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Bach in English
Discussions - Part 1

Bach in English

Carl Burmeister wrote:
And just to make sure I don't leave you without sparking some flames, I think Bach sung in English is an abomination.

Jane Newble wrote (November 26, 1999):
At last someone who agrees! I always get laughed at, and told that's only because I am Dutch. But then I would feel the same if it was sung in Dutch! In the spring our Choral Society (Ashford, England) is going to perform the Johannes-Passion, and of course they are going to sing it in English...sigh...! But tomorrow night we are singing the Mass in B (BWV 232) and at least that's in Latin! (And by the way, unless I hear anything better in the future, Herreweghe's version is my absolute favorite).

Nevertheless, I have to admit that when I inherited three LPs from an old friend with the Matthäus-Passion in English (Dr. Reginald Jacques with Kathleen Ferrier among others), I found it strangely moving to hear Bach sung in the language that I hear every day around me. And I think he might have been quite thrilled...!

Even so, I still prefer Bach in German!

Donald Satz wrote (November 26, 1999):
I am also no fan of Bach in English or Verdi in English, etc. My view is that the music and language were composed to "fit" one another. Change the language and the fit changes, almost invariably for the worse.

I've always been perplexed as to who thinks up these "do it in English" notions. It's most likely a marketing/profit ploy.

Philip Peters wrote (November 25, 1999):
Jane Newble wrote:
< At last someone who agrees! I always get laughed at, and told that's only because I am Dutch. >
Hi there! Groeten uit Den Haag.

< But then I would feel the same if it were sung in Dutch! >
I can't even imagine what that would sound like but I'm sure it would be terribly guttural. I never understand when vocal music is sung in a different language as you drastically change the music: music is sound and language is sound too; vocal music is composed starting with these two tools. This practice has now by and large subsided although I heard many Americans who are too lazy to learn a little German <g> defend the practice for the sake of understanding the text....

< In the spring our Choral Society (Ashford, England) is going to perform the Johannes-Passion, and of course they are going to sing it in English...sigh…! But tomorrow night we are singing the Mass in B (BWV 232) and at least that's in Latin! (And by the way, unless I hear anything better in the future, Herreweghe's version is my absolute favorite).
Nevertheless, I have to admit that when I inherited three LPs from an old friend with the Matthäus-Passion in English (Dr. Reginald Jacques with Kathleen Ferrier among others), I found it strangely moving to hear Bach sung in the language that I hear every day around me. And I think he might have been quite thrilled...! >
I have these too and I agree but that is mainly because it's Ferrier. When Ferrier sings a tone scale she will have me already almost in tears, so this is an exception.

< Even so, I still prefer Bach in German! >
Don't we all?

Jane Newble wrote (November 27, 1999):
Philip Peters wrote:
< Hi there! Groeten uit Den Haag. >
Oh dear, you make me feel homesick…!

< I have these too and I agree but that is mainly because it's Ferrier. When Ferrier sings a tone scale she will have me already almost in tears, so this is an exception. >
I agree. But then Aafje Heynis has the same effect on me. Have you, or anyone else heard the Philips CD's with the Brandenburgs and Aafje Heynis singing BWV 170?

I have a feeling that I will end up getting it anyway…!

Philip Peters wrote (November 28, 1999):
Jane Newble wrote:
< But then Aafje Heynis has the same effect on me. Have you, or anyone else heard the Philips CD's with the Brandenburgs and Aafje Heynis singing BWV 170? >
It's a pity that Heynis is so under-recorded, isn't it? I do have the BWV 170 recording and it's heartbreakingly beautiful. Highly recommended. This year she became 75. There was a TV-portrait of her in which students like Charlotte Margiono played a prominent part. She still regards Heynis as her teacher and friend. Heynis is a very sober, very Dutch person and the restrained mutual admiration, respect and love between her and Margiono were very moving. When I was eight years old or so my parents first took me to the Amsterdam Concertgebouw (we lived only a few blocks away) and I heard Heynis and Van Beinum doing Brahms' alto rhapsody. I couldn't sleep all night and I have her recording of it that may well have been made that very evening. Oops, far off topic here...

