Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

OVPP (One-Voice-Per-Part)
Part 20

Continue from Part 19

OVPP, Tutti, boys, pudding

Alain Bruguieres wrote (May 17, 2007):
One small question about OVPP.

If one is to appreciate the plausibility of the OVPP hypothesis on the basis of its musical feasability, one should listen to OVPP recordings with boy's voices. After all the proof of the pudding in the eating.

I gather that Rifkin, while advocating the OVPP hypothesis, records OVPP with adult female voices rather than boy's voices (boys arn't what they used to be). However recording with boy's voices has been done - quite effectively in my opinion - by H-L (boys will be boys!).

So, are there OVPP recordings with boy's voices?

Where's the pudding?

N. B. If the pudding has been mentioned in an earlier post, sorry for the redundancy - I have been away from the list for a a week or two. Have you left some for me?

Uri Golomb wrote (May 17, 2007):
Alain Bruguières asked:
"If one is to appreciate the plausibility of the OVPP hypothesis on the basis of its musical feasability, one should listen to OVPP recordings with boy's voices. After all the proof of the pudding in the eating."
AFAIK, the closest you can come to this is Parrott's BMM (BWV 232): the soprano parts are sung by women, but the alto parts are sung by boys from the Tölzer Knabenchor. The recording veers between one- and two-per-part. The balance is fine, in my view. I understand that there were some problems initially -- at least one of the boys was actually too loud (the opposite of what you'd expect...). But they overcame it. They had three boys in total, but I don't think there was any movement in which all three of them took part simultaneously.

ARe there any OVPP recordings of other Baroque repertoire with boys? Not Bach, but something contemporary? I have a vague recollection of hearing something of the sort on radio, but I can't recall exactly... I'm pretty sure that some of Purcell's music was recorded OVPP with boys, but I suspect those pieces had a smaller instrumental ensemble than many of Bach's works.

Of course, we can't be sure to what extent Bach's boys were are comparalbe to today's. On the one hand, he apparently used older boys than those available today. On the other hand, it occurred to me that choirs like Tolz train their soloists to tasks such as singing the Three Boys in Mozart's Magic Flute -- overcoming a larger orchestra, and a larger hall, than Bach's boys had to contend with [in fact, in some cases, larger than what Mozart himself composed for]. (And as a choir they're required to take part in such pieces as Mahler's 8th symphony...). And, of course, try as we might, we can't be sure that today's adult singers and players are the same as Bach's either. Or, to be more precise: we can be sure that they're NOT the same -- we just can't be sure exactly where the differences are.

True historical tests would need to take acoustics into account as well -- using spaces as similar as we can get to the Thomas and Nicolai churches as they were in Bach's lifetime, placing players and singers in similar locations, and so forth. And it would need to be tested live, not just in recordings... All this, of course, on the assumption that one's primary aim is to prove a historical point, rather than to produce good musical results -- based on, but not entirely bound to, historical knowledge.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 17, 2007):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< True historical tests would need to take acoustics into account as well -- using spaces as similar as we can get to the Thomas and Nicolai churches as they were in Bach's lifetime, placing players and singers in similar locations, and so forth. And it would need to be tested live, not just in recordings... All this, of course, on the assumption that one's primary aim is to prove a historical point, rather than to produce good musical results -- based on, but not entirely bound to, historical knowledge >
The core of the problem, and the reason why OVPP causes such controversy, is that it undercuts the symphonic/choral society model which general audiences and most musicians think is "right" for Bach: "Bach's music is monumental, there it must be performed by monumentally large forces".

On this forum, we are debating a performance scale of 4 - 16 singers. The vast majority of audiences and non-specialist musicians would consider that an absurdly small number of singers for the "Great Bach". Smaller scale performances are certainly making significant inroads, but it is very rare to hear the Passions or the Mass with smaller forces.

I believe that Big Bach is here to stay-- even Handel knew that there were differing sizes of performances when he referred to his big "bow-wow" choruses. And frankly, there are times when I want to hear 300 people sing the Sanctus of the B Minor Mass. At the same time, OVPP and chamber-sized performances are here to stay as well, and I always want to hear "Gottes Zeit' in OVPP.

Even rarer will be performances which use boy voices, and even rarer will be performances in the acoustic situation which Bach considered normative.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 17, 2007):
< True historical tests would need to take acoustics into account as well -- using spaces as similar as we can get to the Thomas and Nicolai churches as they were in Bach's lifetime, placing players and singers in similar locations, and so forth. And it would need to be tested live, not just in recordings... All this, of course, on the assumption that one's primary aim is to prove a historical point, rather than to produce good musical results -- based on, but not entirely bound to, historical knowledge. >
Well said. There might also be some useful results using binaural recordings. In a suitable church with appropriate acoustics, do the whole thing with the most realistic placement of performers that can be achieved. Then, to record it, put maybe three or four dummy heads at various places where parishioners would have sat, and take a binaural recording at each of those points. Then publish those results as parallel tracks on a CD -- acknowledging that people sitting at different places in the building will hear different balances and different clarity (or not) of words/articulation. Publish a clear photo of the setup, along with the recording, showing where the performers and the dummy heads were.

A perennial problem as a performer: knowing that some seats in a hall or church will hear vastly "better" acoustic results (clearer articulation, or warmer blend of tone, or better balance across ensemble, or other possibly competing metrics!)...to which seat(s) should the performer try best to project? Which of the dummy heads, or real heads, deserves to hear the optimum results of the effort? Somebody sitting 10 meters away, or 30 meters away, or in the middle, or off to one side, or in some other balcony, or where? Some of us do think about such things in crafting a performance, and it's not an easy task. A slower tempo or crisper articulation might help it to sound great at one listening spot but choppy in another; or, a smoother delivery might make it sound natural to one spot but mushy in another, farther away.

Hence my suggestion to do it with several dummy heads recording any test. Maybe an additional dummy head right up there close, at the conductor's or organist's shoulder, to hear the difference there too: the way the music sounds up close to performers who are projecting to be best heard some 25-40 meters away (i.e. the deliberate exaggerations necessary to make it sound musical). I would think that this would be ear-opening, especially to listeners who don't regularly perform and therefore don't understand the problem. For organists in some churches, it's really necessary to play almost no legato anywhere, making it sound decidedly over-staccato and rough up close, just so it will sound natural and well-blended way out there where the people are sitting.

When playing or singing a live concert, one that happens to be re: should one sculpt the performance so it sounds best at the mike placement, or best at the places where the paying customers are seated and expecting to have a good time? A similarly difficult question.

Jean Laaninen wrote (May 17, 2007):
Brad Lehman wrote:
< When playing or singing a live concert, one that happens to be recorded: should one sculpt the performance so it sounds best at the mike placement, or best at the places where the paying customers are seated and expecting to have a good time? A similarly difficult question. >

I once had an opportunity to serve a student by recording his junior recital in a modern style cathedral in Phoenix, and I consulted my sales engineer at Sweetwater beforehand. He sent me a brochure that was helpful; however due to traffic and transportation issues we arrived just twenty minutes before the program, and I had to make a snap decision. Two stands were placed in the center front with the Phoenix Early Music Group seated behind, and with a piano to one side, and an organ to the other.

I placed the microphones, taped to the pews with appropriate material, about 15 feet back pointed slightly toward the center to pick up as much of both sides as possible, and taped down all the cords so there would be no danger to those attending, and then hooked up my small portable recorder. Given the limited time I set the input and sensitivity up all the way, and we were very lucky as the recording was just fine. I haven't done this since, but as to placement and choice of microphones this is a very complex issue and almost requires a specialist sound engineer if one wishes to maximize everything for the hearer and the recording. I do love it when the acoustics are so good that adding microphones to a performance isn't necessary, but more often than not--if one reads at all about the history of recording and the development of quality in recording instruments the choices Brad mentions can be pretty intense. Amazingly, too, sound can be amplified these days in an ordinary choir practice room to give the cathedral sound, and more. Software allows home recorded works the same possibility. The main thing would be in such a case as I imagine it, to optimize the sound for the live listener, and add reverberance later if the recorded material is not live enough. But that's a tough call. I would thoroughly enjoy seeing how one would set up in the churches where the North German organ tradition prevailed if one were recording a live performance.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 17, 2007):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
< I would thoroughly enjoy seeing how one would set up in the churches where the North German organ tradition prevailed if one were recording a live performance. >
McCreesh's engineers appear to place their microphone about 2/3 of the way down the nave where a "typical" listener in Bach's congregation might sit. The choir in the loft sounds considerably more distant than studio recordings. The large organ sounds spatially distant as most organ recordings do. The singers at the altar sound very distant. The interesting thing is that all of the performers fill the reverberent space in different ways. The use of a consistent placement for the hypothetical listener gives a vivid impression of how the music sounded in the spaces it was written for. Many studio performances have no ambient reverberance at all which often conveys the impression of a small, dry space. This in turns makes many studio performances introverted.

Jean Laaninen wrote (May 17, 2007):
Doug Cowling wrote:
< Many studio performances have no ambient reverberance at all which often conveys the impression of a small, dry space. This in turns makes many studio performances introverted. >
At home the room I normally use for recording (so my husband does not have to suffer my many repetitions) does not have much reverberance, so most of the time I add the reverb in the process of mixing and mastering. I have also found that raising the sound to a high bit rate when processing and then reducing it later gives a more live effect. But when I really want to record fairly decently at home--using the flute, I use the living room because it has vaulted ceilings, plus a good flute microphone if I am playing rather than singing.

