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General Discussions - Part 10

Continue from Part 9

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 16, 2005):
Donald Satz wrote:
>>Once again, Thomas is up to his old ways of complete rigidity, finding some avenue he can take to ridicule performance styles that he does not appreciate.<<
This avenue is the one that respected musicologists and performing musicians who benefit from their research take so as to avoid the pitfall of being too far removed from Bach's intentions as well as those can be determined at the present time. The 'tricks' and less than honest motivations on the part of some conductors/musicians who overlook, whether consciously or deliberately I cannot judge, the historical evidence are quite apparent when they reach such proportions as those exhibited by Gardiner's performance of BWV 248/43. This has nothing to do with what one listener likes or dislikes, but rather focuses upon the conductor's misreading of Bach's obvious intentions. Such a performance should be honestly labeled, as I have suggested before: Bach-Gardiner rather than simply Bach, in the same way we have Bach-Stokowski or Bach-Busoni. The problem with interpretations of the type under discussion here is that there is a confusion being created (a lack of distinction) between what Bach might have intended and what a congregation in his day may have heard and what is currently frequently heralded as performances using instruments modeled after originals and singing and playing styles emulating those in Bach's performances [HIP, in other words]. If, for instance, Bach had wanted faster tempo for BWV 248/43, he might have used "Presto" instead of "Vivace," or do you think there is little or no difference between these terms? Considering this and other historical evidence which I have already presented, it is only possible to support Gardiner's choice of tempo by blindly disregarding such information and arguing exclusively in terms of protecting the personal choices made by Gardiner and his supporting listeners who certainly show little concern for the appropriate musical expression of the text.

Peter Bright wrote (December 16, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] Incidentally, Gardiner gets the vote for CD of the month in the new edition of Gramophone (for his latest Bach cantatas set). He also won record of the year for the first volume of cantatas. A worthy accolade for a magnificent series.

Donald Satz wrote (December 16, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] What's your problem? Why is it that Gardiner's "blind disregard" bothers you so? Obviously, your views won't alter Gardiner's approach or anyone's enjoyment of his recordings. You keep going on and on about these matters, and the word that sticks in my mind is "rigid".

Stephen Benson wrote (December 16, 2005):
Santu de Silva wrote:
< Still, it did dance. Listen to it yourself, and decide! >
And in the same mode, might I suggest the first movement of Herreweghe's BWV 62, appropriately enough, another Advent cantata, which sweeps the listener into its exhilarating freshness. The tempo is NOT fast, but infectious nevertheless.

And, in line with this discussion, I'd like to share a journal entry I wrote several months ago (August 13) during another rancorous exchange involving Gardiner and his "outrageous" tempi:

"Bach, the “happy” pill. I don’t mean to be flippant, but the wrangling that has permeated this list recently and the doom and gloom from the discussion about the need to take Bach “seriously” isn’t the Bach that I know. I revel in Bach’s earthiness, his humanity, his music that is a dance and celebration of life here on Earth."

Donald Satz wrote (December 16, 2005):
[To Santu de Silva] I don't see anything repugnant about Juozas' statement; it's simply accurate. An exceptional choir can do some things well that a medicore one can't. It's not a matter of "should", but one of capabilities.

Drew Point wrote (December 16, 2005):
[To Peter Bright] Alas. I fear that Gramophone, too, has been assimilated by the BBC (Brisk Bach Conspiracy)!!!

If they could only see through the Bach Cantata Carnival (Pilgrimage)!

Juozas Rimas wrote (December 16, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Bach-Gardiner rather than simply Bach, in the same way we have Bach-Stokowski or Bach-Busoni. The problem with interpretations of the type under discussion here is that there is a confusion being created (a lack of distinction) between what Bach might have intended >
I'm concerned with how much room is left for interpretation if one is to follow ONE particular directive even if it is the composer's directive.

Can we divide performers and scholars into two groups: the ones that are happy about the relative scarceness of tempo and other markings in Bach's works because it gives "legitimate" freedom (i.e. freedom without the fear of "violating the score") and the ones who would be happier to have the exact instructions in handwriting of the composer?

If I were a performer, I'm positive I'd belong to the first group. Having exact instructions deprives you of inner struggle of which way to choose to express the music as you understand it but it also leaves you with one and only reading possible. I guess I'd see no point in performing at all, if I were to produce yet another copy of a rendition that has already been produced.

< [HIP, in other words]. If, for instance, Bach had wanted faster tempo for BWV 248/43, he might have used "Presto" instead of "Vivace," or do you think there is little or no difference between these terms? >
Can a fast performance be "vivace"? Am I correct to state that "vivace" indicates the mood primarily that can be kept at almost any pace, save for extremities? Actually I can imagine an extremely fast and vivacious performance. I cannot imagine an extremely slow and vivacious performance (sounds like an oxymoron). Moderately paced and vivacious is very much imaginable.

John Pike wrote (December 16, 2005):
[To Peter Bright] Ah! Which one?

Peter Bright wrote (December 16, 2005):
[To John Pike] The new edition of Gramophone is available in the UK shops now, but I don't have a copy yet (I was just browsing when I saw it)... so I can't tell you which particular volume! (and it's not yet available online). I'll let you know once I get into town again...

