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Boy Soloists in Bach's Vocal Works
Part 3

Continue from Part 1

Boy singers

Neil Mason wrote (February 14, 2007):
< There are just too many subtleties in vocal performance for today's child to master before puberty. >
Oh, yes, well said.

 

Why Boys Won't Sing...

Canyon Rick wrote (March 10, 2007):
...unless it's with the Backstreet Boys: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6434409.stm

 

Ernest Lough story... scratch recording with1/2 hour practice

Tom Dent wrote (April 14, 2007):
Ernest Lough was a treble in the Temple Church Choir under George Thalben-Ball in the 1920's. He describes the routine thus:

"a busy, somewhat hectic life for a boy. Day school with homework to be completed every evening. Regular Choir practices most evenings with a full practice with the Gentlemen every Friday evening. Two services on Sundays and all the attendant 'extras' such as Weddings, Memorials, Cantata Sundays and the Special Services. (...)"

How he came to record 'Hear ye, Israel' (a solo by Mendelssohn):

"We had just finished a recording session and there were two spare 10-inch recording waxes left over. As the choir could not stay any longer, Dr. Thalben-Ball turned to me and asked if I knew 'Hear ye, Israel'. I didn't, and so he found the music there and then and taught it to me in just half-an-hour. We recorded it on the spot, and in spite of the somewhat unusual circumstances I personally have always considered it to be one of the best recordings I ever made."

I don't think it's so bad either!

 

Boys's voices in Das klagende Lied
Boys's voices - Bach & the Romantics

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (March 22, 2008):
Boys's voices in Das klagende Lied

I had a deep experience yesterday with an upload which I shall also supply here of Mahler's first major work. I find a matter in this highly relevant to Bach and would appreciate the opinion of some of our knowledgeable members on this matter.

Does this make sense:
Reinhold Kubik, the editor or the critical edition of the original version of Mahler's Das klagende Lied, writes inter alia:
"The voice of the singing bone---the "plaintive song" of the title-- is the only genuine role in the work and, as a boy's voice, is clearly set apart from the other, narrative vocal parts. A boy's voice (Knabenstimme) in no way embodies the personification of a boy (Kind): the younger brother who is murdered in Waldmärchen, must of course be imagined as a young man (junger Mann) who sets out to win a wife for himself".

[OK, that is clear and obvious up to this point; the dead younger brother, represented by boys' voices, see below, is frozen in time not as a boy but as a young man of marrying age, although that could still be very young from our perspective].

"A boy's voice is intended rather, to evoke associations of the supernatural world of life after death. Related to this is the iconographical depiction of the soul of a dead person as a child that is found in medieval sculptures from Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals. Such metaphors were clear to a composer of Mahler's artistic sensitivities and, when he revised the score for the last time in 1906 [the now denatured and very compromised and amputated version, that is]..., he entered the words: 'To be performed, if at all possible, by a boy's voice!' at the relevant points in the printed score".

This is all very interesting but of course just about all Bach vocal works excluding perhaps the secular cantatas should be sung by boy voices and not by adult females for their soprano and alto parts.

Also, why is the voice of the bone, the dead younger brother, now being used for a flute, given first to a boy-alto and later to a boy-soprano and in some very few places to a "duet" of them both, as I hear it? None of the essays in the multi-essayed Nagano recording even refer to the two Knabenstimmen.

Thanks,

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 22, 2008):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] Thanks, Yoël. You present some very persuasive arguments in your material below. And you add some historical material that I think people on the list will find interesting, as I do.

Having said that, I will relate that when I started studying voice again after many years, I was quite difficult with my teachers on the matter of singing any song that was something intended to be sung by a man. It didn't matter to me if the male in the song was dead or alive, or what the history of the number might be--I simply did not want to sing what a man sang. Then, I began to discover that a great deal of interesting material and material that would challenge my vocal technique was written for the male person, and if I wanted to continue to develop I was going to have to be more flexible. However, I still refrained from singing anything the male would sing in recital.

And, a flute, played by a man or a women I must mention has a very soulful quality. We are not living in the darker ages...this is now, and here in the US we have awesome freedoms, including the possibility for a range of expression. I have said this before--will the musicology police come and get 'us' if we do not do everything precisely as Bach did? The musicology police do not even have a police station...

Later, when I began to discover the beauty of the Bach arias it didn't matter to me who originally sang them--they were a perfect way to soar musically with or apart from their spiritual history. First, the soaring had to come from technique, and later it had to come from the heart to be spiritual for me and for others.

