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OVPP (One-Voice-Per-Part)

Part 11

 

 

Continue from Part 10

OVPP [BRML]

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?

Charles Francis wrote (June 9, 2004):
[To John Pike] Well there we go then - could it be that Rifkin and Parrot both missed this vital document? But, perhaps not, given the chapter in Parrott's book "Entwurf" and the appendix containing the same in German. This article is a good read on OVPP, by the way: http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~grossman/cemp/one-per-part.pdf

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?

Donald Satz wrote (June 10, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Another important consideration is how OVPP sounds to the listener. I find it very effective as long as the specific singers have fine voices that blend well together - microphone placement is also significant.

Charles Francis 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. >
Are you suggesting Ton Koopman is posting here under a pseudonym?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 10, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] Just because Ton Koopman believes something doesn't make it true.

Jules (Julian Asgueara) wrote (June 11, 2004):
I think the main question concerning the OVPP debate is this: although it seems very likely that this is the kind of force Bach had to work with, do we think that this is his ideal? Also, do we think that Bach wrote with these specific forces in mind? To me it seems unlikely, and I'll bring up the often mentioned perspective that Bach's music is probably the most transcribable music there is. While he most definitely considered whether the singer for a part was soprano or bass, or whether a part was written for flute or violin, it is also a fact that the music is so strong that it survives admirably if not thrives when set for other instruments/voices. I don't know whether a musician like Bach would chose an OVPP setup as his ideal. It seems more likely that he would strive for the best effect, and greatest contrast between soloist and choir. The contrast, in the Passions, for instance, between the soloists, who represent various characters, and the chorus, which often makes abstract or thematic statements, is in my opinion best reprersented by a larger choir, as the effect of the whole(represented by the many) vs. the self or ego(represented by the various personages) is most clearly heard.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 11, 2004):
Jules wrote: "I think the main question concerning the OVPP debate is this: although it seems very likely that this is the kind of force Bach had to work with, do we think that this is his ideal? Also, do we think that Bach wrote with these specific forces in mind?"
I would suggest that a) we can't really know what his ideal was (if indeed it was different from what he actually had) and b) neither knowing what forces he did have nor speculating about what else - if anything - he might have preferred should be a barrier to using forces of a different scale. Contrary to what has been alleged here recently, neither Parrott nor Rifkin have claimed that it is wrong to perform Bach chorally, but only that the forces he had were OVPP.

I have talked about this before, so the repetition may be tedious, but I know from my own experience that a composer can write for a particular disposition of voices (in this case OVPP) and at the same time envisage performances by a different, greater, number of voices. I wasn't unsatisfied with the original OVPP line-up - I knew that was what the position was from the outside - and neither did I fell that a larger group was inappropriate. It isn't necessarily either/or - this is what I've got but that is what I'd ideally like - but more like 'what I've got is fine but the alternative is fine too'. Bach may well have felt the same.

Charles Francis wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Jules] This Easter, there was a wealth of local riches where I live, with repeated performances of the Mathew and John Passions, as well as some Easter cantatas. I managed to attend one of the Matthew and John performances; dignified affairs with the audience mercifully refraining from clapping at the end. I followed the Matthew Passion performance with the score in hand (useful for spotting errors and omissions by the continuo player), when I was struck at one point by a rather obvious thought: when Choir 1 sings "Herr bin ich's", this represents the disciples responding to Jesus, and as all the disciplwere present at this occasion there should be twelve of them singing. So twelve disciples distributed across SATB - do the mathematics!
http://www.sfbach.org/repertoire/stmatthewpassion.html

Craig Schweickert wrote (June 11, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: < I followed the Matthew Passion performance with the score in hand (useful for spotting errors and omissions by the continuo player), when I was struck at one point by a rather obvious thought: when Choir 1 sings "Herr bin ich's", this represents the disciples responding to Jesus, and as >all the disciples were present at this occasion there should be twelve of >them singing. So twelve disciples distributed across SATB - do the >mathematics!
http://www.sfbach.org/repertoire/stmatthewpassion.html >
Wrong on two counts. First, there are eleven "Herr"s. One assumes that Judas was silent at that point. Second, there is no indication in the score that the eleven responses are to be sung by eleven different singers. It was not uncommon for a singer to assume two or more roles in dramatic works of the baroque era. All we can say with certainty is that a minimum of four singers (SATB) are required for this passage.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 11, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: "I followed the Matthew Passion performance with the score in hand (useful for spotting errors and omissions by the continuo player),"
How odd, to attend a concert partly in order to 'check up' on the musicians!

