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Bassoon in Bach’s vocal works
Part 1

Quaniam and goats (bassoons)

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 24, 2002):
Matthew Neugebauer wrote and asked:
< and an example that was given was that active bassoon parts with a bass aria don't sound too good. However, this is what we have from the "Quoniam" in the Gloria of BWV 232 (Mass in Bmin). Even with the great Herreweghe recording that I have (btw, late thanks for those who helped me choose it), the bassoon parts just don't fit (IMO). Why did Bach do this? >
In the appendix 2 (Text Incipits) of the Oxford Composer Companions:J.S.Bach [Boyd] you will find the scoring of individual arias with bassoon (abbreviated) as "bn." Just skimming through the list I found 7 arias for either tenor or bass that specificially called for a bassoon. There you will find, for instance, a bass aria with not only bassoon, but also cello and violone, all instruments in the deep register.

With your question, "Why did Bach do this?" you seem to be implying, "What is wrong with Bach? These parts simply don't fit." Perhaps these questions should be turned around to read: "My ears are unaccustomed to this sound. I will now learn how to include this (for me) new sound in my listening vocabulary so as to improve my enjoyment of these works." There is also a good possibility that the vocalists and instruments today are still unable to recapture the actual quality of sound (and balance between the parts) that Bach once heard and was striving for.

If you listen to the Bach cantata recordings available, you will discern that there are many more tenor and bass arias where the conductor has taken the option provided by the continuo part to include a bassoon even though the bassoon was not specifically indicated in the score. This option is used even more frequently when other wind instrument(s) such as oboe(s) are included in the scoring. The number of cantatas and arias in this group is quite large. The problem that arises here in today's recordings is the same one that Bach faced with his "Zippelfagottists" -- many bassoonists simply play the notes, and rather loudly at that. In doing so, this type of playing, all too often, becomes boring and uninteresting, even obtrusive at times. This is the way that Geyersbach, "the nanny-goat bassoonist" must have sounded to Bach.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (September 24, 2002):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Perhaps these questions should be turned around to read: "My ears are unaccustomed to this sound. I will now learn how to include this (for me) new sound in my listening vocabulary so as to improve my enjoyment of these works." >
You do have a point, and I apologize if this is the case.

However, The bassoon parts-as in there is more than one bassoon part-in this aria are very buzzy and active, and as you also alluded, obtrusive and distractive to the dialogue beetween the horn, the bass soloist and the continuo. Perhaps I should wait until, as another point you gave states, bassoonists can recreate the sound that Bach intended.

As always, HIP is an ongoing process.

Ludwig wrote (September 25, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] It also could be symbolic of the Agnus Dei in that sheep and goats bleat. However, I for one do not think I could tolerate a performance in which bleating occured often or entirely--Tiny Tim (rest his soul in peace)nearly drove me beserke with his 'tip toe through the tulips" some years back. Maybe real goats and sheep could.

One must remember when using the highly honored Oxford that it is heavily influenced by the romantic school of the period in which it was born and this is especially evident in the first edition of which I own but I will say that the first edition chooses it's musicians/composers well --even Tschaikovsky is given serious consideration even though he was still living at this time. The first edition speaks rather dispargingly of the Harpsichord but raptures great over the piano.

You seemed to speak in absolutes. Bach had to use what ever he had available and there was no bassoonist for a continuo he was counting on that Sunday then he had to use the Organ alone or with others. The Violone was the bass of the viole family. the ancestor of todays contrabasse, and was not that common however the gamba was the beloved instrument of that day ( and still is) in the lower registers. To my best understanding; Violone parts can be easily dispensed with as they generally followed what ever the gambists were doing. It was not until the revolution of Beethoven who had the gaul and temetry for that time to write REAL PASSAGES for bass that any real bass music was written as before that time a bass had nothing to do but sparing work and most of it tediously boring-- it was the area where string flunkies of lesser skills got dumped.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (September 26, 2002):
The thing is, I'm not talking about continuo here. In "Et in Spiritum Sanctum" (which is part of the Credo, and to my knowledge composed at a different time than the Gloria, where we find "Quoniam"), Bach has two oboes d'amore, the bass soloist, and continuo. Herreweghe has bassoon continuo with a light, almost unnoticable organ, creating a wind trio. IMO, this sounds very nice in the pastoral 6/8 time, with the oboes primarily restricted to eigth notes and the continuo mostly doing a quarter-eighth pattern (mostly the quarter note, but sometimes eighth rests and sometimes notes).

However, in "Quoniam", we have not one but two active bassoon parts, a somewhat active continuo and an almostg separate horn part. I know this is redundant, but why do I sense a problem here? Again, it doesn't seem to fit.

Ludwig wrote (September 26, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] Perhaps this is an artistic decision designed to create interest and variety which it does in your case. Again none of us were there at the first performance but we do know that Bach used what was available at the time and the artistic decisions regarding the performance of which you write may be attempting to reflect this.

IF you have access to ALL the original mss then that may solve your critism problem but unfortunately we may not have all these (lost in nearly 3 centuries of war, natural disasters and human attitudes) and what you may be hearing may have come from a copy no longer in existence.

I suspect that if all the above is not helpful then what we have is an impure score that has been tampered by some of the folks of the romantic and later periods of Music. I have such a score by the G. Shirmer company in New York that substitutes Clarinets (which barely existed until Bach had written his last work) for oboe d'amoure. I have seen scores that have very romatic crescendos and decresendos that are not in the mss. There impurities are often put in by rather arrogant snobs who think that they can compose the work better the the composer did which is rarely if ever true.

