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Oboe & Oboe d’amore in Bach’s Vocal Works
Part 2

Continue from Part 1

The Oboe family and JS Bach

Ludwig wrote (May 11, 2005):
Oboe sounds at written pitch
The baroque oboe as it was used at the end of the 17th century had its origin in such Renaissance instruments as the bombards, the shawms and the pifferi. Originally one of a family of instruments, the soprano oboe was the principal oboe that was still in use at the end of the 17th century. As was also the case with practically every other woodwind instrument at that time, its conical bore became narrower and its exterior became increasingly elaborate (cf. The recorder) with decorative mouldings and circlets. It was at first an orchestral instrument, particularly so in France but it soon went on to establish its own repertory in chamber music and sacred music. The oboe was also very popular in Italy, while J.S. Bach was to make it one of the instruments he used most frequently for obbligato lines in his cantata arias. The two keys are used to overcome a limitation of fingering (for the low C) and to improve the quality of a note in the lower register (for the E flat).

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Oboe d'amore in A | more ...
sounds a minor third below written pitch This is a typically German instrument that dates from the first half of the 18th century, it being an oboe in A that sounds a third lower than the normal oboe. It also possesses a bell shaped bulge at its lower end that gives the instrument its characteristically warm timbre. It was mainly used as a solo instrument in chamber music although J.S. Bach also used it as an obbligato instrument in cantata arias.

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Cor Anglais in F (English Horn)
sounds a perfect fifth lower than written pitch The baroque equivalent of the cor anglais was the alto oboe known in France as the taille de hautbois. It was first used in the second half of the 17th century in the French ensembles known as the bandes de hautbois, in which it played the inner lines of polyphonic compositions. J.S. Bach was also to make use of it when a low pitched oboe was needed to double the viola parts in the cantatas.

The oboe da caccia
The oboe da caccia, always referred to by its Italian name, appears frequently in works by J.S. Bach. It is also quite probable that Bach himself caused this particular type of oboe to be built. Several years ago various pieces of an instrument were discovered in the collections of the Copenhagen Instrumental Museum; these were carefully assembled and this enigmatic instrument was the result. It had a double reed, it was bigger than the normal oboe and had a curved body whose separate components were held together by a strip of leather, the whole ending in a metallic bell. What was more, it was noted with great surprise that the instrument had been first made by Eichentopf, the most well-known instrument maker of Leipzig of Bach's time. The puzzle over exactly what type of instrument Bach's oboe da caccia was had finally been solved. The oboe da caccia sounds a fifth lower than the normal oboe and can thus be linked with the alto oboe in F.

Joel Figen wrote (May 11, 2005):
Ludwig wrote:
< Oboe sounds at written pitch >
In the BGA score for BWV 131, the oboe and bassoon parts are transposed up a tone relative to the other parts, as they would be for a modern Bb clarinet. I have to assume, provisionally, that this is the original scoring, since no sane editor would do that unless (he thought) it was Bach's choice. This leaves several possible explanations:

1. Bach's oboe and bassoon were transposing instruments.

2. Bach's oboe and bassoon were tuned to Kammerton, while the strings tuned to Chorton.

3. Bach had special instruments built

I'd put my money on Kammerton/Chorton, but the other possibilities are at least worth looking at. The sound of reed instruments changes noticeably with a change of size equal to a full tone, or even a half tone. This may be more true for the clarinet family than for double reeds, but still, I'm keeping an open mind.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 11, 2005):
Joel Figen wrote:
< 3. Bach had special instruments built
I'd put my money on Kammerton/Chorton, but the other possibilities are at least worth looking at. The sound of reed instruments changes noticeably with a change of size equal to a full tone, or even a half tone. This may be more true for the clarinet family than for double reeds, but still, I'm keeping an open mind. >
I recall a very interesting article in one of the Harnoncourt LP cantata sets about Bach's commissioning the building of various alto and tenor wind instruments from a Leipzig builder. In one case, the very instrument built for Bach may be in a Swedish museum.

