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OVPP (One-Voice-Per-Part)

Part 10

 

 

Continue from Part 9

OVPP/OPPP cntd.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 7, 2004):
Bach’s designations (listing of instrumentation/voices in his orchestrations)

Often there is nothing at all above an aria movement to indicate who is playing or singing what.

Frequently there is simply the designation ‘Aria’ or ‘Recit’ over a given movement or the nature of the solo instrument is mentioned without indicating the voice part.

Here are some typical examples with fuller designations:

BWV 100/5 "Hautbois solo e Alto"
BWV 49/2 "Aria Organo solo" [voice not indicated]

Since the typical designation at the top (in the heading/title of the score) usually includes the number of instrument parts (not the number of instruments actually playing at the time of the performance where doubling/tripling etc. of the part will take place) and the number of separate voice parts (not necessarily the number of actual singers participating in a performance), it will have an appearance that may look like this:
BWV 132 : "â 9" . [= nine parts vocal & instrumental]

"â 1 Hautb. 2 Violini Viola. 4 Voci col Basso per ‘Organo" [=1 oboe, 2 violins, 1 viola, basso continuo on the organ and 4 voice parts] = 9 parts [but not necessarily 5 players and 4 vocalists – the continuo group may consist of more than just the organ player, if the cantata contains a choral movement, there may be doubling of the instruments (2 oboes playing the same part, etc.) and the vocalists most likely will consist of more than one singer per part with arias & recitatives usually being sung by a solo singer.

Assuming perhaps incorrectly, as the OVPP advocates do, that unless there are ripieno parts in Bach’s original set of parts or indications by Bach of such a division between 'concertisten' and 'ripieni,' each vocal part would necessarily be sung by a single singer, then it becomes problematical, unless, of course, you assume that Bach was absent-minded or not inclined to being economical with words and music, to see in the same cantata [with only 4 vocal parts]:

Aria Baßo Solo [=an aria for solo bass voice]

Why would Bach have to indicate that this aria is for a single voice, if we can assume, along with Rifkin’s theory on OVPP that there but a single singer for each voice part?

It would be rather clear why Bach would specify in the title for BWV 199 “Cantata…a Voce Sola” because only a single voice should be singing all the time; even the chorale is sung this way and not as a 4-pt. chorale.

In BWV 61/5 Bach writes “Aria Soprano solo” for an aria with soprano + bc, while for BWV 61/3 with a tenor voice singing with violins and violas in unison + bc he has designated only “Aria Violini è Viole al’unisono.”

In BWV 147/7 Bach writes as a title for mvt. 7 in the continuo part: “Aria Tenore solo.”

According to Rifkin, only 4 singers would be singing the four vocal parts throughout the entire cantata [both the score and the original parts of BWV 147 indicate nothing to the contrary – no additional ripieno parts, etc. were ever found nor was there any sort of ripieno notation in the score.] Why would Bach find it necessary to indicate “Tenore solo?”

In BWV 119/5, where Bach includes in his title (of the autograph score) “…e 4 Voci,” implying again according to Rifkin, Parrott, et al that this cantata would have to be OVPP, he [Bach] literally goes out of his way to write into the score at one point: “Sequ[itur] Aria Alto Solo con due Fiauti all’unisuono.”

In a cantata [BWV 119119/1] calling for 4 trombae, timpani, 2 recorders, 3 oboes, 2 violin, 1 viola and a large continuo group [bassono, violoncello, violone, organo, etc.], I can already hear the results of a new OVPP cantata recording with muffled trombae, extremely loud timpani with an overwhelming, booming bc coupled with recorders blown without clean attacks or releases, the usual squeaky, scratchy violins that attempt to accompany voices that are unable to create a blend or balance with each other. The glorious effect that Bach had envisioned for this music will be reduced to a caricature created by all the worst aspects: the ‘trimming down’ and the evisceration of his music by the backward-looking notion that Bach used only minimal forces for the presentation of the greatest ideas.

I have clearly pointed out in my past messages where Rifkin and his followers have failed to see things clearly and how they have attempted to prove things from the historical record which are improperly interpreted or falsely assigned as a source of ‘reliable information for proving the OVPP theory.'

Just a quick summary of some of the problems involved:

1) Rifkin fails to see the political nature of Bach’s “Entwurff” and hence he takes Bach literally [this is just what Bach hoped that the city council members would do, but they saw through the arguments presented by Bach.] Once Rifkin gets the reader/believer to assume that everything in this document is literally true taken on its face value, Rifkin is then free to play a ‘shell game’ with the numbers as presented by Bach. Under the rules of this game the total number of players and singers left in each choir, along with the instrumentalists needed to accompany the main choirs, dwindles until the strict math calculation tells you that Bach could hardly get along with the numbers that he had, and that 4 or perhaps eight singers would be all that he could ever scrape together to perform his greatest works. Bach did not write the “Entwurff” for posterity so that we would know in the year 2004 exactly how many players and singers he could count on. Bach was just as creative in ‘rounding up’ good players and singers from outside of the Thomaner School as he needed them. Saying too much about this possibility would have been detrimental to his effort in securing more and better student musicians from within the school.

2) Parrott’s attempt to bolster Rifkin’s theory with ‘documentary’ evidence from the iconography of the period fails entirely to address the pertinent issue of the exact number of individuals performing in one of Bach’s sacred choral masterpieces. I have pointed out why such ‘evidence’ is extremely unreliable – it certainly is not a photographic record of what went on during the performances that Bach conducted in the churches of Leipzig. The illustrations in Parrott's book can only be used to impress an undiscerning reader.

3) The usual problem of ‘digging up’ source materials that are only vaguely related to the time and place of Bach’s main endeavors in Leipzig makes itself apparent also in Parrott’s book. This is a problem generally for certain aspects of musicology surrounding the HIP movement: almost no attempt is made to seriously evaluate the source materials for their intended audience (who is saying what and for what reason) or to establish a direct link to what Bach was doing in Leipzig and to interpret/translate the original German properly.

4) The ‘aura’ of authenticity is invoked and supported, whether explicitly stated or not, by all those musicologists, musicians, listeners who read uncritically these presentations and slowly begin to believe: “This is it! This is just how Bach must have heard this music”: a severe reduction in forces, a change of temperament, recitatives with shortened accompaniment, and the use of singers with characteristic HIP training, who, for the most part, do not even fully understand the text that they are singing!

Should any musical group, anywhere on this globe, be able to perform and record Bach’s sacred works OVPP/OPPP? Sure, why not? It’s Bach’s music after all, and it has been demonstrated that it is well nigh impossible to destruct it entirely. There are even some interesting effects that have been created that Bach never dreamed about.

The claim that some sort of ‘proof’ exists that Bach had performed the music this way in Leipzig during his tenure still falls far short of its mark. Almost everyday I seem to come upon more evidence in the form of direct connections with Bach’s performance practices, evidence that continually moves away from OVPP/OPPP to its opposite: Bach’s ideal performance standards envisioned, and most likely made use of, larger forces than most HIP advocates are able to imagine.

With the announcement of the ATMA Classique Bach Cantata Series in OVPP/OPPP, we have another questionable claim made by Pierre Dionne, ATMA’s marketing director [taken from another message posted here]: “The recordings will also take account of recent research, which shows that Bach intended the solos and choruses to be performed with one voice per part.” It will be very interesting to find out just what specifically this ‘recent research’ is, other than perhaps a rehash of the rather untenable Rifkin-Parrott theory.

Bradley Lehman wote (June 7, 2004):
< With the announcement of the ATMA Classique Bach Cantata Series in OVPP/OPPP, we have another questionable claim made by Pierre Dionne, ATMA’s marketing director [taken from another message posted here]: “The recordings will also take account of recent research, which shows that Bach intended the solos and choruses to be performed with one voice per part.” It will be very interesting to find out just what specifically this ‘recent research’ is, other than perhaps a rehash of the rather untenable Rifkin-Parrott theory. >
It's "questionable" and "rather untenable" mainly to those who are not willing to engage and believe the evidence presented, but who first decide it's wrong and then seek methods to knock it down. That's not scholarship.