Charles Francis wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Craig Schweickert] Surely, Bach could point at the singer who should sing or train them to take turns left-to-right?

There's, three soprano "Herr"s, three alto "Herr"s, three tenor "Herr"s and finally two bass "Herr"s; a total of eleven. So we are missing one disciple from the bass, and after the choral, you find the missing bass when Judas says "Bin ichs Rabbi?" - so twelve disciples in total (3 sopranos, 3 altos, 3 tenors and 3 basses).

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 11, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: "Surely, Bach could point at the singer who should sing or train them to taketurns left-to-right?"
Indeed he could (though I doubt Bach would find suddenly pointing at a singer during a performance any more of a sensible a way of allocating solo responsibilities than a conductor would today - those useful things called rehearsals are quite a good opportunity to sort out such things!) but that is hardly evidence that he did!

Craig Schweickert wrote (June 11, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: < Surely, Bach could point at the singer who should sing or train them to take turns left-to-right? >
Surely. But not if his choir consisted of a single soprano, alto, tenor and bass.

< There's, three soprano "Herr"s, three alto "Herr"s, three tenor "Herr"s and finally two bass "Herr"s; a total of eleven. So we are missing one disciple from the bass, and after the choral, you find the missing bass when Judas says "Bin ichs Rabbi?" - so twelve disciples in total >
You wrote 'when Choir 1 sings "Herr bin ich's", this represents the disciples responding to Jesus, and as all the disciples were present at this occasion there should be twelve of them singing.' Hard to see how, but if by 'at this occasion' you meant the "Herr bin ich's" passage plus the chorale "Ich bin's, ich sollte büßen" plus the folowing 14 measures, which involve only the Evangelist, Jesus and finally Judas, then I withdraw my first objection.

< (3 sopranos, 3 altos, 3 tenors and 3 basses). >
This does not necessarily follow. For all we know, it could have been one soprano singing three "Herr bin ich's", etc., and one bass singing two "Herr bin ich's" and later "Bin ich's, Rabbi?".

- Craig (who remains unconvinced by McCreesh's recording, by the way, and who wonders why he's received a reply to his message when he has yet to receive the original message)

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 11, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: "I followed the Matthew Passion performance with the score in hand (useful for spotting errors and omissions by the continuo player),"
Gabriel Jackson wrote: < How odd, to attend a concert partly in order to 'check up' on the musicians! >
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.

Continuo playing is an IMPROVISATORY art, based on complete understanding of counterpoint, harmony, chord-voicing, melodic motion, rhythm, accentuation, and dynamics. In short, it's instantaneous composition: and it takes a huge amount of knowledge, experience, confidence, and chutzpah to get up there and play something suitable reacting immediately in the situation. It's an art that non-players really don't understand at all, without doing it. It takes uncommon talent and years of hard work to become even minimally competent in it, and those of us who play it with much better than "minimal" competence (and who are sought out especially for this ability) regard it as a particularly expressive and satisfying art. And it's the beginning of understanding Bach's music Bach's way: the way he taught it to his students.

Will the arrogance of "Charles Francis" ever subside, from his regular string of insults directed at the competence of musicians?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 11, 2004):
[the message was removed]

John Pike wrote (June 11, 2004):
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. I think Parrott's reading of the Entwurff is reasonable but not one that I found very convincing. I think a number of the arguments used on both sides of the debate are rather weak ones. We are also hampered by the fact that at least 2 full cycles of cantatas from Leipzig are missing, and maybe countless other important documents or even parts. One argument in favour of OVPP which I have not seen mentioned yet relates to numbers of extant parts, though this argument may be in Parrott's book which I hope to read over coming days. At St Thomas' School, each alumni had a little cubicle with their own keyboard to practice parts. Given that the cantata parts are often difficult, it would surely have been just such pieces that the boys would be expected to practice in between rehearsals. Otherwise, why the effort of providing individual practice facilities for them? Given this, each boy would have to have a copy of the part to!
Learn his part. He would then want to use his copy of the part in performance. If so, then why are there no more than one part per voice remaining for many of these works? A reasonable explanation is that there was, indeed, usually only OVPP. Whether this was by design or constraints beyond Bach's control, we will probably never know.

