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Members of the Bach Cantatas Mailing List
Part 7: Year 2005-2

Continue from Members of the BCML - Year 2005-1

New member [BRML]

Dominic Scullion wrote (February 14, 2005):
Dear All, I am Dominic Scullion and I am new to the group.

Play the organ at my local Church – (play a lot of Bach, as most organists do)

Sing in a Choir – singing the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) in March.

Look forward to discussions,

Juan Carlos Hererra wrote (February 14, 2005):
[To Dominique Scullion] As yourself, I am new not only to the group but also to the JSB music. I have been listening very hardly the last two years, so I have collected some experience. I am not a musician but an engineer dedicated mainly to the environment ( formerly a nuclear engineer, educated in France but living now in Chile, South America)

As a Bach lover I would like to ask you about the Saint Mathew Passion (BWV 244), that you will be singing next March. The point is that I have the Otto Klemperer version of 1960 (I think ), wich I like although there is a lot of people that find it too slow. I also have a Richter version wich I also like , being a bit faster than the Klemperer: But what I do not like at all is a version of JE Gardiner, which could be 10 years old, + or -, because it is played in some parts, mainly in the opening choir, with a rhythm which deprives it of all the dramatic charge that it obviously have to have.

If you have listened to these recordings, I would like to know your opinion on the SMP (BWV 244) and also if you can comment a bit in the way or mood that your group is intending to play this masterpiece.

Have a nice concert in March..

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (February 14, 2005):
[To Juan Carlos Herrera] You are not alone there, Juan.

I, too, have the same problem with Gardiner, and with most ensembles in general. I champion Richter (especially tne 1979 recording), the Mauersberger bros. (Erhard and Rudolf, with Erhard leading the Gewandhausorchester and Thomanerchor Leipzig and Rudolf leading the Kreuzchor Dresden), and Henning (with the Thomanerchor Leipzig and Knabenchor Hannover).

 

Introducing myself

Kevin Parent [Gongju National University of Education, Korea] wrote (February 16, 2005):
Rather than simply answering the question of which Korea I'm in, perhaps this would be a good time to introduce myself. I am an American living in South Korea but working on my Ph.D (applied linguistics) in New Zealand. Although a distance program, I still have to go there twice a year.

I first got into classical music as a young adult, not long out of high school, around 1987 or so. I bought a lot of CDs then (good money, living at home, single), including some Bach vocal music. But it didn't grab me. I like the Brandenburgs, but the Mass, the Passions, etc, sat unlistened on my shelves for years. It was only in the past few months that I listened to these works again and BAM, they hit. They hit so powerfully that I'm embarassed they didn't before. Guess I just wasn't mature enough to appreciate them then. Since then, I've acquired 13 recordings of the Mass (with a few more in transit), with Richter leading the pack.

I'm slowly exploring the cantatas. 'Slowly' because this isn't an area you can go fast in. I'm not working towards anyone's complte cycle but picking them up individually for now. (Though, again, I've started Richter's incomplete set.)

That's me in a nutshell, which is probably where I belong.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (February 16, 2005):
[To Kevin Parent] At least you are in the Good Korea but with all the saber rattling of the North lately about doing a Nuclear Holocaust and the "Great" Leader's paranoia--I would stay in New Zealand. The only person with any freedom in the North is the "Great" Leader who for all his cursing of Americans is fond of American Baseball, American Hot Dogs and many other things American but the supporters do not enjoy these priviledges and while he is living in the lap of luxury they are starving and enduing slavery.

As someone who has been involved in teaching and having my on serendipitous moments like you---I can say one never knows what one learns in early life, that one may have failed at, that will suddenly connect in later life. I was like Mohammed, who alledgely was illiterate one day and very literate the next. In my case I just could not get the French language down in my teens and early college life and flunked French, forgot about that I could even read French and then one day in my 40s all those neurons that should have been present earlier in life connected and voila---I spoke,read and wrote French almost as fluent as someone whose mother tongue was French.

I would like to recommned that if you can find them (they are out of print) and surely their are some pirated editions out there that you get the Harnoncourt edition of the Cantatas. Yes go slow with them as if you try to listen to them in a marathon sitdown --they all become a blur.

I listen to mine according to the liturgical season. This means that I have to do some research to know what I will be listening to when. But I would suggest that you start out with things like Cantata BWV 29 etc that is festive Cantatas--you do not have to know that they are Festive by reading the notes ---you will know that if you hear trumpets and typani --that is a festive work because Bach always uses Trumpets and typani in his more showy works.

