)

< At the same time, Bach was the consummate arranager and adapter. If he had suddenly moved to Dresden and started composing Italian operas and Catholic masses, I'm sure we might have seen "Himmelsköning sei willkommen" reappear as a "Regina Coeli".
And if Sax had come to town with a working saxophone, I'm sure Bach would have written an unaccompanied suite for him to play late one night at Zimmerman's Coffee House. >
Here's a fun little passage from Peter Kivy's book Authenticities, p39-40, on the topic of weakness in "Bach's intentions" arguments. There are "high-level" and "low-level" intentions and wishes, blah blah blah, all being rather futile (while still useful) to try to guess, because different cultures provide wholly different options. What would have composer X done in situation Y that was totally foreign to him; we really don't know, and citation of "Bach's intentions" in a restrictive way doesn't accomplish much. Kivy here:

"You will recall that one complication with regard to expressed wishes and intentions--the fifth item in our summary list--was with regard to the question of what the composer did not wish or intend. Bach did not wish the aria 'Ich folge dir...' to be accompanied by oboe or violin or another instrument, for he expressly stated that it should be accompanied by two transverse flutes in unison. He also did not wish it to be played on modern silver, gold, or platinum flutes with modern Boehm keywork but instead on a wooden one-keyed instrument. It is the second negative intention that provides the complication because, of course, the 'did not wish' in the first case suggests the possibility of considered alternatives; whereas in the second case it does not because Bach could not have contemplated the choice of an instrument that had not yet been invented. But this should no more bother us than does the case of William, who did not wish to be an aviator, in the obvious sense that, being a citizen of eighteenth-century England, he could not even contemplate the notion, because there were no flying machines or, a fortiori, people to pursue the profession of piloting them. It is, of course, part of our counterfactual framing of wishes and intentions in terms of future possibilities that we can ask, Were William alive today, would he have wanted to be an aviator? and, similarly, Were Bach alive today, would he have wanted 'Ich folge dir...' to be performed on modern flutes or period instruments?"

"But this leads us directly to the more serious complication--the sixth item in the summary list--as to whether it is in fact intelligible at all to ask, and expect to answer, these kinds of hypothetical questions. Certainly some such questions do seem to be bordering on the amusing absurdity of the parlor game in which one member of a group assumes the character of a famous personage and the others try to guess the name by asking questions like 'If you were a cheese, what kind of cheese would you be?' 'If Napoleon were a cheese, what kind of cheese would he be?' is not, it appears to me, an intelligible question with a real, determinable answer. And if all questions of the form, If composer X were alive today...? were of that level of absurdity, surely the view being put forward here could be dismissed out of hand."

By the way, I agree: if Sax had shown up with a working instrument, Bach probably would have written something for it to play. Bach's working method, regularly, was deeply pragmatic: to try things out by writing music that presses the limits--to see what the hardware and/or the musicians can handle. This is assuming, of course, that Bach wouldn't simply prefer to be an aviator instead of a musician! :)

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 14, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< This is assuming, of course, that Bach wouldn't simply prefer to be an aviator instead of a musician! :) >
"Nehmet an des Glaubens Flügel"

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 14, 2006):
< 13 year old boys are not going to sing Bach cantatas unless adults make it possible. And if adults assume they're artistically and emotionally not up to the job, it will not happen. >
And, some adults allege that adults (and especially Baroque-specialist adults) are not artistically and emotionally up the job of performing Bach's music correctly...but that's a radically pessimistic anomaly and it serves as its own reward.

What does anyone make of Clifford Bartlett's conjecture (written 1984), in the booklet of the Kirkby/Gardiner recording of BWV 51 [30], "The first performance was probably on September 17, 1730, with the virtuosic solo part sung by a 12-year-old boy, Christoph Nichelmann." ? That also agrees with the BWV entry on the likely first performance date: "wahrscheinlich zum 17.9.1730". The BWV's format doesn't list or suggest specific performers.

Another good discussion of this piece's development, and speculation about its first performers, is at pages 26-32 of the article "Bach the progressive" in Robert Marshall's The Music of Johann Sebastian Bach: the sources, the style, the significance. He points out that the autograph score looks like a presentation copy, not a normal everyday Leipzig church score (the type for Bach's own use), and posits several singers such as the castrato Giovanni Bindi, or Faustina Bordoni (Mrs Hasse), along with some boy options. Marshall's article here presents but dismisses Arnold Schering's idea that the boy soloist might have been CPE Bach.

