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Ton Koopman & Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir

Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works

General Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Ton Koopman and what should I add

Sweep Picker 2003 (Chas) wrote (August 6, 2003):
First time posting. I would like to know what are the works that any Bach Fanatic would not be caught without. Also, I would love to get into the Cantatas and Motets. Would Ton Koopman's series be a great way to start listening or who would you recommend? Please add to my list of what I currently have.

Thanks,

Choral and Vocal Music:
Mass in B Minor

Organ Music:
BWV 595 - Organ Concerto in C
BWV 593 - Organ Concerto in A minor
BWV 538 - Dorian Toccata and Fugue in D minor
BWV 542 - Fantasia and Fugue in G minor
BWV 565 - Toccata and Fugue in D minor

Keyboard Music:
English Suites
French Suites
Goldberg Variations
Italian Concerto
Partitas
Well-Tempered Clavier 1 and 2

Chamber Music:
Sonatas and Partitas for solo Violin
Six Cello Suites

Orchestral Music:
Brandenburg Concerto
Orchestral Suites

Concertos:
Three Violin Concertos

Monte Garrett wrote (August 6, 2003):
[To Chas] In the Choral and Vocal Music category, I would hasten to add both the St. Matthew and St. John Passions, as well as the Magnificat in D.

Bob Henderson wrote (August 6, 2003):
[To Chas] Its not really a matter of a clear first choice. Other factors are involved (such as price and availability).

If you want alot quickly and cheaply the Leusink and many of the Rilling cantatas are available at discount. This might also be true for certain Koopman recordings.

My choice for the new collector of the cantata cycle (given you are willing to pay full price) is that of Maasaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan. He has recorded about 40% of the existing cycle and issues new recordings at about four each year. Inspired work close to the heart of Bach. If you have the means do both. You can't have enough of this music.

Barry Murray wrote (August 6, 2003):
[To Chas] May I add a couple of suggestions.

I've not heard any of the Koopman cantata recordings, so can't offer you a comparison. I agree with the suggestion of the Suzuki cycle - very fine recordings. Another alternative is Herreweghe. I have about a dozen of his Bach discs and would highly recommend them. They are mostly on the Harmonia Mundi label, although there is a 4 CD set of cantatas and masses (BWV 233-236) on Virgin. These should all be fairly easy to find. In the vocal field, you might also like the Christmas Oratorio BWV 248. I have the Suzuki recording on Bis, which is very good. You will find extensive material on other recordings on the Bach Cantatas website.

In the field of chamber music, the sonatas for violin and harpsichord are fine works. There's a good recording of these on Naxos with Lucy Van Dael and Bob Van Asperen.

I'm sure you'll find many hours of happy listening.

Robert Sherman wrote (August 6, 2003):
[To Bob Henderson] With all due respect to Bob H., I would try Suzuki in a small dose or two to see if this is what you want before committing the big bucks there. On that I offer two thoughts:

1) Not having ever had the privilege of listening to JSB perform, nor of discussing music with him, I can't claim to know what is close to his heart. I do know what is close to mine, and that is more likely to be found with Richter or Rilling or occasionally Gardiner.

2) I have rarely found a performance of a major work that is great from beginning to end. I have never found ANY conductor to turn in consistently great performances to the extent that I would buy his next recording unheard, and be confident it would be outstanding. Ergo, I strongly recommend, by whatever means you can find, that you audition a specific recording before you buy it -- particularly if it's full price.

Chas (Sweep Picker 2003) wrote (August 17, 2003):
Thank You all for contributing to my list. Unfortunately, money plays a role on how I would collect Bach's Cantata. I have chosen to purchase the Suzuki recordings for the simple fact that they seem readily accessible compared to others complete Cantata recordings. At this time, there are 22 volumes recorded by Suzuki. I plan to purchase a volume per month. Today I purchased Volume One and I am already in my own world hearing "Christ lag in Todesbanden" (BWV 4).