Also, anybody with serious interest in this topic (and the recent research on it, by good scholars) should have already read the two relevant articles in Early Music, November 2003: one by Rifkin, the other by Martin Geck (translated by Alfred Mann); neither being a rehash of anything. Rifkin discusses the newly-discovered parts to BWV 23 and makes some Kuhnau connections. Geck supplies a broad view of the Leipzig performance situations, the normal and special occasions, the use of professional singers, etc etc. I especially like Geck's last three paragraphs.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 7, 2004):
>> It's "questionable" and "rather untenable" mainly to those who are not willing to engage and believe the evidence presented, but who first decide it's wrong and then seek methods to knock it down. That's not scholarship.<<
It’s not scholarship to overlook important points in the first place before the evidence is presented for the first time. [Whatever happened to the highly touted peer-review process?} This always leaves a question in the mind of the serious student whether this type of oversight was intentional or not. Perhaps, in an effort to rush a theory such as OVPP into print, much contrary evidence was discounted and it appears that those who have wished to identify themselves with this theory continue rather rigidly and blindly to reject anything that might disturb ‘their favorite mode of thinking’ about this matter.

I have ‘engaged’ the ‘evidence’ that supposedly supports this OVPP theory and presented evidence to the contrary which is not taken seriously by a few degreed musicians/musicologists, who thereby reveal themselves not worthy of true scholarship. This type of reaction, the avoidance of examining such contrary evidence, only serves to prove the unwillingness/incapability on the part of some to continue investigating that which they have rigidly assumed to be an unshakable theory.

>>Rifkin discusses the newly-discovered parts to BWV 23 and makes some Kuhnau connections.<<
For Rifkin to use BWV 23, Bach’s audition piece before Bach was even hired as Thomaskantor, as any sort of further proof for OVPP, is extremely misleading in the least. This was a time of great transition for Bach, a time when he had to begin ‘to get a feel’ for his possibly new position in Leipzig, but also a time when he was still very much making use of materials which he had composed for a much smaller number of musicians who were attached to the court in Weimar. As such BWV 23 does not represent the true capabilities and forces that Bach eventually had at his disposal in Leipzig for more than a quarter of a century. Rifkin’s study may not be a ‘rehash’ of anything previously presented in support of the theory of OVPP, but it certainly falls short of the mark in presenting anything that would substantially lend any support to an already failing theory.

>>[Martin] Geck supplies a broad view of the Leipzig performance situations, the normal and special occasions, the use of professional singers, etc etc. I especially like Geck's last three paragraphs.<<
It might be interesting to see what Geck has been able to uncover above and beyond the rather thorough and extensive examination of this topic by Arnold Schering in his classic study “Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik” [Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig, 1936.] I would imagine that many English-speaking musical scholars would probably not have read this book in its original and hence might be quite impressed by anything that ‘comes down the pike’ in an English translation as this article originally in German by Geck.

The feigned reticence in the statement “I especially like Geck's last three paragraphs” is sufficient reason to believe that the final three paragraphs might contain a summary that could generally support the use of smaller numbers (not necessarily OVPP) – a point that Schering made back in 1936 and a point which later led Rifkin to pursue an even more radical theory--, but certainly these paragraphs do not offer any substantial, new evidence.

What really matters here are the points of evidence that have been advanced in support of the OVPP/OPPP theory. The inability to focus on the key points which are up for discussion here points towards a general inability (or is it a reluctance to reveal one’s own weaker position?) to pursue the type of clear thinking that can result in a resolution of a problem that arises from contending ideas.

As an advocate and supporter of the HIP OVPP/OPPP theory, it would behoove the respondent to think as follows:

1) How would Rifkin have answered these challenges in a clear and thoughtful manner? What would he have said? What counter-evidence would he have presented?

2) In which way can specifics, not generalizations or summaries, be given that will enlighten the reader about a subject-matter crucial to the performance of Bach’s sacred works, now and into the future?

Without this type of point-for-point, on-specific-target approach, the respondent’s needlessly self-promoting commentary becomes entirely ineffectual in engaging a meaningful discussion regarding the very specific, objective facts upon which the OVPP/OPPP theory is constructed.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 8, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Tom: instead of all this wild-guessing what the articles say, and the posturing about how you supposedly understand it all better than anybody, why not just go to a library, pick up that issue of Early Music, and read the Rifkin and Geck articles?

How are you so sure that any of it "certainly falls short of the mark" or "is extremely misleading" while you haven't even looked at it (as your posting here makes clear that you have not)?

As for Geck, his article has 56 footnotes citing Schering and many other researchers.

As for the several patronizing places in this posting where you instruct me how to think: give it up. I think for myself, as scholarly performers must always do, and I don't need your unsolicited chiding how I should do it better. (Nor do Rifkin or any other serious researchers need your "corrections" to either their technique or their material.) All I did here was mention here two articles that I enjoyed reading recently; what's the big problem?

A suggestion, free advice is being given out anyway: if you believe you have something on these guys, some better evidence than any real specialist working in this field has, why not go ahead and propose an article of your own for some suitable journal, and then go write it? Or, go make some recordings or conduct some public performances in the way you believe is correct. Turn your energy to something positive, instead of complaining to an internet list that in your opinion real scholars are incompetent, misguided, and so ignorant that they can't recognize any errors in their work. If you want to rebut Parrott and Rifkin in print, go give it a try...prepared to draw just as serious criticism of yourself and your research as you foist so readily on those guys. If you're trying to play hardball, go do it. If not, then perhaps your time would be better spent reading more, instead of criticizing things you haven't studied (an irresponsible technique, at best).

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 8, 2004):
>>How are you so sure that any of it "certainly falls short of the mark" or "is extremely misleading" while you haven't even looked at it (as your posting here makes clear that you have not)?<<
The final three paragraphs of an article will usually contain a summary. This is usually not the place where key evidence is given, but rather grand overstatements are offered as ‘clinchers.’ Thus far, no evidence to the contrary has been shared with this mailing list which would help to correct my observation.

>>As for Geck, his article has 56 footnotes citing Schering and many other researchers.<<
This is a very sensible approach for Geck, not ‘to reinvent the wheel’ when most of this important work had already been done by Schering.

>>As for the several patronizing places in this posting where you instruct me how to think: give it up.<<
I am only attempting (probably now for the last time) to get a straightforward answer that is to the point on issues of Bach’s performance practices that do really matter. It appears that a university education with degrees in music does not automatically grant the individual the gift to focus directly upon specific issues which matter greatly in the world of historically informed performances.

>>All I did here was mention here two articles that I enjoyed reading recently; what's the big problem?<<
Why mention them at all if no pertinent information is shared? Is that supposed to be a ‘positive’ response? Is this supposed to elicit a response such as “Please tell me specifically what you liked best about Geck’s final paragraphs” whereupon the reader promptly will be told to “go look it up yourself in a university library?”

>>perhaps your time would be better spent reading more, instead of criticizing things you haven't studied (an irresponsible technique, at best).<<
Perhaps the shoe is on the other foot: a degreed musician/scholar should be better informed about things that truly matter and should be able to engage in a meaningful, well-focused dialogue when responding to key issues of performance practices. This is not what I have experienced here.

>>Turn your energy to something positive, instead of complaining to an internet list<<
Searching for the truth is ‘turning my energy to something positive.’ Only some of those who have invested considerable time and money in obtaining university degrees in music will consider evidence contrary to their currently-held beliefs troubling and negative, rather than seeing this type of additional, overlooked evidence as a positive opportunity to obtain a more complete picture of, but also a positive opportunity to assess the veracity of performance practice theories that are currently in vogue.

radley Lehman wrote (June 8, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
>> How are you so sure that any of it "certainly falls short of the mark" or "is extremely misleading" while you haven't even looked at it (as your posting here makes clear that you have not)?<<
< The final three paragraphs of an article will usually contain a summary. This is usually not the place where key evidence is given, but rather grand overstatements are offered as â?~clinchers.â?T Thus far, no evidence to the contrary has been shared with this mailing list which would help to correct my observation. >
And it's not going to be, either: real scholars go read articles instead of guessing what they say, or guessing at their structure. Go to the library.