As a sidebar ... Is there any evidence that Bach ever used an early clarinet/chalmeau (sp)? Both Vivaldi and Händel did.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 11, 2005):
Re oboes, oboes d'amore, oboes da caccia, etc, and their use in transpositions in Bach cantatas: see Bruce Haynes's article "Questions of Tonality in Bach's Cantatas: The Woodwind Perspective" in Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society 12 (1986), pp40-67.

< As a sidebar ... Is there any evidence that Bach ever used an early clarinet/chalmeau (sp)? Both Vivaldi and Händel did. >
Not that I'm aware of. There are also some delightful chalumeau concerti by Telemann, and ensemble music by Christoph Graupner: Amazon.com
A delightful disc that--unfortunately--might be out of print. By the way, the Amazon title there "Trio for bassoon, chalumeau and piano" is incorrect; it's harpsichord, not piano.

Joel Figen wrote (May 11, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Re oboes, oboes d'amore, oboes da caccia, etc, and their use in transpositions in Bach cantatas: see Bruce Haynes's article "Questions of Tonality in Bach's Cantatas: The Woodwind Perspective" in Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society 12 (1986), pp40-67. >
I don't have access to this publication. Could you give a brief summary? Is it perhaps available online?

Charles Francis wrote ():
[To Joel Figen] Regarding BWV 131, Haynes notes that the "Obboe" and "Fagotto" are notated in a -minor in the autograph score. He points out that a performance in Chorton-g as indicated in the BG will take the solo part on the hautboy below its range by one note, and will include low c#1, which is virtually unplayable. He notes that the original notation in Cammerton-a exactly fits the range of the hautboy (c1 to d3).

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 11, 2005):
[To Joel Figen] Interlibrary Loan!

A quick abstract, abstracted from it:
- Chorton/Cammerton general issues before and into Bach
- Discussion of 17 Bach cantatas where the woodwind pitch discrepancies are acute in the existing editions (as of 1986)
- Discussion of the woodwind instruments in turn
- Discussion of key-colorations and Affekt, along with practical issues of transpositions
- "Hidden" oboe d'amore parts that simply say "oboe"
- Statistical analysis of oboe tonalities in Bach, Telemann, and Händel
- Suggested practical solutions for each of those cantatas, in turn

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 11, 2005):
[To Charles Francis] This may have been part of the reason why the NBA I/34 printed version of its rendition of the score of BWV 131 opted to present all the parts in Cammerton. The original notation of the woodwinds was in Cammerton-a so all the rest of the instruments that were originally notated in Chorton were then notated to agree with the woodwinds.[Explained on p. 36 of NBA I/34 KB.]

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 11, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>see Bruce Haynes's article "Questions of Tonality in Bach's Cantatas: The Woodwind Perspective" in Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society 12 (1986),pp40-67.
A quick abstract, abstracted from it:
Chorton/Cammerton general issues before and into Bach - Discussion of 17 Bach cantatas where the woodwind pitch discrepancies are acute in the existing editions (as of 1986)- Discussion of the woodwind instruments in turn- Discussion of key-colorations and Affekt, along with practical issues of transpositions - "Hidden" oboe d'amore parts that simply say "oboe"- Statistical analysis of oboe tonalities in Bach,
Telemann, and Händel - Suggested practical solutions for each of those cantatas, in turn<<
Much of this work by Bruce Haynes has recently been seriously questioned by Ulrich Prinz in his "J. S. Bachs Instrumentarium" [Bärenreiter/Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart, 2005.] Prinz is also very concerned about Haynes' unproven hypotheses (expressed more recently in the MGG2 (1998) and accepted uncritically in S. Rampe's and D. Sackmann's "Bach-Lexikon [Laaber, 2000) and spread about by Matthias Hengelbrock and Detmar Huchting "in abenteuerlichen, unbewiesenen Behauptungen und groben Verallgemeinerungen" ["in fantastic, unproven assertions and crude generalizations"] p. 19. One example of this given on the same page is Hengelbrock's statement: "Clifford Bartlett has presented/explained/stated that Bach, in the very early years of his Leipzig tenure, has used wind instruments using the French Cammerton (c. 393 Hz), which later on was no longer available to him [Bach.] Thereupon Prinz e-mailed Clifford Bartlett and received a prompt reply on the same day: "I am puzzled: I've never written anything at length on the E-flat Magnificat, though I have published an edition on it...."