=====

A good new disc where the singer is a 12-year-old boy performing music of the Bach household, having had five years of vocaltraining: http://www.move.com.au/disc.cfm/3304

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 14, 2006):
Constraints [was: BWV 51 - Bach the Producer]

Ed Myskowski wrote:
<< Let it slide for the moment, and I will find some citations (in his own words), which indicate how much Bach chafed at the constraints of the bureaucracy, or concede the point. >>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Oh, I agree with you totally about the bureuacracy and politics of Bach's situation. He was a high-level government functionary in the city and an astute municipal politician. He was always pushing the envelope to get the resources he needed.
But the constraints were not musical. >
The ensuing discussion has been rewarding. In summary:
(1) Constraints can inspire creativity. Indeed, they are probably a requirement.
(2) Most of the musical constraints on Bach were self-imposed. Or at least there is no evidence that they were externally imposed, the chorale basis for Jahrgang II, for example.

Just to be complete, to follow-up my promise of evidence:

From The Bach Reader (1966 revised edition), p. 120 f.
<Short but most necessary draft for a well-appointed church music; with certain modest reflections on the decline of the same.>

This is the main reference I had in mind, which it turns out is the extensively discussed Entwurff document (not so named in Reader), see BCW Articles section. My original point was that the available and prescribed performance forces provided constraints on Bach's composition. This is just another way of saying that he wrote for a specific group of musicians, as specified in Entwurff. Where he is indeed pushing the envelope to get the resources he needed, as you point out.

I did not say, and did not mean to imply, that I thought direct musical constraints were applied to his compositions. On the other hand, are we sure there were not any, beyond the conventions of church music at the time? Certainly plenty of room for undocumented negotiations within the municipal politics. The probable need for approval of cantata texts comes immediately to mind.

I think it is fair to speculate that Bach might at least have considered the possibility of alternative performance forces, at the time of composition of some of his works. The fact that he adapted so many of them suggests (but certainly does not come close to proving) the possibility. Beyond that, when we start to speculate about what Bach had in mind as he composed, pretty shaky ground, even for speculation, unless it relates to something documented.

Although not a direct constraint on Bach's composition, there is nearby (Reader, p. 113-14) documentation of musical constraints: <The choice of hymns for the service> (challenging Bach's options), followed by <Bach's protest to the council> (challenging the challenge), a limitation on Bach's musical choices during services.

Not directly related, but also nearby (Reader, p 111-12), <Testimonial for F. G. Wild>, Leipzig, 1727. Wild is the flautist proposed as the inspiration (an inverse constraint?) for the explosion of traverso writing in 1724. As reported in his entry in Oxford Composer Companion, Wild did not get the job.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 14, 2006):
< From The Bach Reader (1966 revised edition), p. 120 f. <Short but most necessary draft for a well-appointed church music; with certain modest reflections on the decline of the same.>
This is the main reference I had in mind, which it turns out is the extensively discussed Entwurff document (not so named in Reader), see BCW Articles section. >

And see ESPECIALLY the more careful translations of that Entwurff, and annotations/explications, in the books by Parrott and Rifkin. The BCW discussions of their contents should be no substitute for actually reading these books....

These two books:

AUTHOR: Parrott, Andrew
TITLE: The Essential Bach Choir.
PUBL. DATA: Woodbridge: the Boydell Press, 2000. xi, 223p
http://homepages.bw.edu/bachbib/script/bach2.pl?22=15864
http://www.music.qub.ac.uk/tomita/bachbib/review/bb-review_Parrott-EBC.html

AUTHOR: Rifkin, Joshua
TITLE: Bach's Choral Ideal.
SERIES: DortmunderBf , Vol. 5 (2002), 66p.
PUBL. DATA: Dortmund: Klangfarben-Musikverlag, 2002, 66p. (= Dortmunder Bach-Forschungen 5)
http://homepages.bw.edu/bachbib/script/bach2.pl?22=18242
http://www.music.qub.ac.uk/tomita/bachbib/review/bb-review_DortmundBf5.html