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 16, 2005):
Juozas Rimas wrote:
>>I'm concerned with how much room is left for interpretation if one is to follow ONE particular directive even if it is the composer's directive. Can we divide performers and scholars into two groups: the ones that are happy about the relative scarceness of tempo and other markings in Bach's works because it gives "legitimate" freedom (i.e. freedom without the fear of "violating the score") and the ones who would be happier to have the exact instructions in handwriting of the composer?<<
There are conductors and performers of Bach's music who are grateful for every written-out embellishment and every bit of additional information which Bach added to his scores and parts. They approach his scores with reverence and awe, knowing full well that Bach's taste regarding the manner in which his own music should be performed was of the highest standard, a standard that no performer can even attempt to match. With Bach having set such high standards for the performance of his music, many present-day performers may balk at what they, from their ego-centric viewpoints, perceive as a distinct limitation of their unbounded imaginations in attempting something very new and different (often using extreme measures to do so) that will enhance their reputations (and increase their market share in the profits reaped from their performances and recordings). It is unfortunate that our market-driven economies play a role in creating these distortions in the way Bach's music is presented to the public. While it is entirely understandable that musicians performing Bach's music certdeserve to be rewarded with more than mere subsistence pay for their artist efforts, it is nevertheless remarkable that there are still artists who continue on the 'correct and true' path of granting Bach's music the respect which it deserves. This 'moderate' approach to Bach's music does not equate with boring performances which are boring because they are completely devoid of soul . There is nevertheless a wide range of subtleties available to the performers and listeners alike. The individuality (-ties) of the performer(s) can still be expressed without resorting to extreme mannerisms which have a fleeting quality (they do not wear well with the passage of time). These following musical goals, often employed deliberately by performers, are unworthy of Bach's music:

1. extreme tempi either too slow or too fast
2. creating ugly, unmusical sounds
3. poor singing or playing technique
4. disingenuous expression (overacting, 'hamming it up')
5. lack of precision (intonation, attack)

>>Having exact instructions deprives you of inner struggle of which way to choose to express the music as you understand it but it also leaves you with one and only reading possible. I guess I'd see no point in performing at all, if I were to produce yet another copy of a rendition that has already been produced.<<
Imagine how Beethoven struggled against the rules of harmony and counterpoint! Think of the 'Grosse Fuge', what a great battle this was against the rules and restrictions imposed by the formal aspects of the fugue! These rules were very restrictive, yet by means of the struggle, by meeting the limitations and restrictions head-on, great artistic creations were made possible. From Goethe's "Faust" Part 2: "Wer immer strebend sich bemüht,/Den können wir erlösen." ["We can save whoever puts forth great effort and continues to strive against {whatever is holding that person back}."] This is the way for true artists to reach Parnassus and not by indulging themselves in the ephemeral trends that cater to whims of a short-lived generation or allowing themselves to take great liberties with whatever is entrusted to them by great master from the past.

The challenge today is to perform Bach's music in a way that conforms substantially to what he had available to him: his performers, his instruments, and the expectations of this audience. Anyone can arrange and/or perform Bach's sacred music in a manner suitable for pleasant or entertaining background music or they can even distort the original scores to make them sound 'ugly', simply convey a single impression ['joy' = 'very fast tempi' for some listeners today], or conjure up room full of courtly dancers. Bach's music can be arranged to be played on any combination or types of instruments, but Bach's sacred compositions (which comprise the bulk of his oeuvre) must, by their very nature in rendering religious texts as great music, conform to certain limitations and restrictions which are known to Bach scholars and performers who have studied his works carefully. This will still allow a certain, but qualified range of expressive freedom in performing these works, while, at the same time making more apparent the excesses that some conductors and performers have allowed themselves in the past.

>>Am I correct to state that "vivace" indicates the mood primarily that can be kept at almost any pace, save for extremities?<<
Although it would be ludicrous to insist that Bach should have given us metronome markings (tempi are dependent on many variables in any given performance), it is reasonable to assume that Bach did attach relative degrees of speed to his markings such as Adagio, Andante, Vivace, and Presto. Anyone familiar with Bach's scale of possibilities could easily surmise that 'Vivace' as interpreted by Gardiner in his rendition of BWV 248/43 was not the tempo that Bach had in mind when he wrote this at the top of this movement.

Neil Halliday wrote (December 17, 2005):
Juozas Rimas wrote:
<"I have listened to Harnoncourt's slower version and it sounds fine at that tempo too! The choir is poorer and less solid, though. Could anyone recommend a slow version of the said work performed by a truly solid choir?">
Re no. 43, Richter is in his lively mode in this chorus (6 mins. 49 secs.), and most enjoyable, with probably a more "solid" choir than Harnoncourt. No doubt this is "slow" by Gardiner's standards. (It is interesting to note that Gardiner and Richter sometimes (rarely?) agree on tempo -the opening chorus of BWV 147 is a good example.

I have not heard Gardiner in this chorus, but I remember thinking that Gardiner was too fast in the other chorus with a similar name, no. 21, "Ehre sei Gott"; in this there is exceptionally lovely writing at the words "und Friede auf Erden" which is missed at a fast tempo. Interestingly, Harnoncourt performs this entire movement at a slow tempo, thereby capturing the loveliness I am referring to, whereas Richter begins at fast tempo, about the same as Gardiner, then slows down sharply for the above mentioned passage. The movement (No.21) is marked "Allegro" or "Vivace" (I forget which); Brad gave an explanation for Harnoncourt's reading of the tempo designation, along the lines of Tom Dent's recent thoughts on the matter.

I have been listening to Richter and Münchinger XO's (BWV 248); in this chorus (no, 43), and in the fugal tenor aria no.41, Richter is livelier and more incisive than Munchinger, otherwise Munchinger often has livelier tempos.

I have heard excerpts from René Jacobs and Berlin Academy for Early Music with their XO (BWV 248), on the radio. Very solid performance, with a pleasing lack of exagerrated HIP mannerisms - mostly good, strong musicianship. (Only once or twice the violinist(s) annoyed me for excessive contrast between the loudness of successive notes resulting in the inaudibility of some notes (I forget which movement). There was a particularly beautiful 'echo' aria, with fine attention to continuo detail as well as the other instrumentation, with echo effects, representing an advance on both Richter and Münchinger.

