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Thomaskantors & Thomanerchor Leipzig & Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works
General Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Karl Straube, and Thomanerchor

Boyd Pehrson wrote (October 7, 2001):
I have uploaded a photo of Karl Straube preparing his St Thomas choir for a cantata performance in 1930.

This photograph was taken about the time of the recording that Andreas posted. I have used high resolution scanning so members may inspect the photo in every detail. Doubtless, many of the singers you see in the photo will have sung on Anreas' posted MP3 file, as the dates are merely one year apart! So, download the file and photo, and enjoy your own 1930's Bach music video!

Andreas Burghardt wrote (October 8, 2001):
[To Boyd Pehrson] Thank you very much for the Straube photo and the interesting 18th century engravings. Straube always took a particular interest in questions of performance forces. This approach was noticeable in his 1904 performance of the Brandenburg concertos with small forces (altogether 14 players). He also performed the St. Matthew passion and the cantatas exclusively with the Thomaner choir in a time when the great passion of J.S. Bach were usually performed by a mixed choir of more than 200 singers.

In the last year of his life he reminisced: "In teaching the choir boys of St. Thomas' I have learned immensely .... [They] made me realize with final certainty that even in his monumental choral works Bach did not have in mind an enormous choir and a large orchestra ..." ("Rückblick und Bekenntnis", 1949)

The recording of the cantata "Halt im Gedächtnis" was part of a project started in 1931 by the Middle German Broadcasting Corporation to broadcast the entire cycle of Bach cantatas. The broadcast were transmitted every Sunday at 11.00 am and always live. The magnetic recording tape had not yet been invented. The broadcasting stations had to assemble their programs almost exclusively from live contributions. So, the sound documents are not archival recordings as we understand them today. Recordings were very costly because the recording capacity of recording disks was only a few minutes. Each cantata had to be recorded - in overlapping segments - onto several disks.

Thank you very much again,

Boyd Pehrson wrote (October 9, 2001):
[To Andreas Burghardt] Andreas, thank you for your compelling insights.

Many people tend to believe that the "authentic performance movement" began in the 1960's. And I realize a large movement did surface then. But as your information demonstrates, those who worked with Bach's materials on a daily basis, have always had a sense of what the performance standard should be for Bach's choral works. I don't believe we really ever lost
that understanding in places (like St Thomas'), even though various popular performance practices have sprung up from the one extreme(1000 voice choirs) to the other (one voice per part).

 

Mauersberger

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 15, 2001):
Dear Teri, Jim, Brad and everyone else! The Mauersberger 5-CD Leipzig Classics set has just arrived from Amazon in the UK! I'm in tears of joy! The cantatas and the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) have been lovingly remastered using 24-bit technology (these were recorded in 1966 in Leipzig, at the Thomaskirche). There is no better aria that Bach wrote than the aria from BWV Cantata BWV 80 with Agnes Giebel, soprano. And the boys from the Thomasschule (a tradition dating from the year 1254) really make an atheist wanting and believing that there IS a GOD! Mauersberger is a worthy successor to Bach. Cantata BWV 180 is sheer joy. Right now I'm listening to cantata BWV 55. Enchanting! So, Suzuki, stand at attention! This Bach is full of life. Bloodless and souless??!! Hardly! Will discuss the other cantatas and the St. Matthew Passion as part of this set later. Thanks again everyone!

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 16, 2001):
and thanks Aryeh and Philippe-- When the boys of the Thomaskirche sing the chorale "Ein Feste Berg Ist Unser Gott" coupled in response to the busy instruments below, well who else but Bach. The aria from cantata BWV 80 "Komm in mein Herzenshaus" as sung by Agnes Geibel, soprano, is, one of the most beautiful arias Bach ever wrote. Mauersberger as Kantor is indeed a worthy successor of Bach. with joy,

 

Anniversary Series of Bach’s death, July 28, 2000

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 16, 2001):
The 5-CD Leipzig Classics set includes Cantatas BWV 18: 'Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee von Himmel fallt'; BWV 62: 'Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland'; BWV 78: 'Jesu, der du meine Seele' (CD 1); On CD 2: BWV 80: 'Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott'; BWV 140: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme'; and BWV 55: 'Ich armer Mensch, ich Suendenknecht'. The remaining 3 CDs include the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), the latter to be covered later. The set catalog number is: 001819 2BC). The liner notes are short but very informative for the casual listener and /or student. The Thomaserchor Leipzig date from 1254, growing over the centuries from 50 to more than 100 in number. The Gewandhausorchester was founded in 1781 and include conductors as Arthur Nikisch, Wilhelm Furtwaengler, Bruno Walter and Kurt Masur. The present recording has Erhard Mauersberger, who was born in 1903 and died in 1982. The recordings were made in the Thomaskirche, Leipzig, in the 1960's, but lovingly remastered using 24-bit processing. Cantata BWV 18 is from the Weimar era, and uses basically a recitative and choral response from the early Bach. Cantata BWV 62 uses arias; and oboe to represent pastoral feeling as well as a bass aria to depict 'martial' aura since Christ is the 'conquerors of enemies'. BWV 78 uses the Protestant chorale to frame the work. Again symbolism is used when the flute combines with the tenor aria, while the bass aria uses strings, the latter meaning the strong victory of faith. The singers on CD 1 are: Adele Stolte, soprano; Peter Schreier, tenor; Theo Adam, bass.

CD 2 contains the famous cantatas BWV 80: 'Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott'; BWV 140: 'Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme; and BWV 55: 'Ich armer Mensch, ich Sundenknecht. The singers are: Agnes Biebel, soprano; Hertha Töpper, alto; Peter Schreier, tenor; and Theo Adam, bass.

I find that Bach's later cantatas can almost be felt as 'operatic', in the sense that there are recitatives, arias, choral(es) and 'love' duets so very beautiful. Bach doesn't seem to mind whether the libretto is secular or religious-- he will use the same music when necessary. In the cantatas the duets are between the beloved and bridegroom, Christ and humankind. In find the recordings in both sound and execution absolutely wonderful. They are moving and delightful. The spirit of Bach is captured wonderfully. This may not be HIP but it's not Mendelssohn either! If you don't like vibrato, well this isn't for you, but I dare you to hear a more lovely aria than Agnes Geibel gives in 'Komm in mein Herzenshaus in lovely counterpoint to the violincello!! And it doesn't suprise me that Peter Schreier was my top choice for Mozart's Requiem on Philips where he is conductor. With all his vocal training in Bach, he sure knew how to pick vocalists later on, in the Mozart Requiem case, !
Margaret Price!

I own Gardiner, Harnoncourt, Leonhartd, Rilling, Joshua Rifkin, and now Mauersberger as conductors for Bach's cantatas. This is typical of me. I like to have several interpretations one work so that whenever the fancy moves me I can pick and choose from standard to HIP. (PS: I always enjoy reading that Bach used symbolism and riddles much in the Renaissance tradition of Josquin, as discussed by Philip Pickett, in his 'Vanitas' notes to the Brandenburg Concertos.)

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 17, 2001):
Please excuse my typos to my previous post on Bach's cantatas. (I also forgot to mention Rene Jacobs as another director I have in my cantata collection.) Most importantly, does anyone know about the following ThomasKantors, also in the Leipzig Classics collection?-- Günther Ramin, Kurt Thomas, and Hans Joachim Rotzsch? Thanks

 

Language and HIP

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 18, 2001):
I saw the documentary and read the book called 'The Story of English'. Standardized and modernized English didn't take place until the early 20th century in England. No one seems to have heard Chaucer and Shakespeare accurately pronunicated (I have, in school...). As a Dowland lover and of Elizabethan music in general, it is interesting that the loudest praises of HIP got towards those works that soften the English pronunication so much that anything hinting of sexuality and other matters is rarified and purified. This was the case of the Anthony Rooley L'Oeseau Lyre sets of Dowland's Books of Songs. They are beautiful, but they're not really HIP. The voices like Kirkby et al are also purified to become quite impersonal. The one true HIP recording that I own as regards Elizabethan songs is on Hyperion sung by Glenda Simpson who sings in constant quick vibrato and gutteral Elizabethan pronunciation. In fact the cover states "Sung in original Elizabethan pronunciation". Take my Leipzig Classics set, for example. Bach's cantatas are sung by the St Thomaschule boys choir as upheld by tradition for centuries, as well as directed in succession by the ThomasKantor. The pronunciations by the vocalists are definitely Germanic and gutteral, not soft and sweet as sung by English madrigalists. So a bit rough and tough applies to HIP, not always the blandness of the worst trends in HIP today. P.S. I'm a HIP lover, sure, but I don't worship it.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 18, 2001):
Francine stated:
< Take my Leipzig Classics set, for example. Bach's cantatas are sung by the St Thomaschule boys choir as upheld by tradition for centuries, as well as directed in succession by the ThomasKantor. The pronunciations by the vocalists are definitely Germanic and gutteral, not soft and sweet as sung by English madrigalists. >
You have not heard what one ThomasKantor (1981-82) was able to do with (or is it 'to') the Thomaner Chor. In my discussion of BWV 137, I commented as follows on the feature that you refer to above:

Rotzsch BWV 137

< It is this uncanny 'attackless' sound (without the raising or lowering of pitch) that I hear in the Thomanerchor. Of course, the strong German consonants are also reduced from their normal vigor. They are emasculated and I wonder if they now teach American English (sloppy) vowels that slide effortlessly into sound without any barrier. Did you know that German vowels in the initial position of a word are correctly pronounced with a type of consonant, a glottal stop? [Test case: "Eine alte Eiche" ("an old oak tree") ] English slides gradually into the vowels, but German distinctly inserts the glottal stop before each word. It sounds almost as though the Thomaner have become Americanized in this regard. I will need to listen to more Rotzsch to see if this theory holds up and offers an explanation for the muffled, less precise musical articulation of words. >

Kirk McElhearn wrote (October 18, 2001):
Francine Renee Hall wrote:
< I saw the documentary and read the book called 'The Story of English'. Standardized and modernized English didn't take place until the early 20th century in England. No one seems to have heard Chaucer and Shakespeare accurately pronunicated (I have, in school...). >
Well, yes and no... I too have seen the series and read the book, as well as studied linguistics.

