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Part 3

 

 

Continue from Part 2

Matthew Westphal
wrote (February 6, 2000): 5:44
Hi Steven (and everyone) -
<< Bach didn't necessarily have any "vision" of his music for posterity. He was composing for that week's church services -- and for particular musicians whom he knew well. Does it really make sense that he would write and perform music that was beyond the capabilities of his performers? >>
< I agree entirely but it is funny how this ethos isn't translated into others areas of Bach's music by many >.
It's the left-over influence of Romanticism -- especially the image of Beethoven the great genius struggling to leave great works for posterity.

[Snip very impressive list of works (all that typing, Steven!) including - ]

<I'll list a few...

Jan Krtitel Tolar:

Missa Viennensis - SSSSAAAATTTTBBBB concertato, SATB cappella, 2 Cornetti, 2 Trumpets, 4 Trombones, Fagotto, 3 Violins, 2 Violas, Violoncello, Violone, Organ

Miserere mei Deus - SSAATTBB concertato, SSAATTBB cappella, 2 Violins, 2 Violas, 2 Trumpets, 2 Cornetti Muti, 3 Trombones, Violone, Organ

Antonio Bertali:

Missa Archiducalis: SSATTB concertato, SSATTB ripieno, 2 Violins, 2 Cornetti, 2 Violettae, 2 Violas, Trumpet, 4 Trombones, Organ (Dated 1669) (I have the parts & score!) >
WOW! I wish more of these were recorded!

Steven, based on what you posted, I don't think we really disagree at all.

One thing I notice (and that Rifkin & Parrott would be quick to notice) is that many of these works call explicitly for ripieni or cappella - as is the case with particular works of Bach (e.g., BWV 21, BWV 71, SJP). It's where Bach doesn't call for them that R&P point out that we maybe shouldn't have been adding them all these years.

Another thing - judging from the large-scale 17th-century works with which I'm familiar (and G. Gabrieli's music, too), the writing for the cappella/ripieni is, as a rule, considerably less intricate and difficult to sing than that for the concertati (soloists). (Where the intricacy level is about the same, it's generally that the soli parts are less difficult, not that the cappella parts are more difficult.)

That ties into what convinced me when I first heard Rifkin's B-Minor Mass: there was so much less sloppiness and so much more clarity on all those fast runs in, say, "Cum Sancto Spiritu," "Et resurrexit" and "Pleni sunt coeli". The only times I missed a choir were in the stile antico choruses such as "Qui tollis peccata mundi" and "Et incarnatus est" -- and, by the way, "Gratias agimus tibi" / "Dona nobis pacem", whose prototype, "Wir danken dir, Gott" (BWV 29), calls for ripieni (I get this from one of Parrott's articles in EARLY MUSIC).
****

[from the preface to Borlasca's Scala Jacob as cited by Steven]

"The first choir is to consist of four principal parts with a soprano and a castrato or a pleasant falsetto, accompanied by a body of diverse stringed instruments such as viole da braccia or da gamba, a large harp, a lirone, or other similar instruments as are common today, especially at the Bavarian court; indeed His Serene Highness has examples of every kind of instrument of this sort, as well as men of exquisite excellence. Moreover, where the letter V. is found, the voice should sing; at the word Sinfonia the instruments should play, and at the letter T. the voices and instruments should play together. The second choir should, like the first, also consist of the same voices, but of different instruments. For, if in the first are found plucked instruments or strings, in the second should be placed wind instruments, such as cornetts and trombones, and pleasingly tempered by a violin playing the contralto part an octave above. In this same way in the first choir a cornett playing the same part, if it is a choir of viols, is such a different instrument that by following these instructions one will be assured of obtaining lovely and delightful harmony."
****
To my eye this implies one singer per part - and in any case it definitely indicates that the word "choir" doesn't necessarily mean a group of singers, several to each voice part. (It's that assumption that lies at the base of the 20th-century Bach performing tradition - and of the ferocious resistance that R&P's ideas and reading of the evidence have evoked in many quarters. The idea that Bach wrote his choruses for an ensemble of soloists and not for a choir as the 20th century understood the term was -- and is for many -- literally unthinkable.)

