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Pronunciation
Part 1

German pronunciation [ChoralTalk]

Gregg Sewell wrote (November 1, 2001):
I'd like to perform "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" by J.S. Bach in German with my church choir.

Is there a recommended guide to correct pronunciation of German that's geared to choral situations?

Thanks for your help.

Ruth Scheithauer wrote (November 1, 2001):
Gregg Sewell wrote:
<Is there a recommended guide to correct pronunciation of German that's geared to choral situations?>
Gregg, I can't point you towards such a guide, but I'm German and quite familiar with "choral German" as well, so if you have any specific questions I'll be glad to try and help.

Judy Greenhil [Director, Nashua Choral Ensemble] wrote (November 1, 2001):
Gregg Sewell wrote:
<Is there a recommended guide to correct pronunciation of German that's geared to choral situations?>
You could try "The Singer's Manual of German and French Diction" by Dr. Richard G. Cox, from Schirmer. This is one of those reference books I bought at a workshop, but haven't used yet. Looks good!

Donald Callen Freed wrote (November 1, 2001):
[To Gregg Sewell] There is a guide. I can't remember the exact title (I'm not at my office), but it's published by MENC and authored by Tolin & May. It covers German, Italian French, Latin, Spanish, and Hebrew, and is relatively inexpensive.

Cheryl Licary [Beloit Memorial High School -Beloit WI] wrote (November 1, 2001):
The MENC publication Mr. Freed mentioned is: Pronunciation Guide for Choral Literature

ISBN 0-940796-47-3. see www.menc.org

James Baldwin wrote (November 1, 2001):
[To Gregg Sewell] If you're at all familiar with the International Phonetic Alphabet, I'd recommend "Diction for Singers", published by Pst...inc, in Dallas, and authored by Joan Wall, Robert Caldwell, Tracy Gavilanes, and Sheila Allen. it's a fantastic book for English, Italian, Latin, German, French, and Spanish pronounciation.

John Howell [Virginia Tech Department of Music - Blacksburg, Virginia, USA] wrote (November 1, 2001):
Gregg Sewell wrote:
<Is there a recommended guide to correct pronunciation of German that's geared to choral situations?>
Well, I know what my wife did. She had 4 kids in her youth choir who spoke German very well, so she just had them teach the rest of the choir!

For historical languages I recommend, again, "Singing Early Music" ed by Tim McGee (Indiana University Press). But I'm not sure it gets into modern pronunciations.

Susan Marrier wrote (November 1, 2001):
Two excellent references are:
1.) A Handbook of Diction for Singers, by David Adams, Oxford University Press. This covers italian, German, and French, all in a clear and logical manner, inc. explanation and use of IPA symbols, closed and open vowells, word structure, etc.
2.) German for Singers by William Odom and Benno Schollum, Schirmer. This one includes an Audio CD. This is more of a textbook with exercises. I'm usually in a hurry to get an answer, so tend to use the Adams book, but someday, I promise myself, I am going to take the time to study and learn!

Either book would be good for that purpose.

 

Pronunciation

Francine Renee Hall wrote (August 24, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] In Shakespeare's time words were gutteral with a slight brogue. Standarized English didn't go widespread until the early 20th century. So modern English is somewhat contrived to keep class distinctions apart. About Dowland: his Elizabethan English can be heard on the Hyperion label with Glenda Simpson and others -- the English used in that CD is kind of 'rough' and gutteral. In stark contrast Anthony Rooley and Emma Kirkby and the gang, purporting to be 'HIP' are certainly not when coming to pronunciation. They sing so softly and with such inhibition that one would think they are ashamed of their language. And finally, in the film "Songcatcher" there are very close ties to English and Scottish ballads. However, there are differences too, especially in their loud, straight singing with upturned notes, almost like a 'yodel', but not quite because it's one note that is turned up one or two notches.

John Curtis Carr wrote (August 30, 2002):
[To Francine Renee Hall] I swore I wouldn't get into this, but when I think of all those hours in grad school listening to English & Scots dialect speakers on records made from tapes filled by self-sacrificing ethnologists and speech historians, I had to jump in somewhere. I'll take my chair shortly and I promise not to do this again.

1) West Virginia speech even as it was when I was a child --- this was shortly before I rode off with Nathan Bedford Forrest and the 7th Tennessee --- was a survival of North of England speech, which is where they came from, and Ulster. There are some Ulster touches, the home of the so-called Scotch-Irish [ one does not say Scots-Irish ], but they [the Protestnts] were the descendants of the boys from Durham, Lancaster and the Border Country who went over with Cromwell to fight the Irish and stayed to farm land grants. The Scotch-Irish have produced 12 Presidents of the US, all the way from Jackson, whose father was born in Carrickfergus, to Richard Nixon. There is a component of Scots speech in there or used to be. Now they talk like hillbilies from Texas because of TV. The ballads that were recorded up there were both English & Scotch. "Knoxville Girl" a country top 40 song in the Fifties was from a 17th cent ballad" [I've forgotten] Girl", same deal, prisoner wakes up in hell because he killed his girl, etc. There is NOTHING Elizabethan about that speech unless 1620's Lallands and Yorkshire dialect [ the Beatles' and the old Liverpudlians' saying boook for book is a remnan of that dialect and its allies], altered by the "roond aboot the hoose" pronunciation of the Chesapeake World speakers, was Elizabethan and when I hear they've preserved the grammar I want to tear my hair out. One grammatical peculiarity of Eliz printing, and prob speech, was the spelling out of a pronomial of ownership. " Willoughby His Avisa" is the title of a book we would render Willoughby's Avisa. They weren't a doin' thet in West Virginny.