Anyway, I will read Parrott's book.

Douglas Cowling [Director of Music & Liturgical Arts, Church of the Messiah, Toronto, Canada] wrote (June 11, 2004):
OVPP - Solo & tutti

John Pike wrote: < It gives a useful overview of the history of the debate. I think Parrott's reading of the Entwurff is reasonable but not one that I found very convincing. I think a number of the arguments used on both sides of the debate are rather weak ones. >
Although I find the OVPP works wonderfully with cantatas such as "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" (BWV 4) and "Gottes Zeit" (BWV 106) -- in fact I never want to hear a choral performance of those works again -- there are works which I "feel" must have had a larger tutti choir. And it isn;t always the presence of brass and a larger orchestra. In the Rifkin Mass in B Minor (BWV 232), the "Et Resurrexit" sounded brilliant with OVPP; the Sansounded absurd. I have no basis other than "feel" but I hear the Sanctus with at least 3 to a part (3 is a big number there!) and perhaps soloists in the "Pleni". And even with the "Et Resurrexit", can we extrapolate from the bass "solo" at "Et iterum" back so that the there is full choral tutti in the rondo repeitions of the principal section and soloists in the intervening sections? I know there is SOME evidence for this practice -- the tutti and solo markings in "Das Lamm Das Erwurdig"

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 11, 2004):
Douglas Cowling wrote: "In the Rifkin Mass in B Minor (BWV 232), the "Et Resurrexit" sounded brilliant with OVPP; the Sanctus sounded absurd."
I agree that Rifkin's Sanctus isn't great, but I would suggest that it is not OVPP that is the problem but other parameters, particularly the tempo. Junghanel's Sanctus is much more satisfying.

Donald Satz wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] I agree about "other parameters" being the problem. Rifkin's tempo is a little too quick, and the singers do their worst work in this piece.

Pierce Drew wrote (June 11, 2004):
"In the Rifkin Mass in B Minor (BWV 232), the "Et Resurrexit" sounded brilliant with OVPP; the Sanctus sounded absurd."
I agree with this basis of evaluation. For me, the musical result is the most important factor (among many important factors) in the OVPP vs. choir debate. The theoretical debate is interesting -- but, ultimately, Parrott et al. -- it seems to me -- perform Bach OVPP because they are satisfied with how it sounds.

I remember clearly the first time I encountered OVPP. My friend had just bought a copy of Gardiner's much-lauded Mass in b (BWV 232) and was listening to "Crucifixus." He was shocked and disappointed that it was sung by OVPP, rather than a choir. Was this because he was used to the "full-body" choral sound? Maybe.

Since then I have bought the recording and find the OVPP "Crucifixus" compelling enough, although I prefer a larger choir. But then I came to know to Mass in b (BWV 232) through this recording. Perhaps if it had been Richter, I would find Gardiner's choice more disturbing [?]

I'm not a professional musician or musicologist by any means. Listening to baroque and early music is a soul-refreshing hobby for me. So I approach these things more pragmatically: how does it sound?

But then I realize that "how it sounds" is relative. When Hogwood recorded the Messiah for the first time on "authentic instruments," using a male-only choir, it sounded alien to many ears. It did to mine (my entry point for baroque and Bach was post-romantic, modern instrument interpretations of the Messiah). Now, some 25 years on, the Hogwood recording sounds rather polite (almost dull in comparison to more recent entries) and "tame."