Today, I believe it is just as serious to try to deny women the freedom to sing Bach in the manner you suggest as it is to hold to other forms of prejudice, be they racial, economic, intellectual or religious. As a long time student of Sociology and Psychology I certainly realize that some prejudice is inherit in the human being due to upbringing and environment, and perhaps gender preference. But I don't believe that the word 'should' is appropriate in terms of how music can be performed today. I think it is better to say that using boy sopranos when possible is one historically informed practice with interesting qualities as in Bach's day.

I am perfectly happy to listen to a boy soprano sing, or a young girl if she is so gifted, an elderly man, or an aging diva and those in-between. I don't for a moment believe that the creator of all gave gifts that must specifically be directed exclusively to men in Bach. But, as always, I would defend your right to love your own choices freely. We are living in 2008, and who can say Bach would not have used women if it had been traditional in his time.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 22, 2008):
Boys's voices - Bach & the Romantics

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
"A boy's voice is intended rather, to evoke associations of the supernatural world of life after death. Related to this is the iconographical depiction of the soul of a dead person as a child that is found in medieval sculptures from Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals. Such metaphors were clear to a composer of Mahler's artistic sensitivities and, when he revised the score for the last time in 1906 [the now denatured and very compromised and amputated version, that is]..., he entered the words: 'To be performed, if at all possible, by a boy's voice!' at the relevant points in the printed score".
This is all very interesting but of course just about all Bach vocal works excluding perhaps the secular cantatas should be sung by boy voices and not by adult females for their soprano and alto parts. >
The popular attitude to the "meaning" of boys voices changed radically in the 19th century. Until the early 19th century, boys voices were the norm in church music. There were no special associations of "innocence" or "otherworldliness". The Romantics idealized children and we increasingly see composers using their voices for symbolic purposes. In Wagner's "Parsifal", the invisible boys' voices in the Grail Temples are meant to evoke celestial purity in contrast with the sensual women's chorus of Flower-Maidens in Act II.

Sidebar: I've always believedthat Wagner's use of an invisble choir comes from his expereince of hearlng Lutheran choirs singing invisibly from their choir galleries. Interestingly, Georg Solti chose to use a real boys choir for his recording of the opera.

Mahler develops the Romantic attitude to boys voices, exemplfied in the stunnng "heavenly" music given to them in the "Symphony of a Thousand". We see this symbolic use as late as Britten's "War Requiem" where he calls for an invisible boys choir and organ position behind the symphonic chorus.

It is this Romantic tradition that sill informs large-scale modern performances of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244). I don't know how many times I've read in program notes that Bach added a "boys choir" to symbolize the purity of the Lamb of God. In true Wagner/Mahler fashion, we still see boys' choirs placed in galleries and balconies above the large mixed-voice choral societies singing the double choir music.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 22, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] Thanks, Doug, for the added perspective. Retrospectively I am amused by the idea of a boys choir portraying the idea of purity, when I think of what Thomas Braatz wrote some years ago about the mischevious, sweaty boys that Bach had to try to shape into an ensemble--this is not, however a direct quote from TB.

Stephen Benson wrote (March 22, 2008):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
< Retrospectively I am amused by the idea of a boys choir portraying the idea of purity >

And then there's David Mason Greene's observation in a CD review in the 1992 March/April issue of the American Record Guide.

"Boy sopranos seem to be admired for different qualities in different cultures. Italian trebles tend to sound like an elementary-school playground at noon recess. French trebles sound like killing-time in a poultry abattoir. British trebles have a pure, innocent, angelic quality, for which Americans seem also to strive—thereby suckering a large part of the gullible public as to the true nature of children."

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 22, 2008):
[To Stephen Benson] Ha, ha, ha, ho, ho, ho--Stephen, I am truly looking forward to your leadership in future cantata discussions. Your sense of humor is priceless, but you also seem to catch some great details.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 22, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< This is all very interesting but of course just about all Bach vocal works excluding perhaps the secular cantatas should be sung by boy voices and not by adult females for their soprano and alto parts. >
I agree completely.

On the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage DVD, John Eliot Gardiner made a not-so-subtle swipe at Nikolaus Harnoncourt's use of boy's voices in Bach, calling it the worst sort of chicanery. Gardiner said that with a completely straight face, just after lauding his own efforts at authenticity and mocking a concert where a large chorus and orchestra had been used. I thought his catty comments were rather unfortunate and a bit childish given the historic nature of what Harnoncourt had done (which was the first and only complete recording of the Bach cantatas for almost 20 years).

