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Antonio Vivaldi & Bach
Discussions

BWV 54: Performances / Vivaldi Punchy

Doug Cowling wrote (April 22, 2005):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< I think the "wag" was Stravinsky -- at least, the quote is often attributed to him (there is even a version which says that Vivaldi did the same SEQUENCE 500 times). >
When my producer and I were working on the concertos we wanted to include in our children's CD, "Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery", we were working through the thematic catalogue of Vivaldi in a university library. At one point having hummed through DOZENS of similar rising scale motifs we suddenly encountered the same pattern only descending. We must have been Vivaldi-punchy for we started laughing so hard that the librarian came over to admonish us. That was espresso time.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 22, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] Do you know the PDQ Bach / Peter Schickele album where they are doing a fake radio show, and play several "baroque" pieces in succession? And all of them are the same scales going up and down, but changed with tempo and instrumentation?

Doug Cowling wrote (April 22, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] Check the PDQ website for his hilarious catalogue raisonée: http://www.geocities.com/TheTropics/4458/pdqbach.html#bwv

Although I have always prefered Joshua Rifkin's wonderful "Baroque Beatles Book" recording which includes the incomparable, 'Cantata for the Third Saturday after Shea Stadium'.

Has it been released on CD?

Teddy Kaufman wrote (April 22, 2005):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< ...I think the "wag" was Stravinsky -- at least, the quote is often attributed to him (there is even a version which says that Vivaldi did the same SEQUENCE 500 times). One of these days, I'll try to find out if what Stravinsky actually said, and in what context (assuming, that is, that the quote is indeed authentic -- which might not be the case...)and BTW, I also prefer Telemann to Vivaldi most of the time... >
------------------------------------------------------------
Even if Stravinsky quotation regarding Vivaldi was authentic , I would assume that it was due to some kind of 'IGNORANCE'. Most of Vivaldi musical works have been rediscovered during the last 5 decades, reaching altogether the number of about 804 pieces (probably, more compositions are expected to be rediscovered in the future).

As an amateur, I love Vivaldi's music which appeals to my taste and ears and hence, this prolific and most colorful composer deserves the recognition as one of the best Baroque musicians. The richness, intensity and vivid music of Vivaldi reminds me the numerous paintings of Roy Lichtenstein (the Pop Art).

In this respect I am citing the Goldberg web, as follows:

"When musicologist Marc Pincherle decided to write his doctoral thesis on Vivaldi in 1913, his project could almost have been considered musical archaeology. Only a few works by this forgotten composer were known; they came from printed collections that had been little studied and rarely played. These vestiges justified Vivaldi’s appearance in books on the history of music, where he was panned with brief statements and rash comments by Gerber, Hawkins, Burney and Orloff, German and English historians and musicologists who judged works that they had neither studied nor heard, as Stravinsky did later. But the few concertos that had been preserved seemed far too limited to justify devoting this sort of scholarly research to Vivaldi. The burial of the man Venetians had called the Red Priest was almost complete."

I am adding 3 more quotations (The BrainyQuote web) attributed to Stravinsky, which should as well be questionable regarding their authenticity:

* A good composer does not imitate; he steals.

* Lesser artists borrow, great artists steal.

* My God, so much I like to drink Scotch that sometimes

I think my name is Igor Stra-whiskey.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 23, 2005):
< Although I have always prefered Joshua Rifkin's wonderful "Baroque Beatles Book" recording which includes the incomparable, 'Cantata for the Third Saturday after Shea Stadium'. Has it been released on CD? >
Not that I've seen or have ever heard of. I just have the cassette edition of it somewhere in an old box, and it's been a few years since I saw/listened to it. As I recall, there were few or no program notes with that version. What does the LP jacket say about it?

Apparently somebody has a copy of the LP for sale at: Amazon.com

E. Douglas Jensen wrote (April 23, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] Google finds others.

 

Forkel: Vivaldi and Bach

Jack Botelho wrote (May 17, 2005):
Johann Sebastian Bach and Vivaldi

"'...che ne fu il maggiore estimatore e che seppe (unico probabilmente nel suo tempo) intravedere tutta la grandezza del genio di quell musicista.' [who was his greatest admirer and who perhaps alone in his time could understand all the greatness of this musician's genius.] - Alfredo Casella on Bach's relationship to Vivaldi.

"In the year 1802 the Bureau de Musique Hoffmeister und Kuhnel' for patriotic admirers of genuine musical art' brought out Johann Nikolaus Forkel's work 'Ueber Johann Sebastian Bachs Leben, Kunst und Kunstwerke'. In this, the first biography of Bach, the writer attempted especially to present the development of the master's style, and in several places dealt with the fact that as a composer Bach had no real teacher, but analysed works by older and above all contemporary masters with unflagging study, and took them as models for his own music. Forkel says: 'Like all first attempts, Joh. Seb. Bach's first attempts at composition were failures. Without any instruction which could have guided him along some path, leading him from one step to the next, he had at first to do as do all those who set foot on such a path without guidance and hope to progress. Keeping both hands as busy as the five fingers will permit, running and jumping up and down the instrument, and keeping this wild state of affairs up until some point of repose is snatched quite by chance; these are the arts that all beginners have in common. In this way they can only become 'finger-composers' (or 'Hussars of the keyboard', as Bach called them in later years); in other words, they must first prepare with their fingers what they are to write, instead of dictating to the fingers what they should play. However, Bach did not long remain on this path. He soon began to feel that the eternal running and jumping could never accomplish order, connection and interrelationship in his ideas, and that some sort of guidance was needed if he was to attain such aims. At that time recently published violin concertos by Vivaldi provided him with just such a lead. He heard them praised as excellent pieces of music so often that he had the happy idea of arranging them all for his keyboard. He studied the treatment of ideas, the relationships of these to each other, the sequences of modulation, and many other things besides. The transformation of ideas and passages intended for the violin and not appropriate to the keyboard also taught him to think musically, so that after his studies he no longer needed to rely on his fingers for his ideas, but could already form them from his own imagination. Thus prepared, it needed only industry and constant practice to progress further, and arrive at the point at which he could not only conceive of an artistic ideal, but could also hope, with time, to achieve it.'

"Forkel's contemporaries, who could hardly have known anything of Vivaldi, would not have understood this reference, and indeed it is questionable whether Forkel himself knew all of Bach's arrangements of Vivaldi. However, his information came from the master's sons and from his immediate pupils, and thus must in all probability be based on J.S. Bach's account of his own early development. The fact that Forkel assumthat only after 1720-25 did Bach write any real masterpieces perhaps originates with the same sources of information, and certainly tallies with the master's own stern and self- critical judgment of his early music."

Kolneder, Walter: Antonio Vivaldi, his life and work Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1970.
p.103-104

 

Kolneder: Bach and Vivaldi

Jack Botelho wrote (May 17, 2005):
Please excuse musical examples not given with the below:

"If one examines the profound change which took place in Bach's music from about 1709 on, one is forced to conclude that already in 1802 Forkel had correctly assessed the master's development with regard to the strong influence of Vivaldi. Ex. 93 gives the theme of a canzona from the year 1709. Thirteen years later, in the first part of 'Das Wohltemperierte Clavier', a theme such as Ex. 94 is possible. The canzona theme flows along calmly, and derives from an essentially vocal conception; it has the character of a cantus firmus, and the harmonies - at the service of the polyphonic texture - are of secondary importance. The fugue theme's nature is instrumental and virtuosic, and it is founded on a predetermined harmonic basis; the changes of harmony occur at the strong beats, and give them a special accentuation [all characteristics of Vivaldi]. The head motif which dominates the whole theme is of Italian provenance, and in fact became a distinctive stylistic trait of Bach's Cothen period (1717-23); then, 200 years later, it became a favourite figure with composers in the neo-baroque manner. Casella, Pincherle, Engel and others have found thematic reminiscences of Vivaldi in Bach. Many are so striking that a knowledge of the source might be supposed as an absolute certainty (Ex.95). Others derive rather from a 'germ' structure belonging to the melodic style of about 1700 (Ex. 96). In such cases one can hardly speak of imitation or borrowing. It was much rather the case that Bach and his Weimar friends had taken the works of Torelli, Vivaldi, Albinoni and others so much to heart that they could have quite independent ideas based on the same stylistic foundations.