If you are into literature--you will find the same thing and one of the most famous examples,aside from Shakespeare, of this is the Dairy of Anne Frank (which is currently undergoing another revision preparing for re-publication)

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 26, 2002):
Matthew Neugebauer states and asks:
<< However, in "Quoniam", we have not one but two active bassoon parts, a somewhat active continuo and an almost separate horn part. I know this is redundant, but why do I sense a problem here? Again, it doesn't seem to fit. >>
Ludwig added:
< IF you have access to ALL the original mss then that may solve your criticism problem but unfortunately we may not have all these (lost in nearly 3 centuries of war, natural disasters and human attitudes) and what you may be hearing may have come from a copy no longer in existence. >
Regarding primary sources (definitely autograph score and possibly also the original set of parts, although I have not been able to make the determination of the latter easily by examining Smend's commentary in the NBA KB), it is clear that this was Bach's intention (the instruments required are clearly marked in the score as well as on the original parts.) The corno da caccia part in the NBA is notthe same way as the other instruments and does not take into account that this is an instrument in D . The Csibas have identified this as a 7-ft long (coiled, of course) instrument, "Corno da caccia in D" that plays the following notes: c' e g b(flat) b c'' d e f f# g g# a b c''' In his famous portrait, Gottfried Reiche in the year 1727 holds a "Corno da caccia in C" (8 ft. long). It is amazing to see how compact this instrument is!

Bach used the Corno da caccia in D only once in his entire oeuvre in this particular mvt.! The other 'cornos' that Bach used are 16, 14, and 12 ft. long instruments. Certainly the sound of these instruments (including the modern instrument that we call the French horn) must sound very different and should not be used in playing this part. Perhaps this is the reason why the horn part as played today does not blend as well with the bassoons and bass voice. Bach's instrument must have sounded more like a trumpet (but certainly not as loud as a modern trumpet which should not be used to replace the instrument that Bach called for here.) However, Bach did frequently couple a trumpet (tromba) in a similar range with the bass voice in his cantatas. Check it out!

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (September 26, 2002):
[To Ludwig] Well, the score I have is the Dover mini score (I'm not sure which edition it is), and there aren't any cresc/decresc, just articulation markings and block (isolated) dynamic markings, both of which are possible in music of the time.

Besides, which score would an HIP ensemble like Herreweghe's use anyway?

Am I the only one who doesn't like this orchestratioon for Quoniam?

Ludwig wrote (September 27, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] As for as the Corno da c. is concerned; Bach scores for it rarther extensively throughout most of the Cantatas (I do not have the time at the momemet to go through all 200 cantatas to designate which) particularly in the earlier cantatas in which he also includes trombones---as many as 4 or 5 trombones. The scoring for trombones seems to drop out about about the time of Cantata BWV 100 and it seems that Horns also do too about this time in the scores. Trumpets however continue throughout the entire Cantatas and the reason for this is that Trumpeters were in high demand not only in Church but also for Govermental purposes andeasier to come by. Bach usually uses the Horn as a solo instrument as opposed to a cantus firmus instrument which is not it's typical use by Bach.

Bach writes for Horns in c,b,F, which is basically the range of the Trumpet and seems to use them for the purpose of descriptions of nature as in BWV 1 or for the wonderings of wisemen in BWV 65 and in such cases Bach describes these horns as corno da caccia or cono parforce and sometimes just corno.

French Horns in F (or corno da caccia) occur in BWV 1. Bach's general use of the term 'corno' alone usually means French Horns but it in some cases can mean a slide trumpet (more often called 'tromba da tirisi') or cornett however in the latter case it would not be transposed and would not be limited to natural tones.

There are many problems with Bach's writing for horns that have not been resolved because of the distance of time--most horn players can rarely if at all play above a''' with the mouthpiece in use today irregardless of the kind of horn used. 'Clarino' horn
playing has yet to be learned by horn players as it has been by some trumpet players.

I am beginning to see the problem (Quoniam) as one of orchestration balance--so if two bassoons are called for (and they are not rankets) then perhaps enough horns are required to bring balance into this situation or the other way around. However, the
orchestrating of Bassoons and horns together is a long repected practice that is used by such master orchestrators as Bennet, Tschaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsaov.

It also could be that Bach was expermenting and found this experment not very successful which is why he did not try it again. If we recall correctly; Bach was a great admirer of Handel and Handel was not afraid of doing orchestration experments as this.

The B minor mass is the source or appears to be of most other works that he wrote--i.e. a sort of developed sketch book. While much has been made of the B minor laying on a shelf for some 100 or so years never being played; it likely was used by Bach for other source material. However, we have a problem here with which came first" the chicken or the egg?"

It could have worked the other way around in that Bach took material from his other works and used them in the B minor--we find the usual figures and passages from the cantatas as well as the oratorios.

