Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

OVPP (One-Voice-Per-Part)

Part 12

 

 

Continue from Part 11

OVPP [BRML] - Continue

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 12, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
"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.]"
I'm sorry, but this is more speculative nonsense. Which church choirs performing Bach 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"? On what evidence are you making this assertion? What on earth does the sentence about "too much enthusiasm" and "the choir director's attitude" mean? You are simply making things up here.

"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."
Again, this is pure speculation. Opinions, with nothing whatsoever to substantiate them, are yet again being presented as facts!

"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."
A recording of Brahms which you don't enjoy, for the reasons outlined, is totally irrelevant when considering OVPP in Bach. Somehow I don't think Nach would have had an Edith Mathis in his choir!

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 12, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson states emphatically and with great authority:
>>totally irrelevant
>>pure speculation
>>more speculative nonsense
>>Opinions, with nothing whatsoever to substantiate them
>>You are simply making things up here<<
Methinks I am setting new records here every day! First there is a laundry list of personal questions to be answered out of fear that I might be excommunicated (as if that has not already happened in the minds of a few individuals here who wish to force this issue, and now I am accused of not providing the information that the HIPsters demand and want. The implicit message here seems to be: “Get the pecking order straight here!” The thought and opinion control people are about to take over and declare that ‘sie hätten die Weisheit gepachtet’ [‘they were the only ones that had any wisdom in these matters.’]

Will the ‘real’ Gabriel Jackson reveal himself by explaining in full from his vast base of knowledge about these things and from reading my mind in order to know everything that I have experienced that the above statements are true or untrue. Just because some people can not make certain connections in their mind, doesn’t mean that these connections do not and can not exist. Perhaps your experiences are much more limited than mine or your mind can not operate on a different wavelength. That’s not my fault. Perhaps you live in a different country/culture/world than I do, and, for that reason, there is difficulty in understanding my statements.

Charles Francis wrote (June 12, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: "Will the arrogance of "Charles Francis" ever subside, from his regular string of insults directed at the competence of musicians?"
Gabriel Jackson wrote: < Indeed. And it is particularly galling given that, on the evidence of his postings here, his musical competence is pretty much non-existent. >
Being familiar with some of Mr. Jackson's compositions, I have the impression we entertain very different concepts of "music" and therefore, quite possibly, of "musical competence". Notwithstanding, opinions regarding the competence of musicians concerned with Bach performance is, I believe, fair game on this discussion group, just as the competence of painters and decorators might be relevant on another group. One imagines, painters and decorators may likewise become belligerent when critical judgement is passed on their fellow professionals, asserting their critics are insulting and lack the necessary competence to express an opinion.

Donald Satz wrote (June 12, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] "Competence" is a very low standard to apply to musicians.

Charles Francis wrote (June 12, 2004):
[To Donald Satz] Of course, one should also speak of excellence (Gould, Rogg, etc.).

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 11, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < Perhaps you live in a different country/culture/world than I do, and, for that reason, there is difficulty in understanding my statements. >
A refreshingly perceptive and honest admission about a "different world": as it comes from one who's never admitted hearing a baroque trumpet or performing a page of Bach's music, but who presents the facade of knowing more about proper Bach performance practices than anyone. Bravo.

Mats Winther wrote (June 12, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Both you and Gabriel are always emphasising your own technical excellence although question of understanding the meaning of a text and the innate sense of the music are not wholly dependent on questions of musical technique. This shows that you don't even understand Thomas's initial question of the "weighty subject matter that is inherent in the text". You are bogged down in a quagmire of musical technicalities like 'tempo', 'intonation', 'emphasis' etc. The farthest you can stretch is this kind of utterance: "I know that an accent sign should not result in an unvarying kind of emphasis but should depend on the context" (Gabriel).

But where is your understanding of the human soul? Where is your understanding of religion and philosophy? Above all: where is your insight into a humane, heart-felt, morality? Why don't you follow the example of PhilippeHerreweghe who always does a lot of reading about the spirit of the times before staging a new production. He reads
about its philosophical and religious movements, etc. He is not only into 'intonations' and 'tempos'. He makes a research into the inner kernel of the human spirit.