Neil Halliday wrote (December 17, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
<"Anyone familiar with Bach's scale of possibilities could easily > surmise that 'Vivace' as interpreted by Gardiner in > his rendition of BWV 248/43 was not the tempo that > Bach had in mind when he wrote this at the top of this > movement.>"
Gardiner is certainly at or near the extreme. According to the BCW timings of the XO (BWV 248), he set the record in 1985, with c.140 mins. Otto matched it later on, and Schweizer surpassed them both in 2001, with c.136 mins. I see the fine 1998 Jacobs performance I mentioned previously comes in at c.152 mins. Tempi of the excerpts I heard sounded lively and sensible.

Münchinger is at c.158, Richter, c.164. The longest (slowest) version listed is Kurt Thomas in the 1950's with 170 mins.

Time will tell if Gardiner's extreme tempi (ie, in those particular cases such as 248/43) are acceptable to many people. I personally dislike such tempi.

Drew Point wrote (December 17, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< These following musical goals, often employed deliberately by performers, are unworthy of Bach's music:
1. extreme tempi either too slow or too fast
2. creating ugly, unmusical sounds
3. poor singing or playing technique
4. disingenuous expression (overacting, 'hamming it up')
5. lack of precision (intonation, attack) >
I think these are useful criteria. In the case of Gardiner's Bach, No. 1 is clearly debatable (we have different perceptions of what "extreme" is).

But, in any case, I do not think that Nos. 2-5 could be said of Gardiner. I watched his 1999 Weimar performance of the opening movement of "Ehre Sei Dir . . ." again last night, and, although it might be "extreme" or "too fast" to some ears, IMO the sound that he gets from his choir and players befits the notion of glorifying God and is eminentlMUSICAL.

< It is unfortunate that our market-driven economies play a role in creating these distortions in the way Bach's music is presented to the public. >
One man's distortions are another's rich portions. The reality of market-driven economies is nothing new. This has been the case ever since recordings were released commercially. Deutsche Grammophone / Archiv has never been a non-profit organization.

< There is nevertheless a wide range of subtleties available to the performers and listeners alike. >
Yes, I agree. This is why one can own 25 recordings of the Mass in b and not feel like a greedy fool.

< The individuality (-ties) of the performer(s) can still be expressed without resorting to extreme mannerisms which have a fleeting quality (they do not wear well with the passage of time). >
Well, yes, I suppose time will tell. My prediction about Gardiner's legacy: he will be considered one of the greats, a pioneer, and his recordings will be re-issued and listened to with appreciative ears.

Peter Bright wrote (December 17, 2005):
[To Thomas Vraatz] I often find your comments thoughtful and thorough. Yet, I feel strongly that the musical goals you state here are failed as much by the older, 'traditional' performances as by the major HIP ensembles (1. extreme tempo, either too fast or too slow; 2. creating ugly, unmusical sounds; 3. Poor singing or playing techniques; 4.disengenuous expression or 'hamming it up'; lack of precision).

For example, as much as I greatly admire Klemperer's St Matthew, isn't the tempo almost ridiculously slow throughout the work - even to those who don't enjoy 'fast' tempos? Also, what about the opening Kyrie in Richter's (1960?) Mass in B minor - unbelievably slow and drawn out (a shame, because the performance as a whole is magnificent). Similarly, surely in terms of vocal style, the old vibrato-ridden approach liberally applied in the pre-HIP practice days is a greater demonstration of 'hamming it up'?

In terms of 'ugly, unmusical sounds', 'poor playing techniques' and 'lack of precision', take a review I put together some time ago of an early Bach recording of the Brandenburg Concertos, which I paste sections of below. I certainly 'wanted' to like it as I am a great fan of Richter generally:

"The first concerto is arranged for hunting horns, oboes, bassoon, strings and continuo. From the opening movement it is immediately apparent that the brass section is too quiet, and, at times almost inaudible. The violins are overly prominent, which robs the music of its richness. Indeed the horns should play a crucial role here, initially clashing rhythmically with the strings, later assimilated into the harmony to produce an elegant ending. Unfortunately this is lost and the overall impression is not favourable. "

"[Concerto 2, mv. 1]...the solo playing is of a very high order, but there are problems with the ensemble, at least one violin not quite in tune."

"Concerto 5...contains some of Bach's lushest and most romantic music. There is a great dignity to the strings and flute parts in the opening section, which eventually give way to an extended harpsichord candenza that is relatively ugly and lifeless. The wonderfully scored affectuoso is also a disappointment, played at a very slow tempo which renders it dull."

"Overall, I cannot recommend this recording, particularly to those unfamiliar with these magnificent creations. However, Richter did revisit the Brandenburg Concertos in 1967, to a far more impressive effect. Those who have the later set may want these performances for comparison, but I'm afraid that they are best avoided by the uninitiated. "

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 17, 2005):
Peter Bright wrote:
>>I feel strongly that the musical goals you state here are failed as much by the older, 'traditional' performances as by the major HIP ensembles.<<
You are certainly correct in pointing this out as there are poor performances with grave deficiencies in both camps. Only the best conductors and performers occasionally soar above these matters and bring us great Bach performances. For this we should be ever grateful! With other performances (the bulk of the recordings that I have listened to), it is a matter of 'pick and choose' with a chorus here and an aria or recitative there which are truly outstanding and moving.

My real concern is with conductors and performers (as indicated in their printed articles and comments) who have deliberate agendas which include intentionally creating 'ugly' sounds, selecting soloists, who for various reasons are unable to perform on the highest levels, allowing and promoting imprecision, choosing extreme tempi for calculated effect which has little or nothing to do with the performance of a sacred text and allowing many notes to receive strong, heavy accents while shortening extremely the lengths of others along with severly reduced dynamics which often leads to the inaudibility of notes that Bach did write into the score.

