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Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works
General Discussions - Part 2

Günther Ramin

Ehud Shiloni wrote (July 29, 1998):
Continuing report on some interesting discoveries from my "raid" on HMV store in London:

I was pleasantly surprised to see a whole bunch of CD's from Berlin Classics with Cantatas recordings by legendary Gunther Ramin, about whom I learned from members of this list. Apparently these recordings have previously been released on the lable "Edel", possibly as LP's. I was apprehensive about quality so I decided to buy just one CD as a "trial" and I picked "sure fire" Cantatas BWV 131+BWV 106 + BWV 119.

The recordings took place in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig in 1952 (!) and 1953, and were actually used for radio broadcast. According to the notes Ramin seldom had the chance to rehearse with the members of the Gewandhaus orchestra before concerts at the Gewandhaus, and the performance at the Thomaskirche had to serve as the final rehearsal.

I was expecting the worst, but was positively surprised. The remastering engineers did a great job in eliminating almost all noise. True, a lot of the harmonics were eliminated as well and the performance had kind of a "muffled" sound (I am going out on a limb here with my un-learned terms, but I hope you'll get the idea...), but overall this was much better then unticipated and gave me lots of joy.

I am usually not a fan of boys choirs, but on this recording the boys did deliver a special, moving, naive kind of enthusiasm which did touch me. A touching point was also the list of soloists which stated simply: "Ein Thomaner, Sopran" ( "One of the Thomanerchor singers")...without stating the name...

The tenor on BWV 106 was Hans-Joachim Rotzch, later to become Thomas Cantor himself. "Looking" back almost 50 years by listening to this recording I somehow felt closer in time to the Master himself.

In summary, this obviously cannot be a first choice recording (many audible "glitches" in the tape ), but for "History" collectors it can be interesting. I, for one, am counting on adding more of Ramin's CD's to my shopping list.

And a word about CD cost: London stores are awfully expensive and not at all recommended for bargains. A full price CD runs 15.99 Pounds or more than $25. Even with a VAT refund for "foreigners" this is quite high, and only acceptable for people like me - business guys who has no time and must use their vacations for shopping wherever they have the chance. "Choosers cant be beggars"?. Anyway, the Ramin Cantatas cost only 9.99 Pounds each CD which is better.

Did anyone else on the list had a chance to sample these recordings?

Kari Lehtonen wrote (July 30, 1998):
Ehud Shiloni wrote:
< I was pleasantly surprised to see a whole bunch of CD's from Berlin Classics with Cantatas recordings by legendary Gunther Ramin, about whom I learned from members of this list. Apparently these recordings have previously been released on the lable "Edel", possibly as LP's. .(Snip)
In summary, this obviously cannot be a first choice recording (many audible "glitches" in the tape ), but for "History" collectors it can be interesting. I, for one, am counting on adding more of Ramin's CD's to my shopping list. >
It seems that there are 9 records in all. They contain cantatas BWV 12, BWV 24, 36, 41-43, 51, 57, 65, 67, 72, 73, 79, 92, 95, 103, 106, 111, 117, 119, 128, 131, 137, 138, 144, 177, 179.

I bought them all and they are indeed valuable, especially if you are interested in Thomanerchor and Bach cantata performance style immediately after the war. Recording is good for the soloists, acceptable for the chorus (good for its age) and somewhat congested for the orchestra.

< And a word about CD cost: London stores are awfully expensive and not at all recommended for bargains. A full price CD runs 15.99 Pounds or more than $25. Even with a VAT refund for "foreigners" this is quite high, and only acceptable for people like me - business guys who has no time and must use their vacations for shopping wherever they have the chance. "Choosers cant be beggars"?. Anyway, the Ramin Cantatas cost only 9.99 Pounds each CD which is better. >
For EU customers a good online CD-shop is jpc (http://www.jpc.de/). Ramin's Bach records cost DM 20 each or DM 100 for all 9 records.

 

Thomas Kantoren

Carl Burmeister wrote (November 16, 1999):
I recently received my copy of the "Uns ist ein Kind geboren"

CD I mentioned back on Oct. 28, namely
< "Uns ist ein Kind geboren" Kuhnau et al with the Capella Brugensis and Collegium Instrumentale Brugensis
Eufoda (Bel) - #1272 / October 26, 1999
Audio CD / DDD / Number of Discs: 1
ASIN: B0000296V1
Conductor: Patrick Peire >
The recording is clean but not I think entirely HIP. The reason I say this is that the group is tuned to slightly higher than a=440 (more like 443) and the strings don't have the darker tone one expects. Its nice though. An old freind in a new setting and while they take the closing chorale too fast (Its so brief anyway, couldn't we linger and savor a bit?) it still does those delightful hair raising and spine tingling sensations. The other selections wallow in various stages of Baroccoco-ness and aren't up to the standards of the Kuhnau (?).

