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Flute in Bach's Vocal Works
Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Bach's "flutes" commentary

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 19, 2006):
Forwarded Message From: Nancy Nourse:
If you wish to pass this on to your chat group, please feel free to do so, but do indicate that I am currently doing some 18th century research myself and do not wish to to be quoted yet in print from this email. Thanks.

What seems to be missing in the discussion flute/recorder below is a sense of national preferences in taste. It's around 1700 in Boussey-Couture when the major modifications were made to the transverse flute--the conical bore, the addition of the D# key and the multiple joints improving not only pitch but also the accuracy of the turning process in manufacturing the instrument. Therefore the French were the first to benefit from the changes. In the French court, the flutists Descouteaux and Philibert were particular favourites of the king and in Descouteaux' obituary (1728) he was extolled for his fine transverse flute playing. Certainly by the 1720's in Louis' court the traverso had truly supplanted the flûte à bec in opera/ballets as well as in chamber music. Corrette even mentions that there were those who were playing the small transverse flute at the octave (baroque piccolo) by 1735.

We must remember too that the viol (and recorder) consort(s) remained in vogue in England for more than fifty years beyond its (their) popularity on the continent. Even with the restoration when Charles II brought to England the fashions of the French court, the tastes of the English commoner were not immediately transformed. It was around this time, I believe that the adjective "common" became attached to the fipple flute; does the word "common" therefore carry with it an upper class flavour of snobbery as the term can still suggest in the U.K. today? As English readers, we tend to know well the contents of Burney and Hawkins who, despite their travels, discuss the use of the "flute" with a contemporary English bias and are less familiar with or supportive of the day-to-day proceedings at Sans-Souci or Versailles.

Of course the situation was far different in England where the old-fashioned taste for consorts still held in general tastes. Here the popular "flute" was the recorder, where it actually had a different name, unlike its counterparts in the Low countries, Germany, Spain or France. Even to this day, these countries' languages only use adjectives or descriptive phrases to define the distinctions. Likely there was only a term for the generic flute, because it was all that the people felt was necessary. This semantic problem of a completely different term clouding the close relationship between flute types persists to the present day, not only with the flute/recorder issue but also in the size distinction of the piccolo. The bass flute, one octave lower is still a flute, (and even the contrabass flute at two octaves) but the piccolo, one octave higher is routinely treated as though it were a different type of instrument! Bereft of its semantic inclusion as a flute, the piccolo has been frequently ignored by modern flutists in repertoire, historical research and performance. At the same time a recorder is simply a recorder that comes in multiple sizes, with the descant, the one closest in range to the modern piccolo, the overwhelmingly prevalant one. Ah, the power of language!

Consider the one word in English for snow and the multiple and varied terms that exist for it in Inuit tongues. It would seem that European tastes for flutes could also fall into that category. When an importance is attached to the type of flute being used, a qualifying adjective or defining phrase is added. In Jacob Van Eyck's Der Fluyten Lust-hof (1649) fingering charts are included for both the dwarsfluit and the handfluit, so that the user of the publication may select the correct aid for playing a specific type of flute. However the title likely remains ambiguous in its type of flute, because it was not essential that this music would be played on only one type of flute. (Certainly it would be in the publisher's interest to keep the purchasing audience as large as possible as well.) By transposing the tunes up a fourth, these theme and variations are just as delightful on the transverse flute as they are on the recorder. Yes, transposition poses a problem for the modern flutist, but in 1649 the process was absolutely normal and expected of even the most average of amateurs.

Sky blue, cobalt blue, navy blue---we only invoke these terms when necessary. When just, plain "blue" suffices, like the colour of a hockey sweater, the stripe on a flag or a token on a game board, we do not feel the need to engage in descriptive language or even use substitute words such as turquoise, azure or teal. From our 21st century perspective, where recorder style flutes can conjure up impressions of cheap plastic descants played by whole classrooms of school kids and transverse style flutes can offer sound images of the likes of Sir James Galway, is it any wonder that we feel we need clearer distinctions for the term flute when the current gap is so wide? Neither of these possibilities existed in eighteenth century experience--not the mass-produced public school teaching tool or the mechanized Boehm silver flute in the hands of a leading recording artist. In light of the much smaller, eighteenth century differences between their flute types, the most important issue was more likely finding an available, capable player to perform an obligato in an aria.

To this day we still find oboists in period orchestras, setting down their usual instrument in order to pick up the flute that they can play as a secondary which is most often the recorder (but now of the appropriate size/range and made of wood) and probably something that they began learning in grade school. Yes, the "common" flute is even moreso the recorder in present times, and with our widespread university education focus on virtuosity development on a single instrument, it is unlikely that we will find many competent doublers of baroque oboe and flute as would have existed in the eighteenth century. While the fuss over which type of flute is meant, it is important to eliminate both of the previously stated 20th - 21st century concepts of flute and recorder, for to select one of these in the name of authenticity is about as virtuous as choosing a clarinet or saxophone.

Bach's Brandenburg Concerto V (1719) appears to be his first music written for traversa. However Bach was in Dresden in 1717 and very well might have met some of the outstanding virtuoso flutists there: Quantz, Blockwitz, Friese and Buffardin. J.S. Bach could not have been unfamiliar with the transverse flute; his brother, Johann Jacob, an oboist, while as a P.O.W. in Constantinople in 1913, studied flute with Buffardin. Telemann by 1718 was publishing his own music for transverse flute (Six Trios including one for violin, flûte traverse et B.C.) Heinechen was by this date composing difficult transverse flute parts, even in the remote flat keys, for the superb flutists of the Dresden opera.