I am quite interested in the fact that the microphones are placed two thirds of the way back for professional recording and I wish I would have had the time to test my equipment in the cathedral to see what the results would have been if we'd gone further back. As it was, the audience filled the space somewhat back to about two-thirds of the seating area. This isn't a business with me, but rather a hobby and a bit of support to the arts, but I always enjoy the opportunity when it comes to visit with the techs recording a recital. In a live setting depending on the limitations of seating, sometimes they will tell me they are too far forward, or have encountered other problems. My recording with a video camera using a condensor mic sometimes gets better sound from the back of the room (a few occasions) than that of the recordists. So I do know this is pretty challenging, and I've probably had beginners luck.

Thanks for the insights.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (May 18, 2007):
OVPP, Tutti, boys, pudding, and Performing practices

Thanks to all who answered my naive question! So there's no pudding around. Too bad.

Now would be highly interested in reading your reactions to my other post, where I quoted an interview of Rifkin. (By the way, my apologies for the mess I made of the subject-line!)

For one thing it appears that, although certain earlier contributions lead me to believe that Rifkin's thought was so subtle that one could not quote an extract of one of his writings without distorting completely its global meaning, I am happy to say that this one paragraph of Rifkin's makes pretty much sense to me.

All the more so happy as, in this paragraph, Rifkins states very precisely (and with a degree of clarity and conciseness, as well as authority, I could never have achieved!) the opinion I have formed regarding the rehearsal/reading issue and which I have tried to convey in my posts with the awkwardness characteristic of the naive though presumably well-meaning.

Rifkin asserts that 18th century musicians were lucky if they could get two, or even one, rehearsal, and that, in the form of a read-through. What strikes me is that he also considers this to be 'pretty obvious and well known'.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (May 19, 2007):
There seems to be a strange bug on the list... I ask a simple question about OVPP performances with boys, and the question triggers a cascade of - very interesting - contributions about where to put microphones.

It seems that nobody ever recorded or even perhaps performed a Bach cantata OVPP with boy singers where Bach had them. To me this is telling something. If nobody cared to make this kind of pudding, I have doubts about the recipe. But obviously I'm alone on this, since apparently there is a consensus to put the blame on the microphones, not with the recipe.

Moreover, I have put forward a quotation by a renowned musician and musicologist, on a matter which gave rise to much debate on the list. I would have expected some reaction, especially from those who extol the writings of this musicologist (whom I myself admire for his artistic talent, having not read any of his books).

Jean Laaninen wrote (May 19, 2007):
Singers and microphones...

[To Alain Bruguières] This is my first ever response to one of your postings, but somebody should give you an answer even if my answer is unlikely scholarly enough and will be more pragmatic, I think.

Two conversations were going on, or maybe three at the same time. That's sort of like politics in the Presbyterian system of church government. Everything kind of swirls around, in my past experience, and mixes together. I had raised the microphone discussion relatito my interest in home recording, and one experience recording in a modern cathedral. So that was one of our topics this week in regard to recording cantata material.

Regarding boy choirs I am under the impression from my more limited reading (much more limited than some other group members) that Bach used them. They were accessible to him through his work, and I am also under the impression that type of performance was the order of the day. Now, I'm going to come from where I've been in the music world recently with performers and say why I think we don't have those performances today. I'm not sure if this is relevant to you, but while I have lived in Arizona I've had a chance to know a family here who have been involved with the Phoenix Boys Choir. The mother was formerly an exective manager for the boys choir at the time, and a symphony player, and the father played in another symphony. I performed with the mother in a small ensemble several times at church (I played flute/she played oboe), and I performed with the boys in the church orchestra, where the father joined us as an excellent percussionist for very special occasions. I also
had a chance to see the boys choir perform during that period in concert in downtown Phoenix.

The repetoire included some standard pieces one would expect from a boys choir, and many show tunes. The program was a mix of some of the old and more than a little bit of Broadway. I cannot be certain, but my take on such groups today is that it might be quite difficult to get the kids interested in doing a cantata. As a grandmother I know that today's kids most likely would not have been under the discipline of kids of Bach's period, and that today's kids have more distractions and possibilities than we can imagine. So the kind of discipline needed to produce a Bach cantata with boys today would be hard. Not only that, but in the Phoenix area we have a Bach Choir for adults. It's a great group and was initially founded to do primarily cantatas. That did not end up working, and this group performs a wide variety of classical material in their yearly program.

ASU offerings in some downtown Phoenix churches, and one other local modern cathedral have some cantata performances. But the musical taste of many people does not include the cantatas either musically or theologically. And the boys choirs are made up of not only Christians, but people of other religions. So I think it would be great if we could hear a boys choir perform this Bach material, but I think it would be hard to manage. I don't doubt it was the case in Bach's day, though.

I hope this clarifies things a little, and your question is valid.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 19, 2007):
Alain Bruguières wrote:
< It seems that nobody ever recorded or even perhaps performed a Bach cantata OVPP with boy singers where Bach had them. To me this is telling something. >
Sorry for the microphone digression. I think the problem with OVPP with boys is that we no longer have performers available who have been trained in the tradition that Bach's singers were. Even for the best men and boys choirs in the world, Bach is always a supreme challenge, a far cry from the everyday reperetoire of their 18th century counterparts. The same holds true for modern adult artists.

Nor does the modern concert format of evening concerts by touring artists lend itself to making music with children. Bach's boys sang their weekly cantata at 8 am. Not even the most rigourous reconstruction is going to get an audience at dawn.

And then there is a modern prejudice against children as performers of "high art". It is one thing to have them as a "children's choir " in Mahler's Eighth Symphony where they are cute and theatrical, but to have them as the primary conveyers of the music? -- no. We see this Romantic prejudice in modern performances of the St. Matthew Passion where the ripieno choir is labelled the 'Children's Choir', as if they are ornamental add-ons to the real singers.

I think we should always include boys choirs and soloists in the general mix of performances and give them their due as a crucial component in the tradition. However, if a child artist cannot deliver the goods, there is no point in endangering the quality of the music (I don't believe that Bach tolerated crappy performances)

Vivaldi' famous Gloria was performed by an all-girl orchestra and choir -- the teenagers even sang the tenor and bass parts! It's fascinating to hear the voice quality of such performances, but we're not limited to finding teenage girls who can sing two A's below middle C.

Philippe Bareille wrote (May 19, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] It is not entirely true. The Tölzer Knabenchor will perform the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) in Leipzig at the Bach festival on 17 June, using OVPP with boys (including altos) and men only. Given the choir's credentials, this forthcoming performance is likely to be exciting.

 

Bach and OVPP in Leipzig. (was: BWV 24/3)

Continue of discussion from: Cantata BWV 24 - Discussions

Neil Halliday wrote (May 29, 2008):
>Rifkin's point coming forward from page 32 is that Bach's first Leipzig cantatas (including BWV 75, BWV 76, BWV 21, and BWV 24) for his first several weeks on the job have ripienists, just because it was local custom. Once Bach got established there, he stopped doing it.<
So we are asked to believe that Bach, of all composers, just happened not to like the sound of (multiple voice) choirs, but preferred the sound of a vocal quartet - even in the obviously large scale choruses that appear in many of the Leipzig cantatas.

Presumably he liked the grandiose effects achieved with ripienists in BWV 71 written many years before at Mühlhausen; but later when he moved to Leipzig he only ever wished (apart from a few examples) to hear a vocal quartet in all those intricate and complex choruses written at Leipzig.

Incredible.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 29, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< So we are asked to believe that Bach, of all composers, just happened not to like the sound of (multiple voice) choirs, but preferred the sound of a vocal quartet - even in the obviously large scale choruses that appear in many of the Leipzig cantatas. >
That's exactly the case with Christoph Graupner-- he rarely used multiple voices in Darmstadt. He worked there for almost 12 years, then he auditions for Leipzig, where all of auditioin his pieces composed unique for Leipzig have multiple solo / ripeni parts. Graupner gets back to Darmstadt, and rarely uses multiple voices again. It's the same situation with Telemann working in Frankfurt, or....it's in all the surviving music from this period in Germany. This really isn't all that unusual.

Uri Golomb wrote (May 29, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>>Rifkin's point coming forward from page 32 is that Bach's first Leipzig cantatas (including BWV 75, BWV 76, BWV 21, and BWV 24) for his first several weeks on the job have ripienists, just because it was local custom. Once Bach got established there, he stopped doing it.<<
< So we are asked to believe that Bach, of all composers, just happened not to like the sound of (multiple voice) choirs, but preferred the sound of a vocal quartet - even in the obviously large scale choruses thaappear in many of the
Leipzig cantatas. >
There is nothing incredible about this. You make Bach sound like an isolated case, and assume that any composer would obviously prefer larger forces. But, in terms of his own period, he was not unique. In terms of his own period, a "vocal quartet" WAS a choir. Ripienists were optional, and if Bach preferred to do without them, then he was NOT the only one.

< Presumably he liked the grandiose effects achieved with ripienists in BWV 71 written many years before at Mühlhausen; >
We don't know that. We only know that he used them, not what he thought about the result.

< but later when he moved to Leipzig he only ever wished (apart from a few examples) to hear a vocal quartet in all those intricate and complex choruses written at Leipzig. >
Again: the evidence can only tell us what he did -- and it does suggest strongly that he used ripienists much less frequently than his predecessors in Leipzig. WHY that was the case is a different question. It's quite possible, for example, that he did not like the specific ripienists at his disposal (as opposed to not liking ripienists per se). We simply don't know, and we cannot automatically assume that what we like better is what he would have liked better. (Not that "we" are all alike -- I find that the music works superbly with four singers, sometimes better than with more).