As I said at the beginning of the post, I think that the proof of OVPP vs. choir should be in the pudding -- the musical result. Although not my favorite recording of the work, Junghänel's Mass in b is (BWV 232) worthwhile to hear because it shows us how HIP-OVPP has developed since the 1980's. IMO, the Cantus Cölln reading is quite polished and even "natural," unlike the Rifkin which seems overwrought (as pioneering efforts often are) at times.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 11, 2004):
Doug Cowling stated:
>>Although I find the OVPP works wonderfully with cantatas such as "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" and "Gottes Zeit" -- in fact I never want to hear a choral performance of those works again<<
These were cantatas from Bach’s very early periods of cantata compositions. Bach research, notwithstanding past performances such as Richter’s with large forces, is in general agreement that these very early performances were sung OVPP in their original form, but not necessarily in that fashion when later performances (if there were any) took place in Leipzig.

>>-- there are works which I "feel" must have had a larger tutti choir.<<
It is good to get this ‘feeling’ because it keeps one from ‘falling completely and rigidly’ for the OVPP/OPPP theory in its radical form.

>>And it isn;t always the presence of brass and a larger orchestra.<<
This depends upon what type of HIP brass and large (OPPP) forces are used Bach calls for large forces at certain times, but mainly what we have heard recorded over the past 30 to 40 years may indeed not represent closely the sound/volume that Bach may have had in mind: the generally feeble attempts at tromba playing (assuming the instruments used were true natural trumpet reconstructions without modern innovations) in HIP ensembles can not be considered truly representative as the instruments and techniques for playing these instruments is still being perfected. The timbre and volume of Baroque trumpets with innovations or piccolo trumpets will be different and should also not be used for the consideration whether the balance between OVPP and orchestra is appropriate or not. The latter may be too loud and penetrating while the former suffer greatly from not be made or played properly (muffled sound, poor attacks/intonation, uneven volume, etc. etc.) – hence an easy judgment regarding balance can not be rendered here.

>>In the Rifkin Mass in B Minor (BWV 232), the "Et Resurrexit" sounded brilliant with OVPP; the Sanctus sounded absurd. I have no basis other than "feel" but I hear the Sanctus with at least 3 to a part (3 is a big number there!) and perhaps soloists in the "Pleni". And even with the "Et Resurrexit", can we extrapolate from the bass "solo" at "Et iterum" back so that the there is full choral tutti in the rondo repeitions of the principal section and soloists in the intervening sections? I know there is SOME evidence for this practice -- the tutti and solo markings in "Das Lamm Das Erwurdig"<<
The actual evidence for this is very scanty (I reported on this recently on these lists – Rifkin-Parrott will probably list these few cantatas as well.) By analogy or extrapolation, this procedure can be expanded to quite a few other cantatas as well, but then all of this is certainly not a proof of OVPP/OPPP, particularly if you consider that, allowing for the normal possibility that more than one singer/player can sing/play from a single part, you now have the additional ‘ripieno’ parts which would increase the number of singers/players considerably (again assuming that more than a single performer can sing/play from a single part, a point dismissed as historically incorrect by Rifkin/Parrott.)

My personal listening experience when hearing HIP groups perform certain cantata movements with ‘concertisten’ and ‘ripienisten’ where the middle section, a fugue, sandwiched between two obviously full chorus sections at the beginning and end of the movement with each entrance sung by a soloist, is that the fugue, often beginning in the bass, lacks substance and power just at the point where the text would obviously call for much greater power of conviction and grandeur on the part of the singer(s). To cover up this problem the conductor will probably increase the tempo considerably so that the notes simply trickle along playfully with occasional light accents. Although this type of musical treatment might sound entertaining to some, this is certainly not a very dignified way of presenting the often weighty subject matter that is inherent in the text of the fugue. The proper interpretation of the text is a very important element of a performance of Bach's sacred music.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 11, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: "My personal listening experience when hearing HIP groups perform certain cantata movements with ‘concertisten’ and ‘ripienisten’ where the middle section, a fugue, sandwiched between two obviously full chorus sections at the beginning and end of the movement with each entrance sung by a soloist, is that the fugue, often beginning in the bass, lacks substance and power just at the point where the text would obviously call for much greater power oconviction and grandeur on the part of the singer(s). To cover up this problem the conductor will probably increase the tempo considerably so that the notes simply trickle along playfully with occasional light accents. Although this type of musical treatment might sound entertaining to some, this is certainly not a very dignified way of presenting the often weighty subject matter that is inherent in the text of the fugue. The proper interpretation of the text is a very important element of a performance of Bach's sacred music."
That the author of this rubbish feels justified in accusing experienced musicians of incompetence with the impunity that he does is quite astonishing. The paragraph quoted contains so many vague generalisations as to be virtually meaningless. Which HIP groups? Which cantata movements? Do all performances of such movements exhibit identical 'faults'? Why are the outer sections of such a tri-partite movement 'obviously full chorus sections'? Why is the tessitura of the first entry of a fugue relevant - does a fugue in which the first entry is a soprano one not require substance and power? What is 'substance' in this context? Why are 'power of conviction' and 'grandeur' only acheivable by having more than one voice on a part? Are all texts of choral fugues the same? If they are not - and of course they are not - why do such fugues always require 'grandeur'? Why does an increase in tempo 'cover up' a lack of 'power of conviction'? If the conductor will 'probably increase the tempo considerably' presumably he/she doesn't in some instances? In those instances are 'power of conviction' and 'grandeur' still lacking? Is it always inappropriate for notes to 'trickle along playfully'? Are continuous heavy accents more appropriate than 'occasional light accents'? If the subject is 'often weighty' what is to be done when it is not? What is the 'proper interpretation of the text'? And so on.....

