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Articulation

Articulation and staying awake

Bradley Lehman wrote:
Or what do you make of something like #20 in the SMP ("Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen") where the oboe's notated articulation is very different from the tenor where he has the same line but with words? It seems to me Bach is relishing the difference. The oboe is (in part) simulating a rooster's crowing, and the tenor is singing that he's resolved not to betray Jesus, he's not going to fall into a trap of consistency even if others do. :) Meanwhile, the basso continuo is foreshadowing the articulations that the chorus and the rest of the orchestra are going to use in their interjections. Can't Bach be allowed to suggest (via articulation) several types of emotion, several types of expression, several ideas going on simultaneously or even changing during the course of a piece?

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 26, 2002):
That is, he's determined to stay awake even though everyone else may fall asleep or fall away...and he's not a rooster himself, either. Musical defiance portrayed vividly. He even has to say it a couple of times to himself, to remind himself to stay awake. :)

Another fun spot is the "Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum" of the B minor mass (BWV 232). The two oboes d'amore (plus strings) have different articulations even though they're echoing each other and intertwining very closely. And a soprano soloist and alto soloist have different timbres from one another when they're singing the same notes. Isn't Bach trying to say here: "Hey, we've got four different ways of doing this opening line, and the only thing we really agree on is the point of the piece: different people coming together for the one DJC the text is about!" If this all gets smoothed out for consistency, with everybody agreeing too much on how to do it, the piece is diminished: it loses a theological point.

 

Excessive articulaion

Neil Halliday wrote (March 6, 2003):
An example of this can be heard in BWV 40, movement 5 (recitative), on the David Zale site; here we have Gustav Leonhardt's performance of this work.

At first hearing, the string accompaniment appears to consist of 8th notes, but on careful listening, one can discern that this string writing consists of 16th notes; however, every 2nd note is practically inaudible, spoiling what Alec Robertson describes as "lovely instrumental accompaniment".

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 6, 2003):
[To Neil Halliday] Is this EXCESSIVE?

 

Articulation, phrasing, fermatas, accents, &c

Continue of discussion from: Cantata BWV 72 - Discussions

Bradley Lehman wrote:
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Ramin gives just the right amount of ‘pause’ on each of the fermati. This means that here none of the note value (even without the fermata being considered!) is shortened.
(...)
Rilling treats the fermati as if they were not present. He extends the quarter note under the fermata for as long as he can before allowing the choir to enunciate the final consonant. This means that there is an ever-so-slight shortening of the quarter note, but somehow he has the choir maintain the necessary tension that makes one feel as if almost no break has occurred when the choir moves right into the next line of the verse.
(...)
The typical features of a Harnoncourt chorale rendition are: 1) treat each quarter note as a separate entity with tiny hiatuses between the notes and do not be concerned about breaking words into syllables (‘fromme’ is treated, for example, as ‘from-‘ space/stop/hiatus and then ‘-me’;) 2) there is only a slight shortening of the quarter-note under the fermata; 3) the words/notes under the fermati are treated as unaccented, even when words such as “Gott” and “baut” occur in these positions.
(...)
Leusink follows in his mentor’s footsteps by also separating generally each quarter note from the one that follows. Leusink then shortens the value of the quarter note under the fermata even more than Harnoncourt and allows the volume of this note to drop off considerably, thus undermining any sense of conviction and strength of belief that such a chorale should exhibit.
(...) >
Tom (and anyone else), instead of this speculation in telling performers how to do their jobs, and the personal decisions (i.e. your own taste as arbiter of value) as to which ones are doing it well...here are some musicological articles I think you should read about these issues.

These articles are all easily obtainable in any university library in an English-speaking country, and many public libraries as well. They are all in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2001 edition). That convenience makes them an excellent place to start; and that commonality may give us some footing for discussion.

I've read through them this afternoon, as a refresher, and found them to be a very good summary of these issues. I don't recall offhand how many of these same articles were also in the previous edition of New Grove (1980); it would be interesting to compare those sometime, to see if anything has been revised substantially in the past 20 years of scholarship. Probably some. These articles (and the broader issues) were required reading in undergraduate and graduate study--becoming basically Informed, as the first step of becoming Historically Informed--, and it's good to stay current on this newest edition. I wish I'd made photocopies from the previous edition, as well!

These issues are relevant to all types of Performance, whether it's Historically Informed Performance or whatever people are calling the other kinds.... (Are there even any convenient terms or acronyms for various forms of "non-HIP"? Historically Clueless Performance? Wild Guesswork Performance? Whatever Feels Right Performance? Whatever My Personal Hero Did Must Be Right Performance? Didn't Do My Homework So I'll Wing It Performance? Anything Goes Performance? History Is Irrelevant Performance? Whatever They Did On My Favorite Recording That's What I Must Imitate Performance? Just The Facts Ma'am Performance? What My Teacher's Teacher's Teacher's Teacher's Teacher Did Because He Was Beethoven Performance?) OK, I'm getting carried away here, but all those types of performance do exist, even if there aren't convenient labels for them. And there are many different flavors of Historically Informed Performance, also. Ahem. Back to the articles, things that are much more worth reading than my own blathering is....