Eric Bergerud wrote (August 15, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< By the way, I agree: if Sax had shown up with a working instrument, Bach probably would have written something for it to play. Bach's working method, regularly, was deeply pragmatic: to try things out by writing music that presses the limits--to see what the hardware and/or the musicians can handle. This is assuming, of course, that Bach wouldn't simply prefer to be an aviator instead of a musician! :) >
Not sure about that sax. I don't know whether anyone has been nuts enough to make such a list, but were there instruments that did exist and Bach didn't compose for? As I recall recent posts pointed out a rather foggy situation concerning the early piano. (How about the guitar?) Let's not forget that when the sax came into the world in the 1840's most composers found the idea of combining wind and brass as being a bit eccentric. Or, more accurately, most found the sound horrible. (I recall Berlioz liked it. Wonder if anyone has tried to do Harold in Italy with a sax.) Bands picked it up because it was loud. (Maybe it would have been a nice piece for Bach to have at those funerals.) Just kind of hard to imagine someone that was a bit of a conservative appreciating the unique sound that only a sax can make. To be honest, I'm rather glad he never got the chance - I'd rather listen to Wagner than John Coltrane.

What I really wonder is what kind of car Bach would have driven. I'd put him down for a Camry: respectable, functional but not extravagant. But, who knows, with all those kids around maybe a Chevy Suburban would have fit the bill.

Eric Bergerud wrote (August 15, 2006):
[To Bradley Lehman] Actually I'd never thought of it, but I suppose if the Bach score can be taken as literal truth then the ideal performance would dispense with musicians altogether - they could only get in the way. Instead, one would sit, score in hand, and listen to perfect Bach in the mind. No risk of bugging the neighbors at 2AM.

Bach did a lot of cantatas. Unless we stumble on a new document indicating that he wrote 51 for one of Handel's castrati in an attempt to impress the English court, I should think the burden of proof would strongly rest on those arguing that a boy was not the intended singer. It is possible that Bach would have encountered genuine prodigies during his Leipzig years and it's not outlandish to think he would have taken advantage of it.

Thankee for the tip: I bought the CD and will report. The lad's mother is Elizabeth Anderson, one of Australia's leading sopranos. So his position would be somewhat comparable to being raised by Anna and JS. Except that CPE and the others wouldn't have had video games or played soccer. Or seen a kangaroo.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 15, 2006):
Re: new recording of Anna Magdalena's book: http://www.move.com.au/disc.cfm/3304

< Thankee for the tip: I bought the CD and will report. The lad's mother is Elizabeth Anderson, one of Australia's leading sopranos. So his position would be somewhat comparable to being raised by Anna and JS. Except that CPE and the others wouldn't have had video games or played soccer. Or seen a kangaroo. >
Actually, his mother is one of Australia's leading harpsichordists, not soprano, and is a university instructor thus. And his father is the churcchoir director and teacher who trained his singing voice, and who also accompanies him in solo recitals. Nice combination there. The booklet reports that he also plays the French horn and table tennis, and has sung in "La Boheme" and "The Magic Flute" with another coach.

Raymond Joly wrote (August 15, 2006):
This is a plain and sincere question. Please let nobody construe it as a snipe at those respected members of the list who very legitimately deplore we do not have enough properly trained boys to sing Bach's sacred music as it was sung in Leipzig.

The question: considering that Bach produced quite a large amount of profane music with female singers in mind and that he recycled a notable portion of it to be sung in church without them (many cantatas, the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), etc.), does careful scrutiny of those "parodies" or "Kontrafakturen" yield any information as to a difference he could have made in writing for ladies or prepubescent males?

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (August 15, 2006):
Raymond Joly wrote:
< The question: considering that Bach produced quite a large amount of profane music with female singers in mind and that he recycled a notable portion of it to be sung in church without them (many cantatas, the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), etc.), does careful scrutiny of those "parodies" or "Kontrafakturen" yield any information as to a difference he could have made in writing for ladies or prepubescent males? >
This is an interesting point. In my opinion while the reinstitution of the Viola da Gamba and the Harpsichord are absolutely and without qualification a massive improvement BOTH historically and aesthetically (I simply respond to the Gamba and the Harpsichord and not to their substitutions), the singers cannot be recreated. We don't know what kind of boy voice Bach heard.

However counter-tenors ONLY fulfill a theological matter when used for boy alts. Mezzos/contraltos fulfill the vacuum just as well and aesthetically are much more satisfying. This leaves us the question whether those mezzos (and sopranos) of the female form should sing in a way that imitates boys.

