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Bach & the French Baroque

Bach & The French Baroque

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 20, 2008):
Relax, do not protest too much. It will be over in four days.

A cute (depending on the depth of your sense of humor) anecdote:

Lully died after smacking himself on the big toe with the stick he was using to conduct.

(1) I heard it on the radio, it must be true. Yeh, sure. See BBC thread.

(2) How do you die from a self-inflicted blow to the big toe?

I will get to that, but first, note the scholarly point: Lully was conducting! How often do we read, without challenge, that there were no conductors, as such, in the Baroque era, including Bachs groups.

Bach to Lully:

(1) He broke the toe. Not only was he conducting, it must have been energetic conducting (or possibly a very fragile toe). This event is described in <The Norton Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music> thusly:
<During a performance of his Te Deum in January of 1687 he injured his foot with the point of a cane he was using to beat time.>

(2) Gangrene set in.

(3) He was offered an amputation, but refused it.

(4) The gangrene spread, with fatal consequence.

The story, as reported on the radio, is that if he had accepted the amputation, he would have survived. Yeh, sure, again. Sounds like sheer conjecture to me.

Somehow, this anecdote is uniquely French, including the detail that Lully is in fact Giovanni Battista Lulli, b. Florence, 1632.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 20, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< (1) He broke the toe. Not only was he conducting, it must have been energetic conducting (or possibly a very fragile toe). This event is described in <The Norton Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music> thusly:
<During a performance of his Te Deum in January of 1687 he injured his foot with the point of a cane he was using to beat time.> >
He was using a rather large staff, not a simple baton, it had a metal pointed base, that he would beat time with on the floor, stomping it; apparently he missed the floor and punctured his toe with it.

The movie "Le Roi Danse:" recreates this scene, very painfully. You can view extracts of the movie on Youtube: (although I can't locate the clip with the foot injury scene)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=033VivFa5QU&feature=related

Jean Laaninen wrote (May 20, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< (2) How do you die from a self-inflicted blow to the big toe?
I will get to that, but first, note the scholarly point: Lully was conducting! How of
(4) The gangrene spread, with fatal consequence. >
This is really yucky, Ed. But it does provide a little diversion from the 108 degree heat in Phoenix today.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 20, 2008):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
>He was using a rather large staff, not a simple baton, it had a metal pointed base, that he would beat time with on the floor, stomping it; apparently he missed the floor and punctured his toe with it.<
He did not exactly miss the floor. He hit his toe on the way to the floor.

Luv ya, dude. Thanks for putting up with. Lully and Charpentier on the radio are superb, if you have the time and access.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 20, 2008):
>He was using a rather large staff, not a simple baton, it had a metal pointed base, that he would beat time with on the floor, stomping it; apparently he missed the floor and punctured his toe with it.<
< He did not exactly miss the floor. He hit his toe on the way to the floor. >
Speaking of BBC 3 stories, and odd methods of demise for a composer, here's the transcript of a BBC presentation about Chopin's neighbor, Alkan: http://www.jackgibbons.com/alkanmyths.htm

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 21, 2008):
Brad wrote:
>Speaking of BBC 3 stories, and odd methods of demise for a composer, here's the transcript of a BBC presentation about Chopin's neighbor, Alkan: http://www.jackgibbons.com/alkanmyths.htm <
The irony is rich. This story is in fact BBC 3 insisting on reportorial accuracy, while dispelling the myth that Alkan was crushed by a falling bookcase. It includes the wonderful line:
<even the lies about him are being distorted>.
I nearly mentioned the Alkan myth (thinking it true), but decided the Lully story was grisly enough on its own.

According to the BBC story, it is in fact accurate that Alkan was trapped by a piece of furniture for 24 hours (odd enough), subsequently hospitalized, and eventually died as a result.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 22, 2008):
Marais: Pieces de Viole, Livre V (Koopman et al, Astree CD) contains a theme which is also used by Bach. Heard on the French Baroque Radio Show (aka Orgy (r)), WHRB-FM (95.3): www.whrb.org
concluding tomorrow, Thurs. 5/22, noon - 10PM, EDT.

Perhaps the relation (Bach - Marais) is well known; if so, enlighten me. Sorry, I cannot recover the exact Bach analogue, for the particular theme I noticed, at this moment.