"But it was more than mere motifs and instrumental figurations that Bach took over from the Italians. In Italian music after about the middle of the seventeenth century, functional tonality had developed more and more, and already in Torelli, though still more in Vivaldi, had led to a clear harmonic ground-plan for large forms. From the concertos, it then infiltrated into all of Bach's music, and in particular, was decisive for the basic structure of the fugue. 'Bach's perfection of the fugue as a form' (W. Fischer) is in the last resort to be considered as a continuation of this phenomenon.

"Unlike Schutz, Handel and many others, Bach never had the chance to go to the renowned land of music and learn on the spot about the new style and its concomitant performance practice. But he drank in the spirit of Italian music from the scores of his models in the quiet and privacy of his study. His sincere admiration for them never prevented him from remaining uncritical; and so in the end he went beyond the Italians in his ceaseless striving for a synthesis between foreign influences and his personal style."

Kolneder, Walter: Antonio Vivaldi, his life and work Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1970.
p.114-115

 

harpsichord concerto transcriptions

Jack Botelho wrote (May 17, 2005):
"The Concerto for four harpsichords BWV 1065 is a special case in that Bach did not take one of his own works as a basis but, exceptionally, a work by Antonio Vivaldi". Rather, the harpsichord concertos based on original Bach works are the special case as there are a larger number of transcriptions of concertos for harpsichord by foreign composers extant known to have been worked by Bach himself.

It follows from this, that even if there is no doubt a large number of concertos by Bach have been lost, it is most probable the vast majority of these lost works are simply early versions, for various solo instruments, of the existing harpsichord concertos which Bach himself disposed of in the process of revision. Bach was probably keenly aware, in a sense of heightened artistic awareness, of the relative immutability of his work, and made an effort in his later years to leave to posterity only what he considered the finest versions of these works. If this is the case, the practice of destruction of early concertos suggests Bach not to have been a composer who much valued compositions idiomatically suited to various instruments, so much as masterpiece compositions in themselves; such a practice would lay to waste the instrument-centred historically-informed performance theories of Christopher Hogwood and others.

Kolneder (1970), lists the following number of harpsichord concerto transcriptions by Bach of works originally by other composers:

Vivaldi - 10 concertos
J.E. v. Sachsen-Weimar - 4 (one of which appears in two versions)
Alessandro Marcello - 1
Benedetto Marcello - 1
Telemann - 1
Torelli - 1
unknown composers - 4

For a total of 22 concerto transcriptions. Each of these should be as well recorded as BWV 1065 and considered works of Bach as they incorporate revisions by his own
hand.

Do members know of recordings of any of these harpsichord concertos aside from BWV 1065?

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 17, 2005):
< Vivaldi - 10 concertos
J.E. v. Sachsen-
Weimar - 4 (one of which appears in two versions)
Alessandro Marcello - 1
Benedetto Marcello - 1
Telemann - 1
Torelli - 1
unknown composers - 4
For a total of 22 concerto transcriptions. Each of these should be as well recorded as BWV 1065 and considered works of Bach as they incorporate revisions by his own hand. >
Several of those transcriptions have pedal. Most of them don't.

< Do members know of recordings of any of these harpsichord concertos aside from BWV 1065? >
Yup. In those solo concertos I especially like listening to Dirksen (on Brilliant Classics) and Loreggian (Tactus). And I've been playing through that book over the past several weeks; some favorites in there for many years. Agreed, these pieces don't get played often enough. Bach as arranger did some clever things with the textures. Those pieces work very well played on either harpsichord or organ; they're not necessarily harpsichord pieces just from having no pedal part. (i.e. Some 19th century assumptions about that were mistaken, but they're still carried forward in the way these pieces get grouped in the catalogs, and collected onto title pages.) Nor are the pieces that have pedal necessarily for organ.

In the other Bach harpsichord concertos with orchestra there are many fine recordings. I'd hate to start singling them out if that means omitting others....

I'm currently preparing a performance of the concerto BWV 1044 for June 12th: http://www.emu.edu/bach/calendar
That wild piece is based on Bach's earlier Prelude and Fugue BWV 894, plus the middle movement of one of the trio sonatas. The arrangement as a concerto is not necessarily by JSB himself; but maybe by a son or a pupil. Delightful piece in any case, whoever put it together. The changes from 894 are extensive enough that I'm having to un-learn and re-learn different notes in surprising places, where the harmonies have been changed or different counterpoint added.

Here's a photo page from our performance of BWV 1065 in April: http://users.adelphia.net/~vchilton/Harpsichord.html

JaBotelho wrote (May 18, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] Very cool photos and delightful input regarding these works!

 

Vivaldi-Bach organ arrangement [BeginnersBach]

Jack Botelho wrote (October 20, 2005):
Although Antonio Vivaldi has been credited with introducing a romantic style of pictorialism into concerted music of the 18th century, the seduction of melodic charms as that century marched forward witnessed the retreat from counterpoint to, among other forms, a kind of Austrian- Bohemian 'rococo' style arrogantly labelled as 'classical' by these same people, of which Vivaldi was, it turns out to be, one of its most influential pioneers. One also has a sense that although the 17th century in general proved rather dark (no doubt owing to the 1640s plague and repercussions) it redeemed itself with 'earnest music' which cannot be said of the eighteenth - which quality even marked some of the work of one of its finest geniuses, W.A. Mozart. Thankfully, JS Bach was well rooted in the traditions of the 17th century.

----

Continuing in our exploration of the at times shoddy plagiarism characteristic of German composers in Bach's era who, faced with a decline in creativity in Lutheran music, and attacked in the field by Calvinists and other fundamentalist biblicists (and capitalists), were forced once again to explore and expand upon music forms which were given life by the Counter-reformation:

".in 1910-11 L.Schitteler and Max Schneider were able to show that a work hitherto taken to be a composition by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach was in fact an arrangement by Johann Sebastian after Vivaldi: this is the Concerto Op.III, No.11 in D minor by Vivaldi, which Bach reworked in a splendid version in the same key for organ. Wilhelm Friedemann, the gifted but disreputable son, received the score after his father's death as part of his share of the legacy, and noted on the title page 'di W.F. Bach, manu mei Patris descript'. Thus he attributed the work to himself, and made his father merely the copyist! At the end of the nineteenth century the piece was once more arranged, by Ugust Stradal, a pupil of Liszt who died as recently as 1930; his version was published by Breitkopf and Hartel in 1897. This 'arrangement of an arrangement', with a written- out cadenza of seven printed pages, is a very interesting document of the period of Liszt's pianistic heirs, both musically and in its printed layout, as well as conveying to us a listener's impressions (Plate XI). In the foreword, Stradal says: 'The beginning of this organ concerto, with its mighty pedal point on D and its great crescendo, provided the opportunity to which I was irresistibly drawn of augmenting and slowing down the heaving and rising volumes of sound. The slow swell of this D minor chord also seemed to me like a distant, almost forgotten precursor of the E flat major at the beginning of R. Wagner's 'Rheingold'. The large grand pianos of today afford the possibility of increasing the sound from the gentlest ppp to the mightiest fff...' (p.106)

"We can get some idea of the enormous effect of the Op.III concertos on Vivaldi's contemporaries by reading in the foreward to the Eulenburg score the fine words
spoken by Einstein of that famous passage in the last movement of Op.III, No.8 where the second violin, playing 'Cantabile solo e forte', makes a contrast to the first violin's semiquaver arpeggios with a melody imbued with passionate rapture: 'It is if the windows and doors of a stately baroque hall had been opened to welcome in Nature's freedom: a superb pathetic grandeur such as the seventeenth century had not known; a cosmopolitan's cry to the world. It is worth remembering that such must have been known to Bach, and that he, wrapped up in himself, never ventured into this open country.'"