Aesthetically I do not enjoy such voices. However I certainly do not believe that, if Bach had a piano available, he would have had a much better medium to express himself.

There is no contradiction here. The instruments are right. The voices are problematic.

Eric Bergerud wrote (August 15, 2006):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] For what it's worth I discussed this matter with a Berkeley music prof who is also an instrumentalist with the American Bach soloists. She agrees with you concerning countertenors. That said, she said that some of the parts were very obviously written for boys and that ABS would be glad to use some if they were there to be used. (ABS are going to try some cantatas this year with boy soloists from the Pacific Boys Choir.) As for female singers, she remarked that every ensemble lives in the real world and you get the best singers you can and heck with the fine points. Rings true to me.

I would have thought this an entirely academic point because I'd never heard a female soprano that sounded at all like a boy. (No, I do not think Ruth Holton [54] sounds like a boy.) Then one of Aryeh's recent posts proded me to listen to Leonhardt's version which is sung by Marianne Kweksilber [24]. I knew in advance she wasn't a boy, but the sound really is "boy-like." I have no idea if that was Leonhardt's doing or the way Ms. Kweksilber, of whom I know nothing, sings.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 15, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< I would have thought this an entirely academic point because I'd never heard a female soprano that sounded at all like a boy. (No, I do not think Ruth Holton [54] sounds like a boy.) Then one of Aryeh's recent posts proded me to listen to Leonhardt's version which is sung by Marianne Kweksilber [24]. I knew in advance she wasn't a boy, but the sound really is "boy-like." I have no idea if that was Leonhardt's doing or the way Ms. Kweksilber, of whom I know nothing, sings. >
Much the same problem emerged when the works of Tudor composers such as Taverner and Sheppard began to be performed in the early 70s. None of the music was in the repertoire of the great English boys choirs such as King's College and St. John's College because they didn't use it in church services.

The technical demands were immense and the vocal style basically had to be reconstructed. In order to perform the music, choirs such as The Clerkes of Oxenford and The Sixteen used women who sang with a "white" vibratoless tone which was never allowed to grow larger than a boy could produce.

As a result, the music could be performed and the repertoire revived -- before that time, a masterpiece such as Taverner's "Missa Corona Spinea" lay unperformed. Although there are many who were tricked into thinking they were hearing boys voices, there was always an uneasy feeling that the sound was too controlled, too narrow to be really authentic.

Much of the same situation exists for the modern "Bach Soprano" which is familiar from the work of Kirby, Nelson and others. They have superb agility so that the passge-work and articulation is accurate and control the dynamic range so there is the illusion that the vocal production apporximates that of a boy soprano.

In the long run though, the same problem emerges as we found in Renaissance music. The vocal production is ultimately too controlled to be authentic.

It's all a bit like watching Cherubino in the Marriage of Figaro.

Raymond Joly wrote (August 15, 2006):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] I think Yoel Arbeitman hit on the nail.

Why is it that an old painting or book can involve us immediately, whereas an old movie or a recording of the greatest actress of a hundred years ago reciting Racine at best are quaint and an object for studies in changing taste? Have you ever attended a revival of a theatrical production that had shaken the world thirty years before? I did, and felt I was at Madame Tussaud's. Maybe it is because we have a more intimate knowledge of, interest in and relation to living human bodies than to things (e.g. musical instruments).

Eric Bergerud wrote (August 15, 2006):
[To Raymond Joly] The closest I saw that resembled what I think you and Yoel are referring to was a performance of Agamemnon by Aeschylus at Berkeley's Greek Theater years back. The play was performed by men in masks: the chorus was employed the way a Berkeley professor theorized (small: more chanting than singing: nobody knows for sure of course). The performance was unmiked and done in the afternoon. Obviously it was done in English. Reaction was decidedly mixed. Some people were utterly bewildered. Some on the fence. Many, including yours truly, thought the project fascinating. I suspect the fans were people that already knew the play pretty well. Those that didn't might well have been stuck on the very unusual production methods. (I haven't seen a repeat out here lately so it obviously confused more than it pleased.) But who knows. A friend of mine actually likes silent movies which I find a crashing bore. (Early movies in general, code or no, actually. The one exception is Howard Hughes "Hells Angels" which includes the greatest aerial special affects ever filmed, and thanks to modern liability law, will never be approached again. That's the flick where Gene Harlow says "let me slip into something more comfortable." That's the best line in what must be the dumbest script in Hollywood history.) I don't think anyone has quantified aesthetics yet.