Today has been a lot of Couperin, often referenced by Brad. Nice to get that stuff in the ears, with density and concentration, even in the background. Nothing like an Orgy, for an introduction.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 23, 2008):
At the close of the forty hour French Baroque radio special last night, I used a recording by local friends to transition back to Bach: Duo and Trio Sonatas, by the Boston Museum Trio, Centaur label (CRC 2198).

A few comments from the liner notes, by Paul Guglietti, 1994, may be of interest with respect to our ongoing thread re Bachs peers, friends, and influences.

<When Johann Sebastians estate was apportioned, the bulk of the instrumental music passed into the hands of the younger composer sons [JCF and JC], who were far from being careful guardians of thier legacy. The few authentic sonatas and trios with basso continuo [bc] that survive must indeed represent only a fraction of the sonatas that Bach wrote in the course of his long career.>

<The Sonata in Emin for Violin and bc, BWV 1023,blends elements from both the sonata and suite. The opeinig section is ... strongly reminiscent of similar movements by German antecedents of Bach, such as Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber and Johann Jakob Walther.>

<The violin sonata in Gmaj, BWV 1021, is closely related to the Trio Sonata for Violin, Flute and Basso Continuo in G, BWV 1038; both works share an identical bass line, but have completely different upper parts. it seems likely that the young [CPE Bach] made the trio version as an exercise for his father, who himself had fashioned the violin sonata by borrowing the bass line of a now unknown Italian composition.>

<The gamba sonatas are innovative in several respects. As works with obbligato harpsichord, they belong to a genre Bach virtually created. They belong to the rather small portion of the viola da gamba repertory not composed by specialist composer-performers on the instrument. Bach eschewed in these sonatas the idiomatic chordal style of the French gambaists; his linear contrapuntal textures are better served by the simpler melodic style typical of most German writing for the instrument.>

<The Gmaj Sonata, BWV 1027 is itself a transcription for [gamba] and harpsichord of the Sonata for Two Flutes and Harpsichord, BWV 1039. Bach had only to assign the bc part to the harpsichordist, and the upper flute part to the right hand, and to transpose the lower flute part down an actave for the [gamba]. As a riposte to Bachs procedure, The Boston Museum Trio have made <retro-transcriptions of these three gamba sonatas by assigning the right hand of the harpsichord part to the violin, and relegating the keyboard to its traditional bc function.>

I pass these notes along without or endorsement, outside my area of knowledge. I do note there is no shortage of fuzzy language and speculation, for those who might wish a reason to disagree. I would enjoy hearing any thoughts on the stated relation between French and <typical> German gamba style, or on anything else, for that matter.

William Hoffman wrote (May 25, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< "I pass these notes along without comment or endorsement, outside my area of knowledge. I do note there is no shortage of fuzzy language and speculation, for those who might wish a reason to disagree. I would enjoy hearing any thoughts on the stated relation between French and <typical> German gamba style, or on anything else, for that matter." >
I'm the world's oldest living graduate student novice when it comes to French style. My thesis professor, Susan Patrick (retired, University of New Mexico), still taking lessons as a harpsichordist (world's oldest harpsichord student?), has quite a background in French style, especially as it relates to dance, and I've only begun to make
connections through Bach. My first encounter was Louis Marchand (his "almost" encounter with Bach is legend); Marchand was quite an arrogant character.

When we look just at Bach's connection with dance, it's phenomenal, and I think it's quite that way with so many other instrumental connections like the gamba. I'm sure that Bach early on in Celle became steeped in French instrumental style, and at that time there was still a lot of overlap between vocal and instrumental style. I believe in Cöthen Bach encountered considerable French music publications and manuscript copies in various ducal archives, as he had Italian works at Weimar. I also suspect that many of Bach's so-called "lost" instrumental works in their early versions, like the drafts of the orchestral suites, could have found their way into those same archives and are now lost. Remember, a lot of manuscripts were disposed of in that period, especialy drafts, which often were learning materials. Other instrumental works survive in vocal forms.