More up-to date flute sources I would recommend would be Ardal Powell's (2002) The Flute. Yale U. Press, and Rachel Brown's (2003) The Early Flute,

Cambridge U Press. I hope this helps.

------ End of Forwarded Message

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 20, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>> ------ Forwarded Message
From: Nancy Nourse:
[I]do not wish to to be quoted yet in print from this email. Thanks....
Bach's Brandenburg Concerto V (1719) appears to be his first music written for traversa.... More up-to date flute sources I would recommend would be Ardal Powell's (2002) The Flute. Yale U. Press, and Rachel Brown's (2003) The Early Flute, Cambridge U Press. I hope this helps.<<

The 5th Brandenburg was, according to the NBA KB VII/2 p. 28, the last of the Brandenburgs to be completed shortly before the date given on the dedicatory page of the 6 Brandenburgs (Marc24,1721). The most reasonable assumption by experts who have examined this is that the 5th with its Traversa part was composed in the Winter of 1720/1721. A congratulatory cantata BWV 173a, although no specific date is established is somewhat more likely to have been composed before this time, beginning in 1719 to the end of the Cöthen period.

Tom Hens wrote (March 23, 2006):
Douglas Cowling forwarded the following:
< From: Nancy Nourse:
<snip>
What seems to be missing in the discussion flute/recorder below is a sense of national preferences in taste. >

I'd like to add: another obvious problem that doesn't seem to have been touched upon (I might have missed something, of course) is that we're not just dealing with national cultural differences, but a lot of the time with people using a foreign language. Instrument designations and title pages in general all over Europe were commonly written in Italian, less often in French, often in mishmashes of several languages, whatever the language of the composer or publisher was. As a result, one can find lots of atrocious errors against the most basic rules of Italian and French grammar. One certainly can't just assume that a German composer or publisher using the word "flauto" meant the same thing by it as an Italian of the time.

<snip>
< It was around this time, I believe that the adjective "common" became attached to the fipple flute; does the word "common" therefore carry with it an upper class flavour of snobbery as the term can still suggest in the U.K. today? >

That is an unanswerable question, but instances of "common" being used without any flavour of snobbery ("common cold", "common nightshade", "common land", ...) seem to far outnumber those with a derogatory connotation.

<snip>
< Consider the one word in English for snow and the multiple and varied terms that exist for it in Inuit tongues. >

This is OT, but if this is the basis of something that is at some point going to be published, it might be a good idea to avoid repeating this linguistic urban legend. It has become so widespread that someone even devoted a whole book to it, "The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax" (Geoffrey K. Pullum, University of Chicago Press, 1991). Just google on something like "eskimo words snow", and you'll find plenty of hits on the first page explaining why it's a legend (and why Inuit isn't the same thing as Eskimo). One fairly brief article that summarizes things quite nicely is: http://www.derose.net/steve/guides/snowwords/. The author, a computational linguist, also explains the fundamental impossibility of counting "different words" in the first place.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 28, 2006):
< (...) Bach's Brandenburg Concerto V (1719) appears to be his first music written for traversa. However Bach was in Dresden in 1717 and very well might have met some of the outstanding virtuoso flutists there: Quantz, Blockwitz, Friese and Buffardin. J.S. Bach could not have been unfamiliar with the transverse flute; his brother, Johann Jacob, an oboist, while as a P.O.W. in Constantinople in 1713, studied flute with Buffardin. Telemann by 1718 was publishing his own music for transverse flute (Six Trios including one for violin, flûte traverse et B.C.) Heinechen was by this date composing difficult transverse flute parts, even in the remote flat keys, for the superb flutists of the Dresden opera.
More up-to date flute sources I would recommend would be Ardal Powell's (2002) The Flute. Yale U. Press, and Rachel Brown's (2003) The Early Flute, Cambridge U Press. I hope this helps. >

All good points.

Home this week from traveling, I've had a chance to look into my copy of the John Solum book I had recommended. (The Early Flute, Oxford, 1992.) He traces the "baroque flute" (transverse, one-keyed) back to development in about 1670, France, and cites the first orchestral example as Lully's "Le Triomphe de l'Amour", 1681. Solum's footnotes recommend as "the most ambitious attempt to document the development of the baroque flute" the research of Jane Bowers, along with some other sources.

For the dating of Bach's flute music he cites Robert Marshall, whose essay I happen to have here. "The compositions for solo flute: a reconsideration of their authenticity and chronology," chapter 12 in his fine book The music of Johann Sebastian Bach: the sources, the style, the significance (Schirmer, 1989). For the earliest Bach flute piece, Marshall presents a well-reasoned conjecture that the unaccompanied partita BWV 1013 was probably composed c1718 for Buffardin. The unaccompanied version of the C major sonata BWV 1033 might also have been composed around this same time, "or even slightly earlier".

The first use of the transverse flute by Bach in a cantata was either BWV 173a or BWV 184a: sometime in 1720-22. Marshall develops this dating more fully in footnote #47.

The first of Bach's Leipzig cantatas to use it was BWV 67, on April 16 1724. Then in May Bach recycled BWV 173a and BWV 184a creating the cantatas we now know as BWV 173 and BWV 184.

Then, from July 23 1724 forward, quite a few cantatas use the transverse flute: BWV 107, BWV 94, BWV 101, BWV 113, BWV 78, BWV 99, BWV 8, BWV 130, BWV 114, BWV 96, BWV 180, BWV 115, BWV 26. (Marshall gives a table collating these.) After that series, "the flute disappears once again until Epiphany, that is, 25 January 1725 (BWV 123), and only turns up sporadically thereafter."