"Accent" (Matthias Thiemel)
"Accentuation" (Matthias Thiemel)
"Fermata" (David Fuller)
"Pause" (David Fuller)
"Articulation and Phrasing" (Geoffrey Chew)
"Articulation Marks" (Clive Brown)

Except for Fuller's entries, both of which are very short, these articles include bibliographies of the old and more modern theoretical studies of these topics.

Spend a good three or four hours reading these; it's well worth it. Among other things, you will read about:

- The extreme variations in the use of these markings (and concepts) over the past 300 years (especially the variations in the "staccato" dot...and the fact that it can also be used somewhere other than above/below a note!)

- Musical articulation and accentuation as derived from spoken language

- The roles of meter, dance, and text in the determination of accentuation and phrasing

- The normal shortening/lightening of the last note of a phrase, whether it's marked or not

- What slurs meant to JS Bach

- Normal accentual patterns in the 18th century, and changes into the 19th and 20th

- The role of Riemann

- Where Mattheson fits in

- The derivation of articulation and phrasing from context, rather than from uniformly applying articulative rules to entire movements (like Karl Richter did), or from expecting the composer to have marked it into the score (that is...Richter's way is wrong not because shortening the notes is wrong per se, but because he did it uniformly)

- Valuable knowledge that may be lost if we look only at modern Urtext editions

- Fuller also mentions the use of the pause/fermata from several centuries before Bach

I'd also encourage you (anyone) spend a good half day sometime studying the slurs (bowing and articulation) in Bach's violin works: the unaccompanied pieces, the sonatas with harpsichord, and the concertos. The variety there--within beats, across beats, across bars, unexpected lengths--is amazing. I think you'll see that Bach valued surprise, asymmetry, and irregularity in these cases where he troubled to mark it. And perhaps that way of thinking can tell us something about Bach in the other situations (both vocal and instrumental) where he did not mark things so thoroughly?

=====

By the way (Tom), I thought your research on the fermata last week was well done, and summarized nicely. That's why I was a little surprised this morning: Tom-the-researcher does a good job sorting out the possibilities, while Tom-the-performance-reviewer is still (as noted above) evidently more interested in bashing HIP, throwing us gratuitous polemics instead of facts. That is, your wording as excerpted above shows that you're willing to ignore the balanced results of your own research, if it's convenient instead to decide what a fermata must mean (probably from your older assumptions about them) and then use that to bash all HIP approaches. Why? When will this Tom who's good at the facts meet the Tom who would rather give soapbox lectures against HIP? Just wondering.

If you like the way Ramin does it, fine; but that personal preference is not adequate basis to say everybody else is wrong on it, or an adequate basis for yet another potshot at Harnoncourt et al. How do you know what, for example, the "sense of conviction and strength of belief" is among the members of Leusink's choir, or Leusink's own spiritual convictions? Isn't that just wild speculation, masquerading as facts? (I've heard only the Leusink recording, and it sure seems to me that his people are alert, committed, and enthusiastic about what they're singing; that's the impression I get from listening to them, and their performance moves me, and I'm spiritually uplifted in that listening experience. To read your review, though, one would get the impression they're all headed straight to hell, following the pied piper ol' debbil Harnoncourt, having sold their souls up the river...in your opinion, these people can't even sing a simple chorale correctly, let alone any of the rest of the cantata! If their way moves me, I guess that means I'm on the road to hell, too. When I'm there, like in the story of Lazarus, would you be willing to reach down from your place of lofty bliss and put a few drops of refreshing cool water on my tongue? Thanks!)

Neil Halliday wrote (April 14, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Brad, you forgot the "Whatever is the Most Intellectually, Spiritually, and Emotionally Satisfying Performance", but I like your sense of humour.

Hugo Saldias wrote (April 14, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I do not think there is a wrong or not wrong....

There is freedom please with this fermatas.

Give Herr Richter a chance !!!

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 3, 2003):
Rest assured, I'm not the one here who's saying there is only one right way to handle fermatas. I'm one who's been saying the OPPOSITE of that!...see my several postings from 4/8 and 4/9. Especially note what I said on 4/9:
'Frankly, I have my own general definition of fermatas, an eminently practical one that probably doesn't show up in any dictionary. It is simply: "something is coming to an end here, notice it, do something musically intelligent!" The interpretation, then, comes from musical context, from thinking (and feeling the moment) rather than from
following any pedantic rule.'

How much more "freedom" do you want there in the definition, Hugo? :)

=====

As for giving Herr Richter a chance, I have done so on many occasions. I've been listening to Karl Richter recordings (on and off) for more than 20 years. Most recently, I spent all of Saturday morning 4/12/03 and half of the afternoon (to my wife's chagrin) playing Richter recordings in our house: parts of the 1961 B Minor Mass (BWV 232), Goldberg Variations (Richter on a Neupert harpsichord, 1970), Bach orchestral suites, and at least five of the Bach harpsichord concertos. And, I reviewed his recording of the cantata 68 a few weeks ago....
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV68-D.htm

Hugo Saldias wrote (April 14, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I sincere apologize.I do not mean to sound rude at all.Please.

In the famous 5th Symphonie Ludwig van Beethoven gives us the most famous 4 notes with fermatas. In one radio program on a station I can not remember the important music teacher had a mornig program and he compared the different versions of the extended notes in the fermatas of the first mov. I remember now:Karl Haas.He is great talking about music and had a vvery good point.Bruno Walter is the one If i am not confused extended the notes and pause most of all others. Furtwängler, Walter, Knnapertsbuch, Celibidache:every time I hear one of their recordings I learn something even if it is different from one another.And Karl Haas helps me a lot too.