You merely understand the question of the 'proper interpretation of the text' as a technical matter of where to put the emphasis. But music is not only notes. One cannot isolate music from religion, philosophy, morality and phantasy. The truth is that if you haven't matured your character and developed a fuller humanity you have no good capacity to understand and fully relate Bach's music. I think that Bach would regard the lack of humility displayed by certain people of this list as a great sin and he woulforbid you to stage his music.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 12, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: "Being familiar with some of Mr. Jackson's compositions, I have the impression we entertain very different concepts of "music" and therefore, quite possibly, of "musical competence"."
Are you really? Which ones?

"One imagines, painters and decorators may likewise become belligerent when critical judgement is passed on their fellow professionals, asserting their critics are insulting and lack the necessary competence to express an opinion."
And their critics may well lack that very competence....

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 12, 2004):
Thomas Brattz wrote: "Will the “real” Gabriel Jackson reveal himself by explaining in full from his vast base of knowledge about these things and from reading my mind in order to know everything that I have experienced that the above statements are true or untrue."
Somebody made a very sensible observation about the potential practical advantages of OVPP. In seeking to dispute the viability of that proposition Thomas Braatz came up with a number of statements, of which one was: "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." I ask again, which church choirs? If there are so many, it must be quite straightforward to name some.

As to revealing the 'real' me, I have no idea what he's on about there....

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 12, 2004):
Mats Winther wrote: "Both you and Gabriel are always emphasising your own technical excellence although question of understanding the meaning of a text and the innate sense of the music are not wholly dependent on questions of musical technique. This shows that you don't even understand Thomas's initial question of the "weighty subject matter that is inherent in the text"."
I don't think I am, but that is neither here and there. Which text, that is/was the point? What weighty subject matter?

"You are bogged down in a quagmire of musical technicalities like 'tempo', 'intonation', 'emphasis' etc."
And how does one communicate the weighty subject matter, in a practical sense, except by attending to technicalities like tempo etc.?

"The farthest you can stretch is this kind of utterance: "I know that an accent sign should not result in an unvarying kind of emphasis but should depend on the context" (Gabriel)."
You have no idea how far I can 'stretch' as you put it. Given that a pedantically literal interpretation of every articulation marking in a score is something Thomas Braatz likes to insist on, the above observation is perfectely relevant.

"One cannot isolate music from religion, philosophy, morality and phantasy."
Well if you had actually read closely the post from which you quoted you would see that I was arguing in favour of imagination and phantasy in the performance of music and against the pedantic literalism you accuse me of.

"The truth is that if you haven't matured your character and developed a fuller humanity you have no good capacity to understand and fully relate Bach's music."
And you have, presumably? Oh, but of course, you have the "higher cognizance" that a mere musician lacks.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 12, 2004):
[To Mats Winther] Mats, where is your evidence that Gabriel, I, or anyone else here engage in the superficialities you accuse?

The "quagmire" of which you speak here is your own ignorance of the technical aspects of music. Why is that to be recast as our problem, not yours? How do you have any idea whatsoever of "the farthest we can stretch"? How do you have ANY idea of the level of my, or Gabriel's, understanding of our field or of related ones, or of culture, or of soul or heartfelt morality?

And, who are you to decide that Bach would forbid me to stage his music? (What composer would forbid anyone to stage his music, really?!)

As for the understanding of weighty subject matter, have you ever examined any of my religious compositions through their sound, sense, and the meanings that are not obvious on the page? They are readily available to anyone who would go look them up (some are published) and learn them, if coming to them with the adequate preparation to understand what's there and why it matters. One of my best ones is making the rounds right now: a commissioned composition from last autumn, in memory of a young woman who died of cancer. Those who have heard and sung it have reported to me that they are profoundly moved by it.

In short: all you're doing here is putting up straw men. Give it up. What's your motivation for picking on people whose skills in the musical arts far outweigh your own?