Santu de Silva (Archimedes) wrote (November 30, 1999):
Jane Newble wrote:
"...when I inherited three LPs from an old friend with the Matthäus-Passion in English (Dr. Reginald Jacques with Kathleen Ferrier among others), I found it strangely moving to hear Bach sung in the language I hear every day around me." >
An urgent request for information:

I would like to have Haydn's Creation in English. Any recommendations?

Matthew Westphal wrote (November 30, 1999):
Santu De Silva wrote:
< I would like to have Haydn's Creation in English. Any recommendations? >
Absolutely. Hogwood recorded THE CREATION using the English translation used when Haydn premiered the piece in London. I think it works quite well.

Colin Thart wrote (November 30, 1999):
Matthew Westphal writes:
< Hogwood recorded THE CREATION using the English translation used when Haydn premiered the piece in London. I think it works quite well. >
This is a real HIP-HOP performance -- a historically informed performance of an adaptation of a work, either by the composer or by another.

Another performance in this class is a recording on the Opus-111 label of Mendelssohn's version of Bach's SMP (BWV 244)... using instruments and performance practices of Mendelssohn's time.

There. We're back on topic.

Jane Newble wrote (December 2, 1999):
Philip Peters wrote:
< It's a pity that Heynis is so under-recorded, isn't it? I do have the BWV 170 recording and it's heartbreakingly beautiful. Highly recommended. -- >
Thanks a lot. I shall get it! I tend to collect anything by her anyway, even if it's not Bach.

But she introduced me to the "Schlafe mein Liebster" from the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), and it haunted me so much that I had to get the Oratorio! Has she recorded any other Bach than the short pieces on her two Philips CD's?

 

Non-German Bach Passions

Jim Morrison wrote (April 24, 2002):
I was just listening to the Apollo's Fire English language version of the Saint John Passion (BWV 245), pretty good by the way, and it occurred to me that English is the only non-German language that I've heard being used on a Bach Passion recording. Is this mainly a English language phenomenon? Or are there, say, Dutch Passions, French? Japanese? Spanish? Italian? Canadian? ;-)

Francine Renee Hall wrote (April 24, 2002):
[To Jim Morrison] I've heard that in England, Händel operas and Bach's vocal works are sung in English. I think, but I'm not sure, that the English also print captions above the stage so that people will know what the (....) is going on!

Peter Brighr wrote (April 24, 2002):
[To Jim Morrison & Francine Renee Hall] Bach's works are, indeed, sometimes sung in English. For example, every year at Easter (and on two successive Sunday's) the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) is sung in English at the Royal Festival Hall (complete with huge choirs and (I think) modern instruments) - I have been once and was greatly moved by it.

However, it is more normal for all his works to be performed in the appropriate language (German or Latin) here as well as, I presume, everywhere else - this accords with the fact that a great many HIP-sensitive conductors are British or otherwise live here. I never been to a performance where the captions are printed above the stage (there are usually programmes with the translations included, but I expect this method may have been used from time to time (although, personally, I think it would really piss me off)).

Bob Sherman wrote (April 25, 2002):
[To Peter Bright] I don't think the use of original language is a HIP issue. It mainly reflects the fact that translation can't perfectly

(1) capture the original meaning

(2) avoid awkward sounds and

(3) fit the music that was written for German text. At least one is inevitably sacrificed by translation.

A more stark HIP issue sometimes arises because Handel wrote in English but his English wasn't perfect. So sometimes he stressed the wrong syllable, for example "incorrupTIBle" rather than "incorRUPtible." I suppose the HIP concept requires use of the awkward original because that's what the composer wrote, whereas what we might call MBA (Music Above All) applies a non-authentic fix if it works, which in this case it does.