>>As for Geck, his article has 56 footnotes citing Schering and many other
researchers.<<
< This is a very sensible approach for Geck, not ‘to reinvent the wheel’ when most of this important work had already been done by Schering. >
Your congratulations of Geck are irrelevant, as you have no idea about his conclusions or methods (or about his final three paragraphs) until you've read his article. Maybe Schering's book is the only "wheel" you care to know about, or believe, but real scholars take a much broader view and don't merely rehash one another's conclusions to trumpet their feelings of personal satisfaction.

>>As for the several patronizing places in this posting where you instruct me how to think: give it up.<<
I am only attempting (probably now for the last time) to get a straightforward answer that is to the point on issues of Bach’s performance practices that do really matter. It appears that a university education with degrees in music does not automatically grant the individual the gift to focus directly upon specific issues which matter greatly in the world of historically informed performances. >
The straightforward answer is twofold: (1) go to libraries and read, and (2) go earn some music degrees. DO THE WORK. That is what "serious students" do, and that is what is done by those who have credentials to teach. Instead of autodidactic fishing, and your regular assertions that university education is merely a batch of sour grapes, go BECOME a "serious student" as you claimed yesterday to be!

>>All I did here was mention here two articles that I enjoyed reading recently; what's the big problem?<<
< Why mention them at all if no pertinent information is shared? Is that supposed to be a â?~positiveâ?T response? Is this supposed to elicit a response such as â?oPlease tell me specifically what you liked best about Geck’s final paragraphs’ whereupon the reader promptly will be told to ‘go look it up yourself in a university library’
No. I told you (everyone here) exactly where to find them. Go read them if you care what is said in them. The "pertinent information" is that they exist, and that I (as a scholarly performer) found them helpful when I read them. I didn't have to mention them at all, but I figured that some list members would be interested in going to read them, so I brought them up.

>>perhaps your time would be better spent reading more, instead of criticizing things you haven't studied (an irresponsible technique, at best).<<
< Perhaps the shoe is on the other foot: a degreed musician/scholar should be better informed about things that truly matter and should be able to engage in a meaningful, well-focused dialogue when responding to key issues of performance practices. This is not what I have experienced here. >
There is no "meaningful, well-focused dialogue" possible with an autodidact who knows not even the most basic things about practical musicianship, critical thinking, or scholarly rigor, and who disdains the value of education. That's why I've given up trying to uphold the other half of such a conversation. Guesswork about shoes is irrelevant.

>>Turn your energy to something positive, instead of complaining to an internet list<<
< Searching for the truth is ‘turning my energy to something positive.’ Only some of those who have invested considerable time and money in obtaining university degrees in music will consider evidence contrary to their currently-held beliefs troubling and negative, rather than seeing this type of additional, overlooked evidence as a positive opportunity to obtain a more complete picture of, but also a positive opportunity to assess the veracity of performance practice theories that are currently in vogue. >
A search for thetruth is commendable. A good way to do that is to commit oneself to formal education: investing the time, energy, money, and dedication to go through the whole process. We go THROUGH that performance-practice stuff in graduate school (not just dipping into it as tourists), and we know what we're doing. We also know how to think. That's what education (as opposed to autodidactic guesswork) is for: to train us to be better thinkers and practitioners in those areas. Education trains us in the PROCESS of lifelong learning, the ability to sift conflicting stimuli and find plausible meaning; and that's what accreditation stands for. There aren't really any shortcuts to this.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 8, 2004):
>>Education trains us in the PROCESS of lifelong learning, the ability to sift conflicting stimuli and find plausible meaning<<
…which seems to imply that it would be improbable, if not impossible, for autodidacts without a university training to do likewise. What a ridiculous conclusion! Again, simply consider J. S. Bach’s situation without ever having attained any university degree (even honorary!) Bach also assembled his own rather extensive library.

>>A search for the truth is commendable. A good way to do that is to commit oneself to formal education<<
This is only one way that is not without flaws: there are also those who simply ‘jump through the hoops’ by ‘hook or crook’ and manage to get a degree nevertheless. These are ‘student tourists’ that later become ‘professional tourists’ in their fields.

>> We also know how to think.<<
That’s what the prerequisite exams are for. The ‘ability to think’ is not necessarily taught by institutions of higher learning. This must mean that there are many people without a university education who can think and be creative without or despite a university education.

>>There is no "meaningful, well-focused dialogue" possible with an autodidact who knows not even the most basic things about practical musicianship, critical thinking, or scholarly rigor, and who disdains the value of education. That's why I've given up trying to uphold the other half of such a conversation.<<
When was the last time that the above correspondent even seriously tried to uphold such a dialogue on key issues without ‘hiding behind some authority or other’ and refusing to examine all the evidence objectively? Simply referring to a reference book or article without being able to cite the key evidence or render a succinct condensation of the arguments that were presented seems to demonstrate a weakness in the ability to summarize accurately or a deliberate attempt not to support autodidactic methods used by others on these mailing lists where the reasonable sharing of ideas, arguments, opinions can take place without fear of infringing upon copyright regulations.

>> I told you (everyone here) exactly where to find them. Go read them if you care what is said in them. The "pertinent information" is that they exist, and that I (as a scholarly performer) found them helpful when I read them. I didn't have to mention them at all, but I figured that some list members would be interested in going to read them, so I brought them up.<<
The point is that most list members may not have access to a university library and still may be quite interested in finding out more specifically what is behind the propelling motivation for the production of an entirely new and different Bach cantata series:

>>“The recordings will also take account of recent research, which shows that Bach intended the solos and choruses to be performed with one voice per part.”<<
It is quite arrogant for anyone, whether autodidact or musician/musicologist with university degrees, to mention on these lists that there is such ‘recent research’ as a result of reading and enjoying the new books or articles on this subject, and then not be willing to share information about the key points/arguments/bits of evidence presented in them. Such an individual should perhaps question his/her own presence on these lists: what purpose is being served by broadcasting vague notions and then being unwilling to back up any claims with specific information which would be helpful in resolving some of the opposing arguments in a key performance issue.

Is there anything noteworthy and different in the ‘recent research’ into OVPP/OPPP, or is all of this merely ‘hype’ from a marketing director of a record company, ‘hype’ which will prove to have little or nothing to do with any really recent research as opposed to that which has already been presented by Rifkin/Parrott et al? Why should this be so difficult for an individual with degrees specializing in performance practices of earlier periods to answer and comment fully upon? It would be hard to imagine that most listeners on these Bach mailing lists would not be interested in knowing a bit more about this matter specifically, a matter which has already and will continue to affect very profoundly how they will hear Bach’s music being performed for many years to come.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 9, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: "The point is that most list members may not have access to a university library and still may be quite interested in finding out more specifically what is behind the propelling motivation for the production of an entirely new and different Bach cantata series:"
Oh for goodness' sake! For many people this new series is very good news. Others will not be interested, which is fine. Can't you give it a rest for once?


OVPP [BCML]

John Pike wrote (June 9, 2004):
First, can I say that I know very little about this and look forward to the experts on the list commenting on this, but I have read this extract from Wolff's JS Bach "The Learned Musician", which is relevant to the debate about OVPP. Apologies if someone has already posted this. On p. 260, we read:
"The size of his vocal ensemble is defined by Bach in an important memorandum to the city council dated August 23, 1730 ("Short but most necessary draft for a well appointed Church Music"), which states that the 55 alumni of the school:
"are divided into 4 choirs, for the 4 churches in which they must partly perform concerted music with instruments, partly sing motets, and partly sing chorales. In the 3 churches, namely St Thomas', St Nicholas', and the New Church, the pupils must all be musical. St Peter's receives the residue, namely those who do not understand music and can only just barely sing a chorale.