Also, in my view, intricacy and complexity are very sensible reasons to PREFER a smaller ensemble! If you want coherent, transparent textures produced by a well-coordinated ensemble, you stand a better chance of achieving this with a vocal quartet then with a choir, even a small one.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 29, 2008):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
>then he (Graupner) auditions for Leipzig, where all of auditioin his pieces composed unique for Leipzig have multiple solo / ripeni parts.<
Thanks for mentioning some other composers of the time, I wondered about this. What about Kuhnau, Zelenka?

Still, why would Graupner decide to present choral music for a Leipzig audition, featuring parts for ripienists? Perhaps with a view to ensuring the music sounded more than usually impressive?

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (May 29, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] I have no definite opinion about the number of singers per part, but I am surprised by your argument.

I do not see why intricate and complex choruses should be performed by large choirs (if its is what you mean). Actually I would think the exact opposite. Intricate and complex choruses require greater accuracy. The more people there are in a choir, the more difficult it is to have them all make the same (for example, singing rapid melismas, pronoucing the final consonants of words) exactly at the same time.

From my (limited) experience, complex pholyphony is easier to sing OVPP, or with a small number of voices per part, than with large choirs. The only case (in my opinion) where it helps to be more numerous is when there are very long held notes or long phrases without places to breathe. "Alternate breathing" (each breathes on his/her turn) can help to convey a feeling of continuity.

Now, about the effect, I find larger choirs are often better in simpler choruses like many final chorals.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 29, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Still, why would Graupner decide to present choral music for a Leipzig audition, featuring parts for ripienists? Perhaps with a view to ensuring the music sounded more than usually impressive? >
Graupner studied with Kuhnau when he was in Leipzig at the Thomas Church school. The audition cantatas are very much in the "Kuhnau" vein, especially the Magnificat he composed. I think Graupner was trying to impress the Leipzig authorities by presenting them with works that show he could give them the sort of music they were very used to hearing.

Telemann's Frankfurt cantatas have definite indications of soloists and ripenists but then there are many cantatas with none, which means only one voice per part. I've looked at about 100 of Christoph Graupner's cantatas and I was amazed at how few vocal parts there are, typically JUST one. Telemann complained how little money was spent on extra instrumentalists (this would include extra singers, for the choruses), and he would hire out of his own pocket trumpet and timpani players.

Why would Bach stop using multiple voices is something I can't really answer. You asked about Zelenka--- Dresden had a large musical establishment, lack of voices wasn't an issue there, and he wrote mostly Catholic music anyway. But I honestly don't know.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 29, 2008):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
>I do not see why intricate and complex choruses should be performed by large choirs (if its is what you mean).<
I mean 3 or 4 voices to a part, a smallish choir that can easily project the intricacy of a quartet and the power of a larger (as described) ensemble.

Well, I have Harnoncourt, Leonhardt, Koopman, Suzuki, Leusink, plus all the non-HIP conductors, and others to choose from, so those who want to hear the cantatas with a vocal quartet can pursue that goal, no doubt some of the results will be pleasing. But to make OVPP the norm... no thanks.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 29, 2008):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
<Telemann's Frankfurt cantatas have definite indications of soloists and ripenists but then there are many cantatas with none, which means only one voice per part>
Does the absence of indications definitely mean there is only one voice per part? That is, Telemann, for example, might not have required the special effect of soloists in the choral texture in a given work, expecting the available forces (2 or 3 or 4 VPP, whatever produced the desired effect for the particular work) to be used.

It's amazing how much knowledge of the past has been lost to us.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 29, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Well, I have Harnoncourt, Leonhardt, Koopman, Suzuki, Leusink, plus all the non-HIP conductors, and others to choose from, so those who want to hear the cantatas with a vocal quartet can pursue that goal, no doubt some of the results will be pleasing. But to make OVPP the norm... no thanks. >
That's certainly a valid opinion of preference.

Rifkin's thesis, by contrast, is not about anybody's preference, or even about what people ought to do in the music today. It's rather an attempt to discern historically what Bach and the other similarly-employed composers around him actually did as their norm, and did in specific cases where it's somehow knowable.

And then, if the news about what did happen can tell us anything useful about the meaning of the music, so much the better. Performers are of course still free to do whatever works effectively in their own situations. And listeners are free to prefer whatever they enjoy.

Uri Golomb wrote (May 29, 2008):
Neil Halliday asked:
< Does the absence of indications definitely mean there is only one voice per part? That is, Telemann, for example, might not have required the special effect of soloists in the choral texture in a given work, expecting the available forces (2 or 3 or 4 VPP, whatever produced the desired effect for the particular work) to be used. >
Well, I don't know the materials concerned, but it partly depends on whether we are talking here about scores or parts. According to all the research I've read (principally, but not exclusively, Rifkin & Parrott) ripienists did not sing from the same parts as concertists. Special, separate parts had to be prepared for them. If a full set of part survives with no ripieno parts, that probably means that the piece was sung by concertists only (unless the ripieno parts alone were lost).

In any case, copyists had to know how to prepare the ripieno parts, and the word "chor" does not count as such an indication. There was no automatic assumption that ripienists would be used throughout a choral movement. Sometimes they were, but this had to be spelled out (in Bach, a case in point is the first chorus of Cantata 29): no-one at the time would have understood it implicitly.

It's also important to note that the effect was not "soloists in the choral texture". That's an anachronistic conception. Today, we assume that a choir -- multiple voices per part -- is the norm, and having occasional solo passages is the exception. In the choral practice Bach had known, the exact reverse was the case. "Soloists in the chorual texture" wasn't a "special effect" -- it was the normal practice. Adding ripienists was the special effect.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 29, 2008):
>>Rifkin's point coming forward from page 32 is that Bach's first Leipzig cantatas (including BWV 75, BWV 76, BWV 21, and BWV 24) for his first several weeks on the job have ripienists, just because it was local custom. Once Bach got established there, he stopped doing it.<<
>So we are asked to believe that Bach, of all composers, just happened not to like the sound of (multiple voice) choirs,<
EM>
There is no sugestion as to Bachs motive for the change, whether it was what he would prefer, the quality of the available performers, or other.

>but preferred the sound of a vocal quartet - even in the obviously large scale choruses that appear in many of the Leipzig cantatas.<
EM:
Obviously? Not to Rifkin, Melamed (sp?), other careful writers.

>Presumably he liked the grandiose effects<
EM:
<Grandiose> is rather extreme, for a vocal quartet, plus four ripienists? An alternative interpretation might be that he liked to have sup0ort for performers who could well use it. Personal anecdote: I played clarinet with a stand-mate in a secondary school orchestra, which was fortunate to have doubling on any instrument (including violins!). Our conductor (with baton, no toe-breaking stamping of sharply pointed staffs by then) was grateful for the opportunity. He selected works which allowed him to use the clarinets, and acknowledged with thanks the occasions when we did <cover> for each other. A student band, perhaps analogous to Bach at Leipzig in the early years. I hasten to add that I submit this not as evidence, simply for your interest.

>achieved with ripienists in BWV 71 written many years before at Mühlhausen; but later when he moved to Leipzig he only ever wished (apart from a few examples) to hear a vocal quartet in all those intricate and complex choruses written at Leipzig.<
EM:
This is simply carelessly written exaggeration. Worth rethinking, especially <only ever wished>? See also subsequent post by Therese, which expresses thoughts I share, re <intricate and complex>.

>Incredible.<
EM:
Conflating ones personal preferences with historical evidence is always incredible, i.e, lacking in credibility.

God (and the rest of us) knows we endure (occasionally even enjoy?) plenty of that on an open forum of discussion by enthusiasts (a thoughtful characterization by Brad).

BCML, not yet a book? Better than a book?

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 29, 2008):
>>Rifkin's point coming forward from page 32 is that Bach's first Leipzig cantatas (including BWV 75, BWV 76, BWV 21, and BWV 24) for his first several weeks on the job have ripienists, just because it was local custom. Once Bach got established there, he stopped doing it.<<
>So we are asked to believe that Bach, of all composers, just happened not to like the sound of (multiple voice) choirs,<
EM:
There is no sugestion as to Bachs motive for the change, whether it was what he would prefer, the quality of the available performers, or other.

Uri Golumb wrote:
>It's also important to note that the effect was not "soloists in the choral texture". That's an anachronistic conception. Today, we assume that a choir -- multiple voices per part -- is the norm, and having occasional solo passages is the exception. In the choral practice Bach had known, the exact reverse was the case. "Soloists in the chorual texture" wasn't a "special effect" -- it was the normal practice. Adding ripienists was the special effect.<
I repeat for emphasis, and to register my agreement (with absolutley no credentials, Uri has those).

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 29, 2008):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
>I do not see why intricate and complex choruses should be performed by large choirs (if that is what you mean). Actually I would think the exact opposite. Intricate and complex choruses require greater accuracy. The more people there are in a choir, the more difficult it is to have them all make the same (for example, singing rapid melismas, pronouncing the final consonants of words) exactly at the same time.<
I repeat for emphasis, and to register my agreement (with absolutley no credentials). Did I already say something like that? Something Monkish in the air.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 30, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
><Grandiose> is rather extreme, for a vocal quartet, plus four ripienists?<
I intended that particular word ("grandiose") to apply specifically to BWV 71. Other words might be used for the effect of MVPP in other cantatas.

I began this thread after noting that BWV 24/3 begins without any indications as to the number of singers, then half way through the word 'solo' begins to appear over each of the TBAS lines in succession.