I also got the JS, Zelenka and Kuhnau Magnificats by Suzuki and friends. I was prepared not to like the ensemble but was pleasantly suprised. Apart from some sloppiness in the winds (primarily in the Kuhnau) I liked the musicianship.

The shock was that the Kuhnau Magnificat IMHO could have been written by M.A. Charpentier. The liner notes say it was written for Thomas Kirche but the French influence would have made more sense in the political atnosphere of Dresden. Anyone know whats going on politically during that time in Leipzig that would explain the wanna-be-just-like-Louis? I'm having trouble imagining that "Uns is ein Kind" and the Magnificat are by the same composer.

My, haven't this lists member's been a quiet lot the last few? Who knows, maybe I've managed to really offend someone so the list can come alive again.

Simon Crouch wrote (November 16, 2000):
Carl Burmeister wrote:
< The shock was that the Kuhnau Magnificat IMHO could have been written by M.A. Charpentier. The liner notes say it was written for Thomas Kirche but the French influence would have made more sense in the political atnosphere of Dresden. Anyone know whats going on politically during that time in Leipzig that would explain the wanna-be-just-like-Louis? I'm having trouble imagining that "Uns is ein Kind" and the Magnificat are by the same composer. >
A fine reference for what was going on in Leipzig at (roughly) this time is Ulrich Siegele's essay in the "Cambridge Companion to Bach". Very approximately there was a political fight between a royalist and a non-royalist faction in the town's power structures. Musicians such as Kuhnau (and later on Bach) were aligned with the royalist faction that favoured the development of more sophisticated musical structures (paralleling those of the royal courts) within the town. Hence the wanna-be.

Carl Burmeister wrote (November 16, 1999):
Simon Crouch wrote:
< A fine reference for what was going on in Leipzig at (roughly) this time is Ulrich Siegele's essay in the "Cambridge Companion to Bach". >
I've got this book on order. I still intend to offer an opinion here in the interim.

< Musicians such as Kuhnau (and later on Bach) were aligned with the royalist faction that favoured the development of more sophisticated musical structures (paralleling those of the royal courts) within the town. >
The way I understand it, during the 17th and 18th centuries, there were two major influences in German music, the Venetians and the French Royal court.During the 17th century composers like Schütz, Praetorious, Schein et al were primarily influenced by the Venetians while those like Schmelzer favored the French Royal court. Bear in mind these guys didn't just "follow their muse", but were directed by the religious and political (same thing really) powers that be. 17th century wise things got pretty nasty in this regard (see "30 years war"). dichotomy in influence and politics extended into the 18th century .

IMHO the French influence was anything but sophisticated. Kuhnau in his better moments and JS in all his moments were influenced by the more sophisticated Venetian tradition in the German Baroque. If its the French Royal Court you're referring to above I have to respectfully disagree.

Perhaps after I fill in my gaps in understanding of the politics in Leipzig, I'll find that we are in violent agreement.

Simon Crouch wrote (November 16, 2000):
Carl Burmeister wrote:
< IMHO the French influence was anything but sophisticated. Kuhnau in his better moments and JS in all his moments were influenced by the more sophisticated Venetian tradition in the German Baroque. If its the French Royal Court you're referring to above I have to respectfully disagree. >
You're quite right aesthetically, but I think the difference is down to what might have been perceived as being sophisticated by the royalist classes. Manners probably outweighed good taste! When I say that Bach was aligned with the royalists, what I mean is that he was in agreement with their perception of the function and status of music in society. He may very well have thought that their particular musical tastes stunk!

 

Günther Ramin's Bach

Cuney Telli wrote (January 18, 2000):
Could you please comment on Ramin's Bach performances?

George Murnu wrote (January 18, 2000):
(To Cuney Ttelli) Of all Ramin's recordings, my favourite is that of his Johannes-Passion (BWV 245). Tempi may be slow by today's standard, but Ramin achieves a wonderful clarity of details and I don't remember the Thomanerchor sounding better. It is also one of his best recordings as far as sound is concerned and also one of the most rehearsed. His cantatas suffer exactly from this: poor rehearsing yet the special atmosphere at Thomaskirche is still captured. So I would start with the Johannes-Passion (BWV 245) and sample the cantatas.

Ramon Khalona wrote (January 18, 2000):
(To Cuney Ttelli) His 1941 (incomplete) recording of the St. Matthew (BWV 244) on Calig is very interesting and eloquent. Sound may be a drawback (there is quite a bit of distortion, apparently from the source material), but if you are interested in historical documents, this is well worth it.

Cuney Ttelli wrote (January 19, 2000):
(To George Murnu & Ramon Khalona) I think I must buy St Mathew (BWV 244) and Johannes Passions (BWV 245). Could you please be kind enough to inform me about the record label?

St Matthew is on Calig OK. What about the Johannes Passion?

Many thanks for both of you for the information.