Whether present-day musicians need to stick to the forces Bach seems to have written for is a separate matter entirely - and one based, ultimately, on personal taste. (Witness the marvellous performances of Bach on the piano by, say, Angela Hewitt.) The problem is that if it appears that Bach had at his disposal - and wrote for - one singer per part rather than three or four, then for HIP musicians to consciously disregard that information undermines some of the principles on which HIP is based. Thus we have the desperation apparent in Koopman's defence of his interpretation of Bach's practice in EARLY MUSIC (and I assure those of you who haven't read it that desperation is apparent in Koopman's later contributions to that exchange).

< Schütz and particularly Praetorius supply information about choirs singing in their works. Schütz was taught by Gabrieli and the cappella parts of his works are most definitely to be sung by a moderate sized choir. >
Yes, definitely. Schütz supplied music for ripieni in Psalmen Davids, but says in his preface that you can do those parts with voices or instruments or both -- or just omit the ripieni parts altogether. If I understand what I know of Praetorius correctly, he wrote many different arrangements of and fantasias on, for example, chorale melodies, all at many different levels of difficulty -- and he gave detailed suggestions on how to realise all this in performance. McCreesh's Praetorius Christmas Mass is an excellent example of putting all this into practice - and the parts for cappella (let alone those for the congregation) are considerably simpler than those for the soloists (viz. the soprano parts in the Gloria of the Missa ganz Teutsch).

< The Rifkin Bach thing I can accept but to try to strip earlier music down to basics is misguided. >
In the examples you listed, I agree - as do Parrott and McCreesh, judging from their recordings of Gabrieli, for example. (Rifkin has not, to my knowledge, done any 17th-century music to speak of.)

< I wish people would put on more of this repertoire! There are hundreds and hundreds of works languishing on dusty shelves by composers like Biber (!), Schmelzer, Fux, Scheidt etc. >
Yes indeed. Unfortunately, it's expensive. I wish people would put on, say, more smaller-scale Schütz (Symphoniae Sacrae I and II, Kleine geistliche Konzerte, for example) as well. It's not so expensive to produce, so you can use smaller venues.

< I'm sorry I was borrowing the word. I like Glass and Reich and think that the term "minimalism" is strange when applied to many of their works. Glass's operas are certainly rich and full of sound. Maybe the word I was looking for was anorexic? >
I can go for that!

Matthew Westphal wrote (February 6, 2000): 19:00
< Sybrand Bakker wrote: I have one question. I always read the Entwurff as follows:
'There should be 48 alumni of various capability, and they will be divided in 4 choirs of 12 each'. AFAIK the custom was every Sunday a cantata at St. Thomas and a motet at St. Nicolai, the next week this procedure was reversed and the cantata was done at St. Nicolai and the motet at St. Thomas. >
Parrott writes that the practice was that the first choir (the most proficient of the Thmoasschule's four and the one that Bach directed in performance himself) would provide the music (including the weekly cantata) at the morning service at St. Thomas and the afternoon service at St. Nicolai, while the second choir (which generally did only motets) would do the morning serviat St. Nicolai and the afternoon service at St. Thomas. The following Sunday the procedure was reversed: choir 1 at St. Nicholai in the morning and St. Thomas in the afternoon, choir 2 at St. Thomas in the morning and St. Nicolai in the afternoon.

(This came from one of Parrott's articles in EARLY MUSIC, but as far as I am aware, neither Koopman nor Wolff nor anyone else has contradicted it.)

< I hardly can't imagine as little as say 12 or 16 singers divided into two groups. Where do you read 2-3 per part is the overall number of singers Bach needed (as you seem to imply) instead of the disposition of the first choir. >
I read that two to three per part is intended to be the overall number of singers Bach needed in each choir. R&P maintain that the first choir's 8-12 members were meant to provide music for the entire service (motets as well as concerted music) and that in concerted music some of those would necessarily be playing instruments rather than singing. That would explain why Bach would want twelve (with sixteen being even better) for each choir - particularly since unscheduled absences among the choir members would be inevitable.