Please do not feel bad of what I said.

I just went too far...

 

Articulation, again - the effect of Affekt

Tom Dent wrote (May 2, 2005):
First, although we may be on the road towards a definition of 'cantabile' for the Baroque period, there is still a little way to go. What would be the opposite of 'cantabile' for vocal or instrumental performers? An unclear manner of articulation, or an excessively uneven one which made some notes difficult to hear, or what? (18th century sources please!)

And since on the harpsichord every note cannot fail to emerge audibly and with nearly equal dynamic, what would be the opposite of cantabile here?

On a related topic, I would expect CPE Bach to mention that his rules for articulation/duration of notes are subject to change, depending on the mood (Affekt if you are being Germanically technical) of the piece, whether or not there are explicit directions from the composer. For example holding notes for less than half their length might be suitable for a cheerful piece with melodic disjunct motion, and vice versa.

Of course personal taste and feeling - the fugitive 'musician's instinct' - immediately enter here, but I don't suppose CPE would have a problem with that.

This would lead me to hold the notes a little longer in the G minor sinfonia, but a little shorter in the D major or F major. (And just to show there is not an equation 'major = cheerful', the E flat major sinfonia would be less staccato, and the B minor more so.)

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 2, 2005):
Tom Dent wrote:
>>First, although we may be on the road towards a definition of 'cantabile' for the Baroque period, there is still a little way to go. What would be the opposite of 'cantabile' for vocal or instrumental performers? An unclear manner of articulation, or an excessively uneven one which made some notes difficult to hear, or what? (18th century sources please!)<<
I have not come upon any 18th century sources that advocate 'an unclear manner of articulation, or an excessively uneven one which made some notes difficult to hear,' yet this is what you will hear in numerous performances which purport to sing or play in an 18th-century performance. It is statements by such HIP pioneers as Harnoncourt was with his Bach cantata series (together with Leonhardt) that have led to the extremes of tempi along with hatred of 'cantabile' musical lines that many HIP conductors have unwittingly adopted. They are epigones of the Harnoncourt approach/style to performances of Bach's music.

Here are a few quotations from Nikolaus Harnoncourt's "Musik als Klangrede" [Bärenreiter, 1982]:

"Im ganzen gesehen ist der Klang des Barockorchestsers wesentlich leiser, aber schärfer, aggressive und bunter...." ["Seen as a whole, the sound of a Baroque orchestra was considerably softer, but more incisive, aggressive and colorful {than the modern-day orchestra.}] p. 155

"Man kann mit einem Barockbogen kein schönes Sostenuto spielen, aber amn versucht es doch; man kann eine gewisse Klangüppigknicht erzielen, aber man versucht es doch." ["You can not play a nice sostenuto with a Baroque bow {they are shorter and lighter} and still they (musicians) persist in trying to do this; you can not achieve a certain luxuriance/richness of sound, but they still keep on trying."] p. 128

Now add to this Harnoncourt's overly strong emphasis upon "Sprechen in Tönen" p. 156 ["speaking in musical tones"]: "Jedem Instrumentalisten im 17. und in einem Großteil des 18. Jahrhunderts war völlig klar, daß er stets sprechend zu musizieren hatte." p. 159 ["It was absolutely clear to every instrumentalist in the 17th and for a greater portion of the 18th century that he was always required to play music as if he were speaking {the words}."] Harnoncourt, in tracing the origin of this notion quotes, among others, Caccini, whose innovation was: "...ein Text, oft ein Dialog, wird grundsätzlich einstimmig vertont, wobei man genau und naturalistisch dem Sprachrhythmus und der Sprachmelodie folgt. Es ging einzig und allein darum, den Text so verständlich wie möglich und mit höchstem Ausdruck wiederzugeben. Die Musik mußte dabei gänzlich im Hintergrund bleiben, ihre Aufgabe war es, einen unauffälligen harmonischen Untergrund zu geben." p. 172 ["...a text, often a dialogue, was basically set for one part, while the composer (and the performer as well) had to follow precisely and naturalistically the rhythm and melody of the (natural speaking voice.) It was all a matter of reproducing the text so that it would be easily understood and delivered with the greatest amount of expression. In this type of performance, the music had to remain completely in the background. Its main purpose was to provide an inconspicuous harmonic basis."]

"Nun kommt plötzlich jemand und sagt, die Art, wie die Leute reden, ist an und für sich schon Musik, es ist die wahre Musik." p. 173 ["Now someone comes along and says, the way that people speak is in itself already music, it is the true form of music."]

Approaching this phenomenon historically from the period that followed the Baroque, Harnoncourt concludes: "Wenn wir den Unterschied zwischen einem Werk der spätbarocken Zeit und einem der Klassik betrachten, bemerken, wir, daß das Melodische in der Klassik im Vordergrund steht." p. 162 ["If we observe the difference between a composition from the late Baroque era and another one from the period of Classicism, we will notice that the melodic element is of immediate importance in the classical period."] Here we can begin to understand how the notion of 'cantabile' is undermined by the emphasis on the 'imitation of human speech' with its many inflections and often missing unaccented syllables as they can occur in normal conversation.