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 11, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < The timbre and volume of Baroque trumpets with innovations or piccolo trumpets will be different and should also not be used for the consideration whether the balance between OVPP and orchestra is appropriate or not. The latter may be too loud and penetrating while the former suffer greatly from not be made or played properly (muffled sound, poor attacks/intonation, uneven volume, etc. etc.) ­ hhence an easy judgment regarding balance can not be rendered here. >
Have you ever, personally, heard a Baroque trumpet of any kind played "live" in a room? Answer the question: yes or no.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 11, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < My personal listening experience when hearing HIP groups perform certain cantata movements with â?~concertistenâ?T and â?~ripienistenâ?T where the middle section, a fugue, sandwiched between two obviously full chorus sections at the beginning and end of the movement with each entrance sung by a soloist, is that the fugue, often beginning in the bass, lacks substance and power just at the point where the text would obviously call for much greater power of conviction and grandeur on the part of the singer(s). To cover up this problem the conductor will probably increase the tempo considerably so that the notes simply trickle along playfully with occasional light accents. >
What direct evidence is there that conductors "probably" do this? Any?

And what, specifically, makes chorus sections of music "obviously full"? Obvious to whom? To score-readers who project their own expectations into the score where nothing in fact is marked about any "fullness" of vocal forces?

< Although this type of musical treatment might sound entertaining to some, this is certainly not a very dignified way of presenting the often weighty subject matter that is inherent in the text of the fugue. >
Guesswork about performance practice is not a very dignified way of respecting the music, the composer, or performers. And, who are you to know what comes across as "entertaining" to any listener other than yourself? What does "entertaining" even mean here, and what's its antonym? "Langweilig"? "Logy"? "Monotonous"?

< The proper interpretation of the text is a very important element of a performance of Bach's sacred music. >
Finally, a sentence I agree with, although it's a truism. How does the addition of more singers make a text more properly interpreted, and according to whom or what? In my experience singing in and directing choirs (25 years), and composing for them (20 years), it's considerably more difficult to get a whole section of people to accentuate and bring out the meaning of a text clearly, than to have one singer do it. With multiple singers on a part it all just turns into a bunch of evenly presented syllables, without much clear sense of speech-like pronunciation or dramatic sense. Singers in groups (and their conductors!) get so bogged down trying to get sections to blend, and note-attacks and syllables all to be exactly together, the meaning of the music quickly gets lost in all the technical stuff. For any unanimity in a musical line, a larger group must be rehearsed in painstaking and even fussy detail to conform to a single way of delivering a line of music...as if there is only a single way to deliver such a line, and not dozens or hundreds! From a PRACTICAL point of view, therefore: textural clarity and "proper interpretation" are much easier with a competent soloist than with two or more singers on the line. Having one soloist on each vocal part, focused on the clearest possible presentation of his or her own part (and not forced to conform to anyone else's simultaneous interpretation): that's a PRACTICAL advantage, not a liability. This should all be obvious to anyone who has ever sung in a men's, women's, or mixed quartet; it certainly is to me, from that background (25 years).