I have heard just about all of Bach's complete works but sometimes at a later date something I hear knocks me down in great admiration---such was the last aria in the Matthew Passion as (BWV 244) done in the movie "The Talented Mr. Ripley"

 

New Member - David Atkins

David Atkins wrote (February 23, 2005):
Hello everyone, I have just joined this group and am very pleased to have found it. I first discovered the Bach cantatas in the late 1960s when I began listening to classical music (I am now 56 yrs) - I dont remember the exact cantata but I was instantly smitten. I soon discovered the Matthew (BWV 244) & John Passions (BWV 245) and the Christmas Oratorio. I remember going to my local record shop in Ilford, Essex and ordering many of the Harnoncourt discs then being recorded. What a glorious feeling it was - there was a real feeling of musical history being made! I have continued to collect different versions over the years and now have about 100 CDs. One of the many joys of collecting recordings of Bach choral works is that there are so many wonderful versions & interpretations. Even the less outstanding issues, for example Leusink, have many good things in them. My latest 'discovery ' is Suzuki / BCJ - I bought a CD a few years back and was very impressed but I have just been listening to them in more depth recently - they are truly profound. I agree with the BBC Radio 3 presenter who, comparing BCJ with Koopman & Gardner versions, said that Suziki's religious faith shines through these performances, which capture the 'spiritual ' quality of Bach's writing. I'd be interested to know what other people think about this. I am myself not a Christian, though I have always been drawn to the figure of Jesus. I suppose this might account for my love of Bach cantatas since these Lutheran works put Christ at their centre. Also I dont think it is their purely musical qualities which have attracted such a devotional following over the years...witness this website....Anyway, I look forward to hearing from you and reading the list contributions in the future.


Dale Gedcke wrote (February 23, 2005):
[To David Atkins] Welcome to the group, David.

You will probably find that the members of this list have very diverse religious backgrounds, ... all the way from Lutherans and other Christian denominations, with lots of participation from entirely different religions, and ranging to atheists at the other extreme of the spectrum. What bindsthe group together is a deep appreciation for the impressive art in the music composed by J. S. Bach.

If one belongs to the Christian religion, and in particular, to the Lutheran denomination, that probably adds an extra dimension to the appreciation of the Bach Cantatas. But, there is plenty to enjoy even without that dimension.

Michael Telles wrote (February 23, 2005):
[To David Atkins] Welcome David:

I'm a massive Suzuki fan as well, so I was excited to read your message. I've managed to collect all of the suzukis so far, which was difficult; if you ever need advice on how to find them, or which are particularly good, let me know. Also, have you tried out his St. John Passion (BWV 245)? Holy smokes, what a knock-out that is. On the other hand, I've been looking into trying other series; please send along any suggestions. I've got a few discs from the Rilling series, but on the whole I find they overplay their hand emotionally. Some nice isolated arias, though. Gardiner sounds intriguing, doesn't it?

Boyd Pehrson wrote (February 24, 2005):
[To David Atkins] Welcome David,

I too hear a special ethereal quality in the Bach Collegium Japan performances. The use of old instruments, clear and clean choral tones (reminiscent of boys' voices),
countertenors, and a perfection of unity among musicians creates an heavenly dimension in BCJ. One thing that Director Masaaki Suzuki has emphasized is the fact
that singers add intangible depth to a performance when they believe what they are singing. The value of personal experience with these spiritual matters may truly enliven a performance. While one need not believe what one is singing to make a fine performance, it certainly can't hurt.

I was fortunate enough to attend the Bach Collegium Japan's J.S. Bach Passions concerts at Royce Hall in Los Angeles during Lenten season two years ago. They performed J.S. Bach's Passion according to St. John (BWV 245) the first night, and St. Matthew (BWV 244) the next night. They were perfect performances, captivating and exquisite. They were almost too perfect in a sense, and but for the soprano's sometimes overt sensual solo performance style (Yukari Nonoshita), and Gerd Türk's vibrantly anointed Evangelist, the choral performances were scrubbed clean of any pluck or relish. The orchestra was perfection in the Baroque, but again, those deep-wounded spirits of "Eilt, ihr angefochtnen Seelen" were portrayed in ungritty strokes, and alas, flew
like porcelain doves.

