Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

Acoustics - Part 1

Carnegie Hall

Brad B. wrote (April 19, 2003):
In objective terms, I really think a dramatic coloratura soprano and a modern Steinway probably make a great deal more sound that a soubrette, a sopranino recorder, a few baroque strings and an archlute; but I may be quibbling there.

In any case, from my vantage point in the cheap seats, I was really underwhelmed by Bartoli/Il Giardino. With the Orchestra of the Age of Englightenment (a much larger ensemble) I would imagine things were better, which illustrates my point.

I don't think even a massive chorus would be needed to put Bach over the footlights in Carnegie Hall. But I think I might ask for my ticket to be refunded if I went to see a Matthew-Passion (BWV 244) there and was presented with OVPP, forcing me to crane my ears forward for the entire evening. In the present view, held by most of the HIP ideologues I have heard from, "authenticity" trumps practical notions such as being able to hear the concert with ease when in a large hall. Fortunately, New York City is not a center of HIP ideology, which is the main reason I live here.

Gene Hanson wrote (April 19, 2003):
Brad B. wrote:
< Fortunately, New York City is not a center of HIP ideology, which is the main reason I live here. >
LOL! I can think of many other good reasons for living in New York.

Matthew Westphal wrote (April 20, 2003):
Small forces in big halls

Brad B. says re Carnegie Hall: >>> In objective terms, I really think a dramatic coloratura soprano and a modern Steinway probably make a great deal more sound that a soubrette, a sopranino recorder, a few baroque strings and an archlute; but I may be quibbling there. <<<
Bonney is "dramatic" while Bartoli is a "soubrette" (who implicitly makes less noise)? I'm not convinced by that myself, but in any case we've gotten away from "objective terms" right there. (And yes, arguing about terms like that could all too easily descend into the sort of quibbling that rages on Opera-L or Parterre Box, so let's not go there.)

>>> In any case, from my vantage point in the cheap seats, I was really underwhelmed by Bartoli/Il Giardino. With the Orchestra of the Age of Englightenment (a much larger ensemble) I would imagine things were better, which illustrates my point. <<<
Yes, OAE is larger, which is why I made a point of mentioning Bartoli's appearance with Le Nuove Musiche (about six people) at Verizon Hall in Philadelphia, a hall roughly the same size as Carnegie (and one where, some people argue, the acoustics are inferior). At that recital, for what it's worth, Bartoli performed with the period-instrument chamber group in the first half and a modern concert grand in the second; I didn't notice any particular difference in volume between the two.

So I didn't have a problem with the volume of Bartoli and a few period instruments in a big hall; Bradley did. Differences in preference -- fair enough.

>>> I don't think even a massive chorus would be needed to put Bach over the footlights in Carnegie Hall. <<<
The Bach Collegium Japan demonstrated just that a couple weeks ago.

>>> But I think I might ask for my ticket to be refunded if I went to see a Matthew-Passion there and was presented with OVPP, forcing me to crane my ears forward for the entire evening. <<<
For me, at least, that choice comes down to craning my ears to hear the single-voice ensemble versus craning my brain to sort out all the intricate details of Bach's dense writing that get obscured even when sung by a Herreweghe or BCJ-sized ensemble. My choice would be for the former -- for the smaller group; others will prefer larger forces. One of the many unfortunate facts of life is that there aren't enough concert opportunities for us all to get to hear our various preferences nearly often enough.

>>> In the present view, held by most of the HIP ideologues I have heard from, "authenticity" trumps practical notions such as being able to hear the concert with ease when in a large hall. <<<
Well, if you put 24 or 32 musicians on the Carnegie stage to play the Mendelssohn Octet, you'll certainly get more volume than if you use 8; use 15 or 20 players for a Mozart or Schubert quintet and you'll hear them with more ease than if you use 5. Should we do that for concerts in halls of 2,500 seats or more?

For those who say "No, we shouldn't" -- are you being HIP ideologues?

 

Concert Hall Distortions

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 24, 2006):
Robert Sherman wrote:
< 1) The b in concert setting works beautifully. That it's not what Bach heard is a musicological, not musical, issue. >
I couldn't disagree with you more (smile). Bach intended there to be significant breaks between the Gloria and the Creed, the Creed and the Sanctus and the second Osanna and the Agnus Dei, when there would be readings, prayers etc. It is D major overkill to go from "Et exspecto" to the "Sanctus" with its attendent "Osanna". Even an organ piece at these moments would help to avoid the problem. It is very much a musical problem, and one which distorts Bach's intentions.

Plus the fact that I'm exhausted by the end of the Sanctus!

Rick Canyon wrote (April 24, 2006):
[To Douglas Cowling] I note that in the Biller, Gewandhaus/TC DVD from the Thomaskirche that the Cantor sings the Dominus Vobiscum at this point. I think there must have been some break after the Gloria during the actual performance also (but not so long on the DVD) as the horn player has disappeared.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 24, 2006):
[To Rick Canyon] If you look at the order of service which I have been posting with my weekly cantata introductions, you will see that in both the Lutheran and Catholic masses, the Credo is separated by a long seqence of prayers, readings and chants/chorales.

 

Bach and Acoustics in Leipzig
Bach and Acoustics

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 1, 2006):
Mike Mannix wrote:
< Unfortunately the acoustics at York Minster are similar to those of local soccer stadia - utterly useless. The late Roger Bullivant of Sheffield Bach Society said told me that all the sound simply went up the tower. I went to a Beethoven perf at Durham Cathedral a few years ago. It was freezing and the music was inaudible. Unless you are close to the choir stalls, large scale perfs at big English cathedtals are a waste of time. Not happy experiences. >
I think a distinction needs to be made between cathedral churches and parish chuches.

The choirs of the former sing daily services from the "choir" which is essentially a church-within-a-church. The architectural "choir" is sealed off from the huge nave, and music was never intended to be heard from the larger space. In fact if you go to daily Evensong (Vespers) in York Minister, you sit in the choir stalls in a rather intimate space surrounded by wooden panelling. Even a small choir singing Renaissance or Baroque music sounds live and immediate.

At St. Paul's Cathedral, the choir used to be sealed off with a solid wooden screem: there are engravings of Queen Anne attending service and the musicians are performing not more than ten feet away. Purcell and Boyce's music must have been unforced and crystal-clear. Naves are notoriously lousy for concerts. It's interesting to note that the 1785 Handel commemoration in Westminster Abbey was performed with the audience facing the west door with the performers ranked up against the back wall which must have provided a good sounding board.

The closed-off choir space can be seen in Spanish Cathedrals, but in Germany, Austria and Italy, the choirs in parish churches, such as Leipzig, were placed in galleries at the west end. It is an acoustical commonplace that a choir and orchestra performing from a rather small gallery above the heads of the listeners sound very different than when they perform from the sanctuary steps at the front. The acoustics in St. Thomas today are fairly reverberant. However, in Bach's time there were two tiers of galleries along the sides of the church. All that wood would have created a live but very foccussed sound.

I would never go to hear major Bach choral work performed in the nave of an English cathedral.