You can't imagine 12-16 singers divided into two groups? I can. Think of Jos van Veldhoven's performance of the B-Minor Mass in Utrecht last September. Remember how in the "Osanna" the soloists were choir 1 and the chorus was choir 2? The contest of soloists vs. chorus was unequal, but I thought the soloists held their own against the instruments quite well. Can you imagine a second set of soloists like those as choir 2 in the "Osanna"? I certainly can.

< An exceptional case like the SMP would have been sung by the first choir, the second choir and the third choir (the soprano in ripieno part in the opening choir and the chorale 'O Mensch bewein'). >
"Would have been"? Was it, in fact? I can't remember, but I suspect that information has survived -- and if I recall correctly, it was cited by Parrott.

< If there were as few as capable singers as you seem to imply, why write a work for double choir? >
See above. If the recent McCreesh SMP performance from Nantes is re-broadcast in France or elsewhere in Europe, anyone who can receive it should check it out.

I think that in all the back-and-forth about the Entwurff, people tend to forget that the fundamental basis for the Rifkin-Parrott-et al. one-to-a-part thesis is the sources themselves (original scores and/or parts). Their basic point is that where those sources don't show any evidence of calling for ripienists (keeping in mind that there are works such as the SJP (BWV 245) and BWV 21, BWV 29, BWV 71, etc. that do), it's a mistake to assume out of hand that Bach did use ripienists in spite of that lack of indications for them. Especially in light of notational evidence that seems to imply one-per-part performance (such as that join in the tenor part of the Gloria in the B-Minor Mass (BWV 232) between "Domine Deus" and "Qui tollis" that I mentioned in another post). What Parrott & Rifkin write about the Entwurff is an attempt to explain what it says in light of the evidence of the scores/parts.

My poor tired brain can't recall all the details of the numbers brandished by Rifkin & Parrott and by Koopman & Wolff (and I don't have the series of EARLY MUSIC articles at hand just now), but they can make their arguments better than we can re-state them. I do urge anyone interested in this question to try to find a library that has the journal EARLY MUSIC (published quarterly by Oxford University press) for the years 1996-1999 and have a look at what both Parrott & Rifkin (Parrott does the bulk of the writing) and Koopman & Wolff have to say. Failing that, Parrott's book THE ESSENTIAL BACH CHORUS is due for release in the UK this spring.

Seven Langley Guy wrote (February 6, 2000): 21:10
Hi to all the tolerant souls on the List! A few final points - I promise! Sorry.

<< Jan Krtitel Tolar:
Missa Viennensis - SSSSAAAATTTTBBBB concertato, SATB cappella, 2 Cornetti, 2 Trumpets, 4 Trombones, Fagotto, 3 Violins, 2 Violas, Violoncello, Violone, Organ

Miserere mei Deus - SSAATTBB concertato, SSAATTBB cappella, 2 Violins, 2 Violas, 2 Trumpets, 2 Cornetti Muti, 3 Trombones, Violone, Organ

Antonio Bertali:
Missa Archiducalis: SSATTB concertato, SSATTB ripieno, 2 Violins, 2 Cornetti, 2 Violettae, 2 Violas, Trumpet, 4 Trombones, Organ (Dated 1669) (I have the parts & score!) >>
< WOW! I wish more of these were recorded! Another thing - judging from the large-scale 17th-century works with which I'm familiar (and G. Gabrieli's music, too), the writing for the cappella/ripieni is, as a rule, considerably less intricate and difficult to sing than that for the concertati (soloists). >
Yes! The cappella or ripieno parts of Giovanni Gabrieli could generally be described as being for Altos (or tenorini), tenors and baritones. These cappella parts are not very complex contrapuntally and all the voices begin and end at pretty much the same time. One gets a very strong impression that these parts are written for students. Thomas Coryat mentions sixteen to twenty men in performances in Venice at the time of Gabrieli. The other works I mentioned from Bertali to Biber to Fux etc., have cappella parts that range in difficulty from dead easy to moderately difficult. Cappella choirs may have had one voice per part and may have had instruments in unison with each voice, which would help the students (if they were as such), keep to their lines and right notes. I have around 40 photocopies of Masses, motets etc. of complete parts for works by Biber, Bertali, Scmelzer etc. I think that in many ways this repertoire is still very much unexplored. Biber is starting to be recorded (maybe 5 or 6 worthwhile recordings of his vocal music?), Schmelzer, apart from his instrumental sonatas, is pretty much unknown - Bertali has one CD devoted to his ensemble music on CPO - Fux has some instrumental music recorded and on vocal works' CD that I know of - the rest?

