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Personality and character

Continue of discussion from: Members of the Bach Cantatas Mailing List - Part 8: Year 2006 [General Topics]

Julian Mincham wrote (February 5, 2006):
I have had some interesting and sometimes provocative individual responses to my recent e-mail introducing myself, for which I thank those who took the trouble to express their views.

One thought expressed was that part of what makes great composers 'great' was their ability to use the essentially limited melodic and harmonic implications of the twelve semi-tone octave in order to both create and retain their individual musical identities AND and still produce an immeasurably wide range of inventive CHARACTERS.

One cannot disagree with that, but, while related, it is not quite the point I was making and which I would like to clarify. For those interested in the discussion I copy below a revised reponse I made to one subscriber. I hope this elucidates somewhat----and I would be interested in other member's views.

One might begin by looking at BWV 1 and BWV 6 from the second cycle. Written only a week apart, these cantatas are completely different judges by any standards ---- feeling, expression, musical inventiveness, structure etc. Each stands unique--and conveys quite different things to the listener (this one, at least!).This is quite startling--but what is quite amazing is that the same applies in the case of almost any two cantatas chosen at random. I do not think that this applies to all canons of musical work--even some from the greatest of composers------ who are not, of course, denigrated in any way by this observation.

Re the discussion, I think we are looking at slightly different aspects of a very broad issue. It is clearly true that great inventive musical minds have managed to extract an almost imaginable range of ideas, characters, feelings---call it what you will---from the relatively limited harmonic and melodic implications of the 12 note octave divisions. One only has to examine the ways in which composers have used the progession of the circle of 5ths to see this--------or, on a more limited palatte, compare Bach's and Vivaldi's constant use and application of this progression, the latter generally more given to formula than the former.

The point that I was making is that within the agreed ability to manipulate these notes in such a way as to project a highly individual personality lies a second level---i.e. to retain the personality but within that to create a range of individual and highly distinctive musical CHARACTERS. Brahm's symphonies are a good examples--each one truly'Brahms' but each one quite unique in character---but then, he only wrote 4 of them.

The point is more telling when we consider larger canons of works e.g. I strongly hold that the 32 sonatas of Beethoven are each completely unique in character. I do not find this to the same degree in the (fewer) Mozart keyboard sonatas nor the ( greater number of) Haydn sonatas. Certainly some stand out--the great Eb of the latter composer---and almost anything in a minor key by Mozart. But this is partly because he (Mozart) wrote so little set in minor keys--2 concerti, 2 symphonies, 2 sonatas etc. Mozart's and Haydn's keyboard sonatas are all different of course--but many have movements which are virtually interchangeable------and many have a similar 'feel', lacking the distinctiveness which marks them out as highly memorable; or, to rephrase, I am suggesting that they don't all have a completely individual or unique CHARACTER.

It is the sheer consistency of the inconsistency (or, perhaps better put, the range of unique movement character within the strongly established musical personality)which I find so amazing. That a composer should write between two and three hundred cantatas with so little repitition, whilst retaining fully his own musical personality and yet embuing each work with its own unique character is, to my mind, one of the greatest artistic achievements of the Western World.

(The issue of minor keys is an interesting one and probably partially related to stylistic periods--however, without having done all the sums, it is surprising (to me) just how little Mozart uses them and how much Bach does. Part of the focus of my research has been to see how Bach appropriates them in the cantata movements and how these decisions are related directly to the text).

The argument is, to a degree, subjective but then so is much of the most interesting dicussions relating to the arts. It does not make it the less fascinating.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 5, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< (The issue of minor keys is an interesting one and probably partially related to stylistic periods--however, without having done all the sums, it is surprising (to me) just how little Mozart uses them and how much Bach does. Part of the focus of my research has been to see how Bach appropriates them in the cantata movements and how these decisions are related directly to the text). >
Much of the biographical heresy around composers and their choice of keys is a Romantic obsession to find a composer's day-to-day life echoed in their works. Recently I read a concert programme note which implicitly called Mozart superficial and callous because he wrote a major key concerto the same week that a family member died. And Bach still labours under the popular notion of being prickly, solemn and dour. I always point out that the only artifact to survive from the Bach household is a beer glass and the man did father 21 chiildren! That's a pretty good case for wine, women and song!

John Reese wrote (February 5, 2006):
[To Douglas Cowling] Mozart's use of major keys was less a reflection on the composer and more on the musical culture of his time. By convention, symphonies and concerti were written in major keys. You might as well wonder what prompted Mozart to stick a minuet in the third movement of his symphonies so often.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 5, 2006):
John Reese writes:
< Mozart's use of major keys was less a reflection on the composer and more on the musical culture of his time. By convention, symphonies and concerti were written in major keys. >
Partly True. But I was not only referring to the keys for complete works, nor just to symphonies and concerti.. Slow movements, for example. The point is that Bach chose minor or major keys in the cantatas as a deliberate response to the text and as an overall structural device largely unrelated to cultural constraints. My guess also is that he used minor keys to set movements (NOT complete works) rather more then such contemporaries as Telemann and Händel.

You might as well wonder what prompted Mozart to stick a minuet in the third movement of his symphonies so often. No I don't wonder this because the structural tradition was set and he followed it.The situation with the choice of keys is much less simplistic.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 5, 2006):
< One thought expressed was that part of what makes great composers 'great' was their ability to use the essentially limited melodic and harmonic implications of the twelve semi-tone octave in order to both create and retain their individual musical identities AND and still produce an immeasurably wide range of inventive CHARACTERS. >
"Essentially limited" resources are there only if one assumes the basic tuning is equal temperament or indistinguishably close to it. But, some composers all the way from musical antiquity have been using various unequal schemes: not only on keyboards, but also in the flexible intervallic relationships that emerge naturally from the work of string/wind players and singers. All 24 major and minor keys sound somewhat different from one another, in practice, for many reasons. (For starters on this, see Rita Steblin's book about key characteristics.)

The set of expressive resources is huge, if one moves outside that box where a "twelve semi-tone octave" is assumed to have just a few (or as few as one) characters for major vs minor. Which major key? Which minor key? On which instruments? what country and artistic milieu?

I believe that part of Bach's point with the Well-Tempered Clavier (and also in the Inventions/Sinfonias, et al) was to demonstrate that all the keys have objectively different expressive effects available within them: both in the musical gestures and in the intonation scheme that has generated them. Part of the composing imagination comes from the sound that is actually produced by the instruments he used, set up in his customary way. Such a layout focuses the creative imagination, rather than boxing it into just a few options! And Bach's genius included the ability to handle these rich resources, producing instrumental and vocal music that is strong and direct in effect, full of character.

Brad Lehman
http://www.larips.com
(for the specific layout of intervals that my research indicates he likely used, and that he wrote down....)

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 5, 2006):
>>One thought expressed was that part of what makes great composers 'great'was their ability to use the essentially limited melodic and harmonic implications of the twelve semi-tone octave in order to both create and retain their individual musical identities AND and still produce an immeasurably wide range of inventive CHARACTERS.<<
"Essentially limited" resources were expanded by Bach compared to the composers who preceded him. Some composers all the way from musical antiquity have been impeded by using various unequal schemes: they found difficulties in playing and composing in remote keys.

I believe that part of Bach's point with the Well-Tempered Clavier (and also in the Inventions/Sinfonias, et al) was to demonstrate that it was possible to compose and play in all keys objectively in equal temperament without drawing undue attention to 'odd-sounding' even 'grating' intervals when certain key signatures, modalities (major vs. minor), or progressions into remote keys occurred as is the case in using other non-equal temperament tuning schemes. Part of the composing imagination would be released from the fetters which had limited creative musical imagination for centuries until Bach's time, when equal temperament was beginning to be recognized as the 'wave of the future' and a solution to many of their problems. Focusing upon the creative imagination, unrestricted by distracting intervals and chords which impeded the natural flow and sound of the music, is made possible by the adaptation of equal temperament, a temperament with which Bach most likely was not only acquainted but which he probably applied directly in his musical arts of composing and performing wherever it was deemed feasible. Following a growing trend that can be documented clearly as beginning in Germany in 1703 and which continued to spread among composers, cantors and organists toward accepting equal temperament in Germany, Bach could easily have learned about equal temperament between 1703 and 1722. Early in 1722, Johann Mattheson even published the exact description of equal temperament in a musical periodical which was circulated widely among musicians in German-speaking countries. This was early in the same year that Bach was assembling and composing the WTC1. Was this just a coincidence? Now the rich resources (the keys and tonalities that remained unexplored for the most part and which had remained untapped for centuries) allowed Bach to dare to produce music in Leipzig, even greater than anything that he had attempted before.