Every musical choir should contain at least 3 sopranos, 3 altos, 3 tenors, and as many basses, so that even if one happens to fall ill (as very often happens, particularly at this time of the year, as the prescriptions by the school physician for the apothecary must show), at least a double-chorus motet may be sung. (N.B. Though it would be still better if the group were such that one could have 4 subjects on each voice and thus could provide every choir with 16 persons.)"

Earlier in the same document, Bach specifies that:
"in order that the choruses of church pieces may be performed as is fitting, the vocalists must in turn be divided into 2 sorts, namely concertists and ripienists. The concertists are ordinarliy 4 in number; sometimes also 5,6,7, even 8; that is, if one wishes to perform music for two choirs. The ripienists, too, must be at least 8, namely two for each part.""

My reading of all this suggests to me that OVPP was something he often had to live with, when people were ill ("as very often happens"), but his preference was clearly for "4 subjects on each voice", one of whom would be singing the concertist line, the other 3 the ripieno line. 2VPP was his minimum acceptable level.

Hence, many different approaches are authentic enough, but not necessarily in line with Bach's ideal.

I know that I am unaware of much other research, but this does come "straight from the horse's mouth". Comments?

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 9, 2004):
John Pike commented and asked:
>>Hence, many different approaches are authentic enough, but not necessarily in line with Bach's ideal. I know that I am unaware of much other research, but this does come "strfrom the horse's mouth". Comments?<<
The questions remain:

1) How can we know what is ‘in line with Bach’s ideal?’

From indirect evidence, some of which I have shared on these lists in the past, it seems to be clear that Bach’s ideal for performing his sacred works, particularly the larger ones or those cantatas with a larger number of instruments would definitely be for greater forces than simply for OVPP/OPPP. This seems to have been part of a trend that had been growing in the direction of larger vocal and instrumental forces throughout Europe. [Somewhere I saw a listing of performances of Händel’s Messiah, where particularly after Händel’s death the numbers of performers increased dramatically.] Bach certainly read or knew about the sizes of instrumental and vocal ensembles elsewhere and probably wished that he might eventually be able to conduct, as Domenico Scarlatti as ‘Kapellmeister’ did (1728), a choir consisting of 30 to 40 singers and some famous, named violinists (7 violins in the violin section alone!)

2) There is some evidence that does some ‘straight from the horse’s mouth,’ but the question remains as to how this evidence should be interpreted.

We have in Bach’s hand documents such as the famous “Entwurff” which give in rather great detail the numbers of singers and instrumentalists allocated to the various choirs in Leipzig for which Bach was responsible.

Are these documents specifying the minimal forces needed to populate the choirs of the main churches in Leipzig with pupils from the St. Thomas School Bach’s own description of a reality, a prescription for performing his works not only under his direction but elsewhere outside of Leipzig or even at a much later time and place such as our time? Or did Bach present here a unique political document, which was intended to move the city council to provide the financing for much larger choirs and a larger pool of musically inclined students that would eventually produce better singers in larger numbers for the more advanced choirs? Instead of asking for a ‘pie in the sky,’ Bach settled for the political ploy of understating his actual numbers so that the council members would be more easily moved toward doing something to improve the situation which, at best, was suffering gradual attrition. Bach failed to move the city council members (they saw through his arguments and knew 'what he was up to,') but he did succeed centuries later in convincing Joshua Rifkin that the ‘Entwurff’ could be eminently utilized to prove this theory of OVPP/OPPP by forcing supporters of the theory to believe, as Bach would have the council members do, that there simply were not enough musically able pupils to present his music the way he had envisioned it. Bach would need larger numbers of performers drawn from the student body of the St. Thomas School. Since this did not occur as Bach had hoped, so goes the reasoning here, he must have performed his sacred works with the restrictions inherent in the ‘Entwurff.’ In order to bolster his argument that the extremely small numbers Bach gave must be taken literally at face value, Rifkin then pointed to the original parts of Bach’s cantatas (and other works) which consisted generally (with the exception of the doublets in the violin parts or occasionally oboe parts, and the continuo parts which often were not fully specified) of only one part per player/singer (with only very few exceptions for ripieno parts ever documented to exist.) Discounting the notion that more than one player/singer could actually play/sing from a single part, Rifkin concluded that OVPP/OPPP is the only logical solution for performing Bach authentically, if one reads correctly according to Rifkin) the historical record as given by Bach himself.

Rifkin’s radical theory, promoted by his own performances in OVPP/OPPP style and those of others who have become believers, has recently taken on even greater momentum among the period instrument/historically informed performance ensembles; and now, as seen a few days ago on these lists, it has now become part of the marketing strategy employed by record companies for marketing purposes. The fact that this theory itself, however, has not persuaded numerous historically informed conductors/groups of its validity and that such groups more commonly still use 3 – 4 vocalists per part should cause the casual Bach listener to wonder about the radical claims which Rifkin has made. Is the OVPP/OPPP theory truly an accurate description/proscription that should be used to present Bach’s glorious music the way it ought to be heard?

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 9, 2004):
< Is the OVPP/OPPP theory truly an accurate description/proscription that should be used to present Bachâ?Ts glorious music the way it ought to be heard? >
Yes; and Parrott says directly in his book that he doesn't intend the argument as any sort of proscription. He and Rifkin are trying to get to the truth of WHAT BACH DID (i.e. accurate description, through historical research), not necessarily what we today must or should or should not do.

Parrott's excellent book: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0851157866

The thing I fail to understand here on these discussion lists is the vehement and even vicious personal agenda of some individuals to knock this theory down as supposedly impossible. Why such a stake and vendetta against taking fresh research seriously, or against trying to hear Bach's music in a way he knew? Parrott isn't out to limit the options of intelligent musicians, so why are people here taking it on themselves to do so? What is there to gain, really, by not allowing the experts to do what they do best?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 10, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: "The thing I fail to understand here on these discussion lists is the vehement and even vicious personal agenda of some individuals to knock this theory down as supposedly impossible. Why such a stake and vendetta against taking fresh research seriously, or against trying to hear Bach's music in a way he knew? Parrott isn't out to limit the options of intelligent musicians, so why are people here taking it on themselves to do so?"
I agree. This desire of some to condemn all performances that they don't enjoy as wrong, in some absolutist sense, is bizarre and seems to be the preserve of those who don't like period performances. Along with others here I don't particularly enjoy performances of Bach on modern instruments but we don't seek to vilify and condemn as incompetent the likes of Helmut Rilling.

I'd have thought that the announcement of a new cycle of Bach cantatas performed OVPP would be welcome news as it offers those who are interested in such matters the oportunity to hear the entire ouevre performed in a way that many find fresh, stimulating and which says new and important things about the music. Those who not interested are not obliged to buy, or even hear, the recordings. But why do they care so?

I also wish that those who seek to tell performers (and everyone else) exactly how the music should be performed would put their money where their mouths are and actually do something useful in support of their 'theories' like put on a performance or two, rather than eternally sitting in the most authoritarian judgement - using language like "unacceptable" and "inexusable" - on those who are actually getting on with the job of making this music live by playing and singing it.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 10, 2004):
>>Parrott says directly in his book that he doesn't intend the argument as any sort of proscription. He and Rifkin are trying to get to the truth of WHAT BACH DID (i.e. accurate description, through historical research), not necessarily what we today must or should or should not do.<<
>>Parrott isn't out to limit the options of intelligent musicians<<
“Intelligent musicians” being defined as those who already believe in the OVPP/OPPP theory? Any musician who does not is immediately considered as not belonging to this select group of performers. This is easy logic: if you are an intelligent musi, you will do it precisely the way Parrott spells it out here. Sounds like a limitation on the options given to intelligent musicians: either you believe in this theory or you are immediately considered an outsider or a proponent of old way of doing things.