I personally met Masaaki Suzuki after the concert. He was gracious to a fault, attending to a long line of fans. The singers also were all very gracious. These BCJ are a very down-to-earth group who invited me backstage where tables overflowed with fresh sushi. Countertenor Robin Blaze and tenor Gerd Türk joined in the festivities- keeping distance from the sushi, but remained cordial as ever in the Masaaki Suzuki tradition. Truly, it could have been a church social.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Masaaki Suzuki & Bach Collegium Japan - Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works - General Discussions - Part 3 [Performers]

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 24, 2005):
[To Michael Telles] Just in case the Suzuki fans have missed it, there's a wonderful DVD of the SJP (BWV 245) by the JBE in print: $20.00 at Archiv. Probably find one for less on Amazon. Can't miss if you have a decent stereo attached to your DVD player. For some reason, a lot of volumes are showing up on ebay now, many new for about $13. If the shipping costs are not bad, one does save some money. Many are from big stores so there's no bidding involved.

Michael Telles wrote (February 24, 2005):
[To Eric Bergerud] Thanks Eric:

I've got to see that DVD -- David and I were just discussing how difficult it is for some of us to get out and see performances; I've actually never seen a live performance! I bet I'd learn a lot.

Lex Schelvis wrote (February 25, 2005):
Boyd Pherson wrote:
< One thing that Director Masaaki Suzuki has emphasized is the fact that singers add intangible depth to a performance when they believe what they are singing. >
Interesting: Are you suggesting that all those (most Japanese)singers and players are Christians? Well, I would be surprised.

A Dutch writer (Maarten't Hart)once wrote exactly the opposite. He claims that it probably is more difficult for a devoted Christian to understand the wondreous ways Bach handled his texts, let alone that that Christian through this texts will understand more about the music than a heathen.

As a analogy I think that non believers of the Greek mythes enjoy the mythes more as a piece of art than the Greecs in the old days. I think that non believers can enjoy the Bible more as a piece of art than believers. I think that non believers can see more clearly than believers that the texts Bach used, are rally not masterpieces. On the other hand believers understand much more what these texts are referring to, but I doubt that that increases their enjoyment and understanding of the music, just like I doubt that non believers are more capable of enjoying the music.

Both believers and non believers can hear in BWV 39,1 the distributing of bread (I know there are other interpretations) so you don't need to be a believer. I know believers and non believers who think this music is boring as well as ones who really love it. There really is no difference.

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 25, 2005):
[To Lex Schelvis] Suzuki is quite open about his Christianity. They record in a Christian chapel. If we want to trade author's speculations, Roland Bainton wrote that the only person who understood Luther was Bach.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 25, 2005):
Believing in a performance

Boyd Pehrson wrote:
< One thing that Director Masaaki Suzuki has emphasized is the fact that singers add intangible depth to a performance when they believe what they are singing. >
Good performers add intangible depth (or maybe it's tangible depth) when they believe in what they're doing...whether that's theological and/or in other ways. Commitment to the music is paramount, and not all of it is about the words (if any). This is a basic performance principle. Any half-heartedness might turn out to be a perceptible flaw in the resulting performance, not presenting the music with enough clarity and strength of character/soul. [And CPE Bach wrote about that in his book....]

Bob Henderson wrote (February 26, 2005):
[To David Atkins] Hello Dave. Welcome. Its interesting how so many of us are of a certain age and have grown into this music in the sane ways. This is especially true as some of us ( me in particular ) are not professional musicians. But we listen because the music is a life force.

Bob Henderson wrote (February 26, 2005):
I have only been collecting Suzuki as a consistent meter to the finish. But the new Gardner as issued sounds ( in print ) so good. Maybe a second full series. At the present rate I will be in my 70s when Masaaki is done.

Bob Henderson wrote (February 26, 2005):
[To Boyd Pehrson] Hello Boyd. I was fortunate to attend the BCJ while they were on that same tour. In Boston they performed in a huge wreck of a 19th century Cathedral and much of the sound was lost. Even though we were only 20 rows back. We attended an early inteview with Suzuki and Christopher Wolf. Maasaki presented himself ( in excellent English ) as a humorous self-effacing and affectionate person. As a director he is like a tall bird. He towers over his small forces and he wrests the best from them. Tenderly..

Santu De Silva wrote (February 27, 2005):
Lex Schelvis wrote:
>>> Interesting: Are you suggesting that all those (most Japanese)singers and players are Christians? Well, I would be surprised. >>>
My understanding is: Yes. Suzuki is true blue born-again. Whatever that might be.

 

REALLY OT, but I just wanted to ask quickly

Cara Peterson wrote (March 1, 2005):
This is REALLY OT, and I'm sorry, I just wanteto know: Has anyone ever met another on this list (out of state, country, etc)??? There is a long story behind this question, but I just wanted to know.

