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Translations of Texts of Bach's Vocal Works
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Translation / fake pseudo-English

Continue of discussion from: Johannes-Passion BWV 245 - General Discussions Part 5 [Other Vocal Works]

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 11, 2005):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< Well, translation is nearly an art itself. With luck someone will try to capture the spirit rather than form on the text the Seamus Heaney did in his splendid translation/revision of Beowulf. Course Heaney didn't have to worry about music. But there's got to be a way. >
Recitative in the cantatas which is metrical poetry is perhaps the easiest to adapt because it is syllablic and you can adapt and paraphrase without offending literary taste. In arias and choruses, you have to be careful of runs on difficult English vowels: even a good choir will have trouble singing the opening of the SJP as "Lord, our Redeemer" -- the runs on "-deem" will inevitably sound like "hee hee hee".

The recitatives in the Passions are an insoluable problem because the Scriptural text in English is such a literary icon and so well-known. The old Novello editions were right up front and said that the text of the Authorized (King James) Version would take precedence over the music, and it must be admitted that they did a good job and the word-underlay sounds natural and idiomatic. Only in a couple places were the editors defeated by the German original: the great cry of "Barrabam" in the SMP cannot be anglicized because the accent falls on the second syllable in English. The editors just left "Barrabas" with its dactylic rhythm.

The only solution would be to commission a translation which was adapted exactly to the German. This would be difficult in itself as the German, with its long words and frequent weak endings, is hard to match in English. And I doubt that audiences would be comfortable with a translation which would be constantly drawing attention to itself because of its difference with the familiar versions.

The solution would of course be to use surtitles as most opera houses do. In a way, Bach anticipated this visualization when he wrote the Evangelist's part in red ink. It would be very expensive to develop, but a sophisticated projection of the English text would electrify audiences.

Eric Bergerud wrote (September 11, 2005):
[To Douglas Cowling] Well, the Suzuki DVD of the SJP has English subtitles and I do like it. But a few on the list didn't because you can't turn the titles off - a fact I didn't notice but certainly find odd. I have the DVD of Harnoncourt's recent Magnificat (BWV 243) and cantatas BWV 61 & BWV 147. It doesn't have subtitles at all which surprised me. Classical DVDs must be done on a shoestring budget.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 11, 2005):
[To Eric Bergerud] Has anyone ever seen surtitles projected at a live Bach performance?

Chris Kern wrote (September 11, 2005):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< Well, the Suzuki DVD of the SJP has English subtitles and I do like it. >
I like the fact that it has subtitles, but I would have rather seen them use standard modern English rather than their pseudo-archaic English with phrases like "he oft bethought himself" and the like.

Sw Anandgyan wrote (September 11, 2005):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< Actually, on second thought, there are two English language SJPs in print: one by Apollo's Fire (or the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra: take your pick) under Jeannette Sorrell, the other by the English Chamber Orch under Benjamin Britten. (They join the English language SMPs by Bernstein and Vaughn Williams: also in print.) I haven't heard either English SJP: are they bad? I do have Lenny's SMP and don't find it at all clunky. >
I do have the SJP conducted by Jeannette Sorrell and though it ain't desert-island status nor will it dislodge Suzuki and BCJ from the pole position, it is a period-instrument recording and does feature Daniel Taylor as countertenor.

It remains a curiosity, and I don't regret having spent little money to acquire it.

P.S. Today is Mozart's Requiem.
...... just because.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (September 12, 2005):
Alain Bruguieres wrote:
< Babelfish is a precious resource; here's what I got (guess from which number!):
Mr., our ruler, whose fame is wonderful into all landing! Show us by your passion the fact that you which protects God son, at all time, also in the largest lowness, gentleman light is! >
there is a list which I will not name where many of the posters obviously speak NO ENGLISH at all and post via automatic translation. One great problem is that "sono" means in Italian either "I am" or "they are" or "You [formal] are" and the posts simply give all three alternatives every time.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (September 12, 2005):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
<< Well, the Suzuki DVD of the SJP has English subtitles and I do like it. >>
Chris Kern wrote:
< I like the fact that it has subtitles, but I would have rather seen them use standard modern English rather than their pseudo-archaic English with phrases like "he oft bethought himself" and the like. >
Pseudo Archaic English is simply an abomination and self-defeating. We are, it seems to me (or methinks perhaps) discussing two distinct matters here. One is the language sung and the other is subtitles. I am all for subtitles on DVDs but I insist on the possibility of (1) no subtitles, that is turning them off and (2) the option of the original language. With e.g. a Bach Passion or an operas I know very well such as Les Troyens, I prefer the original language and in the three legit Les Troyens DVDs I have there are multiple language choices of which I always choose the French. For Bach I would always choose the German and that to me makes the Suzuki non-option unacceptable (English burned on). BTW the English have a very long tradition of opera in English and the modern staged tradition of Les Troyens began at Covent Garden in 1957 and 1958 with The Trojans given in English with Vickers of course and these performances are widely available and fairly enjoyable. Conductor was Kubelik who holds a world record in that there are recording of his in an English, a French (the Met), and an Italian Les Troyens (La Scala).

Chris Kern wrote (September 13, 2005):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< For Bach I would always choose the German and that to me makes the Suzuki non-option unacceptable (English burned on). >
The English is not burned into my copy; I'm watching it with the subtitles off right now. There is no way to turn them off from the menu, but using the subtitle key on your DVD player (or option on your DVD computer program) should work.

Tom Dent wrote (September 13, 2005):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] Wasn't the German of the Passion text quite archaic by the time Bach came to set it?

(Not that this is an easy question to answer...)

I think a certain amount of archaism can be taken and produces conducive atmosphere, if it is not clunkily done.

The English Bible translators and prayerbook authors in the 17th century seem to have had a similar approach.

Doug Cowling wrote (September 13, 2005):
Tom Dent wrote:
< Wasn't the German of the Passion text quite archaic by the time Bach came to set it? >
My German certainly isn't good enough to catch the literary nuances, but I suspect that the metrical texts in the Passions sounded like modern poetry to Bach's congregation in apposition to the the more archaic Renaissance German of Luther's scriptural translation. Bach certainly made a distinction between them by writing the Evangelist part in the SMP in red ink.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 14, 2005):
Douglas Cowling wrote in response to Tom Dent's question "Wasn't the German of the Passion text quite archaic by the time Bach came to set it?"
>>My German certainly isn't good enough to catch the literary nuances, but I suspect that the metrical texts in the Passions sounded like modern poetry to Bach's congregation in apposition to thethe more archaic Renaissance German of
Luther's scriptural translation. Bach certainly made a distinction between them by writing the Evangelist part in the SMP in red ink.<<
Much too much has been read into the great significance of Bach's use of red ink other than to emphasize or call attention to something. The reality of the situation regarding biblical quotations always being rendered in red ink does not hold up under closer scrutiny. Here is what Alfred Dürr offers as evidence after a very careful examination of the evidence (reported in the NBA KB II/5, p. 24):

Bach uses red ink in his score of the SMP:

1. to name the part of the Evangelist and other 'Soliquenten' (Ancilla, Pontifex, etc.) as well as the words they sing

2. to indicate in musical notation the untexted chorale melody in the opening mvt. in the top staff of the Organo part for both choruses

3. to indicate in words a direction in mvt. 15 and to show the correct status after a correction had been made

4. to clarify the end of a section by using red ink for the final accolade in the 'Barrabam' section

It is important to note that the Turba choruses which are also biblical texts are not in red ink.