Subsequent posts have left me in doubt as to whether (1) the norm in Leipzig when Bach arrived was OVPP or MVPP, and (2) if the latter, Bach preferred to change this norm to OVPP, which I find incredible for many of his large-scale choruses.

<An alternative interpretation might be that he liked to have support for performers who could well use it.>
Interesting idea in the case of student instrumentatlists, not so relevent to this discussion about vocal norms - OVPP or MVPP - in Leipzig.

<This is simply carelessly written exaggeration. Worth rethinking, especially <only ever wished>?>
I fail to see the exaggeration. Should I have written - Bach came to Leipzig, and then showed no further interest in the effects of MVPP. Either way, incredible.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 30, 2008):
Neil wrote, in response to my post:
>><Grandiose> is rather extreme, for a vocal quartet, plus four ripienists?<<
>I intended that particular word ("grandiose") to apply specifically to
BWV 71. Other words might be used for the effect MVPP in other cantatas.<
EM:
I was suggesting that <grandiose> is a bit grandiose, to distinguish 2VPP from OVPP. No more, no less.

>I began this thread after noting that BWV 24/3 begins without any indications as to the number of singers, then half way through the word 'solo' begins to appear over each of the TBAS lines in succession.<
EM:
Is this not the point which Brad has concisely summarized from Rifkin? Where are the errors in Rifkins work?

>Subsequent posts have left me in doubt as to whether (1) the norm in Leipzig when Bach arrived was OVPP or MVPP, and (2) if the latter, Bach preferred to change this norm to OVPP, which I find incredible for many of his large-scale choruses.<
EM:
How have 2VPP (possible) choruses evolved to MVPP, then <large-scale>?

>>An alternative interpretation might be that he liked to have support for performers who could well use it.<<
>Interesting idea in the case of student instrumentatlists, not so relevent to this discussion about vocal norms - OVPP or MVPP - in
Leipzig.<
EM:
I hope the thread is clear, I have done my best. If two teen aged lads playing clarinet could help each other out, sometimes reading from two parts, sometimes from one, most often transposing, is it not possible that even younger lads could get some benefit from mutual support, whether singing, playing fiddle, or simply doing the dayto day chores?

Is not the basic question OVPP vs. 2VPP (not MVPP)?

>><This is simply carelessly written exaggeration. Worth rethinking, especially <only ever wished>?><<
>I fail to see the exaggeration. Should I have written - Bach came to
Leipzig, and then showed no further interest in the effects of MVPP. Either way, incredible.<
EM:
At the risk of sounding <professorial>, which I am not qualified to be in any field, let alone music, I suggest careful rethought to the phrase

<Bach came to Leipzig, and then showed no further interest in the effects of MVPP>
Two points:

(1) The suggestion, from Brad based on Rifkin, was that Bach briefly tried to conform to the Leipzig norm of 2VPP, then reverted to the more familiar, for him, OVPP.

(2) Like the camel with his nose under the tent, 2VPP escalates to MVPP in the blink (or less) of an eye.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 30, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>I was suggesting that <grandiose> is a bit grandiose, to distinguish 2VPP from OVPP. No more, no less.<
Yet the change in the effect of the music (by doubling the size of the choir from a quartet to an octet in BWV 71) is considerable.

"Where are the errors in Rifkins work?"
As I understand it, Rifkin's theory is still only a theory.

<How have 2VPP (possible) choruses evolved to MVPP, then <large-scale>?>
(1) Is it certain that 'ripieno' only ever meant 2VPP?

(2) My use of the term "large scale" in this discussion refers to the form/structure of many of Bach's opening choruses, not to the number of performers on each part; I am inclined to think that something more than a vocal quartet (whether 2VPP or MVPP) seems a more reasonble proposition in many of these choruses. Even in some smaller-scale forms such as duets with a chorale melody on one line, multiple voices on the CM works very well.

Is OVPP accepted wisdom yet?

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 30, 2008):
EM
>>I was suggesting that <grandiose> is a bit grandiose, to distinguish 2VPP from OVPP. No more, no less.<<
NH:
>Yet the change in the effect of the music (by doubling the size of the choir from a quartet to an octet in BWV 71) is considerable.<
EM:
Is there a specific recording or performance to demonstrate this effect (OVPP vs 2VPP in BWV 71)? In any event, I agree that the effect is likely to be considerable. Thanks for taking the trouble to find agreeable language.

As to questions of whether OVPP is theory, and how widely accepted, I will defer to the musicians. My personal opinion is that Sigiswald Kuijken makes a concise, eloquent, and non-confrontational statement of his gradual accpetance of the performance practice, with convincing sound to match. Very persuasive to my ears and mind.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 30, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Is OVPP accepted wisdom yet? >
It may not be for some, but there is a growing body of evidence coming from other researchers working with German baroque composers that's bolstering Rifkin's "theory." Dr. Jeanne Swack has researched Telemann's Frankfurt cantatas extensively (this is a body of about 800 cantatas that survived in a single collection which is remarkable given the history of Germany since the 18th century). Dr. Swack examination of the Telemann materials supports Rifkin's contention about early 18th century performance habits, i.e. "one voice per part." Her book is scheduled to be published very shortly and goes into enormous details about this. Far too lengthy for this forum.

I've worked a lot with Christoph Graupner's surviving cantata opus in Darmstadt, and the circumstances are not any different, except Telemann would use more singers for lavish holidays than Graupner would.

I've put together a graphic for you: http://www.bytenet.net/kpclow/bachlist/parts-samples.jpg
with sceenshots of AUTOGRAPH parts by Telemann and Graupner. It's a big file, but hopefully it doesn't take long to view.

When you look at dozens of these cantatas in parts like this, it's pretty apparent with single parts for voices, there was only one voice per part singing. The body of evidence is just overwhelming at this point.

The Graupner sample is important because it shows him in two different contexts-- Darmstadt (where typically only one voice part survives) and then Leipzig only four months before Bach was given the position (where the vocal parts are clearly marked for two voices).

I hope this helps some, I know it really will not convince those that are completely opposed to the one voice per part theory, but it's still interesting to discuss ;)

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (May 30, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] Thanks, Ed, you have even corrected my typo!

I just thought of something I experienced last year (and which I mentioned in a message some time ago). Last June we had an audition in the choir and two of the choruses we had to sing in quartet were precisely choruses from BWV 71, which we had already rehearsed with the choir.

One of them (« Dein Alter sei wie deine Jugend ») has some quick melismas, the other one («Du wollest dem Feinde nicht geben die Seele deiner Turteltaube») has a very "soft" character (as I feel it). In both cases, singing in quartet was a discovery, because I heard the three other voices much better than when I was inside a larger group (where I heard mostly the voice I was singing and not so much the other ones).

In the first chorus it was a real pleasure for example to sing the parallele melismas with the soprano voice which I had never heard so clearly. Singing this way helps to adjust the pitch and the dynamics among singers. For the second chorus, it made possible to sing very softly and tenderly on "deiner Turteltaube", which is more difficult to do with more singers.

WhI can say - for the cantatas we have performed since I am in the choir - is that I have not seen any particular difference between solo parts and ripieni parts regarding difficulty. This is particularly clear with BWV 75 that we sung last Sunday. Both parts in the opening chorus (marked "soloists" and not marked "soloists") are almost the same. It suggests that ripieni were used for the special effect it provided, not for "technical" reasons.

Just my 2 Eurocents...

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 30, 2008):
Evidence for the Size of Bach's Choirs

In light of the present discussion of OVPP, Thomas Braatz contributed a short article "Evidence for the Size of Bach's Choirs"
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/OVPP-Evidence[Braatz].htm

Neil Halliday wrote (May 30, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
<Is there a specific recording or performance to demonstrate this effect (OVPP vs 2VPP in BWV 71)?>
I thought I could answer that question - I have the DVD that is listed as item number 12 on the BCW's list of complete recordings of BWV 71 - but on watching this DVD again, I see there appear to be more than 8 singers, in fact at least 12 scattered throughout the nave of the church, suggesting 3VPP in the tutti sections. There is minimal information in the booklet regardng the performers, and the vocal soloists are not named - a pity, because they are very fine. The (female) soprano soloist in particular approaches my ideal for Bach; does anyone know who she is?

Anyway, the effect of contrasting solo and ripieno sections is quite marked in the second to last section (3/2 time) where the four soloists are immersed one by one into the four tutti lines.

However, at the start the effect does not seem so pronounced; and my reference to "grandiose" (in a positive sense) probably relates more to my recollection of the start of Rilling's recording (probably 4 or 5 VPP in the tutti sections).

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (May 30, 2008):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thanks Aryeh.

From Thomas's article, I gather that there were parts for each voice range of the choir.
I have never seen such parts, so can anyone tell what they look like?
How can you tell for which voice it has been copied?
I cannot imagine singing in a choir without having the complete vocal score (all voices), at least the notes.

Joost wrote (May 30, 2008):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< I cannot imagine singing in a choir without having the complete vocal score (all voices), at least the notes. >
Maybe that is because you are (mainly) a singer. Most of the time instrumentalists only have their own part on their music stand. It would be very unpractical for them to have a full score - they don't have a hand free to turn the pages each couple of bars.

Uri Golomb wrote (May 30, 2008):
In answer to Thérèse's question on how each part looked:

A part contained all the music for that specific vocal range, with "tacet" markings when it did not sing. A soprano part, for instance, would contain the soprano recitatives and arias, as well as whatever the soprano had to sing in the choruses and chorales. "Tacets" were used for solo movements by other singers. The part was labelled as a soprano part.