Thomas Braatz: what is your direct experience singing in public (A) as a soloist, (B) in any OVPP vocal ensemble, (C) in any larger ensemble, (D) in directing any vocal ensemble (or teaching singers), and (E) in composing vocal music? Let's also add (F) the leading of congregational singing in church as a conductor, and (G) as an organist; and (H) your conducting of any concerted vocal work of Bach's, and (I) playing in the orchestra of any concerted vocal works by Bach. Answer the question. A simple number of years for each of A-I will suffice, helping us all to understand your background and practical experience in the "proper interpretation of text" in vocal music. Here's a simple checklist where you can fill in the blanks, so it will take hardly any of your time. It's such a small thing to ask, since you so freely hand out advice of the proper way to get it all done: on what experience is that advice based? Thank you.

(A)
(B)
(C)
(D)
(E)
(F)
(G)
(H)
(I)

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 11, 2004):
Brad Lehman: >>Have you ever, personally, heard a Baroque trumpet of any kind played "live" in a room? Answer the question: yes or no.<<
Gabriel Jackson: >> Which HIP groups? Which cantata movements? Do all performances of such movements exhibit identical 'faults'? Why are the outer sections of such a tri-partite movement 'obviously full chorus sections'? Why is the tessitura of the first entry of a fugue relevant - does a fugue in which the first entry is a soprano one not require substance and power? What is 'substance' in this context? Why are 'power of conviction' and 'grandeur' only acheivable by having more than one voice on a part? Are all texts of choral fugues the same? If they are not - and of course they are not - why do such fugues always require 'grandeur'? Why does an increase in tempo 'cover up' a lack of 'power of conviction'? If the conductor will 'probably increase the tempo considerably' presumably he/she doesn't in some instances? In those instances are 'power of conviction' and 'grandeur' still lacking? Is it always inappropriate for notes to 'trickle along playfully'? Are continuous heavy accents more appropriate than 'occasional light accents'? If the subject is 'often weighty' what is to be done when it is not? What is the 'proper interpretation of thetext'? And so on.....<<
Either all these questions are intended to intimidate me so that ‘my personal listening experience’ is to be construed as meaningless (along with any other information from Bach experts which I may happen to share,) or perhaps we have here a very hopeful sign: the above individuals are beginning to ask questions which might indicate that they do admit that they still have a lot to learn about the performance styles used in the various recordings (HIP and otherwise) of Bach’s sacred works. Since I have been advised to think and express myself positively on these lists, I will opt for the latter interpretation.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Have you ever, personally, heard a Baroque trumpet of any kind played "live" in a room? Answer the question: yes or no.

Robert Sherman wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Brad, for my part the answer is certainly yes, but in this case I have to agree with Thomas. But I am NOT going to get involved in this debate or continue this thread.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 11, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: "Either all these questions are intended to intimidate me so that ‘my personal listening experience’ is to be construed as meaningless (along with any other information from Bach experts which I may happen to share,) or perhaps we have here a very hopeful sign: the above individuals are beginning to ask questions which might indicate that they do admit that they still have a lot to learn about the performance styles used in the various recordings (HIP and otherwise) of Bach’s sacred works. Since I have been advised to think and express myself positively on these lists, I will opt for the latter interpretation."
Do these questions intimidate you? If so, why? Can you answer them? If not, then how can anybody be expected to take seriously the statements that gave rise to them? I cannot speak for Brad Lehman but I certainly have much to learn about these matters, but from people who know what they're talking about. Your listening experience is your own affair but your observations in this instance, frankly, are meaningless.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 11, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson states:
>>I cannot speak for Brad Lehman but I certainly have much to learn about these matters, but from people who know what they're talking about. Your listening experience is your own affair but your observations in this instance, frankly, are meaningless.<<
Obviously, then, you should direct these questions to those 'people who know what they're talking about.'