Huchting wrote elsewhere: "During the first years of Bach's tenure in Leipzig [the E-flat version of the Magnificat is from 1723] Bach had at his disposal instruments which were in French Cammerton - this pitch at c. 392 Hz. was a semitone lower than the usual Cammerton A=415 Hz...Later on Bach had different instruments which were tuned to German Cammerton...It ought to be a prerequisite of an institution, such as that of the Bachakademie which claims to be knowledgeable in these matters , to be familiar with the most recent research."

Prinz then refers to Arnold Schering's statement from his book on Bach's Leipzig Church Music [1936] where Schering states in regard to the few isolated instances where 'Tief-Kammerton' was used: "Bach scheint alsbald für die Beseitigung solcher lästigen Unstimmigkeiten gesorgt zu haben" {Bach seems to have taken care to remove quickly such bothersome inconsistencies/discrepancies - {literally, the fact that the instruments are not easily tuned to play together properly.}"]

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 11, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] I've taken the liberty of forwarding this piece of innuendo-filled public ridicule (below) to Dr Haynes. The allegation about "uncritical acceptance" of his work is particularly flagrant, in my personal opinion. As if Dr Haynes has simply fed everybody a snow-job for his whole career, or something?

As for Dr Prinz himself being used as an action figure to beat up another scholar, here, who knows.

Charles Francis wrote (May 11, 2005):
[To Joel Figen] Regarding BWV 131, Haynes notes that the "Obboe" and "Fagotto" are notated in a -minor in the autograph score. He points out that a performance in Chorton-g as indicated in the BG will take the solo part on the hautboy below its range by one note, and will include low c#1, which is virtually unplayable. He notes that the original notation in Cammerton-a exactly fits the range of the hautboy (c1 to d3).

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 12, 2005):
[To Charles Francis] And this is what I get for recommending an excellent scholarly article (plus its bibliographic citation), directly from the subject line of "The Oboe family and JS Bach", and presenting a fair summary/abstract of its points.

<this part of the message was deleted>

Nevertheless, steering the thread back to a positive direction: Bruce Haynes is a top expert performer on Baroque oboes and their relatives; and he knows what he's talking about; and he's a well-respected expert on matters of pitch (especially in Bach's and related music); and this article by him is an excellent resource, standard in the literature. I'm personally very fond of his recording of Bach's cantata BWV 82, sung by van Egmond and conducted by Brüggen. And I also believe that his classic set of the Händel wind sonatas (Sony 2-CD set) has never been surpassed for beautiful musicianship.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 12, 2005):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>As a sidebar ... Is there any evidence that Bach ever used an early clarinet/chalmeau (sp)? Both Vivaldi and Handel did.<<
None whatsoever!

Re: Chalumeau

See previous discussion at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/NVD/BWV988-Quodlibet.htm

The evidence (MGGI article by Heinz Becker) suggests:

1. No connection with Bach has ever been identified

2. No formal music (a recognized composer who specified it to be used in an ensemble) existed for it before 1700.

3. It had a rustic, folk origin (played by peasants)

4. It had a single reed

5. It was extremely loud (note reactions by Mattheson and Berlioz in the reference above)

6. It had a very limited high range of barely over a single octave

7. It served as a springboard for Johann Christoph Denner (1655-1707- primarily Nürnberg) c. 1700 and thereafter (also later his sons, Jakob Denner 1681/2-1735 and Johann David Denner 1692-1764 - one source claims the latter was named Matthäus) to develop the clarinet in stages by modifying the body, adding keys and extending the range of the instrument (as one theory has it, Denner was trying to find a replacement to play the extremely difficult clarino (high trumpet) parts with greater ease; however, with all these major changes by various family members, the result was that it did not sound like a chalumeau anymore, nor could it replace a clarino trumpet in effect.)