In the St. Matthew Passion, the bass part in chorus 1 is labelled "Chrisuts". It indeed contains the entire Christus part; but it opens with the bass 1 part in the opening chorus, continues with Christ's first recitative, then the bass part in the first chorale, etc. etc. etc. It included everything -- even the words "Lass ihn kreuzig". There were no indications on the part being transferred from one singer to another. On the contrary: the word "Christus" appeared above the opening phrases of the opening chorus (where the singer is still part of the choir, and does not represent Christ -- yet). The part also included two bass arias in the Passion's second part. (I haven't seen this part for myself, i should add; but I'm relying on many descriptions of it. I have seen the parts for the Kyrie and Gloria of the B-minor Mass, and they look similar: the bass part, for instance, starts with the First Kyrie, even though the only aria he has to sing is the Quoniam).

All this is evidence for OVPP, not against. It shows that the singers who did the arias also took part in the choral movements. When they were doubled by ripienists in the choruses, these ripienists sang from separate parts, which contained only those phrases where they joined the concertists ("concertist" is a singer who does both solos and choruses, unlike a modern "soloist" who shuts up during choral movements).

I found Braatz's article predictably disappointing. He quotes the Entwurf without making any reference to how Rifkin and Parrott analyse it -- not even to refute their claims. To cite just one problem: he quotes Bach's stipulation for having at least 3 singers for each vocal range without quoting Bach's explicit REASON for wanting them: "so that even if one happens to fall ill (as very often happens, particularly at this time of year, as the prescriptions written by the school physician for the apothecary must show) at least a double-chorus motet may be sung" (these were usually not Bach's own motets, but simpler, traditional ones). OK, now do the math:

* a double-chorus motet requiers 2 singers for each vocal range (since each of the two choruses consists of 1 soprano, 1 alto, 1 tenor, 1 bass);
* Bach asks for a minimum of 3 singers for each vocal range to ensure he has what he needs if singers fall ill;
* If indeed one of the 3 sopranos falls ill, he's left with 2 sopranos -- which he considers sufficient.

So Bach was expecting the double-chorus motet to be sung one per part; the provision of 1 or 2 extra singers for each vocal range takes that into account (the preference for 4 singers in each vocal range can be interpreted as taking into account the possibility that 2 sopranos might fall ill at the same time -- not an unreasonable assumption to make).

What does that tell us about his expectations regarding the performance of his own cantatas? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, in itself. (He says that each of the four choirs has to contain this number of singers -- but only one of them sang his own cantatas). What it does show is that, even though Bach asked for 3-4 singers in each vocal range, he did not necessarily expect all of them to be used all the time: at least in some contexts, some of these singers were back-up singers, available in case one or more of their colleagues falls ill.

(The above is my own paraphrase of Rifkin's argument, which I find very sensible).

There is a more general point to be made about the Entwurff. In that document, Bach tells his employers about the forces he needs to have at his disposal all through the year, not about the forces required for any particular performance. Bach did use ripienists, both in his own music and in others' that was performed in Leipzig; so he obviously needed to have ripienists at his disposal. This does not mean, however, that he used ripienists each week, in all the music he performed. The Entwurff doesn't answer that question, one way or the other. For that, we have to look elsewhere; the structure of his own parts in many works (including, not only the absence of ripieno parts but the absence of indications on how these parts might be prepared) suggests that, in many cases, he indeed performed his own music with concertists only, not doubled by ripienists.

Julian Mincham wrote (May 30, 2008):
I have never been a strict devotee of the one, two or more voices per part; the objective researched?evidence one way or the other is only partially conclusive.

Another way of looking at this is through the scrutiny of the scores themselves. One finds a number of passages where the strong implication is that the choir should be quite small in order to balance aspects of the instrumental players. Examples abound, but a coof faily obvious ones are 94 and 99 where the solo flute (not as dominant as modern flutes) is heard with an important obligato part against the choir, at times in the lowest and weakest part of the register. A different example comes from 7, an agressive dotted rhythm fantasia where the post-romantic interpreter might well seek a large choir to carry the effect. But the choir is frequently singing against a solo violin, again carrying a vital melodic line.

As to the festive choruses with three trumpets (also less dominant in the C18 than today) one needs to recall that Bach wrote several bass arias with three trumpets (see 130)?clear?evidence that he expected the voice (and not even?the most penetrating in the vocal range) to carry its part successfully against them.

There are many more such examples which?are best?considered in toto rather than singly, for relevant inferences to be made. Internal evidence of this kind does not provide?conclusive evidence for?either one or two voices per part but what it does do,?is make a strong case for very small vocal forces.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (May 30, 2008):
[To Uri Golomb] Thanks Uri for these interesting details.
It was thus like the parts for instrumentists, as Joost underlines.
I would not want to perform some of Bach's choruses without knowing what the other voices are supposed to sing - that must be particularly difficult, especially in the fugues!

Joost wrote (May 30, 2008):
Uri Golomb wrote:
"All this is evidence for OVPP, not against. It shows that the singers who did the arias also took part in the choral movements."
Of course they did... you just need to see one of them Passions performed to know that Bach could not possibly have intended the (soloist) tenor to sit around with nothing to do between his two moments of glory. But I'm not sure how that is evidence for OVPP rather than: the "Every Voice on Board" concept.

"To cite just one problem: he quotes Bach's stipulation for having at least 3 singers for each vocal range without quoting Bach's explicit REASON for wanting them: "so that even if one happens to fall ill at least a double-chorus motet may be sung"
Fair enough... should be quoted. BUT:
"* Bach asks for a minimum of 3 singers for each vocal range to ensure he has what he needs if singers fall ill;
* If indeed one of the 3 sopranos falls ill, he's left with 2 sopranos
--
which he considers sufficient."
"Which he considers sufficient"??? No, Uri, I think that's a very leading interpretation of his request and reasoning. "Sufficient" as in: "MINIMUM required to be able to do it at all" does mean a VERY different "Sufficient" than you seem to suggest.

Would you suggest that he'd sent healthy singers home, had all of them shown up (which they must have, for sure)? Do you not think that this is a case for: a "I need AS MANY AS I CAN GET, because the situation is so bad, that sometimes I don't even have one singer per part" point of view?

"some of these singers were back-up singers, available in case one or more of their colleagues falls ill."
These are not backup singers -- they are real singers, asked and expected to show up and sing. Every single one of them. But since not all of them show up ALL of the times (though all of them some of the times), Bach obviously needed to make sure that he had enough so that SOME of them would show up ALL of the times. Why is it that the OVPP-hardliners, in direct contradiction to what HIPsters have found out, insist that the worst of necessity was the wanted ideal??

This isn't football [soccer], where you ask 30 guys [or girls] to show up, hope for 20 - but wouldn't play with more than 11 "per part", even if all hands (feet) showed. All on board, the better, the merrier. We don't know where Bach would have drawn the line upward (if ever), but it's ascertained that it wasn't at ONE vpp.

"(The above is my own paraphrase of Rifkin's argument, which I find very sensible)."
Rifkin is highly scholarly and convincing and he's done great work -- but there have been plenty scholars (Uwe Wolf, et al.) who have raised what are more than just serious questions about JR's "findings".

I love the - admittedly flippant - quip of Rosalyn Tureck to a friend of mines, when asked about Rifkin: "Josh? Oh, he's just trying to save money!"

Alexander Volkov wrote (May 30, 2008):
[To Uri Golomb] Thank you very much for a very interesting and reasonable post.

Could you clarify a bit the following:
< All this is evidence for OVPP, not against. It shows that the singers who did the arias also took part in the choral movements. When they were doubled by ripienists in the choruses, these ripienists sang from separate parts, which contained only those phrases where they joined the concertists ("concertist" is a singer who does both solos and choruses, unlike a modern "soloist" who shuts up during choral movements). >
I was aware of the practice that the "soloists" sang in the choral movements. From my point of view it is not quite a strong evidence for OVPP without an answer on the question how frequent the examples for separate parts are. Unfortunately I'm not aware of that and I would appreciate your reply.

Julian Mincham wrote (May 30, 2008):
Joost wrote:
< These are not backup singers -- they are real singers, asked and expected to show up and sing. Every single one of them. But since not all of them show up ALL of the times (though all of them some of the times), Bach obviously needed to make sure that he had enough so that SOME of them would show up ALL of the times. Why is it that the OVPP-hardliners, in direct contradiction to what HIPsters have found out, insist that the worst of necessity was the wanted ideal?? >
Very well put.

Peter Bright wrote (May 30, 2008):
[To Uri Golomb] For what it's worth (possibly very little!), two issues always come to my mind when the issue of choir size rears its head. The first is to consider as far possible what Bach's ideal choir size for his works was (perhaps larger than what was available). The second, is of course, the likelihood that the size of intended choral forces might vary according to the structure and purpose of his composition (instrumentation, occasion, etc.). A few quotes from Christoph Wolff (Early Music, 27, p. 172) I think are instructive regarding the first of these issues:

"[In] Bach's 'Short but most necessary draft for a well appointed church music' [...] Bach lists 17 students in the top category of 'usable' singers from among the 55 resident students (alumni) of the St Thomas School—note that 'usable' is his highest mark." [...] In August 1730 Bach had not just 17 'usable' choristers, but at least 18 and nobody knows the exact total. (All we really know for sure regarding number of participants in Bach's first choir is that he required at least 12 singers ).