Let's turn to Mattheson for explanation of 'cantabile':

"Aber das ist das rechte Wunder in der Music / daß der Klang / der süße 'concentus', die fliessende Melodie /.alle Neigungen der Seele rege machen können."

["But this is the true marvel/wonder/miracle inherent in music, that the sound, the sweet combination of various sounds, the flowing melody, etc. are able to stir all the emotions {inclinations, feelings of love and affection} of the soul."]

p. 363 {Chapter 3, §67 of "Vom Unterschied zwischen der Music und Harmonic" of "Das Forschende Orchestre" Part III of "Die drei Orchestre-Schriften" [Hamburg, 1721] by Johann Mattheson.

"Das gar zu sehr punctirte Wesen ist im Singen zu fliehen; es erfordere denn solches ein eigner Umstand."

["A very punctuated manner is to be avoided in singing unless a special circumstance calls for this."]

p. 141 of Johann Mattheson's "Der vollkommene Capellmeister" [Hamburg, 1739]

Johann Gottfried Walther "Musicalisches Lexicon..." [Leipzig, 1732] hints at the normal situation to be aimed at by composers:

"chant naturel (gall.) bedeutet .einen ungezwungenen, und fliessend gesetzten Gesang."

["Natural singing means {having composed} a song which is unconstrained and flowing."]

Johann Mattheson on "Klang=Rede" (the relationship between vocal music and its text - {not "Music as Speech" which became one of the key slogans of the Harnoncourt era}):

"Dem Gesange, als Gesange, muß ein Vorrecht, und, so zu sagen, eine sonderbare Immunität, zugestanden werden, damit man ihn, und seine Umstände, nicht allenthalben nach der Schärffe, wie eine gemeine Rede, beurtheile..

Denn es werden in der Music nicht nur der Text allein; sondern auch die Noten, theils mit, theils ohne demselben, wiederholet. Diese Distinction ist unentbehrlich in der Music: denn die Worte, an und von sich selbst, machen keine Melodie gut, und tragen 'ad bene esse' der Melodica gar nichts bey; wenn die Worte wohl in acht genommen werden, verhindert solches nur das Böse. Der Text ist einmal, wie vorhin gesagt worden, kein Stück der Music: und doch will er hier immer das grosse Wort bey der Melodie haben. So siehet man, wie aus einem falschen 'principio' lauter falsche Folgen entstehen."

"One must allow a song (aria, etc.) as something to be sung to have its own prerogative, and, one might also say, its own immunity, so that you will not always judge it along with its special circumstances strictly according to the rules of common speech..

In [vocal] music not only are the words repeated, but also the notes, sometimes with and sometimes without [the text.] This distinction is indispensable in music, since the words, by themselves, do not improve a melody and they add absolutely nothing to its positive nature; if proper attention is paid to the words, then only something evil can prevent such a thing (repetitions such as those found in BWV 21) from happening. The text is, as indicated previously, not part of the music and yet it always wants to play an important role in the creation of the melody. Now you can see, how, from a false premise, many incorrect conclusions/results can arise."

p. 347 of Johann Mattheson's 'Critica Musica" Part III [Hamburg, 1725]

>>And since on the harpsichord every note cannot fail to emerge audibly and with nearly equal dynamic, what would be the opposite of cantabile here?

Very special circumstances prevail with a harpsichord. Perhaps that is why there is such a large arsenal of embellishments to choose from (judiciously, of course.)

>>On a related topic, I would expect CPE Bach to mention that his rules for articulation/duration of notes are subject to change, depending on the mood (Affekt if you are being Germanically technical) of the piece, whether or not there are explicit directions from the composer. For example holding notes for less than half their length might be suitable for a cheerful piece with melodic disjunct motion, and vice versa. Of course personal taste and feeling - the fugitive 'musician's instinct' - immediately enter here, but I don't suppose CPE would have a problem with that. This would lead me to hold the notes a little longer in the G minor sinfonia, but a little shorter in the D major or F major. (And just to show there is not an equation 'major = cheerful', the E flat major sinfonia would be less staccato, and the B minor more so.) <<
I think that we can assume that CPE would agree with Affekt influencing the manner of performance on a keyboard instrument. There is however here a sliding scale from 'very conservative' all the way to 'over the edge.'

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 2, 2005):
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Thomas Braatz wrote (May 3, 2005):
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Let me correct my statement to read that Harnoncourt perhaps 'wittingly' applied the Florentine recitative principle of 'recitar cantando' originating at the beginning of the 17th century and then generalized it in its application to Bach's sacred choral music of a later time and different country. And then, 'unwittingly' many other HIP conductors accepted this as gospel without questioning it further (without consulting more carefully theimportant historical sources from Germany at the beginning of the 18th
century.)

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I am certain that there are very erudite and thoughtful musicians and musicologists. Almost daily, I rely on their scholarship and expertise. They have my respect and I am grateful for their contributions which lead to a better understanding about what Bach's music is all about.

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It seems that these 'expert musicians' have a very difficult time documenting upon just what their notion of 'cantabile' is based. The recorded evidence from the H/L Bach cantata series is there for everyone to hear. There are, however, a few 'consumer listeners' who would wish to read a more detailed confirmation from historical sources (preferably c. 1700-1735 in Germany) which possibly document the 'eccentricities' of Harnoncourt's performance style. It may be difficult for many readers to understand just how 'fliessend' ['flowing'], a description of 'cantabile' from this critical period when Bach was composing his cantatas, etc. results in a performance style that is breathless and punctuated by innumerable hiatuses caused by considerably abbreviated note values on unaccented syllables as it tries to account for a misunderstanding of what 'Klang=Rede' is all about.