Happy Easter folks!

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 22, 2008):
< The popular attitude to the "meaning" of boys voices changed radically in the 19th century. Until the early 19th century, boys voices were the norm > in church music. There were no special associations of "innocence" or "otherworldliness". The Romantics idealized children and we increasingly see composers using their voices for symbolic purposes. In Wagner's "Parsifal", the invisible boys' voices in the Grail Temples are meant to evoke celestial purity in contrast with the sensual women's chorus of Flower-Maidens in Act II. >
Mmmmmmm, Flower-Maidens!

Another good example is Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms" from the 1960s. In the score it says that under no circumstances should the piece ever be performed by girls' voices. Well, our college chorale did it anyway and it sounded like terrific music, but we were a world away from Chichester. We had enough fun working out the Hebrew phonetically. The female half of the choir also did Britten's "Ceremony of Carols", and with piano instead of harp, so it was probably ALL wrong.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 22, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] Variety in music is the spice of musical life. Beautiful is always in good taste.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 22, 2008):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Thank you for your input, Kim.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 22, 2008):
< On the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage DVD, John Eliot Gardiner made a not-so-subtle swipe at Nikolaus Harnoncourt's use of boy's voices in Bach, calling it the worst sort of chicanery. Gardiner said that with a completely straight face, just after lauding his own efforts at authenticity and mocking a concert where a large chorus and orchestra had been used. I thought his catty comments were rather unfortunate and a bit childish given the historic nature of what Harnoncourt had done (which was the first and only complete recording of the Bach cantatas for almost 20 years). >
Today I'm listening to the BWV 106 and BWV 182 that Leonhardt and his Leonhardt-Consort did the first time around, before the numerical-order cycle got going. This one features Bruggen playing recorder in both cantatas, and it has the Monteverdi-Chor of Hamburg...not Gardiner's later Monteverdi Choir! Jürgen Jürgens is credited as the conductor of the enterprise. The recording isn't dated, but they're using A=415 and the organ is dated 1961. The recorders were built in 1961 and 1962. No boys here in this recording; the chorus is a mixed group of adults. My guess from the Telefunken packaging style (this is an LP) is that it was approximately 1963-5.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 22, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] The number of different recordings never ceases to amaze me.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 22, 2008):
> The number of different recordings never ceases to amaze me. <
I'm also listening to the BWV 106 by Collegium Aureum, 1973. The young Wieland Kuijken plays in it!

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 22, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] Your collection must be huge.

Uri Golomb wrote (March 22, 2008):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< On the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage DVD, John Eliot Gardiner made a not-so-subtle swipe at Nikolaus Harnoncourt's use of boy's voices in Bach, calling it the worst sort of chicanery. Gardiner said that with a completely straight face, just after lauding his own efforts at authenticity and mocking a concert where a large chorus and orchestra had been used. I thought his catty comments were rather unfortunate and a bit childish given the historic nature of what Harnoncourt had done (which was the first and only complete recording of the Bach cantatas for almost 20 years). >
Strictly speaking, that's not true. Harnoncourt/Leonhardt and Helmuth Rilling started their respective cycles of the Bach cantatas almost at the same time, but Rilling finished first, in time for Bach's 300th anniversary in 1985. Rilling's was the first complete cycle of the sacred cantatas to be recorded by one conductor (the Teldec cycle being split between two directors). At the moment, it seems that Rilling and Koopman are the only conductors who have recorded both the complete sacred cantatas and the complete secular cantatas. This is not to take anything away from the H/L achievement, of course.