George Murnu wrote (January 19, 2000):
[To Cuney Ttelli] Johannes-Passion (BWV 245) it's on Berlin Classics and last time that I heard it was available cheaply from Berkshire - of course I am not affiliated with them. Catalogue number is 0020152BC. I don't know the Matthäus-Passion (BWV 244) catalogue number but I know it's available on both Calig and Preiser.

Edward A. Cowan wrote (January 19, 2000):
[To Cuney Ttelli] Berlin Classics 0220 015, two CDs. Originally published on LP by DG Archiv ARC 3045/7, three LPs. The CD is likely no longer available, alas! (And the LPs were, of course, long ago deleted.) The performance is stated to have been recorded in the Thomaskirche in Oct., 1954.

Cuney Ttelli wrote (January 20, 2000):
I have visited a local CD store to order both. They told me that Preiser was deleted and Berlin Classics has recently changed its name to Leipzig classics.

Leipzig classics. It makes sense.

Thank you very much for all contributors.

 

Recording in the Thomaskirche

Benjamin Mullins wrote (October 24, 2000):
John Downes wrote:
< [snip] Now, the reason I was away this weekend was... I've been to Leipzig!!!!!! I've (kind of) wanted to go for most of my sentient life, but when I learned that Sir John Eliot Gardiner was doing a cantata pilgrimage concert there on a weekend I could get away, I was off like a rat up a drainpipe. So, I've been to the Thomaskirche, St Nicolas, the Bach Museum, the market square, the town hall, stood in front of the portrait and paid my respects at the graveside. An experience I can recommend to anyone on this list. [Snip] >
Speaking of the Thomaskirche, are there any recordings of Bach's works performed/recorded in the very place they had their premier? Or any recordings made at any other historic Bach locations?

Charles Francis wrote (October 24, 2000):
(To Benjamin Mullins) Try this link: http://www.mp-co-net.com/net/CD.html - I assume many of these (if not all) were recorded on site.

A couple of months ago, Austrian TV broadcast 8-hours of continuous Bach from 12 midnight, until 8 the next morning. Of course, I stayed up all night and videotaped it as there were several concerts from the famous Bach sites in Leipzig (other highlights, were interviews with Rilling, Rifkin (who speaks good German), and the current Cantor of the Thomas school in Leipzig).

Sybrand Bakker wrote (October 24, 2000):
(To Benjamin Mullins) Just FYI
During Bach's lifetime, all walls of the Thomaskirche were covered with wood. The wood has been removed after Bachs lifetime, causing of course much more resonance in the church. So to record in the Thomaskirche, you would have to restore it to 18th century conditions. AFAIK, no place were Bach was employed, or audited organs, is in unaltered condition.

John Downes wrote (October 24, 2000):
Sybrand Bakker wrote:
< AFAIK, no place were Bach was employed, or audited organs, is in unaltered condition. >
I can confirm this. The Thomaskirche was re-built internally in a Gothic style after 1878. The Nikolaikirche was rebuilt in a rococco style in the years after 1750. (And it looks quite beautiful BTW).

As for the other churches, they are no longer there at all, they were either lost to bomb damage during the war or in the case of the University Church, unforgivably demolished (together with many other university buildings) by the communist regime in the 1960's. They even detonated most of the internal fittings.

As for any organs with a Bach connection, they were all considered worn out and replaced with modern instruments by the late 19th Century.

< During Bachs lifetime, all walls of the Thomaskirche were covered with wood. >
I had not heard this. This would seem most uncharacteristic of Baroque style. Are you sure about this? Unless you mean the balconies of course.

< The wood has been removed after Bachs lifetime, causing of course much more resonance in the church. So to record in the Thomaskirche, you would have to restore it to 18th century conditions. >
I think you mean reverberation, not resonance. But in any event the degree to which the wood damped down any reverberation would depend upon the surface treatment of the wood itself. If it were painted in a glossy coat it might be almost as reflective of sound waves as the later stone surfaces.

Zachary Uram wrote (October 24, 2000):
[To Sybrand Bakker] Why was it covered with wood? you mean every square inch of wall and ceiling was covered with wood? what type of wood? was the wood plain or it did have carvings?

Teri Noel Towe wrote (December 1, 2000):
[To Charles Francis] I am unclear about this posting. Do you mean to say that one can download these recordings from a website?

If not, is thereany way that I can work a deal with you to get copies that could be played on USA equipment?

Teri Noel Towe wrote (December 1, 2000):
Benjamin Mullins wrote:
< Speaking of the Thomaskirche, are there any recordings of Bach's works performed/recorded in the very place they had their premier? Or any recordings made at any other historic Bach locations? >
There have been numerous recordings made there over the years, including some historic ones conducted by Karl Straube and Gunther Ramin, but they have little acoustical significance because, I remarked in a previous posting, the acoustics are completely different now because of the major alterations to the building that took place in the late 19th century.