John Reese wrote (February 5, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] There were a few composers predating Bach who had no trouble using chromaticism in their works. The Burkhart anthology of music has two EXTREME examples by Roland de Lassus and Carlo Geualdo. As far as drawing "undue attention" to remote keys; I think that was part of the point. It added color to the piece that may be troubling to modern ears, but was what ears trained to hear unequal temperament would have expected.

As far as Bach using equal temperament -- I haven't studied this matter thoroughly, but it seems logical that there were evolutionary steps between pure Pythagorean-type tuning and equal temperament. The idea that Bach jumped suddenly from one to the other just isn't parsinomous.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 5, 2006):
John Reese wrote:
< There were a few composers predating Bach who had no trouble using chromaticism in their works. The Burkhart anthology of music has two EXTREME examples by Roland de Lassus and Carlo Geualdo. As far as drawing "undue attention" to remote keys; I think that was part of the point. It added color to the piece that may be troubling to modern ears, but was what ears trained to hear unequal temperament would have expected. >
Burkhart's 3rd edition, pages 45-52? Yup, that was my textbook way back when, too, and my copy is marked up with analysis from music-theory classes. Nice pieces. I haven't seen the newer editions of that anthology yet; did he keep those compositions in there?

Burkhart is a good composer, too. He wrote to me last autumn, excited about the tuning research and wishing me well with it. In response I hoped that he'd be able to write a new composition or two for the expressive resources/intonation of the Goshen organ as I was playing a concert there in October. It was too close to the time, though, for something new--so he gave me a couple of suggestions on playing his older pieces from 1970. This concert: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/2005oct30.htm

At Michigan I was in one of the chamber ensembles where we sang Gesualdo for a semester. That stuff certainly is fun and challenging, with the quick shifts of harmonies! Gesualdo's two harpsichord pieces are a trip, too. Wild, wild, wild...especially in meantone.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 6, 2006):
John Reese wrote:
>>There were a few composers predating Bach who had no trouble using chromaticism in their works. The Burkhart anthology of music has two EXTREME examples by Roland de Lassus and Carlo Geualdo. As far as drawing "undue attention" to remote keys; I think that was part of the point. It added color to the piece that may be troubling to modern ears, but was what ears trained to hear unequal temperament would have expected.<<
These few composers before Bach had little or no influence on the main developments in composition that were taking place in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. One might just as well cite Hans Neusiedler's (1508-1563) "Der Juden Tanz" for lute contained in the "Historical Anthology of Music" Vol. 1 by Davison and Apel (Harvard University Press) who describe this piece as "one of the most remarkable specimen's of 16th century music. Shrill dissonances, otherwise unheard of before the adventurous experiments of 20th century music, result from the daring use of two conflicting tonal realms (bitonality), D-sharp in the melody against E-natural in the harmony. They produce an extremely realistic picture, not lacking a touch of satire." p. 227

Gesualdo, a fanatic admirer of Luzzaschi's compositional methods, took the latter to an extreme which found no further basis for musical development among contemporary composers or those who followed Gesualdo up until the time of Bach. In essence, Gesualdo's music was a dead-end for his type of composition.

Hans F. Redlich, in the MGG1, (Bärenreiter, 1986)describes Gesualdo and his manner of composing as follows: "Gesualdos Musik erwächst aus der Antithese von schwelgerischer Erotik und flagellantischer Todessehnsucht als hochentwickelte Ausdruckskunst eines genialen Psychopathen." ("Gesualdo's music grows out of the antithesis between extravagant/debauched eroticism and self-castigating longing for death as the highly developed art of expression of a psychopathic genius.")

From Lorenzo Bianconi, in the Grove Music Online, Oxford University Press, 2006, acc. 2/5/06, we can obtain the following information about Gesualdo:

"Alessandro Guarini (Il farnetico savio, overo Il Tasso, 1610) compared Luzzaschi and Gesuwith Dante, because, 'in imitation of the words . they do not avoid harshness, nor shun dissonance itself, artistry against the rules of the art' and 'do not fear to employ hard, unusual and strange sounds'.... Gesualdo shared Luzzaschi's interest in the chromatic arcicembalo made by Vicentino and kept at the court of Ferrara. The chronicler Sardi related that Luzzaschi played this instrument during the Este-Venosa wedding celebrations, and it is known that Stella and Gesualdo later tried, in vain, to construct a similar chromatic instrument in Naples. The practice and theory of such an instrument had an undoubted influence on Gesualdo's stylistic evolution; his writing encompassed an almost complete chromatic scale (the only chromatic change which never appears is Fb), and frequently used variations on the ancient chromatic tetrachord. Had the arcicembalo been less impractical, it would have constituted the one possible link between chromatic counterpoint and the newer forms of mixed vocal and instrumental music; thus Gesualdo's coherent choice of the madrigal style based on artifice rather than any kind of 'nuova musica' should be seen in the light of the inability of contemporary keyboard instruments to cope with extreme chromaticism. It also destroys the myth, believed by Ambros among others, of an empirical, irrational Gesualdo, trying out his chromaticism 'auf dem Klavier oder der Orgel'. The extremism and individuality of Gesualdo's music, confirmed by the arbitrariness of his sacred works, are provocations, just as his personal notoriety must have been, and in these circumstances it is impossible to make a calm judgment on his output. Interpretation of his music is compromised, more than that of any other 16th-century composer's work, by a change of harmonic perspective that has brought about a mistaken overemphasis on his chromatic style."

So what we have here in the instances cited above are examples of provocations overly emphasized and singled out by musical historians because of their exteme strangeness, a factor which does not lend itself well to establishing firmly the direction of a development away from mean-tone to equal temperament. We do observe, however, the early attempts, such as the chromatic arcicembalo mentioned above, which point to an evolving yearning on the part of composers and performers to overcome the problems (limitations) created by the earlier, non-equal temperaments which were still being preferred at the time. The mature Bach, who composed the WTC1, while quite aware of the various attempts to create special chromatic instruments or the use of split keys to preserve the older temperaments and thus avoid the final step toward equal temperament, nonchalantly seems to have embraced the latter by not emphasizing in his title page for the WTC1 the strangeness, harshness, or dissonances, but rather the fact that the performers/listeners will derive pleasure from the pastime of being able to move freely through all the 'tones and semitones' as well as the major and minor keys without surprising or jarring sounds to startle them along the way.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 6, 2006):
< The mature Bach, >
...37 years old...

< who composed the WTC1, while quite aware of the various attempts to create special chromatic instruments or the use of split keys to preserve the older temperaments and thus avoid the final step toward equal temperament, nonchalantly seems to have embraced the latter by not emphasizing in his title page for the WTC1 the strangeness, harshness, or dissonances, but rather the fact that the performers/listeners will derive pleasure from the pastime of being able to move freely through all the 'tones and semitones' as well as the major and minor keys without surprising or jarring sounds to startle them along the way. >
If one has played through the WTC (all of it!) using the Bach temperament that I presented in my research, made public almost exactly a year ago, one would know that there are no "surprising or jarring sounds to startle them" anywhere in either book.

Rather, the whole thing is harmonious and beautiful, making harpsichords sound especially resonant and full. Organs, clavichords, and fortepianos too. The better the instrument, the more it makes a difference in subtle beauties. One can play through all the tones and semitones (i.e. all 24 major and minor keys) with complete freedom, and no bad sounds. I've used it in something as far afield as a Brahms clarinet sonata, with modern piano tuned this way, and there are no problems there either: in a texture that is shifting keys all over the place.

Has my critic here played through any of the WTC for as much as 15 minutes, on an acoustic instrument in this temperament, to hear what this sound actually does "live" under the fingers in a decent instrument? It really must be experienced hands-on, listening closely into the instrument, and not merely speculated against on paper.

Anything short of that--in some attempt to knock down my work--is simply an absurd batch of rhetoric. How can one criticize something in public BEFORE encountering it, or (even worse) refusing to encounter it?

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 6, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>The mature Bach,<<
>>...37 years old...<<
Yes, In his major activity as composer between 1722 and 1730, Bach can certainly be described as being in his 'mature' period: 'mature' = fully developed. Also, the bulk of his musical output, which is of very high quality, comes from this period.

>>If one has played through the WTC (all of it!) using the Bach temperament that I presented in my research, made public almost exactly a year ago.<<
There is no firm evidence that this proposed, non-equal temperament scheme is "the Bach temperament". Simply presenting as a fact this phrase "the Bach temperament" and repeating this theoretical variant among various competing non-equal temperament tuning schemes over and over again will not make it become a fact.

>>Rather, the whole thing [the 'Bach' temperament?] is harmonious and beautiful, making harpsichords sound especially resonant and full.<<
If these harpsichords were tuned to mean-tone, they would sound even more resonant and full. It simply depends upon which tonalities and chords prevail in the composition being played.