Charles Francis wrote (June 12, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: "Being familiar with some of Mr. Jackson's compositions, I have the impression we entertain very different concepts of "music" and therefore, quite possibly, of "musical competence"."
Gabriel Jackson wrote: < Are you really? Which ones? >
Can't remember; I found various music samples and scores online some months ago when you first joined the list.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 12, 2004):
“Somebody made a very sensible observation about the potential practical advantages of OVPP. In seeking to dispute the viability of that proposition Thomas Braatz came up with a number of statements, of which one was: "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."
Gabriel Jackson wrote: I ask again, which church choirs? If there are so many, it must be quite straightforward to name some.
Since this list seems to be actually discussing music for a change, I'll make one more submission ...

When talking about the pattern of rehearsal and performance in Bach's day, we should divest ourselves of the models of either the modern church choir with its Thursday night rehearsal and one or two services on Sunday or the modern secular choir with its weekly rehearsals and limited concert season of 4 or 5 concerts per year.

St. Thomas' Church in Leipzig was more like a modern Oxbridge college chapel or English Cathedral with a heavy liturgical schedules. Those churches have residential schools attached where the boys are educated and music both vocal and instrumental is an important part of the daily curriculum. Add to Bach's singers a body of professional musicians who were municipal employees and you have a stable body of musicians which could handle anything which Bach could write.

The notion that the writing and rehearsal of the weekly cantata was telescoped into one week is insupportable. Bach would have had many compositional projects on his desk at any given time -- even an occasional event such as the commemorative or welcoming cantata for a royalty would have been waiting in embyronic form. (Reagan's funeral was planned 10 years ago, the Queen Mother's 25 years ago!) Musicians would have been preparing numerous works simultaneously. Bach must have planned the entire year in advance -- I suspect his planning revolved around the practical exingencies of the academic year. A work such as the Matthew Passian would have been in rehearsal for months.

As far as I know, no one has ever reconstructed a year during Bach's cantorate, listing all the days when music was required, what type of music was used, which music was Bach's, which music was from his library. That's just the repertoire ... we could then look at the personnel available in the school, the university and the city, and perhaps even extrapolate a complete overview of Bach's compositional, rehearsal and performance patterns.

Still lots of research to be done as we relinquish the Romantic myth of Bach as the poor benighted genius harassed by philistine authorities in a provincial backwater, and accept the reality of Bach as the central musician in a large musical establishment in a university city with a lively and longstanding commitment to the arts.

Gabriel Ja wrote (June 13, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: “Can't remember; I found various music samples and scores online some months ago when you first joined the list."
Not so familiar as to remember anything about them then, even a title or two?

Incidentally, what about them suggests I have a different concept of what is music? Are you suggesting that I, too, am incompetent?

John Pike wrote (June 13, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] Clearly you don't like Gabriel's music but that is quite another thing from "competence". The very fact that you know his music at all indicates competence, or the music would never be distributed in the first place.

I would like now to return to the original subject matter of this thread...OVPP. I have started Andrew Parrott's book and started with the appendices (as one does!) I wanted to read Joshua Rifkin's essay from 1981 which initiated the controversy. I came to the book with some very major doubts about OVPP but an open mind.

It is clear that Joshua Rifkin's essay is a masterpiece in scholarship and intelligence. It is very thoroughly researched and he has penetratingly analysed all the relevant documents, especially the Entwurff and the original parts. He makes a very convincing case, using much substantial evidence, for Bach using OVPP in much of his music. There is nothing sloppy in his thinking or analysis and I don't feel that he has strained hard to make evidence fit his own theories but rather he has questioned long-held assumptions because certain evidence just didn't fit those assumptions.