Parrott [The Essential Bach Choir] p. 142:
>>But if choirs of 12-16 did exist at Leipzig [According to Parrott, the existence of a choir this large is already questionable based upon Rifkin’s and Parrott’s research,] Bach would have used them only for the relatively simple ‘motet’ repertoire, and not for his own concerted music.<< [If Bach would have used only OVPP/OPPP for his own concerted music (this amounts to almost all of Bach’s sacred music, cantatas, oratorios, passions, etc.), only an unintelligent musician would consider doing it otherwise.]

[Now Parrott waxes poetic:] >>What we have inadvertently created [by using choirs of 12 – 16 voices] is a hybrid, a veritable hippogriff in which a plausibly Bachian orchestral body is grafted on to an alien, perhaps Handelian, vocal group.<< [Parrott points out in a footnote that the typical period instrument groups play OPPP, and that it would make more sense to have only OVPP by the force of analogy – interesting reasoning, if you believe that Rifkin was right about OPPP in the orchestra – perhaps the HIP groups were wrong from the very beginning when they reduced the forces of the orchestra before Rifkin had even made his discovery that the original parts (vocal & instrumental) usually existed with only one copy, which meant that only one player can play from one copy--so goes the reasoning behind this.]

>>This hybrid can no longer be presumed to reflect either Bach’s actual practice or his ‘ideal.’<< [Interpret as follows: Parrott is saying that any intelligent {not stupid or ignorant} musician must recognize that Bach used OVPP/OPPP as a rule in ‘actual practice’ and that Bach composed his great music with this ‘ideal’ OVPP/OPPP group in mind.]

It seems quite apparent that Parrott’s proscription is directed toward anything which is not OVPP/OPPP and that only less intelligent musicians would have the freedom to do otherwise: not follow the OVPP/OPPP theory to the letter.

p. 143: >>[The choral tradition of the 19th & 20th century is] a tradition which makes it easy to assume that a choir must (by definition) have multiple voices on each part.<<

[Of course, in Rifkin’s and Parrott’s mind, such a choral tradition is completely wrong and out of place in the performances of Bach’s sacred music. Anyone who would continue in this old-fashioned, outmoded tradition, even with only as few as 12 -16 voices, simply does not want Bach’s music to be performed correctly, that is, exactly the way he performed it in Leipzig.]

There does not seem to be much of an option allowed by Parrott, unless, of course, you are to be counted among those who have not yet made it to the higher realms of understanding to which they [Rifkin & Parrott] have already laid claim.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 10, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
">>Parrott isn't out to limit the options of intelligent musicians<<
“Intelligent musicians” being defined as those who already believe in the OVPP/OPPP theory? Any musician who does not is immediately considered as not belonging to this select group of performers. This is easy logic: if you are an intelligent musician, you will do it precisely the way Parrott spells it out here. Sounds like a limitation on the options given to intelligent musicians: either you believe in this theory or you are immediately considered an outsider or a proponent of old way of doing things."
Except that it's not true. Who defined 'intelligent musicians' as 'those who
already believe in the OVPP/OPPP theory?' Brad didn't. Nor has Parrott.

"It seems quite apparent that Parrott’s proscription is directed toward anything which is not OVPP/OPPP and that only less intelligent musicians would have the freedom to do otherwise: not follow the OVPP/OPPP theory to the
letter."
Another example of Thomas Braatz's time-honoured method of 'argumentation': distort and misrepresent what someone says in order to 'prove' them wrong. Arguing that Bach's performing forces were one-to-a-part is not the same as claiming it is wrong to perform them any other way.

"p. 143: >>[The choral tradition of the 19th & 20th century is] a tradition which makes it easy to assume that a choir must (by definition) have multiple voices on each part.<<
[Of course, in Rifkin’s and Parrott’s mind, such a choral tradition is completely wrong and out of place in the performances of Bach’s sacred music. Anyone who would continue in this old-fashioned, outmoded tradition, even with only as few as 12 -16 voices, simply does not want Bach’s music to be performed correctly, that is, exactly the way he performed it in Leipzig.]"
More misrepresentation. Is there any end to it, I wonder? The sentence quoted does not 'translate' as Mr Braatz seeks to allege. How wonderful it must be to know exactly what is in Joshua Rifkin and Andrew Parrott's minds. How clever to know that what they think is quite different to what they say. How uncannily percipient to know how Bach's music is to be performed 'correctly'. What superhuman powers of perception Thomas Braatz has, that enable him to recognise that Parrott and Rifkin believe that it is 'correct' (as he puts it) only to perform Bach exactly 'exactly the way he performed it in Leipzig' when they have claimed no such thing. It is quite extraordinary, this ability to know what others think even when their statements say something else.

My recent contention that I was merely a stand-in for Brad Lehman has been shown to be all too true; no sooner has he returned than the guns are trained back on him with their venomous intensity undiminished.

Uri Golomb wrote (June 10, 2004):
On the prescritveness (or otherwise) of Parrott, Rifkin etc., here's Parrott himself (p. 151 of his book):
"We have learnt several decades ago that the pianoforte is not intrinsically superior to the harpsichord as a vehicle for Bach's keyboard music, merely different from it. But while those who play Bach's harpsichord music on the pianoforte may still sometimes claim that the composer would have preferred it thus, they know better than to say that he _wrote_ it for the modern piano. Is it too much to demand that equal frankness apply to the matter of BAch's chorus?"

That is, Parrott's problem is not with the use of a multiple-singers-per-part chorus per se, but with those who claim that such a chorus is historically correct. Thus, in debating with Koopman in Early Music, their point was to argue against Koopman's articles, not against his recordings. As Parrott himself says (Early Music, May 1997, p. 297): "Undooubtedly, Koopman the performer has the highest standards, but what of Koopman the scholar?"

Joshua Rifkin has even conducted the Elgar-Atkins version of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) -- with full choral forces. No-one (including the organisers of the Three Choirs Festival, who invited Rifkin to conduct that version at their festival) claimed that the result was in any way a reflection of Bach's practices and preferences; but Rifkin was quite willing to direct this decidedly a-historical version, a willingness linked, in part, to their lack of historical pretensions. For them, the performance was part of a living tradition.

The objections of Rifkin and Parrott, then, are to those performers who consider themselves HIP yet refuse to engage with Rifkin's findings (some of them -- like Herreweghe -- admit that they don't know whether Rifkin is correct and haven't really examined his findings; they just find the results musically un-persuasive). If they are being prescriptive about anything, it's about how musicians talk (if it's not historical, don't say that it is), not about what musicians do.

John Pike wrote (June 10, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] It is a pity that every time we try to have an intelligent discussion on this issue, Thomas, in addition to his very helpful observations on the matter, finds it necessary to disscholars such as Rifkin and Parrott in such an unpleasant and unhelpful way. This habit was particularly evident in his later posting on this subject. I am sure that Riflin and Parrott are, indeed, trying to get at the truth of what Bach did, and I am equally sure that they are not trying to be proscriptive. However, an analysis of "what Bach did", must include an assessment of what he did on the one hand with the constraints imposed upon him (sickness, lack of musicians/choristers of the requisite standard, lack of rehearsal time, lack of time or people to copy parts) and what he did when ideal circumstances prevailed (large numbers of talented visiting musicians/university musicians/townspeple, adequate funding, other resources, time etc). I am building up the impression that OVPP/OPPP was something
he was forced to use in less-than-ideal circumstances but that his personal preference was for a slightly larger group. I have not seen any compelling evidence so far that he desired large choirs of more than 4VPP.