I've often had a bit of a problem with Gardiner's rhetoric (and not only with regards to Bach), both in his self-praise and in his gratituous swipes at others (though he can also pay generous tributes to colleagues). I am a great admirer of his Pilgrimage cycle; but I think his claims to historical authenticity are particularly exaggerated. There is very little in the Pilgrimage that constitutes a genuine reconstruction of Bach's working methods, and there are many historically questionable aspects about Gardiner's style, his perforforces etc (I'm aware that some of the things I love most about it might not be historically credible). I wouldn't have even mentioned this were it not for Gardiner's insistence to the contrary. For me, the Pilgrimage constitutes a modern, turn-of-the-millennium homage to Bach. As such, it is a remarkable tribute, which produced (in my hardly-unique opinion) fantastic musical results and gave us wonderful insights into Bach's music. Gardiner's liner-notes have their own value as well. That is enough -- indeed, much more than enough; spurious claims to historical credibility strike me sometimes as an unfortunate own goal on Gardiner's part, casting unnecessary doubt on his achievement.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 23, 2008):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< I've often had a bit of a problem with Gardiner's rhetoric (and not only with regards to Bach), both in his self-praise and in his gratituous swipes at others (though he can also pay generous tributes to colleagues). >
I took issue with JEG's rather broad swipes about New York City in his liner notes for the first Christmas CD, with his really holier-than-thou attitude, considering the warm welcome he received here, I thought it was rather in bad taste.

< I think his claims to historical authenticity are particularly exaggerated. There is very little in the Pilgrimage that constitutes a genuine reconstruction of Bach's working methods, and there are many historically questionable aspects about Gardiner's style, his performing forces etc (I'm aware that some of the > things I love most about it might not be historically credible). I wouldn't have even mentioned this were it not for Gardiner's insistence to the contrary. >
Yet, JEG rants and raves about Joshua Rifkin's research, and complains about Rifkin's inflexibility with the one voice per part issue. JEG hates it when others wax pontifical on matters Bach, so I was more than amused with a scene on the DVD where JEG stands in front of a Bach statue near St. Thomas church in Leipzig, complaining how wrong the statue looked, because it had a very "GDR" approach to Bach. Actually, the statue dated from the earlier part of the 20th century, a full 50 years before the GDR even existed. So much for a "correct" reading of statue.

< For me, the Pilgrimage constitutes a modern, turn-of-the-millennium homage to Bach. As such, it is a remarkable tribute, which produced (in my hardly-unique opinion) fantastic musical results and gave us wonderful insights into Bach's music. Gardiner's liner-notes have their own value as well. That is enough -- indeed, much more than enough; spurious claims to historical credibility strike me sometimes as an unfortunate own goal on Gardiner's part, casting unnecessary doubt on his achievement. >
Yes, I love JEG's recording and make every effort to obtain the newest releases when they're issued.

Thanks
Happy Easter!

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 23, 2008):
[To Uri Golomb] Thanks, Uri, for adding some additional perspective.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 23, 2008):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Interesting, I think, how a certain amount of ego is often what it takes to motivate humans to attain great heights musically and otherwise. We know Bach was a person who took pride in his work, but was not consumed by a proud attitude that he could easily have indulged in--had he not been so grounded. It is interesting to hear the details of how conductors go about selling their works, or themselves in modern times.

Thanks.

John Pike wrote (March 25, 2008):
[To Uri Golomb] I agree. Gardiner's Cantata series is splendid, but he does have a tendency to criticise others over-harshly. He has apparently had soloists in tears in the past. In a recent interview with Richard Morrison for BBC Music magazine, he claimed that he had mellowed somewhat recently, but one wonders how bad things must have been before if this is the case.

He recently commented that he had found discussions with Suzuki and Koopman very amicable but, as Kim remarked, said in a rather unpleasant manner, that he could not get on with Joshua Rifkin. In the medical world, such talk would be regarded as highly unprofessional.

There does seem to be quite a price to pay for genius. Indeed, JSB himself seems to have had certain unappealing aspects to his personality. Still, when you are surrounded by a bunch of considerably less talented people than yourself who make your life a daily misery, who would not react the same?

Terejia wrote (March 25, 2008):
[To John Pike] Although I do not have huge amount of CD/LP collections like some subscribers, I have some John Elliot Gardiner. He does not seem to have untrained amateur audience in mind-maybe he only concerns those audience who are professional music critic and his rivals. Not only he is selective of performance force but he is also selective in audience, as it seems to me.

In my own narrow experience in playing in the local church, I find it is humanity of the player permeated thrrough music that amateur listeners who has little or zero training on musical notes, harmonies, scores, etc are listening to and sensitive toward.

John Elliot Gardiner's performance sounds splendid to me, nevertheless.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (March 27, 2008):
Stephen Benson wrote:
< And then there's David Mason Greene's observation in a CD review in the 1992 March/April issue of the American Record Guide.
"Boy sopranos seem to be admired for different qualities in different cultures. Italian trebles tend to sound like an elementary-school playground at noon recess. French trebles sound like killing-time in a poultry abattoir. British trebles have a pure, innocent, angelic quality, for which Americans seem also to strive—thereby suckering a large part of the gullible public as to the true nature of children." >
Somehow I feel I should print that and put it on my refrigerator but I can't imagine anyone who would appreciate it besides me.