As for the gamba, on March 24, 1729 (during the so-called Picander Cantata Cycle), Bach presented his Cöthen Funeral Music for Prince Leopold, with most of the lyric numbers parodied (by Picander) from the SMP (BWV 244). Most notable, for me, is the aria that opens Part III, "Let Leopold not be dead," for bass and gamba, better known as SMP (BWV 244) No. 66, "Come, sweetest cross." Imagine Bach, surrounded by some of the finest musicians in Central Germany, presenting this amazing music, with the gamba perhaps played by the French teacher of Leopold, in his place. Key people at that service would have known the connection. (Bach also encountered the gambist Abel in Dresden, probably the foremost proponent of the German style.) The funeral work ends, as does the SMP (BWV 244), with that great chorus, which is a sarabande, to the words, "One's eyes still see your visage."

One more Cöthen note. The amazing Cantata BWV 194, is based on an instrumental dance suite, adapted for voices: opening French overture chorus, pastoral aria for bass, gavotte aria for soprano, gigue aria for tenor, and a menuet duet for soprano and bass. Cantata BWV 194a was done in Cöthen as a secular New Year's greeting; and BWV 194 for an organ dedication then as a Trinity feast work done three more times.

In conclusio: Maybe not so much instrumental music is lost and thank goodness for some great music that served two purposes. SDG

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 25, 2008):
William Hoffman wrote:
< In conclusio: Maybe not so much instrumental music is lost and thank goodness for some great music that served two purposes. SDG >
Wolff suggests that the losses for Bach's music is effectively 40 percent, maybe even higher, with the instrumental works having the highest loss rates (especially the trio sonatas).

You mentioned the missing ouvertures; we aren't just missing a lot of Johann's suites-- apparently there were quite a few of his cousin J.Bernhard Bach that were performed by J.S. at the Collegium Musicum concerts. We know this because it's mentioned in the J.S. Bach obiturary, which states that Bach performed "many" suites. This could explain why there aren't many suriving suites by J.S. Bach as well-- maybe he was relying on his cousin's manuscripts to fill in the musical roster.

There are a few recordings of these ouvertures by J.B Bach, and the music is absolutely top notch, which makes sense, the music would have be great if J.S. Bach went to the trouble and cost of copying them and having the music performed. I believe the surviving copies that have come down originated from the Bach family library-- only five survive, and that's not "many," especially considering how prolific composers were during this particular period.

William Hoffman wrote (May 26, 2008):
William Hoffman responds [to Kim Patrick Clow]:
I would love to hear the J.B. Bach suites; what's the recording? As for all that "lost" instrumental music, I probably opened a Box of Pandoras, to quote a malapropism of a four-term New Mexico Governor. I'll take some time to look at the provenance of this category, since I am quite familiar only with the vocal music. I ask and hope to answer: "Why did the youngest sons get this music and what possibly could they have done with it or to it? I don't recall that they performed any of it, especially J.C. in England at popular subscription concerts, or that it influenced their works. Of course, by these sons' time, suites and trio sonatas had been replaced by concerti and quartets. Well, as the saying goes, today's Stile moderno is tomorrow's Stile antico.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 26, 2008):
William Hoffman wrote:
>Well, as the saying goes, today's Stile moderno is tomorrow's Stile antico.<
With a bit of luck, and/or God willing, perhaps even Stile obsoleto?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 26, 2008):
William Hoffman wrote:
< I would love to hear the J.B. Bach suites; what's the recording? >
http://www.crotchet.co.uk/ACC24198.html
This has the information on the specific recording I was talking about; the J.B. Bach suites are mixed with some G.P. Telemann's suites.

< I ask and hope to answer: "Why did the youngest sons get this music and what possibly could they have done with it or to it? >
The music was split up with the male children. Some took better care of their legacy more than others-- the missing music may have been sold off, given away as heirlooms to other family, or even used for scrap paper, or used as cover sheets for later compositions -- you can see this today still in European libaries, musicians or composers of a later period would take older musical scores and parts, and use them as wrapper sheeets for their newer compositions.

< I don't recall that they performed any of it, especially J.C. in England at popular subscription concerts, or that it influenced their works. >
Well, that's exactly why the losses are so high for Bach's instrumental music: it was considered old fashioned at the time he wrote it, so by the time his son's were old enough and established to have any music performed, it was to promote their *own* music, not their fathers, which in part may explain the high losses for the instrumental music genre. Music that wasn't worth keeping around for peformance became a lead weight around you feet very quickly. Remember, the heirs were working composers and musicians, and while they no doubt loved their father and valued his legacy, they were very practical too.