>>The better the instrument, the more it makes a difference in subtle beauties.<<
I believe I would prefer an instrument of lesser quality properly tuned to equal temperament any day to one of extremely good quality tuned to a non-equal temperament, unless, of course, it was only for temporary experimentation to determine the difference.

>>One can play through all the tones and semitones (i.e. all 24 major and minor keys) with complete freedom, and no bad sounds. I've used it in something as far afield as a Brahms clarinet sonata, with modern piano tuned this way, and there are no problems there either: in a texture that is shifting keys all over the place.<<
Of course, most people, in time, can learn to become accustomed to the apparent oddities and differences between temperaments, particularly, when they hear only one particular non-equal temperament all the time to the exclusion of other competing temperaments or even equal temperament. It is even possible for many listeners to become inured through constant bombardment (repetition) of one temperament and come to believe that it is 'the only right one'. It also helps when you, as the creator of one of the various non-equal temperaments (many of which are called 'well-tempered', a vaguely defined term where beauty of sound is in the ear of the listener), have a biased view toward its validity relying upon listeners to perceive differences which the creator of the temperament suggests that these listeners should be able to hear.

>>Has my critic here played through any of the WTC for as much as 15 minutes, on an acoustic instrument in this temperament, to hear what this sound actually does "live" under the fingers in a decent instrument? It really must be experienced hands-on, listening closely into the instrument, and not merely speculated against on paper.<<
The call for the application of empiricism can be applied equally to any number of so-called 'Bach' temperaments (non-equal). Where is the validity of this experiment heading when there is no side-by-side comparison (in a public forum with rigid controls) with all the other non-equal temperaments that also claim that Bach employed one of these as his own favorite? Will there be a fair trial for all the others or will everything be left up to one individual promoting with a great amount of hype his own version in which he has invested much time and energy?

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 6, 2006):
[To Douglas Cowling] I think Doug has this one straight on. Indeed, it strikes me that one sign of supreme genius in music, at least of the types I am familiar with, is the ability of the composer to divorce composition from the ups and downs of daily life. I do not suggest for a minute that artists like Bach or Mozart lacked humanity in any way. (As far as Bach goes Wolff suggests that cantor was friends with students and faculty from the local university. It could well be that Bach enjoyed solving the world's problems over that glass of beer before going home and tending to his very large household. He could hardly have been an iconoclast.) Rather, it does seem that a handful of composers were able to create great music regardless of whether winds from the outside were blowing fair or foul. I've said on this list that I can't think of a clunker among Bach's cantatas. I can't really think of any second rate music coming from the master. And let's recall that, like almost all really great composers, Bach was very prolific. In any case Bach made great music when facing personal tragedy. He created great music when events were on "cruise control." He created great music during times when he was young (think of the wonderful early cantatas etc composed by age 25) and created great music when he was old. I think one could say much the same about the mercurial Mozart. It's true that some of his work was immature, but we don't have compositions from very many 11 year old composers to compare it with. When mature (that is past age 20 or so) Mozart produced a steady stream of wonderful music that continued more or less non-stop regardless of the state of Mozart's personal or financial life. As for Beethoven, although he left the gate a little later in terms of age, we have 20 plus years of extraordinary accomplishment remarkable for its almost uniform sublimity. (Let's give Ludwig a pass for "Wellington's Victory": politics and art are not natural allies.) For a while Beethoven was one of the most famous men in Europe - no small thing to someone with more than a little ambition. He got and stayed in that exalted state by composing great music. Yet toward the end of life Beethoven extended the boundaries of music while growing stone deaf - no mean feat. In any case, when any of these gents sat down to compose, something very good or often great invariably appeared regardless of events touching them in the "real world". This was genius of an extraordinary order.

Tom Hens wrote (February 6, 2006):
< And Bach still labours under the popular notion of being prickly, solemn and dour. >
A very strange myth indeed, and I've often wondered where it came from.
Certainly not from any historical sources.

< I always point out that the only artifact to survive from the Bach household is a beer glass and the man did father 21 chiildren! That's a pretty good case for wine, women and song! >
Have you taken into account how many of those children died within a few days, or months, or years? I've been compiling a succinct timeline of Bach's life, because I want to put it into a two-column format with the datable works he wrote listed next to the events in his life, and frankly it was quite a depressing experience, simply listing all those children being born, and then having to add the dates of their deaths and funerals just below. It can't have been that happy a household at many times.

And of course, beer and wine were the normal, everyday drink for everyone (except perhaps the poorest of the poor) in those days. That's why salaries, including Bach's, included allowances of beer and wine.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (February 6, 2006):
One aspects of Bach's music which contributes to make him the greatest musical genius in my opinion (besides all that has been said before), is (what I percieve as) the absence of the ego in his music. A quality I value greatly, being moderately interested in other peoples' egoes... Perhaps that's what makes it hard to figure out who he actually was (or perhaps it prevents us from forming erroneous ideas about who he was!). Such inscrutability may well appear 'prickly, solemn, dour' if you are keen on viewing things from a personal or sentimental point of view. Probably Bach had a huge ego, and the feat is all the more admirable!

Now probably this absence of ego in his music is partly due to the fact that Bach belongs to an era when the artist was not paid in virtue of the size of his ego, but for doing a good job of his art.

John Reese wrote (February 6, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] It wasn't the chromaticism that made these early compositions a "dead end", but the failure to integrate the chromaticism with diatonic voice leading conventions. The time just wasn't right for this in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I believe that this was more of an impediment to further development in chromaticism than unequal temperament./

John Pike wrote (February 6, 2006):
[To Eric Bergerud] Absolutely spot on on every count, Eric.

John Pike wrote (February 6, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] It is a pity that another flame war is starting again, but I am inclined to agree that, when one considers that BWV 106, for example, was written when Bach was only 20, references to the "mature" Bach are relative and distinctions between phases somewhat blurred. It is undoubtedly the case that some of Bach's early works demonstrate great maturity in every conceivable way.

So far as temperament is concerned, I am not at all persuaded that Bach had equal temperament in mind for the WTC or, indeed, any of his other compositions. No doubt he was aware of it and of its virtue (being able to play in all the major and minor keys) but I also find the argument compelling that he was aware of the major drawback with it (lack of differentiation in colour etc between the different keys). It seems far more likely to me that he preferred a temperament which, while allowing one to play in all the keys, also provided different colours between those keys.

I have listened to Brad's 2 recent compilations (one on Harpsichord and 3 discs of organ music played on the Goshen college organ tuned to Brad's suggestion of Bach's temperament) and greatly enjoyed them both. The playing is excellent and the temperament gives very pleasing results. Even one of the people who disgrees with Brad's proposal has nevertheless acknowledged that it gives "very pleasing results". I can warmly recommend these discs to list members and encourage them to give this temperament "a go", on recording and (if you are more able than me) playing.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Cantata BWV 106 - Discussions Part 5

Richard Mix wrote (March 10, 2006):
Neusiedler's bitonality

Thus Th. Braatz:
< These few composers before Bach had little or no influence on the main developments in composition that were taking place in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. One might just as well cite Hans Neusiedler's (1508-1563) "Der Juden Tanz" for lute contained in the "Historical Anthology of Music" Vol. 1 by Davison and Apel (Harvard University Press) who describe this piece as "one of the most remarkable specimen's of 16th century music. Shrill dissonances, otherwise unheard of before the adventurous experiments of 20th century music, result from the daring use of two conflicting tonal realms (bitonality), D-sharp in the melody against E-natural in the harmony. They produce an extremely realistic
picture, not lacking a touch of satire." p. >

Hello; I've been catching up on digests. I too was exposed to the "Juden Tanz" via HAM, and when a facsimile of Neusiedler's tablature turned up at the library 25 years ago I eagerly sought other examples by this audacious composer. To my suprise there was an unmistakable instruction to tune the top string up a semitone for this one piece! I thought this was widely known nowadays...

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 10, 2006):
Richard Mix wrote:
>>I too was exposed to the "Juden Tanz" via HAM, and when a facsimile of Neusiedler's tablature turned up at the library 25 years ago I eagerly sought other examples by this audacious composer. To my surprise there was an unmistakable instruction to tune the top string up a semitone for this one piece! I thought this was widely known nowadays...<<
Did you manage to make a copy of this facsimile? It would be interesting to see how musicologists
overlooked this fact.

The MGG1 (Bärenreiter, 1986) still referred to this piece as highly unusual in two articles:

Jewish Music by Hanoch Avenary (who tries to compare it with Jazz, among other things, but does not mention bitonality).


Lute Music by Wolfgang Boetticher (who points to the very early appearance of chromaticism - this does still apply, does it not, even if the top string undergoes scordatura? There is no mention of bitonality in this article.