I still really regret that H-L did not make any attempt (with very rare exceptions) to find suitable boy altos. Look, if suitable boy-alto soloists and -sopranos could produce both the very different from one another Gillesberger Johannes-Passion and Harnoncourt's DVD of the same and also c. 1950 Peter Schreier would record Agnus Dei and Es ist vollbracht, one really wonders why the only choices we have are very adult lady soloists (I find e.g. Christa Ludwig gorgeous in Klemperer's MP, but not Bachic) and counter-tenors.

Gardiner's remarks are rather meaningless. Most everyone insists what he ["he" refers back to "everyone", not to "Gardiner"] is doing is IT.Gardiner in all his music-making, not only Bach, has committed his share of sins, which I have noted here on various occasions.Finally and obviously there is room for all kinds of Bach for all of us have different things that matter to us.

So many of the recordings lauded here are ones that I simply don't take to at all. Obviously others do. I had a long online discussion tonight with a new acquaintance in Holland who simply finds a tyranny of HIP performance there and a non-allowing of large orchestra performances which he much prefers. He claims that such as Chailly and Haitink are simply not permitted on the whole and that H and L rule. Now I can't know whether that's true. It certainly is not in the States where I shut off Masur NYPHIL broadcast tonight after some remarks by both Masur and the interviewer that I found just ridiculous. Oh, also, I never intended to listen to it anyway.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (March 27, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] I have never ever ever been able to "get" Parsifal at all. The main thing I like about the opera is Hermann Levi's refusal to be baptized to please the great Wagner.

Of course Mahler was a worshipper of the Green Hill. Poor guy,

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 27, 2008):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< I have never ever ever been able to "get" Parsifal at all. The main thing I like about the opera is Hermann Levi's refusal to be baptized to please the great Wagner.
Of course Mahler was a worshiof the Green Hill. >
Actually, Wagner provides an excellent test for us here on the Bach list that we neither have to like Bach the man nor believe his theology to love his music.

Wagner remains one of the great repulsive human beings in the history of music and yet it is essential to study the sociology and personalities of his life in order to understand the Wagner phenomeon of the mid-19th century. "Parisfal" has a philosophy which baffles atheists and offends Christians. And yet it is essential to study its sources and influences to understand the music.

I think much the same holds for Bach. It simply doesn't matter if Bach was a noble, adorable human being, but we do have to examine the historical relationships he had. Nor is it ncesessary to convert to his theological system. But we need to analyze its principles and sources in order to understand his compositional method.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 27, 2008):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
>I had a long online discussion tonight with a new acquaintance in Holland who simply finds a tyranny of HIP performance there and a non-allowing of large orchestra performances which he much prefers. He claims that such as Chailly and Haitink are simply not permitted on the whole and that H and L rule.<
Haitink apparently agrees. Last week he conducted his first SMP (BWV 244), with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, large chorus, but modest HIP acknowledgement (interrupted continuo for the Evangelist, but not for Jesus, to make them distinct). A brief interview was also broadcast, in which Haitink was asked if he would conduct SMP (BWV 244) at home, in Holland. <No, not now> was his response.

Lex Schelvis (Lingua Franca) wrote (March 27, 2008):
< I had a long online discussion tonight with a new acquaintance in Holland who simply finds a tyranny of HIP performance there and a non-allowing of large orchestra performances which he much prefers. He claims that such as Chailly and Haitink are simply not permitted on the whole and that H and L rule. Now I can't know whether that's true. >
This is not true. In March we had more than 100 (!) performances of the SMP (BWV 244) in Holland. It's quite populair here. I was late trying to get a reservation and it took me some time, because most of them were sold out. And guess: it was hard to find a HIP performance. It is true: the majority of performances were by amateurs, professional groups prefer HIP, but there is no tiranny. If a professional group is planning a non HIP performance, people are going to attend it. Why don't they do it? Because they THINK there is a tiranny. If I were a performer with the status of Haitink, it would be a reason for me to do a non HIP performance! Koopman did a few years ago.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 27, 2008):
< Haitink apparently agrees. Last week he conducted his first SMP (BWV 244), with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, large chorus, but modest HIP acknowledgement (interrupted continuo for the Evangelist, but not for Jesus, to make them distinct). >
Ummm...it's in the score that way ("interrupted continuo for the Evangelist"). The SMP (BWV 244) is one of the rare pieces where Bach helped out the interpretation by notating the secco convention as short continuo notes under the Evangelist's sections: quarter notes and rests. That is, it's one of the few Bach vocal scores where non-Baroque-specialists will do the right thing without having to know especially what they're doing, and without having to study the convention outside the score. :)

What kinds of instruments did Haitink use for the oboes da caccia, or the viola da gamba? What instrument did the second keyboard-continuo player play?