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So Johann Mattheson is a diligent non-musician 'telling present-day musicians how it really should go'? Or was he writing down information which confused a German-speaking conductor such as Harnoncourt? Harnoncourt quotes Mattheson on "Klang=Rede" (without understanding what Mattheson really meant with this term) and then claims (p. 178 of "Musik als Klangrede" [Bärenreiter, 1982]) that Bach took Monteverdi's idea of "Klang=Rede" and applied/transposed it along with the Classical "Sprachfigurenlehre" ["the doctrine of rhetorical speech figures"] to the German language where it took on "wesentlich verschärften Akzente" [substantially aggravated {increased-in-intensity} accents] -- which is just what we get to hear in Harnoncourt's Bach recordings. Harnoncourt even goes on to describe the 'hard, barking' sounds of the German language with overly clear, unmistakably sharp accents. This is Harnoncourt's theory/doctrine, but it has little to do with what the actual historical record reveals.

Of course, if I am mistaken, I would like to correct the error of my ways and offer an apology, but thus far I have not read any specific historical evidence brought into this discussion by those who would prefer to be considered erudite and experienced in these matters. The silence in these matters which demand correction is profound. All we are treated to are occasional outbursts of emotion that lead away from the specific topic under discussion. Would it not be best to remain silent rather than pretend to be defending a musicological trend which is unable to provide the proper evidence for its existence?

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…what does 'cantabile' mean? Did it mean that Bach's melodic lines, unless he marks them accordingly, should be hacked apart (in Harnoncourt's performance style) with strong accents on some notes and disappearing, seriously abbreviated, almost inaudible notes? Or did the most important musician composers of the 1st half of the 18th century in Germany still consider 'fliessend' ['flowing'] to mean what it still does today? Or, did German composers in the early 18th century temporarily distort the meaning of this word for their own purposes, only to have Mozart and others who followed, notice and complain about the lack of 'cantabile' in the playing of other instrumentalists? Why did this temporary shift in the meaning of 'cantabile' go unnoticed and undocumented? Is this just another unfounded 'esoteric' doctrine like another one which Harnoncourt supported: the shortened basso continuo accompaniment in secco recitatives? These theories have affected how we hear many of Bach's cantatas today. If these theories are correct and valid even today, then we should enshrine them as the great pioneering efforts of those who 'broke the mold' of the otherwise outdated manner of performance. If not, then at least the listening public has a right to be properly informed even if it still wants to listen and enjoy these performances for what they are: an experiment - as successful? or as having failed on a grand scale?

Would I sell my H/L Bach cantata series on E-bay as fast as possible, even if I had discovered some major flaws? No, there are some real gems (generally specific movements) even if the entire series does not live up to the high expectations that many may have had. One who is approaching this series for the first time should perhaps consult Aryeh's site BCW to discover the various opinions offered there. If such a person were to pick and choose first those cantatas/movements where there is a reasonable consensus/agreement, then the chance of a successful appreciation and enjoyment of this series will be enhanced, before becoming possibly disenchanted with a series of poor performances heard in sequence.

I am waiting for some persuasive evidence regarding the specific questions that have been raised.

Tom Dent wrote (May 3, 2005):
This thread might possibly go somewhere, rather than nowhere fast, if we had some audible examples of performances that are (allegedly) unclear or 'not cantabile' or 'hacked-about'... or, on the other side, lack sufficient 'gesture' and inflection. Which movements of which cantatas are best (worst?) examples. You cannot generalise about all of a conductor's output, let alone a class of conductors.

The trouble is, no 18th century writers ever thought their work would be dug up by people with zero direct experience of contemporary ways of playing, so with rather few exceptions they did not bother to give precise sonic descriptions of such things as phrasing and articulation. (CPE Bach being an honourable exception, and Leopold Mozart for the violin.) Many descriptions of the correct manner of phrasing say little more than 'it should sound pleasantly coherent' with the implications for the actual sounds left up to the reader. No better is the 'Golden Mean' instruction that notes should be neither too long nor too short - which everyone can agree with, but gives no practical help. Some informed deductions cannot be made, but they rarely give a positive indication of intended sounds. The usual, unsolved, problem is to find the degree of inflection, e.g. how much softer should one note be than another.

So far, diligent efforts of list members have not come up with a source which says that there is any well-defined way of playing apart from 'cantabile' (or its French equivalent). But we can easily find music for which 'cantabile' cannot be directly applied, namely toccatas with rapid 'broken' keyboard figurations which bear no relation to what anyone could sing. The first section of the F# minor Toccata is an example. You might (possibly!) be able to imagine vocal harmonies and melodies lying somewhere in the background, but their influence on actual keyboard execution would be tenuous. So I tentatively propose that the 'toccata-style' or 'bravura' performance which emphasizes rapidity and brilliant execution without reference to vocal melody, can be opposed to the 'cantabile' style.

Ironically, one principal subject of the B minor sinfonia is in this 'toccata-style' - a completely unsingable 32nd-note figure on a static chord, which forms a brilliant contrast with the other, more sober and 'speech-like' parts of the movement.