Marshall puts most of the non-vocal flute music into the Leipzig years: challenging older biographies that had assigned this music to Köthen. "In brief, the assumption that Bach wrote all or almost all of his instrumental chamber and ensemble music in Köthen is, in fact, nothing but an assumption. The notion may have started with Spitta, who apparently expanded on the report in the obituary prepared by Emanuel Bach and Johann Friedrich Agricola, and repeated by Forkel, that Bach composed most of his organ music in Weimar. Spitta elaborated this into the admittedly very elegant conceit that Bach's artistic career followed a rational plan: the bulk of the organ music composed in Weimar, the keyboard and chamber works in Köthen, the church music in Leipzig. I suspect that we may be laboring under the burden of an unchallenged, comfortable myth that might have been keeping generations of Bach scholars from noticing rather obvious clues in the sources themselves."

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 28, 2006):
Brad Lehman wrote:
< The first of Bach's Leipzig cantatas to use it was BWV 67, on April 16 1724. >
Thanks again for the previous and new detail and references. I am curious about one additional point:

According to Wolff (B:LM, p. 292 and n. 89, p. 495), "In BWV 245, Bach apparently used transverse flutes for the first time in his Leipzig church music." (First performance, April 7, 1724).

This appears consistent with Marshall (specific to cantatas), but can you confirm, or not, the point? If Wolff is correct, it makes an even more impressive string of music beginning with SJP (BWV 245) and continuing through the cantatas you cited from Marshall.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 28, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>For the earliest Bach flute piece, Marshall presents a well-reasoned conjecture that the unaccompanied partita BWV 1013 was probably composed c1718 for Buffardin. The unaccompanied version of the C major sonata BWV 1033 might also have been composed around this same time, "or even slightly earlier". The first use of the transverse flute by Bach in a cantata was either BWV 173a or BWV 184a: sometime in 1720-22.... The first of Bach's Leipzig cantatas to use it was BWV 67, on April 16 1724.<<
Ulrich Prinz in his most recent summary of all the research pertaining to the instruments used by Bach ["J.S. Bachs Instrumentarium" Stuttgart, 2005] also has included Marshall's studies (on Bach's use of the Traversa) from 1978-1981 in his bibliography. There are some points of disagreement on the chronology of these works which might mean that some of Marshall's reasonable conjectures have not withstood the test of time (nor the scrutiny of research since the very early 80s):

Prinz gives the following dates of origin or first performance as:

BWV 1013 Köthen 1722-23
BWV 1033 Leipzig, possibly an adaptation, c. 1731

BWV 173a Köthen, possibly Dec. 12, 1717, but also any time later until the end of 1722
BWV 184a Köthen 1717-1723

BWV 67 Leipzig, April 16, 1724 (1st use of Traversa in Leipzig) This appears to be the date that is practically unassailable and marks the first time Bach used the Traversa in Leipzig.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 28, 2006):
< According to Wolff (B:LM, p. 292 and n. 89, p. 495), "In BWV 245, Bach apparently used transverse flutes for the first time in his Leipzig church music." (First performance, April 7, 1724).
This appears consistent with Marshall (specific to cantatas), but can you confirm, or not, the point? >

Confirmed that April 7 1724 was the first performance of the St John (BWV 245), but: "No score and only a few of the parts survive for the first version, and it is not known, for instance, to what extent Bach employed the flutes." (John Butt, dictionary entry "St John Passion" in the 1999 Oxford Composer Companions: Bach)

< If Wolff is correct, it makes an even more impressive string of music beginning with SJP (BWV 245) and continuing through the cantatas you cited from Marshall. >
Indeed: if Bach used any flutes in the 1724 version of SJP (BWV 245), it's the start of a very impressive run.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 29, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Prinz in the 1999 Oxford Composer Companion "Flute" article concurred that Bach's earliest Leipzig use of a flute was in the St John, 7 April 1724.
Let's not haggle too much about the mere dating of Bach's flute music. How does it directly affect our enjoyment of the music, if some piece was written a year or two earlier or later than somebody might think? >

I certainly agree with not haggling too much. For me, it does add to the listening enjoyment, especially in the context of a chronological discussion, to know or ponder:
(1) Which instrumentation and compositional techniques were newly introduced
(2) Whether such novelties were in response to the availability of particularly outstanding players

That said, am I overlooking something? I have just noticed that the first use of transverse flute in Leipzig appears to be in BWV 181, newly composed, and first performed on Feb. 13, 1724 (Wolff, B:LM, p. 272). Is the use of transverse flute not definitely specified here? I repeat and agree: certainly not worth haggling over, but now that we have gone this far, I am curious.

In any event, I think that all sources agree transverse flute appears in Leipzig early in 1724, in response to the presence of Bach's student, Wild?

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 29, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>That said, am I overlooking something? I have just noticed that the first use of transverse flute in Leipzig appears to be in BWV 181, newly composed, and first performed on Feb. 13, 1724 (Wolff, B:LM, p.272).
Is the use of transverse flute not definitely specified here? I repeat and agree: certainly not worth haggling over, but now that we have gone this far, I am curious.<<

Prinz lists the performance of BWV 181 on Feb 13, 1724 as "ohne Traversa" ("no transverse flute").

>>In any event, I think that all sources agree transverse flute appears in Leipzig early in 1724, in response to the presence of Bach's student, Wild?<<
It appears so.