Similarly, baroque second and third trumpet parts sometimes have awkward leaps and bad voice-leading because the valveless instrument can't play diatonically in the lower octave. So the choice is to
(1) HIP: use a valveless trumpet which forces you to stick to what the composer wrote,
(2) semi-HIP: use a valved trumpet but choose to stick to what the composer wrote, or
(3) MBA: use the valves to play the notes the composer didn't write but that sound better and that he surely would have written if the available instruments could have played them.

While I'm on the subject I'll state a pet peeve: Until recently it has been the custom for composers to write their trumpet parts as if they were in the key of C, while noting the actual key for transposition (e.g. "Trumpet in D") at the beginning of the section. Original trumpeters would then use a trumpet pitched in D and everything would work fine. It also works fine for today's modern-instrument players, who use trumpets that are pitched either in the key of the piece or a closely related key, for example a piccolo trumpet in A is used for D trumpet parts, a G or F trumpet for C trumpet parts, etc. That works well too. But Handel, for reasons unknown, wrote his trumpet parts in the actual concert pitch, with key signatures, as one would write for a violin. Since no player will want to use a C trumpet to play in the key of D (too many foggy notes and near-impossible trills), this notation forces us into awkward transpositions such as a sixth down from A to C. Nevertheless, many editors do it that way because that's what Händel wrote -- as if the listener could tell the difference. Yuck.

 

In English

Bernard Nys wrote (April 27, 2002):
Some time ago, some people asked if the SJP (BWV 245) and SMP (BWV 244) had been translated. Don't forget Benjamin's Britten SJP (BWV 245) translation and Bernstein's SMP (BWV 244) with 2 black sopranos and an unforgettable No. 70 Look ye, Jesu waiting stands. I would like to see the Cantatas sung in English, Dutch, Spanish,...

There's something else I learnt in the Gardiner Pilgrimage DVD : Bach's music was not only related to the Church Year, but also to the seasons, the weather,... According to Gardiner, we have lost this organic relationship to nature.

A last point : the difference for me between Händel and Bach is that the first was looking for glory for himself and that JSB wanted glory for his Savior. I like the Messiah very much, but it never has that deep religious, almost poetical-personal, intimate relationship with Jesus.

 

Bach Cantata’s in English

Tom Morris wrote (September 18, 2003):
Does anyone in this group know of any recordings of Bach's Cantata's sung in English?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (September 19, 2003):
[To Tom Morris] I don't know of the Kantaten, butIknow Amazon.com and cdnow.com have copies of the Johannespassion and Matthaeuspassion in English.

John Pike wrote (September 19, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Yes, the Benjamin Britten/Peter Pears version of the St John Passion (BWV 245), sung in English gets a rosette in the Penguin Guide, usually very reliable. Personally, I much prefer it (and Bach's works in general) sung in German, whatever the qualities of the recording, which I have.

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 20, 2003):
[To Tom Morris] I am aware of the following recordings of Bach's vocal works in English:

Johannes-Passion BWV 245: 4 recordings. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV245-Rec6.htm
Matthaus-Passion BWV 244: 4 recordings: Reginald Jacques (1947-1948), Ernest MacMillan (Early 1950's), Leonard Bernstein (1962), David Willcocks (1979, not sure about this one)
Cantatas BWV 11, BWV 67, Chorale from BWV 147 - all conducted by Reginald Jacques. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Jacques.htm
Various cantata movements were recorded in English. For example:
'Shout God's Gladness Unto Every Nation' from Cantata BWV 51, included in the album 'Lieder in Our Language' by Jill Hausman (1999)
’Jesus, Shepherd, Be Thou Near Me’ from Cantata BWV 208, included in the album 'Of Winds And Song' by Melanie Cavenaugh (1997).

There have been some short discussions of this topic. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/English.htm

Tom Morris wrote (September 20, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] Yes I have all that, and it's a real shame we can't get the Cantata's in English. Such a wonderful praise of our Savior all locked up in another tongue. But hey...just watch, my prayer is that God will unlock them soon.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (September 20, 2003):
[To John Pike] So do I, since the language used does not translate well into English, and inpoint of fact, many words do not have exact translations at all.