Perhaps a more familiar example would be the instrumental parts of 'Jauchzet, frohlocket!' (Christmas Oratorio) which are generally performed in a brilliant and virtosic manner. (Except, ironically, by Harnoncourt...)

While I don't have any historical source for this antithesis of 'cantabile' and 'bravura', it does lead to an interesting reading of Bach's instruction to play the Inventions in a 'cantabile' manner: that is, to avoid dazzling virtuoso fingerwork (which anyway be impossible in many pieces), or at least minimise the virtuoso aspect in favour of the vocal (melodic/harmonic) elements of the pieces.

Even less historically relevant, but suggestive, is Wagner's instruction to conductors five generations later to 'above all else, find the melody'...

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 4, 2005):
Tom Dent wrote:
>>This thread might possibly go somewhere, rather than nowhere fast, if we had some audible examples of performances that are (allegedly) unclear or 'not cantabile' or 'hacked-about'... or, on the other side, lack sufficient 'gesture' and inflection. Which movements of which cantatas are best (worst?) examples.<<
On Aryeh's website BCW, check out, for starters, cantatas BWV 116, BWV 119, BWV 137 and search for Harnoncourt or Leonhardt on each page of the discussions. Regarding audible online examples, I can give no further information, but perhaps someone else will do that.

>>You cannot generalise about all of a conductor's output, let alone a class of conductors.<<
This is a fallacy. It is possible to characterize in general terms as long as one is willing to admit that there will be some exceptions to the general rule. Such a characterization can only be properly grounded by having listened, compared and contrasted one
conductor's work with that of other conductors.

>>The trouble is, no 18th century writers ever thought their work would be dug up by people with zero direct experience of contemporary ways of playing, so with rather few exceptions they did not bother to give precise sonic descriptions of such things as phrasing and articulation.<<
If we had not lost so many of the original sets of parts for Bach's cantatas, we would be even better informed about phrasing and articulation. As it is, we have to refer to those cantatas where such parts existed for guidance for those cantatas where this critical information is missing.

It would appear to me that 'cantabile' was assumed as normal for singing except when expressly indicated otherwise by the composer. It is interesting, however, in the case of keyboard instruments (particularly harpsichord and clavichord) that Bach would use the term 'cantabile' which never appears in his vocal works anywhere, as far as I know. In the Inventions Bach wants to show those who want to learn how to play the keyboard (as well as those who are already "Lovers of the Keyboard") "how to arrive at a 'Cantabile' style of playing."

>>The usual, unsolved, problem is to find the degree of inflection, e.g. how much softer should one note be than another....But we can easily find music for which 'cantabile' cannot be directly applied, namely toccatas with rapid 'broken' keyboard figurations which bear no relation to what anyone could sing.<<
Yes, such passages and figurations are often characteristically instrumental in nature and make little or no attempt to emulate the voice.

>>Ironically, one principal subject of the B minor sinfonia is in this 'toccata-style' - a completely unsingable 32nd-note figure on a static chord, which forms a brilliant contrast with the other, more sober and 'speech-like' parts of the movement.<<
It might be the equivalent to an flourish supplied by the trumpets and timpani at the end of a line of the chorale that the choir has just finished singing.

>>While I don't have any historical source for this antithesis of 'cantabile' and 'bravura', it does lead to an interesting reading of Bach's instruction to play the Inventions in a 'cantabile' manner: that is, to avoid dazzling virtuoso fingerwork (which anyway would be impossible in many pieces), or at least minimise the virtuoso aspect in favour of the vocal melodic/harmonic) elements of the pieces.<<
A subtle allusion to an instrumental fanfare would seem to be preferable to an extreme contrast that some performers might seek out to draw special attention to this detail.

>>Even less historically relevant, but suggestive, is Wagner's instruction to conductors five generations after to 'above all else, find the melody'...<<
Bach, as the consummate teacher, often set up compositions in such a way that allowed the student to follow the directive "Search and ye shall find" (solutions to canons, quodlibet melody fragments, etc.) Perhaps he also wanted keyboard players to find the notes which yielded a 'cantabile' melody, without supplying all the phrasing marks which delineated the beginning and end of a longer 'vocal' phrase.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 4, 2005):
Articulation, again; and BWV 165/3, 5 and 6

Tom Dent wrote:
< "Which movements of which cantatas are best (worst?) examples. >
Do you have broadband?

Leonhardt's performance of BWV 39's final chorale is particularly disjointed. (This is surprising, because his performance of the opening chorus is one of the most enchanting I have heard.) His final chorale of BWV 40 sounds even more unsatisfactory, because it is fast as well.

In the BWV 37, and BWV 38 final chorales, Harnoncourt at least manages to connect some of the words in a legato fashion, resulting in an improvement over the Leonhardt examples; the degree of separation between the words is critical, and obviously overdone in Leonhardt's examples, as well as some parts of Harnoncourt's examples.

The final chorale of this week's cantata also diplays the disjointed, non-legato effect. Rilling, as usual, gives a stylish chorale performance with sensible legato phrasing.

=========

Leonhardt does come up with a real gem in this week's cantata BWV 165, in the aria for alto (3rd movement).

Of particular interest to me is the charming organ realisation, with the thematic development in the treble clef sounding like it is being performed on a quiet stop of a real church organ. Esswood complements the gentle, moving ethos, and the acoustic helps to soften the austerity of the cello line, an austerity/starkness that is often an
un-attractive feature of a continuo only aria.