I may have mistakenly omitted important information in my previous post:

From Prinz:
1st use of the traversa by Bach ever: BWV 173a, BWV 184a, BWV 194a (Köthen)
1st use of the traversa in Leipzig: BWV 245 April 7, 1724 (no wind parts available for this performance)
1st use of the traversa in a cantata in Leipzig: BWV 67 April 16, 1724

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 29, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>All it does is to insert a smidgen of unreasonable doubt against Marshall, as a convenient bias, while choosing and confirming Prinz arbitrarily as a supposedly more reliable authority.<<
Neither interpretation on your part is correct. Prinz is not being confirmed as a better authority per se, but rather has a greater probability of including the results of all the 'sifting and winnowing' that has taken place since Marshall's information and conjectures were published in the late 70s and early 80s (with a few additional footnote changes later).

>>For example, in footnote 53 of this flute article he [Marshall] strengthens his point that BWV 1013 predates Leipzig, by re-emphasizing the dating of its first extant manuscript (which was c1722-3). But, at that, he's not stopping with any glib observation that the manuscript date of this copy necessarily implies the piece was new at the time. He's responding to a 1985 article by Marcello Castellani, that Buffardin didn't necessarily have to be involved in the piece's inception c1718; it "should have been playable by any professional flautist of the time" (Castellani's observation) and therefore could have been at any time later than 1718, probably Leipzig. And then Marshall gives part of Castellani's argument the dope-slap by pointing out the date of the manuscript as before Bach's move to Leipzig. (Instead of rejecting his own c1717-8 conjecture wherein Buffardin was probably Bach's first opportunity to hear a really first-rate flautist,thereby inspiring the piece, Marshall therefore implies that he still believed in 1989 he was right about it being a pre-Leipzig piece...whetBuffardin was involved or not.)<<

I believe this is called 'face-saving" and possible compromise since Marshall now emphasizes another aspect (about the pre-Leipzig dating) rather than continuing to insist on his Buffardin conjecture. Swack's reference to the unidiomatic writing for traversa in the 1st mvt. comes directly from the NBA KB VI/3 where it is pointed out that mvt. 1 is one of the reasons why it is possible to surmise that this mvt. and perhaps the rest of the partita as well were not originally written for flute at all. Prinz correctly lists this work as having its origin (possibly as music for a different instrument) in Köthen, but that the copy [representing a transcription] was created and performed [for the first time on traversa] in 1722-1723. As such this work is not a good candidate for being Bach's earliest composition for traversa.

Swack's method of supplying proof for her theory (that the 1st mvt. could have been playable on a traversa) is interesting. As a player, she tried it out and discovered that at a slow tempo with careful breathing it is nevertheless playable. Imagine if we could reliably use this mvt. as proof that HIP performers are generally trying to play what they consider fast mvts. much too fast! Playability of the traversa will then act as a brake for performers who have been desiring nothing but faster and faster tempi.

>>Way back in c1991 I made a harpsichord solo arrangement of that flute partita 1013, starting from the NBA reading and then harmonizing/elaborating it through three or four drafts, along with transposing it into D minor and adding some bits of counterpoint while passing the melody from hand to hand.<<

This is certainly to be lauded and encouraged since this work was probably not for traversa to begin with.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 29, 2006):
< Swack's method of supplying proof for her theory (that the 1st mvt. could have been playable on a traversa) is interesting. As a player, she tried it out and discovered that at a slow tempo with careful breathing it is nevertheless playable. Imagine if we could reliably use this mvt. as proof that HIP performers are generally trying to play what they consider fast mvts. much too fast! Playability of the traversa will then act as a brake for performers who have been desiring nothing but faster and faster tempi. >
"Imagine" if frogs had wings, like some jumping insects do; they wouldn't bump their tushes so hard when they try a too-adventurous leap.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 29, 2006):
Brad Lehman wrote:
< In BWV 181, according to the BWV, the flute comes into the remake of this piece in the 1740s; not as early as 1724.
<< In any event, I think that all sources agree transverse flute appears in
Leipzig early in 1724, in response to the presence of Bach's student, Wild? >>
< Marshall's article mentions Wild as a strong possibility, but doesn't pin it all on that (and then there's some remark by him about how the music is more important anyway than identifying the player's name). Prinz in the OCC sounds a bit more firm that it was probably Wild, but he too leaves it open. >

Thomas Braatz wrote: (3/28/06)
< Prinz lists the performance of BWV 181 on Feb 13, 1724 as "ohne Traversa" ("no transverse flute"). >
Thank you both for helpful information. In my case, that means nothing more (or less!) than adding to my listening enjoyment. I could speculate further about what Bach was doing in BWV 181, but like an adventurous reptile (not further identified, by me, at this time), I have scraped my tush a few times on hard landings. I enjoy BCW, because if one asks a question, one gets the answer. Sometimes a bit more, but that is OK, IMO. Too much information is like too much business, or money. Better than the alternative.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 29, 2006):
<< Swack's method of supplying proof for her theory (that the 1st mvt. could have been playable on a traversa) is interesting. As a player, she tried it out and discovered that at a slow tempo with careful breathing it is nevertheless playable. Imagine if we could reliably use this mvt. as proof that HIP performers are generally trying to play what they consider fast mvts. much too fast! Playability of the traversa will then act as a brake for performers who have been desiring nothing but faster and faster tempi. >>
< "Imagine" if frogs had wings, like some jumping insects do; they wouldn't bump their tushes so hard when they try a too-adventurous leap. >
I suppose I should clarify my remark about amphibians that are an entirely different species.