Michael Pretorius wrote (May 1, 2006):
< the choirs in parish churches, such as Leipzig, were placed in galleries at the west end. It is an acoustical commonplace that a choir and orchestra performing from a rather small gallery above the heads of the listeners sound very different than when they perform from the sanctuary steps at the front. The acoustics in St. Thomas today are fairly reverberant. However, in Bach's time there were two tiers of galleries along the sides of the church. All that wood would have created a live but very foccussed sound. >
Bach's use of sound placement in his music has always fascinated me. I suppose this dates back to Biggs' recording of the Toccatas in Freiburg (one of the best known of all the mid-70s "Quad" recordings). In his liner notes, he talks much of Bach's deliberate use of spatiality in composition, notably the 'Dorian' toccata where Bach apparently indicated specifically a constant alternation between the Hauptwerk and the Positiv. Indeed, Biggs' argues that Bach "might have enjoyed tossing his antiphonal phrases side to side, or even batting them right down the church, from one end to the other, as in some splendid tennis match."

The tennis metaphor aside, Harnoncourt (in his early 70s SMP (BWV 244)) says the Thomaskirche was entirely paneled with wood during Bach's time, making it "ideal for the requirements of the St. Matthew Passion."

Additionally, Wolff notes the unique effect achieved in the royal chapel in Weimar. And when discussing the 1736 SMP (BWV 244) performance Wolff indicates that the two choirs were both in the west gallery with the Swallows' Nest accomodating the ripienists (is that the correct term for the choir singing "O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig"?).

"For the tremendous show of musical force(two choirs and two orchestras on the main west gallery, a distant third choir on the small east gallery) was not meant as a display of powerful and luxuriant sound. The chorale reverberating from the chancel side of the church warned the audience and alerted skeptics that what awaited them was not 'theatrical' music, but music that indisputably proclaimed its sacred and liturgical character."(Wolff)

Whether or not this a valid argument against OVPP is perhaps best reserved for a different thread. But, it seems to me that Bach had a vivid imagination as to how his music was to be heard. Perhaps the placement of choirs and misicians WAS meant as a display of "luxuriant sound". And further, that it might be incumbent upon those performing his music to allow their imaginations equal freedom when planning performances.

For myself, it forces me to wonder if Bach might also have then used those side galleries at the Thomaskirche in some musical manner. The 1736 SMP (BWV 244) would seem to be the ultimate test of Bach's acoustical ideas.

I don't know that I have a specific question here. It's just that I've always lived with the instinctive feeling that Bach was far, far ahead of his time in putting the 'spatiality' of musical performance on somewhat equal footing with composition and technical execution.

And I would find any comments, pro or con, and particularly relating to the 1736 SMP (BWV 244), to be of great interest.

Thanks!

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 1, 2006):
Rick Canyon wrote:
< For myself, it forces me to wonder if Bach might also have then used those side galleries at the Thomaskirche in some musical manner. The 1736 SMP (BWV 244) would seem to be the ultimate test of Bach's acoustical ideas.
I don't know that I have a specific question here. It's just that I've always lived with the instinctive feeling that Bach was far, far ahead of his time in putting the 'spatiality' of musical performance on somewhat equal footing with composition and technical execution. >
Spatial separation in antiphonal music is a knotty problem. For some composers such as Gabrieli, we know that the choirs and instrumentalists were placed in quite distant galleries in St. Mark's, Venice, and the drama is quite arresting when reproduced. At the same time, there are double-choir works such as the "Stabat Mater" of Palestrina which we know was sung by eight singers in the very small choir gallery of the Sistine Chapel. That the two "choirs" stood close is shown by the music which halfway through dispenses with antiphony and creates a choir of upper voices.

Both Protestants and Catholics in Germany and Austria retained a fascination with polychoral music which lasted well past Bach, even when the fashion passed in the rest of Europe. Antiphonal music was performed both with spatial separation and with choirs standing together. There is a famous engraving to one Praetorius collection which shows three choirs of singers and instrumentalists performing in three galleries. In each gallery, a sub-conductor holds on to his music with one hand while he leans out and beats with the other hand to keep in sync with the other choirs.

Salzburg Cathedral maintained this wide separation well past Mozart. Go to this link for a panoramic view of Salzburg Cathedral: http://www.appesbach.com/salzburg-tour.php?panorama=7

If you rotate the view you will see four choir galleriess, each with an organ, positioned on the four piers which support the dome. It was for this building that Biber wrote his Missa Salisburiensis for 56 voices in eight choirs: four in the galleries and four on platforms beneath. The work is a piece of junk but wildly exciting for its sheer vulgarity.

In the case of Bach, its seems pretty clear that the double-choir motets were sung from one gallery with one organ continuo. Although it is frequently asserted that string and wind parts which doubled in some of the motets were prepared because the singers were weak, it is equally possible that Bach wanted to create the illusion of antiphony through contrasting orchestral colour. This is a tradition which goes back to Praetorius.

In the case, of the SMP (BWV 244), I think we have a hybrid work of antiphony. The two main choirs, each with its own orchestra and continuo were probably placed side by side in the main gallery with little spatial separation. Like Palestrina before him, Bach plays with the choral layout: there is 1) true antiphony (as in the opening chorus with the second choir interrupting the first with dramatic questions), 2) choruses where the two choirs sing as one (as in 'O Mensch Bewein') and 3) choruses which are not antiphonal at all but rather eight-part counterpoint (as in 'Er is der Todes').

The one place where there is true spatial antiphony is the opening chorus which had the third ripieno choir in a gallery on the chancel arch (by the way, who started the stupid tradiiton that this part must be sung by children even when the other choirs are all adults?) Although this seems like a nightmare for staying together, the main gallery and the chancel gallery were roughly at the same height and with sub-conductors such as appear in the Praetorius engraving it would have been possible. It MUST have been possible as the ripieno choir doubles the other choirs in "O Mensch Bewein". Here the slow-moving chorale was obviously easy to coordinate in the three choirs. If I'm not mistaken, the ripieno choir sings only in these two movements. Clearly the other chorales, which have faster tempi were judged to be too treacherous for uniform ensemble. I've heard some pretty ghastly choral trainwrecks at performances of the SMP (BWV 244) in which the conductor has the children's choir sing along with all the chorales.

Tom Hens wrote (May 1, 2006):
Rick Canyon wrote:
< Bach's use of sound placement in his music has always fascinated me. I suppose this dates back to Biggs' recording of Toccatas in Freiburg (one of the best known of all the mid-70s "Quad" recordings). In his liner notes, he talks much of Bach's deliberate use of spatiality in composition, notably the 'Dorian' toccata where Bach apparently indicated specifically a constant alternation between the Hauptwerk and the Positiv. >
The problem here is that the only source for the "Dorian" toccata is a copy by Walther. So it's impossible to know whether any indications about registration, if they are in that copy, are by Bach or additions by Walther. Also, AFAIK a Positiv and a Hauptwerk aren't normally spatially separated to any great extent, let alone acoustically to a listener in the church. Their sounds certainly don't come from opposite ends of the church, as Biggs' vague tennis methaphor suggests.

Michael Pretorius wrote (May 2, 2006):
[To Tom Hens] I think it's possible the tennis metaphor refers specifically to the unique organ placements in Freiburg.

Biggs says this about Hauptwerk and Positiv:
"The Hauptwerk (our 'Great' organ) was set high up, usually to the rear of the gallery. Tone was broad and authoritative. The Positiv, of a more immediate and brighter character, was placed to the front of the gallery, actually jutting into the church...

To a listener, the process of moving from the Hauptwerk to the Positiv results in a spatial as well as tonal contrast--the music making a perceptible forward movement."