Julian Mincham wrote (December 17, 2005):
[To Juozas Rimas] I would suggest that the phrase 'performance directive' is misleading in this context and skews the argument. It should perhaps be 'performance indication'. Virtually all performance indications still allow for lattitude and interpretation on behalf of the performer------ a 'pp' in one performance space may be quite different from a 'pp' in another. Tempo indications, even if seemingly fixed by metronome markings often need to be adjusted according such variables as local acoustics and ensemble sizes. I recall a conversation with a conductor some years ago who told me that he was admonised by a very eminent composer for taking a movement at the wrong tempo. He took out a metronome and found that the tempo he had taken was exactly that which the composer had 'set' on the score.

'Ah yes' replied the composer. 'But I was not thinking of this particular concert hall when I made that suggestion of tempo'.

Beethoven was perhaps, the first composer to try to be as definite as possible about his performance indications. But performers still find their own interpretations of his works whilst attempting to adhere to the composer's expressed wishes.

My view is that the performance markings are as susceptible to interpretation as the notes themselves. They simply give the performer additional insights into the composer's thinking and often are valuable guides to important structural elements of phrase, line and section.

Jack Botelho wrote (December 17, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks to Thomas' eloquence and knowledge in these matters, I for one find it fascinating to read these discussions from a connoisseur, whose common sense observations from primary source material really must be read and understood.

I only wish there was a similarly knowledgeable person who would comment on so called 'hip' recordings of Italian baroque music, elsewhere.

Thankfully, at least, Bach was a connoiseur composer and director of his own music, but I am sorry to read of the latest Brandenburg Concerti recording under outlandish direction with extreme tempi designed for consumer excitement, but not Bach, and not in good taste.

Neil Mason wrote (December 17, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< At least we all know where you clearly stand. These are personal preferences on your part which have little or nothing to do with the historical record which can shed light on these matters. >
Yes, 100% correct. But my personal preferences are not undermined by any reference to historical authority.

Or do you think that authority is paramount? You seem to feel free to yourself disagree with HIP scholars or anyone with musicology qualifications?

>>Ah, now I see; the text is paramount. But how do you explain the same music written to both sacred and secular texts? This is especially relevant to the Christmas Oratorio, much of which was a reworking of previously composed secular cantatas.<<
< Text is certainly important in this instance! This particular movement under discussion was never considered a parody by any Bach scholar. It is an entirely original composition based upon a new text. The NBA KB II/6 p. 203 explaithat based upon the fact that autograph of this composition has many more corrections than the other 'reworked' parodies in the Weihnachtsoratorium which have very few if any errors (clean copies). Also, no one has ever found any evidence of any earlier version where essentially the same music may have been used. >
I was referring to BWV 213 & BWV 214.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 18, 2005):
Neil Mason wrote:
>>...my personal preferences are not undermined by any reference to historical authority.<<
"undermined"???

>>Or do you think that authority is paramount? You seem to feel free to yourself disagree with HIP scholars or anyone with musicology qualifications?<<
"Authority" in many matters concerning HIP is based upon theories, some of which stand upon very shaky ground. A listener can certainly choose to accept or reject blindly what some HIP specialists have presented in articles, books and recordings. A more meaningful, reasonable approach, however, would be to investigate oneself to whatever extent possible just what these theories are based upon and whether they can withstand closer scrutiny on the basis of good scholarship and musicality. Very much of the manner in which Bach's sacred music is being presented to the public today is based upon trends established by theoretical research in musicology. Not all of these theories will withstand the test of time, musically or musicologically.

>>Ah, now I see; the text is paramount. But how do you explain the same music written to both sacred and secular texts? This is especially relevant to the Christmas Oratorio, much of which was a reworking of previously composed secular cantatas....I was referring to BWV 213 & BWV 214.<<
But BWV 213 & BWV 214 are not relevant to the discussion of the clearly indicated subject of this thread, BWV 248/43, where the text serves directly as the inspiration for the music the Bach composed to illustrate it.

Juan Carlos Herrera wrote (December 19, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] You are certainly right in your comments about:
>>allowing and promoting imprecision, choosing extreme tempi for calculated effect which has little or nothing to do with the performance of a sacred text and allowing many notes to receive strong, heavy accents while shortening extremely the lengths of others along with severly reduced dynamics which often leads to the inaudibility of notes that Bach did write into the score.<<
In relation to the last part, I think that in performing a given score, a rule or standard to keep in mind is that every written note should sound and be heard perfectly and distinctively clear . This will help with the setting of the tempo and limit the use of exagerated speed. Sentiment or even sensuality is in general disturbed or simply rubbed out by speed ( a example of this is the way in wich the introductory Chor N1 of SMP is played by many conductors, Gardiner included, in wich speed and exagerated rithmation deprives it of the inmense dramatic character it should have. Speed also can ruin the important dramatic effect that the entrance of the basso cont. in bar 6 of this introduction, should produce)

John Pike wrote (December 19, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< A more meaningful, reasonable approach, however, would be to investigate oneself to whatever extent possible just what these theories are based upon and whether they can withstand closer scrutiny on the basis of good scholarship and musicality. >
You would therefore approve, I assume, of my decision to investigate what the ideas of people such as Rifkin and Dreyfus are based on, by reading their excellent books, based on good scholarship and musicality (Dreyfus is himself a world-class player, and Rifkin a world-class conductor of Bach's music), excellently researched, well written, comprehensive, very knowledgeable and PLAUSIBLE (even if one doesen't necessarily agree with them).