Thank you, and Happy Music and Bach!

Kirk McElhearn wrote (March 1, 2005):
[To Cara Peterson] Not from this list, but I have met people I've gotten to know on other lists... What's the long story? Do tell!

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 1, 2005):
[To Cara Peterson] I have met some of my Israeli fellows (Ehud, Eitan, Uri...) many times. We had even met to listen together to the weekly cantata and the impressions were sent to the BCML.

Last year, before making my 2nd Bach Tour in May 2004, I had sent a message to the BCML, asking if is there any member along the route. No one had responded and I missed the opportinuty of meeting personally members from other countries.

That is my story. And your? (-:

Ehud Shiloni wrote (March 1, 2005):
[To Cara Peterson] Do "out-of-country ex members" count? I've met Harry Steinman and Todd Billeci - both excellent contributors from the USA, but both have long ago unsubscribed.

P.S. I recall also a suggestion made by a member quite a while back, to organize a List-get-together in Leipzig on a July 28th occasion. Never got off the drawing board, though.

Cara Peterson wrote (March 2, 2005):
< That is my story. And your? (-: >
< Not from this list, but I have met people I've gotten to know on other lists... What's the long story? Do tell! >
Okiedokie, it seems there are some requests to hear this story, so here goes!

In May, as I was checking my email (don't worry, this won't last THAT long :D:D:D) and I one of the new members was Cara T. And so I was like WOW ANTHER CARA INTO BACH THAT'S INSANE (because if you really think about it, it is!). So we started to correspond off list, comparing interests, etc. In July, the idea came up that Cara T. would come visit me in Seattle, as she visits her parents in the States (that's what happens when you live in Poland :D). Sadly, I was in Hawai'i then, visiting relatives of my own. However, after much thought and string-pulling, we arranged for her to come to Seattle in February (i.e. last week). And she did, and that was really strange, going, "Wait...so I met you on a Bach Discussion Forum???" She returned to Poland at the end of last week, and I miss her (and so does my dog :>).

That part I suppose wasn't really long, but while she was here, we went to the house of a friend of mine. Okay, that happens a lot, but this particular friend happens to own a harpsichord. Cara had sent some music ahead of time that we played, and we played (for me, the last movement was more attempted :\\\) with the harpsichord on one end of the room Bach's...I believe 2nd Sonata for Cembalo/violin and Mozart's...don't remember the number, but I believe 6th Sonata in G major for Piano and violin on the Steinway on the other side of the room.

That night we attended the Compline service at St. Mark's Cathedral (Episcopal, Seattle, USA) - Started by Peter Hallock in 1954, I believe. There was a concert afterwards, but my dad had to take my mom to the airport early the next morning so we did not stay [what was interesting about this concert I learned later, was that the guy playing the entire thing was about 14. Wow, he played on the organ, but I observed that none of the selections he played used pedal :>].

Of course, throughout the time she was here, we did other things besides JUST music (which would have been just as fine :D) - I took her to some of the Seattle attractions (such as the Pike Place Market [and the guys throwing the fish!], and the Big Library [okay, so that's not that much of an 'attraction'...all the same, it's BIG!]. We looked at the Space Needle [But didn't go up it, as that would have drained my finances for the day], too. That was fun and interesting). Now, in the Market, there is a little instrument shop that I always like to stop in - after all, in their display case, there's a nice looking viola da gamba! Of course I had to take Cara, so we went in. There are some violins always there, and we looked at them and could tell that the tuning was horrible. ["Okay, we're NOT going to tune them." - "Right." - a couple VERY painful minutes later - "Okay, we HAVE to tune them!" - "Right!"] Laughs We fixed that! Cara also found a soprano viola da gamba. Neither of us could remember the tuning, so she called her gamba-playing friend - in Poland! (He was not around, unfortunately, so the guy at the store told Cara while I was playing some traverse flutes.)

I was 6 days of wonderful music (and LOTS of adventure :D:D:D) and I appreciate Cara willing to come to Seattle, only having heard my voice on the phone a couple of times...i.e., not really knowing whether I ACTUALLY existed or not. But hey - I figure, there are no axe-murderers on a discussion board about BACH!

MY advice from this trip: If you're planning to go see or hear Shostakovich's 14th, please, PLEASE be ready to play or listen to Bach as soon as possible after!

Cara, if you'd like to add anything (that I probably forgot), go ahead...

And that is why I was wondering if anyone else had seen someone else on this particular board (especially out of country) - because it had happened to me last week!