Re: Bach's use of a particular translation of the Bible text

When Bach prepared the new score for the SMP in 1736, he did not change any of the Bible text, despite the fact that new translations into German had become available in the interim such as the Calov Bible he had acquired since first composing the SMP (BWV 244). This is quite amazing, Dürr states, in light of all the changes that Bach kept making to the biblical text of the SJP. (Was the Gospel of St. John closer to his heart?)

Regarding the actual Bible text used by Bach for the SMP, the experts have been unable to locate a single Bible translation that would account for Bach's resulting Bible text. Arthur Mendel, who provided the NBA KB II/4 for the SJP, comes to the same conclusion after having carefully compared new translations of the Bible from 1682, 1707, 1716, 1720, 1725, 1729 and also the account of the Passion in the Vopelius Hymnal of 1682. There are many differences in translation between all of these, but most of them are unimportant. (Orthographic differences are not being considered here.) Nevertheless, they do exist and it would be of interest to see if Bach followed any one of these in particular

The closest similarity, when comparing Bach's text with the other Bibles, is with the 1707 Bible where only 50 deviations from this Bible text were discovered in comparison with Bach's own text. The conclusion which lies close at hand is that Bach personally intervened in the Bible texts and manipulated them to make them suit the musical declamation. Both Walter Blankenburg and Alfred Dürr have been able to demonstrate this in the text for the Christmas Oratorio, but Mendel thinks that such changes in the SJP are simply too scattered about in order to obtain a consistent picture of what Bach's intention was.

Here are some examples of what Bach does to the Bible texts (not found in any of the above translations (or Luther's):

(English equivalents of the German translations given:)

John 18:17 Are you not ['also' - Bach's inclusion) one of these people?

John 18:23 Jesus answers [Bach uses the past tense and adds 'but': "But Jesus answered."]

John 18:39 You have the custom/tradition that I should release one of them for your sake on Easter. [Bach drops the reference to Easter.]

John 19:31 For (the importance)of that particular Sabbath was great [Bach adds 'very' before 'great]

Matthew 26:75 Then Peter thought about the words which Jesus had spoken to him: "Before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times. And he went out and cried bitterly [Bach changes 'dachte' = 'thought' to 'gedachte'= more in the sense of 'think on/over'. Bach's version of the above reads: "Then Peter considered Jesus' words and went out and cried bitterly."] Was Bach making this more dramatic? Is this poetic license? Did Bach have musical reasons for changing the biblical text (even in translation)?

For John 19:38 there is the peculiar problem that all of Bach's current Bible translations left out the description: "For this reason he came and took down Jesus' body." The so-called Luther Bibles with which Bach had contact did not include this statement, hence it was not in the earlier versions (I and II) of the SJP, but included after 1725 when Bach added two additional measures to accommodate the missing text.

Chris Kern wrote (September 14, 2005):
Tom Dent wrote:
< Wasn't the German of the Passion text quite archaic by the time Bach came to set it? >
I have heard that the German of Luther's Bible is closer to modern German than English of the same period is to modern English. I don't know if this is true or not.

If the translators want archaic English, though, they should just go with the KJV text (which has the added advantage of being somewhat familiar to some people). But I don't see the need for archaic language at all, especially written by someone who's basically just faking it by using some obsolete words and verb endings.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (September 14, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] From your interesting account, I wonder: isn't it conceivable that Bach knew the 1707 text by heart, and so didn't feel the need to refer to the printed version, but occasionaly his memory was slightly inaccurate?

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (September 14, 2005):
Chris Kern wrote:
< If the translators want archaic English, though, they should just go with the KJV text (which has the added advantage of being somewhat familiar to some people). But I don't see the need for archaic language at all, especially written by someone who's basically just faking it by using some obsolete words and verb endings. >
The KJ translation has become part of the English language, many of its phrases are known as quotes by non-bible reading persons and they are adopted in literature including some very famed ones where the translation is an inaccurate representation of the original. A great example is "Stranger in a Strange Land" where the Hebrew has two different words. Nevertheless I trust that many persons think this to be Heinlein's creation. The Hebrew actually says something more like "(I was a) a metic in a land not-my-own". There are numerous examples of KJ phrases, often originally Tyndale's and thus a century older than the 1611 translation, that are part of English. But I remember all those Bach cantata translations on the back of record jackets in some kind of non-comprehendible pseudo-English and they are simply created to sound like real "biblical language", I guess,

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (September 14, 2005):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
<< For Bach I would always choose the German and that to me makes the Suzuki non-option unacceptable (English burned on). >>
Chris Kern wrote:
< The English is not burned into my copy; I'm watching it with the subtitles off right now. There is no way to turn them off from the menu, but using the subtitle key on your DVD player (or option on your DVD computer program) should work. >
Well, I have to admit that it was the first of my vocal DVDs. I had the Bernstein Mahler symphonies (well, some of them are vocal but I don't think they have subtitles). I assume you are correct. Nevertheless one would wish for the option of the actual words being sung. Most opera DVDs, not all, most in my fairly limited experience, give 4 language choices for subtitles.While on this subject, the Metropolitan Opera in its supertitles (last I know) gives only English whereas many European houses give a choice of four languages and this in the house.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 14, 2005):
Chris Kern wrote:
>>I have heard that the German of Luther's Bible is closer to modern German than English of the same period is to modern English. I don't know if this is true or not.<<
In a general sense, I believthat this is a true statement. Partly this may be due to Luther's effort to translate the Bible into an everyday, commonplace language as spoken in normal situations. He expended a great amount of time and effort to have the Bible speak the same language which the men or women on the street would use in talking to each other. There were printed translations before, during and after Luther's translation, but one main reason that they did not succeed is that they tended to speak more in the language of scholars with a deliberate attempt at uplifting listener or reader rather than speaking directly to common people. The King James Version is the result of the effort of many scholars (almost 50, if I am not mistaken on this point), but Martin Luther's accomplishment was mainly through his own efforts and with the goal outlined above constantly in mind. Much to his dismay and rather than realizing that the pirated editions of his translations appearing in many different German-speaking areas were really a sign of the astounding success of his translation, he put forth great effort, for the most part unsuccessfully, in attempting to reclaim the printing rights for his own translation. Luther's translation became one of the most important factors leading toward a standardized form of German. Low German, for instance, which once had great importance as the language of commerce and law for the cities of the Hanseatic League, was dealt a death blow by Luther's translation and never really did recover its former importance and status. Had some of the Low German Bible translations before Luther not been presented by scholars in a stilted language displaying the original Latin syntax (translated from the Vulgate version and not from the original Hebrew and Greek as Luther did, there might have been a greater 'battle' for primacy between the various major dialect regions of what later became Germany. As it was, however, Luther's translation had a powerful unifying effect, providing a common language for most dialect regions as Luther, coming from a Middle German area, offered a middle-road, linguistic compromise between the extremes of the northern and southern regions of what later became Germany.