Obviously, I agree that musicologists should in general have at least one foot, and preferably both, planted firmly in the ability to do the music themselves as part of the analysis offered. (Remember--I'm the guy who insists that anyone presuming to judge a tuning method for Bach's WTC should be able to tune a harpsichord himself/herself in 15 minutes and play the whole WTC, to know where the failure points if any might be, before writing a single word of criticism. Without that hands-on practice, criticism against practical methods is nothing but empty speculation!) That's doubly or triply so for pseudo-musicologists who don't actually play the music or do any academically credible research, but who simply speculate about things endlessly and look things up in books, to look smarter in public than musicians and scholars--and to offer free advice as to the way everybody responsible should do their jobs better.

Several points above just seemed so obvious to me, and at the same time so blisteringly patronizing against "HIP performers" as a general category of straw-bogeymen, that I had to say something. The frogs comment came first to mind. The notion that we're supposed to "imagine" all endemically "HIP" problems can be solved by simply listening to the advice of a non-"HIP performer" having an epiphany!

Is the first movement of BWV 1013 "playable on a traverso", i.e. a one-keyed Baroque flute? Of course it is. No one needs to "prove" that as a "theory". It suffices to simply play the music on one, and listen to the results, as dozens of fine performers on that instrument have done. Swack's presentation in the _Oxford Composer Companion_ is not any new "theory" that the piece is "nevertheless" playable, nor does it claim to be anything like that; it's only been cast that way by a member of this list. Flautists on various types of hardware have been playing the BWV 1013 Allemande for generations, whether they privately believe that Bach was mentally challenged for writing it, or not.

Jeanne Swack's passage in the article actually says this, about BWV 1013: "While the Allemande, with its nearly unbroken succession of semiquavers and ruthless ascent to a high a''' at the end, has been especially singled out as 'unidiomatic', since it appears to lack breathing-places, the movement does lend itself to successful performance if it is not played too fast, allowing both for unobtrusive breaths and for the movement's complex implied counterpoint to be heard." (p175, OCC article "Flute Sonatas and Partitas") And, elsewhere in that book, Swack's mini-bio mentions that she is a performer on the Baroque traverso.

Where is any implication that it's endemically a "HIP" problem to play this music "too fast"? It's not. That's only in the presentation of people who are eager to kick "HIP" (historically informed performance) in the head at every opportunity. Straw-bogeymen who allegedly "desire nothing" but to play the music too fast, and spoil Bach's intentions, and yadda yadda yadda any other ignoble priorities that would put such musicians beneath contempt.

Let's be at least somewhat empirical here. By my current quick count, I have the following recordings of BWV 1013: Frans Brüggen, Sandra Miller, Wilbert Hazelzet (two different recordings), Marc Hantai, Jed Wentz, Barthold Kuijken, Dan Laurin (recorder), Leendert de Jonge (modern flute), and Jean-Pierre R(two different recordings, both modern flute). And several on non-winds, which don't really count for the purpose of this; and I play the piece myself in my harpsichord transcription, which also doesn't count. Now, of all those flute players above--most of whom are indeed using a Baroque traverso--who plays in any way that could be considered too fast? Who approaches Ludicrous Speed (thank you, Mel Brooks and "Spaceballs")? Rampal, both times, is much faster than any of the others. Wentz starts off at a similar tempo to Rampal's, but he bends it a lot more at the phrase-endings. Everybody else in this collection plays more slowly than those.

What is there to be proven in a "theory" that the piece is playable? What sparks the patronizing assessment, "As a player, she tried it out and discovered that at a slow tempo with careful breathing it is nevertheless playable"? All flute players try to play their music with careful breathing, do they not? The job of a performer of music, at any tempo, is to let the music sound convincing with the choices that have been made (hardware, phrasing, breathing, tempo, etc).

So, who are these straw-bogeymen "HIP performers" who "desire nothing but faster and faster tempi"? Who needs to be compelled to ride the "brake"? On what criterion, other than the wishes of a record-collector who would offer free lectures against the intelligence of expert performers?

What is particularly "interesting" or even noteworthy about a musicologist actually trying out the music, the better to write about it?

And, who plays Bach like a glib and a too-fast exercise? Excusing the fine musicianship of Mr Rampal and other mainstream musicians of his generation, I believe it's pretty much a student thing: inexperienced musicians are often caught rushing (which Rampal and Wentz don't do), hard and fast to blast through all the notes. (And, growing up, I remember a friend of mine as a teenager saying many times that she wanted to play her flute just like Rampal, the god of flute-playing. It was always Rampal this, and Rampal that!) Not only in Bach's music, but just in eagerness to get the notes, or nervousness in public performance, or whatever else motivates beginning musicians. Patience and grace in musical delivery are skills to be learned, along with all the other performance skills, and it's not endemic to "HIP" approaches more than any other approaches. It's just basic musicianship--and it usually takes years of training and experience with the help of qualified teachers--to find convincing balances of calmness, vigor, poise, and fire.

Who spends more time reading Quantz's book On Playing the Flute, and taking him seriously? "HIP" Baroque specialists, or modern mainstream musicians who play entirely different instruments and only dip occasionally into Baroque repertoire?

Among other warnings against rushing, and hundreds of other pages of excellent advice about general and specific musicianship, Quantz wrote this: "Notwithstanding all the liveliness required in the Allegro, you must never lose your composure. For everything that is hurriedly played causes your listeners anxiety rather than satisfaction. Your principal goal must always be the expression of the sentiment, not quick playing. With skill a musical machine could be constructed that would play certain pieces with a quickness and exactitude so remarkable that no human being could equal it either with his fingers or with his tongue. Indeed it would excite astonishment, but it would never move you; and having heard it several times, and understood its construction, you would even cease to be astonished. Accordingly, those who wish to maintain their superiority over the machine, and wish to touch people, must play each piece with its proper fire; but they must also avoid immoderate haste, if the piece is not to lose all its agreeableness."