The Grove Music Online (Oxford University Press, 2006, acc. 3/10/06), in an article segment by Diana Poulton and Tim Crawford, does state:

>>The publications of Hans Neusidler began with his book of 1536. He was the first writer of instruction books to show real pedagogic talent; not only did he give clear instructions for both right and left hands, but his pieces are carefully graduated, leading the beginner by gentle degrees through the initial difficulties. Two modified tunings are found in his work: one, known as 'Abzug', consisted in lowering the sixth course by a tone, and the other was used in his Judentanz. (The scordatura notation of this piece has been misread by some scholars, who thereby mistook it for an early example of polytonality.)<<

Thanks for pointing this out.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 10, 2006):

< Hello; I've been catching up on digests. I too was exposed to the "Juden Tanz" via HAM, and when a facsimile of Neusiedler's tablature turned up at the library 25 years ago I eagerly sought other examples by this audacious composer. To my suprise there was an unmistakable instruction to tune the top string up a semitone for this one piece! I thought this was widely known nowadays... >
The scordatura cross-over point is quite obvious (in the Davison/Apel transcription, #105b in HAM volume 1) from the melodic voice-leading as well. The repeated G#s just don't make sense otherwise. But, assign some of the G#s to one string and some to the other (i.e. sounding as A), and it makes a fine and ordinary-enough little piece.

What about the missing half-bar in the "Hupf auff" of the preceding piece in HAM, also by Neusiedler? Presumably that cadence halfway through the dance should resemble the one at the end, since the whole
thing is merely a written-out repeat anyway?

 

What is this fascination with Bach?

Dan Date wrote (March 6, 2006):
Händel didn't even like Bach, Beethoven preferred Händel to Bach, and just mentioned that Bach's name should be ocean (referring to his large output). What makes his music so good that makes Händel a bad judge? To me, Bach's harmonies are just plain weird and mathematically contrived. The Brandenburg concerto's were sold off at 10 cents a copy, probably because anyone would have to look at the 3 minute harpischord cadenza in the first movement of the 5th concerto to just think "What the hell is this?!" It is certainly not spiritually illuminating like Couperin's "Les Barricades Mysterieuse", Rameau's 3rd Harpsichord Concerto, Händel's Messiah, or even Beethoven's 5th, 6th and 9th symphonies. Can anyone understand where I am coming from?

Craig Chase wrote (March 6, 2006):
[To Dan Date] I can certainly understand the impulse to question the historical and musical traditions that elevate Bach above others. I also used to wince when "Bach is god" was uttered in the halls of my music classes and in the books I read. However, after decades of performing and listening to his music I can think of nothing quite as complete and satisfying an experience as the music of Bach. At first glance even pieces such as WTC can seem overly mathematical and pedantic (Bach intended these to be teaching exercises), but once you get into them they convey a certain spirituality seldom achieved by the works of others.

Mike Mannix wrote (March 6, 2006):
I cant define it. As a child I used to hear Sinfonia to Cantata BWV 29 as a TV theme in the late 50s. When I was 16 I found out what the music was, but there was something about the forward motion and logic of that piece which lodged in my mind as an infant. I could recognise JSB's music long before I heard the name.

Santu de Silva wrote (March 6, 2006):
[To Dan Date] Bernard Shaw once said about a dancing dog, that it wasn't that it danced well, but that it danced at all.

It similarly amazes me not that some folks disagree with me about how wonderful Bach's music is, but that anyone other than myself happens to like it so much! Still, once you get accustomed to such agreement about how wonderful Bach is, you begin to become frustrated at any disagreement in precisely *how* wonderful, and *in what ways*.

When two people are in close agreement about such a thing as the music of Bach, it usually happens (not invariably, please note) that they have heard a lot of the same music, both Bach and other music. So, Dan Date, perhaps you haven't listened to the same Bach works as I have, or perhaps you have not sung a lot of Bach, etc etc.

People have problems with Mozart, too; and in that case I think it has to do with life experience (not my own thought, but something that came up in classm-l); to young folk, Mozart sounds merely "pretty"; and some young folks like it for that reason, while others despise it for the same reason. But after a while, you learn to look for those occasional moments of sadness buried in Mozart. (This is why the minor-key works, like Symphony no. 40 in G minor are the exceptions; there you have to look for the "happy" moment in a generally sorrowful movement. Even the major-key movements manage to be sad.)

Then there is the Requiem, which manages to portray Mozart's fear of death, even if most of it was written by others. Mozart is not trying to scare *us*, he's scared himself. He's with us, looking across at hell, trying to persuade himeself that he doesn't deserve to go there, but not quite succeeding.

Anyway, do we know where you're coming from? Sure. You don't need to like Bach as much as we do!

Richard wrote (March 7, 2006):
BACH's Music is brains and sensuality together : science and emotion, I know, I feel, I love. What else ?

Can anyone understand where I am coming from?

Eric Bergerud wrote (March 7, 2006):
[To Dan Date] Hmm..... No.

Margaret Mikulska wrote (March 7, 2006):
[To Dan Date] From the world of weird, unsupported claims. Could we please have references for your statements? Then we can -- possibly -- have a discussion.

John Reese wrote (March 7, 2006):
[To Dan Date] Can you elaborate on what you mean by "mathematically contrived"? Are you referring to the individual harmonies, or the way that they interact?

Alain Bruguieres wrote (March 7, 2006):
[To Dan Date] I have two questions.
1) What's wrong with mathematics?
2) Why should we appreciate Bach's music on the basis of what Händel or Beethoven did say or didn't say about Bach?

By the way, I enjoy Händel's Messiah but I don't find it 'spiritually illuminating'. I'm well aware that this is a totally uninteresting statement, but since you've mentioned it...

Dan Date wrote (March 9, 2006):
Thank you for your responses, much of Bach's music leaves me thinking "What the hell was that?" Mabye they were unfinished works, or excersizes, some of his works do not even have tempo indication or instrument as. The musical offering sounds like hell to me, but I must also admit that Bach "had it" at times. I suppose this is true for all composers...I thought Händel was great after finding my soul in the Hallejuhah chorus, it is very interesting that you can begin to feel the impending illumination at the end of the song before it, even though you didn't know that Hallejuhah was the next song! However, I listened to Händel's La Ressurection and some concerto grosso's and wasn't as thoroughly impressed. I think mabye we are supposed to listen to a bunch of crap, so that when we hear something divinely inspired such as Canon in D we are actually touched. Anyway, I think the Little Organ Fugue in G is Bach's greatest work? Any other suggestions?

Michael Telles wrote (March 9, 2006):
[To Dan Date] A good friend got me hooked by starting me with single instrument pieces so I could train my ear to the melodic lines with a bit more ease. Something clicked for me during the process of listening and what was at first an intellectual experience became deeply affecting. Soon the most subtle melodic shifts were momentous to me, and it took off from there.

You found Händel's Concerti Grossi to be . . . a-hem . . . "crap"? For shame!

Julian Mincham wrote (March 9, 2006):
[To Dan Date] Oh dear I swore that I would resist responding to this email---but the flesh is weak!

But one question has been bugging me-----why join an email group which is principally about the celebration of Bach's music and its performances in order to state that you don't like his music??

Please answer--I can't sleep!!

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 9, 2006):
< Händel didn't even like Bach, Beethoven preferred Händel to Bach, and just mentioned that Bach's name should be ocean (referring to his large output). What makes his music so good that makes Händel a bad judge? >
Didn't Händel live for quite a while on Brook Street, in the same block that would later (coincidentally) be the home of Jimi Hendrix? Come home every day to "Bach-Strasse"....

John Pike wrote (March 9, 2006):
[To Bradley Lehman] Correct.

Richard wrote (March 9, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Didn't Händel live for quite a while on Brook Street, in the same >
I don't understand such a rivalry. Bach is very near to my heart but I love Händel' and Telemann' Music. I lover my father AND my mother. Bach liked Händel and Händel did not know Bach. Che vanita !

Dan Date wrote (March 10, 2006):
So I have to admit that Bach is good, it is just his keyboard practice (clavier-ubung) that doesn't do it for me.

Peter Bright wrote (March 10, 2006):
[To Bradley Lehman] Yes... I quite like the photo and caption here: http://pers-www.wlv.ac.uk/~fa1871/jimi69.html

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 11, 2006):
[To Peter Bright]
I enjoyed the photo as well, and was amused to learn that:
(1) Jimi was quoted as enjoying a bit of Bach, thus qualifying the post (by a 1960's whisker) for BCW. Please, lawyers, barristers, et al, do not use this as precedent to open the floodgates for Hendrix posts.
(2) In 1969 Jimi espoused (or better said, did not bother to espouse) the unsupressed lifestyle of the times. Unfortunately, he was dead by 1970.

Probably just a coincidence, or bad luck. Younger readers, take note.

Thomas Jaenicke wrote (March 11, 2006):
[To Richard] Wasn't it the other way round: Händel tried to visit Bach twice , but the master stayed in bed both times?