This of course is an hypothesis and as far as I know no one has ever explored this. It would be a good project for someone looking for something to do their Doctorate on.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 27, 2002):
Ludwig has made a number of points that need to be corrected:
< As for as the Corno da c. is concerned; Bach scores for it rather extensively throughout most of the Cantatas (I do not have the time at the moment to go
through all 200 cantatas to designate which) particularly in the earlier cantatas in which he also includes trombones---as many as 4 or 5 trombones. >
There is no need to go through all the cantatas for this information. The Corno da caccia is NOT used 'rather extensively' in ALL of Bach's music: there are only 9 works in which there are 19 instances where he did -- BWV 16/1,3; BWV 107/1/7; BWV 143/1,5,7; BWV 174/1; BWV 213/1,13; BWV 232/11 (Quoniam...); BWV 248/IV/36,42; BWV 1046/1,3,4,7; BWV 1071 (see 1046). As I pointed out, BWV 232,11 (in some editions it is mvt. 10 of the B minor Mass) is the ONLY work that specifically calls for a Corno da caccia in D, the others are for the same instrument in F, G, B, and C.

< The scoring for trombones seems to drop out about the time of Cantata 100 and it seems that Horns also do too about this time in the scores. Trumpets however continue throughout the entire Cantatas and the reason for this is that Trumpeters were in high demand not only in Church but also for Governmental purposes and easier to come by. >
The assigning of BWV or Cantata numbers to Bach’s works are quite haphazard (blame the BGA editors for this.) It makes little or no sense to talk “about the time of Cantata number such and such.” Although Spitta had initiated the examination of Bach’s works to ascertain their chronology, the bulk of this task was completed with the help of modern methods of analysis by Alfred Dürr about 40 years ago.

< Bach usually uses the Horn as a solo instrument as opposed to a cantus firmus instrument which is not it's typical use by Bach. >
If you mean “Corno” when you speak of “the Horn,” then you will be in for a surprise, for there are many such mvts. which do precisely that: lend support for the cantus firmus in the soprano. It makes no sense for me to list them all here for you.

< Bach writes for Horns in c,b,F, which is basically the range of the Trumpet and seems to use them for the purpose of descriptions of nature as in BWV 1 or for the wonderings of wisemen in BWV 65 and in such cases Bach describes these horns as corno da caccia or cono parforce and sometimes just corno. >

BWV 1/1,6 is for a Corno in F (12 ft. long)
BWV 65/1,6 is for a Corne du chasse in C (8 ft. long)

< French Horns in F (or corno da caccia) occur in BWV1. Bach's general use of the term ‘corno' alone usually means French Horns but it in some cases can mean a slide trumpet (more often called 'tromba da tirisi') or cornett however in the latter case it would not be transposed and would not be limited natural tones. >
Much of this confusion (and misinformation) has been cleared up by the book by the Csibas (published in 1994) that I discussed a few weeks ago.

< There are many problems with Bach's writing for horns that have not been resolved because of the distance of time--most horn players can rarely if at all play above a''' with the mouthpiece in use today irregardless of the kind of horn used. 'Clarino' horn playing has yet to be learned by horn players as it has been by some trumpet players. >
ditto above – this has all been addressed by the Csibas in their fairly recent book on this subject and many brass players in HIP ensembles are certainly grappling with this problem right now.

< It also could be that Bach was experimenting and found this experiment not very successful which is why he did not try it again. If we recall correctly; Bach was a great admirer of Handel and Handel was not afraid of doing orchestration experiments as this. >
Personally, I think that Bach was not afraid of experimentation because this is what he was always doing in his cantatas. He did not need Handel to look up to.

< The B minor mass is the source or appears to be of most other works that he wrote--i.e. a sort of developed sketch book. >
It’s the other way around!

< While much has been made of the B minor laying on a shelf for some 100 or so years never being played; it likely was used by Bach for other source material. However, we have a problem here with which came first "the chicken or the egg?" >
Uri Golomb could certainly fill you in on the fact that this myth has no basis in fact.

< It could have worked the other way around in that Bach took material from his other works and used them in the B minor--we find the usual figures and passages from the cantatas as well as the oratorios. >
Now you are getting back on track again.

< This of course is an hypothesis and as far as I know no one has ever explored this. It would be a good project for someone looking for something to do their Doctorate on. >
No need for this. Much work has already been done. Any new work will not need to begin at the stages you have suggested with the exception of the confusion and lack of good information about Bach’s use of brass instruments. I heartily recommend the Csiba’s book (if you can read German.)

Ludwig wrote (September 27, 2002):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< There is no need to go through all the cantatas for this information. The Corno da caccia is NOT used 'rather extensively' in ALL of Bach's music: >
This is a distortion or misreading of what I stated. I did not state ALL OF BACH'S MUSIC that is what Mr. Braatz added or his interpetation. Also it is rather obvious that you did not read the entire post before replying in a more thoughtful manner.

Perhaps we are looking at different editions or having a problem of semantics. I am using a Kalmus edition as well as the orginal recorded edition of the complete cantatas by Mr. Braatz is not including those of BWV 1 et al as in BWV 52 which calls for 2 corno da caccia. Earlier I stated that I did not have time (due to an appointment) to check all the cantatas. I am in the process of developing a list in which horns are used and in the early cantatas they occur more often than not. So if Mr.Braatz disagrees perhaps he needs to consult what I am seeing and critically compare with what he is seeing. I am not disputing Mr. Braatz as I do not see what he is looking at. However, in performance of many of the Cantatas: I have from a practical point of view had to be concerned about this.