I can hear the tonal difference, but I don't know that it provides a "perceptible forward movement" to the sound. Perhaps if I spent more time in European churches...

Thanks for your comment.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 2, 2006):
Rick Canyon wrote:
< I think it's possible the tennis metaphor refers specifically to the unique organ placements in Freiburg. >
There's also the 16th century English Puritan who criticized antiphonal cathedral music and said the choirs tossed the psalm verses back and forth like two "gallants" playing tennis. In fact, the psalms with their bipartite verse structure are the source for antiphonal choral music, the literary sturcture going back at least two millenia to Jewish temple worship.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (May 2, 2006):
[o Tom Hens] They could have come from different sides of the Church if not at Atlantic City Convention Hall where the sound comes to you from all directions---behind, front and sides of the auditorium.

Unfortunately, Wars have destroyed many Organs and the spaces that they were located in at the time of Bach so we have no clear direction on this matter. At least in the Organs of Dom Bedos there is enough wide gap between divisions that it is very apparent in person which directions that the sounds are coming from. In a recording this is not necessarily true since Engineers can mess with the sound and in some cases are arrogant enough to think that they can do better that Schnitger or Silberman but the results are much less that these masters would ever put out.

Michael Pretorius wrote (May 2, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The one place where there is true spatial antiphony is the opening chorus which had the third ripieno choir in a gallery on the chancel arch (by the way, who started the stupid tradiiton that this part must be sung by children even when the other choirs are all adults?) Although this seems like a nightmare for staying together, the main gallery and the chancel gallery were roughly at the same height and with sub-conductors such as appear in the Praetorius engraving it would have been possible. It MUST have been possible as the ripieno choir doubles the other choirs in "O Mensch Bewein". Here the slow-moving chorale was obviously easy to coordinate in the three choirs. If I'm not mistaken, the ripieno choir sings only in these two movements. Clearly the other chorales, which have faster tempi were judged to be too treacherous for uniform ensemble. I've heard some pretty ghastly choral trainwrecks at performances of the SMP (BWV 244) in which the conductor has the children's choir sing along with all the chorales. >
The Enoch zu Guttenberg DVD of the SMP (BWV 244) is interesting for its spatial setup. Here, a single orchestra of decent size, the soloists, and the conductor are literally surrounded by 4 choirs. There are choirs right and left and behind the conductor. The 4th - the Tölzer Knabenchor--are in an elevated recessed gallery behind the orchestra and the right and left choirs. As I recall, they sing at the beginning and end of Part 1 and in the Wir setzen uns. But, I'm pretty sure where there's another one, maybe two, places where they sing in Part 1. Most all of the chorales are taken by the "behind the conductor" chorus (located in the back of the church); certainly all in the second part.

The fact the Tölzers have to cool their heels for virtually the entire of Part 2 graphically illustrates a problem regarding how to apportion the varying parts in the SMP (BWV 244). I suppose I become somewhat uncomfortable for them having to sit there in a sort of discarded way. They don't act bored or restless when not singing (not sure I could say the same for the Thomanerchor). They are quite professional in that respect. It's just that the lack of activity stands out. It's becomes like watching a panel discussion where one of the panalists never gets a chance to say anything. And the potential for great spatiality thru 5.1 sound sort of fizzles in Part 2.

Which then causes me to wonder why Bach would bother to go to the trouble of sending a few ripienists and, I gather, an organist and some other musicians up to the Swallows Nest just for such limited duties. Perhaps I'm interpreting this wrong. But, wouldn't some of you think the Swallows Nest would have been put to more substantial use in the SMP (BWV 244) of 1736? And I even wonder if Bach might not have considered using those side galleries in some way. After all, I gather there'd be room. It sounds as if the churches were suffering some attendance problems then.

I'm also curious about what happened to that Swallows Nest organ. What I've read was that it had fallen into a state of disrepair and was removed (forcing Bach to use a harpsichord for the 1742 SMP (BWV 244)). Wasn't Bach, however, the supreme organ mechanic? I would think the value of a functioning second organ would have been important to the Thomaskirche. Or, was it the victim of lack of funding, as were many other things? Or, is this something Ernesti, in a fit of spite, might have had a hand in?

< They could have come from different sides of the Church if not at Atlantic City Convention Hall where the sound comes to you from all directions---behind, front and sides of the auditorium. >
Well, that was the idea behind the Biggs Freiburg recording (he made a second there with a lot of Handel on it). In Quad sound, each organ was allocated a different speaker, and you sat there in the middle. Or, at least, that was what was supposed to happen. I never had quad, so I have to imagine. This was supposed to have been one of the very best of quad recordings, however.

The acoustics of the Mormon Tabernacle are supposed to do that too. I've been told that the best place to sit is on the rim. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, I don't get to Utah, even tho it is close by.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 2, 2006):
Rick Canyon wrote:
< I'm also curious about what happened to that Swallows Nest organ. What I've read was that it had fallen into a state of disrepair and was removed (forcing Bach to use a harpsichord for the 1742 SMP (BWV 244)). Wasn't Bach, however, the supreme organ mechanic? I would think the value of a functioning second organ would have been important to the Thomaskirche. >
If I'm not mistaken -- (Thomas, help us out here)-- the chancel arch organ was a small Renaissance organ which was probably used in alternatim, that is alternating verses with the choir singing in plainchant, never accompanying voices. For in, Praetorius wrote a whole series of Magnificats and Office Hymns with alternating organ and chant sections.

I suspect that sometime in the 17th century, the organ was deemed too small for the new organ repertoire and the large organ was built in the west gallery. The gallery itself may well have been enlarged at this time. The Swallow's Nest organ probably remained an archaic curiousity that may not have been played very much after the 17th century. It certainly is not used in any other work of Bach's.

Wolff suggests that its position on the Resurrection Arch and the fact that in the opening chorus the ripieno choir sings in G major while the other choirs are in E minor may have symbolic value.

Endless speculation ...

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 2, 2006):
Rick Canyon wrote:
>>I'm also curious about what happened to that Swallows Nest organ. What I've read was that it had fallen into a state of disrepair and was removed(forcing Bach to use a harpsichord for the 1742 SMP (BWV 244)). Wasn't Bach, however, the supreme organ mechanic? I would think the value of a functioning second organ would have been important to the Thomaskirche.<<
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>If I'm not mistaken -- (Thomas, help us out here) -- the chancel arch organ was a small Renaissance organ which was probably used in alternatim, that is alternating verses with the choir singing in plainchant, never accompanying voices. For instance, Praetorius wrote a whole series of Magnificats and Office Hymns with alternating organ and chant sections.<<
According to Arnold Schering in "Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik" Leipzig, 1936, the 'Schwalbennest'organ was originally part of the large organ on the west wall of St. Thomas in the early part of the 17th century -- more correctly, it stood beside the larger organ. It (the small organ) was first built in 1489. During the general church renovation in 1639/40, it was placed on its own tiny balcony on the east end of the church, where it seems to have been used mainly on "high" church holidays. This organ was renovated and expanded (6 new registers/stops added) in 1665. In 1676 the rickety stairs leading precariously up to its high perch were repaired. Further improvements/repairs to the organ were made in 1678 and 1683. In 1720-21, Scheibe repaired both organs at St. Thomas Church - the notes in the church register state that "the small organ had become entirely unusable." In 1727-28 Zacharias Hildebrandt made 8 registers/stops playable again and in 1740-1741 Johann Scheibe was given the task of dismantling the "little, old organ" and selling anything that could be salvaged. The description of this organ is as follows: 7 stops in the Oberwerk, 3 in the Brustwerk, 7 in the Rückpositiv and 3 in the pedal. All of this weight was on a tiny balcony. Schering speculates that the balcony itself probably could not support more than just a few singers or musicians in addition to the organist. After the organ had been removed entirely, the enterprising church offered private spaces for rent for any parishoners willing to pay the fee. But noone was interested. Many decades later this balcony was converted into private prayer rooms. During the renovation from 1885-1889, the balcony was finally torn down completely.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 2, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< All of this weight was on a tiny balcony. Schering speculates that the balcony itself probably could not support more than just a few singers or musicians in addition to the organist. >
I want to be in the ripieno choir! Sounds exciting!