But it seems to me from the little I have read so far that OVPP was used out of constraints imposed upon him (lack of adequate singers, illness, singers of the wrong voice register, singers having to play instruments, lack of outside singers/instrumentalists, lack of funding, lack of time for rehearsal and perhaps for copying, etc. The Entwurff is surely a plea for extra funding/musical resources. As Rifkin himself points out, Bach had by then been in the job for 7 years and he was becoming increasingly frustrated by the constraints imposed on him, some of them controllable, others not (such as illness). He could see the whole project for a weell-appointed concerted church music going under if things didn't change. He wanted more ripienists. It seems to me very difficult to read the Entwurff in any other way without tying youself in knots. If Bach had other intentions, he would have made those intentions crystal clear. As it is, I think the document is crystal clear in being a!
plea for more adequate singers...after all, there were things the Leipzig authorities could do to improve the situation, eg change admissions policy to favour students with musical ability as well as academic ability, improve funding to hire in adequate singers from the university.

I look forward to reading the rest of the book. it is a most fascinating read so far.

Johan van Veen wrote (June 13, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: < 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). >
It is the choir which takes a role - the role of the disciples this time -, not the individual singers in the choir.

Johan van Veen wrote (June 13, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: < 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 disciples were present at this occasion there should be twelve of them singing. So twelve disciples distributed across SATB - do the mathematics! >
I see only two possibilities: this is a provocation or this is a joke, since I can't believe we are supposed to take this seriously.

Johan van Veen wrote (June 13, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< 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.] >
Although I think this is a generalisation, I believe it is safe to say that in principle blending isn't easier for four solo singers than for a choir. But I don't think it is fair to blame the stronger egos of the singers. I don't deny that some singers seem to have a strong ego - not unlike the writer of the lines above -, but it seems to me that the explanation is much simpler: the more often singers sing together the better the blending is going to be and the easier it will be to achieve. In that department choirs - whose members usually sing together on a regular basis, in particular church choirs - have an advantage over solo singers who come only together for one project. Therefore the best OVPP performances - as far as blending is concerned - are those by small vocal ensembles whose members sing together frequently, and know each others voices thoroughly. The best example is Cantus Cölln, of course. The disadvantage of such groups could be that not all members are equally succesfull in singing the soli in a cantata, something which I also have experienced with recordings by Cantus Cölln.

Another problem could be that vocal soloists work under different conductors and sing music from different periods and in different styles. Anner Bijlsma, who always played both on period and modern instruments, once said how much time it took to adapt to a period instrument when he had played on the modern cello for a while and vice versa. In analogy I think it takes time for singers to adapt to each other and to other kinds of music and performance practices. But I don't think it necessarily takes more time than the preparation for a performance with soloists and a full choir. The great advantage of an OVPP performance is the overall stylistic consistency, whereas in other cases there often is a striking contrast between the choir on the one hand and the soloists on the other.

But in the end the quality of a performance depends on the commitment of the singers and the good ears and the artistic vision of the musical director, who has to pick those singers whose voices he expects to blend and whom he expect to do what he thinks is necessary.

I have several recordings with OVPP recordings of cantatas by Bach's contemporaries, like Telemann and Stölzel, sung by German soloists who are all familiar with the style of that kind of music, and work with the director Ludger Rémy together on a regular basis. There is no lack of blending there whatsoever.

I am also familiar with many recordings by the German conductor Hermann Max, who never performs in OVPP style, but always picks voices for solo parts which match very well.

These observations are all from a present-day practical point of view. They don't tell anything about the quality of OVPP performances in Bach's time. His singers worked regulatogether, worked with Bach and therefore knew exactly what he expected from them, and they didn't need to sing Bach on one day and Brahms on the next.

< 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!] >
We know by now what you mean by "extreme gesturing", but it is beyond me what the amount of gesturing has to do with the contrast between a choral and an OVPP performance. Both kinds of performances can be either gesturing or dull, expressive or bland, whatever.

When voices don't blend and the ensemble singing is lousy, then that is simply a lack of good musicianship, and not related in any way to the number of performers. I have heard many performances by choirs over the years where all voices - all hundred or so of them - seemed to have a vibrato of their own (and a downpour of s's and t's at that).