Ludwig wrote:
<< Bach usually uses the Horn as a solo instrument as opposed to a cantus firmus instrument which is not it's typical use by Bach. >>
Braatz:
< If you mean â?oCornoâ?¯ when you speak of â?othe Horn,â?¯ then you will be in for a surprise, for there are many such mvts. which do precisely that: lend support for the cantus firmus in the soprano. It makes no sense for me to list them all here for you. >
Because Mr. Braatz seems to be using a stange set of charsets I often have difficulty read what he has to say although I will admit that I admire much of what he does make readable.

I do not expect Mr. Braatz to list all of them here but the incidences seem to be more in favor of solo than not.
I AM NOT SAYING THAT BACH NEVER OR BARELY USED HORNS FOR THE CANTUS FIRMUS merely that they have a more.

< Braatz: Csibas (published in 1994) that I discussed a few weeks ago. >
I am sorry but I must have missed this and struggling to read Mr. Braatz'z charset which do not transliterate into English well---it may have been unreadable or perhaps I mistakenly took the information spelling of Csibas as a charset corruption. I have complained to Yahoo bitterly about this as I am suppose to be able to send and receive messages in more than 20 languages using different charsets including as an amusement--ancient Eguption hieroglyphics.

If Mr. Braatz can give me the publisher etc then I will make every effort to read this book.

<< Ludwig: There are many problems with Bach's writing for horns that have not been resolved because of the distance of time--most horn players can rarely if at all play above a''' with the mouthpiece in use today irregardless of the kind of horn used. 'Clarino' horn playing has yet to be learned by horn players as it has been by some trumpet players. >>

< Braatz: ditto above â?" this has all been addressed by the Csibas in their fairly recent book on this subject and many brass players in HIP ensembles are certainly
grappling with this problem right now >
Upon what does this author based his work?

< Braatz: He (Bach) did not need Handel to look up to. >
That may be true but he did any way as well as can be infered the Italian masters.

yes I read german but some German words give me great pain as to the proper meaning since they can have multiple meanings and sometimes these meanings are not related to each other.
------------------

Now for the Quoniam solution which I found by looking at the construction of a modern oboe and one that is a copy of one made during Baroque period. The baroque oboe seems to have somewhat abrupt narrower to abrupt wider bore than the modern oboe and the sample oboe I am speaking of is in the Boston Museum Fine Arts
Museum collection in Boston Massachusetts, USA of which I have details of which I had planned to attached but the file is too large inspite of reducing it several times for yahoo to accept. I will try to send separately to see if that helps.

As the bassoon is the bass of the oboe family; it is reasonable to assume that the bore in bassoons of the baroque were somewhat different than modern bassoons and either had a wider or narrower bore than modern oboes and therefore blended better than in the problem situation.

I have relatives who are organbuilders and asked them about this situation and they agree that the size bore can make all the difference in the tonal qualities of an instrument and this is also true in brass instruments.

So the reasons that things may not seem to fit together is that that the instruments differed from what we have today in the blending with each other.

Robert Sherman wrote (September 27, 2002):
Ludwig wrote:
< There are many problems with Bach's writing for horns that have not been resolved because of the distance of time--most horn players can rarely if at all play above a''' with the mouthpiece in use today irregardless of the kind of horn used. 'Clarino' horn playing has yet to be learned by horn players as it has been by some trumpet players. >
That's true, but listen to Barry Tuckwell's astounding recording of the Zelenka Capriccios in which he effortlessly and musically floats up to Bb. I met Mr. Tuckwell about twelve years ago and he told me he's used the same horn and mouthpiece for everything throughout his professional career. So presumably he's played the Eulenspiegel low notes and the Zelenka highs on the same equipment.

But that's not to say that others can do it, of course.

Ludwig wrote (September 28, 2002):
[To Robert Sherman] Barry Tuckwell is a Goand he can do what no other human usually can on the French Horn. Yes, he has done the high and low notes (Eulenspiegel--I have heard him do this) but please note that I stated MOST by which I mean the average orchestra hornist as you seem to note.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (September 28, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Alright-so then does anyone know which horn Herreweghe uses in his recording?

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (September 28, 2002):
[To Ludwig] hmmm...

Balance could be the problem, but perhaps the horn is too loud and the bassoons and continuo are too quiet...

If of course JSB wasn't satisfied with the result, then why didn't he just change it unless...I thought the Mass was assembled near the end of his life from earlier compositions.

Anyway, my point is again, that if he wasn't happy with the experiment, then why did he keep it as it was. I mean, do chemists who have made an ineffective compound or whatever get a patent on it and market it? The only reason they would do that is for someone to think of something they didn't-of course I haven't yet thought of anything substantial, but perhaps just take out the bassoon parts entirely...

Or just make the bassoons louder

Ludwig wrote (September 28, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] Well first of all we are dealing with apples and oranges re your references to artists vs chemists (scientist).

I can say that this is correct as it is a pure guess to your question but Bach was so busy with composing,rehearsing, supporting his 20 (?) kids, that he may have decided that one day he would get back to it one day and never did. Artists often do works that they leave either not polished or not finished.

Then again when he found that the experment did not work perhaps he did not want to revisit the fiasco and get on other things. As I said--I am just guessing and you nor I probally know the real answer to this.

After my post that you are writing about; I had the opportunity to examine a modern oboe and a oboe from the baroque period so I am now stating that the problem and solution probally lies in the construction differences of a modern bassoon and the ones used in the baroque age.

There are some of us Bach zealots think that the B minor was constructed and pieced together from works that he had written and there are those of us who take the opposite stance that is he drew from the B minor to compose all of his other works based primarily on the fact that many things that came to be shortly before Bach died seem to be found in the B minor which everyone seems to think was composed much earlier in Bach's life.