Last night, in Wolff's book, I read more about the instrumental ensemble. It seems that he often had limited players of the requisite standard regularly at his disposal, but this would be supplemented by hiring in extras. The original instrumentalists gallery at St Thomas' could accommodate some 20 players but the Burgomaster payed for an enlargement to the instrumentalists' gallery, "certainly" after discussion with Bach. This does seem to suggest that there were occasions on which Bach could envisage using a larger ensemble. It does not, of course, imply that he would ALWAYS use a large ensemble.

I hope that this discussion will continue in a more constructive manner.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 10, 2004):
[To John Pike] Well said, John. And see especially Martin Geck's article "Bach's art of church music and his Leipzig performance forces: contradictions in the system" in the November 2003 issue of Early Music. A memorable passage:
"I beg the pragmatic reader to refrain from asking, 'What is the author's real opinion? Did St Thomas students and civic musicians participate or did they not? And if they did, how many of them were involved and how often?' For I am not in a position to be able to answer such questions. Rather, I should like to create a climate in which they can be discussed more freely than before. Once we realize that Bach did not have an actual solution, we can face the thought that he must have had a number of imperfect solutions."

As for Rifkin and Parrott, their close reading of Bach's "Entwurff" differs markedly from the formerly mainline interpretation (represented by Wolff et al, from the Mendel/Mann/David translations of the old Bach Reader and the earlier work of Schering); that's the crux of the matter. Parrott reproduces both the German and a new English translation in his book, and explicates it; that's essential reading to see what this fuss is all about, and to see why he believes the interpretation of Schering, M/M/D, and Wolff is incorrect.

=====

I think it also bears pointing out: Koopman, Leonhardt, Rifkin, Parrott, Suzuki, Sorrell, Rilling, and other specialists bring the following necessary skill set to perform their complex duties: prepare performance parts (including any transpositions of keyboard or other parts), realize the thoroughbass in improvisation, hire/rehearse/conduct other musicians, decide among competing sources, play and tune harpsichords and organs, recognize decent pronunciation of the sung language, and use their musical experience in performance to make things as clear, true, and beautiful as they can. That's a very large order in the job description, and only an uncommon few are qualified to take it on, especially with the energy that these men and women do. Some other outstanding musicians who don't play keyboards themselves are also eminently qualified as continuo (thoroughbass) players: for example, Harnoncourt, Junghänel, Dreyfus, and Coin. Practical understanding of thoroughbass is essential to performing Bach; as he himself said, it's the soul of music. Whether a discussion is about proper deployment of singers, realization of continuo, instrumental balances, gestural delivery, or whatnot: these people have an enormous amount of expertise and experience invested in their duties, and their goal is the service of the music as best they can.

I feel that those who would criticize the correct execution of those duties (i.e. qualified to be the judge of those scholarly conductors and thoroughbass players) ought to be able to DO all those duties themselves, to know what it takes first; and have credentials to teach them. Anything short of that is both improper and annoying: merely self-embarrassing complaints by those who have a grossly distorted sense of self-entitlement (alleged mastery of topics through purchases), and who apparently believe they understand a lot more than they really do (i.e. no practical background and no objectivity).

From the example of Dr Geck, who is an established scholar with forty years of regular publications, there should be an even more appropriate humility here from those who are not scholars or experts at all: "I am not in a position to be able to answer such questions."

Those who would be thought of as experts or scholars, either in their own or others' estimation, but who really have none of those demonstrable abilities, credentials, or academically-reviewed output, are fooling mainly themselves. They have no basis for objective assessment of correctness, so their opinions are merely that: PERSONAL OPINIONS AND PREFERENCES with no scholarly weight. Personal opinions are just fine, until they're cloaked behind a facade of pseudo-expertise to try to fool the unwary...including themselves.

Discussion can only continue in a constructive and civil manner if such individuals are able to admit, especially to themselves, that they are not even 10% qualified to try to answer the questions. Why can't such individuals simply tell us honestly and forthrightly what they enjoy as enthusiastic consumers, and leave their remarks at that? Such information would be interesting. Wild and improper conjecture against scholars and expert performers is neither interesting nor responsible to the material; Bach's music deserves much better than that.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 10, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < [Now Parrott waxes poetic:] >>What we have inadvertently created [by using choirs of 12 – 16 voices] is a hybrid, a veritable hippogriff in which a plausibly Bachian orchestral body is grafted on to an alien, perhaps Handelian, vocal group.<< [Parrott points out in a footnote that the typical period instrument groups play OPPP, >
Yeah? So what we are doing here in Krakow is more HIP than I thought... (I
thought we were just doing it because of a lack of sufficient numbers of
string players in particular, as well as space for them....)

< and that it would make more sense to have only OVPP by the force of analogy – interesting reasoning, if you believe that Rifkin was right about OPPP in the orchestra – perhaps the HIP groups were wrong from the very beginning when they reduced the forces of the orchestra before Rifkin had even made his discovery that the original parts (vocal & instrumental) usually existed with only one copy, which meant that only one player can play from one copy--so goes the reasoning behind this.] >
Well, I think it is an exaggeration to say that only one player can play from one copy - I mean, normally you have two on a stand in a modern ensemble, right? (At least among the strings...)

John Pike wrote (June 10, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < As for Rifkin and Parrott, their close reading of Bach's "Entwurff" differs markedly from the formerly mainline interpretation (represented by Wolff et al, from the Mendel/Mann/David translations of the old Bach Reader and the earlier work of Schering); that's the crux of the matter. Parrott reproduces both the German and a new English translation in his book, and explicates it; that's essential reading to see what this fuss is all about, and to see why he believes the interof Schering, M/M/D, and Wolff is incorrect. >
Many thanks, Brad. I have the book and will check this out.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 10, 2004):
>>Discussion can only continue in a constructive and civil manner if such individuals are able to admit, especially to themselves, that they are not even 10% qualified to try to answer the questions.<<
Could this be considered a ‘put-down’? Is this an example of the over-inflation of an ego-centric musician trying to ‘corner the market’ on knowledge about Bach’s performance practices? Is this evidence of a double-standard where only those with the outward trappings of higher education are allowed to state musical facts as facts, but who then also attempt to control the minds of the plebs [the ordinary listeners who are told that they can not validly think on their own about Bach’s music and the manner of its performance and if they do, they must be ‘marked’ in such a way that any other member of plebs will be able to recognize that they are ‘merely expressing personal opinions and preferences.’]

>>Why can't such individuals simply tell us honestly and forthrightly what they enjoy as enthusiastic consumers, and leave their remarks at that?<<
Is this an effort of ‘thought-control’? Are list members to be reminded that this is a world of music in which everyone is supposed to be happy and enthusiastic, but that anything even slightly negative or critical is to be eschewed? Should this not be included in the guidelines: Only those individuals who parade their accomplishments at least weekly on these lists should be able, only if they so wish, include information from legitimate scholarly sources without having to preface it with such comments as: “This is merely a personal opinion.” The latter statement, however, will be required from all other non-pedigreed (in musical performance issues) correspondents as a preface to any information shared from the same sources. This will ensure that only correct ideas, thoughts, feelings about the performances will be broadcast through these mailing lists.

>>Wild and improper conjecture against scholars and expert performers is neither interesting nor responsible to the material; Bach's music deserves much better than that.<<
This is only ‘logical’ following from the above: If Rifkin can state publicly something against an expert performer such as Harnoncourt, it would not necessarily be considered ‘wild and improper,’ but anyone without degrees and diplomas in the field of music performance/musicology would be ostracized by those who wish to control the flow of ideas on these lists.

>>From the example of Dr Geck, who is an established scholar with forty years of regular publications, there should be an even more appropriate humility here from those who are not scholars or experts at all: "I am not in a position to be able to answer such questions."<<
How often would I have wished to hear from a certain respondent the response: “I am in a position to be able to answer such questions, but I can not because I do not know the answer?” That, too, would be ‘appropriate humility!’