 

Gramophone's Recording of the Month (Jan. 2006) - Cantata Pilgrimage, Vol. 10

Drew Point wrote (December 17, 2005):
Peter Bright wrote:
<<< Incidentally, Gardiner gets the vote for CD of the month in the new edition of Gramophone (for his latest Bach cantatas set). >>>
John Pike wrote:
<< Ah! Which one? >>
Peter Bright wrote:
< The new edition of Gramophone is available in the UK shops now, but I don't have a copy yet (I was just browsing when I saw it)... so I can't tell you which particular volume! (and it's not yet available online). I'll let you know once I get into town again... >
Although the Gramophone website has not yet posted the Editor's Choices for the January 2006 issue, mdt.co.uk has listed them: http://www.mdt.co.uk/MDTSite/category/choice_Gram_Jan06/

The Gardiner disc in question is Vol. 10 from the Cantata Pilgrimage, a wonderful set indeed: http://www.mdt.co.uk/MDTSite/product/choice_Gram_Jan06/SDG110.htm

Gardiner's reading of the opening movement of "Ich elender Mensch, wer wird mich erlösen" (BWV 48) gives me goosebumps. It is that stunning!

 

More Gardiner issues announced

Randy Lane wrote (January 11, 2006):
Two more issues in the Gardiner cycle have been announced on the Monteverdi Productions website!
http://monteverdiproductions.co.uk/recordings/forthcoming.cfm

The next release is on January 16, featuring #155, 3, 13, 81, 14, & 26

Then there will also be a release on February 15th with # 22, 23, 127, 159, 182, 54, & 1.

I hope this means we'll start seeing them once a month from now on. That would be spectacular.

Drew wrote (January 11, 2006):
[To Randy Lane] This is a very exciting series. Vol. 10 is the Disc of the Month for the January 2006 issue of Gramophone: <http://www.mdt.co.uk/MDTSite/product/choice_Gram_Jan06/SDG110.htm>

As much as I am enjoying Suzuki's care and Koopman's effervescence with the cantatas, it is Gardiner series that is most winning my affection.

John Pike wrote (January 11, 2006):
[To Drew] I agree, Drew. I love Suzuki (and don't know the Koopman set) but Gardiner is my favourite so far.

Thanks to your e mail about the XMO (BWV 248) at Xmas, I got interested in the Gardiner DVD recording from the Herderkirche in Weimar, Xmas 1999. I saw some of this recording on TV at Xmas and bought the DVD (from ArtHaus Musik, region 0 coding), which includes 2 fascinating documentaries as well. I watched the first 2 cantatas last night and was most impressed....the visual impact alone,with that Cranach altarpiece in the background, is superb.

Drew wrote (January 11, 2006):
Gardiner's XO DVD (was: More Gardiner issues)

[To John Pike] This DVD set (which I bought back in October after it was re-released by ArtHaus) certainly made the Christmas season more joyful for me. It's wonderful to see the brass section plays those exuberant choruses / chorales (especially nos. 1, 54, 64).

It is always wonderful to see (as well as hear) performers play Bach. And, yes, the Weimar church adds a beautiful dimension.

Both documentaries are excellent, but I especially like the second, where JEG visits a small, historical church (sorry, can't recall the name) that Bach knew and which looks much now as it did in Bach's day (has not be refurbished, as the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, for instance). Bach complained that the organ loft there was small.

John Pike wrote (January 11, 2006):
[To Drew] Yes, Drew. The visit to that little church near Leipzig (Promuss, or something similar I think) was wonderful, and to hear that mid 16th century organ....fantast.

Uri Golomb wrote (January 11, 2006):
Thanks to Randy for the alert on forthcoming Gardiner releases.

I'm particuarly excited to learn that the disc containing #22, 23, 127 and 159. This is the only concert from the Pilgrimage which I actually attended -- you can read my report on it on: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Gardiner-Gen6.htm -- and I was very moved by it. So I'm looking forward to a chance to recapture the experience!

Martin Bendler wrote (January 12, 2006):
[To John Pike] The name of the village is Parthenstein / Pomßen. It is exactly 21.88km southeast of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. According to a routing planner you need 35min by car (perhaps a little bit longer if you walk it like Bach;-))

 

More Gardiner issues announced

Martin Bendler wrote (January 12, 2006):
New Baroque Festival with Gardiner

Some other news about Sir John Eliot Gardiner:

During his 2005 December´s cantata tour he founded the "Soli Deo Gloria"-Festival in Braunschweig / Germany. Every year in the next ten years (or more) high quality ensembles will perform baroque music in old churches in or around Braunschweig (close to Hannover in northern Germany). Every year the festival will be held at a different time in the church year. This year Gardiner/Monteverdi Choir/ the English baroque Soloists starts with Bach´s cantatas for Advent on 15th December in St.Martinuskirche in Braunschweig. One day later Cantus Cölln under Konrad Junghänel will perform the Monteverdi Vespers.

Look under www.soli-deo-gloria.info for more information and schedule for the next years.

 

Gardiner BWV 3

Randy Lane wrote (January 29, 2006):
I was excited when volume 19 of the Gardiner cycle arrived last week. I immediately listened to BWV 3 "Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid", one of my 10 favorites. I was impressed, though I think I still prefer Harnoncourt and Suzuki. The Bass aria "Empich Hollenangst und Pein" sung by Gerald Finley is typical of my one quibble with Gardiner's recordings. The quibble is that Finley (and many of the other solists), to my ears at least, sounds decidedly more Brittish than German. I've felt the same fro years about Hyperion's spectacular Schubert song edition. Do any of you others hear that too?

Benedikt Becnch wrote (October 28, 2006):
< The quibble is that Finley (and many of the other solists), to my ears at least, sounds decidedly more British than German. I've felt the same fro years about Hyperion's spectacular Schubert song edition. Do any of you others hear that too? >
I'm a german native speaker from Austria and I have this CD, too. I can reassure you that Finley's german is close to perfect. Perhaps it's his timbre that makes you doubt, but from the purely phonetic point of view to me it seems really lawless.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Pronunciation - Part 2 [General Topics]

Randy Lane wrote (January 30, 2006):
[To Benedikt Bensch] You're correct that it is more the timbre than anything phonetic. Try as he may, he still sounds British to my ear.