Thanks, Thomas

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 3, 2006):
Rick Canyon
Syntagma Musicum
Dritter Theil Dieses Tomi Tertii
Das II. Capitel. p. 135, Wolfenbüttel, 1619

"Nunmehr aber nennen etliche auch dieses eine Capellam, wenn man zu einem Choro Vocali, einen Chorum Instrumentalem componiret vnd setzet. Doselbsten wird der Chorus Instrumentalis, welcher tanquam minus Principalis, in mangelung der Instrumentisten gar wol aussen gelassen werden köndte / vom Choro Vocali, welcher Principalis, vnd vor sich selbsten ohne zuthun der Instrumentisten, doch daß ein Organist mit einem Positiff oder Regal darbey / den Sachen eine gnüge thun kann / abgesondert / vnd etwa gegenüber / oder an ein höhern / oder aber niedrigern ort vnd stelle geordnet: Welchs in Italia auch Palchetto gennent wird, da sie bißweilen mehr als einen Chor pro Capella, vnd jimmer einen vber den andern stellen: Gleich wie vielleicht zu Davids zeiten die Musici im Tempel vff vnterschiedene höhere vnd niedrige Chore gestellet vnd abgetheilet worden sind: Daher etliche sonderliche Psalmen / als der 120. biß vff den 134. Lieder im höhern Chor genennet werden: Wie Tomo primo partis primae Membr. 1. Cap. 2. weitläufftiger zu sehen.

Es kann aber das Wort Palchetto aus nachfolgendem kurtzen Bericht / so viel besser verstanden werden / weil man in etzlichen Kirchen / vnd bevorab Fürstl. Capellen vnten bey der Erden / oder sonsten an einem bequemen Ort / do die Musici von den Zuhörern vngehindert bleiben können / einen gewissen stand / einem Theatro gleich / von Balcken vnd Bretern auffzubawen / oder aber die Breiter vber etliche Stüle / do sichs leiden will / zulegen / vnd oben mit Lehnen vnd Tappezereyen zubeschmücken vnd außzustaffiren pflegt. Wie man dann auch wol / do man will / gar einen sonderlichen Ort in die höhe / einer Poerkirchen gleich / dahin vnterschiedene Chor von den anderen weit abgesondert vnd gestalt werden können / auffbawen kan: Inmassen dann dergleichen fügliche örther in alten Kirchen / vnd zuvoraus hinten in den Choren / deren man zu jetzverstandener behuff gebrauchen / vnd daher Palchetto nennen kann / offtmals gefunden werden
."

Here is my attempt to try to decipher Praetorius' language:

"Now it is true that some people also call this [a group consisting only of singers] a ,Capella' when in addition to such a vocal choir a composer also includes in his composition a 'choir' of instruments. In such a case, when the instrumentalists are lacking to play these parts, which in reality do not constitute the main component of the music, the instrumental choir being only secondary to the vocal parts, an organist, playing a positive or a regal can satisfactorily substitute for the missing instrumental parts, but the organ (positive or regal) should be placed elsewhere [not close to the vocal choir], for instance, across from [on the other/opposite side of the church] or in a higher or lower position than the vocal choir. This, in Italy, is called a Palchetto since they [the Italians] occasionally have more than just a single "Chor" [vocal or instrumental] in a Capella and then they always place one over the other: this is done in the same way that David in Old Testament times had placed and separated the musicians in the temple into higher and lower choirs. This could be the reason why certain Psalms such as those from Psalm 120 to 134 were called "Songs of the Higher Choir". See my fuller explanation of this in Part 1 of the Syntagma Musicum.

You can obtain a better understanding of the word Palchetto from reading the following, short report because there are quite a few churches [in Germany], particularly in the case of royal chapels, where you will find on the ground floor or any other suitable place where the musicians can remain free from any physical interaction with the listeners, a standing structure looking like a theater [Classical Greek?] which has been built up using wooden beams and boards, or even getting some boards and placing them over several chairs [more likely pews] with as much weight as they can tolerate. Usually they will be provided with railings and decorations [with tapestries?]. If you want, you can also put various "choirs" in a very high place away from everything else, as high as the top of a rural church. In this way the "choirs" can be separated and set up very far from each other: unless, of course, you can find other suitable places in old churches, particularly when you will frequently find way back in the choir/chancel portions of the church similarplaces which can then be used for the purpose just described and can then also therefore be called a "Palchetto"."

The DWB lists the noun "Borkirche" which seems to mean just such an elevated wooden structure within a
church, one which, as Praetorius has just described it, can be as high as the top of a rural church [one or two stories high].

Arnold Schering quotes (on p. 154 of the book quoted yesterday) from the St. Thomas Church financial records (1632) which indicate a payment for the construction of: "2 kleine Borkirchen zu besserer Bequemlichkeit der Musik, auch daß die Schüler die Predigt besser hören können" ("2 small balconies to accommodate the performance of music as well as for allowing the pupils to hear the sermon better"). Schering believes that these balconies on the west end of the church were on either side of the "Schülerchor", the balcony already designated as the organ loft and the place from which the Thomaner would sing and play. These small balconies on either side, according to Schering, were used by the "Stadtpfeifer" ("City Pipers") instrumentalists during Bach's tenure in Leipzig.

Here is a summary translation of Arnold Schering's statement about the acoustics in St. Thomas Church during Bach's tenure in Leipzig (pp. 161-162 of Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik, Leipzig, 1936):

"The acoustical conditions prevailing in the St. Thomas Church must have been quite different than those at St. Nicholas Church. The main organ/choir balcony did not visibly extend as far into the church as it did at St. Nicholas Church, but rather constituted an area completely separate from the congregation. On the west wall of the church, it was situated on the 3rd floor ["im zweiten Stock"], 2 stories high above the stone balcony beneath it and, with the exception of the two "Borkirchen" [mentioned above] which were flush with the outer edge of the stone balcony, the organ/choir loft was pressed back a bit. If the singers stood at the edge of their performing area next to the Rückpositiv of the organ, they would have seen expanding before them the mighty nave of the church. The distance from the lower stone balcony to the floor of the organ/choir loft above it was about 31 to 32 meters. All of the pews ["Weiberstühle" = pews for women only] on the floor of the nave faced forward toward the altar [away from the musicians]. The pews for men were located in the side balconies, with the exception of a special side balcony reserved for university students. The sound and reverberation must have been entirely different here than in the St. Nicholas Church; specifically, since the sound of the choir singing came from such a great distance and from such a great height, it must have been much more ethereal ["entmaterialisierter" = "dematerialized"]. The vast number of structures [the balconies] would have dampened to a great degree any reverberation, which currently [1936] can be heard in the most distant points in the church or in the balconies. The numerous wooden surfaces ["Holzbekleidungen" - wood panels used to cover stone walls] would have contributed substantially to a favorable resonance which would have brought with it advantages for certain types of orchestration as well as for being able to understand the text as it was being sung - characteristics which were lost later when the church was completely renovated."