Doug Cowling wrote (September 14, 2005):
Chris Kern wrote:
<< If the translators want archaic English, though, they should just go with the KJV text (which has the added advantage of being somewhat familiar to some people). But I don't see the need for archaic language at all, especially written by someone who's basically just faking it by using some obsolete words and verb endings. >>
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< The KJ translation has become part of the English language, many of its phrases are known as quotes by non-bible reading persons and they are adopted in literature including some very famed ones where the translation is an inaccurate representation of the original. >
Translations of the metrical poetry and chorales for performing editions of Bach cantatas in English have always aped an 18th century English style -- Addison and Pope seem to be models. Catherine Winkworth (1827-78) translated many Lutheran hymns into English for the first time and established the popular notion of a Bach literary style. Her translations of Nun Danker Alle Gott, Schmücke dich, Lobe Den Herrn and others are still sung by congregations in all churches all over the world. Her translations also entered the Novello editions of the Passions. For most English-speakers, they represent the "traditional" literary style of Bach.

Although these translations are eminently singable, they are frequently very loose paraphrases of the original German: "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" is the most famous example. I think Harnoncourt was the first to include accurate modern English translations with his recordings. They were not singing translations and I doubt there would ever be any enthusiasm among choirs for modern translations in a performing editon.

Eric Bergerud wrote (September 14, 2005):
[To Chris Kern] When I was learning German in high school, the third year students (it was a four year program if you can believe it: they had Latin too, not to mention choir and band) read Luther's Bible. Did it myself and found it quite comprehensible. Course the chapters chosen were from the gospels so you had context. Gothic text never vexed me at all. Now if the Germans would stick their verbs and subjects closer together and develop regular plurals ....

Eric Bergerud wrote (September 14, 2005):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] A friend of mine is an English prof and tells me there are US universities that give courses on biblical narrative because so many students have never read more than a few lines of scripture. Obviously this cripples the ability to understand the heavy religious symbolism found in so much literature. (Not to mention cantata texts.)

Doug Cowling wrote (September 14, 2005):
Tom Dent wrote:
< Wasn't the German of the Passion text quite archaic by the time Bach came to set it? >
My German certainly isn't good enough to catch the literary nuances, but I suspect that the metrical texts in the Passions sounded like modern poetry to Bach's congregation in apposition to the the more archaic Renaissance German of Luther's scriptural translation. Bach certainly made a distinction between them by writing the Evangelist part in the SMP in red ink.

Doug Cowling wrote (September 14, 2005):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< A friend of mine is an English prof and tells me there are US universities that give courses on biblical narrative because so many students have never read more than a few lines of scripture. Obviously this cripples the ability to understand the heavy religious symbolism found in so much literature. (Not to mention cantata texts.) >
In much the same way that Bach expects us to catch musical allusions to chorales. This upcoming week's cantata is classic: the choir is singing about the Summary of the Law while the trumpet is playing a textless "Dies Sind die Zehn" ("These are the ten holy commandments")

Santu de Silva wrote (September 14, 2005):
fake pseudo-English

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote::
"The KJ translation has become part of the English language, many of its phrases are known as quotes by non-bible reading persons and they are adopted in literature including some very famed ones where the translation is an inaccurate representation of the original. A great example is 'Stranger in a Strange Land' where the Hebrew has two different words. Nevertheless I trust that many persons think this to be Heinlein's creation. The Hebrew actually says something more like "(I was a) a metic in a land not-my-own". There are numerous examples of KJ phrases, often originally Tyndale's and thus a century older than the 1611 translation, that are part of English.
"But I remember all those Bach cantata translations on the back of record jackets in some kind of non-comprehendible pseudo-English and they are simply created to sound like real 'biblical language,' I guess, "
To put it in a slightly different way, the language of the KJV is distinguished particularly by the use of a different word (pronoun, I suppose) "Thee" which is the singular second person, in contrast to "You" which is the plural, and similar words "Thy" and "Thou" and "Thine". In English, as in many Indo-Aryan languages, the use of these words connotes - -differently in different langages- - greater respect, or greater familiarity; c.f. du, or tu in contrast to sie or whatever the word is in Spanish or Latin. The use of these words could be, indeed, as Yoel points out, simply fake, to satisfy some shallow aesthetic principle. Or, it could be that when you speak to God, both in German and in Elizabethan English, you say Thou or Du out of respect,or because of the fact that God sees us with such great intimacy that the greater distance of You or Sie is meaningless. Note: already in Elizabeth's time, the use of "you" instead of "Thou" in ordinary conversation was, I believe, already established; the special words were reserved for religious use.

A somewhat kinder assumption is that in the prayer tradition of English-speaking Christianity, these words are used to this day when addressing the divinity. In the US, where the Lord receives respect not in the use of Thee and Thou, but in right living and love of fellow-man, preachers are often heard to use phrases such as "Hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done . . " (Amen, brother, Amen . . .) But in the third world, always slow to adopt more efficient modern ways, we still use Thee, Thine, Thou, and the companion verbs 'knowest', 'feelest', 'dost', and so forth. And that's all there is to the pseudo-English. The prayer tradition is a living thing, and it is easy to rewrite anything in the prayer tradition.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 16, 2005):
Santu de Silva wrote:
< A somewhat kinder assumption is that in the prayer tradition of English-speaking Christianity, these words are used to this day when addressing the divinity. In the US, where the Lord receives respect not in the use of Thee and Thou, but in right living and love of fellow-man, preachers are often heard to use phrases such as "Hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done . . " (Amen, brother, Amen . . .) >
All of the major churches -- Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, etc. --- commissioned modern translations of the scriptures and their rites in the 1960's to replace the older translations which had 16th and 17th century language. The ICET (International Consultation on on English Texts) produced common translations. Thus, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your Name" is heard across most churches. Within another generation, most Christian worship services will be in contemporary English. Lutheran rites in Germany have been revised to reflect contemporary German usage.