The Jesus part always has sustained-string accompaniment, except for the death scene on the cross where it's only continuo. That's a big romantic/dramatic moment where (according to usual interpretation) his "halo" of string accompaniment has faltered, yadda yadda yadda yadda.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 27, 2008):
>> Haitink apparently agrees. Last week he conducted his first SMP (BWV 244), with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, large chorus, but modest HIP acknowledgement (interrupted continuo for the Evangelist, but not for Jesus, to make them distinct).<<
>Ummm...it's in the score that way ("interrupted continuo for the Evangelist"). The SMP (
BWV 244) is one of the rare pieces where Bach helped out the interpretation by notating the secco convention as short continuo notes under the Evangelist's sections: quarter notes and rests.<
Reply:
Sorry, I do not have a score available, and so I did not check. Haitink, in his interview, did specifically say that he was playing it that way, and hinted that it was a nod to HIP scholarship. He did mention that it was consistent with Bachs use of different colors in the manuscript. I do not think he ackowledged that it was specifically notated as he played it, but perhaps I misunderstood.

>What kinds of instruments did Haitink use for the oboes da caccia, or the viola da gamba? What instrument did the second keyboard-continuo player play?<
Reply:
I was not able to listen attentively, but I will answer what I can. Viola da gamba was played by Boston specialist, Laura Jeppesen. The second keyboard was credited as <continuo organ>, I did not catch the players name. I believe the main organist was James David Christie, but dont quote me on that without checking. Several regular BSO players were credited for woodwind roles, I did not catch the names. I believe all modern instruments, but I cannot comment specifically re oboes da caccia.

Hope that is helpful. Because of my lack of attention to detail, I was not planning to post anything on the performance, until Haitinks name came up in passing. It was certainly enjoyable as a live broadcast, and for the opportunity to hear Haitink conduct SMP (BWV 244) for the first time at age 79, but I would say an event of local, rather than immortal, interest.

The BSO anouncer also mentioned that the first complete SMP (BWV 244) recording was made by the BSO under Koussevitzky in 1937, live, to 53 sides of 78 RPM discs! The performance (in English) was reissued on CD, and has favorable commentary in the BCW archives. It does seem a bit of a stretch to call it first, as there are two earlier German recordings listed which would seem to have only minor cuts. Nevertheless, a remarkable achievement.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (April 3, 2008):
Les Schelvis (Lingua Franca) wrote:
<< I had a long online discussion tonight with a new acquaintance in Holland who simply finds a tyranny of HIP performance there and a non-allowing of large orchestra performances which he much prefers. He claims that such as Chailly and Haitink are simply not permitted on the whole and that H and L rule. Now I can't know whether that's true. >>
< This is not true. In March we had more than 100 (!) performances of the SMP
(BWV 244) in Holland. It's quite populair here. I was late trying to get a reservation and it took me some time, because most of them were sold out. And guess: it was hard to find a HIP performance. It is true: the majority of performances were by amateurs, professional groups prefer HIP, but there is no tiranny. If a professional group is planning a non HIP performance, people are going to attend it. Why don't they do it? Because they THINK there is a tiranny. If I were a performer with the status of Haitink, it would be a reason for me to do a non HIP performance! Koopman did a few years ago. >
My correspondent is not on this list to my knowledge. I met him elsewhere online and he was quite bitter about a "Calvinistic tyranny" that enforces what is right and what is wrong. Since I have never been in Holland (most of my time in Europe was in the South, Vienna and Greece and so forth), I can only accept his wbut seems that you are saying much the same. Professional, non-amateur, is usually HIP. I am a Hippie, my correspondent is a non-Hippie, one who likes symphonic orchestra Bach. I only wish we had a great Matthäus-Passion (BWV 244) with boy altos.