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 14, 2004):
BWV 244 & 244b Mvt. 9e

Charles Francis:
>>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!<<
Johan van Veen responded:
>>I see only two possibilities: this is a provocation or this is a joke, since I can't believe we are supposed to take this seriously.<<
>>It is the choir which takes a role - the role of the disciples this time -, not the individual singers in the choir.<<
Emil Platen, a noted Bach scholar, commented on this movement on p.139 of his book “Johann Sebastian Bach: Die Matthäus-Passion” [Bärenreiter, 1991] as follows:

>>Die nun folgende fünftaktige Chorepisode (9e) ist eines der bekanntesten Beispiele für die zuweilen rational „abzählende“ Kompositionstechnik Bachs: „Ein jeglicher“ unter den elf Nichtbetroffenen fragt besorgt, ob etwa er dem Herrn verdächtig sei. Elfmal erklingt insgesamt in verschiedenen Stimmlagen der erschrockene Anruf „Herr“ mit der mehrmaligen ängstlichen Nachfragen „bin ich’s, bin ich’s?“ (je dreimal in Sopran, Alt und Tenor, aber nur zweimal im Baß.) Judas, der in Bachs Vertonung durch eine Baßstimme repräsentiert wird, verhält sich still. Er wird erst fragen, wenn seine Rolle in diesem Spiel ohnehin für alle offenkundig geworden ist….
…Im ersten (11,1) geht Jesus auf die noch unbeantwortete Frage der elf Jünger nach dem Verräter ein, zunächst nur indirekt, umschreibend und warnend. Erst als ihn Judas unmittelbar und herausfordernd anspricht, gibt er ihm die lapidare Antwort „Du sagest’s.“ <<
[>>The following choral episode (9e) is one of the best-known examples of Bach’s compositional technique of ‚counting off by the numbers’ at times in a very rational manner: Each of the eleven disciples who were not guilty nevertheless ask in a concerned manner whether Jesus suspects him. For a total of eleven times at different voice levels, you can hear the frightening cry “Lord!” with repeated inquiries of “Is it I?, is it I?” (each of the eleven cries is distributed as follows: 3 times each in the soprano, alto, and tenor voices, but only twice in the bass.) Judas, who is represented in Bach’s composition by a bass voice, remains quiet here. Only later will he ask this question when his role in drama his become apparent to all….In the first part of this section (movement 11, 1), Jesus comes back to the eleven disciples’ unanswered question about who the traitor was, at first in an indirect, circumlocutory and warning manner, but then when Judas finally challenges Jesus and asks him directly, does Jesus give him the lapidary response “You said it yourself.”<<]

So that all the factual information about this section from BWV 244 can be examined objectively before prejudging it as being a) only for OVPP with one voice ‘playing 2 or 3 different parts/disciples; b) for a larger chorus non-OVPP with many voices ‘playing 2 or 3 different parts/disciples; c) for a chorus with 3 voices per part, but with individual voices singing a single disciple’s part only once, let’s examine what the NBA reliably can tell us about this movement.

I have posted three samples of this movement from the NBA scores [taken from NBA II/5, II/5a, and II/5b] and have used the NBA II/5 KB to extract more specific information that is needed here. The jpg files are posted in the files section of the BachRecordings Group on Yahoo as

BWV244bM9eFac = this is the facsimile of Furlau’s copy of Bach’s Frühfassung
BWV244bM9ePrint = this is the printed NBA version of the same
BWV244M9e = this is the official NBA (aus letzter Hand – latest state) score
See: Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 – Examples from the Score

What you will see on these JPG files is:

The lead-in recitative (9d) which is marked:
Evangelista/Tenore with Continuo/Organo (consisting of 3 measures) beginning/ending with the words: “Und sie wurden sehr betrübt….und sagten zu ihm:”

The following movement (9e) with the words “Herr, bin ich’s?” is scored for 4 voices and has in addition parts for Violin 1 & 2, Viola and a continuo group marked ‘Continuo/Organo’

Other markings such as “I”, “Chorus,” “Allegro” are sometimes completely missing or inconsistently used/marked.