Santu de Silva wrote (September 17, 2005):
I (Arch) wrote:
< A somewhat kinder assumption is that in the prayer tradition of English-speaking Christianity, these words are used to this day when addressing the divinity. In the US, where the Lord receives respect not in the use of Thee and Thou, but in right living and love of fellow-man, preachers are often heard to use phrases such as "Hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done . . " (Amen, brother, Amen . . .) >
Doug Cowling responds:
"All of the major churches -- Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, etc. --- commissioned modern translations of the scriptures and their rites in the 1960's to replace the older translations which had 16th and 17th century language."
This is true, and, I suppose, appropriate. Still, my point was that - - certainly up to the middle of the 20th century - - the 'Thou knowest idiom', for lack of a better word for it, was well known simply because of the prayer tradition that existed, or had existed. It's probably not justifiable from a linguistic point of view, but people who spoke perfectly correct ordinary English were quite at home in that style, which was used in prayer. The prayer tradition may well have been bolstered by the liturgical tradition, but was not dependent on it.

P.S. Does anybody know anything about whether the New English Bible (NEB) is available on CD ROM?

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (September 18, 2005):
[To Santu de Silva] The Anglican Church of which the Evangelical Lutherans are now part of still uses some archaic language in the Prayer Book of the 1970s. This is not fake English just English f that has long ago disappeared or should have disappeared except in Shakespearian and Elizabethian Plays still performed. I am all for this to disapear from the language usage because the purpose of language is to communicate clearly. When we have Chaucerian and Elizabethian words whose meanings are not clear or confusing these words need to go----particularly the word 'recorder' for the musical instrument which persists due to stubborn diehards of the society for anachronisms.

IN some parts of the United States; Elizabethian English is still spoken either fully or in part----you can hear it in the speech of the coastal islands of Maryland, North Carolina, Viriginia and South Carolina as well in parts of Pennsylvania as well as in the speech of Quakers, Mennonites and Amish.

Thus you will find "ye" =the and "ye"= you "hath"=has lief=well or just as well, hoven etc . If you are not a native English speaker I greatly sympathize with you because English is difficult for native speakers not to consider someone whose mother tongue is something else. If your mother tongue is Spanish, Portuguese or Italian you can take confort in that many of the same words in these languages are also English words having the same or similar meaning. If your mother tongue is

Norwegian, Danish, German Swedish the same is true. Some words are the same in all languages such as 'OK' 'photo', computer (unless the minstery of French culture has come up with a different one which is by law required usage in France)etc. There has been a movement to update the Anglican prayer book to modern English.

One of the big problems of using antiquated English is that it leads to gross misunderstandings in religious matters. The King James Bible does not say what many untrained Baptist Preachers and common people think it does because some words in use when the KJ was translated the English of the day means something entirely different from today or may no longer be in use. Add to this the fact that the KJ is a translation of a translation of a translation of a translation in which word meanings change over thousands of years. Controversies ensue because of this with archeo-linguists and cryptologists scampering to find the correct meaning. For instance the controversy over the supposed ban on homosexuality---which non-scholars take literally as saying just that. However, Archaeo-linguists have found that the story of Sodom and Gomorhha is not about homosexuality but about inhospitality and arrived at this conclusion by same word analysis used throughout the OT. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was not being hospitable and being haughty and proud not homosexuality. Throughout the Bible the act of hospitality is considered paramount for all people and anyone who was not kind to strangers or their fellowman was looked upon with severe disdain. Thus we find in the parable of good Samaritan evil charecters who would have allowed the Samaritan to die of thirst.

David Hitchin wrote (September 18, 2005):
< the 'Thou knowest idiom', for lack of a better word for it, was well known simply because of the prayer tradition that existed, or had existed. It's probably not justifiable from a linguistic point of view, but people who spoke perfectly correct ordinary English were quite at home in that style, which was used in prayer. The prayer tradition may well have been bolstered by the liturgical tradition, but was not dependent on it. >
There was also the British Quaker tradition (different from Quakers elsewhere) which died out in the last hundred years, "thee knows". Quakers insisted on using "thee" rather than "you" when speaking to one person, in reaction to a 17th century practice of addressing ones inferiors as "thee" and ones superiors as "you", the Quakers seeking to treat all as of equal importance. It wasn't grammatical incompetence which led them to follow "thee" with "knows" rather than "knowest" but the continuation of a way of speaking which had existed before and was continued in some other areas, such as parts of Yorkshire.

Coming back to Bach, surely some of the texts were archaic when he used them, and there was no one standardised grammar and usage over the disparate states which have now been lumped together as Germany.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (September 18, 2005):
[To Ludwig] "Ye=the" never was english. Before using the latin alphabet, germans used runes (which derive ultimately from anothform of the greek alphabet). In the old english period, the anglo-saxons adopted the latin alphabet but retained two runes to write down sounds of Old English which had no obvious correspondent in the latin language, namely the dental fricatives which are heard in THis and Thought, and the semivowel heard in World. The rune they used for the TH sound was the 'thorn' rune. In the course of the middle-english period, around 1400, the thorn rune fell out of use. At that time, the thorn rune and the letter y were somewhat similar in shape. As a result, in subsequent times, ignoramuses coming across a 'thorn' in an old parchment would mistake it for a 'y'. Hence 'Ye olde Recorder' and suchlike nonsense.

Besides, no living community speaks Elisabethan English. Elisabethan English is the earlier form of Modern English.

I said it in Hebrew -- I said it in Dutch, I said it in German and Greek, but I wholly forgot (and it vexes me much) that English is what you speak.

Eric Bergerud wrote (September 19, 2005):
[To Santu de Silva] Maybe it simply varied upon individual churches but we were using the "revised" everything when I went through Lutheran confirmation in the early 1960's. We did have a KJ in the house of course, and the church instructors sometimes compared verses from the two just to illustrate to illustrate that spiritual meaning lay in the lesson and not the phrasing (and also the power of the Holy Spirit natch). In any case, I think I found the KJ in a way odder than Luther's New Testament. On a related point, considered the linguistic regionalism that exists in England even today, one wonders if whether there really was an "Elizabethan" English. Do linguists compare the KJ in any way to Luther's translation in the creation of a national equivalent of a "High English?"