Kolneder, Walter: Antonio Vivaldi, his life and work Berkely: University of California Press, 1970. (p.102-103)

No doubt the Bach's arrangement is most exciting to play and listen to on pipe organ.

Steven Foss wrote (October 23, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] I think, IMHO, Vivaldi may have made mainstream to his countrymen during his day what would be later classified as romantic style of pictorialism, however his work just reflect the practices of his time and that which came before him.

Visual Pitorialism has a long history, and more than just pieces with quaint titles like the strength of hercules from the Italy's mid 16th century harpsichord pieces. In fact it was a world wide occurence. Works such as William Byrd's The Bells, Martin Peerson's the Fall of a Leaf (a depiction of Autumm) and Lady Clarey's Dumpe (being down in the dumps, depressed)antedate this work, and "Bird" pieces (in imitation of Bird Song), or Froberger's writing of his melancholy on the death of lutenist who drunkenly fell down a flight of stairs with funeral bells and a musical pictorial of Blancrocher's fall at the end of the piece(early blues?).

Even Vivaldi's contemporaries, such as Johann Kuhnau wrote his Biblical Sonatas (the Fight between David and Goliath) which was full of Pictorialism, As are all the harpsichord pieces of the french school Louis Couperin and forward.

Vivaldi's influence may have put these works on the map so to speak (as opposed the Tartini's Devil's Trill?) to encourage others to write pastoral or pictorial pieces amongst his Italian influences, but did this truly last to be the influence for 19th century composers?

Was Vivaldi the source of pictorialism in the 1812 Overture? Or Joseph Haydn's Seasons? The Symphonic Poems of Lizst (Les Preludes), or Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherzade, or R Strauss Tone Poems such as Also Sprach Zarathustra?

I think he was part of a musical tradition, which with opera and incidental music influences would lead to program music.

Likewise Musicians are citizens of the world (or was that alcoholics) who know no boundaries (religious or political) were music is concerned.

Jack Botelho wrote (October 24, 2005):
[To Steven Foss] It seemed to me the argument for a romantic style of pictorialism fairly feeble. Also, it is open for debate whether 'Bach was too rapped up in himself' to explore to outdoor garden of earthly delights suggested by A Einstein. I'm not sure if the latter was aquainted with all of JSBs concertos for harpsichord, which according to Andrew Manze, surpass Vivaldi's in intracy of form. Another Vivaldi specialist, M Talbot, has argued for something outstandingly fresh in Vivaldi's 'phrase structure' but I don't have the source handy. Nevertheless, the entire issue of ritornello-episode (what Kolneder refers to as 'classic motivic technique', stylistic analysis, and even awareness of basic issues of history of music (perhaps because the latter is a study of events which do not follow logic) has been swept under the rug in this 'new era' of Bach musicology. As for questions of the propriety of the label of 'classical' for the late 18th c Vienna 'school' of composers, well I think I was trying to stir up some debate but to no avail for some of our lurkers on this list, which I might add is priviledged to have your learned input, and hopefully not any waste of time.

Steven Foss wrote (October 24, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] I was trying to help your fishing expedition along, sorry I did not
say anything inflammatory to spark a good debate or interest.

At least you did not accuse me of being an alcoholic as happened in another forum. For your being a gentleman, I am eternally greatful.

As to Bach's Harpsichord Concerti, besides the Vivaldi arrangement (4 harpsichords in a minor), what is your feeling on his other works.

I know the middle movement for the f minor was taken from a cantata, and the d minor has movement from as I recall the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) without the chorus (although in this my memory is not sure, it has been years since I read the source and I never was able to verify with scores.)

Of Course there are theoriginals that were violin, 2 violin concertos, and the Brandeburg Concerto #4, is this another example of Bach's "Parody" style of arranging, the Schübler Chorals being the most notable, such as Wachet Auf ruft Uns die Stimme coming from a Cantata, or the Sinfonia to a Cantata which uses the prelude from the E maj Solo Violin Partita.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 24, 2005):
ritornello-episode analysis, and history of music....

Jack Botelho wrote:
< Nevertheless, the entire issue of ritornello-episode (what Kolneder refers to as 'classic motivic technique', stylistic analysis, and even awareness of basic issues of history of music (perhaps because the latter is a study of events which do not follow logic) has been swept under the rug in this 'new era' of Bach musicology. >
I'm sorry, but that's just not true. See especially Laurence Dreyfus's book Bach and the Patterns of Invention, and the analytical style he used in it. And this 1996 book won the Otto Kinkeldey Award of the American Musicological Society, and is now in (at least) its 3rd printing! Amazon.com

As for musicologists not being "aware of basic issues of history of music" and sweeping things "under the rug"--what is to be gained by making such allegations here? I'm not trying to start an argument, just wondering why there is such a caustic attitude against academic specialization in this particular field.

I've also been re-reading Joseph Kerman's 1985 book Contemplating Music: Challenges to Musicology which was one of my required textbooks in a musicology program, 1990. Amazon.com
There are excellent chapters in it about historical performance practices, about "musicology and criticism", about the places for theory and analysis within contemporary musicology.... Discussing this book in our course-work, we certainly didn't knowingly sweep ANYTHING under any rugs.

Steven Foss wrote (October 25, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] I do believe Jack was refering to the debt that Bach owes the Italians (especially Vivaldi) in his reference to ritornello-episode found in his concertos and some of the cantata sinfonias.

I have not read the book by Laurence Dreyfus, so I cannot comment on it.

I have found the book on double counterpoint and Canon (and also his book on Fugue) by E Prout to explain many of the reasons behind compostion by Bach (which make reference to the first invention as does the Dreyfus Book) to have been more than quite adequate to the task. He explains the construction of a motive and countersubject which will be later used inverted in double counterpoint. Or at least why a counterpoint would be written to the motiff from a G minor concerto, that is the Subject of the F major invention.

I have read other books Neale Masons Essentials of Eighteenth-Century Counterpoint, which dealt with the intervals and techniques of dissonace, non harmonic passing tones, neighboring tones, ect, which explained the how but not the why, which Prout does in his book.

I also found of the Allen Irwin McHose's book "The Contrapuntal Harmonic Technique of the 18th century" to be of great help in understanding Bach's harmonic progression, especially in the his 4 part arrangement of chorale settings, and the how and why of Tonal and Real answers, again Prout does a better job in the tonal answer department. McHose system for harmonic progression and classification of chords (rather than just listing chords as secondary dominants of the dominant for example) to be quite understandable model to show the logical progression of chords.