8. From the beginning of the 18th century, chalumeaux and clarinets are used in compositions and often are played by the same musician, but nevertheless they were very different instruments in volume, range, sound quality, etc.

9. The chalumeau is not recorded in any musical dictionary or reference book until Johann Gottfried Walther's "Musicalisches Lexicon." and J.F.B.C. Majer's "Museum Musicum" both published in 1732. Here two types of chalumeaux are mentioned: a) an instrument with 7 holes in front having a range from f' to a'' b) a similar instrument having a thumbhole in the back and two diametrically opposing keys above the thumbhole with a range from f' to a'' (b'', c''') with the latter high 'C' reached by forcing the tone. Majer comments: "der Ambitus erstrecket sich nicht viel über eine Oktave" ["the range is not much more than an octave."] Majer also commented that the chalumeau, which »absonderlich ratione des schweren Ansatzes sehr hart zu blasen« ["particularly because of its difficult 'lipping'"] was very difficult to get into the higher octave by blowing more strongly. "Merkwürdigerweise haben sich keine echten Chalumeaux in Instrumenten-Sammlungen erhalten." ["Remarkably no true chalumeaux are to be found in any collections of instruments that have come down to us."]

10. Compositions for chalumeaux:

M.A. Ziani, Caio Pompilio, 1704; the music publisher Roger in Amsterdam printed 'Fanfares de chalumeau à 2 dessus,' 1706; A.M. Bononcini, Conquista delle Spagne, 1707; A. Ariosti, Marte placato, 1707; R. Keise, Croesus, 1710;

11. Chalumeaux were transposing instruments appearing in C notation but also in a high G ('dessus'). Georg Philipp Telemann notated a concerto for 2 chalumeaux in high G.

12. Mattheson, in 1713, refers to their use as a 'choir' of instruments to be played outdoors only and to be best heard from a great distance. They were also played from church towers in Nürnberg at the beginning of the 18th century.

[The first theoretical reference to clarinets were recorded byh J. G. Doppelmayr (1730) who indicated that Denner had created/invented 'a new type of pipe' at the beginning of the 18th century and that this 'was hailed by music lovers who derived great pleasure in hearing this instrument as an improvement over the chalumeau.' Georg Philipp Telemann used the early form of the clarinet in one of his cantatas belong to the yearly cycle in Frankfurt in 1721. Unfortunately the rest of the history of the clarinet would be OT here.]

 

The several types of oboe

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 1, 2007):
< Can you tell me anything about the two types of oboes that frequently show up in Bach works? >
Two, or three: oboe, oboe da caccia, and oboe d'amore! They're different sizes, have somewhat different tone, and play in different keys.

Rerunning some of my remarks from 4/10/06, about an excellent article on this topic:

Bruce Haynes's 1986 article "Questions of Tonality in Bach's Cantatas:
The Woodwind Perspective"
http://www.qub.ac.uk/music-cgi/bach2.pl?22=11689
offers on page 53:

"One other question of tonality concerns pieces with 'hidden' oboe d'amore parts. Bach was not always careful to specify this instrument when he intended it to be used. There are a number of 'oboe' parts in sharp keys that go below the range of the hautbois ordinaire, indicating that the parts were meant for the oboe d'amore. Bach's
oboists, handy on a variety of different instruments, would have automatically understood this without special instructions. Pieces with hidden oboe d'amore parts are to be found in Cantatas BWV 17, BWV 29, BWV 45, BWV 94, BWV 169, BWV 193, BWV 214, and BWV 215. In addition, some pieces in the second oboe part to the St John Passion are more convenient on oboe d'amore, though not all of these are indicated."