And, after we dropped Cara off at the airport (sad face) I went back to St. Mark's (which is actually my church, but no need to go into that), and played this organ: St. Mark's> Just in case you wanted to know. It's a nice organ :D

I know that's pretty long, but I've seen longer on the list :D [BTW, if there's any history about BWV 8, I'd appreciate it!]

Mike Mannix wrote (March 2, 2005):
July 28, Leipzig?

Count me IN.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (March 2, 2005):
Here follow my additions to this story:

Cara Peterson wrote:
< Okiedokie, it seems there are some requests to hear this story, so here goes!
In May, as I was checking my email (don't worry, this won't last THAT long :D:D:D) and I one of the new members was Cara T. And so I was like WOW ANTHER CARA INTO BACH THAT'S INSANE (because if you really think about it, it is!). So we started to correspond off list, comparing interests, etc. In July, the idea came up that Cara T. would come visit me in Seattle, as she visits her parents in the States (that's what happens when you live in Poland :D). Sadly, I was in Hawai'i then, visiting relatives of my own. However, after much thought and string-pulling, we arranged for her to come to Seattle in February (i.e. last week). >
Figure it had to happen eventually - my mom lives out on the West Coast, after all...

< And she did, and that was really strange, going, "Wait...so I met you on a Bach Discussion Forum???" She returned to Poland at the end of last week, and I miss her (and so does my dog :>). >
He's a sweet Pembroke Welsh corgi (i.e. w/o tail) - made cute noises when I scratched his belly, and constantly begged for food in the kitchen. But he'd actually listen if I told him to leave...

< That part I suppose wasn't really long, but while she was here, we went to the house of a friend of mine. Okay, that happens a lot, but this particular friend happens to own a harpsichord. Cara had sent some music ahead of time that we played, and we played (for me, the last movement was more attempted :\\\) >
Eh, don't be so modest ;-)

< with the harpsichord on one end of the room Bach's...I believe 2nd Sonata for Cembalo/violin >
Yes. Sonata no. 2 in A major for cembalo and violin.

< and Mozart's...don't remember the number, but I believe 6th Sonata >
Yes [gets up to check] that's right too.

< in G major for Piano and violin on the Steinway on the other side of the room. >
But during the day we actually practiced separately, trading off depending on who was practicing what at any given time (I mean, I have two instruments to practice, she has three - the bass is upstairs, the piano downstairs - fortunately both of my instruments are more portable....)

< That night we attended the Compline service at St. Mark's Cathed(Episcopal, Seattle, USA) - Started by Peter Hallock in 1954, I believe. There was a concert afterwards, but my dad had to take my mom to the airport early the next morning so we did not stay [what was interesting about this concert I learned later, was that the guy playing the entire thing was about 14. Wow, he played on the organ, but I observed that none of the selections he played used pedal :>]. >
:>>>

< Of course, throughout the time she was here, we did other things besides JUST music (which would have been just as fine :D) - I took her to some of the Seattle attractions (such as the Pike Place Market [and the guys throwing the fish!], >
Well, to be more precise, we walked by the place where they throw the fish, but we didn't watch the throwing because I am a vegetarian for reasons other than my health...

< and the Big Library [okay, so that's not that much of an 'attraction'...all the same, it's BIG!]. >
But it has lots of cool language books - but no Episcopal prayer book (just every other prayer book except that one)!

< We looked at the Space Needle [But didn't go up it, as that would have drained my finances for the day], too. >
Not to mention that I am afraid of heights.

< That was fun and interesting). Now, in the Market, there is a little instrument shop that I always like to stop in - after all, in their display case, there's a nice looking viola da gamba! Of course I had to take Cara, so we went in. There are some violins always there, and we looked at them and could tell that the tuning was horrible. ["Okay, we're NOT going to tune them." - "Right." - a couple VERY painful minutes later - "Okay, we HAVE to tune them!" - "Right!"] Laughs >
Laughs

< We fixed that! Cara also found a soprano viola da gamba. >
Hanging from the ceiling no less! They didn't have the bow handy, though, so I had to use a violin bow to tune it. But yes, I did hold it underhand! :D

< Neither of us could remember the tuning, so she called her gamba-playing friend - in Poland! (He was not around, unfortunately, so the guy at the store told Cara while I was playing some traverse flutes.) >
Later I recalled that Marek had told me the soprano is tuned the same way as the tenor/bass, except an octave higher.

< I was 6 days of wonderful music (and LOTS of adventure :D:D:D) and I appreciate Cara willing to come to Seattle, >
And I appreciate her and her folks' being willing to take a chance on me...