And yes the above authors were composers. I don't know if that is true of Mr Dreyfus, although he has an impressive title, (Thurston Dart Professor).

Although I believe research in Musicology is invaluable as to discovering origins of certain pieces (such as the origin of Bach's transcriptions)or finding lost pieces from secondary sources, or finding amuzing trivia, Musicology on occaision can leave a bad taste in one's mouth.

I am referring to discrediting a piece (as questionable or spurious authorship) without a manuscript or publication that would prove the point.

I refer to subjective reasoning ie, this piece isn't typical of Bach so it can't be by him, being used and accepted rather than science (analysis of watermarks, type of ink used, forensic analysis of handwriting, etc).

Even the Tocatta and Fugue in D minor authorship has been called into question, recently. Did anyone study how many secondary manuscript sources that attribute that piece to Bach are available?

Muscicology can make some rather far fetched connections. Although A. Schweitzer refers to Joy or Faith Motives in Bach's organ music, it takes a rather active imagination to buy some of his statements. Other than being coincidences, how often do you see these motives in Bach's non organ works for the same purpose? Or for that matter in Organ pieces?

Other than falling sevenths in the Chorale Prelude "Through Adam's Fall" are these motives so obvious and repeated to be tone painting, or is a steady bass line really portraying the steadfastness of faith or is it just a good bass part and foil to a more elaborate musical line above and have nothing to do with pictorialism?

And sometimes with Musicologists it is just best guesses, Karl Geiringer (although he attributed it to "adequate use of the modest resources with which nature endowed me,"). Here I can use no better example than the Fugue to the above tocatta in d minor. Geiringer calls it a Violin or string motif, which would be good analysis if Bach wrote for strings in that fashion.

In actuality, the Subject is an extension a motive used as an episode in the relative major in a Pachebel Fantasia in d minor, and Bach was well acquainted with the works of Pachebel. In the Fugue, Bach uses this subject in a F major episode in a similar manner to the Fantasia (Bach does a better job, IMHO), and this Fantasia was in a Baroque Collection of "Piano" Music edited by Dennis Agay in the early 1970's. I saw the connection immediatedly (even if Mr Agay missed it).

Considering the Passaglia and Fugue in C minor uses likewise a shorter subject that was extended, by another composer (Nicolas Lebueges Passacaille in G minor, it can be found in the Gleason Organ method) I would suggest that shows more of possible connection to Bach, IMHO.

The detractor to the piece who as much as played a publicity stunt (his "findings" were released on the anniversary of Bach's death) said that it was likely a student of Bach, but the Fugue was not exciting enough to have been paired with the Toccata, the episodes did not demonstrate enough counterpoint, and it was an atypical piece. This was the basis of his disqualification, subjective reasoning, and the lack of an original autograph.

For a piece that showed influences of Buxtehude and the N German organ school, a piece that may have been a young Bach strutting his stuff as an organist, or that used at the openning a held low d in the pedal (the organ may have lacked a low C#) to which a minor leading tone 7th chord was superimposed (C#, E, G, Bb) which had not been done previously, it showed the fertile imagination at work, even if an early work. And yes there is that similar, extended borrowed melody that Bach had developed into a great piece in another work.

Only now a Musicologist calls it into question.

However, Musicologist have made many important discoveries, such as decipering French ornament realizations from 18th century Barrel Organ "rolls," or that the so called "Bach Harpsichord" had been rebuilt from an earlier 8', 8', 8' and 4' instrument with the 4' choir on the lower manual to a 16' 8', 8', and 4' instrument with the 4' choir now on the upper manual it had gone fran instrument owned by Rust (which had been played upon by W F Bach) to J S Bach's instrument in his most mature period. The Musicologists (actually the harpsichord builders who examined the instruments and wrote on the subject to Raymond Russel who included it in his classic book) brought this to the public attention. The damaged had already been done and all the revival Serian harpsichords (or whisperchords) would have this disposition totally in adequate for playing the Italian Concerto.

If off topic, Scarlatti's Fandango has been called into question as of late, funny as a copy for the Fandago was found in archive in the Canary Islands in the mid 1980's dating from the 18th century with the words by "Scarlaty" written on it.

Don't get me wrong, Musicology has its place, whether it is hypothetical reconstructions of pieces left unfinished or in fragments, the examination of pieces found in archives, or the studies of Folk Music and its influence on Composers, on pioneering work on earlier performance practices.

However, I have seen revisionims, critisism, and skeptisism creep in, on occaision.

To rethink the past, is sometimes a good thing, so long as we do not completely abandon everything on the basis of being old.

To question the past and ask "is this true" or is it someone's romantic explanation or hastily drawn conclusion is sometimes a good thing, too, so long as we do not question only for the sake of questioning.

To become a Critic should be left to Critics and not Scholars. Critical Analysis however, should be be used in the context of; do all the clues and data add up?

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 25, 2005):
< However, Musicologist have made many important discoveries, such as decipering French ornament realizations from 18th century Barrel Organ "rolls," or that the so called "Bach Harpsichord" had been rebuilt from an earlier 8', 8', 8' and 4' instrument with the 4' choir on the lower manual to a 16' 8', 8', and 4' instrument with the 4' choir now on the upper manual it had gone from an instrument owned by Rust (which had been played upon by W F Bach) to J S Bach's instrument in his most mature period. The Musicologists (actually the harpsichord builders who examined the instruments and wrote on the subject to Raymond Russel who included it in his classic book) brought this to the public attention. The damaged had already been done and all the revival Serian harpsichords (or whisperchords) would have this disposition totally in adequate for playing the Italian Concerto. >
Recently I was reading Erwin Bodky's 1960 book The Interpretation of Bach's Keyboard Works. The book prescribes all manner of fussy registration changes within pieces, predicated on those types of harpsichords. There's even a place where the author flat-out dismisses the WTC 1 C major prelude thus, after he has spent three pages trying to find a pleasing registration scheme for himself: "Thus, for the first time during our inquiry we find a piece that seems absolutely incapable of performance on the harpsichord. We could try to minimize this fact and call it merely accidental, if this were not an offense to the genius of Bach." (p62-3)

This "fact"?

Just because the piece sounds lousy on a bad harpsichord, and in equal temperament and with no use of rhythmic subtlety (two of the most hugely important features in harpsichord expression: rhythmic subtlety and intonational subtlety, having no place throughout this 420-page book...)--that's a "factual" conclusion against playing this piece on the harpsichord??

Here it is played in Bach's own temperament, and with no registration changes anywhere, but only a subtle use of timing (responding to the tensions already happening in the tuning) to provide sufficient variety and flow: http://home.ntelos.net/~bpl/hpsi/Bach_PreC.wma

Steven Foss wrote (October 26, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] I like to play the piece on two 8' registers and it works wonderfully, although I must admit I tune to equal temperament as it is "stuck" in my head. Every time I try to tune to any other tuning (I have not tried yours, however) by the time I am finished I have subconciously tune to ET!

Using the different temperaments on a Yamaha Clavinova, I played the piece in Mean Tone, Werkmeister, Kirnberger, et al, and still prefered ET to WT. To my ears which have been blunted to ET over the years, I aurually perceive the other tunings to be "out of tune" for that piece.

It must be some auditory memory, as I can sight read other pieces which have not been committed to memory by yours truly, and the effect sounds fine to a point and occaisionly of pitch. (Not WTC, I know these pieces to well, but other works).