There is nothing like hearing that passionate German heartfelt angst.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 17, 2003):
[To Chas] I agree. The problem is that NONE of the people in the recording ARE GERMAN. They are DUTCH. If you want a good GERMAN recording, here are some Esembles and/or conductors I would recommend: Karl Richter and the Bach-Orchester and Bach-Chor München, Helmuth Rilling and the Stuttgarter Bachcollegium and Gaechinger Kantorei, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Thomanerchor Leipzig (under any conductor From Karl Straube to Guenther Ramin to Kurt Thomas to the Mauersbergers to Hans-Joachim Rotzsch to those of today (including the current recording on the Web Page of the Matthaeuspassion conducted by Heinz Henning and using 2 Berlin Early Music ensembles and the Knabenchor Hannover) and the Virtuosi Saxoniae under Ludwig Güttler and the Neue Bachcollegium Leipzig under Max Pommer. Of the ones listed above, I would probably recommend either Pommer, Güttler, the ones of the Gewandhausorchester and Thomanerchor Leipzig, Straube, and Richter because of the connection to Bach and Leipzig in particular (these would be more embued with and keep with the Leipzig Bach interpretation tradition stemming to Bach himself). The reason I add Richter in there was that he received (for the most part) all of his training at the Thomaskirche and/or under people that had been or were at the time Thomaskantoren or associated in one way or the other with the Thomaskirche zu Leipzig.

René de Cocq wrote (August 20, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] What's wrong with being Dutch?!...

David Glenn Lebut JR. wrote (August 21, 2003):
[To René de Cocq] Nothing wrong with being Dutch. My point was more in respect to them being out of the "tradition" loop, as I think MANY ensembles that perform Bach works are. Not that their interpretations aren't good, but for those (like me) who REALLY seek more "close to home" interpretations, one should go to the source, so to speak. For me, that means in this case German performers and more specifically those with a connection to Leipzig. The problem with Dutch (or English for that matter) is that there is too strong a French influence. i would have the same problem with Germans trying to sing English works.

Johan van Veen wrote (August 21, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] I am very sensitive myself in regard to pronunciation and knowledge of the language and the culture of which that language is an expression. But to simply say that only Germans - in particular those from Leipzig - know how to perform Bach is a little shortsighted.

I generally don't like English performers in Bach, but: the proof of the pudding is in the eating. It is always possible there are exceptions. One that comes to my mind is the English tenor Charles Daniels, whom I heard as Evangelist in Bach's St Matthew Passion (BWV 244). He gave a brilliant performance, in perfect German. I think he is also very good in Schütz' Weihnachtshistorie (the recording by the Gabrieli Consort & Players).

In general I would say that Dutch singers who specialise in singing baroque music are pretty good in German. I have never heard any complaint about the German of the likes of Max van Egmond or Harry van der Kamp. In fact I believe that many musicians in the early music scene in the Netherlands are much more at home in German music than most other kinds of music. I can't understand why you see any French influence here. In fact, the figureheads of the Dutch early music scene - Leonhardt, Bijlsma, Brüggen, Van Egmond, Van der Kamp and many more - have perhaps performed less French music than Italian, German or English music.
And I could mention some German performers - even scalled 'HIP' performers - who are far less convincing in Bach than the best of the Dutch.

To prevent any misunderstanding: I am not biased. I am pretty critical about the Dutch recording of Bach's cantatas by Leusink et al. I just would like to contradict opinions which don't have any basis in the facts, IMO.

Arjen van Gijssell wrote (August 21, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Can't understand a word from what you're saying. The Dutch language is very close to the German language, i.e. we're part of the same language family. French is part of another European language group. The Dutch are on average good performers of German music, also because they have a longstanding tradition on performaning Bach. German conductors praise our pronunciation, and there is almost always somebody in the choir who knows how to pronounce eventual difficult things, being a native speaker or close to someone who is; that happens when you're neigbour country of Germany. The Dutch SMP tradition is very old and lively, I dare to say more than in Germany itself.

So nothing French about us, especially not in pronunciation!

I gather that you're from the States? We have a joke that Americans believe that Holland is the capital city of Kopenhaguen. Honni soit qui mal y pense.

Valter Lellis Siqueira wrote (August 22, 2003):
[To Arjen van Gijssell] If some people object Dutch people doing German music, what are they going to say about the Bach produced by the Japanese nowadays (which I personally find fantastic)? They should also hear our performances of Bach and other European composers in São Paulo and other Brazilian cities. Lots of European conductors have praised them. Although the Portuguese language is miles away from German we do sing idiomatically in it and in other languages! Finally, I'd like to say that I do enjoy Ton Koopman's performances of Bach's Cantatas and other works. And, by the way, he uses the lute, which in N. Harnoncourt's books is mentioned as an obligatory part of the basso continuo in Baroque music since it was used in those days.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 22, 2003):
[To Johan van Veen] You missed my point. My point was that (at least for me) if one wants to find AUTHENTIC, AUTHORITATIVE performances of a work, one should go straight to the source. I have VERY GREAT misgivings about Rilling's, Klemperer's, and other conductors' (EVEN GERMAN) insterpretations of Bach because they are REMOVED from the Leipzig connection. That is why I DO like Richter (even though his recordings were with Muenchen ensembles), because he received his training primarily in Leipzig. I like Rilling's use of Harpsichord in the Continuo, but I would NOT recommend ANY of his recordings (with the above-mentioned exception). If one is to REALLY get a sense of what Bach is about, one should look for recordings of his works by ensembles and/or performers associated in one way or another with Leipzig or any place that Bach worked at. Since none of his progeny are alive, that is the next best thing we have to go by.