In any case, boys singing very sophisticated music is an art that is very old but also most alive and well. It's not as though someone has to resurrect the art form from a 2,000 year sleep to put boy soloists back into cantatas now and then. Does it bother people when they're in the choir?

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 15, 2006):
ErBergerud wrote:
< For what it's worth I discussed this matter with a Berkeley music prof who is also an instrumentalist with the American Bach soloists. She agrees with you concerning countertenors. That said, she said that some of the parts were very obviously written for boys >
It is good to see Yoel's point pursued, re counter-tenors as substitutes for boys. I am always suspicious of phrases like very obviously, could we have some specific examples? I am willing to be persuaded with evidence and argument.

John Pike wrote (August 15, 2006):
[To Bradley Lehman] Doug made a comment in this thread yesterday about bach being the right person in the right place at the right time. The more I thought about it, the more profound I found this comment, since it applies equally well to just about everything he did. The rich varity of jobs he took up, from several positions as organist, early cantatas for Weimar etc, a time in prison (when he may have composed part of the WTC), composing secular music for the Coethen court, the extraordinary choral works at Leipzig, the teaching materials for his children (and possibly used in support of his application for a teaching job at Leipzig), the use of his Wife's singing skills and the inspiration behind that, the circumstances behind the composition of the Goldberg variations (BWV 988), the availability of professional musicians and others at Leipzig university, Zimmerman's coffee house and the various musical associations he joined/ran, the connections with rulers (incl. Frederick the Great, the Elector of Saxony) and the Dresden court, etc etc. has resulted in an extraordinary corpus of work, in which he excels in every musical form except opera. A pity we haven't found that saxophone concerto yet!

Julian Mincham wrote (August 15, 2006):
John Pike wrote:
< Doug made a comment in this thread yesterday about bach being the right person in the right place at the right time >
Doubless true but it should not disguise the fact that here was a boy orphaned at ten, widowed with young children in his 30s--a lad who made himself into a virtuoso performing musicician in his teens, a national authority on organs before his 20th birthday and a rather good (and virtually self taught according to Wolff) composer!

He may have been fortunate in being at the right places at the right time. But I can't help thinking that a lot of his luck or good fortune he created himself.

Chris Stanley wrote (August 15, 2006):
BWV 51 - Boy Soprano (not)

< Then one of Aryeh's recent posts proded me to listen to Leonhardt's version which is sung by Marianne Kweksilber [24]. I knew in advance she wasn't a boy, but the sound really is "boy-like." I have no idea if that was Leonhardt's doing or the way Ms. Kweksilber, of whom I know nothing, sings. >
[24] Marjanne (Marianne) Kweksilber is a Dutch diva who has a number of recorded works including Gluck "Orfeo and Euridice" and Händel "Messiah" also works by Satie. I cannot, however, find a biography of her sufficient to fill the empty space in her BC slot. If any of you have any of these works there may be some biographical details which would bring her out of BC anonymity.

Stephen Benson wrote (August 15, 2006):
Harry W. Crosby wrote:
< 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). >
I'm with Harry on this one. With all the discussion of BWV 51, I decided to sit down and devote some time to the five recordings I have in my collectionóGardiner/Hartelius [55], Goebel/Schäfer [52], Huggett/Argenta [41], Rifkin/Baird [33], and Rilling/Augér [28]. The Rilling/Augér recording has always been a favorite, but I had never sat down and compared the five recordings side-by-side. The experience, for what it's worth, only confirmed my earlier assessment. Listening to the Rilling/Augér after the other four recordings gave me the sensation that someone had pulled back the curtains and thrown open the windows letting in daylight and a burst of fresh air. The two outer duets involving the trumpet obbligato display an appropriate brilliance and celebratory feel I find lacking in the other recordings, and Arleen Augér's singing in the interior movements manifests an enchanting reverence whose lure I can't resist. I do like the Gardiner/ Hartelius recording immensely, but the musical affect (and effect) of Rilling/Augér takes me to another level entirely.