Have you considered contacting Yamaha Musical Instruments division as to your discovery? Since many of the Clavinovas are used in Univeristies this would be an excellent option to have available for teachers, musicologists, et al.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 26, 2005):
< Using the different temperaments on a Yamaha Clavinova, I played the piece in Mean Tone, Werkmeister, Kirnberger, et al, and still prefered ET to WT. To my ears which have been blunted to ET over the years, I aurually perceive the other tunings to be "out of tune" for that piece. >
Your perceptions on this are fine; those other tunings are noticeably out of tune for the WTC, more than equal temperament is! Especially meantone and Werckmeister.

< Have you considered contacting Yamaha Musical Instruments division as to your discovery? Since many of the Clavinovas are used in Univeristies this would be an excellent option to have available for teachers, musicologists, et al. >
I haven't yet pursued electronic instrumentation very vigorously, but that's a good idea. I did demonstrate it to the piano tuner at our local Clavinova dealer, and he seemed pretty interested. (Maybe I'm blindingly old-fashioned about the electronic market because I always tune by ear....) Various people have been working out programming already for their different electronic-tuning devices.

As for universities, I know of conservatories both in the US and Europe that are already using it regularly on their department's teaching and performance harpsichords, to give the students and staff the chance to explore Bach's music that way.

Jack Boteho wrote (October 26, 2005):
Jack Botelho wrote:
<< Nevertheless, the entire issue of ritornello-episode (what Kolneder refers to as 'classic motivic technique', stylistic analysis, and even awareness of basic issues of history of music (perhaps because the latter is a study of events which do not follow logic) has been swept under the rug in this 'new era' of Bach musicology. >>
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< I'm sorry, but that's just not true. See especially Laurence Dreyfus's book Bach and the Patterns of Invention, and the analytical style he used in it. And this 1996 book won the Otto Kinkeldey Award of the American Musicological Society, and is now in (at least) its 3rd printing! Amazon.com
As for musicologists not being "aware of basic issues of history of music" and sweeping things "under the rug"--what is to be gained by making such allegations here? I'm not trying to start an argument, just wondering why there is such a caustic attitude against academic specialization in this particular field. >
I well understand your concern about such inflamatory language being used with regard to such a prestigious field as Bach musicology. I must confess that perhaps too much on-line Yahoo-Bach browsing has aquainted me with perhaps the Leipzig establishment's view or starting point (divine constructionism?) of Bach the 'Messiah' composer who could not compose a single 'wrong' note. A WMD Bach list (Weimar-Mühlhausen-Dresden) could shed a different picture of JSB away from the frustrations of Leipzig and those who seek to romanticize the actual performances there (kidding about the forum). The Dreyfus book reads to be outstanding from critical acclaim and the brief review/introduction at Amazon.com. I'll make sure to order it!

Good posts guys!

 

Bach and Vivaldi - 'Patterns' review (part one) [BeginnersBach]

Jack Botelho wrote (November 12, 2005):
Rather unfortunately, Laurence Dreyfus treats the Vivaldian concerto condescendingly in his full length study titled Bach and the Patterns of Invention (Harvard University Press, 1996). However, it seems Dreyfus' lack of glowing enthusiasm for the Vivaldian concerto is necessary for highlighting his own thesis which promotes the old tradition of Bach as a 'superior composer of divine inspiration' which satisfies the deep psychological needs of individuals for a saviour or hero figure and also to ward off the threat of the music genre approach which carries with it the concept of forms and creative inspiration which may visit any composer in history supported by constructive conditions.

Dreyfus spends some time speculating that perhaps the rapid spread of popularity of Vivaldi's concertos in the early eighteenth century had something to do with the gender of the musicians of Vivaldi's orchestra at the foundling hospital in Venice, even though Vivaldi's close performance ties to his father Giovanni Battista also links him to the professional orchestra of San Marco and even further afield with itinerant musicians of the opera houses of Venice and the mainland. Clearly, Dreyfus' intent is to draw attention away from the quality of Vivaldi's compositions to the novelty of performance:

'Although there is really no hard evidence on this point, it is worth pondering whether the rush of excitement about Vivaldi in northern Europe was not connected in some way to a scarcely concealed titillation proceeding from well-circulated rumors of a cloistered orchestra of girls making exciting music.' (p.45)

Dreyfus also mentions Vivaldi's concertos in relation to 'commodity value,' and 'consumers' (p.45) and never mentions the concept of 'connoisseurs', instead asserting that 'the reception of the Vivaldian concerto in northern Europe lacked a distinctly high-minded profile' (p.46). This despite the early trade of Vivaldi concertos being carried on by an elite minority of aristocrats and music specialists across the continent.

Never does Dreyfus express the idea that Vivaldi's concertos 'instructed' Bach in the art of ritornello concerto construction or served as models of composition. Dreyfus does state that Bach 'discovered' a hidden potential in these compositions, but the implication is that Vivaldi's concertos do not exploit these possibilities.

Dreyfus asserts: 'Although it used to be thought that these arrangements [of those of Bach after Vivaldi] were mere studies by which Bach apprenticed himself to Italian concerto form, Hans-Joachim Schulze has suggested more plausibly that these were simply commissions of the young duke' (p.46). Whatever the case, it is now widely accepted that Bach did indeed absorb the principles of ritornello-episode construction from compositions of Vivaldi during the period in which the above arrangements were made, making Bach a pupil of Vivaldi of the printed score, and well testified elsewhere.

After an exploration of the weaknesses of the junior duke of Weimar Johann Ernst's set of concertos (posthumously dated to 1718), Dreyfus finally admits what he thinks of the concerto genre as happened upon by Bach: 'My point here is less to ridicule the student prince [Johann Ernst] than to assert the rather lowly status of a musical genre and style that could be imitated by someone with such obviously primitive skills' (p.47). Rather, Johann Ernst was a nobleman - nothing lowly about that - and his set of six concertos, composed at the tender age of sixteen, held the promise of much more fully developed compositions in this genre if his life had not been
tragically cut short.

In summation, Dreyfus states: 'For Bach, the Vivaldian concerto lacked interest for the very reasons that probably drew Johann Ernst to cultivate it: the superficial aura of visceral excitement attached to its opening moves, the exotic reminder of the allures of Venice, and its value in an aristocratic luxury trade. Even in purely musical terms, Bach could scarcely have been seduced by the patent regressions in compositional technique - particularly the suppression of counterpoint and the corresponding impoverishment of true polyphony - in which the concerto reveled. Bach's interest in Vivaldi had another source entirely: instead of copying a set of crude, superficial formulas[!], Bach discovered within Vivaldi a kind of harmonic laboratory providing insights into the nature of tonality, a kind of simulacrum of thoroughbass that could produce insights into the secrets of a God-given art.' (p.52)

Apparently Dreyfus is unwilling to accept that Vivaldi had discovered and utilized this 'harmonic laboratory' for himself previous to Bach, and indeed opened the door for the latter to enter into it. Dreyfus articulates the old complaint of Bachians that the Vivaldian concerto suppresses counterpoint and polyphony (above). In fact, as is well demonstrated in Bach's concertos for harpsichord, ritornello-episode construction can serve to provide an admirable framework for which considerable lengths of time (one of the composer's most challenging tasks is to create meaningful time) may be allotted to the soloist(s) to engage in all sorts of contrapuntal exercises in the episodes all the while supported by the broad, expansive tonal organization of
the typical Vivaldian concerto.

Dreyfus then makes a serious error on page 56: "The 'struggle' inherent in the name 'concerto' does not therefore depend, as in Vivaldi, on the presence of the soloists playing material that is theirs alone, but rather is found in the changing guises of the ritornello and its occasional but necessary disappearance." Vivaldi's concertos are indeed studies of ritornellos stated, disappeared, re-stated in different keys, in fragments, and in multitudinous disguises echoed in the episodic passages, albeit in much less dense form than those of Bach's concertos. This is long and well known by Vivaldi specialists.