< only having heard my voice on the phone a couple of times...i.e., not really knowing whether I ACTUALLY existed or not. But hey - I figure, there are no axe-murderers on a discussion board about BACH! >
Well, and we IM'd a lot, and by the time we talked on the phone, well, it was plain that neither of us was a 45-year-old guy pretending to be his sister or something :-)

< MY advice from this trip: If you're planning to go see or hear Shostakovich's 14th, please, PLEASE be ready to play or listen to Bach as soon as possible after! >
But for heaven's sake, not the SMP or anything like that - not after a collection of French poems about death, sung in German no less!

< Cara, if you'd like to add anything (that I probably forgot), go ahead... >
:> (this, by the way, is a 'Polish smiley' - if you ever saw a Pole smile, you'd know exactly what I mean)

< And that is why I was wondering if anyone else had seen someone else on this particular board (especially out of country) - because it had happened to me last week! >
:>

< And, after we dropped Cara off at the airport (sad face) >
:-(

< I went back to St. Mark's (which is actually my church, but no need to go into that), and played this organ: St. Mark's Just in case you wanted to know. It's a nice organ :D >
Indeed - I am glad Cara had something to keep herself occupied after I left :-)

< I know that's pretty long, but I've seen longer on the list :D [BTW, if there's any history about BWV 8, I'd appreciate it!]

Cara P. >

And now you know why she is Cara P. and I am...

[God bless you all]

Cara T.

Aya Itoy wrote (March 2, 2005):
Hi Cara & Cara, I enjoyed your report(S)!

Members from 6 or 7 years ago perhaps already know "my" story, but it is also quite nice, and I would like to share it.

In 1998 I went firrst time to Europe, to Leipzig to hear some music in Bach's town. (Then I still lived in Japan, my home country.) Then I becamequite fascinated with Bach's vocal music (I had listened to quite a lot of his instrumental music before), and became a member of this list.

There I became acquainted with a few very nice people, living abroad. In October 1999, I (with a good friend of mine) planed a short trip to Germany and Holland, to hear some concerts. One of these nice people I became acquainted on the list was a retired Dutch math teacher, who lived in Holland.

So we agreed to meet in Utrecht, which we did, and we listened to one Bach cantata concert with Ton Koopman and ABO+C together. Next day he drove us to Naarden (a beautiful fortress town in between Utrecht and Amsterdam), then on to Alkmaar, where he lived. He then took us to his friends' house nearby, where we were invited to a wonderful family dinner, his daughter was also there. Also the friend of my friend builds harpsichords. Well, it was an unforgettable experience.

I had always a lot to do with US, I had also studied there, but everything about Europe was very new to me, and so interesting.

The list member friend has unexpectedly passed away only three months after we met, he had a heart attack, which left us really speechles. But what very interesting is : Following our meeting in Holland that autumn,I met a German man (who also has a lot to do with Bach, but was not a list member or anything) and within a year I married him and moved to Germany.

Although my list member friend has died, I still keep in touch with his daughter, and the friends who have invited us to dinner then. I am going to Amsterdam next week, and I will again be meeting with these Dutch friends, with whom I became friendly through my Bach list member friend. And we will be hearing SMP (BWV 244) together.

I think of it as a gift, the friend has left for me.

I think this list member friend also met other people from the list.

Aya Itoi
(a Japanese who lives in Germany)

Uri Golomb wrote (March 2, 2005):
Aya Itoi wrote:
< Hi Cara & Cara, I enjoyed your report(S)! >
So did I; and thanks, Aya, for your story as well.

Aryeh already mentioned the fact that he has met me, and several other Israeli members, in person; indeed, Aryeh has been very helpful to me as I was doing research for my doctoral dissertation -- both in giving me access to recordings which even the Sound Archive in London didn't have, and as a rich source for discographic information. My dissertation contains many citations of the Bach Cantatas website, and I hope that these citations have helped in adding to the site's already considerable and well-merited prestige.

My first meeting with another Israeli member, Ehud, actually took place in London, when he invited me to join him for Trevor Pinnock's SMP (BWV 244). I also had the good fortune to meet Gabriel Jackson, and I hope that more meetings with other members will happen in due course. It's always nice to put a voice and a face to a person who normally appears just as a series of letters on a screen, or maybe a website photograph...

I should add that at least two other members proved very helpful off-list, even though I never met either of them. Brad Lehman has given me considerable help, insight, feedback and encouragement on various apsects of my work. Roland Wörner wrote a valuable book on Karl Richter, and, more directly, provided me with important materials and information on Richter. This is another opportunity to thank them both.