We could argue and fight about this the rest of our days but without a time machine we can not truly know the absolute answer.

Robert Sherman wrote (September 29, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] You are describing the notes as written for "horn in D", which means they actually sound a major second higher (really D, F#, A, etc).

Note also that in the uppor octave what you describe as f and f# are actually a single note (the 11th harmonic) which is between F'' and F#'' but not in the Western scale which only goes to the 5th harmonic. By lipping and/or hand-stopping the player would pull it up or down to get an F or F#. Similarly, the Bb' is actually a bit below true Bb' but can be lipped up to make a useable Bb.

 

Zippelfagottisten

Paul Faeseth wrote (September 30, 2002):
So, German-fluent friends, what exactly is a Zippelfagottist? I understand the reference to bassoons, but what is "zippel"? What is the family of meanings for it? I don't find the word in my 1958 edition of the large New Cassel's German/English Dictionary. The closest I get "Zippe" for a 'song thrush' or "Zippammer" for a 'foolish bunting', both of which are unsatisfying as clues to "zippel". Is there some relationship here to the English slang word "zip" meaning 'nothing' or 'zero' (as in "The New York Yankees baseball team defeated the Minnesota Twins three to zip.")?

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (September 30, 2002):
[To Paul Farseth] I'm not too sure, so experts in the group will have to fix any mistakes, but Bach once called a bassoonist in the orchestra he was using at the time a "nanny goat bassoonist", because his playing sounded (unpleasanmtly to Bach) like a nanny goat. The word he used was "zippelfagottist".

Ludwig wrote (September 30, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] Try the Oxford Dictionary of the German language and in fact I recommend this over others as it often can clear up words that have multiple different meanings that often do not even have a most remotest relationship to each other which unlike French or English in which meanings are often related in someway.

I will try to get the solution for you assuming that 'zipple' does not have too many different meanings. Without checking any dictionary and considering Bach's famous temper (like Beethoven's) it might be translated out on a limb to English as "stupid" 'silly' 'incompetent" 'asinine' and a whole host of other insults not decent to print here.

Arjen K. Gijssel wrote (September 30, 2002):
[To Ludwig] I wonder whether Bach had such a temper, and beg to differ that it is famous. I believe it comes from too much interpretation on scarce biographical details.

Ludwig wrote (September 30, 2002):
The Oxford has failed but that is not the end of the world:

I do not know where you are getting 'nanny goat' unless this is some slang. The closest we can come thus far to 'zipple' is 'ziege' and this is a far stretch or even remotely pronounced ---Zicke.

die Geiß
nanny goat [zool.] die Zicke
goat die Geiß (female goat)
goat die Ziege
nanny die Kinderfrau
nanny das Kindermädchen
he-goat [zool.] der Ziegenbock
she-goat [zool.] die Geiß
she-goat [zool.] die Zicke
billy goat der Geißbock
billy goat der Ziegenbock

The closest words otherwise I have come to have something to do with nipple---so in English slang Bach might be telling that this bassonist that his playing is so bad that it sucks.

Ludwig wrote (September 30, 2002):
There were several incidents in which it is recorded that Bach let loose on some of his students including the most famous incident where he and a student got into it that nearly got him fired and there are the numerious incidents in which one or another petty figure annoyed his temper which showed itself. I will admit that I was not there but am going on a cumulation of biographical material about Bach by various authors.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 1, 2002):
The Oxford Composers Companion: J. S. Bach [Boyd] claims that the translation is "nanny-goat bassoonist." This must be Boyd's article since no other letters appear at the end of the article on Geyersbach.

Christoph Wolff in his recent Bach biography, "J. S. Bach - The Learned Musician," has translated "Zippel Fagottist" as "greenhorn bassoonist", a term used by the 20-year-old Bach to the 23-year-old Geyersbach, who according to Barbara Catharina's (Bach's future wife) legal testimony had 'initiated the incident by addressing Bach first.' Wolff goes on to explain: "...the affair that provoked Bach to call Geyersbach a 'Zippel Fagottist' suggests that they were engaged in making concerted music together, which involved the participation of a bassoon. Incidentally, the old German 'fagott' is not the same instrument as the 'basson' of the late 17th-century French orchestra, and although contemporary terminology is not always consistent, it seems plausible that Geyersbach played a dulcian, that is, a prototype of the bassoon, in one piece and tuned to the higher "Chorton" pitch (rather than the French type with joints, in the lower chamber pitch,) the kind of instrument that -- as the German name "Chorist-Fagott suggests- played a dominant role as a continuo instrument in late 17th-century German church music. What is presumably Bach's earliest surviving cantata, "Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich" BWV 150, requires a 'Fagotto' in Chorton pitch and assigns it a demanding role in the 5th mvt., "Aria Alto, Tenore et Basso con Fagotto" --a part probably beyond the capability of the said "Zippel Fagottist.""

Cassell's or the Oxford German/English dictionaries will moslikely be insufficient to deal with a pejorative term of this sort, nevertheless it may be instructive to consult and ponder the results given by the Grimm Brother's Dictionary of the German Language (the DWB=Deutsches Wörterbuch), a dictionary easily comparable to the largest, most comprehensive dictionary of the English Language: the OED (The Oxford English Dictionary.)