First, there were major changes in the 17 and 18th centuries, both in pronunciation and grammar. Lexis changed considerably as well, as a new wave of French words entered the language.

Regarding pronunciation, do you recall the bit in the series where they went and listened to some Appalachians speak? Many linguists believe that this accent (an American accent) is much closer to that of Shakespeare than any other currently spoken. In the same manner, Canadian French is very close to Moliere's French...

Jim Morrison wrote (October 18, 2001):
[To Francine Renee Hall] Is this Elizabethan disc on Hyperion the only one you know of by Simpson on which she uses period pronunciation? You see, I didn't find this disc online, but I did find a couple of others.

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 19, 2001):
[To Jim Morrison] I own several CDs with Glenda Simpson (on Amon Ra: CD-SAR-50, "Now What Is Love? Aspects of Love in the 17th Century" includes works by Purcell, Dowland, Simpson, etc.; on Nonesuch: 9 9029-2, "O Dolce Vita Mia: Italian Music from the High Renaissance", The London Early Music Group", works by Villanesca, Saltrarello; Saga Classics EC3392-2, "Sixteenth Century Music: The Muses' Garden for Delights", The Camerata of London, (countries covered by songs-- Italy, England, Germany and Spain). BUT the only one I know of that uses authentic Elizabethan is Hyperion, CDA66003, "English Ayres and Duets: sung in authentic Elizabethan pronunciation", The Camerata of London, with Glenda Simpson, Paul Hillier, Barry Mason and Rosemary Thorndycraft. The spelling is accurate also. And remember how end rhymes are not actually rhymed in modern English? For example, the words 'love' and 'prove' actually rhyme when one correctly pronounces the word 'love' as "Louvre" (from the Museum). I hope the Hyperion is still in print! It's lovely!

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 19, 2001):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Yes, when William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the English language grew enormously with a new influx of French words. Perhaps English is so popular because the vocabulary base from many different countries is constantly growing. Yes, I've heard about the Appalachian / English connection. The music too is closely related. Just think of all those Baltimore Consort CDs on Dorian which put out 'folk' based American, Canadian and regional music....

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 21, 2001):
Francine Renee Hall wrote:
< (...)The spelling is accurate also. And remember how end rhymes are not actually rhymed in modern English? For example, the words 'love' and 'prove' actually rhyme when one correctly pronounces the word 'love' as "Louvre" (from the Museum). >
So, this discussion of pronunciation leads to the obvious question: any of you have good recordings of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232) and Magnificat (BWV 243) that use Germanic pronunciation of the Latin and Greek? (For example, the Greek: "Kyrie eleison" with "eleison" as a three-syllable word eh-LYE-zohn rather than four? Or the Latin: "pleni sunt coeli" with "coeli" as TZOEli, and all the "qu" everywhere as "kv"?) It gives a very different sound from the more typical Italianate Latin that people seem to default to in music.

I enjoy the French Latin that Herreweghe's and Christie's groups use in the music of Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

------

In grad school I spent four or five years singing in Edward Parmentier's "Early Music Ensemble" chorus at the school. He was (is) meticulous with pronunciation, diction, articulation, dynamics, and the meaning of the words the chorus sings...we spent entire terms working on only a small group of pieces, and it was a good experience. His emphasis is on making every individual line as independently expressive as it can be, rather than sculpting large blocks of choral sound...so the lines are moving in and out of one another all the time, and every line is changing dynamics every few words accordinto the musical line and the meaning of the text.

It certainly gives an interesting sound. I like it. But I heard plenty of snide complaints about it from people in other departments: usually along the line, "With all that articulation he's trying to make his chorus sound like a harpsichord!," or "This just sounds like *%@#%!" I think what they were trying to say was that they were surprised and uncomfortable, and therefore couldn't take him seriously. If his way of choral singing in this repertoire is plausible, they fear that their own mainstream way is "wrong."

A more valid complaint was that we didn't attract many of the best singers from the other departments: they weren't willing to put in that much rehearsal time, or curb their vibratos, or try a style of music outside their comfort zone. Or maybe they were afraid that these "new ideas" would mess up their careers, or something. So, some of our sections were made up of singers long on enthusiasm and short on technical control or projection (I count myself among these)...still, we got some pretty good sounds despite that.

-----

Here's what Frescobaldi had to say in the preface of one of his books of keyboard music, 1637:

"This kind of playing [i.e. toccatas], just as in modern madrigal practice, should not stress the beat. Although these madrigals are difficult, they will be made easier by taking the beat sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, or even pausing, depending on the expression of the sense of the words."

Yes. Just as in 17th-century Italian madrigal practice, i.e. ensemble music to be sung. Tempo fluctuations according to the sense of the words.

That preface is among the documents that every keyboard player of Bach should get to know, since Bach was a fan of Frescobaldi's music. It suggests some ideas that can be useful in playing Bach, as well:
http://listserv.albany.edu:8080/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0006&L=hpschd-l&P=R10001

-----

Also, have any of you seen this book and CD set:
_Singing early music : the pronunciation of European languages in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance_ / edited by Timothy J. McGee with A.G. Rigg and David N. Klausner. Bloomington : Indiana University Press, c1996. 299 p. : ill. ; 26 cm. + 1 sound disc (digital ; 4 3/4 in.)

I saw it briefly as it came into the University of Michigan library new just before I left; but I didn't have time to read it then. Since then I haven't had access to a library that has it, but I think it would be worth a close look.

Thierry van Bastelaer wrote (October 22, 2001):
[To Bradley Lehman] The choir I sing with, the Washington Bach Consort (www.bachconsort.org) uses German latin. We have not yet recorded the B Minor (BWV 232) (yet?), but our CD of Magnificats by JSB (BWV 243) and CPEB (Newport Classic NCD 60155) uses that pronunciation (although the recording is quite distant).

Marten Breuer wrote (October 22, 2001):
Bradley Lehman asked:
< So, this discussion of pronunciation leads to the obvious question: any of you have good recordings of the B Minor Mass (
BWV 232) and Magnificat (BWV 243) that use Germanic pronunciation of the Latin and Greek? >
Suzuki uses the Germanic pronunciation on his Magnificat recording. Peter Schreier does so with the Missae breves BWV 233-236 (this recording also contains the Magnificat). Although this recording is not HIP, I like it very much as the singing of Barbara Bonney and the RIAS Kammerchor is very fine.

 

Photo Upload: Straube's First Radio Broadcast

Boyd Pehrson wrote (October 24, 2001):
I have located a photo of the Thomaners and Karl Straube's first radio broadcast. It has been uploaded into the photos section of Bach_Cantatas. Also, I have loaded some splendid photos from the DDR era of the Thomaners sharing Cantata copies. Enjoy!

 

Berlin Classics Cantatas

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 20, 2002):
Berlin Classics has several boxes of cantatas recorded in the 50s and 60s. Does anyone know where I can get these in Europe (on-line dealer)? BC themselves don't seem to have a web site...

François Haidon wrote (January 20, 2002):
[To Kirk McElhearn] I think you can find most of them at www.jpc.de

François (Currently enjoying Brüggen's St John Passion)

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 20, 2002):
[To Kirk McElhearn] I bought all of them (Ramin, Kurt Thomas, Mauersberger, Rotzsch, Guttler, Schreier) in early 2000 from amazon.de. The prices at that time were about 10 DM per CD (+ shipment). The content of each box can be seen at the relevant Performers pages of the Bach Cantatas Website. The index to the performers pages: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/index.htm

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 20, 2002):
[To Aryeh Oron] Are they all worth having?

 

Berlin Classics info?

Kirk McElhearn wrote (March 4, 2002):
Berlin Classics does not seem to have a web site. I am trying to find some info on their set of cantatas - other than what is on the Bach Cantatas web site. Has anyone ever come across anything that resembles a catalogue?

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 5, 2002):
[To Kirk McElhearn] What information do you need to know about the Berlin Classics sets, which is not available on the Bach Cantatas Website? In the entries of Ramin, Kurt Thomas, Mauersberger, Rotzsch, and Guttler in the Performers' section you can find the data about each CD in each set. For the cantatas which have already been discussed in the BCML, you have links to the relevant pages of the the cantatas. In the cantata pages there is information about the recording date, the singers, and the TT. The only information missing is the catalogue number, which I avoid putting, because it changes with every re-issue. But this information can be easily find in the internet stores.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (March 6, 2002):
[To Aryeh Oron] I'm trying to find precise details for each of their box sets of Bach. I know there is some data on the web site, but not enough.

(Basically, I'm trying to find out what's on each set to ask for a few of them for review...)