>>Whether a discussion is about proper deployment of singers, realization of continuo, instrumental balances, gestural delivery, or whatnot: these people have an enormous amount of expertise and experience invested in their duties, and their goal is the service of the music as best they can.<<
Yes, and it is also incumbent upon the listener to weigh intelligently, but also from the heart, just how successful the endeavors of these conductors/performers have been. For this purpose, program notes have been supplied, sometimes even scores made available as an aid. The listener who has become fascinated by Bach’s music or who has experienced the profundity of his creations on just one or even many levels, will continue to search for even better understanding of what was involved in creating these great masterpieces of musical composition. As the distinctions are made, each listener will become aware of myriad possibilities that present themselves. To draw a line which deliberately limits what an ordinary listener may genuinely know and understand about the music and its performance and what not, and then also to expect prefatory remarks disclaiming the validity of the comment made, is to do Bach’s music a great disservice.

It is also a disservice to Bach’s music to force list members to humble themselves by stating, as I have seen in the past, something to the effect: “I’m just an amateur musician and I really don’t know much about this composition and I’m afraid that someone more knowledgeable than I will pounce on me for saying this, but this is the impression that I had….”

I read such messages and sometimes find interesting comments in them. Perhaps one message will state: “I really enjoyed this OVPP/OPPP version of the SMP,” a reaction which may surprise me, but which I accept as another's viewpoint/experience; but when a question is asked about what OVPP/OPPP really is and what type of validity it has among scholars who have studied this aspect of performance practice, the questions no longer remain simply: “I like the transparent quality of the music and the ‘brisk’ tempi that keep me awake,” but rather gravitate very quickly toward: “On whose authority were all these changes in performance practices during the past half century made?” and “What is the historical evidence and its manner of interpretation that has led to the conclusion that OVPP/OPPP was almost always used by Bach and that he had had this mode/type of performance in mind most of the time when he conceived his most majestic choral movements?”

It should be noted by some who read these postings just how quickly certain list members cause my direct observations and criticisms of the OVPP/OPPP theory to be deflected into various directions that always move away from a direct confrontation of the specific issues involved. It does not serve the purpose of those who do this to engage in clarifying the specifics of the argumentation upon which this still rather dubious theory rests. All they can say is ‘read this book,’ but if you try to discuss intelligently any specific aspect of the theory, even after having studied the book, you will come upon a solid wall which resists strongly by not allowing criticism of that which already exists as a fait accompli and which is now simply waiting for its raison d’être. Any continued questioning about the methods and materials used to support OVPP/OPPP would only serve to undermine the efforts of those whose primary purpose is to uphold this theory at all costs, a theory which makes a very strong claim of authenticity – that Bach actually performed his music this way most of the time and even had OVPP/OPPP in mind as he developed new compositions. This is where the crux of the matter lies. There would be less of a great division between the believers and non-believers, had Rifkin simply proposed performing Bach’s music mainly on saxophones or on accordions. But this is not what happened. Rifkin and his followers have made the claim that this theory provides the only viably authentic way of performing Bach’s music they way he himself had heard it. This claim of superior authenticity is the cause of all this dissension, since it impacts, and will continue to impact, just how most listeners will hear Bach’s music performed. There is no one who will control ‘the marketplace’ and decree that only one set of all of Bach cantatas will be performed this way because it is just another way of listening to Bach – equal to saxophones, accordions, etc. What will possibly happen is that less-informed conductors will assume that the theory of OVPP/OPPP is absolutely true and will not want any other kind of performance because, --well, -- there are many reasons and motivations that could be listed. The point still remains: “Why not check out a theory thoroughly before it becomes a standard way of performing Bach’s music? If it turns out that everything in the theory is ‘on the up and up, or 'on the level;’ then let it become the standard by all means, but if it is not a theory that can wivalid criticism (no matter where this criticism emanates), it should be scrapped, the sooner the better.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 10, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:<patronizing stuff snipped>
< The point still remains: â?oWhy not check out a theory thoroughly before it becomes a standard way of performing Bachâ?Ts music? If it turns out that everything in the theory is “on the up and up, or 'on the level” then let it become the standard by all means, but if it is not a theory that can withstand valid criticism (no matter where this criticism emanates), it should be scrapped, the sooner the better. >
I agree. VALID criticism is the key. And that thorough checking-out of theory is the province of those qualified to do so: the experts in that specific field who have the resources, time, commitment, access to sources, and (most importantly) the requisite objectivity and practical understandings to do so. It is not the province of people who have merely bought several (or even hundreds of) books and recordings, and who therefore convince themselves they know all that is relevant or possible to know, better than experts do.

Without an ability to make objective value-judgments, a meaningful outcome of that important "checking-out" process is impossible...it's reduced to just a bunch of preferences sprayed around, marking territory.

Charles Francis wrote (June 11, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < I agree. VALID criticism is the key. And that thorough checking-out of theory is the province of those qualified to do so: the experts in that specific field who have the resources, time, commitment, access to sources, and (most importantly) the requisite objectivity and practical understandings to do so. >
This sounds like the argument made centuries ago for keeping the Bible in Latin: that the common man without resources, time, commitment, access to sources and (most importantly) the requisite objectivity and practical understanding would not be misled. Luther's great innovation, was to translate the Bible into German so that it could be read by everybody. But, it seems Mr. Lehman prefers a world of priests and popes with a suitably educated elite taking the decisions.

Dave Harman wrote (June 11, 2004):
For those of us, (mainly me) who do NOT know what "OVPP" stands for, could someone on this please translate it ?

Also, the other term OVPP - could someone please translate that also. ?

Thanks

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Dave Harman] It is an acronym for One Voice Per Part - so a 4-part choir consists of 1 soprano, 1 alto, 1 tenor and 1 bass.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 11, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: "But, it seems Mr. Lehman prefers a world of priests and popes with a suitably educated elite taking the decisions."
What a curious attitude! Is everyone's opinion about everything of equal value? I know nothing whatsoever about golf but presumably I can voice whatever opinion I like about the game and how to play it and expect to have those opinions taken seriously? I hope John Pike will forgive my citing him for a second: he is a doctor and while there are aspects of his profession that we are all entitled to have a view on - the ethics of abortion, for example - we are not entitled to tell him how to do his job - we are not entitled to tell him how to treat patients - because we don't have the training, the expertise and experience and the knowledge that he does.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Dave Harman] So that OPPP - which I assume is the other term you are referring to - evidently means One Player Per Part.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] If that's what Charles wrote, then (as many times previously) he has deliberately demoted me to "Mr." Lehman: showing his contempt for accreditation, because he knows very well that "Mr." is not the proper title that I have earned. If Charles wishes to be conversational, he may address me as "Brad" which is the way I sign my postings: but his use of "Mr. Lehman" is clearly a statement of pique.

< What a curious attitude! Is everyone's opinion about everything of equal value? I know nothing whatsoever about golf but presumably I can voice whatever opinion I like about the game and how to play it and expect to have those opinions taken seriously? >
Good point, Gabriel. I know as little about golf as you say you do, but my father has been an avid golfer all his life. And, I'm not going to go out on the course with him and tell him unsoliticed on every hole how to improve his swing, or his putting; or stand there insulting him. Yet, that is what happens here on these list with novices telling committed and skilled musicians and scholars how to improve themselves, with unsoliticed/unwanted/unwelcome advice that is really no help, advice that only shows the ignorance and arrogance of those who offer it.

< I hope John Pike will forgive my citing him for a second: he is a doctor and while there are aspects of his profession that we are all entitled to have a view on - the ethics of abortion, for example - we are not entitled to tell him how to do his job - we are not entitled to tell him how to treat patients - because we don't have the training, the expertise and experience and the knowledge that he does. >
That's another good illustration. When I ask a medical doctor's advice on medical matters, I listen to the advice because the expert knows a lot more than I do; that's what expertise is for. If the doctor refers me to go read something he has found valuable, or refers me to a colleague's opinion, I take it seriously.