 

New arrival and voices-per-part argument

Tom Dent wrote (March 4, 2005):
I am a new member, being a harpsichordist, pianist, singer and occasional bassoonist. Having sung some Bach works, one point fairly obvious to me: the breathing problem. We can take it that the Leipzigers did not possess leather lungs. Yet many of Bach's works have choruses with scarcely a quaver's opportunity for breath every few bars. It would not do for there to be large holes in the musical texture, or unrhythmical pauses for breath followed by a rush to catch up. With more than one voice there is no problem as breathing can be 'staggered' in the middle of phrases. With precisely one voice I would think there would be a breathing crisis, unless a specially adapted method of singing or phrasing were adopted.

Perhaps the number of pause marks in the Chorales is a tiny clue here. I think it would be correct to say these represent breaths between phrases or sub-phrases. Naturally in a Chorale everyone sings every note without 'staggering'. Possibly the abundance of pauses indicates that the breath capacity of the congregation or the Ripienist was not large. The puzzle is the very much greater demands placed on breath during the concerted choruses.

There are several possibilities: either 'surreptitious' breaths in the middle of long phrases were acceptable despite breaking up the line; or the few selected singers used in concerted choruses really were near-superhuman; or they and their breathing were not really acceptable and that was a reason why Bach was unsatisfied by the conditions in Leipzig; or parts were shared between more than one.

Any thoughts?

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (March 4, 2005):
Tom Dent wrote:
< I am a new member, being a harpsichordist, pianist, singer and occasional bassoonist. Having sung some Bach works, one point is fairly obvious to me: the breathing problem. We can take it that the Leipzigers did not possess leather lungs. >
??? I would imagine that possession of leather lungs would make breathing problems worse rather than better :D

< Yet many of Bach's works have choruses with scarcely a quaver's opportunity for breath every few bars. >
A quaver every few bars isn't a problem. But for example, certain bits of 'Laudamus te' from the B minor Mass (BWV 232), or 'Hasse nur' from BWV 76 (the middle section in particular - Christum glaeubig zu umfassen, will ich alle Freude lassen), or or Et exultavit from the Magnificat (BWV 243) are another matter, especially in a large hall.

< It would not do for there to be large holes in the musical texture, or unrhythmical pauses for breath followed by a rush to catch up. With more than one voice there is no problem as breathing can be 'staggered' in the middle of phrases. With precisely one voice I would think there would be a breathing crisis, unless a specially adapted method of singing or phrasing were adopted. >
In some cases (e.g. the aforementioned BWV 76), it turns out that the dynamic level is supposed to be very low at that point, so that eases up the amount of air you need. In other cases, you simply learn to breathe efficiently and then save your breath!

< Perhaps the number of pause marks in the Chorales is a tiny clue here. I think it would be correct to say these represent breaths between phrases or sub-phrases. Naturally in a Chorale everyone sings every note without 'staggering'. Possibly the abundance of pauses indicates that the breath capacity of the congregation or the Ripienist was not large. The puzzle is the very much greater demands placed on breath during the concerted choruses. >
In general, I try to breathe in places where it makes sense according to the text (which in Bach does not necessarily coincide with where you might breathe if you just looked at the notes). Which means I don't breathe all that often.

< There are several possibilities: either 'surreptitious' breaths in the middle of long phrases were acceptable despite breaking up the line; >
The nice thing about at least some of these long passages is that they are sequences - the same figure is repeated, for example, three times, each time a whole step higher. If I need to, it's possible to breathe in between figures, and I think the results are pretty satisfactory - haven't heard any complaints from my ensemble (and they would complain if there were a problem...). But since I like living dangerously, I try to do everything in one breath if I can!

So, for example, in that middle section of BWV 76, I do the first 6 measures of 'Christum glaeubig zu umfassen...' without breathing, then the next two measures are a repetition of the sequence established two measures earlier (so I breathe), then I breathe very fast two measures later between 'lassen' and 'will ich...', and then the rest of the phrase (basically 4 measures) without breathing. This is living a little dangerously, but it can be done even in a large hall.

Laudamus te... There was a time when I REALLY liked living dangerously and was just practicing at home anyhow, and so I don't know but what I did measures 20-26 all in one breath. But nowadays I would take a tiny breath at the end of 22, before 'glo...', another tiny breath at the end of 23 before 'lau...', another tiny breath at the end of 24 before 'ado...', then through m. 26 all in one breath. So that's another way to manage - take tiny breaths more frequently in certain situations.