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 3, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< These small balconies on either side, according to Schering, were used by the ³Stadtpfeifer² (³City Pipers²) instrumentalists during Bach¹s tenure in Leipzig. >
Reminds me of the time I saw a big Strauss opera at Covent Garden and some of the brass had to be accommodated in the boxes looking directly into the pit. I'm convinced that Wagner used all of these antiphonal effects with invisible choirs in Parsifal, having heard them in Lutheran churches.

The following site has photos of the Catholic pilgrimage church of Maria Plain, for which Mozart wrote some of his early church works. This photo shows a small group of boys singing from a very small gallery built into the arch. Add an organ and you have some idea of the Ripieno choir at the SMP (BWV 244):
http://www.mariaplain.at/index.php?id=187&L=1

If you navigate to the photos of the choir loft you will see that in addition to the main loft, two small raised galleries have been built on either side of the organ, presumably for the brass. Although this church has no connection with Bach it is fascinating seeing photos of modern ensembles coping with the architectural constraints of church lofts. Very different from the modern concert hall regarding both performer positioning and acoustic effect.

Michael Pretorius wrote (May 3, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< These small balconies on either side, according to Schering, were used by the ³Stadtpfeifer² (³City Pipers²) instrumentalists during Bach¹s tenure in Leipzig. >
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Reminds me of the time I saw a big Strauss opera at Covent Garden and some of the brass had to be accommodated in the boxes looking directly into the pit. I'm convinced that Wagner used all of these antiphonal effects with invisible choirs in Parsifal, having heard them in Lutheran churches. >
That is most interesting. As I recall, Wagner was very specific about choir placement in Parsifal. (the Solti recording using the WSK might be the most authentic studio-wise, in this respect) Tristan also benefits from musical sounds coming from various--not so much locations--but different heights. Additionally, the Berlioz Requiem is ripe for this approach with the placement of the brass choirs. Indeed, this is why I brought up the the Guttenberg SMP (BWV 244) DVD in an earlier post.

What is further evident from your link--and most images from the past seem to bear this out--are the number of people crammed into these small spaces. I imagine the Swallows Nest must have seemed a very precarious spot from which to perform then, especially considering Thomas' earlier reference to its rickety nature.

I note, too, the image of the interior of the Thomaskirche (usually with a label 'prior to 1885'. Wolff's computerized image of the interior is based on this watercolor) shows a number of little balconies and raised niches around the altar (not the side galleries). Would this be where the 'altar singers' might have been placed for a common service? If so, for the SMP (BWV 244) of 1736, some additional possibilities might be raised then.

I'm also curious if Bach's services began or ended with any type of procession? Or, was the choir already in position in the choir/organ loft? I'm most familiar with Episcopalian services where the choir files in and files out(tho even that may be something of a 19th/20th century practice).

I've found this discussion most enlightening as I think acoustics/spaciality played significant roles in Bach's decision making. Indeed, didn't he find the Thomaskirche's acoustics superior to the more ornate Nicolaikirche where I gather musical detail was lost in the surroundings?

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 3, 2006):
Rick Canyon wrote:
>>I note, too, the image of the interior of the Thomaskirche (usually with a label 'prior to 1885'. Wolff's computerized image of the interior is based on this watercolor) shows a number of little balconies and raised niches around the altar (not the side galleries). Would this be where the 'altar singers' might have been placed for a common service? If so, for the SMP (BWV 244) of 1736, some additional possibilities might be raised then.<<
The visual information conveyed by computerized images can be very misleading, including, as it were, some greatly modified and/or additional structures that did not exist in Bach's ti. In the computerized view toward the altar of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, based upon a late 19th-century watercolor, these are very apparent and no attempt was made to remove them or to scale them down to what might have been closer to reality. The 'swallow's nest' with the organ seems much too monumental and in a position much too far into the nave of the church on a separate stone wall/partition which may not have existed in Bach's time. This computerized image represents rather closely the heaviness, closeness and darkness displayed in the original watercolor (and engraving based upon it) depicting the state of St. Thomas Church just prior to its major renovation (1885-1888). Looking back to another engraving from an earlier century (a view from the back of the church looking toward the altar) from circa 1710, a completely different feeling of airiness and lightness appears as light shines into the church from all angles except the back west wall. Whether and to what degree this represents reality is another entirely different matter. It may well be that Friedrich Groschuff, who is responsible for these engravings from c.1710, simply wanted to convey this feeling of brightness in order to show details which would otherwise be enshrouded in darkness. The area beyond the railing separating the congregation (all of them seated facing toward the altar) from the chancel, is, if one can believe the perspective the engraver uses (and this is always open to the suspicion that "whatever is more important must be shown to be larger than it would normally appear") then the chancel is just as large as the area reserved for the congregation. There are on either side two rows of seats (the one closer to each wall is higher) peopled perhaps with members of the church hierarchy? choristers? all of them facing into the church across from each other. Of course, simultaneity prevails here as the pastor is still delivering the sermon while another important figure stands slightly raised (a few steps) at one of the openings in the railing and seems to be dispensing communion to a few individuals who have lined up along the railing (inside the chancel area). Or are these choristers standing about in the chancel with the cantor conducting them from a point where he might be better seen? Although there are two very small balcony boxes, one over the other, on the right side directly above the railing and only one other "box" balcony slighly wider than the others on the left side of the illustration, not any higher than the topmost balcony on the opposite side, but placed a bit more into the chancel area, the entire chancel area with altar does not reveal the 'swallow's nest' organ which is described in the church records as being on the east wall of the church. Certainly the 'east wall' is not equivalent to Wolff's closed-in computerized image where the organ loft is located in the congregational area even some distance behind the railing separating the church proper from the chancel area.

We know that the swallow's nest balcony with its continually disfunctional organ still existed in 1710 and during the greater portion of Bach's tenure in Leipzig. Can we believe literally the church records ("high on the east wall"), did Groschuff apply artistic license in removing it either as a blemish in the architectural design or because he had more important things that he had wanted to emphasize, does Wolff's computerized image based on a late 19th-century status of the interior, including all the changes and additions that were made subsequent to the removal of the "Swallow's nest" organ in 1740-1741 give us a fair picture of what the interior of St. Thomas Church may have looked like during Bach's lifetime?

Re: the west wall organ/choir loft

If you have Andrew Parrott's "The Essential Bach Choir" Boydell, 2000, p. 11, which shows Schering's conjectural view of the west galleries, then notice that Wolff's computerized version of this has removed, in essence, the first balcony beneath the organ/choir loft entirely.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 3, 2006):
Rick Canyon wrote:
< I'm also curious if Bach's services began or ended with any type of procession? Or, was the choir already in position in the choir/organ loft? I'm most familiar with Episcopalian services where the choir files in and files out(tho even that may be something of a 19th/20th century practice). >
Bach's choir members did not wear vestments but were required to be in the main gallery before the bells rang -- latecomers were fined. According to Wolff, once the second cantata at the communion was finished, the younger boys would leave so to be ready to serve the middday meal. Other boys would leave at specific times before the end of the service, and Wolff speculates that Bach would probably almost be alone at the end of the 3-4 hr service.