Finally, Dreyfus states: 'Bach's reinterpretation of Vivaldi's concertos tended to slight superficial social connotations in an attempt to identify a divine spark which, for him, lay at the core of musical and human experience.' (p.57) The title of Vivaldi's op.3 concertos which served as instruction for Bach, 'L'estro armonico', may be understood as referring to a 'visitation or fire or frenzy of divine inspiration'. Apparently, Bach and Vivaldi had more in common than Dreyfus would like to admit in their sharing of such a divine spark of invention.

All of the above criticism is taken from Chapter 2, 'Composing against the Grain'. Chapter 3, 'The Ideal Ritornello', on the other hand, seems to be (only on my own amateur perusal) of extremely high quality and in itself merits the entire study its prize in musicology and high critical acclaim for its admirable investigation of the inner workings of Bach's patterns of invention, all and only in my opinion.

Steven Foss wrote (November 13, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] Thank you for your insights and overview on Laurence Dreyfus's book.

I have not read the book personally, however, I would like to make some comments/observations from your critique.

Much of what you describe of chapter 2 of this book seems to indicate speculation/drawn conclusions, ie subjective reasoning or as I like to call intelligent guesses.

"'Although there is really no hard evidence on this point, it is worth pondering whether the rush of excitement about Vivaldi in northern Europe was not connected in some way to a scarcely concetitillation proceeding from well-circulated rumors of a cloistered orchestra of girls making exciting music.'"
How would anyone know of these manuscripts came from the Orphanage? I think, IMVHO, that the works had merit of their own without the excitation, pleasurably and superficially, that a bunch of orphans and abandoned spinsters made the music the curiosity of Europe (including France that has a history of being anti Italian.)

"Pio Ospedale della Pietà in Venice. Vivaldi wrote for them most of his concertos, cantatas, and sacred music. In 1705 the first collection (raccolta) of his works was published. Many others would follow. At the orphanage he covered several different duties, with the only interruption for his many travels, and in 1713 became responsible for the musical activity of the institute."
Vivaldi did not work there full time until 1713, after his many absences and travels caused the drop off of composition produced for the institute that resulted in his becoming full time responsible for the musical activity of the institute."

Would not Vivaldi's travels and fame as a virtuoso violin player been more likely to have furthered the cause of his Concertos?

I did not find any mention of Dreyfus researching archives to see if any list of Vivaldi scores (manuscripts or publications) were ever recorded into inventory (whether these pieces by Vivaldi still are in possession, exist elsewhere, or where lost does not matter in this case) and at what dates and locations to defend his position on the spread of Vivaldi.

Was he able to document in other words the Vivaldi frontier, or show centers of Vivaldi's fans amongst the nobility and at what date? Was this shown in a map, a graph, or a table?

Since you made no reference to this type of Musical "Archeology" (digging in archival records), I must summize that he did not, instead Dreyfus is giving his opinion.

A Guess at best. "'Although there is really no hard evidence."

And Guess and Opinions are a dime a dozen, masquerading as musicology.

Bach was a Genius (period) who concentrated his mental talenst into Music (he was a Bach after all). However, as a genius, he did not invent new forms, rather he left his mark on the musical essays he wrote be it Cantata, Concerto or Fugue. Mozart did this in his Fugues and Fugal writing in his G minor Symphony, likewise Beethoven left his own thoughts (and totally unlike Mozart or Bach) in his late life Fugues in the string quartette and Piano Sonata in which these are contained where unlike any other's work.

Had either Mozart, Bach or Beethoven had been killed in a carriage accident at 18 as was the unfortunate the "young duke," our opinions of them and history's would be quite different: the unfulfilled promise of greater things to come extinguished by an early death. (Think what Pergolesi might written had he not died at 26.)

"After an exploration of the weaknesses of the junior duke of Weimar Johann Ernst's set of concertos (posthumously dated to 1718)"
Johann Ernst von Saxe Weimar's Concerti are comparable to his Italian contemporaries or models, these concerti transcriptions were taken for many years as being written by Vivaldi when first known only as Bach Transcriptions.

Obiviously Bach's influence on his pupil has to be acknowledged.

However, Mr Dreyfus does appear not like the works of Vivaldi, J E Ernst von Saxe Weimar, or Bach's debt to Vivaldi. (Even the alternations between Exposition and Episode in Fugues could be in some people's opinion be linked to the ritonello form especially in the Fugues for the final movements of the 2nd, 4th, and 5th Brandenburg Concerti.)

I somewhat dispute the idea that the arrangements of the Concertos where either at the Duke's Command or was for Bach's instruction. Bach's distant cousin J G Walter likewise made Organ Concerto arrangements of (he was the keyboard teacher to the Johann Ernst von Saxe Weimar), Bach was not alone in this practice. As per my previous post, a Composer learns more from studying full scores. However, as a showpiece of his skills as an organist or harpsichordist, these pieces would have made quite an impact on his patrons who were familiar with the pieces. And, maybe Bach just liked them, too.

Also, not my observation, these transcriptions must date from earlier circulating manuscripts as the published works of Vivaldi (from which the discovery of Bach's arrangements were made) differ in many of the readings, ie Vivaldi revised/rewrote for publication.

As such this calls into question when (again we do not have the archival references of inventory) some of these transcriptions may have been made. Was it when Bach was a violinist in 1703 in Weimar or later during his second term there 1708-1717?

Vivaldi published:

Opus 3, L'estro armonico (Harmonic inspiration/rhapsody/birth), 12 concertos for various combinations (4 violins, 4 violins and violoncello, etc.) (1711)
Opus 4, La stravaganza (The extraordinary), 12 violin concertos (c. 1714)

As the A minor Organ Concerto comes from L'estro armonico as is one, as my recalls, that has a variant reading. This would indicate that the transcription was done prior to seeing a L'estro printed score. How fast did this printing travel?

Couperin's piece the Harvesters copied in the A M Bach notebook 1725 is significantly different (ie earlier form) from the published version dating from 1717 (which shows F. Couperin's re writing to indicate performance practice). This at least shows that circulating manuscripts have a life of their own and the slowness of distribution of published works (and the great costs associated with these publications).

I have not had the time recently to determine (or to look up in a work on Vivaldi) if any of the other Vivaldi Concerti Transcriptions come from any of these publications:

Opus 6, 6 violin concertos (1716-21)
Opus 7, 2 oboe concertos and 10 violin concertos (1716-21)
Opus 8, Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione (The Contest between Harmony and Invention), 12 violin concertos, the first 4, in E, G minor, F, and F minor being known as The Four Seasons (Le quattro stagioni) (1725)
Opus 9, La cetra (The lyre), 2 violin concertos and 1 for 2 violins (1727)
Opus 10, 6 flute concertos (c. 1728)
Opus 11, 5 violin concertos, 1 oboe concerto (1729)
Opus 12, 5 violin concertos and 1 without solo (1729)

All these Concertos post date Bach's 2nd tenure at Weimar, but would be circulating manuscripts?

Like wise the Telemann and Albinoni, and Marcello transcriptions dates of writing/publication would be of interest, too.

Alessandro Marcello's Oboe Concerto was for many years thought to be by his brother Benedetto, who wrote a pamphlet against Vivaldi. (Either his composition routine form or Vivaldi's love affairs with his mistress depending on who you read).