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 11, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: “Obviously, then, you should direct these questions to those 'people who know what they're talking about.'”
Except that people who know what they're talking about don't make statements that give rise to such questions. The fact that you didn't answer any of them speaks volumes about the depth of understanding that you possess.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 11, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson noted:
>>Except that people who know what they're talking about don't make statements that give rise to such questions. The fact that you didn't answer any of them speaks volumes about the depth of understanding that you possess.<<
The fact that you didn't even bother to check Aryeh Oron's archives to see what I and others have discussed about these specific topics speaks volumes about your motivation in raising these questions in this manner in the first place. As far as your true 'depth of understanding' about issues relating to the 18th century musical issues and your lack of information/knowledge (except perhaps for a few rigid, pro-HIP viewpoints) about Bach's performance practices, this was all covered recently and exposed for all list members to see and contemplate.

Again, I suggest that, for your own comfort in learning from a like-minded individual, do ask Brad Lehman about these things. In all of the vast experience which he continuously parades before our eyes, he certainly will have heard numerous times every cantata recording of all the major cantata series that have been recorded in both HIP and non-HIP style. He will have followed and studied carefully with the help of the up-to-date scores from the NBA all the details that a conductor/performer/composer can only completely understand and will be able to give you the authoritative answers that only someone with his competency and necessary diplomas in music can provide. And, yes, you won't be able to criticize him for following along with the score to 'check up' on the musicians. That would otherwise be considered odd behavior by some.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 11, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote (to Gabriel Jackson): <patronizing stuff snipped> Again, I suggest that, for your own comfort in learning from a like-minded individual, do ask Brad Lehman about these things. <more patronizing stuff snipped>
Definition, please. "Like-minded individual" in exactly what way? Gabriel seems like a nice enough guy to me, and obviously knows his business as a composer; but I want to know exactly what YOU meant by this quip. Thank you.

p.s. I'm still waiting to hear answers to the simple and forthright factual questions: about whether you've ever heard a Baroque trumpet played "live" in a room, and about your experience singing, playing, and conducting any of Bach's music. Surely these are very simple questions to answer with yes/no and numbers, and shouldn't take more than five minutes to answer honestly. What's the delay here? It's only fair to know the qualifications of any who propose to teach Bach's music in a public forum, isn't it?

p.p.s. Instead of offering so much patronizing and boring stuff that says nothing about the music and only assaults list members, what if we'd focus on the music and recordings...after you've answered those simple questions of fact, of course?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 12, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: "The fact that you didn't even bother to check Aryeh Oron's archives to see what I and others have discussed about these specific topics speaks volumes about your motivation in raising these questions in this manner in the first place."
Nonsense. My motivation was to highlight the insubstantial and unsubstantiated flim-flam that you attempted to pass off as a critique of unnamed (imaginary?) HIP performers and their proctices. Apparently that was an attempt to intimidate you, though you have declined to say how.

"He will have followed and studied carefully with the help of the up-to-date scores from the NBA all the details that a conductor/performer/composer can only completely understand and will be able to give you the authoritative answers that only someone with his competency and necessary diplomas in music can provide."
It is remarkable, and revealing, how these words 'conductor', 'composer' and 'performer' are wielded as if they were insults. How very telling.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 12, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: "As far as your true 'depth of understanding' about issues relating to the 18th century musical issues and your lack of information/knowledge (except perhaps for a few rigid, pro-HIP viewpoints) about Bach's performance practices, this was all covered recently and exposed for all list members to see and contemplate."
I have ears, an imagination, training, some skills and experience - of the limitations of notation in expressing a composer's wishes, of the practical realities that instrumentalists and singers have to deal with every day of their lives, of the relationship between the score and the performer. Which is why I know that if the composer marks a tempo of crotchet = 60, and the conductor takes it a little faster (or slower) and the results are persuasive and musical, that's fine. Which is why I know that if a singer shapes a phrase with

artistry and imagination, in a way that is not pedantically spelt out in the score, it is a cause for pleasure. Which is why I know that an accent sign should not result in an unvarying kind of emphasis but should depend on the context. Which is why I know that the 'perfect' performance doesn't exist, but that if the performers are their best, and if they bring imagination and intelligence to bear on what they are doing, that is more than good enough.