By the way, I don't know of the Britten recording, but I have seen many times the one by (I believe) Apollo's Fire.

As for the Matthäus-Passion (BWV 244), I have seen a lot of the Bernstein recording.

 

Translating Bach cantatas

Bernard Nys wrote (December 4, 2003):
A few days ago I saw Herreweghe in concert in Antwerp (Belgium) and once again I had this thought : it's a pity that this music is not appreciated by a broader public (for instance duetto BWV 146) ! I imagine that the German language is one of the reasons of this lack of succes. Wouldn't it be a nice idea to have a GREATEST HITS BACH CANTATAS CD in English, French, Spanish,... ? The "lyrics" are so delightful and interesting for every Christian !

Donald Satz wrote (December 4, 2003):
[To Bernard Nys] Bernard must be smoking some potent herbs. In German or English, a Bach Cantata is still classical music and will always have a tiny little audience.

I do appreciate Bernard giving me some insight as to what Christians find interesting - changing German to English seems to be one of the winners.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (December 4, 2003):
[To Donald Satz] The other day someone said on a list devoted to another composer that he wished that Mahler's Lieder would be recorded in English. I wanted to reply with a single word: WHY?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (December 4, 2003):
[To Bernard Nys] The problem is that the language oftentimes is not translateable from German to another language.

For example, I have tried to translate the entirety of the Choral "Ermuntre dich, mein schwacher Geist" into English. This is well-nigh impossible because there is no exact English translation for half the words. That is because it is in a peotic form of German, and, like English, the poetic form of German is not easily translateable. This I have from a frienof my parents who came to the US not to long ago from Germany.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (December 4, 2003):
[To Donald Satz] One must be wary, though. The meaning and power oftentimes (as well as the beauty of the words) get lost in translation.

I think that the more interesting situation is for multilinguisity amongst Christians.

 

Translating cantatas bis

Bernard Nys wrote (December 7, 2003):
Allow me to come back with my silly idea of translating Bach... I speak Dutch and understanding German is not a big deal (as you know, German and Dutch are very close, it's the same family of languages), but I know that French and Spanish people (and all other Latin language speaking people) find it a big problem. I know also that in Bach's time the church audience liked to sing along the most famous chorals. Last year I saw a SMP (BWV 244), where the conductor asked us to sing the chorals, after some rehearsal in the afternoon. OK, you didn't hear us, the public, but it was a fine experience to be "involved".

Why did Julio Iglesias, Sting, Aznavour, Gloria Estefan, Ricky Martin,... start to sing in other languages ??? Because they knew that they would reach a broader audience and that most people like to sing in their language in the bathroom, for instance.

So why not Bach's GREATEST CANTATA HITS in English, French, Spanish,... ? Nice challenge for us to gather the most beautiful melodies and to have translated and performed... Would be a nice Christmas gift... I wanted to talk about my idea to Herreweghe last week (he came back on the stage after the concert - don't know why - and I was there at only two meters, but I didn't dare to ask...). Can anyone help me with this idea or is it really to stupid ?

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 7, 2003):
[To Bernard Nys] Translating Bach cantatas to other languages?

Here are three related examples: the first two not directly about translating Bach, but perhaps they will have some bearing on the question anyway: translations of other sacred choral works. The third, below, is about the St John Passion (BWV 245).

When I was in high school, our choir was to perform Vivaldi's "Gloria" and there was a dispute over which language to use: Latin or English. The choir took a vote. Those of us in favor of keeping the Latin barely won the vote. And even then, I think some of the reason was that the English translation in our scores was so terribly unsingable. For the "Domine Fili" the translation went as follows: "Only begotten / Son of the Fa-----ther, / Je --- ee ---- eeeee --- esus the Christ!" The people hearing our program certainly would have understood the music better if we had sung in English; but we also didn't want them to laugh at a ludicrous translation. A tough thing to balance.