Riccardo Nughes wrote (Maarch 6, 2002):
[To Aryeh Oron]
Bach Made In Germany
Vol.1
Cantatas BWV 12, 24, 36, 41, 42, 43, 51, 57, 65, 67, 72, 73, 79, 92, 95, 103, 106, 111, 117, 119, 128, 131, 137, 138, 144, 177, 179 + Johannes Passion + Organ Works BWV 540, 545, 565
Thomanerchor Leipzig-Gewandhaus Orchestra
Conductor Guther Ramin
Lepzig Classics 12 CD BC 1800
Recorded 1947-1956 (Mono)

Vol.2
Cantatas BWV 4, 11, 51, 54, 56, 59, 68, 71, 82, 111, 140 + Magnificat + Motets + Christmas Oratorio
Thomanerchor Leipzig - Gewandhaus Orchestra
Conductor Kurt Thomas
Leipzig Classics 8 CD BC 1812.2
Recorded 1958-1960

Vol.3
Cantatas BWV 18, 55, 62, 78, 80, 140 + Matthaus Passion Leipzig ThomanerChor, Gewandhaus Orchestra
Conductor Erhard Mauersberger
Leipzig Classics 5 CD BC 1819 2
Recorded 1966-1970

Vol.4
Cantatas BWV 1, 4, 14, 21, 26, 29, 31, 36, 40, 50, 61, 66, 68, 71, 79, 80, 106, 110, 119, 134, 137, 140, 172, 173, 173a, 192, BWV 198 + Magnificat
Thomanerchor Leipzig, Gewandhaus Orchestra, Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum
Conductor : Hans-Joachim Rotzsch
Leipzig Classics 11 CD BC 1823 2
Recorded 1975-1983

And also :
Vol.9
Bach Sons
CPE Bach, Symphonies WQ 173, 174, 175, 178, 179, 180, 181, WQ 183 n°1-4 + others
JC Bach Symphonies Op.6 n°6, Op.9 n°2 & Op.18 n°2,4,6
JCFriedrich Bach, Symphonies HW I/6, I/10, I/20
WFBach Symphonies F.65, 67, 85, 88, 91, 92.
Various Orchestra- dir. Helmuth Koch
Burkard Glaetzner- dir.Hartmut Haenchen
Berlin Classics 6 CD BC 1869-2
Recorded 1969-1993.

As you've seen info about volumes 5 to 8 are missing : however, one of them should be a 15 CD box set dedicated to the complete organ works recordeby various artists

Hope this can be useful to you.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (March 6, 2002):
[To Riccardo Nughes] Very much, thanks.

 

Cantate reissues, Rifkin, Schickele

Nick Ford wrote (April 7, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] I have watched many of the postings recently to realise that here is a fund of knowledge on the subject, so wondered perhaps if you (or anyone) could help ?

Years ago as a student I used to peruse the music and record shops etc. to pick up whatever I could that was going cheap (being a student!). One album I picked up at the time was an EMI recording made in 1960 in the ThomasKirche by Kurt Thomas with the Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig and the choir of the Thomaskirche. The effect that cantata BWV 54 had on me at the time was, and still is stunning, and it has had the same effect on every musical friend I have ever inflicted it on. I'm sure it is not HIP (or whatever), but the intensity of the heartbeat strings in that extraordinary opening and Marga Höffgen's unbelievably earthy and solid performance is still for me one of the most profound of musical experiences.

My question is were there any more of these recordings, and are they anywhere available.

thanks in anticipation,

Simon Crouch wrote (April 7, 2003):
[To Nick Ford] A huge pile of Kurt Thomas' Bach recordings were released a while ago on Berlin Classics 0018122BC (an eight CD set).

Most of Kurt Thomas' recordings as a Thomaskantor were reissued in CD form by Berlin/Leipzig Classics. In year 2000 Leipzig Classic issued a 8-CD box set under the title 'Bach Made in Germany - Vol. 2'. Cantata BWV 54 with Marga Hoffgen is included. This set is easily available from the Internet stores.

To refresh my memory, I am going to listen to it right now!

For details, see the page dedicated to Kurt Thomas' recordings of Bach's vocal works: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/ThomasKurt.htm

Bob Henderson wrote (April 7, 2003):
Yes there are other Kurt Thomas/Thomanerchor/Gewandhaus/Leipzig recordings.There is a wonderful "Christmas Oratorio" (BWV 248) with Agnes Giebel, Marga Höffgen, Josef Traxel and a very young Fischer-Dieskau. Published in this country under Seraphim SIC-6040. LPs of course. Dated to about 1970 or earlier. I find that it holds up well today.

 

Bonanza

Bob Henderson wrote (February 15, 2004):
About three weeks ago a tractor-trailer pulled up outside the house. He unloaded sixety boxes of LPs, an entire collection which had made its way to Florida from LA, a distance of more than 2500 miles. The recordings belong to my youngest daughter's fiancee who has neither the space nor money to store them. They are left to him by his father who died three years ago. He was going to dispose; I offered to keep them until he has a house large enough (and strong enough) to house them.

These are 4000 in number, about 60 feet in length. Opera, 'classical', voice, jazz, They date from the mid 1950s to 1990, and thus span the entire stereo era of the LP. They are in excellent - to- new condition. About half are still sealed and never been played.

I am still unpacking and cataloguing. But here is one find: an early stereo (I think late 50s - early 60s. recording of BWV 4 Christ Lag in Todesbanden along with BWV 111, Kurt Thomas, Leipzig Thomanerchor and Gewandhaus Orchestra, with Giebel, Weimann, Siebach, Rotzsch and Adam. (Turnabout 34048S).

I know that Thomas made other Bach recordings and I have his Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) on LP but I was unaware of other cantata recordings. This one is not in the current CD catalogue.

Early listening reveals good sound with the sopranos and altos well defined against the modern instrument orchestra. A rather stately interpretation which takes the long line and allows the music to speak. The church organ as part of the continuo, a real presence. A nice balance between forces. Impresses as far and above the usual large force - 'symphonic' interpretations typical of the recording age. And it fits nicely within the span of other favorites of this music: Richter, Gardiner, Suzuki.

Are list members aware of other Thomas cantata recordings?

Anne Smith wrote (February 15, 2004):
[To Bob Henderson] Wow!! A dream come true.

Jack Botelho wrote (February 16, 2004):
[To Bob Henderson] Please feel free to post further as you uncover more oldies but goldies as you work through that collection Bob!

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 18, 2004):
[To Bob Henderson] Kurt Thomas recordings of Bach's cantatas (including BWV 4, BWV 111 & XO) have been re-issued couple of times by Berlin Classics. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/ThomasKurt.htm

KT recorded Bach's cantata & other vocal works also for L'Oiseau Lyre. AFAIK those ecordings have never been issued in CD form.

 

Thomanerchor

Continue of discussion from: Members of the BCML & BRML - Part 6: Year 2004-3 [General Topics]

Eric Bergerud wrote (December 31, 2004):
Unless I am bungling the search mechanism on both Archiv and Amazon, it's no easy matter to find recordings done by the Thomanerchor Leipzig. There are none listed on Archiv and only three on Amazon (all used). I stumbled on one at a local used CD shop with the Thomanerchor doing some cantatas with the Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum. It's a nice performance - a good sized choir with, you bet, lots of boys singing. Rather odd that there aren't more. Perhaps European Bach fans are more fortunate.

Also a little odd that there aren't more portraits of Bach. I guess it's testimony to the very limited prestige held by musicians in that era. And things didn't get better for a while. We have, as I understand it, only a handful of Mozart or Haydn portraits. (Maybe Händel was better memorialized - he had royal patronage of a sort after all.) Beethoven was a different story. Beethoven apparently a very striking physical presence, something I've never heard noted about either Bach or Mozart. Also he was more famous in his lifetime than any musician had been previously. A generation the problem went away with the advent of photography. (A J.S. Bach beer mug?

Now that's an idea that I like. If there aren't reproductions being made, maybe I could interest the list into a little venture. How could one enjoy a cantata without sipping on a Miller Lite? Course in Bach's life he would have tippled some local Saxon brew. I don't think I've ever had any. In my Germany days I was - shock - stuck in Berlin, the only area, East or West, that had very poor beer. Seems that the old Junkers associated beer swilling with dissolute Bavarians so they stuck to their mind-bending corn schnapps. The rich ones like Bismarck had private booze merchants bringing in the best from far and wide. Bismarck was fond of a concoction called a "Black Velvet" made with champagne and Guinness Stout mixed half/half. Actually very good. Leipzig isn't that far from either Munich or Prague: bet Bach did pretty well.)

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Thomaskantors - General Discussions Part 2 [Performers]

John Pike wrote (December 31, 2004):
[To Eric Bergerud] Yes. It is probably difficult to get hold of good quality prints of Bach. The famous portrait of Bach by Haussmann is, I think, in Princeton University Library. Maybe they produce a print. I think the portrait belongs to William H Scheide, who is a member of the American Bach Society. There are about 6 or 7 portraits of Bach but it is highly likely that one of these is not of Bach at all. There is a useful website on the subject, "The face of Bach", by Teri Noel Towe, a member of this group: http://www.npj.com/thefaceofbach/

For the American Bach Society, visit: http://www.americanbachsociety.org/

John Pike wrote (December 31, 2004):
[To Eric Bergerud] For a print of Bach, you could also try the Leipzig Bach Archive, situated in the Bose House/Bach Museum, just across the road from St Thomas': http://www.bach-leipzig.de/

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 31, 2004):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
"Unless I am bungling the search mechanism on both Archiv and Amazon, it's no easy matter to find recordings done by the Thomanerchor Leipzig. There are none listed on Archiv and only three on Amazon (all used). I stumbled on one at a local used CD shop with the Thomanerchor doing some cantatas with the Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum. It's a nice performance - a good sized choir with, you bet, lots of boys singing. Rather odd that there aren't more. Perhaps European Bach fans are more fortunate."
Recordings of Bach's vocal works with the Thomnarchor are not so difficult to find.
All the last six Thomaskantors have recorded with them. See:
K. Straube: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Thomaskantors.htm
G. Ramin: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Ramin.htm
K. Thomas: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/ThomasKurt.htm
E. Mauersberger: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Mauersberger.htm
H.J. Rotzsch: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Rotzsch.htm
G.C. Biller: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Biller.htm

Happy New Year & Enjoy,

John Reese wrote (December 31, 2004):
Eric Bergerud wrote: < Unless I am bungling the search mechanism on both Archiv and Amazon, it's no easy matter to find recordings done by the Thomanerchor Leipzig. There are none listed on Archiv and only three on Amazon (all used). I stumbled on one at a local used CD shop with the Thomanerchor doing some cantatas with the Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum. It's a nice performance - a good sized choir with, you bet, lots of boys singing. Rather odd that there aren't more. Perhaps European Bach fans are more fortunate. >
I have a recording of the Thomanerchor doing the Christmas Oratorio, dated back before the Berlin wall fell. The tone quality is about that of a high school choir, although they do hit the right notes. Maybe the quality has improved since then?