I cannot believe that we still do not have a single recording of "Erbarme dich" with a boy-alto. If I knew Peter Schreier's address, I would ask him why he and Mauersberger recorded es ist vollbracht and agnus dei but not "Erbarme dich".

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (April 3, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Actually, Wagner provides an excellent test for us here on the Bach list that we neither have to like Bach the man nor believe his theology to love his music.
Wagner remains one of the great repulsive human beings in the history of music and yet it is essential to study the sociology and personalities of his life in order to understand the Wagner phenomeon of the mid-19th century. "Parisfal" has a philosophy which baffles atheists and offends Christians. And yet it is essential to study its sources and influences to understand the music. >
I do make a distinction between the man, the beliefs, and the music. I don't care whether one is a theist of any kind of belief. I am sure that one does not have to research or have any sympathy with any theological system that Bach may or may not have truly believed in order to get the music, whether the so-called profane/secular music or the so-called sacred music. I am sure that Bach could have written about the immolation and self-sacrifice of the blessed Queen of Carthage and the music would be the same. my God or Goddess, I just listened the other day to the Janigro/Forrester BWV 53, BWV 54, and BWV 169 and was amazed at myself bc. I have never very much responded to Forrester's Bach. They were amazing but maybe even more so Heiler's organ playing (out of this world). Thereby I am more amazed at myself bc. it is the voices that I always hear and not the organ. Now the organ and much of the music therein is from instrumental music and in reality has nothing to do, as far as concerns its inspiration, with any theological system.

When I say that I don't get Parsifal, I mean as music and as drama and any music that requires me to study Schopenhauer or whomever else simply is not succeeding as music or as drama. I do not find the Passions or many of the cantatas to have anything to say to me as drama or as words and ideas (I hope that I am granted that right just as I grant Christians and and other group their rights to believe what they will) but the music overwhelms me, while certainly not tempting me to succumb to the belief system.

Parsifal does not make any sense to me in any way and, if you do not know, many of the Wagner operas appeal to me very much bc. they work as music and as drama.

< I think much the same holds for Bach. It simply doesn't matter if Bach was a noble, adorable human being, but we do have to examine the historical relationships he had. Nor is it ncesessary to convert to his theological system. But we need to analyze its principles and sources in order to understand his compositional method. >
I have come to terms with allowing Bach bc. of the time and place in which he lived and was employed to express gross anti-semitism.

I even allow wagner such when his music and his drama works.I am going to try to relisten to the Forrester BWV 42 (Scherchen) today and see what I think.

I was really impressed with the Janigro CD, didn't play the other one with the MP (BWV 244) and JP (BWV 245), Handel arias, etc. I have during the past decade listened to far too much Forrester doing Mahler and the problem is that she sang too long and too often. In some she is fine, in others not appealing to me.

So one once sent me a website devoted to explicating every detail of Parsifal. The problem is that these sites cannot be printed as they depend on hyperlinks and my neck problem doesn't allow me to live on the computer these days.

Anyway the etymology of Parsifal that is usually given or which Wagner gave is pure pazzeria.

I no longer recall it but for one, Arabic doesn't have a /p/ at all.

Yoël of the House of Berlioz

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 3, 2008):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
"one does not have to research or have any sympathy with any theological system that Bach may or may not have truly believed in order to get the music, whether the so-called profane/secular music or the so-called sacred music."
I think for example anyone can enjoy a hamburger as a sandwich, or think separately about meat and bread and condiments, or eat and not think at all. Some folks will start with a recipe and create a great culinary treat. Others were simply stop for a McDonalds. No, one does not have to have a deeper perspective to enjoy music, but in my opinion those who see the whole picture get a better musical lunch. Hearing the full range of sounds is also good, and especially in Bach since a communal setting is the audience Bach wrote for despite his own bias or the bias of the situation in which he lived.

 

What Peter Schreier has to say about boys in Bach

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (April 9, 2008):
Fascinating stuff. Too bad there are to my knowledge no such complete recordings but only the two Bach arias with Knabenalt Schreier. http://home.wxs.nl/~peter.schreier/mauersberger.htm

I do not believe that Aryeh has this link on the Schreier biography.