What we do know:
BWV 244b is a reliable copy of Bach’s original score for the SMP. This is frequently referred to by its German designation “Frühfassung” [‘early version.’] It was copied late, very likely at some point in the few years that followed Bach’s death, by Johann Christoph Farlau, and not Bach’s son-in-law Johann Christoph Altnickol, as had been assumed for quite a long time. This score represents the state of the SMP at some point in the years 1726, 1727, or 1729 for a probable Good Friday performance.

The designation “Chorus” is missing/does not occur in

a) BWV 244b (Frühfassung) at all

b) BWV 244 (the final version, autograph score from 1736) at all

c) BWV 244 Original parts: Soprano (1, Chori); Violino 1 Chori; Violino 2 Chori; Viola (1 Chori) = with the doublets, this means that 5 instruments that are playing here, do not have this mvt. marked “Chorus;” All 3 continuo parts for Chori 1 also lack this designation. In other words, all the instruments that are playing this movement do not have this section marked as ‘Chorus.’ It goes without saying that all the voices and instruments in Chori 2, the second choral/orchestral group have nothing marked here as well, but they (Chori 1 & 2) all join together in the next chorale movement (10.)

The “Allegro” is not marked in the Alto, Tenore, Basso (Chori 1) parts, and they are singing in this movement (9e).

[I personally think that Charles has made a good point here, a point that seems to help support the idea of non-OVPP. Taken together with other bits of ‘evidence’ [no one can prove beyond a doubt, or even reliably that OVPP/OPPP existed for most of Bach’s Leipzig sacred music], a case can be built up for the more reasonable, non-radical approach for non-OVPP/OPPP in performing most of Bac’s sacred compositions. BTW, there are 24 "bin ich's" in mvt. 9e. Any thoughts on this from anyone?]

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 14, 2004):
Johan van Veen stated:
>>it seems to me that the explanation is much simpler: the more often singers sing together the better the blending is going to be and the easier it will be to achieve. In that department choirs - whose members usually sing together on a regular basis, in particular church choirs - have an advantage over solo singers who come only together for one project. Therefore the best OVPP performances - as far as blending is concerned - are those by small vocal ensembles whose members sing together frequently, and know each others voices thoroughly.<<
Just one of many examples where your observation “the more often singers sing together the better the blending is going to be and the easier it will be to achieve<< fails is found in the main choir [Gächinger] that Rilling used through most of his complete Bach cantata series over many years. Not only does this choir suffer from many singers with vibratos, which at times can even be considered tolerable, but there are individual singers, particularly in the soprano section that ‘stick out like a sore thumb’ and destroy whatever type of choral blend might have been there to begin with. Likewise in the HIP camp, there is no way that a listener can easily ‘overhear’ Sytse Buwalda’s voice when he sings along in Leusink’s choir. Admittedly, the time frame for Leusink’s recording of all the Bach cantatas was much shorter than Rilling’s, but somehow I feel that this situation with Buwalda as well as a certain tenor in the choir, are vocal liabilities that no amount of practice and time would cure…perhaps the situation might only grow worse since many voices do not improve with age.

>>The disadvantage of such groups could be that not all members are equally successful in singing the soli in a cantata, something which I also have experienced with recordings by Cantus Cölln.<<
I will agree with you on this point, but there are even times, as good as this group can be, when their ‘choral’ singing also leaves something to be desired, even though I have heard OVPP groups which were much worse, or in a few instances, like the early, Weimar cantata recordings by Suzuki, where I can truly say “this is it! It can’t get much better than this.”

>>Another problem could be that vocal soloists work under different conductors and sing music from different periods and in different styles.<<
How true! There are many musical performers (a few may be successful at this, but many are not) who think they can easily ‘cross over’ from one time period or playing style to another completely different one without any ‘carry over.’ For instance, classical clarinet players who have played jazz-, Dixieland-, klezmer-style clarinet and then return to do a ‘gig’ playing/recording a Mozart piece composed for the same instrument. Unless you want your Mozart played with a tinge of the other styles ‘showing through,’ such Mozart clarinet performances lack the purity of clarinet sound that I have come to expect from this music.