Will no one make an HIP recording of BWV 194 in the Dorfkirche in Stormthal, forwhich it was written, and which has not changed a whit since the premiere of that cantata there in 1723?

 

OVPP in the Thomaskirche?

Teri Noel Towe wrote (December 1, 2000):
Somebody wrote (October 23, 2000):
< Every Saturday afternoon in the Thomaskirche they present a performance of some sung music and a couple of organ pieces. Last Saturday the performers were 5 young men singing OVVP. And you just couldn't hear it at the back. (Which didn't really matter because it was not Bach!)

OVVP, in my view, works very well with professional singers where you have control over the microphones. I just don't think it's practical anywhere other than in a chamber-music situation. >
Please remember that the Thomaskirche of today bears little resemblance either visually or acoutically to the Thomaskirche of Bach's day. The building was substantially rebuilt and redesigned, and the acoustics therefore significantly changed, in the late 19th century.

The same is true of the Nicolaikirche.

The only remaining church in Leipzig with unchanged acoustics that Bach would have recognized was the Paulinerkirche, which the DDR vandals destroyed in the late 1960's and replaced with that hideous Hochhaus of the University.

 

Ramin & Schweizer

Ulissipo wrote (April 28, 2001):
(To Aryeh Oron) Where does that G. Ramin quotation come from? Did he ever write anything on JSB? Which are A. Schweizer's main writings on Bach?

Pieter Pannevis wrote (April 28, 2001):
An extensive list on Albert Schweitzer is to be found on: http://www.pcisys.net/~jnf/

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 28, 2001):
< Where does that G. Ramin quotation come from? Did he ever write anything on JSB? >
The Ramin quotation is taken from the booklet attached to the 12-CD set, which is dedicated to his Bach's recordings - 'Bach Made in Germany - Vol. I'. His short biography in the Bach Cantatas Website is also taken from the same source: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Ramin-Gunther.htm

< Which are A. Schweizer's main writings on Bach? >
Here are some details about Schweizer's book, taken from Classical Net:
"J. S. Bach, by Albert Schweitzer, translated by Ernest Newman. Dover Publications. 1966 ISBN Volume 1 0486216314 (paperback), Volume 2 0486216322 (paperback)
Volume One Historical account of Protestant church music before Bach, church music in Germany, the life of Bach, discussion of all of Bach's instrumental music. The second volume of this two volume work, an unabridged republication of the 1911 edition, is concerned with Bach's choral music."

It is interesting to note that this important book was first published in French (1905), and only 3 years later appeared the expanded German version. This version was translated into many languages, including English and even Hebrew (1958).

To quote from 'Oxford Composer Companion - J.S. Bach': "The work is noteworthy for its aesthetic appreciation of Bach's compositional style, in particular its pictorial and symbolic aspects, as well as its attention to the theological significance of Bach Work."

Some might think that this book is old-fashioned, but I think that this is an essential book for every Bach lover, even today.

BTW, what is your name? Is it your first posting to BCML?

Teri Noel Towe wrote (April 28, 2001):
For those who might be interested in them, almost all of Schweitzer's 78 RPM recordings of Bach organ works have been reissued on two Pearl CD’s.

The catalogue nos. are GEMM 9959 and GEMM 9992.

Ramin was also a superb organist, but I do not think that any of the recordings are available on CD at the moment. (I hope I am wrong.)

Incidentally, I know from a conversation some years ago with Ramin's son Dieter that Ramin normally performed the Saint Matthew Passion (BWV 244) with no cuts, and Ramin's friend and pupil Diethard Hellmann sent me a recording of a complete Saint Matthew Passion that Ramin conducted in Saarbrucken in 1954.

There is also a complete Christmas Oratorio that was recorded privately at a concert in Einsiedln, Switzerland, in 1952 or 1953.

Finally, there is also a complete B Minor Mass (BWV 232) that was recorded commercially shortly before he died.

Ulissipo wrote (April 30, 2001):
(To Aryeh Oron) Thanks for the information. Will try and get A. Schweizer's book.
As to Ramin, only once did I listen to his St. Mathew Passion - a curious, quite unique and extraordinary version, with perhaps the most outstanding Evangelist I've ever heard. I was never able to get the CD and am now pondering whether it is worthwhile getting Mengelberg's version: it should be very good, but I'm afraid tempi and sound reproduction might be a too strong offset. It should perhaps be more advisable to invest in the "Bach made in Germany" series you pointed out.

Yes, it was my first posting in the group. I think I came to it via Yahoo's JSB Club and the Cantata project. As a matter of fact, JSB's work has been a lifelong passion of mine, but I'm very new in the world of the cantatas. Now I remember I came to the group as I was searching the 'net for references on Leusink's edition - which I finally got and has been an endless source of joy and why not no say, spiritual elevation. Tks again.