Dan Date wrote (March 12, 2006):
[To Thomas Jaenicke] Beethoven said, "If there is one man whose grave I'd take my hat off to and kneel, it is George Frederick Händel." Beethoven was familiar with Bach too, but preferred Händel. this is from: http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~tas3/handel.html

In 1719 Händel returned to his birthplace, Halle, for eight days. At that time Bach lived in Cöthen, twenty miles away. Bach's admiration for Händel is evident from his having copied, with the help of his wife, a passion and other works by Händel. Knowing that Bach wanted to meet Händel, Prince Leopold lent Johann Sebastian a horse. For reasons that remain a mystery, the meeting never took place. Spitta indicates that Bach's admiration for Händel was not reciprocated.

BCW - New section: Bach & Other Composers

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 20, 2008):
On January 1, 2006 I announced the addition of composers to the BCW. I wrote:
"J.S. Bach was not only the greatest composer of his generation but of all time. If anybody has needed any proof, he/she should listen to his works played around the clock for 10 days from BBC (UK) and from WKCR (NY). I cannot imagine any other composer justifying such ambitious broadcasting programmes. Greatest, indeed, but not an isolated figure. He belonged to a big musical family, his main post had other important composers before and after him, he used musical material of many composers, and this material has been used (and actually continued to be used) by many other composers.
In order to give fuller view of J.S. Bach's musical surroundings, I have started adding to the BCW short biographies of composers relating to J.S. Bach. These composers belong to one or more of the following categories:
a. Composers of Chorale Melodies.
Each composer page in this group includes a list of the CM he composed with links to the relevant CM pages.
b. Composers who composed works based on CM used by J.S. Bach.
Each composer page includes a list of his works in which he used CM's with links to the relevant CM pages.
c. Thomaskantors.
d. Members of the Bach family.
A complete list of the composers together with poets whose texts were used in J.S. Bach's works can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/index.htm"

To this announcement John Pike responded:
"An excellent idea. Maybe, at a later date, it would be worth adding other composers with links to Bach in other ways, eg Vivaldi, Telemann, Lotti, Caldara, Pergolesi, Pachelbel."

Since than I have added another category:
- Arrangers/transcriptors of Bach's works for piano

Now, almost 3 years later, I am glad to inform you that I have just finished the first version of a new section "Bach & Other Composers"

Based on material provided to me by William Hoffman and Thomas Braatz a few months ago and on various other sources, I have built a new section: "Bach & Other Composers". The aim of this section is to present all works of other composers associated with J.S. Bach.

To the previous categories I have added the following lists:
- Spurious & doubtful works in BWV & BWV Anh lists
- Works of other composers performed by J.S. Bach
- Works of other composers arranged by J.S. Bach
- Works of other composers in J.S. Bach's library

Discussions of Bach & other composers, previously presented in the General Topics section, have also been moved to the new section

I have also added, expanded and updated many composer biographies whose works appear in one or more of the above mentioned lists.
The bios are linked directly from the above lists.
Each such composer bio now contains lists/s of his (sorry, no her) works associated with J.S. Bach, and in many cases also a section describing the connection between the composer and J.S. Bach.

The main page of the Bach & Other Composers section:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Other/index.htm

The next phase was building comprehensive discographies of vocal works by other composers performed by J.S. Bach.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Other/Work-Perform.htm
You will find here discographies of Passions, Masses, Cantatas, Motets, etc. which J.S. Bach performed.

The raison d'être for presenting these discographies is simple: - if the works were good enough for Bach to perform them, they are possibly good enough for us to listen to them.After all the man proved time and again that he had a good taste.

For example, did you know that J.S. Bach performed at least three works of his great contemporary G.F. Handel?
- Brockes Passion
- The Italian Cantata Armida abbandonata
- Arias from the Opera Alcina.

I hope you enjoy the new section as much as I did building it.

I am sure quite certain that at this stage the lists & the discographies contain numerous mistakes & omissions. Therefore, I would appreciate if you check them carefully and inform me of any change/correction/addition that should be made.

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 20, 2008):
[To Aryeh Oron] Wonderful resource! I will use this a lot!

Thanks, Aryeh

Gerd Wund wrote (December 20, 2008):
[To Aryeh Oron] incredible!

so much work,

thank you very much for all your efforts!

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (December 20, 2008):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Now, almost 3 years later, I am glad to inform you that I have just finished the first version of a new section "Bach & Other Composers"
Based on material provided to me by William Hoffman and Thomas Braatz a few months ago and on various other sources, I have built a new section: "Bach & Other Composers". The aim of this section is to present all works of other composers associated with J.S. Bach.
To the previous categories I have added the following lists:
- Spurious & doubtful works in BWV & BWV Anh lists
- Works of other composers performed by J.S. Bach
- Works of other composers arranged by J.S. Bach
- Works of other composers in J.S. Bach's library >
That's very impressive. I can't say enough good things about your hard work. I am personally most grateful for your efforts on the behalf of Herrs Telemann, and Christoph Graupner ;) While I know this is a Bach cantata list, I hope you don't mind me sharing thoughts or news about Telemann or Graupner, since they were both so important elements in Bach's life (well Telemann definitely since their lives were so connected, Graupner less so, but still importance because of his role in declining the St. Thomas' cantorate.

I hope to help you more with more mp3 files, because being able to hear this music is so vitally important. Of course, any performers here on the list that are performers are more than welcome to ask me about any performing editions I'm working on.

Again thank you so much for all your hard word Aryeh!

Kim Patrick Clow
Telemannmaniac and Graupneruffian at large ;)

Julian Mincham wrote (December 20, 2008):
[To Aryeh Oron] Aryeh

Terrific. I echo the comments of the others thanking you for the work you have done in pulling all this information together Julian.

Anne (Nessie) Russell wrote (December 20, 2008):
On behalf of music teachers everywhere I thank you.

I have to wonder when you sleep.

John Pike wrote (December 20, 2008):
[To Aryeh Oron] Stupendous work! I echo all the comments of others.

A couple of points:

1. The BBC have actually done complete works festivals for several other composers, including Beethoven. There was almost a national sense of mourning, at least among Blog contributors, when the aptly-timed Bach at Christmas festival came to an end. It was such a wonderful festival, so much more than just playing through the complete works.

2. I have always enjoyed reading what other composers have said about Bach. The new website devotes sections to composers as diverse as Mozart and Messiaen and their relationship to Bach. I wonder whether, at some stage, it would be worth expanding sections like that to include comments made by other composers about Bach, such as Mozart's reaction on hearing some Bach performed for the first time. Accounts such as these are priceless and bring a lot of emotion into their reverence (in most cases) for Bach. One notable exception was Berlioz. You can see his comments on Bach in ed. Wolff "The New Bach Reader" on p. 504. Hard to believe that one great composer could get it so wrong about an even greater one. You can also find here tributes to Bach from numerous other composers. Whatever Wolff says about Wagner's comments, I think Wagner was spot on one thing....Bach WAS the very greatest composer of all time (I certainly think Aryeh is right on that one). I know that there will be people on the list who object to my comparisons and ranking here, but I subscribe to the view that sometimes we should "speak what we feel, not what we ought to say".

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 21, 2008):
I add my voice to the support for Aryehs efforts, in all areas. I cannot resist commenting, with a bit of amusement, on the similarity in form between the most recent (Bach and other composers), and the flurry over <Bach and Composer X>.

I appreciate Thereses response re Bach and Rosenmüller, BWV 27.

I enjoyed the report on concert performance by Jean, and reply by John Pike. Send more, everybody.

I find the inquiry from new correspondent Glen Armstrong, re <deconstructing> recorded sound, especially stimulating. I expect to add some thoughts, including the differences between the current OVPP series, Milnes, and Kuijken. May they both continue, and prosper. Au Canada, Glen.

Aloha, and a swinging Solstice season to all, Ed Myskowski

Terejia wrote (December 21, 2008):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/29543
(..)
> The raison d'être for presenting these discographies is simple: - if the works were good enough for Bach to perform them, they are possibly good enough for us to listen to them. After all the man proved time and again that he had a good taste.
For example, did you know that J.S. Bach performed at least three works of his great contemporary
G.F. Handel?
- Brockes Passion
- The Italian Cantata Armida abbandonata
- Arias from the Opera Alcina.
I hope you enjoy the new section as much as I did building it. >
(..)
Thank you, Aryeh, for your gracious painstaking!
Yes, I concur with what you wrote above.

In preparing for my discussion leader role, I searched for and referred myself to many possible resources including Japanese sites and so far I fail to find out more insightful/ more innformative web pages than BCW. I'm glad this BCW is becoming even more so. Thank you again for this page.

gratefully yours,

NY Times: Ten Top Composers

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 18, 2011):
The NY Times is running a rather lame contest for the Top Ten Composers.
Here's the video chat about Bach. It's remarkable how the old Romantic approach to Bach still persists even among critics who should know better: Top 10 Composers: J.S. Bach (NY Times)

I'm annoyed that there is not a single composer before Bach!