Also not too far off topic, I hope: does anyone here have the Jessop (Telarc) recording of the Brahms requiem, sung in English (as translated by Robert Shaw)? How is it? Amazon.com

When I was in college we sang the piece using a different English translation, and it went OK; but it seemed to me to diminish the music a bit. Brahms' notes and rhythms had to be adjusted here and there to force the English to fit. And, the text is repeated enough anyway (and translations provided in the printed program for the concert...and they're all biblical quotations, anyway, material most of the audience would already know)...such a translation out of the German didn't seem to me all that necessary. But our director's point was that the title "A German Requiem" should emphasize not the German itself, but Brahms' desire that the work was notably a vernacular requiem instead of one in Latin. So, to translate it to the local vernacular of English made some sense.

As for Bach's music, another anecdote: I was in a performance of the St John Passion (BWV 245), playing organ continuo, with an Evangelist who had sung the role (and had conducted the whole piece) both in German and English on different occasions. We were doing it in German, this time. In rehearsal, he demonstrated to us how silly and trite it really could sound to sing the English words "and cut his right EAR off!" in the part where Peter wields his sword. (Recitative, #4.)

Since then, I have heard a performance of the SJP (BWV 245) with a different English translation: Jeannette Sorrell's, with Apollo's Fire (Eclectra 2038, recorded in 1999). And it can work well, as demonstrated by that recording. It's still considerably changed from Bach's notes and rhythms, to force the translation to work; seems "foreign" in that way, musically, even though the sung language makes a more immediate impact to me in my native language.

In the booklet, Sorrell has written the following paragraph: "Why in English? This recording is intended for the thousands of English speakers who, until now, have been unable to fully connect with Bach's masterpiece due to the barrier of a foreign tongue. It is clear that Bach wrote in the language of his audience and intended the text to be understood. Martin Luther was also adamant that the Biblical texts be available in the language of the people, and his careful translation of the Bible is what Bach and his contemporaries read. Bach was a church musician in the Lutheran tradition, and he chose every note to reflect the word that is sung. I am convinced that the idea of presenting this work in a language not understood by the majority of the audience would have seemed absurd to Bach. It is true, unfortunately, that English does not sound as beautiful as the original German when sung. But a listener who is dependent on reading a printed translation while listening will lose the immediate dramatic impact of the piece. It was customary in the 18th century for operas and oratorios to be translated when taken to a different country. Ideally, we North Americans and Brits would all be taught sufficient German, Italian and French in school to be able to understand the great works of Western art. Since that is not the case, I hope that this recording may fill a void for the many Anglophones who want to deepen their acquaintance with Bach's Passion music. For those who wish to explore this work in the original language, there are dozens of fine period-instrument recordings already on the market."

Sorrell also explains her careful choice of versions of the music: a blended version of readings from the Neue Bach-Ausgabe and the older Bach-Gesellschaft, to resolve differences in the interpretation of ambivalent markings (slurs, etc), and taking seriously the different versions from Bach's own several documented performances. That is, trying to find and recreate Bach's intentions as both a vernacular piece and through his own series of revisions.

See also: http://www.apollosfire.org/CDs_Merchandise.htm

Bernard Nys wrote (December 8, 2003):
SMP & SJP in English

Thanks Brad for your answer. What's your opinion about the SMP (BWV 244) in English by Leonard Bernstein and the SJP (BWV 245) in English by Benjamin Britten ?

Bernstein's SMP (BWV 244) is my all time favourite and it's a translation !!!!! I'm sure it's possible. It's like the Bible : I like very much the Mass in Latin, but only the Nicaea Credo is sung in Latin (cfr. B-minor Mass (BWV 232) by Bach). And isn't there a Messiah in German (by Händel ?) ? Even Bach translated Pergolesi's Stabat Mater ! My point is : if the translation is well done and if the musicians are good, a GREATEST CANTATA HITS will be a most delightful and enjoyable CD. It would be a big challenge for this group to make such a compilation of greatest hits, to translate them and thave them recorded by someone like Herreweghe, Koopman,...