Philip Peters wrote (April 30, 2001):
Ulissipo wrote:
< Thanks for the information. Will try and get A. Schweizer's book. As to Ramin, only once did I listen to his St. Mathew Passion – a curious, quite unique and extraordinary version, with perhaps the most outstanding Evangelist I've ever heard. >
YES! Finally someone who agrees with me about this. The evangelist is the largely self-taught Karl Erb who deserved the nickname Der andere lieber Gott which was bestowed upon him because of his sweet, flowing voice.

< I was never able to get the CD >
I found it at eBay.

< and am now pondering whether it is worthwhile getting Mengelberg's version: it should be very good, but I'm afraid tempi and sound reproduction might be a too strong offset. >
If you can stand Ramin you will love Mengelberg IMO.

 

Bach, Cantatas 80 & 140

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 7, 2001):
Dear Bach lovers-- Can anyone help me? I'm trying to find out the conductor and musicians and singers of an Archiv Produktion LP that I owned in the 1970's of Bach's famous cantatas BWV 80 and BWV 140. I first heard it when I was about 13 years old on an 8-track in the 1960's. It blew me away and got my love for Bach going. It had a small color portrait of Martin Luther in the front, and there was an attempt at period performance here. I remember there was a 'touching' mistake, I believe, with one of the tenors. It was a really beautiful Archiv Produktion LP; when I sold my Lps to make room for CDs, everyone wanted that LP. Does it exist as a CD? Of course, I have several versions of BWV 80 and BWV 140 but I miss my childhood version. Thanks. Sincerely, Francine (I could kick myself for not paying attention to the names of the singers, etc. at the time!)

Philippe Yared wrote (October 7, 2001):
[To Francine] Attempt at period perfor? Not Richter probably but if it is, it was
released on CD and you'll find a review at: http://www.gramophone.co.uk/reviews/default.asp

Reference: Bach Cantatas, Volume 5 Edith Mathis, Ursula Buckel (sops); Trudeliese Schmidt, Hertha Topper (mezs); Peter Schreier, Ernst Haefliger (tens), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (bar), Theo Adam (bass-bar); Kieth Engen (bass); Munich Bach Choir and Orchestra / Karl Richter.

Archiv Produktion (Full price) (CD) 439 394-2AX5 (five discs: 342 minutes:ADD).

Robert Sherman wrote (October 7, 2001):
[To Philippe Yared] In order to get a satisfactory BWV 80 I have to combine Richter with Raymond Leppard's performance. Leppard's tenor, Aldo Baldin, is hardly a household word but on this one he sings magnificently.

Hart wrote (October 7, 2001):
[To Francine Renee Hall] I think that you are remembering the recording that was conducted by Erhard Mauersberger. It was the first recording to be made of Cantata BWV 80 that did not have the trumpets and drums that were added by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. I think that must be what you mean when you remember that it was an attempt at a period performance.

I got this LP while I was in college, which means the late sixties. It was on DG Archive, and it came out after they dumped their plain manila covers and substituted gray covers with illustrations.

I can't remember who the soloists were, except that the tenor was Peter Shreier, and I think Agnes Gibel was the soprano and that Theo Adam may have been the bass. The chorus was the boy choir from St. Thomas in Leipzig.

It was not in the catalogue very long. The Richter came out in the late seventies.

Personally I liked the Richter version better. I remember the Mauersberger as being dull.

Aryeh Oron wrote (October 7, 2001):
[To Francine Renee Hall] The couple of Cantatas BWV 80 & BWV 140 is relatively popular, and has been done by several conductors (Gonnenwein, Leppard, Munchinger, etc.). At first I thought that the recording you are looking for was done by Karl Richter. Then I found out that Richter recorded BWV 80 late in his life during the years 1977-1978, and this contradicts your memories of recording from the 1960's. Further research led me to Erhard Mauersberger, who was Thomaskantor from 1961 to 1972. There was a LP which appeared on the Archiv label (SAPM-198047), on which those two cantatas were coupled! This recording is avaliable now from Leipzig Classics in a 5-CD box set under the title 'Bach Made in Germany - Vol. III'. In this box set most of Mauersberger Bach's recordngs are collected (you can see the full content of the box set in the following page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Thomaskantors.htm ). The recording of Cantata BWV 80 is indeed fine. In this recording Maursberger omits the trumpets, which were added by CPE Bach after Bach's death, whereas most of the other conductors keep them. Despite the lack of the trumpets Mauersberger maintains the sweeping spirit of this festive, impressive and popular cantata. The soloists are: Agnes Giebel (soprano), Hertha Töpper (contralto), Peter Schreier (tenor) & Theo Adam (bass), all of them are in
fine form.