As to the other part, again not to offend people, but there IS a lot of the French intonation in the Dutch voice (as in the English). The purity of the German word is (I feel) corrupted by the impurity of the voicing. The same could be said if someone was trying to play a Bach organ piece on a period instrument. The impurity of modern voicing on an organ (I find) takes away to some degree from the emotional expression of the work. At the same time, to ALWAYS play Bach's organ works on Silbermann organs is NOT well either. Bach ONLY came to support the Silbermann IN THE 1730s-1750. He NEVER EVEN HEARD ONE BEFORE THEN. He held a LIFE-LONG support for the organ builders of Hamburg and Luebeck, yet NO ONE has EVER recorded on one of THEIR instruments (i.e., a Schnitger organ, etc.). The closest I have ever heard of was Diane Bish's program in the Haarlem Bavokerk on the Mueller organ. Also NO ONE has ever recorded ANY Bach organ work on the organ at the Georgenkirche zu Eisenach or (with a VERY few possible exceptions) ANYWHERE ELSE Bach worked in, grew up in, or studied in. But this is all beside the point. Suffice it to say that I have NO OBJECTIONS TO Dutch performers as performers and people, but the purity (German is a PURE language, especially in the region of Eastern Germany [the region of Bach and Luther and possibly my ancestors]) is not there. Hochdeutsch is a very fluid, pure, expressive language, and when you introduce other elements into it (such as idiomatic issues, phonetic issues, etc.), the expressiveness of the language and the meaning of the words is hampered. In fact, if one was to try a literal translation of Bach's words into Dutch or even English, it is NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE, since the language has changed since the words were written, and the version used (a more poetic version) is more difficult to translate literally.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 22, 2003):
[To Arjen van Gijssell] It is PART OF the Germanic Family, but (like English) it is NOT pure. If one looks at the history of the Dutch language and culture, one would see that the Spaniards and French have also penetrated into it. The Belgians ARE NOT THE ONLY PART OF THE NETHERLANDS to have had French-German mingling. The whole of Brabant has had a LONG history of French AND German intermixing, as much as English and German intermixing. I think it is interesting that, after all, the Dutch word for Church (Kerk) and the Gaelic word for Church (Kirk) ARE THE SAME except for 1 letter. The Eastern regions of Germany, however, except for a VERY FEW instances of Slavic invasion (all of which were repulsed with not much instances of intermingling) are more pure in language and vocalization. Take, for instance, the vocalization of the letters. In German the long "A" sound is written thus: e or ae. In Dutch, it is written thus: ee. In German, the "oy" sound is written thus: eu or aeu. In Dutch, it is written thus: uy or oe. In German, the "u" sound is written thus: ue or u or oe. In Dutch, it is written thus: oo. The ONLY case I know of where German and Dutch agree is in the word Haar or Staat (and this I think in order to differentiate words,especially in the case of Staat "state" and Stadt "City"). The unyielding duplication of vowels (or vowel-consonant pairs such as in Rembrandt's last name: van Rijn) is NOT present in PURE German (with the above-mentioned exception). If one wanted to find a PURELY Germanic language, one needs go to either Eastern German or Scandinavia (especially Denmark, Iceland, or Norway). These were areas NOT affected by the Romans OR other invaders. That is why I did NOT include most of Western and all of Southern Germany. The ONLY impact Latin had on the above-mentioned region is in music and in the "ae" sound. That (I believe) is why when Martin Luther looked for a language to use for his translation of the Bible he used the Hochdeutsch language he was reared in.