Aya Itoi wrote (December 31, 2004):
John Reese wrote: < I have a recording of the Thomanerchor doing the Christmas Oratorio, dated back before the Berlin wall fell. The tone quality is about that of a high school choir, although they do hit the right notes. Maybe the quality has improved since then? >
I heard all the four XO (BWV 248) concerts in Leipzig two weeks ago. (All four were completely sold out already in August, although the tickets cost as high as 70 Euro - VERY expensive for a European church concert.)

I think there were maybe 40 boys, the youngest being 8 or 9 years old. St Thomas Church is a difficult church to do music in, and the Gewandhaus Orchestra does not always play their best there. (Some of them are too old, too young, not too interested, etc.) But sometimes they play also very, very good. (Two years ago it was wonderful - you just never know!) Prof. Biller knows exactly what to do with the boys, and this year they sounded very inspired. The angel voice is sung by a young boy, who was wondefully musical. And the atmosphere is, of course, superb. So I think you conpensate the difficulties in this church with the very special reasons why you want to hear Bach's music there.

They have a ncew XO CD from 1998, which I think is quite nice, but this was recorded in the Nicholaikirche.

Aya Itoi
(a Japanese who lilves in Germany and loves Leipzig)

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 31, 2004):
Aya Itoi wrote: < Prof. Biller knows exactly what to do with the boys, and this year they sounded very inspired. The angel voice is sung by a young boy, who was wondefully musical. >
The interesting thing about German choirs is that they don't use the over-cultivated head tone which is so fashionable with English choirs. And of course the boy altos have a completely different sound from the adult countertenors which are so ubiquitous in Bach ensembles these days. I've always wondered if the modern German choral style, which is quite rough-and-ready, reflects a continuous vocal tradition or whether the heaviness is an influence of bel-canto. Certainly, Italian choirs such as the Sistine Chapel cannot not imagine any music except through a Puccini prism.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (December 31, 2004):
[To Eric Bergerud] There are other pictures, but none that are authentic.

As to the Thomanerchor, they have recently been recording on Philips label. The easiest way on Amazon is either use Thomanerchor, St. Thomas Church Choir, or Leipzig. It is a lot easier on the German counterpart (Amazon.de). I have seen quite a few on the major vendors.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (December 31, 2004):
[To John Reese] My copy was from before it was even erected (the 1950s), with Thomaskantor Kurt Thomas leading the Thomanerchor and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and soloists including Peter Schreier as the Evangelist and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as the Bass soloist.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (December 31, 2004):
[To Aya Itoi] Have you ever heard their productions with the Neue Bach Collegium Musicum Leipzig? I have heard samples of their work under the directorship of Thomaskantor Hans-Joachim Rotzsch, and whilst I think he (Rotzsch) takes some liberties witn the tempi, all-around, I thought they were very nice recordings. I generally think that a boy's voice is much purer in the high ranges than a full-grown adult female's is, anyways (and I am not chauvinistic).

Doug Cowling wrote (December 31, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] It's interesting that many early music choirs such as The Sixteen and the Tallis Scholars have developed a white, head-tone soprano sound that is very different from German boys choirs which sing with a good deal of chest tone and vibrato. Some of the boys who sang in the early Harnoncourt cantata recordings use a colourful vocal production which wouldn't be tolerated in this post-Emma Kirkby world.

Johan van Veen wrote (January 4, 2005):
Aya Itoi wrote:
<< Prof. Biller knows exactly what to do with the boys, and this year they sounded very inspired. The angel voice is sung by a young boy, who was wondefully musical. >>
Doug Cowling wrote: < The interesting thing about German choirs is that they don't use the over-cultivated head tone which is so fashionable with English choirs. And of course the boy altos have a completely different sound from the adult countertenors which are so ubiquitous in Bach ensembles these days. I've always wondered if the modern German choral style, which is quite rough-and-ready, reflects a continuous vocal tradition or whether the heaviness is an influence of bel-canto. Certainly, Italian choirs such as the Sistine Chapel cannot not imagine any music except through a Puccini prism. >
The phenomenon you describe is not a German specialty, although it is practiced more over there than anywhere else. I don't quite know where it comes from, but I assume it is indeed a matter of tradition. It could also have to do with the fact that German boys' choirs are traditionally singing more music of the 17th and 18th centuries, whereas that kind of choirs in Britain sing mainly repertoire from the renaissance as well as the 19th and 20th centuries. What this repertoire has in common is that it is mainly sung legato, whereas baroque music - in particular German music - requires a more non-legato approach and a sharper articulation. It also givmuch more emphasis to the text than the music of the pre- and post-romantic periods. I think that the head-tone approach is very helpful to create a really good articulation and text expression. The approach which dominates in German choral singing is - in 'boychoir circles' - sometimes labelled the 'continental' approach. It is something which is also practiced in some choirs elsewhere: the Choir of St John's College of Cambridge, the Choir of New College (Oxford) and the Choir of Westminster Cathedral (which, BTW, also contains boy altos, alongside the male altos, which is quite unusual in Britain). I have heard the Pacific Boychoir follows this approach as well, but I haven't heard that choir, so I don't know from experience.

Boyd Pehrson wrote (January 5, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling & Johan van Veen] Johan is correct in saying the "continental" singing style reflects the tradition of these choirs. Singing styles are described in old books of the 18th century, and these tend to affirm a "natural" voice approach or 'bel-canto' style. Some choirs blend more than others, compare the Windsbacher Knabenchor to the Tolzer Knabenchor for instance. The Windsbachers can make a choir of sixty sound as clear as a quartet. The Tolzers have a lush, variegated character to their performances, which gives the director the opportunity to highlight individual voices at interesting points in a composition. Both approaches can be very nice to hear, and these directors use great skill and competence in employment of those unique vocal instruments.

As for the English choirs, the Choir of New College has recorded Bach's Passion According to St John, using a boy for the soprano solos, and for alto solo a Countertenor. The recording is very fine, and all told I think it reflects what Bach's work would have sounded like had it been sung
in Oxford in the 18th Century. Many of the established Cathedral choirs such as New College, King's College and Westminster Abbey have maintained their original decreed amount of choristers for hundreds of years.

As for the Pacific Boychoir in California, they have a long way to go in developing their Bach performances. I attended their June 5th 2004 performance of Bach Cantata BWV 150. I declined reviewing it anywhere since Bach was a debut for them. They have a CD available of this performance available for purchase on their website.

John Pike wrote (January 5, 2005):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< My copy was from before it was even erected (the 1950s), with Thomaskantor Kurt Thomas leading the Thomanerchor and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and soloists including Peter Schreier as the Evangelist and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as the Bass soloist. >
I was given that recording as a Xmas present a few years ago. I listened to it this weekend for the first time. I found most of it painfully slow, especially after listening to the glorious Gardiner recording for many years (and now Herreweghe as well). One highlight, however, was the Bass aria No. 8 "Grosser Herr, o starker König"......wonderful stuff.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (January 6, 2005):
[To John Pike] While I respect your views as such, I would point out that maybe it is because the way nowadays is to take Bach's music and play it as if it were going through the rinse cycle. I think that in many cases, Bach's music is being played way too fast for the music itself. I think that, with the exception of the Sinfonia (which could have been played a tad faster), Thomas respects the music and takes it at the right speed.

The same goes for the Matthaeuspassion. I think that Mauersberger and Richter (especially in his 1979 recording) take the music at the right tempo, as opposed to Sir JEG, Herreweghe, Leonhardt, Rilling, and even Guenther Ramin. This, I find, is especially true in the first movement, which is most often performed as almost a Gigue, but in the Mauersberger and Richter recordings is performed at a mournful pace (which is in keeping with both the words and the music). This, too, can be overdone, as in the Klemperer recording, in which it is almost dragging, it is so slow.

Doug Cowling wrote (January 6, 2005):
Klemperer

[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Although Klemperer's interprtation was eccentric even by contemporary standards, I still love listening to it to hear the incredible discipline of the performers -- all those ritardandi and allargandi in the opening chorus must have taken weeks of rehearsal to prepare!

Continue of this discussion, see: Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - conducted by Otto Klemperer [Other Vocal Works]

 

Sensationelle Thomaner

Andreas Bughardt wrote (April 30, 2005):
Published in the Leipziger Volkszeitung: http://www.lvz-online.de/lvz-heute/165266.html

Douglas Neslund wrote (April 30, 2005):
[To Andreas Bughardt] Thank you, Andreas, for giving us a chance to read this review from this year's Bach Fest in Leipzig.

Do you read in the review perhaps a little influence from Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden beginning to take place in the Thomaners? :-) Do youl remember Cantor Biller's remark to Gerhard following the wonderful Toelzer's performances at Bach-Fest 2001 that "We must now rethink the way we perform Bach's music!" It appears now that he meant it

Congratulations to Cantor Biller for impressing with such a leap forward. Excellent!