BWV 80 was already discussed in the Bach Cantatas Mailing List (BCML). You can see the discussion in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV80.htm

If you like the Bach Cantatas, I warmly recommend to you joining the BCML. The instructions how to join and to contribute appear in the following page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/How.htm

Erwin Brooks wrote (October 7, 2001):
[To Francine Renee Hall] According to the information that's posted on the Cantata BWV 80 page at the Bach Cantatas website, the recording that Hart is talking about must be the one they list as No. 4. It has soprano Agnes Giebel, alto Hertha Topper, tenor Peter Schreier, and bass Theo Adam, the Thomanerchor Leipzig and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Erhard Mauersberger is the conductor. The listing says that it's on Leipzig Classics.

There's another page at the website that lists all the recordings made by the Thomanerchor, and the Mauersberger recording is listed there. It is part of a 5 CD box on Leipzig Classics.

The address of the Cantata 80 page at the Bach Cantatas website is www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV80.htm.

The address of the page at the Bach Cantatas website with the listings of all of the recordings made by the Thomanerchor is www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Thomaskantors.htm

I am pretty certain that this is the recording that you want, Francine.

Bob Sherman wrote (October 7, 2001):
Hart wrote:
< Personally I liked the Richter version better. I remember the Mauersberger as being dull. >
Me too. I played it once and never took it out again.

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 8, 2001):
[To Philippe Yared] Thanks for the information. However, I don't think it was Richter (I had a Richter Lp playing Bach on piano long ago and I hated it so much I actually threw it out!). The Archiv LP I had was a period performance one-- it was light and airy. This was at the same time I discovered Harnoncourt also-- his Orchestral Suites, and later his Brandenburgs and Musical Offering. Thanks again!

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 8, 2001):
[To Hart] YES, oh, YES!!! That's the one! Thanks you! I'm printing your message out for safekeeping. You are absolutely right! Thank you sooooo much! my best to you,

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 8, 2001):
[To Aryeh Oron] THANKS!!!! It's wonderful to know that Mauersberger is actually available on CD, even as a set. Yes, both the BWV 80 and BWV 140 were on one LP. Thanks again, Hart and Aryeh! You know where my money will be going this month!!!

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 8, 2001):
[To Erwin Brooks] And thank YOU!!!! You bet it's the Mauersberger I want and your information is invaluable to me! Sincerely, Francine (all of you on BachRecordings have made me very happy!)

 

What a fitting tribute to J.S. Bach, Cantor, Thomasschule!

Boyd Pehrson wrote (September 10, 2001):
A heartfelt welcome to all new members of the Bach_Cantatas Group! This Group is a fitting tribute to the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach who, during the last 27 years of his life, worked as Cantor for the Thomasschule, a church boychoir school in Leipzig. May this group continue to grow and prosper in all its endeavours!

Bach's position in Leipzig as Cantor and director of church music was the most prominent position in the Lutheran realm. The Thomanerchor, as the choir is called, in Bach's time had the duty of singing services in the three main churches and two other smaller churches in Leipzig. It was Bach's duty to compose all the regular church music, and train the boys to sing it. Among other things Bach was to teach latin to the boys, and take turns visiting sick boys and the leading of the boys in their prayers.

The boys' choir was already 475 years old when Bach became their Cantor. These duties he performed with genius and devoted tenacity. Out of Bach's time teaching and composing in Leipzig, we have a most astounding richness of the world's most masterful and beautiful music. Indeed, the most critical of Bach's compositions; the majority of the Cantatas, the Motets, his Christmas and EasterOratorios, his Passions, his Magnificat, his Art of the Fugue, his Notebook for Anna Magdalena, his Musical Offering, the Goldberg Variations, and his insurmountable Mass in B minor, (etc..) all had their birth under Bach's hand in Leipzig.

Today, Bach's historic boys' choir maintains their 750 years of excellence in church music. They are proud of their most famous cantor's work and jealously guard his inheritance, now mainly focused on the preservation of Bach´s choral works. Weekly performances of Bach´s motets and cantatas still take place in Sunday worship services at St Thomas' Church in Leipzig. Bach's gifts to the Thomasschule, Leipzig and the world are thus preserved in a valued tradition. Other boys' choirs have stepped forward to preserve Bach's rich tradition as well. The Tölzer Knabenchor, Knabenchor Hannover, Vienna Choir Boys, Dresdner Kreuzchor, Windsbacher Knabenchor, Cantores Minores, Guildford Cathedral Choir, Choir of King's College Cambridge, and many other boys' choirs have "stepped up to the plate" to preserve Bach's tradition through fine performances and recordings of Bach's compositions.

That tradition is here celebrated, encouraged and preserved. We are happy to see friends of the tradition express their thoughts, feelings and ideas about the inheritance Bach has bequeathed to choir boys around the world. Whether you are a lay person, musician, director or composer your thoughts are welcome! Bach's Cantatas are the focus of this forum, but I believe there is plenty of room to discuss the Motets, Passions, and Masses of Bach, (etc...) as they often contain ideas from Bach's Cantata compositions. Please feel free to join in, and have a great time!