>>The great advantage of an OVPP performance is the overall stylistic consistency, whereas in other cases there often is a striking contrast between the choir on the one hand and the soloists on the other.<<
This has its pros and cons. To be sure, an overly operatic voice would stand out ‘like a sore thumb’ with some otherwise HIP ensembles using period instruments or vibrato-less choirs. There is a greater stylistic consistency when ‘demi-voix’ singers do the arias and then blend back into the choir for the choral movements, but this comes at the tall price of the loss of greater range of vocal expression (a lot of vibrato is not necessarily what I am referring to here, but rather full control over volume over a wide range of notes, experience in conveying feelings without resorting to ‘hamming up’ the music with empty/mechanical or overdone gesturing.) Many ‘demi-voix’ singers are unable to project the words with warmth of feeling or strength of purpose without overstraining their voices.

>>But in the end the quality of a performance depends on the commitment of the singers and the good ears and the artistic vision of the musical director, who has to pick those singers whose voices he expects to blend and whom he expect to do what he thinks is necessary.<<
Sometimes the commitment of the singers, or the commitment of the conductor to the singers can be a detriment to a good performance. If only certain conductors on recordings, just like innumerable church choir directors throughout the world could truly choose the best voices without fearing to hurt a choir member’s feelings! Sometimes I wonder, but not for too long, what the reason may have been for Rilling being unable to ‘remove’ a few voices from the choir, voices which quite apparently were not blending in at all with the rest of the choir. Was this a truly committed individual singer that was always in attendance and always present when needed, was this individual doing many other things for the choir and had become irreplaceable for that reason, etc. etc. From a musical standpoint a certain individual should not be singing in the choir anymore, but do other personal matters intervene and make such a ‘firing’ almost impossible?

>>These observations are all from a present-day practical point of view. They don't tell anything about the quality of OVPP performances in Bach's time. His singers worked regularly together, worked with Bach and therefore knew exactly what he expected from them, and they didn't need to sing Bach on one day and Brahms on the next.<<
This is an interesting observation, but what about Bach’s Thomaner boys wandering off to Dresden or elsewhere to do opera. It may not have been only the fact that they left Leipzig in order to make more money singing in the opera, but the actual manner of singing which they would learn there that might not be welcomed by Bach if they returned without learning how to sing opera one day and sacred music the next. The style of singing and playing sacred vs. operatic music was certainly different if we can believe Mattheson, Heinichen, etc. However, truly great singers would be able to do both, as they still do today.

>>When voices don't blend and the ensemble singing is lousy, then that is simply a lack of good musicianship, and not related in any way to the number of performers. I have heard many performances by choirs over the years where all voices - all hundred or so of them - seemed to have a vibrato of their own (and a downpour of s's and t's at that).<<
And I have heard the very same problems in the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt Bach Cantata Series on Teldec as well. We seem to agree that lousy singing is lousy singing, and that the blending of voices in ensemble singing is essential. Just how ‘demi-voix’ singers and empty or overdone gesturing contribute to the problem of lousy singing is something we’ll have to leave for another time.

John Pike wrote (June 14, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Very helpful. Thankyou. But the number of original parts for the SMP singers is only 8, covering both choirs. I agree with Rifkin that it is hard to imagine 3 people sharing a part. I also find it hard to imagine 3 different people in each register (2 in Bass) all singing a different "Bin ich's?" (from the same part). I think the important thing is that the symbolism is there in the music.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 14, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < This has its pros and cons. To be sure, an overly operatic voice would stand out like a sore thumb with some otherwise HIP ensembles using period instruments or vibrato-less choirs. There is a greater stylistic consistency when demi-voix singers do the arias and then blend back into the choir for the choral movements, but this comes at the tall price of the loss of greater range of vocal expression (a lot of vibrato is not necessarily what I am referring to here, but rather full control over volume over a wide range of notes, experience in conveying feelings without resorting to hamming up the music with emp/mechanical or overdone gesturing.) Many demi-voix singers are unable to project the words with warmth of feeling or strength of purpose without overstraining their voices. >
Someone interviewed soloists who had sung Bach OVPP and they all said it was easier to stay in tune alone than with two to a part -- string players always prefer one or three to a part. The question of voice is a vexing one. Even early music specialists still have a basic bel canto training. I'm not convinced that Bach's singers were ordinary "demi-voix". I suspect that a boy chorister who had been trained towards concerted solo singing from the age of 7 to 17 had a fairly "developed" voice -- whatever that sounded like in Bach's time.