Boyd Pehrson wrote (April 30, 2005):
[To Douglas Neslund & Andreas Bughardt] Thank you Andreas for posting the link. It is nice to read a sparkling review of the Thomanerchor efforts. Doug, I wonder if your anecdote regarding Cantor Biller's comments about rethinking Bach performances would include the serious training of soloists from the ranks of the choir? One recent hopeful indication is three Thomanerchor soloists' participation in Magic Flute at the Opera Leipzig. Hopefully this idea will continue to blossom for Bach and other sacred performances.

Eric Bergerud wrote (April 30, 2005):
[To Douglas Neslund] As a collector of Rotzsch/Thomanerchor cantatas the article cited relays good news. (The Rotzsch performances are really nice, but everything else like liner notes and even the quality of CD cases is pretty lame. Might reflect the East German heritage of the originals. That said, I rather doubt that this series is ripe for reissue and the number of used copies is certainly finite. At least that's the excuse I use to buy every one I encounter.) Let's hope that some good new recordings come from Leipzig - it would be fitting, nicht wahr?

I must say that cantata mania has improved my German very much in the last couple of years - it's close to what it was in grad student days. However, for a kick, I tried Google's translation of the page and found out that Cantor Biller seems to have some relationship with "the academy for old person music from Berlin." I don't think they're implying that Herr Biller was a student of Bach or Mendelssohn, but things weren't too clear. Those close to computers know that for decades computerized translation has been something of a "Holy Grail" for programmers. (The NSA and other intelligence agencies were particularly interested in the project.) From the looks of things, the quest will have to continue a while longer.

 

The First Thomaskantors

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 8, 2006):
As informed last week, I am in a process of adding/expanding short biographies of all the Thomaskantors. You can see the current status at the page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Thomaskantors.htm

I would like to ask for your help regarding two matters:

a. In the 1952 edition of Grove I found that the first Thomaskantor was Johan Urban, who was appointed in 1439.
The first Thomaskantor listed in the Leipzig Lexikon is Georg Rhau, who served between 1518-1520.
See: http://www.leipzig-lexikon.de/KULTBETR/thomkant.htm
This means that there is a big gap between Urban and Rhau.
Does anybody know who were the Thomaskantors between these two?

b. For some Kantors at the page:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Thomaskantors.htm
there is no link under their names. It means that I have not been able to find any biographical material about them.
I would appreciate any help completing the missing bios.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 8, 2006):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thank you for a valuable resource. Does anyone know how these cantors' works were preserved? Was all their concerted music in their own private libraries (as Bach's was) or did St. Thomas' preserved manuscript copies. Bach obviously used his cantoral hymn book, but it would interesting to know if Bach ever used his concerted music. Instance, there is no Bach choral setting of the Te Deum, but both Schein and Buxtehude have large scale settings. What settings did Bach use when their was a miltary victory or accession to celebrate? The Schein double-choir setting with four "choirs" of instruments looks particularly juicy.

 

Thomasschule Ordnungen

Rick Canyon wrote (April 27, 2006):
I asked about this in the body of a previous post, so perhaps someone who might know may have missed my request.

Is it possible to obtain a copy of the Ordnungen for the Thomasschule? I note that Andrew Parrott lists in his bibliography a version edited by H-J Schulze (Leipzig 1987). But, I looked on both Amazon and Amazon.de and could not find it. The image on the cover seems well-known and often reproduced. An English translation would be nice, but that might be too much to hope for.

Thanks for any assistance.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 28, 2006):
[To Rick Canyon]
Here's slightly more info about that entry: http://www.qub.ac.uk/music-cgi/bach2.pl?22=1001

Try the library searches available through here: http://www.rilm.org/subscribe.html
"free trial" and then OCLC.

http://www.oclc.org/worldcat/open/default.htm
"Try an Open WorldCat search"

Good luck!

Jean-Pierre Grivois wrote (April 28, 2006):
[To Bradley Lehman] I have a fac-simile of these Ordnungen und Gesetze.

In fact it is a rather complicated story, because these three Ordnungen und Gesetze are very different in style and purpose. The basic Ordnung is dated 1634.The two later (1723 and 1733) are very interestinng because they help us to understand in particular the history of the friendly relations between JSB and Gessner one part, and the raher bad relations between JSB and the second Ernesti on ther otherr part. The edition of this facsimile is "Zentralantiquariat, der deutschen demokratischen republik Leipzig 1985" If you have more questions, I can try yo answer them. If you speak French, it would be easier for me.

 

Sartorial Splendor of the Thomaners

Rick Canyon wrote (May 25, 2006):
I've come across the following during some research:

Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Bach's choir members did not wear vestments >
On this website about the Thomanerchor: http://www.mcpetersen.net/wolfgang/thomanerchor/english.htm
it states: "Still in the 18th century the boys were often required to go through the streets in wigs, dark cloaks and often barefoot."

Andrew Parrott (in "The Essential Bach Choir) offers Schering's analysis of a 1710 engraving: "Each quartet has two older and two younger singers. The younger (and shorter) ones (sopranos and altos) are marked out by their black gowns and boys' wigs (Knabenperuecken) as pupils of the Thomasschule..." It also indicates that the older students wore mens clothes and full-bottomed wigs (Allongeperuecken)...and carried daggers.

A book apparently aimed at youth ("Johann Sebastian Bach" by Reba Paeff Mirskey, Follett Publishing, 1965) states: "...the boys...dressed in the school uniform of black capes and green hats..."

Which, if any, is correct? Was there any difference between what was worn to class and what was worn to services? I am trying to gather info about Bach's Leipzig period with some accuracy for a writing project. Any help or direction is appreciated.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 25, 2006):
Rick Canyon wrote:
< Andrew Parrott (in "The Essential Bach Choir) offers Schering's analysis of a 1710 engraving: "Each quartet has two older and two younger singers. The younger (and shorter) ones (sopranos and altos) are marked out by their black gowns and boys' wigs (Knabenperuecken) as pupils of the Thomasschule..." It also indicates that the older students wore mens clothes and full-bottomed wigs (Allongeperuecken)...and carried daggers. >
This would appear to be the equivalent of a school uniform. Boys in English cathedral and college choirs still wear an extraordinary variety of historic top hats, cloaks, blazers, and white tie. Before statutory church services, the choirs don cassock (the long black or red soutane) and white surplice. This was standard choir vestment across Europe before the Reformation. The surplice was largely abandoned as a "clerical" vestment by Presbyterians, Calvinists and Lutherans. Bach's choirs appear not to have worn any traditional vestments in church. This was not universally observed by all Lutherans. In Scandinavia, the clergy still wear the vestments of the Roman rite and the choirs are dressed in cassock and surplice.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (May 25, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< This would appear to be the equivalent of a school uniform. Boys in English cathedral and college choirs still wear an extraordinary variety of historic top hats, cloaks, blazers, and white tie. Before statutory church services, the choirs don cassock (the long black or red soutane) and white surplice. >
What is the difference (if any) between a surplice and a cotta?

< This was standard choir vestment across Europe before the Reformation. The surplice was largely abandoned as a "clerical" vestment by Presbyterians, Calvinists and Lutherans. Bach's choirs appear not to have worn any traditional vestments in church. This was not universally observed by all Lutherans. In Scandinavia, the clergy still wear the vestments of the Roman rite and the choirs are dressed in cassock and surplice. >
In Poland, the clergy in the Reformed and Lutheran Churches wear something that looks like (and is probably even called) a toga (in the academic sense of the word); they have this additional white collar piece which serves to differentiate the two. The choirs sometimes wear vestments or uniforms (mostly only those which do a lot of public performances outside of church), sometimes not.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 25, 2006):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote:
< What is the difference (if any) between a surplice and a cotta? >
The original vestment was the alb, the white tunic that all Roman men and women wore under their togas and robes in the 4th century when the church emerged from persecution. It was ankle-length with fitted sleeves with a belt.

When secular fashions changed, the church kept the alb and it gradually became the basic vestment of the clergy and choirs. Priests in the Catholic and Anglican churches still wear it. The pastors in Bach's churches would have worn it under their poncho-like chasubles during the morning eucharist/mass.

In the high middle ages, the alb became fuller in cut with wide sleeves and the belt disappeared so that it was easier for clergy and choirs to get in and out if them for the many daily services. This "choir dress" can still be seen in most Anglican churches and in many Catholic cathedrals: the Sistine Choir always wears cassock and surplice when singing. The use of the surplice disappeared in German Lutheran churches after the Reformation although iScandinavia, the vestment was never abandoned by the Lutheran churches. Bach's boys appear to have worn what was their school "uniform",

The cotta was a scaled-down version of the surplice which appeared in 17th century Catholic churches. The sleeves were cut up to the elbow and the length was shortened to waist height. This was part of a general reduction of the fullness of all vestments in the 17th century. Part of it was efficiency: it was easier to handle things like censers if you didn't have sleeves. Cottas gradually became the vestment of acolytes and servers in the mass: the assisting ministers and master of ceremonies at a papal mass can be seen wearing cassock and cotta.

Mike Mannix wrote (May 25, 2006):
It sounds like Harry Potter rather than JSB's Leipzig.

Rick Canyon wrote (May 26, 2006):
[To Mike Mannix] I'm not so sure. I like Harry, but Muggles and Hogwarts always come across as being very
unmusical.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (May 26, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The original vestment was the alb, the white tunic that all Roman men and women wore under their togas and robes in the 4th century when the church emerged from persecution. It was ankle-length with fitted sleeves with a belt. >
Now I thought that the Greeks at least wore just togas without albs - do I have my facts straight here, or did the Romans do it differently?