Will Crump wrote (September 10, 2001):
[To Boyd Pehrson] I enjoyed reading your synopsis of Bach's history with the Thomanerchor Leipzig.

I have the B-Minor Mass with the Cantores Minores (Helsinki Cathedral Boys' Choir) and with the Windsbacher Knabenchor. That is a beautiful mass. I just wish I could find a version with boy trebles singing all the soprano arias as I am willing to bet was the way it was probably originally sung.

Next April my choir, the Rhodes Mastersingers' Chorale will be performing this daunting work and I can't wait to get into it.

I would love to find the Bach2000 set of cantatas, especially the volume that has cantata BWV 4 "Christ Lag In Todes Banden". I want all of the BACH2000 series that has the boys' choirs singing the cantatas. Does anyone know where I can get these? Also, does anyone know of a recording of the B-Minor Mass where the boys sing all soprano and alto arias?

I have a CD of the Thomanerchor Leipzig where they sing music composed by their various cantors. I think I will put that on now before I go to bed....

Boyd Pehrson wrote (September 10, 2001):
[To Will Crump] I believe Tower Records (.com) is your best resource for the Bach2000 series.The Cantatas have their own Big Box set. If you obtained Cantores Minores, you'll have no trouble locating the Bach2000!

The only all male recording of Bach's Mass in B Minor that I know of is Robert King's 1996 recording.

Here is all the information:
Release Date: 2/10/1997
Catalog#: CDA 67201/2
Label: Hyperion
Spars: DDD
Pieces in Set: 2

Tower Records.com link: http://www.towerrecords.com/product.asp?pfid=1216378

Mass in B minor, BWV 232
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Country: Leipzig, Germany
Written: 1747-1749
Period: Baroque
Form: Mass
Conductor: Robert King
Ensemble: King's Consort, King's Consort Choir,
Tölzer Knabenchor & Soloists: Matthias Ritter,
Manuel Mrasek, Boy Sopranos, Matthias Schloderer,
Maximilian Fraas, Boy Altos
Performers: Anthony Rolfe-Johnson, Tenor
Michael George, Bass
James O'Donnell, Chamber Organ

Editorial Reviews:

Gramophone (3/97, p. 78) -
"...The appearance of the Tölzers and their inimitably open and rich 'chest' voices is indeed of prime interest in a fascinating new account of this supreme work..."

Amazon.com
There is much to admire in Robert King's 1996 recording with the King's Consort. With a sizable group of boy sopranos and altos (but not English boys, whose timbre is quite different from that of these German boys), this performance comes closest of all, perhaps, to the sound of church music as Bach knew it. The chorus consists of 35 members, almost exactly the number Bach might have had at his disposal. The account is splendidly realized and beautifully recorded. Don't be put off by the all-black artwork on the face of the jewel box: inside is a treasure worth discovering. --Ted Libbey

Larry Ford wrote (September 10, 2001):
I have that Hyperion recording of the B-minor Mass. It is performed with the Tölzer Knabenchor as the boychoir and the Choir of the King's Consort. Robert King used all male soloists in this recording.

It is a beautiful recording and was recommended to my by Douglas and Andreas (thank you gentlemen). I made my purchase from CDNow despite a rather scathing review published on CDNow by a music critic who knows absolutely nothing about boys voices.

Takashi Lutheran wrote (September 10, 2001):
It seems most of the forum members are familiar to me.

I love Tölzer Knabenchor's h-moll the best personally.

When the Tölzer Knabenchor came to Japan last year, they performed 'Jesu, meine Freude.' One TV station aired a special program of their tour. In that program there is a scene where they are rehearsing that motetttet. There Herr Schmidtgarten tells each boy to sing 'Gottes Lamb, der Breutigam.' (spelled correctly?) Herr Schmitgarden is never a compromising person. When he is not satisfied, he yells, 'Nicht!' All the boys who could not satisfy the conductor had to be excluded although they were given a seconcd chance. He chose the members to sing the piece in this strict way. I went to the concert after that rehearsal, and it was beautifully done.

In another TV program featuring Tölzer Knabenchor, Herr Schmidtgartentalked about the reason he established the choir. He was a member of Thomanerchor but he felt something was different from Bach's days. That's how he decided to establish Tölzer Knabenchor, and personally I like his style the best.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Douglas Neslund wrote (September 11, 2001):
[To Takashi Lutheran] Thank you for writing about your experiences with the Tölzer Knabenchor while they were in Japan.

I was privileged to attend the rehearsal in Munich just week before the choir went to Leipzig to sing at Thomaskirche, and the same thing happened as you describe - Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden auditioned each voice (boys and men) individually in order to choose who would sing which item. The number of singers changed from the motet "Fürchte dich nicht" to the incredibly beautiful performance of the Actus Tragicus. So the maestro had to be selective. I have the results on digital videotape, and if I can ever get my camera back from the repair shop (a lady accidentally knocked it over despite the fact it was on a tripod) I shall attempt to upload whatever portion that Yahoo Groups will allow in terms of size of file. Obviously, YG will not allow a complete upload of the entire piece, which would be very nice. I have no idea how huge a file like that would be, but a lot!