Another point is that if one listens closely to the performance, one could tell that it is NOT their native tongue. English performances have the same problem. Here is a case in point: I have a recording of the Markuspassion formerly believed to be written by Reinhard Keiser but now believed to be written by Nikolaus Bruhns' brother, Friedrich Nikolaus Bruhns. It was recorded (I don't know the name of the ensembles) in Switzerland by Swiss ensembles. One could tell that it was not performed by German ensembles because the inflection, the vocalization, and the sound in general was NOT like a German sound. It sounded like the singers were singing through their noses, especially the one that sang the role of Jesus. There was a very nasal tone in his singing. The same case when English-speaking ensembles perform Bach's works. And (I feel) the same could be said about Koopman's performance of BWV 247 and BWV 248 (at least - I haven't heard his recordings of the other Vocal works of Bach).

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 22, 2003):
[To Valter Lellis Siqueira] Generally, it is a matter of taste. To me, though, I find that if one is looking for AUTHORITATIVE, AUTHENTIC performances (wch are the main things nowadays) one should look North of the Alps and East of the Rhine. That is why I mentioned the fact that for the above-mentioned types of performances one should look to German ensembles. I also mentioned NOT ALL German ensembles and/or performers, but those with one or another connection with Leipzig. After all that is where Bach spent a bulk of his life (1723-1750), that is where he tuaght MOST of his students, that is where the MAJORITY of his Vocal works were written, that is where the MAJORITY of Bach Scholarship has been seated since his move there, that is from whence the "Bach tradition" originated (initially by his sons and students).

Neil Halliday wrote (August 22, 2003):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote: "I like Rilling's use of Harpsichord in the Continuo, but I would NOT recommend ANY of his recordings..."
I understand you are addressing issues of 'authority' and 'authenticity' in your post; however, as one who often immensely enjoys Bach's music played on modern instruments (without the idiosynchracies that sometimes beset 'authentic' performances), I think it needs to be said that the Rilling cantata cycle - the only complete cycle on (mostly) modern instruments - is invaluable, at least in my estimation.

Johan van Veen wrote (August 22, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] To me there seems to be no evidence whatsoever that performers from the Leipzig area - or having received their musical education there - are better suited to perform Bach than others. I really don't see what exactly you are looking for.

Yes, I know that Germans around Leipzig have a particular accent - is that what you are looking for? Should Bach's texts be pronounced that way and should Schubert's Lieder be pronounced with a Viennese accent?

If that is the case, then the question is what Leipzig German did sound like in Bach's time. And would every singer speak - or even be able to speak - German that way? As far as the trebles is concerned: probably yes, since most of them will have come from the same region. But the adults? Possible, but unlikely. They came from everywhere - some of Bach's pupils were singing in the Thomaskirche, but if they have come to Leipzig in their late teens it seems rather unlikely that they will have picked up the Leipzig accent.

But maybe this is not what you mean. But I ca't figure out what special Leipzig aspect you are looking for. You have to be a little more specific. You write at length about the similarities and dissimilarities between German and Dutch - which are partly incorrect or meaningless - without proving that these things have a negative influence on the way Bach's music is performed.

And coming from the same region as the composer generally doesn't guarantee for an "authentic" performance. Rinaldo Alessandrini once told that when he started his group Concerto Italiano he had to teach his Italian singers to speak proper Italian before performing Monteverdi.

You seem to forget that history can change things. There have been organists in the 19th century who claimed to know exactly how to perform Bach's organ music, because they were the pupil of a pupil of a pupil of Bach. Now we know that there is no such a thing as an 'unbroken tradition'. These organists were way off the mark as far as the interpretation of Bach's music is concerned.

Your claim has yet to be proven.

Arjen van Gijssell wrote (August 22, 2003):
[To Johan van Veen] I even find David's reasoning somewhat disturbing. Talking about "pure" German, proclaiming that only people from Leipzig can really get closest to Bach, sounds like the "Blut und Bodem" theory which I thought we've got past.

Bob Henderson wrote (August 22, 2003):
There is a demand for reduction in David's argument which can never be satisfied. Even if his theory be admitted. What I seek is a certain purity of spirit, not purity of place, language or nation. Last spring I attended a concert in Boston in which the SMP was presented by a Japanese ensemble in a Catholic church. The soloists were Dutch, English and German and Japanese. May we all experience again and again such authenticity of spirit!