< When secular fashions changed, the church kept the alb and it gradually became the basic vestment of the clergy and choirs. Priests in the Catholic and Anglican churches still wear it. The pastors in Bach's churches would have worn it under their poncho-like chasubles during the morning eucharist/mass. >
So they would have had the fancy ones encrusted with gold embroidery, etc.?

< In the high middle ages, the alb became fuller in cut with wide sleeves and the belt disappeared so that it was easier for clergy and choirs to get in and out if them for the many daily services. >
And I guess it acquired buttons at this time too?

< This "choir dress" can still be seen in most Anglican churches and in many Catholic cathedrals: the Sistine Choir always wears cassock and surplice when singing. The use of the surplice disappeared in German Lutheran churches after the Reformation although in Scandinavia, the vestment was never abandoned by the Lutheran churches. >
In Poland, the Lutherans don't use anything beyond the toga unless there will be communion. Then they use a surplice, preferably lavishly hemmed and cuffed with lace - our young vicar has one he must have inherited, it was clearly not made yesterday, from the lace I would believe him if he told me it was an antique (though I've never asked).

[snip]

< The cotta was a scaled-down version of the surplice which appeared in 17th century Catholic churches. The sleeves were cut up to the elbow and the length was shortened to waist height. >
Aha. So the surplice is a larger version of what I used to wear as a chorister and acolyte at one of the Episcopal churches I used to go to (in a former lifetime ;) ).

< This was part of a general reduction of the fullness of all vestments in the 17th century. Part of it was efficiency: it was easier to handle things like censers if you didn't have sleeves. >
Yeah. Fortunately, at the other Episcopal church I attended for a time, the acolytes just used albs. I mean, they were super-high, very fancy ceremonies and all - can you imagine, for example, doing 360's with a thurible (i.e. swinging it in a 360-degree circle in a vertical plane next to your body), loaded with incense of course, for Christmas or Easter in anything more than
that?

< Cottas gradually became the vestment of acolytes and servers in the mass: the assisting ministers and master of ceremonies at a papal mass can be seen wearing cassock and cotta. >
So Catholics do that too... Thanks muchly for info!

 

The Thomaskantors - Update

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 13, 2006):
In January 2006 I informed you of a process I have been working on, of adding/expanding short biographies of all the Thomaskantors. I am glad to inform you that the list is now as complete as possible. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Thomaskantors.htm
The list and the short biographies have been built with the help of Thomas Braatz and of Dr. Stefan Altner from the Thomanerchor.

There were 21 Thomaskantors before J.S. Bach and 16 after him to present. Among J.S. Bach's predecessors were important composers as: Johannes Galliculus and Wolfgang Figulus, and especially the line of six that served in this post before him: Sethus Calvisius, Johann Hermann Schein, Tobias Michael, Sebastian Knüpfer, Johann Schelle and Johann Kuhnau. The tradition of composers in this post continued after J.S. with figures as Johann Friedrich Doles (leading composer of Protestant church music), Johann Adam Hiller (creator of the German Singspiel) and Moritz Hauptmann (who was also an eminent theorist). It is interesting to note that during the on-going project of Chorale Melodies Thomas Braatz and I have found that many of these Thomaskantors/composers used CM's (which were also used by J.S. Bach) in their works.

However, you can find in the list also less important figures, even non-composers. For example, Johannes Scharnagel, who in 1511 flee from Leipzig because he was suspected in a homicide of a choir pupil, and was again accepted only later by the grace of the council.

If you find additional info/pictures, errors, etc. of any of the Thomaskantors, you are invited to send it to me, either through the BCML or to my private e-mail address.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 14, 2006):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
>>However, you can find in the list also less important figures, even non-composers. For example, Johannes Scharnagel, who in 1511 flee from Leipzig because he was suspected in a homicide of a choir pupil, and was again accepted only later by the grace of the council.<<
Another interesting list might be of those applied for and who were considered for the post (some important composers involved), but then declined or were not accepted for various reasons.

In this latter group and along the lines of the passage quoted above, here is a short biography of one who actually filled the post for a while without being officially appointed:

>>Johann Rosenmüller received his early musical training at the Lateinschule at Oelsnitz and matriculated in the theological faculty of the University of Leipzig in 1640. There he most likely continued his musical studies with Tobias Michael, cantor of the Thomasschule, and he is listed as an assistant there in 1642, teaching music in the lower classes. By 1650 he had become the first assistant; in 1651 he was also appointed organist of the
Nicolaikirche, and in 1653 the Leipzig city council promised him the succession to the Thomasschule cantorate. In the following year he also became director of music in absentia to the Altenburg court. This promising career came to an abrupt halt in spring 1655, when he and several of the schoolboys were arrested and imprisoned on suspicion of homosexuality. He escaped from gaol and is thought to have gone to Hamburg, though there is no documentary evidence for his presence there.
<< Kerala J. Snyder from Grove Music Online, Oxford University Press, 2006, acc. 6/13/06

Martin Geck, in his article for the MGG1 (Bärenreiter, 1986) onRosenmüller, has the latter taking over all the duties as Director of Music for the major Leipzig churches because the Thomaskantor, Tobias Michael, was ailing. It was on the basis of this that the Leipzig City Council promised him that he would become the next Thomaskantor.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (June 14, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] Is Johann Rosenmüller the same person as Johann Rus(s)senmüller which must be a transliteration of the letters ö,ß into Roman letters (?). Also are you saying that this person was a pedophile or that he simply was gay and his students were did also but no pedophilic relations between them???

R. is lucky to just to have done prison time because in those days people were boiled in oil, hung, garroted, drawn and quartered, accused of witchcraft,tortured,and beheaded if they were gay and little to distinction was made between being gay and being a pedophile even though homosexuality was rife in the Prussian/Hessian Army if those who served in the American Revolution under Washington are representative of these armies.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 15, 2006):
William Rowland asked:
>>Is Johann Rosenmüller the same person as Johann Rus(s)senmüller which must be a transliteration of the letters ö,ß into Roman letters (?).<<
No, certainly not according to the MGG1 article from which I quoted some of this material. The article begins in this manner:

>>Rosenmüller (Rosenmiller), Johann (Giovanni), * um 1619 in Ölsnitz im Vogtland, begraben 12. Sept. 1684
in Wolfenbüttel.<<

>>Also are you saying that this person was a pedophile or that he simply was gay and his students were did also but no pedophilic relations between them???<<
Again a section from the MGG1 article which I did not quote because I thought the New Grove entry had explained this sufficiently:

>>Im Frühjahr 1655 mußte Rosenmüller Leipzig unter dem Verdacht der Päderastie verlassen und damit berechtigte Hoffnungen auf ein angesehenes Kantoren-oder Kapellmeister-Amt in Mitteldeutschland begraben.<<

("In the spring of 1655, Rosenmüller had to leave Leipzig as he was suspected of being a pederast and as a result any justifiable hopes that he might have had to obtain a respectable position as cantor [the position of Thomaskantor had been promised to him] or capellmeister in central Germany were shattered." where the German word 'Päderastie' or 'Päderast' is defined as "Homosexueller mit besonders auf männliche Jugendliche gerichtetem Sexualempfinden" ("as being a homosexual with special sexual feelings directed towards male youths {boys}").

 

Modern Cantata performances

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 5, 2007):
Last Sunday was the Thomanerchor's annual liturgy using the church order of Bach's time. Cantata BWV 165 and the Sanctus in D were performed: http://www.leipzig-online.de/thomanerchor/

An interesting photo of a concert in St. Thomas with the performers in the choir loft and the audience in chairs turned to face the back of the church: http://www.thomaskirche.org/neu/eng/parish/parish.htm

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Thanks for making these sites available, Doug. The preservation of the St. Thomas church and the tradition of the best of music is a great work indeed. I enjoyed my visit via the web.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] I always appreciate your posts, emphasizing the importance of architecture and placement, in relation to the production and appreciation of truly authentic sound. But a picture is worth a thousand words, at least. Perhaps ten thousand of the sort often spent here?

I did also notice the accompanying homily, with humility :

"As long as the St. Thomas Church remains a place of vivid faith, where Doubting Thomas is welcome as much as Faithful Peter, [.] it will represent what many people are longing for: an open venue in the middle of the city, a shelter for everyone longing for consolation and guidance."

And music.

 

Question about the Ramin Bach Cantatas

Yoël L. Arbeitman (Malvenuto) wrote (January 23, 2008):
Yesterday I was able to hear two of the Ramin cantatas, namely BWV 106 (with two boy soloists) and BWV 73 with boy soprano. I was very moved by both performances. It is my impression from the information that I have gathered, cantata by cantata that a number of the Ramin cantatas (see the copy and paste below) use boy soloists. However I have been told that the above two are the only ones and the rest use adult women soloists.

Can someone confirm the one or the other view for me please? The website language is a bit strange, referring often to sopranos and altos and using a mixture of terminology such as "nameless" and "anonymous" and it possible that disc-mate contamination has occurred. The two I heard are indeed low cholesterol and very modern for their time and the tenor is superb to my ears.