 

Another Gardiner question

Kirk McElhearn wrote (February 1, 2006):
Some time ago, I asked the general opinion of the Gardiner set - the answers were positive. However, as I'm about to start subscribing, I'm realizing that the set will be far from complete. I asked Monteverdi about the DG recordings, and they say it is not likely that they will be re-releasing them. It looks, from Aryeh's site, like there are a total of 12 DG CDs in the cantata series.

Looking on Amazon, they seem to be available, but they are not cheap... Does anyone have the DG recordings? Are they as good as / better than / worse than / the same as the sound quality of the SDG releases?

I'm kind of perplexed... I'd like to support Gardiner, but I'm not sure I want to buy a partial set of the cantatas. The subscription option is good, but if there's another 12 recordings I need to get from DG, then I'm not sure what I want to do...

Dorian Gray wrote (February 1, 2006):
[To Kirk McElhearn] I have the 12 DG Gardiner CD's. The engineering is not as impressive as the new SDG Cd's, but some of the recordings are older. There are some very interesting things about the recordings- some older soloists who don't appear on the new series, etc. I wouldn't be without them!

Kirk McElhearn wrote (February 1, 2006):
[To Dorian Gray] Yeah, for example, the Kozena recordings... I have the DVD of BWV 199 and a couple of others...

So I should look for them then?

Dorian Gray wrote (February 1, 2006):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Definitely try to get them. I spent a few weeks two summers ago trying to track them all down. Believe it or not, I found all but two in the record stores- I got those from Amazon.

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 1, 2006):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Only 4 of the 12 album in the DGG mini-series were recorded during the BCP: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Gardiner.htm
[C-8, [C-9], [C-11], [C-12] ("The Kozena")
These 4 albums would be released also by SDG, although, I believe, not in the short term.

All the albums released by SDG so far are excellent, and usually better than previous issues of the same cantatas by JEG (BWV 51, BWV 121).AFAIK, the BCP series on SDG is planned for 53 CD's. Regular sacred cantata series are 60 CD's (Rilling, H&L, Leusink). I do not know what if and would be left. Sincerely, I do not care, since I am grateful for what I have seen and heard so far. An extraordinary achievement!

Kirk McElhearn wrote (February 1, 2006):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Only 4 of the 12 album in the DGG mini-series were recorded during the BCP: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Gardiner.htm [C-8, [C-9], [C-11], [C-12] ("The Kozena") >
Ah, thanks! I didn't realize that. So the others are studio recordings?

< These 4 albums would be released also by SDG, although, I believe, not in the short term. >
They told me that they cannot guarantee anything... If there's only 4, though, then that's fine. (Though I'll have to get the Kozena!)

< All the albums released by SDG so far are excellent, and usually better than previous issues of the same cantatas by JEG (BWV 51, BWV 121). >
Ok.

< AFAIK, the BCP series on SDG is planned for 53 CD's. Regular sacred cantata series are 60 CD's (Rilling, H&L, Leusink). I do not know what if and would be left. Sincerely, I do not care, since I am grateful for what I have seen and heard so far. An extraordinary achievement! >
Yes, all the other series are 60 CDs. Could the Gardiner tempi be that much faster that he can stuff a couple of extra cantatas on some of the discs? Still, for a difference of 3 CDs (assuming that 53 leaves out the 4 DG), that's a fair amount of stuffing.

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 1, 2006):
[To Kirk McElhearn] I have all of the Gardiner DG/Archive discs. Some are from the Pilgrimage and some are not. The earlier recordings were made in the 90s in a studio and are very well engineered. I like live recordings myself, but if that was the majority opinion there would be more of them. In any case, the sound is very good all around. You might prefer the singers on the earlier studio recordings. I bought all of them used on Amazon or ebay and paid $10 maximum - often far less.

BTW: for whatever reason there are a huge number of Bach cantatas on sale at ebay presently. Most are in the "store" section as opposed to individual sellers. Dozens of volumes of Koopman all selling for around $32.00 - quite a break from list price. Many come from big online stores and thus you could get a break on shipping costs (about $8.00 per set individually) if you bought more than one.

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 2, 2006):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< Yes, all the other series are 60 CDs. Could the Gardiner tempi be that much faster that he can stuff a couple of extra cantatas on some of the discs? Still, for a difference of 3 CDs (assuming that 53 leaves out the 4 DG), that's a fair amount of stuffing. >
I'd be interested in knowing the answer to that too. I wonder if the technology of transfer hasn't improved. If I like a CD I archive it so I can have a copy for my car or my place in Minnesota. Some of my newest McCreesh albums won't copy simply because they're jammed to the gills with data and there's not a bite to spare for the slight amount of data added by the copying process. (This was true with one of the discs of the Epiphany Mass. Got me ticked so I copied the thing to the hard drive, changed the file format, eliminated the sermon and burned the disc with no harm done.) This isn't copy protection because the situation only impacts a very few CDs and when I do a data check on the discs they are totally full. Anyway, some of them run nearly 80 minutes. In the 90s not many CDs run much over an hour. Not sure whether that's economics or technology or both.

John Pike wrote (February 2, 2006):
[To Aryeh Oron] I agree with all the advice you have been given so far, Kirk. I am greatly enjoying the series as a subscriber and, at £7.50 a disc, including P+P, you can't go wrong.

I was also told by MP that they would not be re-releasing the DG recordings abut I think at least one of the cantatas released on DG has already reappeared on SDG.