Grrrrrrr...

Katherine Ware wrote (January 18, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] Anthony Tommasini has narrowed the field so that no one before Bach could be considered. A highly personal contest. I am reminded of Dave Barry's Bad Song Survey where he said the only songs included were popular ones he grew up listening to. Here are Tommasini's rules:

"But first I have to narrow the scope, so here are the ground rules:

I am focusing on Western classical music. There are compelling arguments against honoring this classification. Still, giants like George Gershwin, Duke Ellington and Stephen Sondheim are outside my purview here. And on the assumption that we are too close to living composers to assess their place and their impact, I am eliminating them from consideration.

Finally, I am focusing on the eras sincthe late Baroque. You could make a good case for Josquin or Monteverdi, but I won't. The traditions and styles were so different back then as to have been almost another art form. I'm looking roughly at the era an undergraduate survey of Western civilization might define as modern history."

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 18, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
<> < I'm annoyed that there is not a single composer before Bach! >
Really, that's so annoying. I hope you left some feedback on the website.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 18, 2011):
Katherine Ware wrote:
< Finally, I am focusing on the eras since the late Baroque. You could make a good case for Josquin or Monteverdi, but I won't. The traditions and styles were so different back then as to have been almost another art form. I'm looking roughly at the era an undergraduate survey of Western civilization might define as modern history." >
rolls eyes at the music snob slash critic.

Yeah, I'm leaving feed-back.

Elizabeth Schwimmer wrote (January 18, 2011):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] For some strange reason, I cannot get this link.
Is it correct?
Thanks,

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 18, 2011):
[To Elizabeth Schwimmer] Yahoo mail truncates the URL.

I've created a tiny url for you: http://tiny.cc/7xxjn

That should take you to the NY Times article Doug posted.

Katherine Ware wrote (January 18, 2011):
Try this link to the beginning of the contest - the links to the cideos are on that page: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/arts/music/09composers.html?_r=1

Elizabeth Schwimmer wrote (January 18, 2011):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Thanks Kim, got it now!

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 18, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] How to save a newspaper? Initiate top-ten competitions! My list of folks who are ineligible for the NY Times list because they are still alive (OK, a few recently deceased). Rather like fast-track Sainthood?

(1) Elliot Carter, producing much of his best work after age 90, and still at it.

(2) Olivier Messiaen, the ultimate Christian?

(3) Witold Lutoslawski, the ultimate Polish dude?

(4) Yehudi Wyner, because he is always happy to sign my programs, and hit on my spouse.

(5) Andrew Imbrie, just becasue.

(6) John Harbison, founder of Bostons Cantata Singers, dedicated to performance of Bach cantatas, and saving this post from going OT.

(7) Ellen Taffe Zwillich, holding forth for the ladies.

I am writing off the top of my head, so reserving a few spots. One thing these folks all have in common: you could meet them on a Boston street corner or concert lobby, by being in the right place at the right time. Quite a few Pulitzer Prizes sprinkled around, as well, including ETZ.

Stephen Benson wrote (January 19, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Quite a few Pulitzer Prizes sprinkled around, as well, including ETZ. >
The first woman composer to be awarded the prize. And don't you just love her take on the 18th century in her Concerto Grosso 1985, written in honor of Handel's 300th B-day?

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 19, 2011):
[To Stephen Benson] Nice to hear from old friends. Thanks for pointing out that her Pulitzer was a first for the ladies. Not to drift away from Bach, but are there any others?

NY Times Top Ten Contest: Bach is #1

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 23, 2011):
I don't know why I read these things: they just get my blood-pressure up.
You'd never know that there has been 50 years of scholarship -- nothing has touched the Romantic attitudes of critics: NY Times Article

And don't get me started on the absence of all pre-Bach composers!

Grrrrrr ....

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 23, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] Thanks for providing the link, which works fine for me (not always the case with NYTimes).

I am surprised that Bartok outranks Handel and Haydn these days, in a popular vote. Difficult to attribute that to the Romantic attitudes of critics?

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (January 23, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] Let's see the positive side: at least they put Bach there ... they could have selected Bono.

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (January 23, 2011):
I apologise to everybody, should have read it in its entirety. Found incredible things. I certainly love the music of Chopin, to whom decades ago I devoted nine years of practice on the piano. Yet I cannot see on which
grounds one could possibly assert that

"Chopin, the most original genius of the 19th century,...".

The whole thing is just not worth reading.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 24, 2011):
Claudio Di Veroli wrote:
<I apologise to everybody, should have read it in its entirety. >
Likewise. I did not see the text, and I assumed that the top ten list at the head of the page was the result of reader poll, not the critics opinion.

< The whole thing is just not worth reading. >
Likewise. It seems especially rude to invite reader input, and then insult a vote for Albinoni. I enjoyed this correction, though!

<A picture caption on Page 19 this weekend with the continuation of a cover article about the 10 greatest classical composers misspells the given name of Verdi. He was Giuseppe Verdi, not Guiseppe.> (end quote)

My father always loved to point out that he was simply Joe Green to his friends.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 24, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< A picture caption on Page 19 this weekend with the continuation of a cover article about the 10 greatest classical composers misspells the given name of Verdi. He was Giuseppe Verdi, not Guiseppe. (end quote)
My father always loved to point out that he was simply Joe Green to his friends. >
And John S. Brook down at the pub.

Handel lived on Brook Street in London.

Mike Mannix wrote (February 8, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I don't know why I read these things: they just get my blood-pressure up.
You'd never know that there has been 50 years of scholarship -- nothing has touched the Romantic attitudes of critics:
NY Times Article
And don't get me started on the absence of all pre-Bach composers!
Grrrrrr .... >
Someone should organise a 'greatest composer' contest in which the entries are exclusively drawn fro members of the Bach family. J.S. would be exempt, but Telemann's entry would be valid on account of his godfathership of C. Ph. E.

Polychoral Perversity

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 15, 2011):
Take a listen to this site which has one voice mutli-tracking all the voices of elaborate polyphonic motets. Scroll down to to the Lotti 8-voice "Crucifixus" which Bach's choir sang.
http://choraltracks.com/

Top 10 Composers in The New York Times

Ewlizabeth Schwimmer wrote (February 19, 2011):
Check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Eul6aRdDK4

Bach & the Neapolitan Oratorio?

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 26, 2011):
While searching the library shelf for a 16th century Spanish composer, I ran across a very interesting score of a 17th century Neapolitan Passion oratorio.

Francesco Provenzale:
"Dialogo a 5 voci con violini per la Passione" (1686)

1. Aria: "Genuflessa al duro legno" - St. John (Soprano)
2. Aria: "Mio diletto, mio fattore" - Virgin Mary (Soprano)
3. Duet: "Angioleti di la su" - Other Disciples (?) (Alto & Tenor)
4. Duet: "Che strano oggetto e questo" - Angels 1&2 (Sopranos 1&2)
5. Aria (Duet): "Vilpeso Amore ignoto" - Angels 1&2 (Sopranos 1&2)
6. Duet: "Grand'amore, Gpieta" - Angels 1&2 (Sopranos 1&2)
7. Ritornello
8. Aria: "Oh perfido core" - Other Disciple ?(Alto)
9. Aria: "Ferito mio Bene" - Virgin Mary (Soprano)
10. "Deh consolati" - St. John (Soprano)
11. Recitative & Aria: "Tutte e ver" - Virgin Mary (Soprano)
12. Aria: "Che dolore, che tormento" - A Disciple (Soprano)
13. Aria: "Deh, tornatemi" - Virgin Mary (Soprano)
14. Chorus: "Deh pingi, oh peccatore"

The literary genre reminded me of two later works: Handel's "La Resurresione" and Bach's Easter Oratorio. All of them present a scene with biblical characters which is not recorded in the scriptural narratives, but is rather an "off-stage" conversation which avoids the biblical texts and gives the characters poetic lyrics of a moralising type. The figure of Christ never appears.

The rather brief scholarly introduction places this early work in a genre of Neapolitan "dialogues" and "oratorios" of which one of the earliest examples is Luigi Rossi's "Oratorio per la Settimana Santa". The works were sung not in churches but in colleges, religious houses, and noble palaces. Handel's oratorio was commissioned for the latter.

Although this chamber-scale music is very different from Bach's (the five singers rotate through the roles), the similarity of the libretto to the Easter Oratorio is quite striking. In the dialogues with the Virgin Mary, I was even reminded of "Nun ist mein Jesus" in the Matthew Passion (BWV 244) where the soloists comment on the arrest of Christ from a rhetorical and dramatic distance.