Thanks again for any help...

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (December 8, 2003):
Bernard Nys wrote:
< I like very much the Mass in Latin, but only the Nicaea Credo is sung in Latin (cfr. B-minor Mass (BWV 232) by Bach). >
So is the rest of the Mass except for a specifically German Mass e.g. Schubert

< And isn't there a Messiah in German (by Händel ?) ? >
Reorchestrated by Mozart

< Even Bach translated Pergolesi's Stabat Mater ! >
Not true, Bach set a different text to Pergolesi's music, a psalm text.

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 8, 2003):
[To Bernard Nys] The topic of singing Bach's vocal works in English has been discussed couple of times in the BCML & BRML.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/English.htm

Bach's music has been transformed so many times, and in most of the cases retained its strength. I see no fault with your idea of singing Bach's Greatest Cantata Hits in non-German languages. If it helps to spread the message of Bach's music, it deserves a try.

 

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (September 27, 2004):
While looking at the current thread of titles of messages, I noticed one blaring error. It seems common nowadays to call the tune "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring". This is totally wrong, and an error in translation. The tune is actually called "Jesu bleibet meine Freude", which when accurately translated reads "Jesus remaineth my joy" or "Jesus stayeth my joy" or (for more modern language) "Jesus remainss my joy" or "Jesus stays my joy". So please, when talking about this tune, use the correct translation.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (September 27, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] As you may or may not be aware, this is the metrical translation-and it's the way the tune has become famous in the English speaking world in all it's various convoluted and not-so-convoluted contexts. I guess this convulted nature of the millions and millions of piano and organ etc. arrangements (most of them probably being very nearly exactly the same) warrants your complaint, but who's to say that the metrical translation is wrong? Does "Sleepers wake: the voice commands" sound particularly wrong? (True, it does sound quite euphemised for lack of a better word, but still works).

Well that's my 2 cents...

Dale Gedcke wrote (September 27, 2004):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] The loose translation of "Jesus bleibet meine Freude" (Jesus remains my joy) into the established standard title, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" in the English-speaking world points out a typical problem in translating a song into another language. The phonetics of the translated words must match the pattern of the notes in the music. This often results in an inexact translation. If you want to understand the exact meaning of a song, you need to hear or read it in the original language.

Peter Smaill wrote (September 27, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Of course the translation of "Jesu bleibet meine Freunde" as "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring"is indeed a title only suggested approximately, but it scans to the metre of the music, unlike any of the more literal translations. It is verse xvii of Martin Jahn's hymn, "Jesu, meiner seelen Wonne" (1661).

Robertson in his survey of the Cantatas does not condemn the derivation; Whittaker notes it , and gives a full and near literal translation but reserves his complaints for the sentimental manner of many renditions .Nor does Malcolm Boyd in his encyclopaedic Oxford Companion bother to criticise the rendering of the title in this form .

If there is a point to the contrast with the literal meaning of the words, it lies in the Lutheran perception of a personal relationship to the second person of the Trinity; the commonly adopted English usage makes an abstract statement about Jesus rather than a personal one .

If we are concerned to encourage our neighbours to love and enjoy Bach, should we start by a critique of the harmless English translation of perhaps the only thing (apart from Wachet auf ) they know of the cantatas (even if they do not know it comes from this treasure trove )?

Eric Bergerud wrote (September 27, 2004):
[To Dale Gedcke] Just for kicks, has anyone attempted to record an English version of any of the Bach cantatas? It would be news to me. I know there's an English SMP (BWV 244) (by Decca as I recall), but can't remember seeing a cantata. I do have Charles Mackerras' version of Handel's Julius Caeser in English - it works pretty well really. A Bach cantata might be much tougher, but it could be interesting. (BTW: I think from the theological stand-point, changing "my" to "ours" is a very big leap, or would have been considered so by an 18th Century Lutheran. That was one of the points of the Reformation.)