Which is why I know that if a brass player splits a note, or a singer's intonation is a little shaky at bar 29, that is not "inexusable" or "unacceptable" but merely a fact of life. Which is why I know that instrumentalists are highly skilled and dedicated people and it is not my job to tell them how to play their instruments. These are not things I have learned from poring over the NBA, or taking a score to a concert in order to check for "errors and omissions", but from actual engagement with the realities of musical performance.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 12, 2004):
>>what if we'd focus on the music and recordings..<<
This is the most sensible suggestion that I have heard and I am certain others reading these lines must feel the same way. Since the main topic under discussion here is OVPP/OPPP, this is where we should focus our attention.

I found quite interesting and worthy of discussion the following personal observation:
>>Singers in groups (and their conductors!) get so bogged down trying to get sections to blend, and note-attacks and syllables all to be exactly together, the meaning of the music quickly gets lost in all the technical stuff. For any unanimity in a musical line, a larger group must be rehearsed in painstaking and even fussy detail to conform to a single way of delivering a line of music...as if there is only a single way to deliver such a line, and not dozens or hundreds! From a PRACTICAL point of view, therefore: textural clarity and "proper interpretation" are much easier with a competent soloist than with two or more singers on the line. Having one soloist on each vocal part, focused on the clearest possible presentation of his or her own part (and not forced to conform to anyone else's simultaneous interpretation): that's a PRACTICAL advantage, not a liability.<<
It would appear to me that giving up too quickly on attaining 'any unanimity in a musical line' and implying that for Bach it would have been much easier and practical to use only OVPP because of the difficulties indicated above is not a fair assessment of the situation. It may well be that

1) Bach, with the help of his proxies, trained his various boys' choirs on an almost daily basis [I thought I had once read something to that effect somewhere - someone please correct me if I am wrong], not necessarily with the choral parts needed for the usual Sunday cantata performance (although I would think that this possibility should not be entirely excluded for the more advanced boys' choirs along with the reality that cantata rehearsals did take place on Saturday afternoons.) This means that voices/vocalists used as members of the choir for the cantata performances did have routine/regular practice sessions in which to perfect their 'unanimity' of voice and/or choral singing.

2) Most church choirs performing Bach (except for a very few high-profile ones like the Thomanerchoir, etc.) are lucky to have only a single rehearsal at some point during the week for a Sunday or single public performance of a Bach cantata. Thus their training specifically for this music is usually insufficient for a truly great performance. Their attitude toward the music (even too much enthusiasm could be potentially destructive to the overall choir sound!) enhanced as it must be by the choir director's attitude, may still not equal that which was possible in the environment provided by the circumstances in the Leipzig churches/school and the personal enthusiasm coming from Bach as he conducted his own music. [All of this notwithstanding the 'boys will be boys' problems that are omnipresent in any such situation.]

3) Individuals as choir members or as soloists singing OVPP today will more likely have greater difficulties than in the past in finding the harmonious blend (of timbre/vibrato and balance) between voices of the same section or as part of a vocal quartet singing OVPP. I personally attribute this to the stronger egos in each individual that are in evidence today compared to the greater ease with which voices were capable of blending in the social situation and government type that existed in Bach's time and place. [I am noting this only as a general trend today among vocal groups, most often amateur, but this also includes a few professional groups as well. There are always exceptions to the rule and we are fortunate enough to keep hearing these on excellent recordings that have been issued in recent years.]

4) Four professional singers may have much greater difficulties in singing and interpreting classical music as a quartet where they must be involved in an ensemble blend, than they would have as individual soloists. The example in point that I have quoted before is a recording of Johannes Brahms "Liebeslieder-Walzer" on DG 423-133 which features some of the greatest professional singers of the time: Edith Mathis, Brigitte Fassbaender, Peter Schreier, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with Karl Engel and Wolfgang Sawallisch on the piano(s). It is unbelievable how a single voice, that of Edith Mathis, then 42, completely destroys the ensemble and this great music with her uncontrolled voice which is incapable of blending with the other voices. All these great Lieder interpreters with all these vast hundreds of possibilities of interpretation and it takes only one voice to destroy everything. [I once heard a Robert Shaw choral interpretation of the same music which was far superior, but it was pure choral singing and not an attempt at over-interpretation of the text with extreme gesturing, etc. It was very effective and a definite improvement over the vocal quartet mentioned above!]



Continue on Part 12


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 ý21:59:11