Et exultavit... mm. 29-51 are pretty interesting. Back in the old days, just practicing at home, I think I only breathed twice during that passage - in m. 36 before 'in...' and 47 before 'in...'. Nowadays, I might take a tiny breath before 34, then in 36, then if I was feeling ambitious, I'd hold out until 47; if not, I'd take a tiny breath in 39 before 'salu...' as well.

< or the few selected singers used in concerted choruses really were near-superhuman; or they and their breathing were not really acceptable and that was a reason why Bach was unsatisfied by the conditions in Leipzig; or parts were shared between more than one.
Any thoughts? >
There you have them, for what it's worth.

Tom Dent wrote (March 4, 2005):
Thanks for your reply. More thoughts below...

Cara Emily Thornton wrote:
<< Yet many of Bach's works have choruses with scarcely a quaver's opportunity for breath every few bars. >>
< A quaver every few bars isn't a problem. >
That depends, I would say. Let us look at a couple of places: first, tenor part in No.25 of St. John Passion (BWV 245). 13 and a half bars 4/4 without a single notated rest and two cruel slow chromatic scales up to high A. If this was a solo it would be much harder than Deposuit. Or bass part in No.42, 16 bars 4/4 without a single notated rest. These demands are actually more arduous than most solo parts particularly when you take into account that Bach does not (or rarely) give the chorus any extended rests like he does the soloists.

< In general, I try to breathe in places where it makes sense according to the text (which in Bach does not necessarily coincide with where you might breathe if you just looked at the notes). Which means I don't breathe all that often. >
Yes, Bach often puts the commas of the text after short notes with the melody forging right on after them. The Endlose Melodie!

< (...) If I need to, it's possible to breathe in between figures, and I think the results are pretty satisfactory - haven't heard any complaints from my ensemble (...) >
Another thing about being a soloist is that you can get the ensemble to adjust to tiny rhythmic distortions where you get breath. In polyphonic choruses there is no chance for this.

< Laudamus te... There was a time when I REALLY liked living dangerously and was just practicing at home anyhow, and so I don't know but what I did measures 20-26 all in one breath. But nowadays I would take a tiny breath at the end of 22, before 'glo...', another tiny breath at the end of 23 before 'lau...', another tiny breath at the end of 24 before 'ado...', then through m. 26 all in one breath. >
Note that you have a half-bar rest beforehand to prepare for this and several bars afterwards to recuperate!

The clincher for me isLobet den Herrn. It scarcely seems physically possible to sing this with OVPP, unless phrases are cut in the middle for breath.

Perhaps some enterprising OVPPerson has proved me wrong, though...

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 4, 2005):
< (...)We can take it that the Leipzigers did not possess leather lungs. Yet many of Bach's works have choruses with scarcely a quaver's opportunity for breath every few bars. It would not do for there to be large holes in the musical texture, or unrhythmical pauses for breath followed by a rush to catch up. (...)
There are several possibilities: either 'surreptitious' breaths in the middle of long phrases were acceptable despite breaking up the line; or the few selected singers used in concerted choruses really were near-superhuman; or they and their breathing were not really acceptable and that was a reason why Bach was unsatisfied by the conditions in Leipzig; or parts were shared between more than one.
Any thoughts? >
Yes. Flexibility of tempo all-round, for the whole ensemble, the same way as is normal phrasing (expressivity) on organ and harpsichord. Little "breaths" and tasteful pauses all over the place, wherever there's a distinction between "old" phrase and "new" phrase; that's the basic delivery both for singers and players, doing things with time/articulation as much as or more than loudness/softness. Still a basic forward flow, but FLEXIBILITY. Within such a texture of organic time, the breathing of singers really isn't a problem, as long as the ensemble is actually LISTENING to one another and able to do the normal compensation of rhythm in ensemble accompaniment. Such a texture also suggests one person per part, not more, as such flexibility is considerably more difficult in larger groups or with parts doubled.

Furthermore, it was NORMAL to have the accompaniment stay basically steady while a soloist bends the tempo ahead of and behind the beat tastefully. Again, no problem with breathing here. The singer simply phrases it as the vocal line allows, whether that all lines up exactly with the accompaniment or not. There's nothing super-human about any of this; just normal 18th century musicianship. Nor does it have to be terribly surreptitious, or with hastily caught breaths. Merely tasteful and graceful, in a group of musicians who know how to listen to one another as it goes along.

This area of rhythmic flexibility (of several sorts) is one that still hasn't made huge inroads yet into modern performing practices (whether it's period-instrument ensembles or not).

 

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