It would be worth tracking down the other DG recordings. Caiman USA, through Amazon, is often very cheap and usually provide a good service.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (February 2, 2006):
[To John Pike] Yeah, I've bought a fair amount of discs from them, since they are usually about 1/2 the Amazon FR price. They have the 4 live Gardiner CDs for EUR 9 each, plus shipping. Ordering today. :-)

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 2, 2006):
John Pike wrote:
"I was also told by MP that they would not be re-releasing the DG recordings, but I think at least one of the cantatas released on DG has already reappeared on SDG".
The only cantata so far included in both DGG mini-series and SDG series is BWV 121. However, these are two different recordings, and the DGG issue is not from the BCP. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV121.htm [4] & [7]

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 2, 2006):
[To John Pike] I in no way discourage collecting the new Gardiner cycle. I have a few of the DG CDs and more older ones and am a great fan of Gardiner. I'm sure you won't be disappointed. I would, however, direct attention to two older recordings. The first by Erato was one of Gardiner's first: it includes Motets BWV 225-231 and Cantatas BWV 50 and BWV 118. Recording date is 1982: early enough that the vocal soloists aren't listed in a large and informative booklet describing the works. It's lovely stuff coming from JEG's early period. The other is the BWV 140/BWV 147 pairing with Ruth Holton singing soprano. Ruth Holton has/had a distinctive voice and it will never be better than employed by Gardiner in 1990. Worthy recordings in any case.

Robin Kinross wrote (February 2, 2006):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
<< These 4 albums would be released also by SDG, although, I believe, not in the short term. >>
< They told me that they cannot guarantee anything... If there's only 4, though, then that's fine. (Though I'll have to get the Kozena!) >
If you, and the rest of us, buy the SDG series, then it will continue. If we don't buy what they have put out so far, then the series will stop short. Buy direct from the Monteverdi office, and definitely not from Amazon.

If you like the JEG approach, then you will want the series, which is very much designed to be a series: the format, the Gardiner diary, the pieces written by the musicians themselves, the photos of the venues (sometimes taken by one or other of the musicians). The Suzuki and Koopman sets are conventional and dull by comparison.

Craig Chase wrote (February 2, 2006):
[To Robin Kinross] You are so right about getting the series direct from Monteverdi. I just subscribed to the service. They will ship them as they are released and the cost is substantially less than on Amazon. They don't charge for shipping (even outside UK) so this makes it a great deal for the budget minded.

I would think that getting them direct from the source is a strong vote of confidence for the Monteverdi group to continue producing this excellent series.

John Pike wrote (February 2, 2006):
[To Robin Kinross] Well said. Support the musicians and buy direct from Monteverdi. They are a not-for-profit company, and all income goes direct to the work of the MC/EBS.

I'm afraid I could never use the word "dull" about the Suzuki set, but I do think the Gardiner set is in a different league in several ways...production, live recording etc.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (February 1, 2006):
[To John Pike] Yeah, I don't find the Suzukis to be dull - "smooth" would be a better word. I think the Gardiners that I've heard have a bit more "oomph", to use a technical term. :-)

Robin Kinross wrote (February 2, 2006):
[To John Pike] Actually with "dull" I meant to refer to just the notes and packaging of the Suzuki CDs and, even more, the Koopman set. By contrast, the nice content of the SDG CD booklets shows just what you can do when you don't have the dead hand of a corporate boss hovering over you. Good luck that they escaped from DG and were brave enough to do it themselves (S*d off DG!).

Lack of oomph in Suzuki's recordings, is a good way of putting it. Though sometimes the rather military, almost shouting style in which the Monteverdi choir sings opening numbers makes me want less oomph there.

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 3, 2006):
[To Robin Kinross] Unless I'm missing something you won't be able to buy new copies of the SDG series on Amazon. If they appear, it will be because Gardiner changed his business model and wants them there. I'm a great JEG fan and own dozens of his CDs from baroque to early romantic. (Almost all of which I bought used on heavily discounted.) The ORR is a terrific band and we all have to wish him good fortune too. That said, Suzuki and Koopman have their own approach (if you'd rather have a female alto than a counter tenor, one might very well prefer Koopman) and I consider their respective cycles wonderful also. Whether there's room for four cantata cycles (counting the Montreal group's new effort) I don't know. It may be a good sign that some very sharp people in the business think so.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (February 3, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< Unless I'm missing something you won't be able to buy new copies of the SDG series on Amazon. If they appear, it will be because Gardiner changed his business model and wants them there. >
They are all available from Amazon FR, and each volume has been since the initial release...

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 3, 2006):
[To Kirk McElhearn] I stand corrected: after searching SDG they do appear on Amazon. But they wouldn't be there if Gardiner didn't want them there. By all means subscribe, but I'd take it as a good sign, not a bad one, that Amazon carries the CDs. It's not free to process individual orders etc. The important thing, I'd guess, from JEG's point of view that people buy them period. At least a record company is not getting a cut. But subscribe by all means - SDG may well make a bigger profit direct.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (February 3, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< I stand corrected: after searching SDG they do appear on Amazon. But they wouldn't be there if Gardiner didn't want them there. >
Um, being sarcastic here, but, yeah, that kind of makes sense. If he didn't want to sell them wholesale to distributors, he wouldn't. This said, he certainly gets more sales that way than directly.

< By all means subsc, but I'd take it as a good sign, not a bad one, that Amazon carries the CDs. It's not free to process individual orders etc. The important thing, I'd guess, from JEG's point of view that people buy them period. At least a record company is not getting a cut. But subscribe by all means - SDG may well make a bigger profit direct. >
That's not actually certain. They give a 25% discount and pay shipping; that might net them about the same as what they get from Amazon...

BTW, I got this by email from SDG:

< The latest news regarding the DG discs is that the same pieces shall be released on SDG. The only contentious issue is whether they will be the same recordings as the DG discs or whether they will be alternative recordings. >
So, since I just ordered the four DG discs that have the pilgrimage recordings, I'll get them all (when I subscribe to the series with SDG, which I'll be doing tomorrow probably...)

This said, it's kind of weird that they'd do new recordings of those cantatas - one thing that interests me in this series is the entire pilgrimage ethos, so new recordings would be quite different.