So Dreyfus isn't alone in not liking Vivaldi's music.

Funny enough, both Marcello's used either the same or similar titles for the collections of works as did Vivaldi. (B Marcello is best remembered by his Estro poetico-armonico (Venice, 1724-1727), a musical setting for voices and continou of the first fifty Psalms, as paraphrased in Italian by G. Giustiniani and A Marcello composed and published several sets of concerti (including six under the title La cetra). I guess the association with Tony Vivaldi's works of a similar name may have helped sales. (Joking?)

I look forward to your overview on Chapter 3.

Jack Botelho wrote (November 14, 2005):
Steven Foss wrote:
< Thank you for your insights and overview on Laurence Dreyfus's book.
I have not read the book personally, however, I would like to make some comments/observations from your critique.
Much of what you describe of chapter 2 of this book seems to indicate speculation/drawn conclusions, ie subjective reasoning or I like to call intelligent guesses. >
Very much so. I would even question whether they are very 'intelligent'. It seems clear to me that Dreyfus seeks to discredit the Vivaldian concerto in order to amplify what Bach did or took from it (after all, the ritornello-episode principle infiltrated Bach's musical language to produce most of his masterpieces). Dreyfus states in the introduction that the book is made up of several different papers composed over different periods. Chapter 2 is not central to his thesis.

I would also like to point out, and this should be very clear to all but is worth stating nonetheless, my own methods are not empirical with regard to providing primary sources etc., but rather depend on general background knowledge (which is sadly lacking these days) of Bach. I do work from at times powerful insights (powerful because they are free from socio-cultural bias which is so rife on some of these forums, a bias which disguises racist ideas, or at least, the inability of some individuals to put themselves in a different time and place because of there own ego-centred worlds which sometimes depend on lying and gossip (closely related to each other and even now being observed empirically by those studying cerebral function) - but now I'm off course.

I also do not in any way whatsoever wish to be in the position (or even to desire to do so) argue for the case of Vivaldi the great composer. My only intention is to outline Bach's background for the beginner. Your own input helps me to steer through these waters as like the guiding hand of a teacher. For this, many thanks, and for your insights below.

Steven Foss wrote (November 15, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] I don't think you will ever have to be put in the situation of defending Vivaldi, and why misquote Wanda Landowska in her reference to different pieces of music "not being wolves, they do not eat each other," when I could say the samething about composers and cannibalism.

(my favorite Vivaldi joke, even if I don't agree with it, "How many concertos did Vivaldi write? One, he just rewrote 500 times.")

I often seen the progression of music as somewhat similar to a Coral Reef, that which is now has been built on that which has been, and the future will be builds on today.

Bach knew and used much from Vivaldi and other Italian masters (Frescobaldi for one is much earlier) and as such was of very eclectic tastes.

Bach's tastes in music had four foundations. These are the North German Organ School (Buxtehude, for example), South German/Austrian Organ (Johann Pachelbel, who was Godfather to Johann Sebastian Bach's sister Johanna Judith Bach), French, and of course, Italian. Upon these four walls, much was to be built on by him, and through his influence, others and those yet to come.

Besides synthesizing the influences into his own unique vocabulary, he became a foundation for later composers (besides being one of the greatest composers to grace the face of the earth, he was the only one of this statue that was a great pedagogue). One could hardly imagine the existence of the Fugue in the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony if not for the influence of Bach.

And this work likewise inspired others to build further if in other directions.

The 19th century saw the first major acknowledgement as Bach the Composer (as opposed to Bach the Virtuoso Organist), and one wonders if the Piano is not somewhat responsible for this. Yes there was the rise of chorale societies, however, I have come to view the 19th Century as the Era of the Piano, it was the instrument of virtuoso, the wealthy, and the upper-middle class. The interest in Bach's keyboard works among the general public date from this time.

Would this meteoric return have been as quick if like the 18th Century, the 19th had been the Era of the Violin?

(Or the Mid 20th Century the Era of the Electric Guitar)?

Bach's rediscovery was inevitable, you can't keep a great man "down" for long.

Although appropriate to another post I have been sight reading through another Godfather's work (in this K P E Bach's) Georg Telemann's published 3 dozen Harpsichord Fantazia of 1732-33 (Dover has a reprint that's inexpensive). The Dover edition is interesting as every piece has in the title for the harpsichord. (Nay a reference to Clavichord or Clavier to be seen).

The word Cembalo is used in the 1st and 3rd sets, the 2nd uses the term Clavessin (corruption of the french, Clavecin).

In these pieces one finds the same types of written out ornaments that Bach received criticism for by J Scheibe although he approved of the Italian Concerto which has the most elaborate written out second movement.

One also find the same type of playing in octaves towards the end of a section (before a repeat) or the end of the piece that is among some of the unidentified/anon pieces in Anna M Bach's hand in the 1725 notebook. (A coincidence?).

I am looking for 17th-18th Century works specifically written for the clavichord during the earlier part of Bach's life or antedating it.

18th Published Works for Clavichord (especially those with Bebung and Tragen der Töne written in) post date J S Bach's death. I have searched somewhat in vain to find earlier references to Music written to be played exclusively or inclusively (Sonata for Harpsichord, Clavichord, or Fortepiano)on the Clavichord with a few exceptions (the Iberian references to monacordio was used to indicate Clavichords, and the term Clavicordio complicates the matter as it was used as a name for harpsichord, as well as the later espinette, and Clavicimbalo).

Any insights would be helpful.

I still feel, IMHO, that the fretted Clavichord held the position of an upright piano, a beginners instrument to teach fundamentals, hence the fretted instruments small keyboard compass continuing to be manufactured as such until the early 19th century.

Althought the Clavichord was produced in numbers, so was the harpsichord if Stein's numbering system is to be believed. Of this prodigious amount only one example in Vienna's friends of music exists.

After developing some skill after cutting one's teeth on the instrument, the novice would progress to harpsichord somewhat quickly to learn accompaniment, harmony, continou, and later promoted to the organ. Although a practice instrument (like the silent keyboard) it would be little use for learning the difficulties of accompaniment, continou were it would have been drowned out by the soloist, and for harmony the fretted nature of the instrument would be a liability.

As to the WTC an extensive study of the clavichords Bach was likely to have known and the applicability of the Well-Tempered Clavier to the instrument as is written by Richard Loucks, "Was the Well-Tempered Clavier Performable on a Fretted Clavichord?" Performance Practice Review, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Spring 1992), p. 44-89.

The conclusions include that the fretted clavichord was ubiquitous in eighteenth-century Germany (a given)and among the instruments of Bach's use, that of the 357 minor seconds in the WTC (179 of which cause fretting conflicts) only two or three appear to be genuinely unplayable, and that the fretted clavichord "was held to be a suitable instrument for the WTC.

I draw the opposite conclusion, that since there are "179 fretting conflicts" that the WTC had been written as a generic work and as such this would have been of little concern. Bach the consumate artist would have written around these difficulties if this was truly a for Clavichord work (unless these were exercises to surmount such difficulties, but to what end? No one went to Clavichord Concerts or was employed as a professionaly Clavichordist).

Also, any student that had progressed to this level of keyboard competence would have most likely abandoned the clavichord as a practice instrument.

The range of these fretted clavichords is invariable CC to c or 4 octaves in those that have been dated from Bach's.

Although the 1st book of the WTC falls into that range (which ialso the range of organ keyboards from that time) if one does not include the variant ending to the Bb maj prelude, the 2nd book does not stay with this range, for example the 23rd prelude the low B in a sequence in the 20th measure and both the 23rd prelude and the 24th fugue both exceed this range in their final notes.