Wolff proceeds to warn "against taking the memorandum numbers as absolute and neglecting the considerable alternative resources available to Bach as well as to his predecessors and successors." He goes on to claim that:

"So, for political reasons, Bach provides net rather than gross quantities throughout. He was clearly frustrated with a permanent juggling act and apparently waited with his plea for a particularly opportune moment, the time when the town council was ready to make a very substantial capital investment in the renovation and enlargement of the St Thomas School building. Then, with the supportive rector Gesner presumably on his side, the cantor tried to seek his proper share."

I'm neither agreeing or disagreeing with OVPP (I'm an academic, but not in music theory), although on aesthetic grounds I tend to prefer small but not OVPP forces (Butt's wonderful SMP (BWV 244) being an exception). I do feel, however, that Rifkin and some others seem to take a blinkered and obstinate view on a subject that will probably always have numerous loose ends and evidential inconsistencies.

Uri Golomb wrote (May 30, 20):
I do not have the time, unfortuantely, to answer all the questions put here, but I will mention one thing: there is definite evidence that Bach did NOT use "every voice on board". It, too, comes from the SMP (BWV 244).

There are small bit parts in the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) -- characters in the story (Pilate, Petrus, etc.). Bach had parts especially prepared for these extra singers -- and in those parts, he marked the choruses "tacet". That is, he had extra singers, who could have used them to bolster up the chorus -- and he told them not to. why he didn't want to use them is a different question; we only have the fact that he didn't. At least three possible explanations spring to mind: he didn't have enough to singers to double up ALL the voices, and he didn't want an uneven choir; the singers weren't good enough to join the choir; or he indeed viewed the Passion as being like chamber music, which actually works better OVPP.

I have yet to see any evidence at all that Bach wanted more than one concertist and at most one ripienist per part in his own music -- that he would have preferred a chorus in the modern sense of the word. The fact that many listeners and musicians today prefer it that way is evidence of nothing, one way or another. We don't have any statements from Bach about what he would have preferred, AFAIK. (I should add that, as a listener and critic, I have no problem at all hearing and recommending Bach sung by a small choir -- in most cases, it works wonderfully. But then, I also enjoy Bach on the piano, and I love hearing the Art of Fugue -- which Bach wrote as a keyboard work -- played by chamber ensembles. Quite possibly, Bach wouldn't have approved of any of this: that doesn't stop me from enjoying it, or even from thinking that his music is well-served by such forces).

Here is a quote from a contemporary of Bach's, Gottfried Ephraim Scheibel, whose views on other matters (such as the relation between sacred and secular music) coincided with Bach's:

"it [the quality of church music] does not depend totally on the quantity; we can instead call it a waste when a choir is filled with greater forces than are necessary [...] What purpose does a large mass of singers and instrumentalists serve? [...] If each part or voice is provided with one or at most two persons who excel in what they do, then a choir is well provided. Particularly is this the case nowadays when few arias are sung
tutti, but msot are solos (in which the instruments necessarily must not be heard strongly, becasue the voice would not be heard above them); and if there are tutti works, it is enough if the main voices do their parts, even if they consist of single persons". (from BAch's Changing World, p. 242; Scheibel's "Random Thoughts ABout Church Music in Our Day" was written in 1721; in 1722, Mattheson wrote that "I have never read anything of this sort that conforms so well with my sentiments").

This doesn't prove anything about what Bach wanted. It only proves two things:
1) Some musicians in Bach's lifetime actually thought that it's better to have music sung by a very small group of professionals than by "every voice on board": they felt that music is actually ill-served by the addition of too many ripienists, and that there is absolutely nothing wrong about singing choruses one-per-part;
2) Other musicians in Bach's lifetime preferred larger forces: Scheibel would not have bothered to speak against what he called "wasteful" practices if such practices did not, in fact, exist.

Given Bach's own rather elitist outlook -- and the evidence that he indeed used ripienists less frequently than his own predecessors in Leipzig -- I find it highly likely that his views on this matter coincided with Scheibel's. "Highly likely", however, is not the same as "proven".

One more thing: Bach made the best use of the forces at his disposal. If he refrained from using ripienists in his own music, that might simply reflect his view on the quality of singers in Leipzig. What he would have done if had something like, say, the Monteverdi Choir or the Collegium Vocale Ghent at his disposal is anybody's guess.

Uri Golomb wrote (May 30, 2008):
Alexander Volkov wrote:
< I was aware of the practice that the "soloists" sang in the choral movements. From my point of view it is not quite a strong evidence for OVPP without an answer on the question how frequent the examples for separate parts are.Unfortunately I'm not aware of that and I would appreciate your reply. >
I did not examine many parts from myself, so I'm relying here on secondary literature. All this literature, however, suggests that concertists did not share their parts with ripienists, and that ripienists indeed sang from separate parts. If you think about how ripienists were used, this makes perfect sense on two fronts:

1) ripienists were often asked to double only selected phrases in a chorus, not sing throughout. The best way to ensure that they sing these phrases only was to give them parts which did not include the bits they weren't supposed to sing. You could, of course, mark a concertist's part with "solo" and "tutti" indications, but it's safer to give a ripienist a part which simply contains rests in those bits where he is meant to keep silent.2) ripienists were often physically separated from the concertists -- they didn't stand next to them, so they had to have separate parts.

Bach did prepare ripieno parts for several works -- including Cantata BWV 21 in its Leipzig revival (in Weimar, it was probably done OVPP), Cantata BWV 29, the St John Passion (BWV 245), Cantata BWV 71, and others. From these we can learn, both that he did use ripienists, and HOW he used them.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (May 30, 2008):
Peter Bright wrote:
< For what it's worth (possibly very little!), two issues always come to my mind when the issue of choir size rears its head. The first is to consider as far possible what Bach's ideal choir size for his works was (perhaps larger than what was available). The second, is of course, the likelihood that the size of intended choral forces might vary according to the structure and purpose of his composition (instrumentation, occasion, etc.). >
The second issue seems very interesting.

There are such variations in instrumentation that variations in choir's size (OVPP, 2 per voice, more) according to the cantatas seem (to me) perfectly logical.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 30, 2008):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< I have never seen such parts, so can anyone tell what they look like? How can you tell for which voice it has been copied? >
I posted screenshots of vocal parts in my message yesterday. The URL is: http://www.bytenet.net/kpclow/bachlist/parts-samples.jpg

The parts are from Telemann and Graupner, Bach's wouldn't look any different.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 30, 2008):
J. Laurson wrote:
< This isn't football [soccer], where you ask 30 guys [or girls] to show up, hope for 20 - but wouldn't play with more than 11 "per part", even if all hands (feet) showed. All on board, the better, the merrier. We don't know where Bach would have drawn the line upward (if ever), but it's ascertained that it wasn't at ONE vpp. >
Read Rifkin's book. A large part of the argument in that book is that Bach's usual deployment of his singers was as a roster, like the assignment of players to positions (one each) on a sports team. The roster gives a sufficient number of individuals to serve the team effort across a whole season of performances. The Entwurff is a petition to get sufficient skills and funding to cover the whole season of performance responsibilities.

Got an especially high soprano part coming up this week? Field your boy who's especially at the high notes. Got a soprano part that needs especially strong diction and stamina, next week, to match well with the three guys who will be singing alto/tenor/bass? Field a different boy for that one. A sufficiently staffed roster allows effective choices to be made, per composition.

It also allows the students who could sing well to play instrumental parts (where able to do that too), on the weeks where they're not assigned to sing. How about this bit from the Entwurff: "Be it furthermore remembered that, since the 2nd violin usually, and the viola, violoncello, and violone always (in the absence of more capable subjects) have had to be played by students, it is easy to estimate how much the chorus has been deprived of in consequence. But if I should mention the music of the Holy Days (on which I must supply both the principal churches with music), the deficiency of indispensable players will show even more clearly, particularly since I must give up to the other choir all those pupils who play one instrument or another and must get along altogether without their help." [p149, The New Bach Reader]

Bach needed a sufficiently talented and sufficiently large group of individuals to supply all the required music for the whole year.

Read Rifkin's book. To argue against it instead of reading it does no good.

Coincidentally, in the review here: http://www.music.qub.ac.uk/tomita/bachbib/review/bb-review_DortmundBf5.html
click on the photo to enlarge it. The pages depicted are 32-33: the ones I mentioned where Rifkin lays out most of his comments about BWV 24 movement 3 (which started the discussion here several days ago). It comes up clearly enough that interested members here should be able to read at least those two pages; and I've already quoted most of Rifkin's remarks from page 34, after that page turn.

=====

By the way, the phrase "As I understand it, Rifkin's theory is still only a theory" from someone else's posting made me wince. Anybody in a scientific occupation, as that writer himself is, should know what the word "theory" means.

I won't belabor it here beyond this posting, but the construction "only a theory" as an intended insult to something is just as weak as asserting that "that candidate is elitist" (which I saw in a newspaper recently). "Elite" means something like "having uncommon merit", doesn't it? And "theory" means something like "well-supported and thoroughly researched scientific hypothesis", doesn't it?

There's a theory that the moon occasionally gets positioned directly between the sun and earth, temporarily blocking some sunlight for a few minutes and causing what earthlings call a "solar eclipse"...but that's still only a theory. Elite astronomers would know more about that than I do.

Julian Mincham wrote (May 30, 2008):
For those unwilling or unable to read Rifkin's arguments in full this summeray, which was put on the web in 1999 in response to Bernard Sherman's comments admirably encapsulates the main point of the argument and some of the history. (google Sherman's name to find the original article) Julian Mincham

Schering's Wacky Theory
by Joshua Rifkin
Reprinted from Early Music America, Fall 1999, p. 48; the version here is slightly expanded.