Den Höhepunkt meiner Solistenlaufbahn bildete das Bachjahr 1950. Professor Mauersberger wagte das Experiment, die Sopran- und Altpartien in der Johannespassion und in der h-Moll-Messe mit Knabensolostimmen zu besetzen. Ich nenne es deshalb ein Experiment, weil in Fach- und Laienkreisen vielfach bezweifelt wird, daß ein Kind solche Partien wirklich gestalten kann. Der Erfolg bestätigte das Wagnis. Noch heute bin ich der Meinung, daß die Reinheit und Innigkeit einer Knabenstimme am besten das auszudrücken vermag, was Bach uns mit seinen großen Sopran- und Altarien sagen wollte. Wenn ein Kind auch den tiefen Sinn der Worte nicht begreift, so ist es doch eben die natürliche, unbewußte Anmut der Stimme, die dem Hörer die Bedeutung des Textes nahebringt. Freilich bedurfte es einer Leidenschaft für die Knabenstimme, wie sie Rudolf Mauersberger hat, um solche Leistungen zu ermöglichen.

 

OT: (well kinda sorda): Boy Sopranos (and Bach)

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 28, 2008):
Watching this video puts to rest any idea that boy sorpanos can't do Bach's music justice. This young gentleman may have a few rough spots, but singing the Queen of the Night's aria from "The Magic Flute" is something that few sopranos can do well either.

I'm utterly amazed.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzstMw2ZB30

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 28, 2008):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] My young daughter will love this, thanks. She likes to sing as high as possible.

It's just voice and piano; is the conductor really helping?

James Atkind Prithard wrote (May 28, 2008):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] This is Robin Schlotz of the Tölzer Knabenchor.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vvi0OZ39EVc
www.youtube.com/watch?v=feNzdlwd27U
www.toelzerknabenchor.de

I don't know who's singing the alto solo from the B Minor Mass Angus Dei on the Tölzer Knabenchor website.

James Atkind Prithard wrote (May 29, 2008):
Alexander Lischke, also of the Tölzer Knabenchor, was also very fine (some of the recordings leave much to be desired):
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wp9lH7A0nTw
www.youtube.com/watch?v=56b88zuxpCg
www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6a_SpDic-I
www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtIu07neFbA&feature=related
www.youtube.com/watch?v=RF1EPHozdTQ
www.youtube.com/watch?v=yl8wWfWvZHI

Allan Bergius:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2jWFdoCqiw&feature=related

Panito Iconomou:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_QAoanXntw
www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOmwJ0lb_jY
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hz-QCvB4m1U

Their Dido and Aeneas is very remarkable:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbdrZ0dNHlk&feature=related
www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGHzDFVj4Tg&feature=related
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fon8WVB2OP0&feature=related
www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsG44HkYTGY&feature=related
www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzC_ayCt1tY&feature=related
www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGBSSsvXctY&feature=related
www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5IgtHlW910&feature=related

You can also find on YouTube excerpts from this choir singing the Christmas Oratorio under Harnoncourt (using their own soloists for the soprano and alto solos), but perhaps it's easier just to buy this on Amazon: Amazon.com

*Here's their St John Passion: Amazon.com

Chris Kern wrote (May 29, 2008):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] The funny thing is that the video was originally posted to a humor site (you can see the ebaumsworld.com tag at the bottom of the video) with the intent of mockery, because of the high pitched voice and the perceived annoyance of the singing. I remember first seeing it there with a tag of something like "Most annoying singing in the world!!!" but I thought it was pretty good.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 29, 2008):
[To Chris Kern] Simply wonderful. Too wonderful for words.

That (too wonderful for words) is a challenge I seldom pass up, even when self-issued.

This post originates in USA, hoping to dispel the widely held myth (not to say prejudice) on BCML that Americans cannot appreciate, let alone create, ironic humor. Where is that guy who <pissed me off> (ACE) a couple years ago, anyway?

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 29, 2008):
OT: The loneliest Plunk [was: Boy Soprano]

A favorite (Thelonious) Monk tune: <Played Twice>, perhaps a subtle gibe at the classical tradition?

I did not repeat my post intentionally, with any intent at humor, Monkish or other. Perhaps my ISP is getting HIP or hip? Certainly not technically competent.

James Atkind Prithard wrote (May 30, 2008):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Lest anyone think that Schlotz was the only treble around with this kind of capability, here's Clint van der Linde (now a well-regarded countertenor) singing the same aria:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIeQ__MQfTg&feature=related
bio: www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Linde-Clint-van-der.htm

And here he is in Bach (BWV 51):
www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEbShiAHS5s

 

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Last update: ýMay 30, 2008 ý12:35:07