Uri Golomb wrote (August 23, 2003):
Tradition

< David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote: You missed my point. My point was that (at least for me) if one wants to find AUTHENTIC, AUTHORITATIVE performances of a work, one should go straight to the source. I have VERY GREAT misgivings about Rilling's, Klemperer's, and other conductors' (EVEN GERMAN) insterpretations of Bach because they are REMOVED from the Leipzig connection. That is why I DO like Richter (even though his recordings were with Muenchen ensembles), because he received his training primarily in Leipzig. >
Adding to Johan's already-expressed reservations about this claim, I would say that two things need to be proven in order for this claim to stand:
1. In general, you have to prove that a continuous tradition generally leads to the preservation of performative style. This contention becomes less and less likely as time goes by. Even if you have a continuous tradition of performance going straight from the composer in an unbroken lineage to the present day (the composer taught x, who taught y, etc.), that doesn't mean that the great-great-great-grand-pupils of the Master will be any closer to him than people from other traditions. After 200 years, with each generation introducing changes, an unbroken lineage guarantees nothing. It's just as possible that someone who has no biographical connection with the composer, but who has studied the historical sources in detail, will come up with a more authoritative performance than a great-great-grand-pupil who takes tradition on trust, assuming that his "direct link" absolves of the need to re-examine things.

2. In the case of Leipzig, you have to prove that there is an unbroken tradition. Does Leipzig's Bach tradition trace back to Bach, or to Mendelssohn? When Mendelssohn performed the St. Matthew Passion in Leipzig, it was the first performance of that work in Leipzig in over a century (someone please correct me if I'm wrong). I'll have to inquire this in greater detail, but AFAIK most (though not all) of Bach's vocal music was not performed in Leipzig after his death; and even if it was, it was not on a regular basis.

Coming back to the first point: I've listened to many recordings by Thomaskantors Günther Ramin, Kurt Thomas, Erhard Mauersberger (and his brother, the Dresden Kreuzkantor Rudolf Mauersberger -- another mentor of Karl Richter's), Hans-Joachim Rotzsch and Georg Christoph Biller. They do not represent a single style. Rotzsch sang, as a tenor, under his three predecessors; yet in many of his recordings he departs quite radically from the traditions he acuiqred from them (insofar as they resembled each other). And Karl Richter also developed his own approach, quite different in several important respects from his mentors' (though there are also distinct similarities).

If Rotzsch was already very different from Mauersberger (his immediate predecessor), what makes you -- or anyone -- think that Ramin's approach would bear a distinct similarity to Bach's, or even Mendelssohn's? If a significant change can occur within a decade, how many more changes can occur in a one, two or three centuries!

It's not entirely impossible that the Bach's instutitional successors have preserved something of his performance style; but I find it highly unlikely. If anyone claims that they have, the claim has to be proven. It cannot be taken on faith or trust; it is not a self-evident truth. Students do not always resemble their teachers and mentors; sometimes, indeed, they deliberately forge their own independent identity, almost making a point of sounding different from their teachers. People change themselves -- compare Rilling's 1970s recordings with his 1990s recordings. Or Harnoncourt's 1968 Mass and 1971 SMP with his 1986 Mass and 2000 SMP. And culture in general changes. All this should be kept in mind.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 23, 2003):
[To Johan van Veen] Because with Leipzig, the tradition starting with Bach has a practically unbroken chain all the down to today.

Johan van Veen wrote (August 23, 2003):
[David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Any evidence for that?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 23, 2003):
[To Johan van Veen] Bach-his pupils-their pupils-etc. There is a LONG, UNINTERRUPTED chain there. And I am not just talking of Thomaskantors, either. Organists as well have the same situation. And besides, the ones that DID leave Leipzig brought the Leipzig traditions with them (i.e., the students [such as K.P.E. Bach and Kirnberger] that went to Berlin or to Hamburg) and their students in turn took their ideas all over the world (for instance, one of Emmanuel Bach's students [I don't remember his EXACT name] was the teacher of Franck and later of Widor). So it all goes back to Leipzig and covers MANY generations.


Koopman News

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 21, 2004):
I was informed that Ton Koopman finished recording his Bach Cantata Cycle last October. After the abandoning of this important project by Warner about two years ago, and the time it took Koopman to launch his own label Antoine Marchand, I have been expecting that it will take some more years to complete recording the cantata cycle. Anyhow, now it is finished and we have to wait only for the release of the albums. The series will include 22 albums, 14 of them have already been released. The first 12, which were originally issued by Erato/Warner, are reissued by Antoine Marchand. The remaining albums are issued by the new label. The next album - Vol. 15, planned for release next month, includes 12 cantatas. New vocal soloists have joined the roster, including the sopranos Sandrine Piau & Johannette Zomer and the tenor James Gilchrist. The details of the album can be seen at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Koopman-Rec2.htm

Lex Schelvis wrote (February 22, 2004):
[To Aryeh Oron] I went to a Bach Cantata Concert by Koopman yesterday (BWV 97, BWV 140 and BWV 30, beautifull, especially 140) and there I saw volume 15. So in Holland it's available already.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (February 22, 2004):
[To Lex Schelvis] And vol.15 is also available for purchase online on Antoine Marchand website!