The pull-quote caught my eye: "Wacky theories of Bach performance have had a way of disappearing into the graveyard of interpretative fads." Wondering just what crazy notion the writer had in mind, I glanced upwards and saw the title "Rifkin's Pesky Idea" [by Bernard D. Sherman, from Early Music America, Summer 1999]. My heart sank, but I read on - and found an articulate defense of my work on Bach's vocal forces, and of the performances given in their wake by myself and others. Still, despite a gracious apology from the editor, the pull-quote rankled; so I decided to write a few words about a truly wacky theory of Bach performance - one that has yet to hit the graveyard.

The theory began with Arnold Schering, the leading German Bach scholar between the two World Wars. Keen to advance the interpretation of Bach's vocal music beyond Romantic models, Schering undertook extensive research into the manuscript parts from which Bach's musicians sang and played. These led Schering to some dramatic conclusions. Almost always the parts included only one copy of each vocal line: a soprano part containing choruses, chorales, recitatives, and arias; an alto part laid out along the same lines; and similar parts for tenor and bass. No more than three singers, Schering reasoned, could read from each part. Hence Bach's chorus typically amounted to a mere twelve voices.

Twelve voices - a radical idea. But Schering, no less than any of us, wrote as a captive of the very traditions that he sought to reform. Here I must get technical. Schering investigated not only Bach's manuscripts but about those of earlier German composers as well; and in the course of his research, he noticed that some performing materials included a second copy of each voice part. Unlike the first copy, the additional part did not contain everything in the composition but omitted the solo sections. To use a modern analogy, it functioned like an overdub added at strategic points to a basic track. Musicians of the Baroque era usually signaled the subsidiary nature of such parts by inscribing them with the designation ripieno or in ripieno - something, in other words, that amplifies the texture but does not constitute an essential element of it.

As Schering recognized, ripieno parts implied that only one singer - a "concertist" - would read from each of the principal copies. Nor did he fail to notice something else of equal importance: the doubling parts typically omitted not just recitatives and arias but portions of "choral" numbers as well, meaning that extensive stretches of ensemble music fell to a consort of single voices rather than a full choir.

But at this point, the weight of inherited tradition pulled him into a trap. Given the inherent dispensibility of most ripieno parts, Baroque composers often left it up to the performer whether or not to use them; not infrequently, they signaled this option through a kind of shorthand. A cantata by Bach's predecessor Sebastian Knüpfer, for example, calls for five concerted voices, five vocal ripieni, six stringed instruments, and five brass. On the title page, the summary of forces reads "for 16 or 21" - meaning that you could perform it with just the five essential voices and the eleven instruments, or that you could add the five ripieno voice parts according to circumstances or taste. Yet Schering found the specifications cryptic: "It is not really clear," he wrote, "how this 'or' is to be understood, since a reduction of the ensemble - by omitting the five wind instruments, for example - appears impossible. "

A simple mistake - but a revealing one. For it shows that Schering, even in the face of unambiguous evidence, couldn't imagine "choral" music like this sung by concertists alone. What, then, to do about Bach, whose music rarely has ripieno parts? Schering couldn't conceive of Bach's cantatas, oratorios, and the like sung by anything less than a chorus as he understood it. Necessity proved the mother of invention: Bach's ripienists, Schering decided, must have read from the same parts as the concertists.

A brilliant stroke - but also a piece of pure circularity. Schering didn't have a shred of evidence to support the idea. But at the time he wrote, he hardly needed any. To musicians of his generation, performing numbers must have seemed like a helium balloon, rising of their own accord unless held down by some external factor. Confronted with the meager store of parts typical for Bach, you ask how many could have used them. You don't think to ask how did use them; you don't even think this a different question.

Nevertheless, countless performance materials from the 17th and 8th centuries - among them not a few of Bach's - refute the idea of ripienists and concertists sharing the same parts. Pictures supposedly showing otherwise have, in Andrew Parrott's felicitous phrase, "a mysterious way of dematerializing." Manuscript upon manuscript, not to mention archival and theoretical testimony, documents the performance of vocal music without ripieno singers. Indeed, to anyone who has taken the trouble to look at the evidence on vocal performance in the 17th and 18th centuries, Schering's entire theory must seem . . . well, wacky.

So why does it persist? I don't wish to play forensic psychologist, nor can I claim total objectivity. But at least part of the answer must lie in the way Schering's theory provides an excuse for doing more or less the same thing we have always done. Humans take comfort in the familiar, so we cannot help but favor scientific findings that seem to affirm what we have grown up with. Then, too, Schering's theory still held sway when performers and audiences began to shift from "modern" to "original" instruments: those who traded in Karl Richter for Nikolaus Harnoncourt still heard Bach's music with modern choral forces - only now they heard those forces as part of an explicitly "enlightened" package. And since Bach performance continues to follow the agenda set by the founding heroes of the early-music movement, this paradigm has proved durable.

But let's not kid ourselves: Schering's hypothesis has nothing more behind it than the "Bach bow" did. Although I wouldn't necessarily bet on it, perhaps it, too, will eventually find its way into "the graveyard of interpretive fads."

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 30, 2008):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< I have never been a strict devotee of the one, two or more voices per part; the objective researched?evidence one way or the other is only partially conclusive. >
It's worth placing the OVPP in a larger historical context and it's very interesting to have the evidence coming in about Bach's contemporaries. The OVPP debate also rages in the performance of 16th and 17th century choral music: Monteverdi and Gabrieli, among the earliest Baroque composers, appear to have used OVPP forces. That has driven devotees of Big Monteverdi and Really Big Brassy Gabrieli to fury.

What I find interesting is that there is a very early tradition of both "solo" and "choral" performances of Renaissance music. We know that Palestrina was always OVPP at the Sistine Chapel -- he wrote the names of the individual singers on the parts. Yet his contemporary, Victoria, made very specific provisions for multiple voices per part (MVPP -- is that what we're calling it now?) and had a choir of 6-3-3-3 which is quite a large ensemble for the period, but still smaller than the ensemble used by modern professional choirs and practically all amateur church choirs.

Closer to home, Praetorius is always criticized for what appears to be his cavalier attitude to juggling performing forces even in the same piece: I call it his "Smoke-em-if-you-have-em" tradition. Yet it is clear that his "aesthetic" allows for infinite variety of scoring and scale. I wonder if this dual tradition survived as late as Bach.

In reference to the article about OVPP:

1) There's no proof that all the singers who were on the roster of Bach's Choir 1 sang at the same time. In fact, collateral examples stretching back into the 17th century argue against it. We've debated this for years.

2) The iconographic "evidence" is worthless. Even Parrott and Rifkin don't stake much on extracting any real proof from such poor graphic representations. This was also hotly debated here.

I question whether this article should be allowed such an "authoritative" status on this list.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 30, 2008):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< A large part of the argument in that book is that Bach's usual deployment of his singers was as a roster, like the assignment of players to positions (one each) on a sports team. The roster gives a sufficient number of individuals to serve the team effort across a whole season of performances. The Entwurff is a petition to get sufficient skills and funding to cover the whole season of performance responsibilities. >
You can see this principle at work as early as Palestrina in which the "choir" is a long list of musicians yet we know that they were assigned to OVPP performances on an elaborate weekly roster, resposnibilites for which they could pay substitutes.

We also see this in the Vingt-Quatre Violins du Roy of Louis XIV and the Twenty-Four Violins of Charles II. It used to be argued that an orchestra of 24 strings was normative, but documents have shown that these bodies were rosters as well and that 'solo" disposition was pretty much the norm.

None of this is specific to Bach but it does help us understand the larger historical and social context in which he may have worked.

Uri Golomb wrote (May 30, 2008):
For those who also want to see the original Sherman article to which Rifkin's "Schering's Wacky Theory" responded, and an interview with Rifkin -- and much else besides -- it's all on Sherman's website: www.bsherman.org

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 30, 2008):
< For those unwilling or unable to read Rifkin's arguments in full this summeray, which was put on the web in 1999 in response to Bernard Sherman's comments admirably encapsulates the main point of the argument and some of the history. >
Yes, well said in Sherman's 1999 article at: http://www.bsherman.org/oneperpart.html
...to which Rifkin's short "Schering's wacky theory" was a 1999 response: http://www.bsherman.org/Scherings.htm

Rifkin's own book was published 2002.

For those wishing to read Rifkin's 1981 paper directly, it's republished and updated inside this 2000 book by Parrott: Amazon.com

Russell Telfer wrote (May 31, 2008):
J. Laurson wrote:
>> This isn't football [soccer], where you ask 30 guys [or girls] to show up, hope for 20 - but wouldn't play with more than 11 "per part", even if all hands (feet) showed. All on board, the better, the merrier. We don't know where Bach would have drawn the line upward (if ever), but it's ascertained that it wasn't at ONE vpp. <<
This is not a learned reply, but performers are welcome to comment, I understand. In this case I was in the audience, and have a few observations to make.

Last Sunday the Bishop of Salisbury (damn good fellow and top man in our parish) organised and conducted a Bach concert at Milton Abbey in remote Dorset (England). The programme was cantatas 21, 132 and 31, played in reverse order. i.e second thoughts. The programme was printed, but what order would you play them.

How simply splendid to have a clergyman (or anyone else for that matter) get going and organise a programme of Bach cantatas. The concert wasn't well promoted and the abbey wasn't full, but as you will imagine, any performance with good players would be an Event.