---------

In BWV 165/5 (tenor aria), notice that Leonardt is the only conductor who gives a literal interpretation of Bach's articulation - with each and every pair of the notes in the unison violins being joined by a slur, in the score.

Rilling, Suzuki, and Leusink have varying degrees of legato articulation of this part, and they all sound acceptable to me (including Leonhardt), except that Rilling's continuo is too continuous(!) with its un-phrased legato, resulting in the "steam locomotive" effect mentioned by Thomas Shepherd.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 4, 2005):
Tom Dent wrote:
< (...)
This thread might possibly go somewhere, rather than nowhere fast, if we had some audible examples of performances that are (allegedly) unclear or 'not cantabile' or 'hacked-about'... or, on the other side, lack sufficient 'gesture' and inflection.
(...)
So far, diligent efforts of list members have not come up with a source which says that there is any well-defined way of playing apart from 'cantabile' (or its French equivalent). >
<this part of the message was removed>

The topic of "gesture" has also been discussed and resources have been provided in at least these five essays by me.
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/performance-preparation.htm
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/purc.htm
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/sprezza.htm
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/recits.htm
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/why.htm

<this part of the message was removed>

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 4, 2005):
<the message was removed>

Anna Vriend wrote (May 4, 2005):
Tom Dent wrote:
< While I don't have any historical source for this antithof 'cantabile' and 'bravura', it does lead to an interesting reading of Bach's instruction to play the Inventions in a 'cantabile' manner: that is, to avoid dazzling virtuoso fingerwork (which anyway would be impossible in many pieces), or at least minimise the virtuoso aspect in favour of the vocal (melodic/harmonic) elements of the pieces. >
May I suggest that in JS Bach's recently rediscovered temperament this way of playing the inventions (or trying to) almost happens by itself? I don't that much mean minimizing the virtuoso aspect as well as enhancing the melody. (Just my opinion.)

 

Articulation

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 13, 2006):
The following is a summary translation of an article on articulatiion by Hermann Keller in the MGG1, Bärenreiter, 1986:

>>Articulation means in speech the clear enunciation and separation of sounds and in music the tying together or separation of notes. Only as late as the beginning of the 17th century is articulation expressed in notated form and only at the end of the 18th century is there fully developed system of notation for articulation in music. The history of articulation is directly attached to the development of string instruments: the slur/tie/legato ‘curved line’ [henceforth mainly to be called a ‘slur’], probably derived from the ‘krumme linea’ (‘crooked line’) found in ligatures, ties together all the notes which the string player should play on one drawing of the bow in the same direction. The first very short curved lines [‘slurs’] over two notes are found in Samuel Scheidt’s “Tabulatura Nova” (1624) indicated as “imitatio violistica” (“in imitation of viols”), yet music written for keyboard instruments remained, for the most part, without articulatory markings until the time of Bach, one reason for this being that organ, harpsichord, and clavichord all demanded different kinds of articulation and also because much more freedom was allowed to the individual performer than would be the case when various/several instruments are played together in chamber music. Even as late as the 18th century, the slur seldom stretched over more than four notes and even more rarely beyond the beginning of the next measure. Türk gives a warning about how the latter [going past the measure line] are to be performed. Where Bach, for instance, notates in BWV 639, the chorale prelude “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” for organ, continual groups of four notes with slurs over each group, these are to be understood as a legato throughout combining all groups as one, and yet, in other instances, one’s musical sensibilities can justify a very slight pause after each grouping. In his piano music, Mozart often omits slurs and simply prescribes “legato”; and with Beethoven the articulation is almost always notated very precisely and displays a richness of expression. Staccato is indicated either by rests or more often by dots and wedges. The simple round dot over a note, which is used to indicate a prall trill in Spain in the 16th century, has, in many instances, the same meaning as the sharp diagonal line does in the 17th and 18th centuries, the latter marking in the 18th century often having the meaning more of an accent than a shortening of the note. The custom of using the wedge to mean a sharp staccato began in the 19th century. Even Beethoven still used almost exclusively the wedge as a staccato indication. There are innumerable intermediate stages/levels between legato and staccato. The most important of these stages/levels are: 1) the ‘tenuto’ marking (a short horizontal line above or below the note) which is often combined with slurs or dots; 2) a combination of dots and slurs – this is known in the literature of the 18th century as ‘portato’: the carrying over of one note to the next, or later understood as a ‘soft fuzzy/blurred’ staccato; 3) the undesignated ‘non legato’ whereby the notes are shortened by 1/3 or 1/4 of their values. Forkel [1749-1818 my comment: who never in his life heard Bach play anything] reports that Bach played passages of his keyboard music that sounded ‘bright, rolling and round as if each note were a pearl’. The virtuosic music of the 19th century preferred this type of playing which is called “jeu perlé”. String players articulate by means of their bowing, wind players with control of their breath, and keyboard players by removing the finger or hand. In every instance the intellectual connection forming a phrase or a motif remains untouched. Only the phrasing decides the logical connection between the elements of a phrase and the articulation governs its expression. Both concepts, often confused in performance practice, have a very significance: Phrasing is the separation into meaningful segments and has the same meaning as punctuation does in language: the phrasing decides “what I say”, and the articulation determines “how I say it”. For this reason the so-called “phrasing” markings should be rejected. Beginning around 1900, many publishers of classical music put these markings next to the original articulatory slurs, the result being that performers could no longer distinguish between both types. Theodor Wiehmayer (1870-1947) was justified in speaking out in favor of restricting the curved-line marking to only articulation and not ‘phrasing’ markings. For a vivid depiction of a melody, articulation is one of the most important means of expression. A graphic correspondence of legato is an uninterrupted line: ------------ [think of this as a solid line encompassing a number of notes], tenuto as a line of separated dashes: - - - - - - - - , staccato and staccatissimo as a line of dots/periods: ………. and . . . . . . . . The “streaming power” of the melody flows unhindered through an entire line of notes in a legato; the closer the articulation approaches a staccato, the more resistance the individual notes encounter without, however, having them be broken off from the structure of the line, that is to say, without having the feeling for what constitutes the melodic connection between notes interrupted or canceled out. In the progression toward ever greater spiritualization of music, the external/physical aspect of legato soon became a symbol of an inner connection, particularly in a religious sense. From this standpoint legato is appropriate/proper for the greater portion of older, polyphonic music. This pertains particularly organ playing where an impeccable legato is considered the soul of organ playing. Tenuto hardly disturbs the connections within the melodic line, but it does place more emphasis upon the individual notes and is used above all in the harmonic notes [when not in a solo capacity, but providing chord-block accompaniment] given to the brass instruments or when the piano is asked to play chords. The conflict this designation [tenuto] expresses externally is often understood inwardly as, for example, an insecure hesitation in the 3rd movement of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. Its trio is characterized with a gruff expression “non legato”, whereas such movements/passages devoid of any markings of articulation in the centuries before Beethoven should not be understood as automatically meaning that a non legato was involved – most of the time the articulation is simply not indicated. The ‘tied-togetherness’ of legato stands in stark contrast to the ‘untied-togetherness’ of staccato with all the diversity inherent in this concept: the ‘jumping over’ within a line of music from one point to the next is at first experienced in space as jumping or dancing in comparison with walking, but then positively as the expression of freedom (not being tied down or tied together) (think here of the Scherzi in Beethoven’s symphonies), or as the airy steps of elves (Mendelssohn’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream”), but also negatively as fear, trembling, hesitating/faltering (as often occurs as early as 17th century vocal music), compare the “Mene tekel” in Handel’s “Belsazar” or in more modern music the first “Nachtstück” by Robert Schumann. The most extreme form of staccato is the pizzicato indicated for string players. The size of the intervals within the melody have a lot to do with the ainvolved: for diatonic, or even more so for chromatic interval steps of a 2nd, legato is the most natural, but also at the same time the articulation which is poorest in expression. The greater the interval jump, through which the unity of the melodic line must be preserved, the more intensive the expression will be (the beginning of the adagio of Bruckner’s 9th Symphony). For the mid-range intervals (4ths and 5ths), tenuto is the most natural type of articulation, so that, for example, the 1st fugue of the Well-Tempered Clavier perhaps can be best performed this way (without excluding other performance possibilities), for there is in every instance only one right way to phrase the melody, but several possibilities for articulation: [Examples given]