BTW: I would not underestimate, in the narrow sense anyway, the linguistic scholarship of some of the US fundamentalist preachers. (I certainly wouldn't underestimate some of extraordinary ability of some of them to quote "chapter and verse" - a type of piety that inspires even today some Moslems to memorize much or all of the Koran.) Actually they make their case for the literalism of the Old Testament on the "true" meaning of Hebrew words. And this is no small matter for them. A literal Genesis is necessary for the fundamentalist explanation of Original Sin and thus the need for a Redeemer. (This is double true if a fundamentalist sect believes we are nearing whatever was foretold in Revelation.) It doesn't seem to matter that this view requires the repudiation of every field of science practiced today. The Devil is dangerous because he's a liar don't you know. I wouldn't doubt that many Lutheran scholars of Bach's day were more open to metaphor in interpreting scripture than American fundamentalists are today.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (September 19, 2005):
[To Eric Bergerud] Most fundamentalist preachers in the United States, particularly of the brand of the Southern Baptist Church and varients thereof , have not even bothered to go to seminary or attend a College or Univeristy, and some have little more than an eight grade or High School Education and all are illiterate in understanding of the Bible and are loose cannons claiming to know what they do not know and can not know because they do not read Latin, Hebrew, Greek or Aramic let alone fathom the meaning of Egytpian Hieroglyphics and neither do they study the enviromental history in which the Oral tradition was passed down until the Bible was finally in written form. Nor question what is written and if it is applicable to modern times. The rare few exceptions who do; most often tell their version of in literal terms often out of context. Take the following passage from Ezekial:

5:10 "Therefore the fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments in thee, and the whole remnant of thee will I scatter into all the winds." (KJ)

A literalist would have cannabalism going on--no figures of speech here please. I live in the Bible Belt ruled by Bob Jones University and see this kind of idiocy going on everyday and woe unto you if you do not believe as these folks believe--they have the answers and cures for everything.

Elizabethian English did exist in England and the original form is still spoken in parts of the United States--particularly in the more isolated parts---which is more and more these days becoming almost none extant. It was the common language which everyone understood over regionalist speech. Just as today we in the United States all speak a common form of English which everyone or nearly everyone understands but regional English such as Valley Girl Speech ("He was just so gorgeous"--note the 'just so'--everything is 'just so' in Valley Girl Speech') with such expressions that are not quiet slang but not quiet acceptable standard English predominate. Likewise we have Cajun English (a combination of French and English), Gullah (a language and culture of Black South Carolinians) which is basically the African Language of Sierra Leone with a little English thrown in and Spanglish which is a combination of English and Spanish. We also have dialects that can tell one instantly where one is from---parts of North Carolina still sound as if they were from Scotland or Elizabethian England or England (the Rev. Billy Graham sounds like this), Parts of Charleston, South Carolina have an Upper Class English that sounds like they are from London,England; people from Brooklyn, New York and Ohio as well as parts of Southern California (the way they say "you do" is an instant giveaway) Mississippians have a dialect of the Old South of very slow speech often imitated poorly by Hollywood actors (Example is in Gone With the Wind) that I call "Under the Mag-NOL-yâhs" . People who speak this way often give the false impression that they are retarded and severly deficit in intelligence because often it takes them forever and a day to say what they are going to say since they mull over what they say before they say it. Aside from foreign influences; American English has been heavily influenced by the languages of American Native peoples from Micronesia (Chomorro tribe of Guam and the Mariannas) and Polynesia (Hawaiians) to the Continental aboriginal Tribes and the Inuit (Eskimo) of Alaska and Canada. The language has been much enriched by these peoples for instance the Inuit have more than 20 words for snow and ice ---with each word meaning a different type of snow or ice type---words which English did not have until enriched by theses peoples.

However, Radio and Television as well as modern speaking machines have rapidly put to an end most regionalism as well as modern transportation. American Africans of color no longer speak as they did in the 1950s and earlier as in George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess--original version although they often can be identified sight unseen over the telephone just as some Orientals can be. One hears less easily identifiable speech because Television, Radio and the Movies have removed much of the isolationist qualities that created and preserved regionalist speech.

In England this is also true. It was once possible to easily identify the village, town or city one was from. No longer. The Anglican Archbishop of Ireland came to speak at my Parish bringing with him some English friends who sat beside me. When they heard me speak they tried to identify the Village I was from, settled on Oxfordshire and finally asked me if I was from Oxford and if I was related to this peer or that peer of the realm as they though I looked like them. I told them "No I am not from Oxford and have lived in the United States since birth (except for travel) and as for as peerage is concerned that died on the the fields of Flanders during Elizabeth I reign when the Duke was killed in battle as he was single and had no direct heir." They were amazed as was another friend from Wales who had been away so long that she had become throughly American. When she went back for a fareunion in Wales--when met people who sounded like they were from a Northumberland Village to her but were really from Rutland.

Tom Dent wrote (September 20, 2005):
Ludwig wrote:
< The Anglican Church of which the Evangelical Lutherans are now part of >
That will be news to me. The Lutherans are happy to have the Queen as their chief?

< I am all for this to disappear from the language usage because the purpose of language is to communicate clearly. >
Then perhaps you can rewrite the following so that it 'communicates clearly' -

I did say yes
O at lightning and lashed rod;
Thou heardst me truer than tongue confess
Thy terror, O Christ, O God;
Thou knowest the walls, altar and hour and night:
The swoon of a heart that the sweep and the hurl of thee trod
Hard down with a horror of height:
And the midriff astrain with leaning of, laced with fire of stress.

... or perhaps there is something different about poetry from an instruction manual, and 'clarity' is not the be-all and end-all. Although as a scientist I am supposed to be solving mysteries and producing clarity, the aesthetic effect of mystery and ambiguity is undeniable. (Not that I am advocating it for the Biblical narrative.)

< When we have Chaucerian and Elizabethian words whose meanings are not clear or confusing these words need to go----particularly the word 'recorder' for the musical instrument which persists due to stubborn diehards of the society for anachronisms. >
As opposed to what? 'Fipple-flute', three times the anachronism? When Hamlet talks about the recorder it is easily comprehensible to the audience.

< One of the big problems of using antiquated English is that it leads to gross misunderstandings in religious matters. >
But surely not when used in musical performance. Besides, your prime example (Sodom etc.) was a case of mistranslation, not anachronism.

For example 'Peace on earth, good will to men' isn't anachronistic, but it is a mistranslation. Has it been corrected in modern Gospels?

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (September 21, 2005):
[To Tom Dent] I do not have the time to go into all of this or to get involved in controversies.

As far as the Lutheran church is concerned that I mentioned I did not mean all Lutherans and I thought I specified the particular kind of Lutherans--the Evangelicals who broke with the Missouri Synod. They did this back in the 1990s or not later than 2001. I know this because they became part of my Parish. Although they have their own church building we more often worship together in our building than theirs.

I do not know what country you are in but if you are in the US ---the particular Lutherans I speak of broke because they were accepting of Women as Priests and also on gay issues they were more amenable than other Lutherans. ECUSA is now going through some rather painful issues like this again because the renegade Nigerian Archbishop Akinola is trying to set himself up as Pope and tearing the World Anglican Chruch apart. What is keeping him from being very successful is that the United States and Canada have the money. The ABC Canterbury has spoken favorably about women an gay people in the Church and the Queen, herself, (no pun intended) told Rowan Williams that gay people should be ordained etc.