I understand all the players (minimal forces) were professional or semi-professional, and to use Brad's analogy, once you've got them, you use them. I counted 23 singers including the soloists, and with those numbers, no-one is unemployed when they don't need to be. Which is the point. Yes, one might be good on the high re, one might be good on the long notes, and another good on enunciation, but each singer (I'm pretty sure) performed every note in range.

One last, irrelevant point. I heard the most glorious soprano performance in thirty years. I dislike the kind of singing by basses and tenors, professional and amateur - I'm guilty with all the rest - who when singing, make a noise which is supposed to encompass maybe two dozen demi semi quavers in a couple of seconds: a gloop sound, I would call it.

But I would like to draw your attention to Alison Hill, who for me outsings Emma K any day. The liquidity of her singing and the clarity of her notes in all of these cantatas was out of this world. More anon, I dare say.

Cosimo Stawiarski wrote (May 31, 2008):
[To Uri Golomb] I just read some of your posts concerning the OVPP problem in Leipzig. At the moment I am preparing a facsimile edition of an interesting source for my editing company:

"Ordnung der Schule zu St. Thomae zu Leipzig" in which you can find many rules for the cantor and his pupils. Here some quotes:

"Die Coetus Musici sollen nicht nur in beyden Kirchen, zu S. Nicolai und S. Thomae, von dem Cantore an Sonn- und Fest-Tagen Wechsels-Weise besuchet, sondern auch ein gewisser Numerus von 8 in der Music geübten Schülern, nebst einem Praefecto in die Neue, und 4 andere ebenfalls mit einem Praefecto in die Peterskirche geschickt;"
[The Coetus Musici have not only to sing in both (main) churches S. Nicolai and S. Thomas, a smaller part of 8 very skilled pupils plus a Praefecto has to sing as well in the "Neue Kirche" and 4 other as well with a Praefecto in the "Peterskirche"] But that means that at least 12 boys have been involved in the service in S. Thomas and St. Nicolai!

"So lange auf ihren Bäncken stille sitzen, bis sie zu denen Pulten geruffen werden, so dann aber sich dergestalt vor dieselbe stellen, damit ein ieder den aufgelegten Text sehen und keiner den andern im Singen hindern möge"
[The boys have to remain seated until they are called to the music stands. They have to stay in a way in front of the music stands that everybody can read the text..."]
That means more than one singer was reading from the same part!

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 31, 2008):
Cosimo Stawiarski wrote:
>"So lange auf ihren Bäncken stille sitzen, bis sie zu denen Pulten geruffen werden, so dann aber sich dergestalt vor dieselbe stellen, damit ein ieder den aufgelegten Text sehen und keiner den andern im Singen hindern möge"
[The boys have to remain seated until they are called to the music stands. They have to stay in a way in front of the music stands that everybody can read the text..."]
That means more than one singer was reading from the same part!<
This was also cited in the Thomas Braatz article (May, 2008), including the important detail, the date, 1723:

[quote]
<6. [From the Schulordnung, Leipzig, 1723, p. 72]: [context: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/OrdnungEng.pdf ]

“II. In church, they [the Thomaner choir members] should remain seated quietly until they are called to the music stands/desks where they should then place themselves in front of them so that each singer can see the music [Text] that has been placed on it and so that no one can hinder another from singing from it.”> [end quote]

These posts are not only not contradictory, but are in fact supportive, of the idea that Bach arrived in Leipzig, 1723, encountered a tradition of more than one singer (a bunch of boys?) reading (?) from one part, tried to conform, and moved on as he saw fit, for his own music.

I hope that is not too curt, in summary of some of the accurate scholarship that Brad, Uri, and others, take the trouble and patience to post. Not to overlook the point which Doug never fails to emphasize, that there was plenty for the choir to do on a weekly basis, beyond the <new> Bach cantata. General rules for the choir prove nothing about the Bach cantata performances.

Thanks. I am reading, enjoying, perhaps even learning a bit, for an Old Dude.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 31, 2008):
Cosimo Stawiarski wrote:
< "So lange auf ihren Bäncken stille sitzen, bis sie zu denen Pulten geruffen werden, so dann aber sich dergestalt vor dieselbe stellen, damit ein ieder den aufgelegten Text sehen und keiner den andern im Singen hindern möge"
[The boys have to remain seated until they are called to the music stands. They have to stay in a way in front of the music stands that everybody can read the text..."]
That means more than one singer was reading from the same part! >
Again we have to be careful to note what music was present on the music stand on a typical Sunday and who had the responsibility to perform. I've never seen a list, but I suspect the Prefect (and his assistants?) had the responsibilty for seeing that the following music was on the stands (was it stored in the loft?)

1) Chorale-book (MVPP?)

2) Motet collection (OVPP?)

3) A collection of the "accentus" parts of the liturgy: polyphonic reposnses to the priest at the collects, Gospel and preface) - MVPP?

And the "concentus" music from Bach's library:

4) Missa settings of the Kyrie, Gloria and Sanctus - OVPP?

5) Cantatas (1 or 2) - OVPP?

The presence of the boys in the loft was a statutory religious obligation whether they were singing or not (In February, I heard St. Paul's Cathedral choir sing a service: four probationary boys were in attendance but did not sing except for the hymns)

Every singer and instrumentalist knew where they had to be sitting when the bells rang and the service began. If they weren't in place, they were fined. Somewhere in the school and in the loft must have been a chalkboard roster with the names of those who were assigned to the daily duties.

As each musical item appraoched, the necessary performers would step up to the stands. For instance, as the organ prelude ended, the singers and organist prepared to begin the opening polyphonic motet. As that was concluding, the singers and instrumentalists assigned to the Kyrie and Gloria would be preparing to step into place (the singers may or may have not been the same singers).

I don't think we can under-estimate how complex the whole affair was, especially if boys and men were performing as both singers and instrumentalists. Needless to say, Bach expected this tight organizational discipline. Standing at the concert-master's stand or sliding onto the organ bench, he expected his troops to peform with military precision.

Unlike a modern concert with stationary performers and generous silences between movements, the litrugy moved ahead relentlessly down in the sanctuary and Bach' performers were engaged in drill-like movement in the loft.

Even without documentary evidence, we can only stand in amazement at Bach's genius as a musical administrator.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 1, 2008):
Cosimo Stawiarski wrote:
>>"So lange auf ihren Bäncken stille sitzen, bis sie zu denen Pulten geruffen werden, so dann aber sich dergestalt vor dieselbe stellen, damit ein ieder den aufgelegten Text sehen und keiner den andern im Singen hindern möge"
[The boys have to remain seated until they are called to the music stands. They have to stay in a way in front of the music stands that everybody can read the text..."]
That means more than one singer was reading from the same part!<<
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< This was also cited in the Thomas Braatz article (May, 2008), including the important detail, the date, 1723: >
And he got it from a published Koopman article that he translated. Some of the problems are in the Koopman article itself, and some in the translation....

The issue was addressed three years ago: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/OVPP%5BKoopman%5D-errata.htm

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 1, 2008):
Brad lehman wrote:
>And he got it from a published Koopman article that he translated. Some of the problems are in the Koarticle itself, and some in the translation....<
A couple points caught my eye, even in a quick scan of the Koopman article:

<3. Occasionally those who advocate OVPP or OPPP maintain that the majority of the Bach’s cantatas have come down to us with the original parts complete and that among these parts there exists only a single example of each vocal part. [15] Even a superficial investigation of Bach’s original parts shows that the transmission of parts is by no means “obviously complete.” Stated briefly, even a superficial check of 60 primary sources for Bach’s cantatas makes it clear that the parts for at least 24 of them are incomplete: [16]>

Conveniently ignoring the fact that the remainder, 36, are in fact complete, and supportive of the OVPP hypothesis.

<According to Johann Beer (“Musicalische Discurse” [Nürnberg, 1719] “it is possible to create an impressive harmony with 8 persons…These consisted of 4 vocalists, 2 violinists, an organist and the conductor.” [8]>

Just imagine the conductors contribution to the harmony, if he had the misfortune to smack his toe while aiming at the floor!

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 1, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>However, at the start [BWV 71] the effect does not seem so pronounced; and my reference to "grandiose" (in a positive sense) probably relates more to my recollection of the start of Rilling's recording (probably 4 or
5 VPP in the tutti sections).<
I did understand the reference to <grandiose> as positive, sorry for my bit of ironic humor.

I sincerely appreciate your candor in acknowledging that use of the word probably applies to more than 2VPP. Further, I think our exchanges are once again a fine example of how discussion from differing viewpoints can advance mutual respect, if not create 100% agreement.

BTW, I think grandiose is an appropriate word for the opening of BWV 71, and BWV 171, considering the overall scoring. Since these are works not for regular Sunday performance, perhaps they represent special opportunities for Bach to use maximum vocal forces in a cantata?

Nicholas Johnson wrote (June 1, 2008):
I wonder whether today there is a choir who, given the nod, have members who pull out an instrument or two.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 1, 2008):
Johnson Nicholas wrote:
< I wonder whether today there is a choir who, given the nod, have members who pull out an instrument or two. >
At a wedding last Sunday, I performed with a small chamber group. I had to wait at the piano while the oboist and cellist finished singing with the choir. In English choir schools, students have a mandatory obligation to study an instrument in addition to singing. Not much has changed since Bach's time.

 

Continue on Part 21

Choir Form: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
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 | Part 21
Articles:
Bach’s Choir and Orchestra [T. Koopman] | Evidence for the Size of Bach’s Primary Choir [T. Braatz]
Books on OVPP:
The Essential Bach Choir [A. Parrott] | Bach's Choral Ideal [J. 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: ýJune 11, 2008 ý10:53:49