Paul Farseth wrote (September 28, 2004):
Eric Bergerud asks if any Bach Cantatas have been recorded in English. The answer is probably available on Aryeh's database and also by searching places like Amazon.com .

Leonard Bernstein did the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) in English, and maybe also Robert Shaw, though I'm not sure whether any Shaw recordings are available now.

[The chapel (2nd) choir at St. Olaf College in the U.S. did LPs of the two Bach passions back in the middle 1950s. A choir at California Lutheran College recorded "Wachet auf" in English in the 1960s as part of a concert LP. Robert Shaw led a broadcast (FM radio) performance of the Matthew Passion (BWV 244) in English at St. Olaf College in the early 1980s, but it may never have been released to the public as a CD. Many of the Bach motets, however, have been available on LP and CD in English (some since the 1950s) in recordings by the St. Olaf Choir and the Concordia College Choir in the U.S., though these were regional releases. ]

Gabriel Jackson wrote (September 28, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] And will you, in return, stop using German words like "Orgelwerke" and "Kantaten" (which are not titles) when writing in English?

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (September 28, 2004):
Paul Farseth wrote:
< Leonard Bernstein did the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) in English, and maybe also Robert Shaw, though I'm not sure whether any Shaw recordings are available now. >
(1) There is the Kathleen Ferrier SMP (BWV 244) (on excerpts on CD AFAIK). On LP was complete(?) and I understand why only the Ferrier portions are transferred to CD. The performance as a whole was pretty inane. (2) OTOH I find Bernstein's abridged English recording very fetching indeed without any of the soloists being supreme. As an aside there is a pirate DLvdE (Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde) with Jennie Tourel in English and I find it terrific. There is also according to Aryeh's site a MP in Swedish. Has anyone heard it?

Eric Bergerud wrote (September 28, 2004):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] I was wrong about a Decca performance in English of SMP (BWV 244), or so it seems anyway. There is, however, an English performance of the St. John Passion (BWV 245) conducted by Benjamin Britten. The recording is still in stock on Amazon and you can listen to excerpts of every cut which is pretty rare. Actually sounds pretty good and at $17 I might pick it up. I've been through Amazon's collection of Bach cantatas several times and have missed any English language versions if they exist. (I did stumble on one very odd find a few days back: Moreschi - The Last Castrato. The original recording dates from about 1900 and shows its age. Even includes a song sung by Leo XIII who died in 1903. Moreschi was over 60 when he recorded this. Yet the notes are still there. No question that the sound is very strange: more boy-like than soprano I'd say. Anyway, all the cuts on this album also can be listened to on-line. No insight into Bach here, but Händel is a different story.)

John Pike wrote (September 28, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] You are quite correct, of course, David, and I am sure everyone is aware of this. I referred to "loose translation" when referring to it. The piece has been arranged by many people over the years and has been given the title "Jesu, Joy of Man's desiring" in popular circles. Incorrect, of course, but understood commonly, and faithful in spirit to the sentiments of the original title.

Johan van Veen wrote (September 28, 2004):
[To Eric Bergerud] Just for the record: there is a more recent - even 'HIP'- recording of the SJP (BWV 245) in English: Apollo's Fire, directed by Jeannette Sorrell on Eclectra (ECCD 2044).