I would asssume that the "Altar singers", presumably the younger boys, took up their positions in the east end of the chancel to be ready before the bell began. The motet which replaced the old Introit of the Latin mass probably only covered the entrance of the clergy and that was probably from a side door close to the sanctuary. I suspect that the only grand processions were those of municipal dignataries on state occasssions such as the inauguration of the Town Council.

It should be noted that the old monastic choir, the chancel area with facing pews/stalls was left vitually empty until after the Creed when those wishing to receive communion moved up into the chancel. Whether other members of the congregation left the church at this point is controverted. That 'Early Music' article on Bach's congregation notes that social rank allowed you to arrive at church late, and some burgers and burgeresses were known to arrive only in time for the cantata and sermon.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 4, 2006):
Aryeh Oron has kindly placed on the BCW the engraving which I had been referring to earlier in this thread: it is a depiction from about 1710 of the interior (facing east) of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig printed by Friedrich Groschuff, who is not the engraver (his name is unknown) but who was instrumental in having this engraving printed.

View this engraving at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Tour/Leipzig-Photos-4.htm

Michael Pretorius wrote (May 4, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thank you for the wonderful engraving.

I get the impression that there were no stained glass windows at that time. I also don't see the Baptismal Font which according to the TK website has been there since 1614 (maybe that detail is asking for too much). However--tho perhaps this is a part of the engraving process--do I discern the wood paneling that Harnoncourt speaks of in his 1970 SMP (BWV 244)?

< Bach's choir members did not wear vestments but were required to be in the main gallery before the bells rang -- latecomers were fined. According to Wolff, once the second cantata at the communion was finished, the younger boys would leave so to be ready to serve the middday meal. Other boys would leave at specific times before the end of the service, and Wolff speculates that Bach would probably almost be alone at the end of the 3-4 hr service. >
In Parrott's Essential Bach Choir, he provides Schering's comment about an image of--apparently Thomaners--which says: "The younger ones are marked out by their black gowns and boys' wigs as pupils of the Thomasschule, while the older ones are identified as youths by their men's clothes and full-bodied wigs; the one standing at the front on the right, moreover, [is identified] by his dagger(!) as a student." pps. 54-55

I was also reading Schweitzer's bio this morning and noted that he added as a reason (during the winter) for the choir leaving had to do with the cold. At St. Nicholas, the choir had a coal fire, but not so in the TK, so the choir left to get warm as well as to prepare for the meal. Apparently, tho, they still had the sermon reato them by the
school Rector.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 4, 2006):

[To Thomas Braatz] Fascinating engraving. I don't see the Swallow's Nest over the arch. And what is the projecting gallery high up on the left wall of the chancel?

Eric Bergerud wrote (May 4, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< It should be noted that the old monastic choir, the chancel area with facing pews/stalls was left vitually empty until after the Creed when those wishing to receive communion moved up into the chancel. Whether other members of the congregation left the church at this point is controverted. That 'Early Music' article on Bach's congregation notes that social rank allowed you to arrive at church late, and some burgers and burgeresses were known to arrive only in time for the cantata and sermon. >
Sounds a little like the Paris Opera in the 2d Empire with members of the Jockey Club showing up more than fashionably late, properly laden with bubbly and their latest mistress in tow. (Now wouldn't a set-up like that help sell tickets at contemporary concerts?)

Any idea what the family was expected to do with small children? Was there any equivalent of the crying room or even Sunday school?

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 4, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>I don't see the Swallow's Nest over the arch.<<
Nor do I, which leaves a number of possibilities as the reason for this, all of which involve the engraver removing the organ with its tiny loft high up on the east wall for it is absolutely clear from the historical church records that it did exist there in that position in 1710 and even until as late as 1740-1741 when Johann Scheibe dismantled it.

1. It was seen as a defect or as simply unimportant for the event being portrayed by the engraver

2. It was located on a substantial stone-wall partition (beginning 2-stories high up to the top of the ceiling) built to enclose the upper space between two major pillars (one pillar west from the railing separating the chancel and the main body of the church) - the engraver simply 'imagined away' this wall in order to show the splendor and actual height of the altar-chancel area which is the oldest part of this church building -- all of this is depicted as a major structural item in Wolff's very imaginative computerized presentation based primarily on a late 19th-century representation before a major renovation of St. Thomas Church (p. 266 of Wolff's Bach biography, Norton, 2000). The latter illustration contrasts sharply with the c. 1710 representation of the interior: Wolff's version is much more massive and substantial with many dark corners (rather Victorian in style) and mysterious and mystical shadows pervade most of the inner space. The size of the organ loft for the swallow's nest organ spans the distance from one pillar on one side over the entire nave to the opposite side, not at all like the 'swallow's nest' which Schering describes from reading the church records. In commenting on the 1710 engraving, Schering points out what will be obvious to most viewers that the period of Rationalism in the early to mid 18th century could not tolerate the unclear mysterious elements or the twilight conditions that signify a lack of clarity. From the church records, Schering found no evidence that St. Thomas Church ever had any colored, stained-glass windows. Clear glass windows would allow the sunlight to enter directly and fill the space with light just as shown in the Groschuff engraving. The balconies/galleries were positioned in such a way as not to impede the light from any window. In contrast, the computerized image shows a later stage of construction upon construction shutting out entirely any light from one side of the church building. On the other hand, the much more judiciously placed galleries in the 1710 engraving, nevertheless still had, according to Schering, the ability to keep the sounds/music from 'getting lost' in the aisles beyond/behind the pillars.

>>And what is the projecting gallery high up on the left wall of the chancel?<<
Could this possibly be the "Fürstenstuhl" ("Chambers reserved for visiting regents and dignitaries") which is later found blocking all the windows on the left (south!!) side of the church at the far left behind the pillars and above the first stone balcony on Wolff's computerized depiction on p. 266?

Michael Pretorius wrote (May 5, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< Sounds a little like the Paris Opera in the 2d Empire with members of the Jockey Club showing up more than fashionably late, properly laden with bubbly and their latest mistress in tow. (Now wouldn't a set-up like that help sell tickets at contemporary concerts?) >
I always thought their mistresses were in the ballet, which was why the ballet HAD to be performed in the second act (see Wagner and the Paris premiere of Tannhauser).

Along this line tho (not the mistresses part), did Bach write anything for dance? His beat and rhythm are frequently commented upon. I suppose as the Leipzig cantor, dance might have been frowned upon. But, at his other posts, was there anything? Even a suspicion of anything?

Julian Mincham wrote (May 5, 2006):
long this line tho (not the mistresses part), did Bach write anything for dance? His beat and rhythm are frequently commented upon. I suppose as the Leipzig cantor, dance might have been frowned upon. But, at his other posts, was there anything? Even a suspicion of anything?

I guess the answer is yes and no. Yes in that most of the suite (keyboard and orchestral) and oartita movements were written to dance rhythms--minuet, gigue, sarabande, gavotte etc etc. However by Bach's time these were skeletonal rhythmic structures which carried the musical ideas, not actually written or meant to be danced to.