Thanks,

< BWV (1724) cantata BWV 73 "Herr,wie du willt,so schicks mit mir " (12/02/1954)
Hans Joachim Rotzsch, tenor >

According to my reading of Aryeh Oron's discography (and of course the facts/the data may be wrong), the following cantatas are recorded by Ramin with Knabensopran and/or Knabenalt. I have traced each CD compilation on Aryeh's site to the individual cantatas so bundled and this is what I come up with:

Complete Recordings of BWV 36
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Soprano: Elisabeth Meinel-Asbahr; Alto: Soloist from the Thomanerchor Leipzig; Tenor: Rolf Apreck; Bass: Johannes Oettel
Nov 1952
TT: 29:21
Recorded at Thomaskirche, Leipzig, Germany.
--------------------
BWV 41 Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Soprano: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Alto: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Tenor: Gert Lutze; Bass: Johannes Oettel
------------------
BWV 72
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Soprano: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Alto: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Bass: Hans Hauptmann
1956
TT: 19:35
--------------------
BWV 12
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Alto: Soloist from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Tenor: Gert Lutze, Bass: Friedrich Härtel
--------------------
BWV 137
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Boy Soprano & Alto: Soloists of Thomanerchor Leipzig (no names); Tenor: Gert Lutze; Bass: Johannes Oettel
May 1953
TT: 22:47
-----------------
BWV 138

Complete Recordings of BWV 36
Günther Ramin

Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

Soprano: Elisabeth Meinel-Asbahr; Alto: Soloist from the Thomanerchor Leipzig; Tenor: Rolf Apreck; Bass: Johannes Oettel
Leipzig Classics
Nov 1952
TT: 29:21
Recorded at Thomaskirche, Leipzig, Germany.
--------------------
BWV 41 Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Soprano: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Alto: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Tenor: Gert Lutze; Bass: Johannes Oettel
------------------
BWV 72
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Soprano: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Alto: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Bass: Hans Hauptmann
1956
TT: 19:35
--------------------
BWV 12
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Alto: Soloist from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Tenor: Gert Lutze, Bass: Friedrich Härtel
--------------------
BWV 137
Günther Ramin
TLeipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Boy Soprano & Alto: Soloists of Thomanerchor Leipzig (no names); Tenor: Gert Lutze; Bass: Johannes Oettel
May 1953
TT: 22:47
-----------------
BWV 138
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Soprano & Alto: Anonymous boys from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Tenor: Gert Lutze; Bass: Johannes Oettel
Jun 1953
TT: 22:30
--------------------
BWV 95
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Boy Soprano: Soloist from Thomanerchor Leipzig (No name); Tenor: Gert Lutze; Bass: Hans Hauptmann
Sep 1952
TT: 20:38
------------------
BWV 79
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Soprano: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Alto: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Bass: Hans Hauptmann
1950
TT: 18:02
-----------------------
BWV 119
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Sopranos: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Alto: Marianne Biederbeck-Schuster; Tenor: Gert Lutze; Bass: Johannes Oettel
Jan 1953
TT: 26:12
--------------------
BWV 78
Cantata BWV 78
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Soprano & Alto: Soloist from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Tenor: Gert Lutze; Bass: Johannes Oettel
Ariola Eurodisc
1950 (NEVER ON CD)
-------------------

Neil Halliday wrote (January 24, 2008):
Malvenuto wrote:
>I have been told that the above two are the only ones and the rest use adult women soloists. Can someone confirm the one or the other view for me please? The website language is a bit strange, referring often to sopranos and altos<
I can't answer your specific question, but I recall Ramin sometimes uses the choir sopranos in places we would normally expect a soloist; likewise for some alto lines.

Yoël L. Arbeitman (Malvenuto) wrote (January 24, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] Thank you, Neil, for your reply. I understand that you mean the kind of thing that I have heard some performances on recording doing with BWV 78/duet "wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten". There are some interesting performances of this with choir of sopranos and altos. Again is there any justification for such a practice?

Thanks,

Neil Halliday wrote (January 25, 2008):
Malvenuto wrote:
>I understand that you mean the kind of thing that I have heard some performances on recording doing with BWV 78/duet "wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten". There are some interesting performances of this with choir of sopranos and altos.<
Correct. I doubt there is any more justification for such practice, than that a conductor considers that it sounds good. BTW, there are examples of Koopman and Gardiner using choir sopranos (or altos), where a soloist is more commomnly used. (Gardiner uses a choir, or section of, in every movement of BWV 4! Most effectively, I might add).

Interestingly, I suspect a performance of the last movement (SB duet) of this week's cantata BWV 49, would also sound very agreeable if the soprano line (a chorale melody in long notes) was sung by a vibrato-free soprano choir.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 25, 2008):
Question re Ramin

Neil Halliday wrote:
<Interestingly, I suspect a performance of the last movement (SB duet) of this week's cantata BWV 49, would also sound very agreeable if the soprano line (a chorale melody in long notes) was sung by a vibrato-free soprano choir.>
This is exactly what Gardiner does in his version of BWV 158, Mvt. 2, bass aria, with soprano choir in the accompanying chorale cantus firmus. By coincidence, that was one the cantatas I introduced last year, and so I was able to recollect it without much of a struggle. Thanks for the reminder, and very appropriate to the current discussions.

Unfortunately, the chronology of BWV 158 is unknown, but the stylistic and structural comparison with BWV 49 perhaps can help support its authenticity, which may still be in question.

We can only patiently await the release of Gardiners BWV 49 to see if he used choir section again.

Terejia wrote (January 26, 2008):
By choir or by soloist Re: Question re Ramin

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< This is exactly what Gardiner does in his version of BWV 158, Mvt. 2, bass aria, with soprano choir in the accompanying chorale cantus firmus. By coincidence, that was one the cantatas I introduced last year, and so I was able to recollect it without much of a struggle. Thanks for the reminder, and very appropriate to the current
discussions. >
Something that may relate : In Weihenachts Oratorium/Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) in Teil 1 and Teil 4, there are bass recitatives accompanied by sopranos chorales (not being a music specialist, I leave the details to music specialists if needed). Of the 3 renditions I've heard so far(Harnoncourt's 1979 version, Karl Richter, and Martin Flemisch), only Harnoncourt version uses boy-choir soloist and the other two are rendered by choir.

I'm not up to discussing the authenticity of renditions myself. For me personally, both make sense as long as it is vibrate free.

Yoël L. Arbeitman (Malvenuto) wrote (January 28, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Correct. I doubt there is any more justification for such practice, than that a conductor considers that it sounds good. BTW, there are examples of Koopman and Gardiner using choir sopranos (or altos), where a soloist is more commomnly used. (Gardiner uses a choir, or section of, in every movement of BWV 4! Most effectively, I might add). >
I have just had the pleasure of listening to Ramin's recording of BWV 36 and indeed, contrary to the information in Aryeh's deeply appreciated discography (for which we not only all owe him our gratitude but owe him our corrections when we run across such matters): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV36.htm

There is in the Ramin no boy alto soloist at all.The 2nd mvt. "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" is sung by a choir of two parts, boy sopranos and boy altos. This is what the discography lists for the Rotzsch conducted performance. It is rather angelic. Harnoncourt has the duet done by a SUPERB Knabensopran and a CT. Ramin has the later soprano aria (mis-guidedly in my opinion) done by a full-bodied and red-bloodied adult female soprano. I am about to go on to Harnoncourt anno 2007 live performance with adult soprano and alto of the female persuasion. Harnoncourt has vacillated on this matter all his life. Witness his officially released three CD recordings of the Matthäus-Passion. Witness his CD recording (not the Gillesberger but Harnoncourt's) of the Johannes-Passion vs. his DVD recorded performance.

Yoël L. Arbeitman (Malvenuto) wrote (March 16, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] There are in fact 10 cantatas in the Ramin set that have, when applicable, both Knabenalt and Knabensopran. When of course there is only a sopran and no alt (or vice versa), there is only one boy soloist. I have been able to hear four of these ten and several other Ramin cantatas with female soloists. I just feel that the record should be corrected. Somehow I believe that there is much to appreciate in these performances. Hopefully the set will be reissued.

 

New release: Günther Ramin Vol. 1

Fidelio Records wrote (December 8, 2008):
For many years, there has been a great demand for recordings by the great organist and choirmaster Günther Ramin as a supplement to the cantata edition which was released by Eterna on LP and then CD.

It is with great pleasure that we are able to inform the members of the Bach Cantata Forum of an exciting new release as part of a planned CD edition dedicated to the Thomaskantor and Organist GünRamin featuring hitherto unpublished rare recordings.

The first release is available and features Cantatas 110 and 21. For more information and to order, please visit: www.fidelio-records.com and support this worthwhile edition.

Thank you!

Julian Mincham wrote (December 8, 2008):
[To Fidelio Records] I looked at the web site and found a number of Joyce Hatto's recordings still for sale.

There is a huge amount on the internet about the hoax apparently perpertrated by releasing recordings of other pianists in her name so I am somewhat surprised to see her recordings still listed and available.

Has anyone got the final word on this one?

Mary Shaw wrote (December 10, 2008):
[To Julian Mincham] As of 30 seconds ago, the web site only shows one product, a CD of Bach conducted by Ramin.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (December 17, 2008):
[To Mary Shaw] Last Jan., almost a year ago, I was quite desperately seeking a copy of the Ramin cantatas. They were all out of print and available nowhere.

After I was sent by a personal friend the present notice, I checked once again on Amazon.com and surprise, surprise, it says that the Ramin Cantata set from Eterna has been re-released on Oct. 25, 2008. It is inexpensive and even cheaper from sellers. I ordered a copy last night. Last Jan. a silent member of the other list (the one where I do not even read--- the theological list) kindly sent me uploads of a few of his personal LP transfers of some of the Ramin cantatas with boy soprano and/or boy alto. As I recall, 10 of the cantatas have boy soloists (sometimes choir of boys in place of soloist). At all events, happily I found I had saved his address and I wrote to thank him for his past kindness and to inform him that I now look forward to the complete set.

As to the Fidelio, it that to be USA available? I do not intend under current circumstances to order from the other side of the world.

Also, as Aryeh notes in the discography, there is a 1950 BWV 78 never transfered to CD.