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 29, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Quantz wrote this: "Notwithstanding all the liveliness required in the Allegro, you must never lose your composure. For everything that is hurriedly played causes your listeners anxiety rather than satisfaction. Your principal goal must always be the expression of the sentiment, not quick playing. With skill a musical machine could be constructed that would play certain pieces with a quickness and exactitude so remarkable that no human being could equal it either with his fingers or with his tongue. Indeed it would excite astonishment, but it would never move you; and having heard it several times, and understood its construction, you would even cease to be astonished. Accordingly, those who wish to maintain their superiority over the machine, and wish to touch people, must play each piece with its proper fire; but they must also avoid immoderate haste, if the piece is not to lose all its agreeableness." <<
Thanks for sharing this wonderful quotation. Many HIP performances (such as those recorded and still be recording cantata performances) could benefit immensely from reading and pondering seriously the implications of this statement.

Add to the above the recognition of a special 'church style' of playing which differs from that of the opera/theater and chamber music.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 29, 2006):
Quantz quotes, etc

>>Quantz wrote this: "Notwithstanding all the liveliness required in the Allegro, you must never lose your composure. (...) <<
< Thanks for sharing this wonderful quotation. Many HIP performances (such as those recorded and still be >recording cantata performances) could benefit immensely from reading and pondering seriously the implications of this statement. >
Well, you're welcome; glad it's enjoyable. I don't see how "HIP performances" can "read" or "ponder" anything, and I won't make too much of the implication (with which I disagree!) that it's only "HIP performers" who allegedly need to do their homework on matters of aesthetics or musical technique.

Here's another quote I like, this time from Robert Marshall in a review written 1973: "The truly authentic performance of a composition has always been expected to be faithful to all the known hard historical facts pertaining to performance practice at the time the work was written. But we are now wise enough to realize that not all the known facts may be relevant; and many of them may even contradict one another. This touches the heart of the authenticity dispute, which is primarily a matter not of facts but of discretion. The attributes of authenticity can readily be agreed upon, but they can be so variously evaluated in relation to one another that unanimity on even the 'objective' criteria for judging a conscientious, that is, historically minded, performance of older music will never readily be attained. (...) Even if we could determine precisely what all the facts are and then go on to reconstruct the original historical situation in every detail, we still would not be justified to claim authenticity unless we had established that the particular factual constellation was intentional and not accidental."

< Add to the above the recognition of a special 'church style' of playing which differs from that of the opera/theater and chamber music. >
Yes, practical musicians who work in both venues know this (both from doing the job, and from reading Quantz and other 18th century sources that make such a distinction). We don't need to be hit over the head with it, as if we didn't.

There is also a huge range of expression that is appropriate within "church style", and it's not really the place of non-musicians outside the setting of an actual worship service to deliver a bunch of Thou Shalt Not dicta in that regard...for example, for a recording where they're not the musician or the producer. Same thing Marshall pointed out: is the factual constellation intentional (as to the actual content of a piece of music, including its improvisational and aesthetic range of what's acceptable), or is it merely accidental (e.g., any such restrictions/wishes handed down by rigid people who can't stand certain things themselves)? Even if we could somehow recreate a Leipzig church service down to the smallest detail, today, who gets to say what is disallowed in the expression for today's audience/congregation? The people who consider themselves the most pious/spiritual (which might be accompanied by the most rigid restrictiveness, lest anything disturb them)? The people who consider themselves the most objective historians? The musicians whose responsibility it is to do something appropriate, making the best of a difficult situation where every listener expects something different from every other?

Alain Bruguieres wrote (March 29, 2006):
< "Imagine" if frogs had wings, like some jumping insects do; they wouldn't bump their tushes so hard when they try a too-adventurous leap.
I suppose I should clarify my remark about amphibians that are an entirely different species. >
[To Bradley Lehman] Thank you for the clarification. I was beginning to suspect a plot to starve the french nation by means of a genetic modification of frogs which would enable them to jump so efficiently that any attempt to cach one ot those new-fangled amphibians would end up in one lamentably 'bumping one's tushes'. I am relieved to lean that what you had in mind was only bumping one's hips. At least we will retain our dignity while we die of starvation.

Continue of this discussion, see: Performance of Bach's Vocal Works - General Discussions Part 16 [General Topics]

 

Recorder, beakpipe and stockwhistle

Raymond Joly wrote (April 28, 2006):
We had long strings of mails about the various names for the various types of flutes. I do not remember anybody quoting SCHNABELFLÖTE as a German word for "recorder". A "beak-flute" then, the exact equivalent of the French "flute à bec" (as to the spelling of the latter, follow the link below).

I had never come across "Schnabelflöte" before reading Guido Adler's preface, dated 1895, to his edition of Gottlieb Muffat's COMPONIMENTI (Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Österreich, Jahrgang III/3, Band 7, 1896 -- Reprint: Graz, Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1959), p. VI.

The DEUTSCHES WÖRTERBUCH begun by the Grimm brothers states that the word is recorded in the TECHNOLOGISCHES WÖRTERBUCH by Johann Karl Gottfried Jacobsson, Berlin, 1781-1795. You may care to look up STOCKPFEIFE too. Grimms' describe it as «the common Schnabelpfeife, Schnabelflöte».

Did anybody sight any of those terms anywhere around 1685-1750?

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 28, 2006):
Raymond Joly wrote:
>>We had long strings of mails about the various names for the various types of flutes. I do not remember anybody quoting SCHNABELFLÖTE as a German word for "recorder". A "beak-flute" then, the exact equivalent of the French "flute à bec" (as to the spelling of the latter, follow the link below)....Did anybody sight any of those terms anywhere around 1685-1750?<<
You have checked the important sources. From my reading I am quite certain that this term "Schnabelflöte" was not used even though it was a simple translation from the French into German.