There is no entry for "Zippel Fagottist" or "Zippelfagottist," but there are leads that will put us in the right direction to uncover the etymological origin of "Zippel." "Zippel" is a Low German (Niederdeutsch) dialect form of "Zipfel." The latter shows the later consonant shift to High German, whereas the former is the older form that remained 'unshifted' from the time of the Hanseatic League (where it was the official legal language) until today where it exists only in dialects spoken in North Germany. However, the DWB has documented "Zippel" as extending all the way down to Northern Thuringia which is Bach's home territory. In any case, Bach could have heard this dialect form in Celle where he was a high school student.

"Zippel" could mean at least two things with the first meaning having a wider application and the second being rather restricted in range:

1. "Zippel" is a diminutive form of "Zipp" (Low German) or, likewise, "Zipfel" of "Zipf" (High German) [notice again the consonant shift from 'PP' to "PF" - actually, the 'Z' in 'Zipp' had already undergone a consonant shift from an even earlier Anglo-Saxon form, "Tip" or "Tipp." Now the picture should be complete even for someone who speaks only English. Here are some of the meanings:

a) the 'tip' or corner of a piece of cloth or article of clothing; the 'tip' of a mountain, or tree, of any human organ, in particular the sexual organs, etc.; [there is a possibility here of sexual innuendo if you consider that 'Zippel' is a diminutive form of 'Zipp' - no wonder that Bach had to draw his sword after he spoke this/these word(s.)

b) the figurative meanings are: the tassels that hang down from a fools' cap [this can imply that the person who is called a 'Zippel-*' is a fool, a dunce, or is simply stupid]; to get the short end (tip) of something (intelligence?); migrant workers were called "Zippelläufer" = [those that run around ["laufen"] like crazy and never settle down to a more permanent job [documented 1670].

2. "Zippel" exists in numerous dialects as representing the word, "Zwiebel" ["onion."] These forms can be found from Schleswig Holstein in the North ("zippel, zipel, or ziepel") to St. Gallen in the South ("zipolla.") It helps here to know that the German word for 'onion' looks back to Late Latin forms such as "cepulla, (a diminutive form of 'cepe' or 'cepa') cibula or cibulla." Besides referring to the plant that we know as the 'onion,' it also has figurative meanings that derive from it:

a) roundness, deepness (to be so 'deep' in debt so as to be unable to break through all the layers of skin, documented 1745), the strong, pungent odor that causes tears, worthlessness.

b) from "Zwiebel" comes a verb "zwiebeln" which means to anger, vex, annoy, hazing, torture (probably because of the onion's odor.) This could describe Geyersbach as the one who caused 'tears' to form in Bach's eyes and was simply a player that annoyed Bach the same way that cutting a batch of onions can be annoying for a cook.

Summary:

I do not see the 'nanny-goat' connection, nor is there any basis in fact for the 'greenhorn' interpretation.

It must be one of the following:

a) derogatory sexual innuendo

b) the fools' cap (one way to humiliate an individual is to make him wear one) which is the equivalent to calling a person 'stupid.'

c) an utterly annoying individual that one wishes to remove from the environment because his playing 'stinks' like an onion.

d) the musical contribution to the ensemble is as 'worthless' as an onion.

I still do not have a good English translation for this phrase. Does anyone else have any ideas as to what the translation into modern English should be?

Charles Francis wrote (October 1, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] That Bach was not above such sexual innuendo is suggested by an interpretation of events in Leipzig proposed by Davitt Moroney in his book 'Bach an Extraordinary Life'. From pages 85-86:

"Bach was employing tactical exaggeration here. However, he also unwisely went a step further in his comments hitting below the belt. He suggested, and put in writing, using not too subtle innuendo, that the rector had always had a 'particular liking for Krause' ('Da nun der Herr Rektor vor ihme, Krausen, iederzeit besondere Geneigtheit spühren lassen')

Ernesti stung by all these accusations sent a very lengthy reply two days later and another on 13 September"

Dick Wursten wrote (October 1, 2002):
It's a pity for most of the members of this mailing list, that they are not able to read and understand Dutch, because the most enlightening fragment of Maarten t' Harts book about JSB (which came with the Dutch edition of the Brilliant Classics (Leusink) as a reader) is exactly about this incident.

He uses it as an example of the imaginative power of many Bach-biographers and of their parrotting (is that a correct expression) without any critical sense all kinds of spoofs...

He creates a stunning and hilarious effect in this book, by on the one hand quoting exactly what is known and on the other hand to quote exactly what a number of biogrpahers make of it and out of it, esp. what creative psychological conclusions they dare to draw based, not on this incident, but on their interpretation some else's version of this incident...

And not just pulp-fiction -biographers do this, also some so-called serious biogprahies about Bach (even ones published in 2000!) take your breath away...

If not able to read Dutch, you could also try Chr. Wolff, Bach, the learned musician, who gives a balanced overview (and review) of this famous episode.

And what 'Zippel' meant, I remember Thomas Braatz once gave his opinion... on this word, which in the abovementioned interpretation-rage has also got all kinds of meanings.