Much thanks for any further information,

 

New Release: Günther Ramin Limited Edition now available to US customers

Fidelio Records wrote (February 26, 2009):
Due to increased demand for the new Günther Ramin Edition in the USA, Volume 1 will now be available for US customers from our website: www.fidelio-records.com

The CD contains BWV 110 and BWV 21 'Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis' as well as a very rare recorded spoken introduction by Ramin himself. This exciting new release, a limited collectors' edition, should not be missed as these recordings are not likely to be published again.

 

Biller in St. Thomas's

Neil Halliday wrote (May 5, 2010):
Heard on radio today,
a recording made in St. Thomas Church, Leipzig, under direction of Geog Biller.

BWV 186 and BWV 187. Lovely music full of variety and charm.

And no boring seccos with scrappy accompaniment; rather, Biller uses discreet full length bass notes on organ and cello, complemented with treble harmonies realised on a lute. (For some reason a lute can clearly delineate the pitch of notes on recordings more sucessfully than a harpsichord - whose pitchless 'buzz' is often little more than annoying, on recordings).

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 5, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< (For some reason a lute can clearly delineate the pitch of notes on recordings more sucessfully than a harpsichord - whose pitchless 'buzz' is often little more than annoying, on recordings). >
Sniff, sniff .. Is that a match being struck I smell?

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 6, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< And no boring seccos with scrappy accompaniment; rather, Biller uses discreet full length bass notes on organ and cello, complemented with treble harmonies realised on a lute. (For some reason a lute can clearly delineate the pitch of notes on recordings more sucessfully than a harpsichord - whose pitchless 'buzz' is often little more than annoying, on recordings). >
A bit (but only a bit) kinder than Beecham, and those skeletons on the tin roof, doing whatever?

Neil Halliday wrote (May 6, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>A bit (but only a bit) kinder than Beecham, and those skeletons on the tin roof, doing whatever?<
Thanks for the chuckle, Ed.

BTW, rather than 'lighting a flame', I wanted to highlight the reasons for, and effect of, Herr Biller's choices.

Not that I have any qualms about being on the same page as Beecham, or Schweitzer, for that matter, who apparently wanted to dump the seccos altogether, in the cantatas! (Maybe Biller could have won him over?)

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 6, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< And no boring seccos with scrappy accompaniment; rather, Biller uses discreet full length bass >notes on organ and cello, complemented with treble harmonies realised on a lute. (For some reason a lute can clearly delineate the pitch of notes on recordings more sucessfully than a >harpsichord - whose pitchless 'buzz' is often little more than annoying, on recordings). >
Despite a few humorous exchanges, I agree with Neil that there are substantial points in his original comment. Among the questions which come to mind:

(1) Is a lute an authentic continuo instrument, for Bach's sacred cantatas? Whether yes or no, if it sounds appropriate to the performer in charge, is it legitimate instrumentation for a 21st C. recording?

(2) Are there differences in what sounds good in live performance, compared with recordings? My first instinct was no, but in this instance of harpsichord supporting orchestral continuo, it is worth some thought. Like Neil, I do not care for the efffect on recordings, but it is easier, for me, to appreciate in performance, with the visual support of where the sound is coming from.

(3) I expect the pitchless buzz was specific to harpsichord continuo, but not to solo harpsichord? Just in case, for anyone who would like to enjoy counter examples, check out any of Peter Watchorns recordings, using Bach/Lehman tuning. Clear pitch, no buzz.

(4) I wonder if authentic Bach tuning, as opposed to equal temperament, might help to improve the impression made by harpsichord continuo, whether live or recorded?

Thanks to those of you who have patience with my enjoying a bit of fun at times. And to those who express impatience (or worse), well...

Evan Cortens wrote (May 6, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< (1) Is a lute an authentic continuo instrument, for Bach's sacred cantatas? Whether yes or no, if it sounds appropriate to the performer in charge, is it legitimate instrumentation for a 21st C. recording? >
I'm sure there are people who know more about this than me here (Brad?) but to my knowledge, there is no evidence to support that Bach ever used the lute in his continuo group, or at least not on a regular basis. He did use two (obbligato!) lutes in the Trauer-Ode (BWV 198), but this must be seen as an exception. Surely Dreyfus's book (Bach's Continuo Group) has something to say on this, but I don't have it handy at the moment.

That being said, I don't want to start a flame war here! I'm never going to tell anyone that they should or shouldn't use a particular instrument in their recording. Or, for that matter, if it's historically inaccurate that it's therefore a bad recording. My thoughts on historically informed performance come down to this: we should try our best to understand what Bach did, but we need not ever feel bound by it.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 7, 2010):
Evan Cortens wrote:
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>> (1) Is a lute an authentic continuo instrument, for Bach's sacred cantatas? <<
EC:
< to my knowledge, there is no evidence to support that Bach ever used the lute in his continuo group, or at least not on a regular basis. He did use two (obbligato!) lutes in the Trauer-Ode (BWV 198), but this must be seen as an exception. Surely Dreyfus's book (Bach's Continuo Group) has sometto say on this, but I don't have it handy at the moment. >
EM:
I do not see any articles, re lute, in the BCW archives, nor any mention of Lute in the obbligato instruments section. I did notice this comment, re soprano saxophone, as a possible substitute for baroque oboe:
<Most jazz and pop music players might use such an instrument [sop sax] as a harsh tool for aural aggression.>

I beg to differ. Steve Lacy and John Coltrane (in that order!) opened my ears to the potential of the instrument for spiritual expression, just about fifty years ago. I am remain eternally grateful to them both, and to many current friends who include soprano in their bag, as well.

Thanks for the pointer to Dreyfus, which is available on my local library net. I will report back, as appropriate.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 6, 2010):
Evan Cortens wrote:
>He did use two (obbligato!) lutes in the Trauer-Ode (BWV 198), but this must be seen as an exception.<
A look at the BGA score of BWV 198 reveals that, in four movements, the two lutes are in fact continuo instruments; only one movement has one of the lutes in an obbligato roll, while the other lute is marked 'col' continuo'.

Certainly BWV 198 appears to show the only example of continuo lute in the cantatas; one wonders why this is the case.

-------

Of course Bach, if not playing it himself, was no doubt usually phyically quite close to the harpsichord in the peformances of the (few?) cantatas that had continuo harpsichord, so he would not have been aware of the problem we are discussing - and which Beecham, standing at a distance in front of much larger vocal and instrumental forces, would have noted, in the relevent works. Hence his aversion?

The problem of the "pitchless buzz" arises for audiences of music with harpsichord in ensemble (not solo!), not only on recordings, but also at live concerts where the listener is considerably removed from the harpsichord. Ofcouse, no-one cares less about this in music for larger ensembles - except keyboard concertos, where the instrument must be heard - but it certainly is a problem in smaller ensembles, such as secco recitatives, or instrumental sonatas) where the keyboard (or plucked) continuo instrument is relied on to convey a significant proportion of the musical 'information'.

[I suppose the way around this is to mike the harpsichord separately, but this creates problems for recording engineers - for recordings if not for live performances - because 'true' stereo would be difficult to restore to the recording ].

In conclusion, thank you, Herr Biller, for your choice of lute, as reported.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Continuo in Bach's Vocal Works - Part 8 [General Topics]

 

Cantors in Leipzig

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 18, 2012):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Seth Calvisius? >
Cantor of St. Thomas from 1594 - 1615
Bio: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Calvisius-Sethus.htm

I also discovered that Praetorius' German name is Schulz.

So we now have four German S's:

Schütz, Schulz, Schein & Scheidt.

Say that quickly without a German expletive!

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (January 18, 2012):
[To Douglas Cowling] Well, if the game is "famous German early musicians with a monosyllabic family name starting with the sound sh followed by vowel",

and we include instrument makers, we may have a few more:

Schantz (the fortepiano maker)
Schott (the founder of the printing house).

Six: not bad.

[If we lift the restriction of a vowel after Sch, needless to say, there are many more: Schlick (Arnolt and Johann), Spohr, the Strauss's . . .]

Apologies for the off-topic. Too tired at 1am...

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 18, 2012):
Claudio Di Veroli wrote:
< Well, if the game is "famous German early musicians with a monosyllabic family name starting with the sound sh followed by vowel" >
Pretty Schlick, guys!

I still want to know if they all went to the same school?

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 18, 2012):
[To Douglas Cowling] A complete list of the Thomaskantors with bios is presented at:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Thomaskantors.htm

 

Washington Post: Leipzig¹s St. Thomas Boys Choir copes with voices deepening at a younger age

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 17, 2012):
Washington Post
"Leipzig’s St. Thomas Boys Choir copes with voices deepening at a younger age"

 

OT: Johann Friedrich Doles

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (April 18, 2012):
A colleague of mine has finished a new urtext edition via Prima la Musica of Dole's setting of the chorale tune "Nun danket alle gott." I've generated a video for the music, in an effort to allow you an opportunity to hear music that typically wouldn't be available. The youtube video is: http://youtu.be/eoe8v-EPMbA

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 18, 2012):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Lovely setting with a very shapely Classical ritornello. The sudden emergence of contrapuntal choral parts in the last third is quite striking.

Always instructive to hear Bach's predecessors and successors. Gives us a glimpse of Leipzig not just as a Bach phenomenon but as a city with an extraordinary heritage that Bach was privileged to be part of.

 

Thomanerchor sings in St. Peter's Basilica

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 29, 2013):
Luther and Bach would be astonished.

The Thomanerchor is singing for the papal mass in St. Peter's Basilica this morning as part of the mass for the über-papal occasion of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

A short CNN piece on the 800 anniversary of the school: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txQFlJZkwaQ

 

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

Conductors of Vocal Works: A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | Singers & Instrumentalists

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