Try me another time with the verse but it seems superficially to me not to be the best of syntax. I wil reconsider another time. Is this something that Blake wrote as I can not place it at the present time.

As for as Hamlet is concerned; you are comparing apples and oranges inappropriately. That was appropriate speech for Shakespeares day not today.

I am sorry I have no more time to spend on this now. Howeever I did say that the Sodom and Gomorrah story was a mistranslation not and anachronism.

John Pike wrote (September 21, 2005):
Ludwig wrote:
<< The Anglican Church of which the Evangelical Lutherans are now part of >>
Tom Dent wrote:
< That will be news to me. The Lutherans are happy to have the Queen as their chief? >
There is an element of truth in this. Lutheran ministers are allowed to minister in Anglican churches, I think under what is known as the Meissen agreement, but I don't think Anglicans can minister in Lutheran churches. The Anglican benefice (collection of churches in the same group) which I belong to has a Lutheran minister preaching regularly at one of the churches in our group (it happens to be the university Anglican church here in Bristol). She also preaches occasionally at our own church.

Perhaps Peter Smaill can enlighten us further on this.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (September 22, 2005):
[To John Pike] I think that you are basically right. However, what happens here with the Lutheran Church may not apply there in England. These folks have broken with the Missouri Synod and are not Lutherans anymore as we normally think of them and are fully part of ECUSA (ANGLICAN). As you know we have all kinds of folks preaching in our churches ---usually during the lenten season.

However, this is not some special occaision--this is 365 a year. Our Vicar sometimes goes to their building and preaches with full blessings of the Bishop. I have gotten so use to OUR liturgy that I find theirs very strange and hard to follow when they use their traditional service.

 

Chinese translations of Bach cantatas

Yang Jingfeng wrote (April 18, 2006):
Aryeh Oron has kindly put my first four translations of Bach cantatas on the BCW.
Please see
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/IndexTexts-Chi-BWV.htm
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/IndexTexts-Chi-Title.htm
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/IndexTexts-Chi-Event.htm
I would be grateful if you have any comments on them.
My plan is to translate all the sacred cantatas into Chinese, either by doing it myself or inviting someone interested in it to join.

 

Translation

Chris Rowson wrote (September 17, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote: ...
< "...so wäre es eine überflüßige sache, wenn ihnen der componist das in noten noch einmahl vorschreiben wollte, was sie schon wissen. Allein da die wenigsten hiervon genugsame wissenschafft haben; dennoch aber durch eine ungeräumte anbringung ihrer methode die Haupt melodie verderben; ja auch wohl offt solche passagen hinein machen, welche von denen, die um der sache eigentliche beschaffenheit nicht wissen, dem componisten leicht als ein fehler angerechnet werden könnten; so ist ja wohl ein jeder componist, und also der Herr Hof-Compositeur befugt, durch vorschreibung einer richtigen und seiner absicht gemäßen methode, die irrenden auf den rechten weg zu | weisen, und dabey auf die erhaltung seiner eigenen ehre zu sorgen."
[Summary translation] "It might appear superfluous to those musicians who desire the freedom to do as they wish with the music (improvise coloraturas, include additional notes, change/add embellishments, disregard the intended articulation because they have a better idea how it should be performed) for Bach to dictate through his detailed notation how his piece should be performed. However, it is a fact the only a very few musicians have sufficient knowledge to perform this music [with the same good taste that Bach applies in his composition]. And yet they continue unabashed to spoil Bach's melody lines by attempting to apply their own notion of what the 'method' should be like. They even frequently include such passages [variations, coloraturas] which could easily be considered as mistakes made by Bach. For this reason Bach is justified in prescribing in great detail what he considers his own intended 'method' in order to help point out the correct path for those musicians who have lost their way [applying injudicious variations from the score which are not of the high quality standard of Bach's sense of good taste in music]. Bach does this in order to preserve his own honor as composer [he would like to be remembered by his own musical choices over those made by most musicians, many who econsider themselves great performers]. Bach-Dokumnte II, pp. 304-305 >
Whose translations are these? I have noticed previously that translations given on this list are occasionally somewhat questionable, but this seems to me to be going too far.

Specifically, for example, I find no precursor for "improvise coloraturas, include additional notes, change/add embellishments, disregard the intended articulation because they have a better idea how it should be performed", nor for ". their own notion of what the 'method' should be like".

The passage "For this reason Bach is justified in prescribing in great detail what he considers his own intended 'method' in order to help point out the correct path for those musicians who have lost their way." Is given as a translation for "so ist ja wohl ein jeder componist, und also der Herr Hof-Compositeur befugt, durch vorschreibung einer richtigen und seiner absicht gemäßen methode, die irrenden auf den rechten weg zu | weisen.".

Would not the following (for example) be more accurate "For this reason [Bach] is justified in prescribing a method which is correct and in accordance with his intentions in order to point out the correct path for those who have lost their way"?

I see no basis for "in great detail", nor for "what he considers", nor for "to help", while "his own intended 'method' " is rather different from the source text.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 17, 2006):
Chris Rowson wrote:
>>Whose translations are these?<<
Contrary to what some list members here are prone to encourage, I do tend to reference my sources and give credit to individuals who have made statements either on this list or in other reference materials.

CR: >>I have noticed previously that translations given on this list are occasionally somewhat questionable, but this seems to me to be going too far.<<
Let's see what seems to be bothering you here... Perhaps you have difficulty understanding the difference between a more precise/exact translation and one which allows the interpreter to include contextual commentary and definition of concepts which are more like an explanatory footnote rather than a close translation.

CR: >>Specifically, for example, I find no precursor for "improvise coloraturas, include additional notes, change/add embellishments, disregard the intended articulation because they have a better idea how it should be performed", nor for ". their own notion of what the 'method' should be like".<<
This is embedded commentary and explanation that derives from the context and is, in my opinion, very necessary for anyone who has not previously studied this entire (Birnbaum) text very carefully. Why keep the reader in the dark about what "die Methode" really entails? Yet this is what happens in a close translation and the reader is perhaps left puzzling about its meaning or simply putting it aside without a full appreciation of its significance.