So he wrote plenty of 'dance' music--but to be played or listened to rather than danced to.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 5, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>>Yes in that most of the suite keyboard and orchestral) and partita movements were written to dance rhythms--minuet, gigue, sarabande, gavotte etc etc. However by Bach's time these were skeletonal rhythmic structures which carried the musical ideas, not actually written or meant to be danced to. So he wrote plenty of 'dance' music--but to be played or listened to rather than danced to.<<
Johann Mattheson explains that there were great differences between how actual dance music for dancing was performed and how these same dances would be treated differently when performed as chamber music ("Kammer-Styl") and with even greater differences when composed and performed according to "Kirchen-Styl" (Church Style). It is all too easy (and simplistic) for performers nowadays to "lump together" and treat "dance music" the same way in the various performing environments that were kept distinctly separate in the 1st half of the 18th century when Bach lived.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 6, 2006):
< Johann Mattheson explains that there were great differences between how actual dance music for dancing was performed and how these same dances would be treated differently when performed as chamber music ("Kammer-Styl") and with even greater differences when composed and performed according to "Kirchen-Styl" (Church Style). It is all too easy (and simplistic) for performers nowadays to "lump together" and treat "dance music" the same way in the various performing environments that were kept distinctly separate in the 1st half of the 18th century when Bach lived. >
I see that the misuse of Mattheson's work continues, being cited in this way to beat up straw-man performers.

Well: Johann Mattheson's work is not (and was not) primarily for performers of other people's music (Bach's or otherwise)--whether that's 18th century performers or 20th/21st. It's not a prescriptive notice telling us how to open up a score by X, Y, or Z and render it appropriately.

Mattheson's work was primarily polemical, suggesting how composers should compose, i.e. how regular working creative musicians might go about their jobs. Creating music, not re-creating other people's music!

Mattheson's shtick was to rationalize the ways in which music can directly command the emotions: not only through words (opera/cantata/etc), but directly accessing emotions through notes. Keys, styles, genres, etc. And he claimed that "it is the true purpose of music to be, above all else, a moral lesson." The musical fabric is a resource for composers to use, in this way; and therefore the composers should be sure to understand what they're getting into, in doing so.

Do sensitive performers--then and now--understand that there are differences between church and civic performances? Of course. It's Quatsch to suggest otherwise. It's also Quatsch to use Mattheson to beat up straw-men, who are allegedly too brainless to make such distinctions in performance manner. "Lump together" a bunch of straw-men, and then smack them upside the head with Mattheson's book.

Once again: Mattheson was primarily presenting arguments to instruct composers how to control their raw materials. The point is to write music somewhat differently for the different venues in which it will be performed...the better to bring out the types of emotions and morality that are appropriate to each venue.

Does one compose a dance-related composition somewhat differently if it's actually going to be danced? Of course--starting with making the phrase lengths and accentuation more regular and easily danceable, i.e. writing simpler music and in shorter forms. If one is writing something to give the related feeling of (say) a gavotte, for a church piece, it can suggest that gavotte-ness of manner without being entirely danceable, or as systematic with its structure; sensitive performers and listeners can figure out that it's suggesting a gavotte without actually getting up and doing the steps.

And, that's of course helped along if the performers do bring out some of the more obvious features, such as the pointing of the rhythm when gavotte-ness starts, whether it's kept up systematically or not. If, on the other hand, all the gavotte-ness gets buried under a lack of bringing out the phrasing, it's simply A BAD OR INDIFFERENT PERFORMANCE where it's not clear the performers have recognized what they're dealing with: the suggestion of a dance.

Subsume all dance-like elements beneath a body-denying delivery that induces one to level the notes and hide the dance? (In the name of Mattheson's proscriptions being misquoted, or whatever?) That's not necessarily a musical issue. It's a problem of not offending people who consider their own private moral/spiritual expectations to be more important than the music's content. Meanwhile, it's a musician's job to bring out the musical content; not to hide it under somebody else's presumed morality or piety. The music's content is supposed to move the soul, the body, the emotions, all together. The more strongly/clearly/directly it does so, the better the performance. If somebody doesn't like what's in there as a result, well then, it's probably the composer's fault for putting it there. :)

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 6, 2006):
Gavotte-ness [was: Bach and Acoustics]

Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>I see that the misuse of Mattheson's work continues, being cited in this way to beat up straw-man performers. Well: Johann Mattheson's work is not (and was not) primarily for performers of other people's music (Bach's or otherwise)--whether that's 18th century performers or 20th/21st. It's not a prescriptive notice telling us how to open up a score by X, Y, or Z and render it appropriately. <<
Only those performers who wish to disregard performance practice authenticity would speak, write, and perform in such a manner which disregards what Mattheson, Heinichen, and even Quantz have to say
about the distinct performance styles that existed in the first half of the 18th century.

>>Mattheson's work was primarily polemical, suggesting how composers should compose, i.e. how regular working creative musicians might go about their jobs. Creating music, not re-creating other people's music!<<
If you and other performers holding similar views had read Mattheson more carefully and relied less on your own imaginations and some unfounded conclusions that you have accumulated over the years, conclusions which demonstrate that you prefer not to be bothered with anything but superficial details regarding Mattheson's observations, you would not come to the incorrect conclusion that Mattheson's emphasis was mainly on composing and not performing.

>>Mattheson's shtick was to rationalize the ways in which music can directly command the emotions: not only through words (opera/cantata/etc), but directly accessing emotions through notes. Keys, styles, genres, etc. And he claimed that "it is the true purpose of music to be, above all else, a moral lesson." The musical fabric is a resource for composers to use, in this way; and therefore the composers should be sure to understand what they're getting into, in doing so.<<
It is a combination of what the composer 'brings to the table' and what the performers do with it. In regard to the latter many modern performing groups have failed in their moral obligation to uphold the clear distinctions, not only of the composing aspect which Bach expertly carried out on his end, but also of the style of performance which also should be a moral lesson. This dual goal that Mattheson and others have repeated in their books on this subject must be upheld, otherwise a modern performance of Bach is already substantially much less authentic than it might claim to be.

>>Do sensitive performers--then and now--understand that there are differences between church and civic performances? Of course. It's Quatsch to suggest otherwise. It's also Quatsch to use Mattheson to beat up straw-men, who are allegedly too brainless to make such distinctions in performance manner. "Lump together" a bunch of straw-men, and then smack them upside the head with Mattheson's book.<<
I am glad that you can hear these differences between church and civic performances. I, for one, cannot. What I hear when some of the recorded HIP groups perform in churches is much more of a civic performance. Simply performing in a church does not appear to alter the performance style one iota unless some adjustments are necessary due to the different acoustics in a church. But the performance style of these groups as such does not reflect this essential difference that Mattheson and others have documented for us.

>>Once again: Mattheson was primarily presenting arguments to instruct composers how to control their raw materials. The point is to write music somewhat differently for the different venues in which it will be performed...the better to bring out the types of emotions and morality that are appropriate to each venue.<<
Again, composition represents only one half of the equation, the other half lies in the performance practices which must accommodate one of the three major styles in a recognizable manner: "Church-, Chamber- and Theater/Opera-Style".