 

Oboe d'amore parts in Bach

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (August 26, 2009):
I have a specific question. Does any experts on the list know if Bach uses French violin clef for his oboe d'amore parts? Or have you ever encountered the French violin clef for oboe or oboe d'amore parts? If you know of any cases, could you list which pieces? I would be MOST grateful!

 

Magnificat Live . . . and vibrato
Oboe techniques

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (February 17, 2011):
Lovely version Anandgyan, thanks a lot!!

Is almost 1am. Just heard a few sections. They reminded me about a question I have for the specialists in Bach performance in the group.

As is well known, the introduction of vibrato in reed woodwinds started in the 1930's. Prior to that a long-standing tradition ruled out vibrato in all wind instruments except the flute. [Some musicians talk about "natural vibrato", but this is a myth: some musically very elaborate cultures have produced music for centuries without using vibrato at all, not even in singing. A case in point is the country where I live: Ireland].

For the last few decades, I have observed that most present-day Baroque-oboists play with ostensible vibrato the second half of long notes (and some not so long ones as well). I have asked some well-known Bach specialists about the source for this mannerism, but so far did not get any useful information. The only source I know for Baroque woodwind vibrato is the "finger-vibrato" occasionally prescribed specifically for the flute in French Baroque sources.

I would very thankful for information about Baroque sources for the use of vibrato in reed instruments.

Thanks,

[PS: Information about vibrato in Baroque voices would be also interesting. Most present-day singers use lots of vibrato in Baroque music, though some well-known Baroque singing specialists only use vibrato VERY sparingly.]

Peter Smaill wrote (February 17, 2011):
[To Claudio Di Veroli] This isn't an answer directly to your query but perhaps expands the issue of our limited knowledge of Baroque oboe technique.

In the original score of the apocryphal St Luke Passion BWV 246 the highlight tenor aria "Lasst mich ihr noch nur einmal kuessen" with chorale which follows the Crucifixion, in which the funerary "ich hab' mein'sach Gott heimgestellt" is heard on the instruments, the score is marked "Zwar die hoboen mit papier gedamft", " May the oboes be muted with paper ". Apparently they make an "exquisite whimpering noise". (Lester)

This delightful direction was erased from the modern score of the work so even on the rare occasions when the work is performed, we cannot confirm the description of the sound. The nineteenth century authorities (Breitkopf) faithfully printed out the direction, yet it is now lost to our supposedly historically-informed generation who use the modern performing score.

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (February 17, 2011):
[To Peter Smaill] Thanks for the lovely detail! I only play keyboards at present, otherwise would try it in flutes and recorders. A clarification: obviously they did not refer to paper in or around the oboe's bell (it would only affect two notes) but to a large grocery paper bag covering all the oboe up to the reed, with two holes in the middle to insert the hands. It would make a marvellous effect using a second oboe muted with paper for the echoes in the aria Flösst, mein Heiland of Bach's Christmas Oratorio. (Though the score asks for one oboe playing loud and soft).

Supposedly-historically-informed. I like that!!

 

Oboe d'caccia: Bach and Endler

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (October 13, 2011):
I am working on editing an ouverture by Johann Samuel Endler that is in E flat (two flat signs in the key signature but the As are typically flattened within the score, it's that old fashioned modal thing I guess?). There is no surviving autograph score, just instrumental parts. The two oboes parts are labelled with the French word "Hautbois" The oboe parts have a b flat key sign too (but ....it's really E flat). I go merrily along entering notes and play back the music, and there's an obvious problem. It turns out the notes are wrong by a fifth. What oboe instrument fits that bill? The oboe d'caccia. This would be really odd if that is indeed the instrument Endler used. I assumed the oboe d'caccia was only used in Leipzig and related to Bach's music. The other thing is Endler typically specifies his instruments more distinctly (i.e. "d'amour" would appear in any pieces with the Oboe d'amore).

So my question is: what are the instrumental parts labeled with for any Bach cantata with oboe d'caccias (would the plural be cacci?)