CR: >>The passage "For this reason Bach is justified in prescribing in great detail what he considers his own intended 'method' in order to help point out the correct path for those musicians who have lost their way." Is given as a translation for "so ist ja wohl ein jeder componist, und also der Herr Hof-Compositeur befugt, durch vorschreibung einer richtigen und seiner absicht gemäßen methode, die irrenden auf den rechten weg zu | weisen .". Would not the following (for example) be more accurate "For this reason [Bach] is justified in prescribing a method which is correct and in accordance with his intentions in order to point out the correct path for those who have lost their way"? I see no basis for "in great detail", nor for "what he considers", nor for "to help", while "his own intended 'method' " is rather different from the source text.<<
I see nothing wrong with "seiner absicht gemäßen methode" = "his own intended 'method'"

My interpretation: "prescribing in great detail" is derived from the entire context and is useful in bringing back to the reader's mind one of the key objections which Scheibe had raised. You must remember that some (perhaps many) readers who encounter this passage for the first time (taken out of context of a much longer passage (pp. 338-348 of the NBR) will appreciate this type of interpretative inclusion. Such readers are usually not aware of the full meaning of "die Method". For this reason I have included such information in my interpretative translation which seeks to account for the broader context in which this passage appears instead of including a stricter or narrower translation of, for instance, "the Hon. Court Composer".

If you desire a close translation of this passage which has been treated (previously given in translation on this list a number of times), you need only turn to the top of p. 347 of "The New Bach Reader" ed. David, Mendel, Wolff, Norton, 1998 (revised).

Remember: every translation is an interpretation. My translation seeks to aid the reader in obtaining a more comprehensive understanding, at a glance as it were, of these important isolated passages which I shared.

I also feel it is important to share the original German for anyone, such as you, to compare and consider.

What was the original point that prompted including this reference? "Urtext" is very important because it gives us the best means for determining Bach's intentions. Bach's detailed notation and his 'turgid' fugues in sacred vocal music caused consternation among some musicians back then just as it does now among those who attempt to revive what they believe are Bach's intentions. Bach did not want to be associated with performance results that did not measure up to his own sense of good taste. This is why he was generally very concerned and meticulous about including details prescribing performance practices. In this Bach went far beyond what most of his contemporary composers supplied as indications to his performers. The musicians under Bach used the same parts (the same music) available to us today (consider them as "Urtext"). Did they sound dull and uninteresting because they 'slavishly followed" what Bach had prescribed? No! They did not feel that "Urtext" was a stricture that hampered their own personal sense of free style. Why should modern Bach performers feel any different about the music they are singing and playing?

Chris Rowson wrote (September 17, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thank you for your response. What alarms me here is the proportion of the translation (around a half) which comprises interpretation, and the degree to which that interpretation is debatable.

The "improvise . articulation" passage, for example, is not founded in the source text. If it is commentary or explanation, I suggest it should be identified as such, and presented separately, so that it can be evaluated as such.

Otherwise it may be confusing or misleading for those who are unable to read the original.

In my opinion a more literal translation is required here. After all, we are not concerned here with literature, where interpretation in translation is most definitely called for, but rather with musicology, where a precise reflection of the original is more important than style or flow in the translation.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 16, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< The musicians under Bach used the same parts (the same music) available to us today (consider them as "Urtext"). Did they sound dull and uninteresting because they 'slavishly followed" what Bach had prescribed? No! They did not feel that "Urtext" was a stricture that hampered their own personal sense of free style. Why should modern Bach performers feel any different about the music they are singing and playing? >
This is a misuse of the term "Urtext". Urtext is used to refer to the original text of a literary work. For instance, modern editions of the sonnets of John Donne routinely modernize his Jacobean spellings and punctuate his non-standard punctuation. The "Urtext" is the orginal literary artifact of the the poetry.

A score is not an Urtext because it is not the object of the artistic event in the same way that a poem is.The artistic event is the musical performance not a silent reading of the score. It is one thing to look at a piece of German prose and assess the accuracy of translations. But the practical act of music-making involves thousands of particular decisions about technique and interpretation which make the score a means to an end.

Bach's scores are not Bach's music.

Raymond Joly wrote (September 17, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thomas Braatz, in his answer to Chris Rowson, makes his point quite clearly. He is perfectly right when he states that a bare "close translation" in many circumstances does not convey the full significance of the text to the average reader, or indeed may prompt wrong interpretations.

Nevertheless, he is skating on very thin ice. I shudder when I hear of "embedded commentary". Those who compare Braatz's translations with the original (I wish everybody were as conscientious as he in providing it) immediately perceive where the line runs between translation and interpretation, and can make their own opinion about the appropriateness of the latter. Others may wonder: looks nice, but is this what Müller wrote or what the translator would like us to believe Müller had in mind?

Maybe things that are "more like an explanatory footnote" are best placed in footnotes. As footnotes are clumsy in emails, maybe we should resort to other means. Too many parentheses and slashes can make a text unreadable.. Maybe short introductory paragraphs on the context or on particular crucial terms (for example "Methode" below) would do the trick.

Stephen Benson wrote (September 17, 2006):
Raymond Joly wrote:
< Nevertheless, he is skating on very thin ice. I shudder when I hear of "embedded commentary". Those who compare Braatz's translations with the original (I wish everybody were as conscientious as he in providing it) immediately perceive where the line runs between translation and interpretation, and can make their own opinion about the appropriateness of the latter. Others may wonder: looks nice, but is this what Müller wrote or what the translator would like us to believe Müller had in mind? >
Especially when we know the translator has an ax to grind, which pretty much makes the translation worthless. For those of us who do not read German, how can we possibly tell which words are the original author's and which words are those of Mr. Braatz? "Embedded commentary" has no place in a translation. Make it literal. Any extraneous explication, interpretation, or proselytizing should appear separately.

Raymond Joly wrote (September 17, 2006):
Translation -- Urtext

Doug Cowling wrote:
"Urtext is used to refer to the original text of a literary work. For instance, modern editions of the sonnets of John Donne routinely modernize his Jacobean spellings and punctuate his non-standard punctuation. The "Urtext" is the orginal literary artifact of the the poetry.
A score is not an Urtext because it is not the object of the artistic event in the same way that a poem is. The artistic event is the musical performance not a silent reading of the score. It is one thing to look at a piece of German prose and assess the accuracy of translations. But the practical act of music-making involves thousands of particular decisions about technique and interpretation which make the score a means to an end. Bach's scores are not Bach's music."
I beg to disagree. As we have not yet invented the way of communicating thought immaterially, we needs must use sensory vehicles to that end. For instance, rows of special ink stains on paper. When a reader comes along who knows how to decipher them, they are transformed into imagined or spoken words and produce meaning, or in imagined sounds that can be materialized with the help of the human voice or of instruments to produce what we call music..

The difference between a musical score and a performance is much the same as the difference between a sonnet or a play in a book and the same read aloud or acted--the proper destination of poems and plays.

The Urtext, in both instances, is the result of an effort to make known precisely what the author or composer has actually brought to paper, no more and no less. It is the best way we have to gain access to his thought, cruelly inadequate as it is. In the absence of an Urtext, you may be honestly think you are playing Shakespeare and Bach, while you are actually serving what some possibly eminent mind and generations of possibly dull minds taught Shakespeare and Bach must sound like.