Klaus Langrock wrote (October 1, 2002):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Summary:
I do not see the 'nanny-goat' connection, nor is there any basis in fact for the 'greenhorn' interpretation.
It must be one of the following:
a) derogatory sexual innuendo >
Surprising idea, the `hero` Bach using obscenities in his language (like Mozart later)

< b) the fools' cap (one way to humiliate an individual is to make him wear one) which is the equivalent to calling a person 'stupid.' >
"Zipfelmütze" was used too during sleep, see Wilhelm Busch, Max & Moritz, "Onkel Fritze mit der Zipfelmütze" - it could mean, that the instrumentalist was never very attentive

< c) an utterly annoying individual that one wishes to remove from the environment because his playing 'stinks' like an onion.
d) the musical contribution to the ensemble is as 'worthless' as an onion. >
e) at least in Thuringia and Saxonia "zippeln" is used for a particular technique of preparing beans for cooking, clean them from this kind of "threads" (for which I don`t even know the German word)

In this meaning, it could be used as an expression for worthless playing an instrument

< I still do not have a good English translation for this phrase. Does anyone else have any ideas as to what the translation into modern English should be? >
Me either.

Ludwig wrote (October 1, 2002):
[To Klaus Langrock] I have investigated this term as a mispelling and have come up empty handed and my friends whose mother tongue is German have no knowledge of this word. Perhaps it is hidden away in some dictionary written between 17th to the 19th century as I can not find it in any slang references.

Ludwig wrote (October 1, 2002):
[To Dick Wursten] I do read and understand Dutch, although not fluent with it, so if this is the case (most on the list do not) that is why we have been pulling out our hair trying to figure this one out as all of us assumed this was a German word.

'Parroting' or 'trying to imitate' is correct although if you mean to make up words to sound as thoughthey were German--"pseudo-germanic words'--might be better as a correct term I believe you wish to use in English which some English writing humorists do in their stereotyping of Germans--especially during World War II along the lines of Spike Jones.

You could have told us how the author defines this word which apparently is borrowed from Dutch. Other than your fine assessment and book reviews--we still do not know much more than we did before.

Ludwig wrote (October 1, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] While I agree with your assessment I can not go along with the 'greenhorn' translation and the reason is below:
greenhorn der Grünschnabel
greenhorn der Neuling
greenhorn der Unerfahrene (ein Unerfahrener) | die

Unerfahrene

I also checked Grimm's (I am now asking myself how did I miss what you state)and ask folks at the Univeristy of Munich (Universität München) and no one there seemed to have heard this term.

Dick Wursten wrote (October 1, 2002):
Maarten 't Hart, Johann Sebastian Bach, (2000) page 16-33 (!) gives a resume of all the versions of this incident that he could lay hands on. (Before 1904 no one (Spitta!) mentions it. 1904 speech Diakonus Weissgerber, who revealed it based on the original documents of the consisitorium of Arnstadt);

A few elements, but almost every one gives an own colour to it, orders them differently, introduces new elements, which are copied by others etc.., then someone misunderstands a german expression is copied etc...

CS Terry, M&S Sidney Grew (=Terry + some own psychological embroidering about how impressed niece Barabara must have been by the duelling skills of youngman Bach) Malcom Boyd (translation: nanny-goat, first to give the names of the two companions of G), Karl Geiriger (no mention of the 'niece' anymore, introduction of 'holes' in the camizole of Geyersbach caused by Bachs sword; luckily surrounders separated the two); Tim Dowley (they fought and Bach tore the clothing of G in pieces with his sword); FV Grunfeldt (ferocious fight from man to man); Ch. Headington (G was drunk; Bach pulls a knife); Robertson (short), Ant Cherbuliez, HBrandts Buys (only one line); Ad Vos (intro: at one night Bach had ONCE AGAIN lost his temper completely and &c.... holes in the coat, almost bloodshed); Schweitzer (no mention of the term Zippel..); Paumgartner (knows why G felt offended). W. Felix (moralizes Bach). Luc-Andre Marcel is the top of the bill... Just look at this:

"When Bach conducts the choir he very often starts to scold. He got angry, lost his temper completely and made himself ridiculous by his comic anger. Thats the way he treated his pupils in Arnstadt.. two years constant clashes, eruptions of anger, insults, fierce protesting from the students, culminating in a nocturnal fight... Geyersbach had been making some jokes with his bassoon, Bach called him Zippelfagottist, which caused general hilarity. G decided to revenge himself... fight.. Our virtuoso who had his sword with him, resisted cleverly, quickly remembering what he had learned about the art of swordfighting. Soon already the shirt of G was torn. Hit on hit and one can be quite sure that a murder would have happened if not the neighbours had been wakened by the noise and had interfered.."

Guido van Hoof (Pelckmans) introduces a new element walking stick, both men 'roll over the ground' fighting. G. had been drinking too much. EMI-companion guide..'it was a dark night', the two men already didnot like eachother... Kolneder: Bach was smoking a pipe; Geyersbach attacked Bach with his "Brügel". The niece acts as a peace-restorer; Otterbach: 'How this incident happened can not be reconstructed in detail anymore from the documents we possess'. Sandberger; (Bach lacked authority and tried to restore it by threatening with his sword only) Klaus Eidam speaks of a complot of 6 pupils (all names mentioned) to force bach to apologize to Geyersbach. Bach probably had his violin box with him, the cudgel was used, Bach answered with the sword; Eidam also supposes class-(in)justice in the judgment of the consitorium.