< **** [from the preface to Borlasca's Scala Jacob as cited by Steven]"The first choir is to consist of four principal parts with a soprano and a castrato or a pleasant falsetto, accompanied by a body of diverse stringed instruments such as viole da braccia or da gamba, a large harp, a lirone, or other similar instruments as are common today, especially at the Bavarian court; indeed His Serene Highness has examples of every kind of instrument of this sort, as well as men of exquisite excellence. Moreover, where the letter V. is found, the voice should sing; at the word Sinfonia the instruments should play, and at the letter T. the voices and instruments should play together. The second choir should, like the first, also consist of the same voices, but of different instruments. For, if in the first are found plucked instruments or strings, in the second should be placed wind instruments, such as cornetts and trombones, and pleasingly tempered by a violin playing the contralto part an octave above. In this same way in the first choir a cornett playing the same part, if it is a choir of viols, is such a different instrument that by following these instructions one will be assured of obtaining lovely and delightful harmony." ****To my eye this implies one singer per part - and in any case it definitely indicates that the word "choir" doesn't necessarily mean a group of singers, several to each voice part. >
Actually the Borlasca really only needs two solo singers to work - at the top line of each choir. I included the Borlasca because it looked like a fascinating little introduction to his music. Borlasca's work could be considered chamber music with solo voices - perhaps a little like Monteverdi's Sonata sopra Sancta Maria or Giovanni Gabrieli's Sonata sopra Dulcis Jesu patris imago a 20.

Whether present-day musicians need to stick to the forces Bach seems to have written for is a separate matter entirely - and one based, ultimately, on personal taste. (Wthe marvellous performances of Bach on the piano by, say, Angela Hewitt.) The problem is that if it appears that Bach had at his disposal - and wrote for - one singer per part rather than three or four, then for HIP musicians to consciously disregard that information undermines some of the principles on which HIP is based. Thus we have the desperation apparent in Koopman's defence of his interpretation of Bach's practice in EARLY MUSIC (and I assure those of you who haven't read it that desperation is apparent in Koopman's later contributions to that exchange).

I remember reading some of the debate in Early Music and I made the profoundly pusillanimous decision to not even bother thinking too hard about it! Weak of me? No? Well I think that I will go on listening to Bach recordings as they come to hand and enjoying them as much as possible. But I hope people in the early music field don't try to extend the practices of church music in Leipzig to later and earlier music without having a very long hard look at what was going on. Music in Germany 20 or 30 years before Bach was different. 50 years even more so.

Interestingly composers like Biber got the effect of chorus in a fairly simple way in some works. Around Bar 63 in the "Qui tollis peccata mundi" movement of the Missa Salisburgensis all 16 soloists SSAATTBB/SSAATTBB and the full ripieno choir (soli?) SSAATTBB/SSAATTBB are collapsed down to 4 parts ({SSSSS}{AAAA}{TTTT}{BBBB} = SATB) along with all the instruments, apart from the 2 Clarini and the two "Loco" trumpet choirs which are silent until bar 75. Elsewhere the voices are reduced through unisons across the cathedral to 8 parts (SSAATTBB) and various other combinations. The beauties of this work are the exciting moments where the full forces are deployed across the vast space in real independent parts. Biber's Vesperae à 32 features similar unison work across the choirs - with similar climactic passages for the full ensemble. I can honestly say that although the ripieno choirs in the Missa Salisburgensis and the Vespers could be performed with a couple of singers per part, it isn't really necessary to enhance to volume or grandeur of these and similar works. Works like the Missa Salisburgensis don't get performed very often, so developing and approach to such works has to be 'born again' each time someone has a crack at them! I have yet not heard the Ton Koopman version on Erato yet but his Biber Requiem and Vesperae (also on Erato) are okay as far as I am concerned.