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 4, 2006):
[To Kirk McElhearn] I'm not a recording engineer but when JEG talks about "alternative" recordings I'm not sure he means "new." Gardiner was one of DG's big stars and I'm sure he got the full treatment technically. There must have been multiple recordings made of the same performance which would allow the engineers to chose from multiple sources to get the right acoustic mix. Obviously this raw material must be in Gardiner's hands or there'd presumably be no SDG, that is unless DG is the rare kind of company that wants extra competition for a shrinking market, especially competition from one of the most famous conductors & ensembles in the world. I wonder if JEG isn't referring to making some kind of deal so SDG could get hold of the same mix created for DG (wonder by whose engineers?), saving SDG resources and giving DG some kind of check. Would be interesting to know the details of the split - bet there were some ugly moments.

But maybe I'm wrong. So what? If Gardiner decided to journey to the same or different churches to complete the cycle, I doubt he'd have any trouble selling tickets. There'd probably be Bach junkies world wide making a pilgrimage to the pilgrimage. St. Mary's Cathedral in SFrancisco is supposed to have fine acoustics: wonder if he'd consider it? <G>

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 4, 2006):
Gardiner / Philip Pullman interview

A note to Gardiner junkies who might have missed this on the SDG web site: http://www.monteverdiproductions.co.uk/. There's a 30 minute BBC4 joint interview with Gardiner and his friend author Philip Pullman. (Pullman is best known for the "His Dark Materials" trilogy - something like Narnia or Lord of the Rings if written by an atheist.) Anyway, the talk concerns general issues of artistic creation. Bach comes up very often and JEG expresses interesting opinions on the subject - as always. I think the entire cantata cycle will be a bit rich for my pocketbook, but I'll be first in line when Gardiner's book on Bach comes out.

BWV 846-893 wrote (February 4, 2006):
Recording Gardiner's Pilgrimage [was: Another Gardiner question]

Eric Bergerud wrote:
< Gardiner was one of DG's big stars and I'm sure he got the full treatment technically. >
In a way, he still is. He still records for Philips, which is under the same "Universal" corporate umbrella as DG.

< There must have been multiple recordings made of the same performance which would allow the engineers to chose from multiple sources to get the right acoustic mix. >
Yes. He indicates this in the introduction note to the Pilgrimage recording series (which appears in each volume):

"The recordings which make up this series were a corollary of the concerts, not their raison d'etre. They are a faithful document of the pilgrimage, though never intended to be a definitive stylistic or musicological statement. Each of the concerts which were recorded was preceded by a 'take' of the final reheasal in the empty church as a safety net against outside noise, loud coughs, accidents or meteorological disturbance during the performance. But the music on these recordings is very much 'live' in the sense that it is a true reflection of what happened on the night, of how the performers reacted to the music (often brand new to them), and of how the church locations and the audiences affected our response."

Kirk McElhearn wrote (February 4, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< I'm not a recording engineer but when JEG talks about "alternative" recordings I'm not sure he means "new." Gardiner was one of DG's big stars and I'm sure he got the full treatment technically. There must have been multiple recordings made of the same performance which would allow the engineers to chose from multiple sources to get the right acoustic mix. >
No, that's not how recordings work. In any case, the engineers were working for DG, so even if they had multiple mics, all the tapes belong to them. And the issue in question is one of rights for existing published recordings, not ones that were not published.

< Obviously this raw material must be in Gardiner's hands or there'd presumably be no SDG, that is unless DG is the rare kind of company that wants extra competition for a shrinking market, especially competition from one of the most famous conductors & ensembles in the world. I wonder if JEG isn't referring to making some kind of deal so SDG could get hold of the same mix created for DG (wonder by whose engineers?), saving SDG resources and giving DG some kind of check. Would be interesting to know the details of the split - bet there were some ugly moments. >
That's possible. For those that weren't release, JEG probably had a clause in his contract that allowed him to acquire the recordings. For those released, that doesn't happen easily.

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 5, 2006):
[To Kirk McElhearn] My son has participated in several recordings and his compadre is a recording engineer. They tell me that "alternative" is a specific term referring to an entirely different recording of the work done at a different time. I guess this would imply Gardiner would use either the performance with or without audience - the opposite of what appeared on the DG release. However, if one chose, it would indeed be possible to make a very different recording by remixing the tracks recorded by individual microphones. One could, in theory, remove the violins (or more likely the boys). Or completely reshape imaging. Who knows what else - there's a lot going on in that field presently I've been told. As for the legal issues, I haven't a clue.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (February 5, 2006):
[To Eric Bergerud] Well, in classical music - at least in live recordings - that's not exactly true. There's no mic that picks up just, say, the violins - it picks up the violins and the surrounding instruments. Actually, with classical recordings - again, at least for live ones - they generally just use two mics. Makes it a lot easier to get a balanced mix.

 

Continue on Part 11

John Eliot Gardiner: Short Biography | Monteverdi Choir | English Baroque Soloists
Recordings of Vocal Works:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Videos | Recordings of Instrumental Works
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Newsletters
Cantatas:
Cantatas BWV 106, 118b, 198 | Cantatas BWV 140, 147 | Cantatas BWV 11, 37, 43, 128 | Cantatas BWV 6, 66 | Cantatas BWV 72, 73, 111, 156 | Cantatas BWV 82, 83, 125, 200
Bach Cantata Pilgrimage:
BCP - Vols 1&8 | BCP - Vol. 6 | BCP - Vol. 9 | BCP - Vol. 13 | BCP - Vol. 14 | BCP - Vol. 15 | BCP - Vol. 21 | BCP - Vol. 22 | BCP - Vol. 23 | BCP - Vol. 24 | BCP - Vol. 26 | Bach Cantata Pilgrimage DVD | DVD John Eliot Gardiner in Rehearsal
Other Vocal Works:
BWV 232 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 244 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 245 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 248 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 1127 - J.E. Gardiner
Table of recordings by BWV Number

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