There is no specific designation (in the form of dots, dashes, lines, wedges, etc.) for legato, which simplifies notation to a great degree [there is less clutter in the score or part]. That staccato is best suited for the larger intervals above all other, is already evident from the vivid description inherent in the word ‘jump’/’leap’ which we use for interval; the notes are being thrown and fly over the spaces between them (Beethoven, Sonata op. 31 III, Trio of the Minuet; Liszt’s Campanella). The finest forms of articulation can be found in Mozart’s music, where, for instance, in his Adagio-Variation of the Piano Sonata in A Major, a staccato run changes over into a legato; but no one understood the elementary expression afforded by articulation as well as Beethoven.

Appogiaturas are so completely attached in meaning to the note to which they resolve that a tiny slur is almost always indicated going from first to the main note; passing notes preferably show a legato treatment (Weber, Rondo capriccioso), whereas anticipatory notes are clearly separated from the notes they anticipate (St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), “O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß” , twice in the word “Sünde” in the cantus firmus). A staccato upbeat jumps up, a legato upbeat slides to the main note, which in the latter case has the effect of becoming unaccented, whereas in the former it is stronger than the note beginning the upbeat. For this reason articulation is particularly important for playing the organ since there is no other possibility for accenting other than by articulation, i.e., shortening the unaccented notes whereby these are simultaneously weakened. The great G-minor fugue by Bach can only be played with rhythmic clarity and firmness when the subject and both counterpoint passages are articulated logically, preserving the uniqueness of each: [Examples are displayed]

Knowledge of the principles of articulation is, for the above reasons, of great practical significance for the performance of Bach’s organ works and beyond that for all older instrumental music where no articulation is indicated. In this area many sins were committed by Czerny and his successors. Only an intimate knowledge of Bach’s principles of articulation as found in his cantatas and chamber music can prevent the conductor/performer from committing any faux pas in this regard. It is precisely in this older music [before the indication of articulation was extensively used] that articulation is even more important than timbre, dynamics or tempo.

The above based upon Hermann Keller’s article on articulation in the MGG1, Bärenreiter, 1986. Hermann Keller’s dissertation was on articulation in Bach’s works.

 

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