<< Schütz and particularly Praetorius supply information about choirs singing in their works. Schütz was taught by Gabrieli and the cappella parts of his works are most definitely to be sung by a moderate sized choir. >>
< Yes, definitely. Schütz supplied music for ripieni in Psalmen Davids, but says in his preface that you can do those parts with voices or instruments or both -- or just omit the ripieni parts altogether. If I understand what I know of Praetorius correctly, he wrote many different arrangements of and fantasias on, for example, chorale melodies, all at many different levels of difficulty -- and he gave detailed suggestions on how to realise all this in performance. >
The melodies are there but in some works very cleverly woven into the fabric of the piece. See Praetorius' Wachet Auf.

McCreesh's Praetorius Christmas Mass is an excellent example of putting all this into practice - and the parts for cappella (let alone those for the congregation) are considerably simpler than those for the soloists (viz. the soprano parts in the Gloria of the Missa ganz Teutsch).

Again this is true but there are many works by Praetorius that feature a large number of vocal parts - say up to 15 or more which need good singers on all lines. The cappella parts, where they occur, are unashamedly simple.

McCreesh's Praetorius does not impress me in some ways! Too many musicians and singers! The whole thing has a "boots 'n' all" feel which obscures Praetorius' orchestrations and crumhorns, shawms, racketts in this music? Purrlease! I think McCreesh's Praetorius Christmas Mass is some sort of weird tribute to David Munrow. Praetorius is pretty explicit about the range of performance modes possible in his music and it is pretty clear that he likes the modern expressive (i.e. capable of loud & soft, legato, subtle articulation etc.) instruments like violins, viols, transverse flutes, mute cornetts, cornetts, trombones, trumpets and curtals.

In my humble opinion there are two recordings of Praetorius that give a good representation of his vocal music....

Schütz & Praetorius - Weihnachtshistorie and Motets - Taverner Consort, Taverner Choir Taverner Players/Andrew Parrott (EMI REFLEX 7 47633 2) (Probably on Virgin now?)

Michael Praetorius - Polyhymnia Caduceatrix & Panegyrica - La Capella Ducale/Musica Fiata/Roland Wilson (SONY S2K 62 929) (2 CD's)

I acknowledge that the Gabrieli Consort's Praetorius is exciting but it does some strange anachronistic things. Roland Wilson's recording may have been overshadowed by McCreesh but it is a real revelation.

I wish people would put on, say, more smaller-scale Schütz (Symphoniae Sacrae I and II, Kleine geistliche Konzerte, for example) as well. It's not so expensive to produce, so you can use smaller venues.

When I finish my studies at the end of this year I intend to move either back to Melbourne or to London and I will certainly return to performing these small-scale works. (I was in a group that did some Schein Opella Nova works in Melbourne)

The trouble with a lot of this repertoire is that you need special instruments that are not always common - chitarrones, mute cornetts, sackbutts, natural trumpets and so on. It is only recently that better players (or any sort of players at all) have become available for this sort of music. Even fifty years ago you could get a chamber orchestra to play a string concerto of Corelli or Vivaldi. But who had alto sackbutts or a pair of mute cornett players?

Enrico Bortolazzi wrote (February 7, 2000): 12:51
< You wrote: <...> Parrott has pointed out that his position on performing Bach cantatas has been far more likely to hurt than help his performing career. Most concert presenters and record companies still run shy of one-to-a-part; "and anyway," as he has written, "the larger the performing venue and the greater the number of performers, the more I tend to get paid." >
Yes, but it's more easy and inexpensive to work with few soloists than with a choir, even if little. To have a choir (like those of Herreweghe or Suzuki) is more difficult than to pay for soloists.