>>Does one compose a dance-related composition somewhat differently if it's actually going to be danced? Of course--starting with making the phrase lengthsand accentuation more regular and easily danceable, i.e. writing simpler music and in shorter forms. If one is writing something to give the related feeling of (say) a gavotte, for a church piece, it can suggest that gavotte-ness of manner without being entirely danceable, or as systematic with its structure; sensitive performers and listeners can figure out that it's suggesting a gavotte without actually getting up and doing the steps.<<
Now, after apparently taking pride in removing performance styles from the equation (at least as far as Mattheson as understood by Brad Lehman is concerned), we seem to be touching a different subject which leads to the inevitable notion of attempting to view these matters only in extremes: either the dance form is clearly heard or else what you have is "a bad or indifferent performance"of Bach's intentions as represented in the score. Let's examine, for a moment, the 'gavotte-ness' of a mvt. in a cantata: Mattheson points out that there are in music rhythmic patterns that can be compared to the types of 'feet' found in poetry (iambic, trochaic, etc.). He even gives examples with the express warning that these are entirely theoretical and have nothing to do with how music should actually be composed or performed, examples which show how a melody can be transformed by using a different rhythmic structure. A chorale melody can be transformed into a minuet, for instance "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" becomes a gavotte with the melody still recognizable; "Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut" in cut-time becomes a sarabande in 3/2 time; even an existing angloise is transformed into a new chorale melody [pp. 161ff from Johann Mattheson's "Der vollkommene Capellmeister", Hamburg, 1739].

The best place to learn these different types of rhythm is in dance music, but "Eine Allemande zum Tantzen und eine zum Spielen sind wie Himmel und Erden unterschieden & sic de coeteris, die Sarabanden in etwas ausgenommen" ["The difference between an allemande composed/performed for dancing and one composed/performed for performance only {this is contained in a section explaining "Chamber Style"} is as great as that between heaven and earth - and this is true for all other dances with perhaps sarabandes providing a bit of an exception."] pp. 138 of "Das Beschützte Orchestre", Hamburg, 1717. Now anyone truly interested in understanding what Mattheson is presenting here need only reflect upon the various statements on performances in "Church Style", which would include movements that are based upon the rhythms of various dances. These statements can be found by searching for "Church Style" or "Kirchen-Styl" on the BCW.


>>And, that's of course helped along if the performers do bring out some of the more obvious features, such as the pointing of the rhythm when gavotte-ness starts, whether it's kept up systematically or not. If, on the other hand, all the gavotte-ness gets buried under a lack of bringing out the phrasing, it's simply A BAD OR INDIFFERENT PERFORMANCE where it's not clear the performers have recognized what they're dealing with: the suggestion of a dance.<<
The 'gavotte-ness' could only get buried by depriving the performance of any rhythmic character at all. What has happened during the past half century or so is that performers, in attempting to bring out all the HIP characteristics that they possible could, have over exaggerated these dance-like aspects, particularly in Bach's sacred compositions which are replete with examples of rhythmic structures based upon dance forms. Church compositions by Bach, as has been previously discussed, can express joy, but it should not be a frenetic St. Vitus' dance nor do the rhythms have to be punched out as they might have been by the foot-stomping rural musicians of Bach's time.

>>Subsume all dance-like elements beneath a body-denying delivery that induces one to level the notes and hide the dance? (In the name of Mattheson's proscriptions being misquoted, or whatever?) That's not necessarily a musical issue. It's a problem of not offending people who consider their own private moral/spiritual expectations to be more important than the music's content. Meanwhile, it's a musician's job to bring out the musical content; not to hide it under somebody else's presumed morality or piety. The music's content is supposed to move the soul, the body, the emotions, all together. The more strongly/clearly/directly it does so, the better the performance. If somebody doesn't like what's in there as a result, well then, it's probably the composer's fault for putting it there. :)<<
I believe that listeners do want the music to move the soul, but it is also possible that some HIP musicians have gone to extremes in fostering the 'ugly' aspects of music, all of which have been discussed on the BCML week after week, month after month, and year afteryear. Are Mattheson's statements being misquoted here? I think not. It is much more likely that raising such a question arises from a superficial, if not in some instances a complete lack of, knowledge regarding matters which should concern performers who purport to represent Bach's intentions and take great pride in their efforts which they present to the listening public.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 6, 2006):
< I believe that listeners do want the music to move the soul, but it is also possible that some HIP musicians have gone to extremes in fostering the 'ugly' aspects of music, all of which have been discussed on the BCML week after week, month after month, and year after year. >
Yes, yes, agreed, we've heard it a hundredfold from that same source. Nikolaus Harnoncourt's musicianship of the 1970s isn't fancied/fathomed by some members of the BCML, or at least by one. Its appreciation then cannot be allowed to go unchecked, for those other members (or public) who might enjoy it or take it at face value. Nay, The World Of Bach Enthusiasts Must Be Saved From Harnoncourt's Alleged Excesses. We've heard it week after week, month after month, etc. Bor-ing.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 6, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Yes, yes, agreed, we've heard it a hundredfold from that same source....Bor-ing.<<
As we've also heard a constant barrage of opinions on performing Bach "properly" which entailed, among other things, recommending:

1. employing deliberate imprecision in the performance of Bach's sacred vocal works (i.e., voices attacking variously with split-second differences in timing those notes written out by Bach as being on the same beat) -- the use of rubato in these same works

2. praising the efforts of singers with limited ranges who are unable to do full justice to full range of notes which Bach demands of them in singing a sacred aria; likewise praising and supporting the efforts of instrumentalists who have obvious difficulty coping with strenuous demands Bach places on parts calling upon certain instruments that now exist in reconstructions which the players need to master before presenting their efforts in recordings

3. taking very obvious liberties with the score as set down by Bach, all in the name of perserving the personal freedom of the performer who seeks to engage an audience with whatever extreme measures (exaggerations, deliberate distortions, additional embellishments, overly strong accents at times with persistent staccato lightness at other times) are needed to grab the attention of listeners not accustomed to listening to Bach's music

4. supporting using shortened accompaniment in the bc when accompanying secco recitatives in Bach's sacred music, the latter 'doctrine' being based upon an incorrect reading of the historical record and an inability to recognize the fact that this belief is founded on an esoteric doctrine that cannot easily be documented without speculative misinterpretations of thhistorical record

5. granting a flamboyant performance style to the performers with the ultimate freedom in making musical choices being based on the erroneous notion that Bach composed his sacred music in the "Stylus Phantasticus" and that these compositions should be performed in this manner

6. suggesting that only a certain non-equal temperament, of which there are many from the past and still be formulated in the present, will make the performances of Bach's sacred music even more authentic than they have ever been, disregarding, of course, the fact that use of equal temperament was spreading and being accepted among practicing musicians and composers for almost two decades in Germany before Bach assembled and composed his WTC1

and the list goes on --- Bor-ing

 

Continue on Part 2

Introduction | Cantatas | Other Vocal | Instrumental | Performers | General Topics | Articles | Books | Movies | New
Biographies | Texts & Translations | Scores | References | Commentaries | Music | Concerts | Festivals | Tour | Art & Memorabilia
Chorale Texts | Chorale Melodies | Lutheran Church Year | Readings | Poets & Composers | Arrangements & Transcriptions
Search Website | Search Works/Movements | Terms & Abbreviations | Copyright | How to contribute | Sitemap | Links



 

Back to the Top


Last update: ýJanuary 30, 2009 ý10:05:01