Eric Bergerud wrote (August 16, 2006):
Before turning to the lovely BWV 33 I'd like to give some impressions of my recordings of BWV 51. As some members have perhaps noticed I have been nagging all concerned about the lack of boys in Bach cantatas. There are several reasons for this, perhaps all of them bad. I'd like to note, however, that to my very humble ear the most beautiful instrument is the human voice and of the lot the most beautiful of all is the female soprano. As one might guess, that makes me a real fan of BWV 51.

I have Richter/Mathis [23], Argenta/Huggett [41], Leusink/ Holton [54], Leonhardt/Kweksilber [24], and Rifkin/Baird [33]. I was surprised me after listening to these works wall to wall over two days to find out there is almost no difference in timing. For instance, I would have sworn Richter set a faster pace than Rifkin (so much to stereotypes), but nope. As for the performances I felt a little like a kid in a candy store. Ms. Kweksilber, as I noted in an earlier post, whether intentionally or not, does have a very "boy-like" sound. That's not bad in my book and the Leonhardt Consort plays wonderfully. Yet, oddly, I almost wished Ms. Kweksilber sounded a little more like an adult. I've got to listen to this one again next week: I may do a flip-flop that would do Dick Cheney proud. I am not a Richter fan, but this is a sweet performance. My ear is so attuned to period brass that Richter's opening trumpet blast had me looking for Ney's cavalry hitting the left flank. But it's hard to fault the wonderful musicianship and Edith Mathis can certainly sing. A definite keeper. I have several Nancy Argenta performances but obviously I haven't listened to one recently enough. I had recalled her voice to be very delicate. Not so here. Because I had just listened to Kweksilber, I first thought Argenta had turned Mezzo on me. After a minute or so, I began to understand her approach and found it extremely well crafted. I like Ruth Holton. Her voice is so unique that I understand if others disagree. Mr. Braatz had some interesting comments on her
performance of BWV 51 a few years back. I'm not sure that I'd describe Holton has having a "half-voice" but she isn't going to shatter stained glass windows either. That said, Leusink's ensemble gives her decent support and I get 17 minutes of wonderful Bach. Leusink seemed to have chosen his works by putting his hand into hat and pulling random numbers. Actually I don't mind. I think I almost prefer works from different periods at most sittings. Anyway, BWV 32 follows 51 - another work that highlights Holton. I am very pleased with this CD. The real surprise for me was Baird and Rifkin. I like OVPP a lot, but sure hope it doesn't take over Kantatawelt. But my recollections of Rifkin is that his ne(in 1986 anyway) approach highlighted his cantatas, not his ensemble or singers. Well, I found Ms. Baird's work splendid. I'm going to have to take another look at Rifkin because I may have missed something.

Aryeh once claimed he'd like a copy of every cantata ever recorded. I'm not sure I could see that becoming my life's quest (although my cantata collection does seem to grow steadily: I'm in a Koopman phase now), but maybe getting every BWV 51 is something I should discuss with my wife. At bare minimum, it justifies another Koopman volume. I suppose Bach composed greater works, but there aren't many that are as simply lovely as this one.

BTW: Rifkin's CD [33] case self-destructed when I opened it. Not the first time with a cheapo "2 for the price of 1" case. I suppose I should worry more about the national debt but very few things bug me more than lousy CD cases. Fortunately US Plastics (http://www.usplastic.com/catalog/default.asp) makes terrific four and six plastic CD holders that are indestructible. Katrina wouldn't have made a scratch on one. The four CD holder fits easily into a standard CD slot. They charge .37 a piece.

Aryeh Oron wrote (August 21, 2006):
Chris Rowson wrote:
[24] < Marjanne (Marianne) Kweksilber is a Dutch diva who has a number of recorded works including Gluck "Orfeo and Euridice" and Handel "Messiah" also works by Satie. I cannot, however, find a biography of her sufficient to fill the empty space in her BC slot. If any of you have any of these works there may be some biographical details which would bring her out of BC anonymity. >
[24] With the kind help of Joop Lindeijer from the beautiful Dutch Divas Website, Marianne [Marjanne] Kweksilber is less anonymous now. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Kweksilber-Marianne.htm

Although her recording of Cantata BWV 51 is somewhat neglected, due possibly to being hidden among numerous boy sopranos in the H&L cantata cycle, it is still one of my favourite recordings of this cantata.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (August 22, 2006):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
[24] < Although her recording of Cantata BWV 51 is somewhat neglected, due possibly to being hidden among numerous boy sopranos in the H&L cantata cycle, it is still one of my favourite recordings of this cantata. >
[24] I must confess that I am finally listening to this recording for the first time after having the set for years.