As for Charles' allegations of "priests and popes" if that applies to music: when did I ever say such a thing? Anybody is welcome to go put on a performance of Bach's music, and expect to hear various types of commentary about the results. The best way to know music is to participate in it, at whatever level one is able to do. If the self-appointed critics on this list would go out and do so, going through the practical experience of performing it in public INSTEAD OF complaining about other people's work that they're not qualified to do, maybe things would be somewhat more civil around here.

John Pike wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Dave Harman] One Voice Per Part and One Player per Part.

John Pike wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] I don't mind you citing me in the slightest. I agree, of course, totally. A most appropriate analogy.

Dale Gedcke wrote (June 11, 2004):
John Pike wrote: "I have read the article Charles recommended yesterday: http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~grossman/cemp/one-per-part.pdf
It gives a useful overview of the history of the debate. ......"

MY COMMENTS:

Wow! That review article by a reputable scholar (Grossman 2001) is an eye-opener. I was surprised to learn that the OVPP movement was initiated by Rifkin as recently as 1981, and has been controversial ever since (Marshall 1983, Herz 1987, Parrott 1996, Smithers 1997, Koopman 1997, Wolf 1998, to name a few scholars on both sides of the issue).

The controversy appears to be more balanced on both sides of the issue than I had been led to believe from postings in this discussion group. I have not studied all the evidence, but what soaks through is the perception that the arguments are not iron clad on either side of the issue. It appears as though there will never be enough direct and conclusive evidence to say with much certainty what the practice or intent of Bach really was.

Thanks for pointing out the link to this review article. It is exactly the response I sought with respect to my questions in my 6/10/04 posting "OVPP and Bach's limited resources". The time line is there, and so is a synopsis of the main arguments.

John, I look forward to your comments on Parrott's book after you have read it.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 11, 2004):
Charles Francis: >>I followed the Matthew Passion performance with the score in hand (useful for spotting errors and omissions by the continuo player)<<
Gabriel Jackson: >>How odd, to attend a concert partly in order to 'check ' on the musicians!
Brad Lehman: >>Or to presume that any person untrained and inexperienced in continuo playing is qualified to recognize "errors and omissions" simply by following along with the score. The error here is the expectation that score holds the complete and immutable way things must be, according to the biased reading habits of the untrained and inexperienced.<<
Bach certainly knew that his scores were not immutable and even demonstrated time and time again that with each new performance or parody of a work, he would change things in the score to suit his current circumstances; but, on the other hand, he was very deliberate in spelling out many details of the music; whereas most other composers of the period, did not indicate these specifically so as to allow the conductors/performers greater freedom in changing/adding notes/chords as they saw fit. Bach, in order to avoid such excursions/deviations from the score, made certain that these details were spelled out in full so that the conductors/performers would not distort Bach’s own intentions (what he considered as ‘good taste’ and appropriate for a performance of his music.) This was Bach’s manner of ‘fighting back’ so as to avoid having his music carry a bad name only because of the sometimes tasteless/careless artistic freedoms amounting to ugly, barbaric distortions that other artists would allow themselves to take. [In this context I am reminded of a vague connection here with Mendelssohn’s efforts in his famous E-minor Violin Concerto, where he succeeded in excluding the usual excesses of ego-centric, virtuosic displays of the soloists by creating an unheard-of, orchestral bridge between the 1st and 2nd mvts. thus depriving the soloist of his moment of glory at the end of the 1st mvt. in presenting his {the soloist’s} own, probably for Mendelssohn a tastelessly created and performed, cadenza.]

*’barbaric’ = Bach understood well the meaning of this word as applied to music. It was defined in Johann Gottfried Walther’s “Musicalisches Lexicon….” [Leipzig, 1732] as the manner of singing/playing/conducting by those musician/composers/performers who have not yet really made a name for themselves (they are not yet generally recognized as having a good (established) reputation even though they may have studied music thoroughly.) These ‘barbaric’ individuals imitate the current fashion or what may happen to be in vogue and in the process they want to express their individuality by allowing themselves the freedom to include improper musical ideas/variations/ornamentation/embellishments which even the most famous and most accurate of musicians/performers/composers would be very careful/wary about using and then only in moderation.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 11, 2004):
“barbaric”

Thomas Braatz wrote:
< *’barbaric’ = Bach understood well the meaning of this word as applied to music. It was defined in Johann Gottfried Walther’s “Musicalisches Lexicon….” [Leipzig, 1732] as the manner of singing/playing/conducting by those musician/composers/performers who have not yet really made a name for themselves (they are not yet generally recognized as having a good (established) reputation even though they may have studied music thoroughly.) These ‘barbaric’ individuals imitate the current fashion or what may happen to be in vogue and in the process they want to express their individuality by allowing themselves the freedom to include improper musical ideas/variations/ornamentation/embellishments which even the most famous and most accurate of musicians/performers/composers would be very careful/wary
about using and then only in moderation. >
Name some of these supposedly "barbaric" current performers of whom you speak, explicitly. Then we can go listen to them and decide if you're right. Thank you.

p.s. Bach called "barbaric" the sound of major thirds that are more than 81:80 sharp. I agree with him.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 11, 2004):
>>Bach called "barbaric" the sound of major thirds that are more than 81:80 sharp. I agree with him.<<
I await with great anticipation to see in print with the specific reference indicated the actual quotation by Bach where he states this as indicated above.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] New Bach Reader, #341; Bach-Dokumente II, #575. Bach is quoted by Georg Andreas Sorge, 1748, referring to the four wolf triads that arise from Silbermann's [1/6 comma] meantone tuning. >>"In denen 4 schlimmen Triadibus aber ist ein rauhes, wildes, oder, wie Herr Capellmeister Bach in Leipzig redet, ein barbarisches Wesen enthalten, welches einem guten Gehoer unertraeglich faellt."<< Sorge goes on to describe these rotten thirds as a stormy sea, with waves remarkably unfriendly to ships.

In brief, those chords sound awful and "barbaric". I agree with Bach and Sorge.

As you've snipped the direct question put to you, which was the more important part of the posting, I'll repeat it. Name some of the supposedly "barbaric" current performers of whom you speak, explicitly. Then we can go listen to them and decide if you're right. How else are we to know if you're interpreting Walther's remarks to us properly, and know whether Bach would have interpreted them in exactly your way? If you're going to allege that current performers (who???) are barbarians, exactly as (you allege) Bach also would have castigated, we have a right to hear about this and form our own opinions, to decide whether to believe your ability to interpret Bach and Walther. Please answer the question, with a list of names of performers who commit such transgressions: so we may go check it out. That's really the only way to be fair to these allegedly incompetent performers, isn't it, to give them a listen and decide how well they fulfill their duties? I look forward to seeing a list of at least a dozen, if you're interested in giving your assertions any weight of evidence. Thank you.

John Reese wrote (June 12, 2004):
Dale Gedcke wrote: < I was surprised to learn that the OVPP movement was initiated by Rifkin as recently as 1981, and has been controversial ever since (Marshall 1983, Herz 1987, Parrott 1996, Smithers 1997, Koopman 1997, Wolf 1998, to name a few scholars on both sides of the issue). >
I first heard about the OVPP theory in my first-year music theory class in 1981 or 82, so that sounds about right.

A few years ago my wife sang in a church choir for a short time, but quit out of frustration. The director did not have time to develop the whole choir to his satisfaction, so the more difficult passages were sung only by the strongest quartet (paid singers, actually). This way he didn't have to worry about blending, wrong notes, or other pitfalls of using amatuer musicians (although it destroyed the whole communal concept of a church choir). I could easily see Bach taking this route, especially since the choir had so much music to learn and his resources were thin.



Continue on Part 11


Choir Form: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
One-Voice-Per-Part (OVPP):
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19
Books about OVPP:
The Essential Bach Choir [by Andrew Parrott] | Bach's Choral Ideal [by Joshua Rifkin]: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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Last update: ýMay 30, 2005 ý21:56:02