Here is the closest that I have been able to find:

Bach used the term "due Fiauti à bec" only once for BWV 1057 and strangely enough in his "Eingabe an den Rat der Stadt Leipzig" from August 23rd, 1730: "Flöten a bec"

Johann Gottfried Walther, in his "Musicalisches Lexicon...." Leipzig, 1732 has only: Flûte à bec or Flûte douce - He explains that it gets its name "weil es wie ein Schnabel aussieht" ["it looks like a beak"]

Johann Mattheson, in his "Das Neu-Eröffnete Orchestre", Hamburg, 1713 p. 270-271, uses both terms "flute douce" and "flute à bec" and points to Hotteterre's pamphlets on playing these instruments. The transverse flutes, Mattheson calls "Teutsche Flöten" or "Flute Allemande" or "Flute d'Allemagne" or "Flute Traversiere"

Michael Praetorius (1619) has "Plockfloit" or "Blockfloit" with no 'beaks' mentioned, as far as I can tell.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (April 28, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] I have never heard of SCHNABELFLÖTE other than as an Organ stop. Unfortunately, some Organbuilders are given to flights of fancy so the word as an Organ stop is just about meaningless. Flûte à bec or Flûte douce is apparently the same as Michael Praetorius (1619) has "Plockfloit" or "Blockfloit" or the proper English terms "fipple flute" or Blockflute.

However, I do not find anything particularly sweet sounding in the use of Flûte douce or Flauto dolce as the instrument seems to have an acid edge to it's tone throughout the range and increasingly acid in the upper ranges.

Raymond Joly wrote (April 29, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thomas Braatz, as is his wont, obliges with a wealth of precise references to contemporary sources. I concur with him when he surmises SCHNABELFLÖTE never enjoyed any great popularity as a name for a recorder. Two occurrences in Grimms', both from dictionaries, are slender evidence indeed.

One problem remains, though: whence did such an expert musicologist as Guido Adler derive the notion of calling a recorder a Schnabelflöte?

But did he? The instance I quoted comes in his analysis of the engraving by Jacob Andreas Fridrich for the title page of Gottlieb Muffat's COMPONIMENTI MUSICALI PER IL CEMBALO. There some putti are depicted playing such elegant instruments as a guitar, violin and viola da gamba: what is the fourth one blowing, if not a recorder (let us forget no. 5, who acts as a very incompetent music stand)? But how is one to make sure exactly what instrument that putto plays? You would have to be a very competent and cocksure organologist to be definite about that, especially since the musical babies are grouped around a lady sitting at her harpsichord and a glance at the keyboard (and maybe at the inside of the instrument too) might raise doubts as to the engraver's accuracy, leaving you with nowhere much to start from.

So maybe Adler was being circumspect and did not mean a recorder, but "a Schnabelflöte of some sort".

I suggest you now do what Ludwig's response to my first email prompted me to, and ask for dear Google's assistance. This will teach you a couple of things, some of which you certainly knew beforehand:

1) Lexicographers are prone to quoting from one another (a charitable phrasing);
2) A pity so many of them are so unliberal in letting us know where their information comes from;
3) SCHNABELFLÖTE seems to exist as a term for all those flutish instruments, including recorders, that are not held transverse across one's face.

I would like to repeat the question at the end of my first message: has anybody sighted SCHNABELFLÖTE, SCHNABELPFEIFE and STOCKPFEIFE in authentic sources in the XVIIIth century? Th. Braatz, for one, has not. If you do: do you know what instruments these words are supposed to be referring to, or do you know at least any means of knowing?

If you care, of course.

***
An off-topic PS.

Let me enjoy the gratification amateurs so much delight in when they can show they are brighter than an undisputed authority.

Guido Adler summarizes very aptly the general purport of the engraving. On the left side, the laurel-crowned lady seated at a harpsichord is most probably Musica herself. She is taking dictation from Apollo, for all the world like King David receiving his psalms from God in many pictures from Luther's Bible onwards. With the surrounding bevy of "galant" music-making putti, she obviously stands for "Kunstmusik", "art-music", whereas on the other side the assortment of bagpipes, alphörner and hurdy-gurdies played by other putti in the company of satyrs and Pan evidently means folk music. So the artists, Adler writes, pay homage to the ever rejuvenating force of popular music, the mother and nurse of all learned art.

But there is one character Adler has overlooked: who sits there just in front of Pan, with a croand most unusual appurtenances on both sides of his head, if not King Midas, who got his donkey's ears for having been loutish enough to award the prize to Marsyas and not Apollo in their famous contest? (Famous enough to have survived Greek mythology. See Mahler, Wunderhornlieder. Gods are transient, asses are still very much with us.)

Herr Muffat, Court and Chamber organist to His Holy, Caesarean, Catholic and Royal Majesty Emperor Charles VI certainly did not deny his debt to the folk tradition, though he prized himself for having been a pupil of Fux (yes, the Gradus ad Parnassum one) for over thirty years. But he insisted he was not writing for uncourtly asses.

But maybe that is oversimplifying. Matters may be less black and white and more dialectic. Adler was right after all, even if he missed the vicious kick on Midas ridiculed by Apollo, court musicians sneering at tavern entertainers. Musica is bright and splendid, the royal ass is dark and uncouth, but both are surrounded by musicians in the act of playing. You need both worlds, clowns and kings.