Is Bach an inheritor of this kind of Neapolitan tradition? Where were the influences on the libretto of the Easter Oratorio?

William Hoffman wrote (May 26, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] Antonio Caldara (Magnificat influenced Bach):
La Passione di Gesu Cristo (Libretto Metastasio) c.1717
Maddalena ai piedi di Cristo (c.1700)

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 26, 2011):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Antonio Caldara (Magnificat influenced Bach):
La Passione di Gesu Cristo (Libretto Metastasio) c.1717
Maddalena ai piedi di Cristo (c.1700) >
Do we know if these Italian works were performed in Dresden?

William Hoffman wrote (May 26, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] In all likelihood. Bach's Caldara Magificat source probably was the Dresden Library altho Augustus II and III favored opera, to the frustration of Bach's great friend Zelenka. That library also held the Schütz and Peranda Passion cycle.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 26, 2011):
[To William Hoffman] The Italian Catholic oratorios were notable as they gave the biblical characters vernacular speeches, but not scriptural quotations -- that was probably deemed too Protestant. Are there any examples in Dresden of these Italianate oratorios in German? If so, the link to the Easter Oratorio
would be very strong.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 26, 2011):
William Hoffman wrote:
< In all likelihood. Bach's Caldara Magificat source probably was the Dresden Library >
I have become accustomed to more accurate attributions of sources from Will. Am I missing something here?

< Bach's great friend Zelenka. >
Same comment, more or less. Can we substantiate that friendship? If so, are there specific musical comparisons?

Evan Cortens wrote (May 26, 2011):
[To Ed Myskowski] I don't have a page number handy, but I know that Robert Marshall, in "Bach the Progressive", has written about the Bach/Zelenka connection.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 26, 2011):
[To Evan Cortens] Yep, three Zelenka Mass settings were in C.P.E. Bach's library (they no doubt originated from J.S.), there was an "Amen" chorus from one of Zelenka's Magnificat, ZWV 108, in W.F.'s hand (on Leipzig paper I think).

Dresden's music library has a lot of digital reproductions of music and there are databases online: http://digital.slub-dresden.de/en/sammlungen/

William Hoffman wrote (May 26, 2011):
[To Ed Myskowski] Source: Robin A. Leaver, program notes, "101st Bethlehem Bach Festival, 2008," in conjunction with American Bach Society Biennial Meeting, "Bach and the Oratorio Tradition."
Settiing of "Misereri," Ps. 51/50, ZWV 57, "by Bach's Dresden colleague, Jan Dismas Zelenka," "Zelenka was a church music composer to the Dresden Court who seems to have encouraged Bach to apply for a court title in 1733." "After 1736, when Bach was appointed honorary Dresden Court Composer, Zelenka and Bach were named together as church music composers in Dresden." "Both composers, Zelenka and Bach, thought highly of Frescobaldi's work," <Fiori Musicale>.

Also, George B. Stauffer, May 9 dinner address on Zelenka's "Misereri," on use of "stile misto" (mixed stile, Renaissance motet and Neopolitan opera aria, soprano "Gloria Patri" ) and contrafaction, also found in Bach's <Mass in B Minor (BWV 232)> (my notes).

Silvius Leopold Weiss [Beginners Bach]

Jack Botelho wrote (November 23, 2011):
An almost exact contemporary of J.S. Bach, SL Weiss worked much of his life in Dresden and had at least one meeting with Bach. Weiss was a prolific composer but only for the lute, which by the baroque period had acquired a deeper bass than what it had in the sixteenth century. A genius musician and composer, his work spans the most mainstream of classical music and his best compositions push aside all those of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven into the 'rococco'.

Sting & Bach

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 23, 2011):
Thomas Braatz wrote to me:
Perhaps you have already seen this or others have called your attention to this:
Time Magazine, vol. 178, no. 20 | 2011 (November 21, 2011) p. 64
Singer, activist and former Police man Sting is 60.
"Sting plays a little Bach on his guitar every day: 'He is the great teacher,' says the singer."

Clark Long wrote (November 23, 2011):
[To Aryeh Oron] I'm sorry to say this, but I always dislike when people say of Bach - "He is a great teacher" (or in this case, "THE great teacher"). It's as if his music only exists to instruct. It seems that many "popular" musicians (and classical, also) treat Bach's music as a tool; not to be heard or played as an artistic expression as much as an instructional piece. I find this to be a misrepresentation of his works!

It's very popular these days to, 'play a little Bach everyday'. However, I'm really curious to know the musicians out there like to, 'listen to Bach everyday'. Although I agree with sting that Bach's music is the best teaching tool available; I'd like to hear Sting say, "I play a little Bach on my guitar everyday... because it's incredible and I love it!"

Uri Golomb wrote (November 23, 2011):
[To Clark Long] I understand the sentiment. However, I do recall hearing Sting speak of Bach in terms of pleasure and enjoyment, not just instruction. What did bother me at the time is that he spoke primarily about the architecture of Bach's music – about its complex structures and its many layers. This is indeed an important facet of Bach's music, but I have a problem with this image of "Bach the Mathematician": it reveals a lot about Bach, but also obscures a lot. Bach is, often, powerfully expressive – and complexity and emotional intensity often go together in his music. He's not expressive despite his complexity; rather, he uses harmonic and polyphonic comto create a sense of inner dialogue and tension, which makes his music all the more intense.

Now bear in mind that I don't have Sting's text in front of me; I might be distorting his view of Bach. But image I mention here, which ignores or downplays Bach's expression of human emotions, is all too prevalent – regardless of whether Sting, specifically, adheres to it.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (November 23, 2011):
[To Uri Golomb] Geez:

Lighten up people. He made a simple statement during an interview. He wasn't writing a dissertation. No wonder people say people that love classical music come across as pedantic snobs. When you read these sort of comments, you have to agree completely.

Adam wrote (November 23, 2011):
For me - a great admirer of Sting's artistic creative output - this is just one more (but a really strong one) confirmation of the thesis that truly great artists (not only musicians of course) turn for their inspiration to ABSOLUTE masters of the art - and such is J. S. Bach in this case...

Perhaps it is worth recalling the trip of Mozart to Germany in 1790 (so not very long before his final departing from this world) - if I remember correctly - and to Leipzig in particular; and his immediate and spontaneous reaction after listening to "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied" (BWV 225) under direction of Johann Friedrich Doles, the then Thomaskantor: he asked for the motet's score and remarked: "How interesting it is that one can always learn something new and valuable". One genius praising another - absolutely not for the sake of praise itself but with a deep appreciation of the very quality of the musical matter that was left for the coming generations...

In an interview made some year ago for a Polish musical magazine (devoted rather to non-classical genres), Sting's great friend and - at least during some time of his career - leading guitarist, Dominic Miller said that his most direct and important inspiration for composing (or inventing - for those who do not grant right to non-classical artists to use the former term) the core guitar riff (line, pattern) in "Shape of My Heart" - one of Sting's "fame-building" songs (and for me, personally, also one of his best achievements) - came from intensive listening to the works of ... - yes, Frederic Chopin :-) And specifically, not from one particular opus, say Nocturne in C minor, op.48/1 (personally, my favourite), but rather from the entire complexity of Chopinian melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, sonoric etc. patterns. For me, as a Pole and a lover of Chopin's oeuvre (he's just next to Bach in my musical pantheon; N.B. I would very much welcome exploring the topic of Bach-on-Chopin influence on this forum some time in the future :-)) there could hardly be any more spirit-rising confession from a world-top guitar player... :-)

Greetings from Chojnów (Lower Silesia region), Poland

Julian Mincham wrote (November 23, 2011):
Adam wrote:
< - leading guitarist, Dominic Miller said that his most direct and important inspiration for composing (or inventing - for those who do not grant right to non-classical artists to use the former term) the core guitar riff (line, pattern) in "Shape of My Heart" - one of Sting's "fame-building" songs (and for me, personally, also one of his best achievements) - came from intensive listening to the works of ... - yes, Frederic Chopin :-) And specifically, not from one particular opus, say Nocturne in C minor, op.48/1 (personally, my favourite), but rather from the entire complexity of Chopinian melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, sonoric etc. patterns. For me, as a Pole and a lover of Chopin's oeuvre (he's just next to Bach in my musical pantheon; N.B. I would very much welcome exploring the topic of Bach-on-Chopin influence on this forum some time in the future :-)) there could hardly be any more spirit-rising confession from a world-top guitar player... :-)
Greetings from Chojnów (Lower Silesia region), Poland >
That is very timely.Recent research in Eastern Europe has turned up a copy of the 48 preludes and fugues which Chopin owned and annotated for his students---also letters which give clear evidence of his interest in and use of Bach's music.A paper written by the Polish academic Szymon Paczkowski (I hope I got that right) was recently delivered on this subject at the Bach Network UK conference in Edinburgh, Scotland earlier this year.This article will soon be published in the BNUK peer reviewed journal (google BNUK to keep in touch.) It is fascinating because for years the general belief was that Mendelssohn was the main one of the early Romantic composers with a love and knowledge of Bach's music. it seems that this was not the case.