Ton Koopman Complete Cantatas Vol. 15

Francine Renee Hall wrote (March 21, 2004):
I find it interesting that the 'sage', Christoph Wolff talks about ripieno (tutti) choirs used in counterpoint to solo singers in Bach's Cantatas.


Koopman's volumes' performers

Juozas Rimas wrote (June 27, 2004):
Could you provide a direct link to one page at www.bach-cantatas.com with the performers of each of Koopman's cantatas volumes?

I've found several pages of this sort, eg: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Koopman-Vol1.htm but I can't find a summarizing page.

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 27, 2004):
[To Juozas Rimas] The following pages list all the recordings of Bach's Vocal Works by Ton Koopman:
Cantatas Vols. 1-12: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Koopman.htm
Cantatas Vols. 13-15: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Koopman.htm
Other recordings of Bach Cantatas:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Koopman-Rec3.htm
Bach's Other Vocal Works:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Koopman-Rec4.htm

If you press on the link of the Cantata BWV, you will get the page of the Cantata.
This page includes all the recordings of the Cantata, among which you will find also the Koopman's recording (including the specific singers).
If you press on the link of the singer's name, you will get the page of his/her biography.
This page includes a list of all the recordings of Bach's vocal works by the singer, sorted by conductor/BWV.
In the list of recordings at biography page, if you press on the link of the Conductor, you will get the page of his recordings of Bach's vocal works.

Happy Browsing & Enjoy,


Volume 16 Koopman

Lex Schelvis wrote (July 9, 2004):
I just got the message that J.S. Bach: Cantatas volume 16 by Ton Koopman is available.

Lex Schelvis wrote (July 9, 2004):
I forgot to tell which cantatas are played on volume 16: BWV 82, 27, 16, 170, 102, 79, 49, 43, 39. Most of them are from 1726 and in that year Bach wrote a lot of cantatas that belong to my favourites.


Ton Koopman in Greece / Alte Musik group

Jason Marmaras wrote (November 9, 2004):
Last week I met Ton Koopman!

I attended his master class (though I didn't participate... $%#& !!!) and concert, in one of the best Saturdays of my life.

In the master class the participants were mostly incompetent (one extra reason for my distress for not going), and each participation got 15 minutes but Koopman was great in pointing out things such as Tactus, early 17th-century fingering, ornamentation and innovation (I mean change of expression in a repeated passage/idea etc.).

The concert I enjoyed very much; Koopman's fermatas, phrases and soloists (especially Klaus Mertens) were great; I was seated in the last line of seats, up on high, and so was robbed of some of the excitement... Oh well...

He performed the g-moll missa brevis, the cantata "Lobe den Herrn" and the Osteroratorium.

That's all for a short review of [what I saw of] Ton Koopman's visit in Athens...

I also told him that I write 'following the baroque style', and asked if he could have a look at some of my compositions, and he said he will and will write to me afterwards!!! There's a chance I might get a short (~two-month) scholarship for next year, from the embassy!!!

Oh I love early music!!! [=Ritornello]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Last week I managed to arrange the first meeting of ['my'] early music group! Mostly vocal, with two 'celli and the singers able to switch to [2] recorders and [1] violin. We are right now eight strong!
I also started playing Floetensonaten (specifically BWV 1034) on my recorder (so I am one of the singers who switches to recorder - though I usually play the continuo [on the piano, unfortunately])
ALSO (yeah, my vocabulary is quite monotonous) I sing ''Ombra mai fu'' and sound very sweet, my teacher says. She even clapped last time, for my F fermata (soave piu)!!! [I'm so excited!]

Any advice for the group is welcome - any advice on the application of Quantz's did'll on the recorder as well (that's a tough one, methinks).
[Ritornello]

God [*] bless you all!!! (even those who hate Koopman's Bach, though I love them!)

Iason Marmaras, 17-year-old student

[*] if such there be
PS: A blockfloete teacher that plays in a Renaissance group came to our school, and she'll bring some ren. instruments next lesson! [Ritornello]

Charles Francis wrote (November 10, 2004):
Jason Marmaras wrote: < Last week I met Ton Koopman!
I attended his master class (though I didn't participate... $%#& !!!) and concert, in one of the best Saturdays of my life. >
Some 15 years ago, I attended a lecture on J.S. Bach by Mr Koopman. Seems a really nice guy, speaking from a human perspective. Shame about the liberties he takes adding ornaments to Bach's music. Someone compared it to spraying graffiti on an old masterpiece...