This reminds me of a certain set of variations, BWV 988, one of the most lofty creations of the human mind. It ends (aria da capo) with a sublime utterance of the naked soul, but not before we have given a hearing to the boy's complaint about his mother feeding him more cabbage and turnip than he could take.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (April 29, 2006):
Raymond Joly wrote:
"1) Lexicographers are prone to quoting from one another (a charitable phrasing);
2) A pity so many of them are so unliberal in letting us know where their information comes from;"

Modern academia would demand citations by all lexicographers of their sources however the living ones persist in not citing sources although the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language does give literary references as to sources. Actually the Oxford should be called the American Dictionary of the English Language because it was written by an American who was placed under lifetime house arrest for murders he committed in London at the time of the last great American Civil War.

I have noticed the same tendencies in Larousse (French language dictionary)and the Spanish equivalent.

Tom Hens wrote (April 29, 2006):
Raymond Joly wrote:
< 1) Lexicographers are prone to quoting from one another (a charitable Phrasing);
2) A pity so many of them are so unliberal in letting us know where their information comes from; >

Not if they're decent lexicographers, involved in compiling reference dictionaries. Attestations in any proper dictionary should always be traceable.

< I would like to repeat the question at the end of my first message: has anybody sighted SCHNABELFLÖTE, SCHNABELPFEIFE and STOCKPFEIFE in authentic sources in the XVIIIth century? Th. Braatz, for one, has not. >
I never knew Thomas Braatz was an 18th century German. He must be, what, at least 300 years old by now?

Raymond Joly wrote (April 30, 2006):
[To Tom Hens] Thanks for correcting my English! I should have written: «authentic XVIIIth century sources».

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (April 30, 2006):
[To Tom Hens] LOL!!! Thomas Braatz must know the secret of wormholes that has eluded people like Hawking et al.

 

Flauto piccolo articulation [was: Intro to BWV 96, "Herr Christ, der einige Gottessohn"]

Continue of discussion from: Cantata BWV 96 - Discussions

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 1, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< One feature of the Flauto piccolo is that it really cannot be played softly in a mvt. which calls for 'piano' for all the other performers. >
A good period traverso or recorder player can give the illusion of dynamics through articulation and sensitive rubato. The instruments have a natural "chiff" and a player can achieve a szforzando by ever-so-slightly rushing an entry. In similar fashion a legato with just-a-hint of dragging softens the "chiff" and gives the illuson of a piano dynamic. These are interpretative nuances produced by articulation and used by organists and harspichordists who cannot vary the dynamic levels of their instruments. Bach's careful articulation often has a dual role as dynamic markings.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 1, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>A good period traverso or recorder player can give the illusion of dynamics through articulation and sensitive rubato.<<
The penetrating and, as a result, rather loud sound of the 'sopranino', in comparison to other members of the recorder family, is not one that can be as easily managed with the techniques that you have described. If you know any such players, ask them to play softly some of the higher passages I had selected and see if there is any 'sparkle' left in the sound of the Flauto piccolo. A noticeable feature among all members of the recorder family is that as less breath is sent into the mouthpiece to make them softer, there is a noticeable change in pitch. Johann Mattheson warned: "Never ever use any recorder (or pitch pipes made of wood) to determine pitch." While he was mainly referring to the problems caused by warm, moist air coming into an instrument that had not gone through a warm-up period, he must have been aware of the effect of the varying strength of breath on the pitch of this instrument as well.

If what you indicate as possible methods for playing 'piano' were applied to the slurred-note passages from the "adagio e piano" section BWV 103/1, there would most likely be a slight lowering of pitch if/when the Flauto piccolo played 'piano', thereby adding to the excruciating effect caused by these drooping figures as the player slides down

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 1, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< The penetrating and, as a result, rather loud sound of the 'sopranino', in comparison to other members of the recorder family, is not one that can be as easily managed with the techniques that you have described. If you know any such players, ask them to play softly some of the higher passages I had selected and see if there is any 'sparkle' left in the sound of the Flauto piccolo. A noticeable feature among all members of the recorder family is that as less breath is sent into the mouthpiece to make them softer, there is a noticeable change in pitch. >
You've misunderstood what I said. There can be no slackening of wind-pressure in instruments like recorders or there will be a fluctuation in pitch. What I said is that the "illusion" of dynamics can be created through a manipulation of articulation and rubato. In the hands of a great artist, these nuances can also work on the organ where the pitch and dynamic of a stop never varies and on the harpsichord where the sound begins to decay the moment the key is pressed.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 1, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>You've misunderstood what I said....What I said is that the "illusion" of dynamics can be created through a manipulation of articulation and rubato. In the hands of a great artist, these nuances can also work on the organ where the pitch and dynamic of a stop never varies and on the harpsichord where the sound begins to decay the moment the key is pressed.<<
Please name an artist who has recorded the Flauto piccolo parts in the cantatas referred to in the fashion you have described.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 2, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Please name an artist who has recorded the Flauto piccolo parts in the cantatas referred to in the fashion you have described. >
You've misread me yet again. I said nothing about a particular performance of these cantatas. I was referring to a method of playing instruments which is normative on instruments which do not have the mechanical capacity to control dynamics. I suggest you listen closely to any performance by either period or modern instruments.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 2, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>I suggest you listen closely to any performance by either period or modern instruments.<<
I have listened closely to the performances on the Flauto piccolo in all of the major recBach cantata series on period instruments. Is there any particular one (name the series and designate the BWV # and mvt.) where you find the traits/techniques that you have outlined will be quite apparent to most listeners when they are properly pointed out. I am certain that some other list members would also like to be enlightened in this regard. It will certainly enhance one's appreciation of Bach cantata performances/recordings.

 

Continue on Part 4

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