One could argue these notes could have been played an octave higher (unneccessary on the harpsichord) or this was a variant ending (in the fugue, the above mentioned predlu, which would confirm the playing on the harpsichord. However, is this an only example of Bach exceeding this range, and a late one at that?

One need look no further than the 2 invention in E major or its corresponding 3 part Invention (Sinfonia as Bach titled it)in the same key to find, the range had been exceeded again by low BB naturals. Yes, player could have retuned a key, however, why write the notes (or in some cases note) into these pieces if they truly intended for clavichord.

I think the Harpsichord, Organ, Clavichord debate or does Clavier mean a specific (Clavichord) or Generic (Keyboard) has much to do with the change of usuage of words over the brief time discussed.

Fluegel (literally birds wing) original referred to harpsichords, but in short number of years referred to the grand piano form of the Forte Piano. Did the ever changing needs of the day change the generic clavier to the specific Klavier. (The Germans have a love for germanic sounding words and did like foreign words in their vocabulary. HammerKlavier was a replacement for Fortepiano, just as Schallplatten would be for LP in the 20th century).

Türk's Clavier-School, or Instruction in Clavier-Playing for Teachers and Students, with Critical Remarks. Leipzig: Schwickert, Hemmerde und Schwetschke, Halle, 1789 provides an interesting late eighteenth-century view of the clavichord, qualities to look for in a good clavichord, advantages to the clavichord over other keyboard instruments, inadequacies of the instrument, basic clavichord learning tips, stylistic considerations in performance, however its late date of 1789 has to be taken into account. Also the fact that Türk was born the month following J S Bach's death and as such is the writer would have no first hand knowledge of Bach's time of the use of the word Clavier during this time.

This book was written towards end of the vogue of the large unfretted Clavichords and when the harpsichord is in its final decline and the Piano has started its monopoly as the stringed keyboard instrument of choice.

D. G. Türk and W. A. Mozart would be of the last generation of keyboard players to be trained on Organ, Clavichord, Harpsichord, and Piano.

Jack Botelho wrote (November 16, 2005):
[To Steven Foss] In your opinion, then the WTC (book 1, to be more specific) is playable on the fretted clavichord with some minor alterations but was not especially designed for it. This makes perfect sense to me, most especially (and time and time again) Bach and composers of his generation wished such pieces to be as widely applicable to any instrument available whether it be for the student or professional. Time and time again I encounter a fundamentalism regarding early music with regard to some promoting only specific instruments, and even more narrowly, specific models of instruments.

I know for sure that such specificity of instrumentation was in NO WAY intended for the typical four part open score ricercar, a tradition which Bach would have had much respect for. It could be, that as the eighteenth century progressed, specificity of instrumentation becomes more and more important as the music becomes increasingly dependent on an appropriate style of performance, in contrast to much earlier polyphonic instrumental works which are in the main structural, rather than stylistic creations.

Please correct me if I have misunderstood your discussion with regard to the my reply to your discussion in my first paragraph above.

By the way, discussions of musical instruments for the beginner always brings up the issue of room humidity, imo. For anyone starting out, in my opinion, no matter the quality of the clavichord, for example (classical guitars especially) medium to high humidity will eventually transform the instrument into a chilly reproducer of sound, and I'm not convinced that de-humidifiers really solve the problem in the long term.

I stand to be corrected on any of this, with appreciation.

Steven Foss wrote (November 16, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] you wrote "In your opinion, then the WTC (book 1, to be more specific) is playable on the fretted clavichord with some minor alterations but was not especially designed for it. This makes perfect sense to me, most especially (and time and time again) Bach and composers of his generation wished such pieces to be as widely applicable to any instrument available whether it be for the student or professional. Time and time again I encounter a fundamentalism regarding early music with regard to some promoting only specific instruments, and even more narrowly, specific models of instruments."

I think you have succintly put into words what I was rambling on about, that the WTC book 1 in particular (and book 2 for that matter) was generically written as to keyboard instruments.

(The larger unfretted clavichord is another issue, it became available/popular after Bachs death and was competition to the early fortepiano for expression (if not volume).)

Also as to instruments indicated in scores often the generic continou could mean a Bass string instrument to which the realized harmonizations could have been by Lute, Theorbo, Organ, or Harpsichord or a combination or alternation of the above. (In this realm the clavichord is definately out of its league.)

Many a published keyboard work may have the "For Organ or Harpsichord," later Harpsichord or Fortepiano, and later Piano and Harpsichord last showing up in a early Beethoven Sonata (the addition most likely by the publisher).

I always seem to associate the open score Ricercar format and the Art of Fugue. In this case specificty is dispensed with almost completely. This published work (and as such shows Bach's intent)that although sold few copies, did have amongst its purchasers (directly or second hand) Frederick the Great of Prussia who is known to have a copy which was involved in the Van Swieten/Mozart connection of J S Bach's music and most likely with Beethoven, too.

In this day of Central Heating, Air Conditioning, insulation around doors, double paned windows, etc, it is hard to recall that Harpsichords, Clavichords, and other instruments did not exist in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries in the same environment that we hermetically seal ourselves into today.

In areas which have Raydon Gas (at its threat of Lung Cancer risks) the houses that were drafty and less "energy efficient" also had less incidence rate amongst its dwellers. I wonder if those string instruments were better in a drafty dwelling that breathed.

 

OT: "Vivaldi's Women" Documentary ==> 18th century performance habits

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 27, 2010):
I wanted to pass along a fantastic documentary about Vivaldi's relationship with the Pieta and the women who performed most of his music, most of whom until quite recently were unknown names on manuscripts. Micky White ( a NON music specialist) has been researching this for about five years, and has uncovered many fascinating finds, some of which has important implications for 18th century performances (e.g. the idea that Vivaldi didn't have female bass singers for his sacred music is utterly false).

Schola Pietatis Antonio Vivaldi (an all women choir and orchestra based in Oxford, U.K.) perform several Vivaldi works in the Pieta, as well as the church, giving insights to acoustics and how Vivaldi wrote music for his performers. There is a tremendous amount of background information, much of it new (e.g the original Pieta building that dates from the 12th century) is shown on a brief tour. It's wonderful to see these places you only read aboand then have a real poignant element to all of this (e.g. Vivaldi paid 3 months of his own salary to buy a violin for one of the students, or many of the women who were never adopted, lived their entire lives at the orphanage and were buried under the floor of the church, including "Anna Maria dal Violin", apparently one of the periods best performers).

This is hardly a "dry-as-bones" documentary: very engaging and I can't say enough good things about Micky White's efforts-- she has no musical training, and no previous archival experience-- and has done this completely as a labor of love.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYpSTlN9n-w

Enjoy!

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 27, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< I wanted to pass along a fantastic documentary about Vivaldi's relationship with the Pieta and the women who performed most of his music, most of whom until quite recently were unknown names on manuscripts. >
Terrific documentary: I wish someone would do the same for Bach's choirboys.

Dmitry Vinokurov wrote (January 28, 2010):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Excellent movie. I’d like to mention here an important detail. The theory that “Vivaldi didn't have female bass singers for his sacred music” is not a new one. It was proposed at least 15 years ago by the noted Vialdian scholar Michael Talbot in his outstanding book “The sacred vocal music of Antonio Vivaldi”.
One more thing - the current church La Pieta dates to the period between 1745-1760 when it was raised on a site of older church that Vivaldi had known and worked in.

 

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Last update: ýOctober 11, 2013 ý22:29:23