Please forgive me, but I must make one slight correction in addition to the director's name. Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden started the Tölzers after he worked as assistant director to Kurt Thomas in the 1950s at Thomaskirche (he didn't sing in that choir as a boy, since he was from Bavaria to begin with). But, he noticed the difference between the size of choral and instrumental forces employed by Kurt Thomas and the historical accounts of performances directed by Bach himself, and determined to create his own boychoir in order to provide the world with historically correct numbers of singers and instrumentalists. And so laMay was the first time in his life that he had the chance to take his own choir into Thomaskirche, and perform in the original manner. The effect was unbelievably electric for myself, for Andreas, for Ellen, for Peter, and for about 2,000 others who were filling every seat and also standing along the aisles of the church.

I share your belief that the Tölzer performances and recordings probably come closer to the Uraufführung (original performance) of any choir singing today of any kind.

 

Karl Straube, recording from 1931

Andreas Burghardt wrote (September 29, 2001):
I have upload to the file section the beginning of cantata BWV 67 "Halt im Gedächtnis Jesum Christ" in a historical recording by the Thomaner choir and the Stadt- und Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. The recording was made on the 12th of April 1931 under the direction of the Thomaskantor Karl Straube. It is the oldest existing cantata recordings of the Thomaner choir.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Bach_Cantatas/files/HaltImGedaechtnis1931.mp3

Karl Straube was Thomaskantor from 1918 - 1939. In my opinion he was a pioneer in respect of authentic performances of Bach cantatas. The articulation is surprisingly good and the style of performance can be described as rhetorically oriented. The Thomaner choir consisted of 55-60 singers. In this recording the sound of the choir has a special sound colour, different from any boychoir today. It is interesting to compare this recording with those of Günther Ramin, Straube's successor as Thomaskantor (1940 - 1956). Ramin's style was more romantic, with about 80 singers.

Boyd Pehrson wrote (Sepotember 30, 2001):
[To Andreas Burghardt] Thank you for sharing your marvellous file! That is truly a classic, classic recording, finely performed! It is marvellous to hear this Pre-Ramin recording for two other reasons:

1) Ramin used some questionable modern scholarship methods to reach the conclusion that distinctions between soloists and choir should be eliminated wherever possible.

2) We are told by certain acetic critics that "the Baroque revival of the 1960's was a shrewd marketing ploy of the recording industry" ignoring the fact that Bach recordings enjoyed great popularity in the 1930's, and were not in any lapse through the 40's and 50's. Actually, Classical era recordings (Mozart, Beethoven) began to outnumber Baroque recordings during the 1960's and 1970's. (I will comment more on these critics in a forthcoming post).

Unfortunately Kurt Thomas followed Ramin's advice closely, though Kurt Thomas was a brilliant Thomas Cantor and conductor. The current Thomas Cantor Georg Christoph Biller has questioned Ramin's approach, and the Thomanerchor is revisiting more of a Straube approach. There is still room for improvement, but the direction currently taken seems to be a positive move for bringing performance standards back to Bach's appointments.

Douglas Neslund wrote (September 30, 2001):
[To Boyd Pehrson] A footnote to Boyd's good points: Kurt Thomas, whose books on choral preparation and conducting are brilliant and a "must have" in the library of every serious choral conductor, was definitely in the "Romantic" camp of Bach presentation, and the young Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden, studying under Thomas, was determined that he would start his own choir in order to present Bach with the lean forces Gerhard was convinced was correct. And from that, the Tölzer Knabenchor was created!

 

Continue to Part 2

Karl Straube: Short Biography | Recordings of Vocal Works
Günther Ramin: Short Biography | Recordings of Vocal Works: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Individual Recordings:
BWV 244 - G. Ramin | Article: Günther Ramin 1898-1956 - Thomaskantor 1940-1956
Kurt Thomas: Short Biography | Frankfurter Kantorei | Recordings of Vocal Works: Part 1 | Part 2 | BWV 248 – K. Thomas
Erhard Mauersberger: Short Biography | Recordings of Vocal Works | BWV 244 - E. Mauersberger
Hans-Joachim Rotzsch: Short Biography | Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum | Recordings of Vocal Works: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | BWV 244 - H.J. Rotzsch
Georg Christoph Biller: Short Biography | Recordings of Vocal Works | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Individual Recordings:
BWV 232 - G.C. Biller | BWV 244 - G.C. Biller
Thomaskantors: Thomanerchor Leipzig | Gewandhausorchester Leipzig | General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2
Table of Recordings by BWV Number

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Last update: ýAugust 20, 2012 ý23:17:33