Neil Halliday wrote (November 10, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: "Shame about the liberties he takes adding ornaments to Bach's music. Someone compared it to spraying graffiti on an old masterpiece..."
Still, I must say I was very impressed by a performance of his I heard on radio recently, of the "great" C minor organ Prelude and Fugue (BWV 546).

The performance was in the 'grand' style: large registration, moderate tempo, magnificent effect, on an 18th century Amsterdam organ (surprisingly, sounding as if tuned in E.T.).

-------------

For Jason, the Davib Zale site address: http://www.mymp3sonline.net/login.asp

You need broadband, (and patience, I'm not sure whether there is a problem with the server, or internet infrastructure here, or both).

Dale Gedcke wrote (November 10, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: "Some 15 years ago, I attended a lecture on J.S. Bach by Mr Koopman. Seems a really nice guy, speaking from a human perspective. Shame about the liberties he takes adding ornaments to Bach's music. Someone compared it to spraying graffiti on an old masterpiece... "
MY COMMENTS AND QUESTION ON ORNAMENTATION:

One of the conventions of the Baroque period of music was the expectation that the performer would add his own ornamentation to the music. However, J. S. Bach produced a guide to his ornamentation symbols that showed how he intended for them to be played.

See http://members.aol.com/kjvisbest/jsb_ornm.htm for more details.

My question to those on this list who have viewed a lot of the original J. S. Bach manuscripts is, "Did Bach rigidly specify the ornamentation he wanted, or did he often leave selection of the ornamentation to the performer?"

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 10, 2004):
[To Dale Gedcke] Here is a response to this question by someone who knew Bach and was there as a critical observer, Johann Adolph Scheibe. In a reference to Bach's composing and performance style, Scheibe details what Bach expected from his performers [May 14, 1737 - "Bach-Dokumente" Vol. II, item 400, p. 286, or "The New Bach Reader" Norton, 1998, p. 338]:
"Alle Manieren, alle kleine Auszierungen, und alles, was man unter der Methode zu spielen verstehet, druckt er [J. S. Bach] mit eigentlichen Noten aus....man bewundert an beyden die beschwerliche Arbeit und eine ausnehmende Mühe, die doch vergebens angewendet ist, weil sie wider die Natur streitet."
["All the ornamentation, all the tiny grace-notes/embellishments, and everything that you might normally consider the prerogative of the performing artist to decide 'on the fly,' he [Bach] expresses completely in notes....you can really admire the tremendous amount of work and the great effort that is expended, but these extra labors are really all in vain because they are fighting against nature (the natural, easier thing to do: have the composer forget indicating everything very specifically -- only notate the simple melody and allow the performers to rely on the prescribed 'methods' they have learned, methods which allow the performers to apply ornamentation as they see fit.)"]

It was out of the concern that most performers did not possess the same good taste in applying embellishments that Bach took the extra effort, wherever this was possible, to guide the performer of his compositions in applying the tasteful variants which he (Bach) would have used, rather than having the performers add too much (or even too little) to the music as written.

*an beyden = "on the part of both of them"

This was deliberately omitted from the translation because it tends to clutter up the thrust of the sentence and divert the attention of the reader from what is important. This phrase compares Bach as a composer, performer with a Baroque poet, Daniel Caspar von Lohenstein, a poet of the second Silesian school of poetry. The latter was soundly criticized by the Gottsched school of poetry which Scheibe represents. While von Lohenstein's poetry may not be of the highest caliber, Gottsched's own poetry rarely, if ever, is found in any collection of great German poetry spanning a few centuries or more. In a specialized collection of Baroque poetry, covering the 17th and 18th centuries up to about 1750, von Lohenstein is represented, but not Gottsched (but then he might be more properly categorized as belonging to the Enlightenment.)

Continue of this discussion, see: Bach and Ornamentation [General Topics]


New Koopman

Lex Schelvis wrote (May 17, 2005):
I just saw that volume 18 of the complete Bach-cantates by Koopman is available ow. The next cantatas are played: BWV 55 - 47 - 157 - 45 - 52 - 187 - 151 - 98 - 137 - 164 - 36.

Haven't heard anything yet.


Koopman cd sale at amazon over

Jeremy Vosburgh wrote (July 12, 2005):
Thanks again to whoever alerted us to the Amazon sale of Koopman cds.