Teri Noel Towe wrote (September 29, 2004):
Recordings of Bach Cantatas sung in English

Eric Bergerud wrote:
< Just for kicks, has anyone attempted to record an English version of any of the Bach cantatas? It would be news to me. I know there's an English SMP (BWV 244) (by Decca as I recall), but can't remember seeing a cantata. I do have Charles Mackerras' version of Handel's Julius Caeser in English - it works pretty well really. A Bach cantata might be much tougher, but it could be interesting. (BTW: I think from the theological stand-point, changing "my" to "ours" is a very big leap, or would have been considered so by an 18th Century Lutheran. That was one of the points of the Reformation.) >
A partial list:

BWV 50 - "Now Shall The Grace" - Hugh Allen, conductor, 1928
BWV 70 - "Watch ye, Pray ye! - opening chorus - Hugh Allen, conductor, 1928.
BWV 70 - Aria - "Lift up your heads on high" - Gervase Elwes, tenor; F. B. Kiddle, piano, ca. 1919
BWV 227 - "Jesu, Joy, and Treasure" - Kennedy Scott and the Bach Cantata Club - 1927

BWV 11 and BWV 67 "Hold in Affection" - Reginald Jacques, conductor - 1949

The first recording of a chorus from the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) is in English. The recording of the final chorus, to the words "We Bow Our Heads" (The Stanford edition of 1910 was used.), was made on March 3, 1926.

There also are several arias from the secular cantatas that were recorded in English in the 1920s and early 1930s.

This is just a beginning, of course, but I hope that it will be of help and of interest.

PS: Many, but not all, of these recordings are included in the long-delayed but soon to be released 2003 American Bach Society Membership Gift, a 4 CD compilation entitled "Bach in Britain in the 1920s - Historic British Bach Recordings, 1912 - 1933."

Teri Noel Towe wrote (September 29, 2004):
Bach in English - SMP and SJP

< Leonard Bernstein did the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) in English, and maybe also Robert Shaw, though I'm not sure whether any Shaw recordings are available now. >
The Leonard Bernstein is severely abridged. Robert Shaw recorded the St. John Passion (BWV 245) in English, not the Saint Matthew (BWV 244).

There is a private recording of the Saint Matthew (BWV 244), complete and uncut, in English, conducted by Pablo Casals, with Ernst Haefliger as the Evangelist.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (September 29, 2004):
BWV 78 in English

< A choir at California Lutheran College recorded "Wachet auf" in English in the 1960s as part of a concert LP. >
A recording of BWV 78 in English, by the Bach Choir of Bethlehem under Ifor Jones, appeared on RCA Victor in the 1940s.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (September 29, 2004):
LP English SMP recordings

< I was wrong about a Decca performance in English of SMP (BWV 244), or so it seems anyway. There >
I have the recollection that there was a complete SMP (BWV 244) in English that appeared during the LP era. It may have been under the direction of David Willcocks. It did not have wide circulation.

And the Ernest Macmillan recording, made in Toronto in the '50s, is in English.

Uri Golomb wrote (September 29, 2004):
Teri Noel Towe wrote:
< I have the recollection that there was a complete SMP (BWV 244) in English that appeared during the LP era. It may have been under the direction of David Willcocks. It did not have wide circulation. >
Willcocks indeed recorded a complete SMP (BWV 244) in English for Decca, with Robert Tear as Evangelist and John Shirley-Quirk as Christus, in 1978. I have it on a CD issued by ASV on its Quicksilver label (see: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV244-Rec4.htm); I'm not sure whether it's still available. This recording represents the annual performances in English by the Bach Choir, which Willcocks conducted for at least 20 years, AFAIK.

The work's very first recording, by Serge Koussevitzky, was also in English (see: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV244-Rec1.htm).

The Jacuques recording in English (also listed on: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV244-Rec1.htm) is nearly complete. It represents an earlier phase in the Bach Choir annual performance tradition.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 1, 2004):
Teri Noel Towe wrote:
< There is a private recording of the Saint Matthew, complete and uncut, in English, conducted by Pablo Casals, with Ernst Haefliger as the Evangelist. >
WHERE?!?!?! Sign me up to get a pressing of that one! The anecdotal descriptions in David Blum's book are so tantalizing........

 

Continue on Part 2

Bach in English: Part 1 | Part 2 | Bach in Other Languages

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Last update: ýDecember 23, 2015 ý21:55:51