What about orchestral parts? Bach wrote musical scores from which orchestral parts were copied, and this has been a saving grace for some of the cantatas when the score didn't survive. The issue here is the musical archives don't survive for either Weimar or Köthen. So what about the instrumental pieces written in Leizig? Who would have kept the musical parts for the Collegium? Bach? Were they kept on sight of the performances (very unlikely), did the musicians keep them? That's unlikely too. I think they were inherited by the sons after Bach's death and just slowly faded away into the trash cans or the paper was used for other things. The ones that have survived were kept by the more responsible heirs (i.e. KPE Bach).

Johann Christian Bach's style of music was vastly different from that of the style his father's; and those Abel/Bach concerts featured very gallant, up-to-date music. There would have been absolutely no place for J.S.'s music. Besides, Wolff believes J.C. Bach gave all of his manuscripts to his brother Karl before leaving for Italy-- carting around a lot of music manuscripts wouldn't have been practical.

< Of course, by these sons' time, suites and trio sonatas had been replaced by concerti and quartets. Well, as the saying goes, today's Stile moderno is tomorrow's Stile antico. >
A lot of depended on where you worked too, sure the musical public wanted modern works, but there were cases of older music being played (e.g. Paris, Bologna, etc) but Bach's heirs were disconnected from that movement physically, and may not have known about any of it (with the exception of Christian Bach in London knowing about the Academy of Ancient Music).

We know a lot of music is missing because of the paper invoices that survive for Bach's period in Cöthen, and the contractual requirements he worked under in Weimar. It's so tragic that we are missing so much; and what beauties are missing from the cantatas?

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 27, 2008):
Bach and Franck

Perhaps it is <be kind to France> month at Harvard? After complete Messiaen, forty hours of French Baroque, along comes complete Cesar Franck (actually now just near ending). I did not get to hear much of it, and I did not think of a Bach connection, until the 1889 String Quartet caught my ear and mind (playng now).

From the WHRB program guide notes:

<A Belgian composer of German ancestry, Cesar Franck (1822-1890) ... [his] music distinguishes itself through opulently rich harmony and a unique grasp of both form and counterpoint, the former learned from Liszt and the latter from Bach.>

It goes without saying that Franck did not learn his counterpoint from Bach, in person. Within my ellipsis, is the detail that Dukas was student of Franck, and from previous comments, Dukas was teacher of Messiaen. An interesting thread is accumulating.

Finally, re Franck: <Because of his deep faith, they called him <Pater Seraphicus>, which drove me to the reference sources. Pater Seraphicus appears to be a pseudonym (?) of St. Francis of Assisi. That detail is probably less important than the <deep faith>, shared by Bach, Franck, and Messiaen.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 27, 2008):
Quote (paraphrase) from the <radio>:
<Cesar Franck died in 1890 as the result of a traffic accident. The details are surprisingly hazy.>

Enough is enough. How much traffic was there in 1890? Even in Boston, or Paris.

I have been around for a few years. Just when you think life cant get any weirder, it does. You can laugh, you can cry, or you can laugh to keep from crying.

William Hoffman wrote (May 27, 2008):
William Hoffman responds [to Kim Patrick Clow]:
Thank you for your concise and very informative summary. Last night I read Wolff's accounts of J.C. and J.C.F. in New Grove Bach Family and the chapter in his recent bio on Estate and Musical Legacy. He suggests that Bach by design in his final, failing year decided who got what. I would assume that the two sons, still in their teens and talented composition students and accompanists, had the best potential use. Interestingly, J.C., in the NGBF works list, composed a number of trio sonatas. Unfortunately, unlike the keyboard works surviving in Bach's students' copies, I assume few students would have had the opportunity or need to do copies of instrumental music or later use them.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 27, 2008):
From liner notes to the Accent CD, Marin Marais, <Pieces de Viol du Cinquieme Livre>, Wieland Kuijken and Kaori Uemura (gambas), Robert Kohnen (harpsichord):

<Marais attached himself to Lully, who had a high opinion of him and often allowed him to beat time during the performance of his operas and other musical works (Titon du Tillet)>

The source is not otherwise identified, I do not have the time to check further, just now. The notes are signed Jan De Winne, but there is a complication: only English and French translations are provided, the original language is not specified (perhaps Flemish?). The recording date is March 1987, Bruxelles (Belgium), so the notes are from about twenty years ago.