So far this summary... (14 pages with 't Hart) compare the 'Bach-dokumente'

4 august 1705...
5 august complaint of Bach: 'late at night (in the evening). returning from the castle, at the market, 6 pupils sitting at 'Langer Stein'. One (Geyersbach) started to follow him and 'war mit dem Brügel uf ihm loss gegangen, mit diesen Formalien; Worumb er ihn geschimpfet hette' (went for him with a cudgel, asking why he had called him names (scolded him??). Bach said he has not called him names, at which G replied hat he had scolded his bassoon (called names). "Und wer seine Sachen schimpfte, der schimpfte auch ihn... geredet wie ein Hunds. uf ihn losgeschlagen". Bach wanted to draw his sword, but before he could, G started to fight with him (wrestling) until the other pupils came to his help, so that he could continue his way home. Two names are mentioned as witnesses..' End of Bach’s testimony.. 14 august 1705: Geyersbach declares. He came from a baptismparty and saw Bach coming smoking a pipe. He went to him, because Bach had called him "Zippel Fagottist". Bach had immediately drawn his sword. Bach also present denies and states that G had immediately started to shout and hit him, which obliged him to draw his sword. G denies. Student HOFFMANN is heard. He confirms the fighting, doesnt know how the fight started. When he interfered Geyersbach clinged to the sword of Bach, which Bach had drawn. When they fell, he separated them, because things became to dangerous ("bey solchen fallen leicht ein Unglück entstehen"). He sent them home. The second student was also sumoned (SCHUTTWURFEL), but he stated he was not present at all, but at home.
19 august Bach is scorned for naming Geyersbach Zippelfagottist.
21 august: The niece testifies: Bach had drawn his sword, but done nothing with it. they had been wrestling a little, students stood around, she herself finally had encouraged her nephew to stop and come with her. He didnot smoke a pipe then, she also stated. Geyersbach is present again. He says his camisole has holes in it, caused by Bachs sword.

This are all the elements.
Narrative power is a great gift to mankind. But historians better should stick to the facts. That is: about the young Bach we know as good as nothing. To use this incident (and that is what it is: an incident) to make up a complete psychological and didactical profile of the 20year old Bach is not allowed.

The fact that I have been penalized once for ignoring a traffic sign, doesnot reveal anything at all about my driving-style.

Dick Wursten wrote (October 1, 2002):
Two remarks:
1. Zippel = Zippeler = German word derived from latin Discipulus (=pupil) says Konrad Küster, der junge Bach. Found this in the book of 't Hart. I am not able to judge but sounds very refreshing after all that goat-business:
Bach is 20 years old
Geyersbach is 23 years old
So: By using this term the established organist Bach (though young, he is accomplished) accentuates the social and musical distance with Geyersbach (not accomplished, but older)

2. In the original documents of 5 aug 1704 (see my last email) Bach and Geyersbach unite in stating that Bach has not called Geyersbach names, but only 'his instrument'. (eu-femism ??)

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 1, 2002):
Dick Wursten indicates:
< 1. Zippel = Zippeler = German word derived from latin Discipulus (=pupil) says Konrad Küster, der junge Bach. Found this in the book of 't Hart. I am not able to judge but sounds very refreshing after all that goat-business. >
Konrad Küster is definitely 'scraping the bottom of the barrel here.' The DWB (The Grimm Brothers' German Dictionary) indicates "Zippeler" with this etymological derivation is a very rare form (only two examples given) that existed only in MHD (The Middle High German period - roughly during the 11th, 12th, 13th century.) There is no way that this could be connected with the phrase under discussion here.

Stevan Vasiljevic wrote (October 1, 2002):
Ludwig wrote:
< I have investigated this term as a mispelling and have come up empty handed and my friends whose mother tongue is Germanhave no knowledge of this word. >
In Oxford German-English Dictionary I found a word 'Zipfel', which translates to 'tip' (of a twig, tail, etc.). But in German-Serbian Encyclopaedia Dictionary besides this meaning, there's also a translation 'thick-head', or 'buffoon' (roughly). This seems as a possible case of misspelling, because letters 'p' and 'f' might look alike in handwriting, a sample of which I don't have, but someone else might.

Ludwig wrote (October 2, 2002):
[ To Stevan Vasiljevic]Thanks I did see the entry in the Oxford of which you write but to me;it did not seem applicable.

Ludwig wrote (October 2, 2002):
[To Dick Wursten] Please forgive but I wish to correct the spelling of a word in order to clarify the word for others: (eu-femism ??) which I think you mean "euphemism"

Is the book that you are refering to by the famous carillionneur and composer for carillon Leen 't Hart?

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (October 2, 2002):
Dick makes a lot of good points-the idea that only facts must be looked at more is really only starting to become a widespread concept-which as the way this incident has been looked at over time proves, this concept is far overdue

Dick Wursten wrote:
< The fact that I have been penalized once for ignoring a traffic sign, does not reveal anything at all about my driving-style. >
I'm sure Mendelsohn had fits of anger too-and he's generally seen as one of the "Golden Boys" of music.

Also, no one answered my question of transposing continuo (unless I posted it on another list)

Ludwig wrote (October 3, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] But Mendelsohn could get away with his anger better than Bach or Beethoven because of his great wealth. Mendelsohn never had to struggle in his entire life to make a living as Bach or Beethoven did or even poor Schubert. Mendelsohn could easily tell his superiors and others where to shove it if he wanted to and not have to worry much about the financial consequences of it.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (October 3, 2002):
[To Ludwig] True, but wasn't he known to not have much of a temper at all?

yeah I know its gotten a bit OT.

 

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