I picked up 5 of them for about 14 dollars each. I never would have been able to afford them otherwise. A few days ago I noticed that the prices are back to the normal price of about 53 dollars each.

I have been a Bach cantatas collector of all things Suzuki (and usually only Suzuki except for any Bach recording that Cuenod or Van Kesteren have been a part of and the occasional cheap Gardiner cd) and unfortunately have had to decide to stop with vol.26 because of lack of funds. The Koopman will be my last splurge for a while.

First impressions and comparisons between Suzuki's series and Koopman:

My comparison of Suzuki to Koopman is that Suzuki has the better choir in general (those great clear basses!) although I do like Koopman's alto section. Soloists are definitely harder to gauge. Basses: (are there any alive today or are they all just baritones?) I know that most of you like dear old Klaus, but I, frankly find his voice anemic. He has great expression, but no heft to back it up with. He and Kooy are both rather like low tenors rather than real basses. Give me an Engen or a Pernerstorfer any day over those two. Its the "Voice of God" those guys are supposed to represent! Suzuki seems to have the edge with sopranos, at least technically. Altos are harder to gauge since Koopman uses Bogna so frequently while Suzuki almost always utilizes counter-tenors. Koopmans altos have been pretty good. Many have lambasted Stutzman, but I found her to be the best alto Koopman has used (BWV 35), granted I haven't heard her in the Gardiner performances. Bogna (yes I know its her first name but I like her first name!) is excellent. Her voice and expressivity scream of properly performed HIP .... except for the fact that she's a woman! But she sure does convince me. Wessel I found OK/good, Chance I haven't heard yet (in this Koopman series), Scholl strangely dissapointing. My favorite Suzuki altos are the big three for Suzuki: Mera, Tachikawa and Blaze. Each one has a distinctly different timbre (thin, transparent, silk resp.) and style (aloof, regal, human resp.). All three have small voices (Mera's is the smallest I've ever heard) but I don't mind that for the "Holy Spirit" type personifications they usually exemplify. The solo tenor award most surely must go to Koopman for no other reason than Pregardien. Sakurada has improved immeasurably in the Suzuki series and I love his timbre, and Turk is always "good" in all he does, but Pregardien is so much the superior in voice and interpretation. My eternal Bach tenor remains a toss-up between Cuenod and Van Kesteren. I need to listen to more Pregardien.

I do prefer Suzuki's conducting to Koopman's. I expecially appreciate the blurbs that Suzuki writes in each cd program describing the rational for certain performance practices as well as the problems encountered during the research stage and performance of each cantata. It helps the performance "come closer" to me while I'm listening. I do believe that both men have studied each cantata at length and so my preference of Suzuki is mostly personal as a preference of his interperative styles. I also prefer the slightly more reverent quality that I detect in Suzuki's performances.

Its been a joy listening to the Koopman and I'm glad I can finally now compare some of these wonderful cantatas to each other! Ultimately we listen to be inspired to better things whether if be worship or purely pleasure and encouragement. Suzuki has done all of this for me and, so far, the Koopman has as well.

Michael Telles wrote (July 13, 2005):
[To Jeremy Vosburgh] Thanks Jeremy:

I really enjoy reading others' comparisons of the different series as I've been on the Suzuki train myself, almost exclusively. I have a few discs of Rilling and Harnoncourt but have never had the pleasure of hearing Koopman. You point out some veinteresting things about his chorus; I imagine that preference for one series or another is a matter of taste rather than any scale of quality. Suzuki himself writes in one of his discs that he hopes his series brings a measure of "inner peace" to the listener, and I think that impulse is what I respond to; I've heard other listeners describe his music as refined and reserved to the point of emotional death, but I think Suzuki has a slightly different emotional drive than the others. The care and precision of the music -- not to mention the glowing sound quality -- I feel is in the service of that inner peace, at the expense of rounding out some dramatic edges. By contrast, Gardiner's new series (from others' descriptions) seems to emphasize some of the spontanaeity and edginess in some of the Cantatas at the expense of some imprecision.

I'm just really thankful that these series seem to be surviving the current market.

Leonardo Been wrote (July 13, 2005):
[To Jeremy Vosburgh] It's a pleasure to read your review.

Guido De Winne wrote (July 13, 2005):
[To Leonardo Been] I LOVE BACH



Continue on Part 5


Ton Koopman: Short Biography | Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir
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Last update: ýOctober 3, 2005 ý08:12:30