As usual, I emphasize my lack of specific expertise. I do enjoy questioning <accepted wisdom> and other myths, in this case, the idea that there were no conductors, as such, before the <Romantic Era>.

Since we have already discussed Lully smacking himself on the foot (or missing the floor, depending on your perspective) with fatal consequence, I thought some of you might enjoy this support for the idea that beating time was a regular practice for Lully, often delegated to an assistant, and not limited to opera.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 27, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< As usual, I emphasize my lack of specific expertise. I do enjoy questioning <accepted wisdom> and other myths, in this case, the idea that there were no conductors, as such, before the <Romantic Era>. >
You've mentioned this several times, so I'm going to ask, who specifically states there wasn't ever a conductor? Could you give some specific examples? Did they mean there weren't any conductors in the sense of modern use of the term (i.e. beating time isn't really the same as what Kurt Mazur does is it?)

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 28, 2008):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote, in response to my post:
>> As usual, I emphasize my lack of specific expertise. I do enjoy questioning <accepted wisdom> and other myths, in this case, the idea that there were no conductors, as such, before the <Romantic Era>.<<
>You've mentioned this several times, so I'm going to ask, who specifically states there wasn't ever a conductor? Could you give some specific examples? Did they mean there weren't any conductors in the sense of modern use of the term (i.e. beating time isn't really the same as what Kurt Mazur does is it?)<
One of the difficulties with <accepted wisdom> is that it is difficult to recover exactly where it is accepted from. I will try to be responsive, as to my sources, but it may take some time. I did not mean to imply that it is necessarily accepted wisdom by Baroque specialists. As I indicated, I make no pretense to expertise.

For the moment, I Googled <baroque "no conductor">, the first relevant hit was bachbabes.homestead.com

<The Baroque era of music (1600-1775) was special in that there was no conductor, much of the music was meant to showcase as [sic] instrumentalist's prowess, and it had a great deal of political sarcasm, as well as outright humor.>

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 28, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
> One of the difficulties with <accepted wisdom> is that it is difficult to recover exactly where it is accepted from. I will try to be responsive, as to my sources, but it may take some time. I did not mean to imply that it is necessarily accepted wisdom by Baspecialists. As I indicated, I make no pretense to expertise. <

Yes. I'm going to consult this book: Amazon.com

about the issue of conductors. I've looked at this several times at the library. I've wanted to purchase a copy for myself, but it's very pricey at 175.00 USD. It's also *quite* heavy. I fear if I dropped it on my foot, I may certainly experience some of the pain Herr Lulli had with his bad day of "conducting," but thankfully I have antibiotics.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 28, 2008):
A couple more references, available with the same Googloe string, <baroque "no conductor>. I am a bit surprised there are not even more.

From <Classical Christian>:
<The Baroque orchestra was quite differant than today's standered orchestra for 2 differant [sic] reasons:

A. It ain't 100 people
B. No Conductor

What is that you say? No conductor? How might they keep time? Well that job was left to the Concertmaster. He marked time with his Bow, while he was playing. Or, in the front there would be the Haprsichord player, playing Basso Continuo with his left hand..and beating time with a roll of paper or a large staff
Speaking of a Large Staff, Gluck [sic] happened to die of it...When he was beating time with a heavey [sic] staff , he hit his foot, and the wound became gangraus [sic]. That's not good.

The Instruments were:
Violin
Viola
Cello{maybe a bass}
Harpsichord
{Maybe a Flute}


Where is the Clarinet? Where is the Flute? Well, these were just the standered instruments, and the Clarinet hadn't even been thought of yet. This ensemble usally consisted of 15-30 people.

Well, I hope you have came to a better understanding of the Baroque era.> (end quote)

From a wikipedia offshoot:
<The eighteenth century orchestra performing a classical symphony required no conductor, as the musicians were guided by the concertmaster (usually the first violinist) and the basso-continuo player.[15]>

Apologies, I neglected to read the footnote, and cannot easily return at the moment. Hope you get the idea of what I meant by <accepted wisdom>.

 

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