Incidentally, another reason for keeping in touch with the BNUK website is that in 2013 it is likely that its annual conference will be held in Warsaw. I hope to be in attendance.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 23, 2011):
Sting & Bach [and Chopin]

Adam wrote:
< N.B. I would very much welcome exploring the topic of Bach-on-Chopin influence on this forum >some time in the future :-) >
This is very much on topic, there is a section of the BCW archives devoted to Bach in relation to other composers.

Marc-André Hamelin played the Chopin Preludes, Op. 28, in my neighborhood this past summer, and in an associated radio interview, noted the structural relationship (and difference) compared to Bachs WTC. The Chopin Preludes include all 24 major and minor keys, but Chopin chose to arrange them according to the circle of fifths.

Adam wrote (November 26, 2011):
[To Julian Mincham] There's a story - very often quoted in most Chopin's biographies - that his favourite way of "warming up" (I'm using the double quoutes here deliberately: it was rather a sort of "seeking inspiration" than a purely technical warm up - since he hardly needed the latter :-)) before a performance for larger audiences (as in the Salle Pleyel for instance; and it is also quite well known that he generally disliked large-scale events and if nonetheless he was forced to give such a recital - e.g. on purely material grounds - he became more nervous and stage-frighted than usually, so he needed that kind of spiritual calming down pretty much) - was playing one of Bach's '48' (WTC) - instead of, say, his own or one of his so famous contemporaries' works.

One of Chopin's students once asked him (during a piano lesson) how it was possible for him to play all Bach's preludes and fugues just from memory (by heart :-)). He smiled and answered that "one can never forget SUCH music". I think that quoting this is by far the simplest way of illustrating the greatest Polish composer's attitude towards the music of the Thomaskantor.

Greetings from Poland,

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 26, 2011):
The Polish Bach

Adam wrote:
< I think that quoting this is by far the simplest way of illustrating the greatest Polish composer's attitude towards the music of the Thomaskantor. >
Augustus of Saxony was also King of Poland. Does that make Bach an Honorary Pole?

Julian Mincham wrote (November 26, 2011):
Adam wrote:
<< I think that quoting this is by far the simplest way of illustrating the greatest Polish composer's attitude towards the music of the Thomaskantor. >>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Augustus of Saxony was also King of Poland. Does that make Bach an Honorary Pole? >
Do you mean Augustus the Strong (who was supposed to have fathered over 300 children) or his son, nicknamed Augustus the Fat?

There are connections with Bach, particularly through BWV 215.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 26, 2011):
Bach appears to have had particular esteem for his hard-won honor: <Polish royal and Saxon electoral court composer>, which appears on the title page page of published works, including the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988).

Julian Mincham wrote (November 26, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Bach appears to have had particular esteem for his hard-won honor: <Polish royal and Saxon electoral court composer>, which appears on the title page page of published works, including the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988). >

He didn't seem to suck up to a lot of people--but i guess with Kings, dukes and princes you had to make some effort in those days!

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 26, 2011):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< He didn't seem to suck up to a lot of people--but i guess with Kings, dukes and princes you had to make some effort in those days! >
The Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) was intended for the Catholic Chapel Royal in Dresden; perhaps it should be called "The Polish Mass.". The present title is an invention of the 19th century.'

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (November 26, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) was intended for the Catholic Chapel Royal in Dresden; perhaps it should be called "The Polish Mass.". The present title is an invention of the 19th century.' >
Augustus III cared little for Poland, rarely visited it, and was only made King by the intervention of Russian troops. Augustus was also the king of Ruthenia (i.e. Galicia), Prussia, Masovia, Samogitia, Kiev, Volhynia, Podolia, Podlaskie, Livonia, Smolensk, Severia, Chernihiv. So why not the Galician Mass? Or better yet, Masovian Mass? The onomatopoeia would be great for radio broadcast announcers ;)

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 26, 2011):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Augustus III cared little for Poland, rarely visited it, and was only made King by the intervention of Russian troops. Augustus was also the king of Ruthenia (i.e. Galicia), So why not the Galician Mass? >
Box office clerk:

"I'm sorry, madam, you've bought tickets to the Galician Mass not Glagolitic Mass."

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 27, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Marc-André Hamelin played the Chopin Preludes, Op. 28, in my neighborhood this past summer, and in an associated radio interview, noted the structural relationship (and difference) compared to Bachs WTC. The Chopin Preludes include all 24 major and minor keys, but Chopin chose to arrange them according to the circle of fifths. >
Marc-André Hamelin did play at Rockport in 2011, but he did not play the Chopin Preludes, that was Garrick Ohlsson the previous year. Mr. Hamelin did discuss on radio the relation among Bach, Chopin, and his own composition, Etudes in 12 minor keys. Sorry for confusing these events in my prior post.

Mike Bourn wrote (December 2, 2011):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Lighten up people. He made a simple statement during an interview. He wasn't writing a dissertation. No wonder people say people that love classical music come across as pedantic snobs. When you read these sort of comments, you have to agree completely.>
Outstanding point and well stated, Kim! On the other hand, if it wasn't for pedantic snobbery we would have much to talk about in this forum... haha... everybody knows that the real point of discussion Bach is to engage in turgid discussions on tempo! Does anyone have data on Sting's tempo preferences?!?!

Just kidding around. I don't post here often, but enjoy following the discussion and knowing that so many others share the same passion. From the youtube links, we know that some of you cats can really play too!

G0-to Composers

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 29, 2013):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Apparently Fasch was the court's "go-to" composer in the 1740s and 1750s. Unfortunately, none of the music or the cantata text books survive. >
I've always been intrigued by the chain of command in a commission for a princely or ecclesiastical court. I doubt that the cute little scene between Mozart, the Emperor and his court officials in "Amadeus" is very realistic. Is there any documentation of how Fasch and Bach were contacted and by whom?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 29, 2013):
[To Douglas Cowling] Between 1740 and 1754, Köthen commissioned 25 serenatas from J.F. Fasch (for whatever reason, Fasch sent one or two to Darmstadt, where the possibility of performance was zero). I don't know the specifics the mechanics of how these commissions were worked out, but usually a court secretary would handle the physical letter writing I suppose, at the ruler's request. Köthen was only 30 minutes away; and the two ruling families were well acquainted. The musicians *singers and vocalists( at the two courts would swap out gigs for extra money as more musicians were needed. The rulers would take a serious involvement in the management of the day-to-day affairs of their orchestras: the Duke in Gotha personally auditioned an instrumentalist candidate with G.H. Stölzel in attendance. Stölzel wrote also wrote a lot of serenatas for royal / noble families in Saxony too. With large noble families, lots of birthdays, weddings, there was a nearly endless demand for music and texts. And for composers with large families and never ending bills (e.g. Fasch), they relished these commissions.

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (January 29, 2013):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] I have played continuo in some works by Fasch for small ensemble: only a reduced output by him has survived, but he was IMHO among the very best composers of its time, second only to the great JSBach.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 29, 2013):
[To Claudio Di Veroli] Yes, out of about 1200 cantatas, only 100 survive. And unfortunately the musical archives at Zerbst vanished. There's some hope that portions of it will be discovered; but a friend who is a Fasch specialist believes Fasch's son was responsible for destroying most of his father's music.

New Bach manuscript discovery announced

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (June 13, 2013):
http://www.bachlive.co.uk/archives/2013/06/06/new-bach-manuscript-found/

Bach-Archiv researcher Dr. Peter Wollny has discovered a previously unknown manuscript of Johann Sebastian Bach in the Schütz House at Weissenfels. It is a copy of a Mass by the Italian composer Francesco Gasparini (1661-1727). This discovery offers significant insight into Bach's involvement with older styles and helps us to understand the stylistic shift in his work during the last decade of his life, created around 1740.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 13, 2013):
The Bach Masses of the 1740's

[To Kim Patrick Clow] Gasparini seems to have had a lingering reputation. His 'Adoramus Te' was
formerly attributed to Mozart (K.327): http://imslp.org/wiki/Adoramus_te_%28Gasparini,_Francesco%29

The discovery of this work is interesting because it is another example of Bach's growing interest in the Italian mass in the last decade of his life. He performed the Kyrie and Gloria as a Lutheran "Missa" in Leipzig. Was this another Dresden connection? Another mass that he would know when he moved to be Kapellmeister of the Catholic Chapel Royal in Dresden?

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Last update: ıOctober 11, 2013 ı22:28:38