If it turns out this Endler piece uses oboe d'caccia, it raises some interesting questions about the links with Leipzig via Darmstadt. For what its worth, the Endler ouverture is absolutely beautiful music.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 13, 2011):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< So my question is: what are the instrumental parts labeled with for any Bach cantata with oboe d'caccias (would the plural be cacci?)
If it turns out this Endler piece uses oboe d'caccia, it raises some interesting questions about the links with Leipzig via Darmstadt. For what its worth, the Endler ouverture is absolutely beautiful music. >
Oboi da Caccia, I think.

Any chance you can create a sound file and post it so we can hear it?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (October , 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] Sure, give me an hour.

Evan Cortens wrote (October 13, 2011):
[Kim Patrick Clow, egarding his original message] The answer to your question is helpfully condensed on pages 362-364 on Ulrich Prinz's J. S. Bachs Instrumentarium (Stuttgart, 2005). I'd be happy to scan the relevant pages for you, which give the various designations Bach uses, and where he uses them. To summarize though, Doug is exactly right. The most common designation is "Hautbois da Caccia", followed by "Hautb. da Caccia". The only significant departure from this is "Hautbois de la Chasse" (only in BWV 179, parts and score).

I looked very quickly through a couple parts, however, and it appears that sometimes Bach notates the oboe da caccia at sounding pitch (e.g., BWVs 1, 6/1) and sometimes in a strange system of transposition (e.g., BWV 6/3) that seems to involve a French violin clef and a C clef on the second space. This second example, however, appears to be a repurposing of a part written for something else originally... since the first movement of that same cantata is in a separate part, and written a sounding pitch in alto clef, as in BWV 1.

Hope this helps, and best,

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (October 13, 2011):
[To Evan Cortens] By no means a piece for oboe dating from Bach's time and with a tonal range from F up is automatically meant for oboe da caccia.

The oboe da caccia was indeed an instrument made and used mainly in Leipzig.

However, it was a refinement of an older crude instrument in much more widespread used for choral accompaniment, the tenor oboe.

So, outside Lepzig, Endler probably wrote for tenor oboes.

(Find more details in Johann Sebastian Bach - Life-Times-Influence, Ed.
Schwendowius and Dömling, Bärenreiter 1977, p.147)

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 14, 2011):
Evan Cortens wrote:
< The only significant departure from this is "Hautbois de la Chasse" (only in BWV 179, parts and score). >
In the lecture before Cantata BWV 1 on the recently posted J. S. Bach-Stiftung St.Gallen, the conductor refers to "Oboi da caccia" and then translates for his German audience as "Jagdoben' which I've never encountered. Was there a folk instrument that was a precursor to the 18th century instrument?

George Bromley wrote (October 14, 2011):
[To Evan Cortens] Hi what is a 'French violin clef' ?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (October 14, 2011):
[To George Bromley] It's a clef that's two steps lower than the traditional treble clef (the curly cue wraps around the "F" instead of the "G.")

George Bromley wrote (October 14, 2011):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Thanks, I think Bach once used this for a soprano part.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (October 15, 2011):
[To George Bromley] When I write for this instrument in my compositions---I write it at pitch. As many of you know for years after Bach died this instrument disappeared and not used anymore. Fortuately, circa 1970s--it was re-discovered in Scandanavia and has been recreated. IT IS NOT an English Horn et al. It looks like a horn but has an Oboe type mouth piece.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (October 15, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< In the lecture before Cantata BWV 1 on the recently posted J. S. Bach-Stiftung St.Gallen, the conductor refers to "Oboi da caccia" and then translates for his German audience as "Jagdoben' which I've never encountered. Was there a folk instrument that was a precursor to the 18th century instrument? >
] Bach is reputed to have invented this instrument and I have not found it in any scores written by other composers during Bach's lifetime or after except I have included it in one of my symphonies. It is a type Oboe that could really be used in hunting calls because it is coiled like a horn.

 

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