<...> < I'm afraid so. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that Bach didn't necessarily have any "vision" of his music for posterity. He was composing for that week's church services -- and for particular musicians whom he knew well. Does it really make sense that he would write and perform music that was beyond the capabilities of his performers? If nothing else, doing so would not make him look good before his employers. >
Hmmm…do you think that students of a liceum (17 years old) could sing well a Bach choir like BWV 106, BWV 131 and so on? Do you remember what Bach himself said about his students? Our performances are very far from the performances of Bach days. They had only three or four days to study the score, do you know what means three days for a cantata (even for a professional singer)? If Bach would write for his students' level this list never existed!

I'm not for or against one-part-voice, but it seems to me that in this question (as in others, i.e. boys voices) people forces the history to their use. Why Rifkin doesn't use not-professional singers and players? I'm a candidate for singing with him, wow! Or perhaps I'm to old (33)

Johan van Veen wrote (February 7, 2000): 12:19
< Enrico Bortolazzi wrote: <...>
<< I'm afraid so. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that Bach didn't necessarily have any "vision" of his music for posterity. He was composing for that week's church services -- and for particular musicians whom knew well. Does it really make sense that he would write and perform music that was beyond the capabilities of his performers? If nothing else, doing so would not make him look good before his
employers. >>
< Hmmm… do you think that students of a liceum (17 years old) could sing > well a
Bach choir like BWV 106, BWV 131 and so on? Do you remember what Bach himself said about his students? >
That is what is always said about the level of Bach's singers. I don't think they were bad at all. What Bach said about them tells more about him than about them. Bach obviously set incredibly high standards. Besides, he wasn't an easy character to deal with.

< Our performances are very far from the performances of Bach days. They had only three or four days to study the score, do you know what means three days for a cantata (even for a professional singer)? If Bach would write for his students' level this list never existed! >
I don't think that Bach would have written cantatas of this level if he didn't believe they could be performed well. He never saw himself as a genius, but just as a craftsman. Therefore one can assume that he didn't consider his music to be exceptional in technical sense.

< I'm not for or against one-part-voice, but it seems to me that in this question (as in others, i.e. boys voices) people forces the history to their use. Why Rifkin doesn't use not-professional singers and players? >
Probably because today's "non-professionals" are by far not as good as those in Bach's days. A whole lot of music in his time was composed and published to be played by non-professionals. But it is often very demanding music, and technically not easy at all. Could that perhaps have anything to do with the fact that music was much more part of everyday's life (not, as in our time, an "ornament" or something for special occasions) and that the music they performed was all "contemporary" music?

Enrico Bortolazzi wrote (February 7, 2000): 17:17
<< You wrote: <...> Hmmm…do you think that students of a liceum (17 years old) could sing well a Bach choir like BWV106, BWV131 and so on? Do you remember what Bach himself said about his students? >>
< That is what is always said about the level of Bach's singers. I don't think they were bad at all. What Bach said about them tells more about him than about them. Bach obviously set incredibly high standards. Besides, he wasn't an easy character to deal with. >
I didn't say they were bad. But from the standard we are used with recordings...follow

< I don't think that Bach would have written cantatas of this level if he didn't believe they could be performed well. >
OK. We have to explain what is well. I was in a 'choir' last year where almost all the singers were students of music or professional musicians. In few months we could sing a 'Missa brevis' and the 'Litaniae Lauretanae' by Mozart. (IMO less difficult than a lot of Bach cantatas.) Again IMO we could do a good performance. But to arrive to a recording quality we had a lot to do.

With this I want to say that our idea of 'well done' could be quite different and probably very different from Bach time. The level of performances that Rifkin or others can reach are far from Bach time's level. Bach and his musicians had only to do a church service (hey, I don't mean that was done bad).

The exceptional thing is that Bach (and the most part of composers, I'd say) had a long view (I don't know if this is correct in English, but I'm sure my thought is clear).

< He never saw himself as a genius, but just >as a craftsman. Therefore one can assume that he didn't consider his music to be exceptional in technical sense. >
This is a used and abused argument I don't agree with. Bach himself wrote: 'there's only one Bach'. But I don't want to begin a discussion on this point also because we started from one-to-a-part argument. With my posts I would only point out that the way we read history is neither absolute nor immutable. So I'm diffident from people that says 'this is the only right way' and I'm glad that there are a lot of different views (and so a lot of recordings).