The thing that of course catches the attention first and foremost is the trumpet, that very baroque, I guess valveless instrument. And, yes, although I was not able to attend any of bach's own performances and therefore cannot attest to what his Sopranist(and not Sopranistin) sounded like, this singer fulfills what my imagination tells me.

While she may sound boy-like, she is not expressionless à la Emma Kirkby [30]. This is indeed a fine recording. I no longer have the post of the person who adduced her as an example of one who sounds boy-like but that is right in a totally good sense. And the trumpet keeps on returning.

Thanks

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (August 22, 2006):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
[24] < With the kind help of Joop Lindeijer from the beautiful Dutch Divas Website, Marianne [Marjanne] Kweksilber is less anonymous now. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Kweksilber-Marianne.htm >
< Other recordings: for Accent: complete recording of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, together with
La Petite Bande, René Jacobs (Orfeo) and Magdalena Falewicz (Amor), under Sigiswald Kuijken; >
That recording dates from Feb., 1982. Never paid her much attention as the Orfeo is not one of those who move me. It has no information on Ms. Kweksilber at all in the two booklets (one per CD; odd packaging).

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (August 22, 2006):
Chris Stanley wrote:
[24] < Then one of Aryeh's recent posts proded me to listen to Leonhardt's version which is sung by Marianne Kweksilber. I knew in advance she wasn't a boy, but the sound really is "boy-like." I have no idea if that was Leonhardt's doing or the way Ms. Kweksilber, of whom I know nothing, sings. >
[24] Seems more likely that it is the reason that Leonhardt picked her than that he could so alter the sound/style of her singing. He could mould the material there but he could not take a Stich-Randall or a Schwarzkopf (themselves extremely different singers in voice and style) and mould her to phrase and sing like that.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 22, 2006):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< (...) [24] this singer fulfills what my imagination tells me... While she may sound boy-like, she is not expressionless à la Emma Kirkby [30]. This is indeed a fine recording. >
Umm...in what way is Emma Kirkby [30] "expressionless", either in general or specifically in BWV 51?

I'm especially fond of the way she inflected the phrase "in Kreuz und Not" in her recording of BWV 51 [30] with Gardiner; so much so that I miss it when other singers don't do it there. It's a leap to the word "Kreuz" on a D#, the emphatic third time that that word comes up in the phrase, and the only one where the note has a sharp (Kreuz). Cool.

And I don't see how she can be considered in any way "expressionless" in her other recorded repertoire such as Monteverdi, Dowland, d'India, Campion, the madrigalist stuff.... Try, for example, her classic albums "Time Stands Still" and "Olympia's Lament", both with Rooley. Her characterizations are strong and well-tied to the texts she sings. So, please explain!

 

Cantata 51 score animation

Charlie wrote (January 15, 2007):
Excuse me for mentioning a cantata out of order. One of the most popular recordings on elizabethparcells.com is a Cantata BWV 51 recording linked from the bach-cantatas.com.

Lately I've been making score animations to encourage visitors to the website to follow along with the score when they listen. A score animation is a video slide show that synchronizes the sound track and the score so it's easy to follow and impossible to lose your place.

For anyone who might be interested, there's a link to a Cantata BWV 51 score animation on this page: http://www.elizabethparcells.com/animations.htm

May be the idea will catch on and other people will make them.

P.S. The best way I've found to enhance the sound quality of old, low fidelity, recordings is to follow along with a score. Edison cylinders are dramatically better listening with score in hand.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 16, 2007):
Charlie wrote:
< Excuse me for mentioning a cantata out of order. One of the most popular recordings on elizabethparcells.com is a Cantata BWV 51 recording linked from the bach-cantatas.com. >
Thanks for this post! This is probably a good opportunity to remind everyone that the entire body of Bach cantatas is open for comment at any time. No need to apologize, and nothing out of order. The weekly selection is intended to focus discussion, but not to limit it. Your courtesy noted and appreciated, however.

Aloha, Ed Myskowski (discussion introduction writer, pro tem)

 

Continue on Part 7

Cantata BWV 51: Details
Recordings:
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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

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