This is somewhat of a tangent, but the mixing of voice types was not unknown in the Baroque. Handel's soloists, including the women, sang with the choir in the oratorios. I have never heard a recording or performance (outside of the Hallelujah Chorus) where this "authentic" practice has been recreated.

Johan van Veen wrote (June 14, 2004):
Douglas Cowling wrote: < I'm not convinced that Bach's singers were ordinary "demi-voix". >
Mr Braatz was't talking about Bach's singers, but about modern interpreters. 'Demi-voix' or 'half-voices' is his buzz word to show his contempt for singers he doesn't like. The idea that HIP singers have 'demi-voix' is a pure invention on his part. What's new? We have heard it umpteen times before. Is there anyone who is still interested?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 14, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: "I personally think that Charles has made a good point here, a point that seems to help support the idea of non-OVPP."
It neither supports the idea of OVPP, or contradicts. Musical symbolism of the kind suggested doesn't need to be 'acted out': this is not an opera. As Johan says, it is the choir (whether 3 to a part, 1 to a part, or whatever) that takes the role of 'the disciples' here.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 14, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: "Just one of many examples where your observation “the more often singers sing together the better the blending is going to be and the easier it will be to achieve fails is found in the main choir [Gächinger] that Rilling used through most of his complete Bach cantata series over many years. Not only does this choir suffer from many singers with vibratos, which at times can even be considered tolerable, but there are individual singers, particularly in the soprano section that ‘stick out like a sore thumb’ and destroy whatever type of choral blend might have been there to begin with."
The cited example doesn't contradict Johan's statement at all. All it means is that this particular choir, Rillings, doesn't have have a blend that Thomas Braatz cares for. Either the choir is producing a sound that Rilling wants, or it isn't, and he isn't able to change it.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 14, 2004):
John Pike noted: >>But the number of original parts for the SMP singers is only 8, covering both choirs. I agree with Rifkin that it is hard to imagine 3 people sharing a part. I also find it hard to imagine 3 different people in each register (2 in Bass) all singing a different "Bin ich's?" (from the same part). I think the important thing is that the symbolism is there in the music.<<
The number of original parts for the SMP singers is 13 covering both choirs. I don’t know where you get this misinformation that you share with these lists. Do you make it up or read it in other sources which are not reliable? If you are counting very precisely along with Rifkin and Parrott, it is best to stick with the actual, reliable facts.

It is your prerogative to believe what Rifkin and Parrott want you to believe, but your imagination seems to fail you if you are unable to envision 3 or even 4 singers looking into the same part or being able to divide the responses up among themselves without marking in a single part the 3 (or 2) entrances in a 5-measure section of music. I suppose you also have never played violin in an orchestra where you shared a part with another violinist?

The symbolism becomes real, live drama if it is done in the manner which Charles described. Listeners with keen ears may even be able to discern the differences between the voices without actually seeing them, and, in addition, all the singers are involved in a special solo part for which they are responsible.



Continue on Part 13


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

Introduction | Cantatas | Other Vocal | Instrumental | Performers | General Topics | Articles | Books | Movies | New
Biographies | Texts & Translations | Scores | References | Commentaries | Music | Concerts | Festivals | Tour | Art & Memorabilia
Chorale Texts | Chorale Melodies | Lutheran Church Year | Readings | Poets & Composers | Arrangements & Transcriptions
Search Website | Search Works/Movements | Terms & Abbreviations | Copyright | How to contribute | Sitemap | Links



 

Back to the Top


Last update: ýMay 30, 2005 ý21:59:11