Ryan Michero wrote (February 8, 2000): 2:44
(To Matthew Westphal) Thank you for your elaborate responses on the issue of one-to-a-part Bach performances. I am very interested in the whole issue now, and you and the other list members have given me plenty of places to start looking. Rifkin's B-minor Mass and the Purcell Quartet's Latin Masses disc are in the mail, I'll look into getting the Thomas and Parrott recordings I don't have yet, and I'm going to track down those issues of Early Music with the Big Debate in them. I feel privileged to have been a part of our own miniature version of that debate on this list, with Matthew as Rifkin/Parrott and Steven, Johan, et. al. in the Koopman/Wolff roles!

And I second Matthew's recommendation of the NON-one-to-a-part recording of Favourite Cantatas by Jeffrey Thomas and the American Bach Soloists, including my favourite performances of BWV 80, 140, and 78 (no mean feat!). This is a fine disc for both seasoned cantata listeners and cantata newbies.

Perhaps I will never prefer the one-to-a-part method of performing Bach, but, if only for the fact that it can bring great clarity to Bach's complex contrapuntal textures, I believe it is a valuable trend.

Hmm…should I hope for a complete cantata cycle with one-to-a-part singing?

Matthew Westphal wrote (February 8, 2000): 2:40
< Ryan Michero wrote: Hmm…should I hope for a complete cantata cycle with one-to-a-part singing? >
Maybe someday... you'd probably have to wait for the next Bach anniversary year, though (2035?)...

Thanks for the kind words...

Matthew Westphal wrote (February 8, 2000): 2:54
< Enrico Bortolazzi wrote: Hmmm…do you think that students of a liceum (17 years old) could sing well a Bach choir like BWV 106, BWV 131 and so on? >
I know there are plenty of students at Julliard or the Guildhall School or the Royal Conservatory in the Hague or the Paris Conservatory who could easily perform a Bach cantata after a couple of days of rehearsals. There are plenty of professional musicians who could give a reasonably respectable performance of a twenty-minute Bach cantata after less than two hours of rehearsal. There are certainly plenty of professional English singers who could sight-read a Bach cantata.

At least for Bach's first choir (the one that performed the cantatas), I think that students at a good modern-day conservatory are a better analogy than today's average 17-year-olds...

< I don't think that Bach would have written cantatas of this level if he didn't believe they could be performed well. >
I agree with that.

If it seems improbable that Bach could get a group of 17-20-year-old students to perform his difficult music adequately -- well, to me it would make more sense to use the one best singer you had on each part in the difficult "chorus" movements rather than trying to get three or four on each part to articulate and phrase together, pronounce their consonants together, etc.

Jacco Vink wrote (February 8, 2000): 12:46
< Matthew Westphal wrote: I know there are plenty of students at Julliard or the Guildhall School or the Royal Conservatory in the Hague or the Paris Conservatory who could easily perform a Bach cantata after a couple of days of rehearsals. There are plenty of professional musicians who could give a reasonably respectable performance of a twenty-minute Bach cantata after less than two hours of rehearsal. There are certainly plenty of professional English singers who could sight-read a Bach cantata.
At least for Bach's first choir (the one that performed the cantatas), I think that students at a good modern-day conservatory are a better analogy than today's average 17-year-olds... >
Note that the Kruidvat's series of Bach cantatas are recorded with very little time for rehearsal. Not unlike Bach's practices. And I must say I like the result very much. Maybe it is less polished, but I the last few weeks I have listened them over andover again. I may actually like the lack of polish, it adds freshness, comparable to a live recording.

Moreover, Bach's choir had very musical members like C.P.E and W.F. Bach and many other Bach pupils. If his choir was sometimes in a weak shape, he then probable performed (and wrote) a solo-cantata like Ich habe genug (BWV 82). Moreover, choir's today have a huge repertoire covering many style periods. Bach only performed Bach and contemporaries and the choir knew how he liked this music to be performed.



Continue to Part 4


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

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Last update: ýJune 17, 2005 ý17:12:37