Of course, a good Urtext does not guarantee an adequate performance any more than having two legs makes you a dancer.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 18, 2006):
Translation + Urtext

Doug Cowling wrote:
"Urtext is used to refer to the original text of a literary work."
This is not the standard definition used among English- and German-speaking musicologists:

"Urtext (German: 'original text'). A term applied to a modern printed edition of earlier (usually pre-1900) music in which the aim is professedly to present an exact text without editorial additions or alterations." New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians, Macmillan, 1980

The term "Urtext" has been used in German musicology for over a century and refers to the "Denkmäler" editions as well as those critical editions like the NBA which also supply copious details about the source materials they use (usually in a separate volume like the KBs ("Kritische Berichte = critical reports").

Raymond Joly gave an even-handed description of what an "Urtext" is. (Thank you for you input in this matter).

He stated in conclusion:
>> Of course, a good Urtext does not guarantee an adequate performance any more than having two legs makes you a dancer.<<
but it is at least a solid starting point, much better than relying on simply a 'performing' edition where many decisions and choices have already been made by an editor in a printed edition "ready for performance" without allowing a musician or any reader to have recourse to a critical apparatus which presents in great detail an examination of the many factors which went into making each individual editorial decision.

Raymond Joly also suggested:
>>Maybe things that are "more like an explanatory footnote" are best placed in footnotes. As footnotes are clumsy in emails, maybe we should resort to other means. Too many parentheses and slashes can make a text unreadable. Maybe short introductory paragraphs on the context or on particular crucial terms (for example "Methode" below) would do the trick.<<
This is a suggestion that is certainly worth trying out. In my defense, I was very much in a hurry to present this material and did not take the necessary additional time to present it in the best, orderly fashion. I had also considered that readers would understand that this was not a 'close' translation/interpretation and would regard my treatment of it as my own interpretation of the text since I knew that an English translation was readily available in the NBR.

Chris Rowson wrote:
"What alarms me here is the proportion of the translation (around a half) which comprises interpretation, and the degree to which that interpretation is debatable."
In regard to the first point: roughly half of the translation comprises interpretation - have you ever studied copiously annotated editions of some famous literary works? Sometimes detailed explanations are needed to aid the reader in coming more quickly to a better understanding of the original.

In regard to the second point: the 'high'(?) degree to which that interpretation is debatable - why not submit in detail, for instance, your notion as to what precisely you think "die Methode" means?.

CR: "The "improvise . articulation" passage, for example, is not founded in the source text. If it is commentary or explanation, I suggest it should be identified as such, and presented separately, so that
it can be evaluated as such."

In the future, when all of use will be able to communicate with PDF e-mail allowing for various fonts, color-coded portions of text, facsimiles, etc., it will be possible for me to show just where each work relates to the translated/inttext below. Perhaps I will even be able to draw lines from the original words to the places where the translation/interpretation attempts to render them specifically. Then anything else remaining in the translation/interpretation may be considered as additional elucidation or explanation as derived from context or from what the general understanding of a concept/term such as "die Methode" happens to be. Also, the use of links within e-mails is another aspect to consider (just a click away is the needed commentary which is not part of the original text).

CR: "In my opinion a more literal translation is required here. After all, we are not concerned here with literature, where interpretation in translation is most definitely called for, but rather with musicology, where a precise reflection of the original is more important than style or flow in the translation."
A precise reflection of the original can be a cumbersome, unwieldy product which may be more confusing and bewildering to an unprepared reader than one which supplies embedded commentary or one that is at least very near by (like the side columns in certain Bibles) or links. Searching for commentary at the bottom of the page or worse yet at the very end of an article or chapter will have to become a thing of the past when working with a computer.

Steve Benson wrote:
"Make it [the translation] literal."
As discussed above, literal translations can be very unwieldy and confusing for a reader trying to absorb the content of the translation directly, the first time around. Hence such a translation may be more difficult to understand unless you are proficient in the original language. Would there be any good reason why some musicians today would prefer not to have these thoughts from the Scheibe-Birnbaum controversy revealed with greater clarity than they have had before in a literal, strict translation which has already existed for some time (in the NBR)? Is there any reason why the points made in the selections I have presented should best be casually overlooked, possibly misunderstood, or worse yet forgotten?

SB: "Any extraneous explication, interpretation, or proselytizing should appear separately." And "Especially when we know the translator has an ax to grind, which pretty much makes the translation worthless"
Please explain specifically where you perceive that 'an ax is being ground' or where there is 'proselytizing' in the interpretive translation that I gave. Could it possibly be that you personally do not want to accept the ideas and criticisms expressed by Scheibe and Birnbaum (Bach's proxy) at face value?

Julian Mincham wrote (September 18, 2006):
From Steve Benson: < ------"Embedded commentary" has no place in a translation. Make it literal. >
It depends what is being translated. If you translate the instructions on how to use a fire extinguisher, it should be as claer and literal as possible to avoid confusion. But when one comes to tanslations of poetic texts, where 'meaning' is often 'embedded in' and a part of the subtext, the issues are very different.

An example--the first movement of C 176, the last of the second cycle, has jus tone line of text 'Es ist ein trotzig und versagt Ding' which Dürr (p 374) translates as ----There is something perverse and desperate about all human hearts. James Chater's translation for Ton Koopman's recording (box 15) is-----There is a daring and shy thing about the human spirit. Boyd (p 163) suggests ---the heart is deceitful above all things ----and he further isolates the key words 'trotzig' and 'versagt' as implying 'spiteful' and 'despairing'. Further images of defiance and failure (in the sense of being disheartened) may be attributed to these words---and a sense of defiance is expressed by the music..

Clearly the tranlators have attempted to get to the heart and substance of the line with its poetic underpinnings but their choice of words in doing so are very different. This creates particualr problems when writers, listeners academics etc. try to understand Bach's approach to the text--and they can often come to a state of puzzlement because the particular translation seems not to fit the music. This occurs particularly when Bach shapes an entire movement on his reaction to one key word rather than the whole text --and here a detailed knowledge of the music can be very helpful in shaping the tranlator's choice of words.

A further problem is the use of archaic language---'trusty steed' doesn't have the same ring as 'reliable horse' and can sound rather twee in a later world.

Poetic translation is a nightmare--I salute those few who do it well.

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 19, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Further images of defiance and failure (in the sense of being disheartened) may be attributed to these words---and a sense of defiance is expressed by the music.. Clearly the translators have attempted to get to the heart and substance of the line with its poetic underpinnings but their choice of words in doing so are very different. >
Just a quick response to acknowledge the poetic variants of heart in this post. More to come, perhaps re BWV 114.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Cantata BWV 114 - Discussions

 

Continue on Part 4

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Last update: řApril 30, 2013 ř21:34:25