2) We simply don't kno what their speech sounded like. No tape recorders. Their spelling doesn't give much of a clue; vide the Shak Quartos and Folios. People came to London speaking their own dialects. Walter Ralegh[correct spelling] had a broad West Country accent and some of my Scotch ancestors were no doubt incomprehensible. Eliz herself would have had a slight Welsh accent.Ralph Crane, one of th compositors of Shakey's plays has unique spelling habits that allows us to assign certain signatures and whole plays to him. Other printers spelled it anotheer away. Those are reflections of the linguistic wlderness of Elizabethan England. Were we to find, or should we have found in the 19th century, an isolated ville where people still rambled on a la 1620, what would it prove about hi-falutin' court speech and actors' speech? Oh for a Nagra tape recorder left out in a London street 1610.

3) the desciption of it as guttural is interesting. THere is a pronunciation of "hot" that identifies one as Canadian right off the bat. It's very very guttural. Sometimes Donald Sutherland comes out with it. Scottish? But immigraion of Sots to Canada was later than Scots immigration to the Carolinas and Pennsylvania, so it's prob not 17th century either, inasmuch as heavily Scottish areas of the South haven' preserved that pronunciation of the "o" in "hot".

But if you read some of the prose slabs in bad Shakey plays (yes I promise to go wash my mouth out) there's not much you can make guttural. "O" and short"A" are your big chances in most languages. Good Russian is guttural but they're slinging out whole words half an octave lower than they need to be because that's how Muscovites talked once. Pronunciation as theater a la the Japanese. Even in a tonal language like Vietnamese where GAO means either rice or cat scratch depending on pitch, they don't have guttural pronunciations, they use eight pitches. Japanese is not tonal so they prefer a guttural sound. Go figure.

4) One of the problems in discovering they sounded is that England is a small place, about the size of Mississippi, and social correctness played hob with nonstandard speech, suppressed it, because they were unified fairly early --- as England;the Scots and Eng crowns were unified by JamesI & VI and the kingdoms in 1703 or 1705--- and centralized, and the Catholic northern families ( Percys, Howards) and their pronunciations were on the outs,and the parishes and the endowed schools didn't do like American schools and offer instruction in whatever Third World language you speak at home: English education was uniform. And across the border, Lallands, the English of south Scotland, was definitely a kind of English. And I doubt if things were ever as variegated dialectically and as in Germany. A friend of mine stationed in Germany met a German girl, they became engaged ( as you know a Bach prelude for the organ has been played at German weddings for 200 years)and he went home to meet The Folks. 1962. Door opens. George enters, Grechen holding his hand. The Folks Speak. It's some kind of German-like utterance but to George it mostly sounds like cats being tortured. It's their little valley's dialect and George just can't get any of it; German unification in 1870 hasn't spoiled this dialect one whit. Puzzled looks by The Folks. They convey the thought to Gretchen that they thought George spoke Deutsch. " Yes he does," Gretchen says, " would you mind speaking it?"

Take the next bar.

Thomas Boyce wrote (August 30, 2002):
[To John Curtis Carr] All I know is, the other day I helped a tourist from Glasgow find the "Flut-ern" building---the Flatiron, on 23rd St.

Francine Renee Hall wrote (August 31, 2002):
[To John Curtis Carr] dear John--

Your mails are gems! Thank you! Now, how about a bit of love Elizabethan style, with strong approval from Chaucer, of course! : American 'love' versus 'loofe' with the shortened - long o's (like an oou), the 'v' changed to a soft ' f ' and the second syllable of the word love, 'e' pronounced 'eh'..... P.S. I cheated on my Chaucer quiz when I had to pronounce the first 100 lines or so in the original Middle English. Did I have the time to learn the grammar? No! Ha! So I went and bought the record. I played it over and over and aced the quiz. I still remember how it goes too! Now how about some Beowulf?.....

P.S. Chaucer wrote a fine poem too about never having any money in his purse!

 

The problem of consonants…

Juozas Rimas wrote (October 4, 2002):
The second choir from BWV 106 (Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit) is a magnificient piece of music (as the rest of the cantata, of course). But here is part of the text:

Es ist der alte Bund: Mensch, du mußt sterben!

The phrase "musst sterben" is repeated many times by all the 4 (5?) singers, which results in an almost amusing sequence of

st-sht-st-sht-st-sht-st-sht...

Does anyone have information whether it's simply an unfortunate junction of consonants or whether it was intended by the composer? Have you noticed such phonetic oddities in other cantatas?

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 5, 2002):
[To Juozas Rimas] These are distinctive consonants that are pronounced differently and also have a different position within each word: 'sterben' is, as you hear it, pronounced "schterben" and 'mußt' is pronounced as "musst" [the vowel is a short u in German and the consonant cluster is 'ss' which the German calls a 'sharp' 's' that is not vocalized just as the 's' in English 'sing' is also not vocalized.] When singing 'mußt' the singer must extend the vowel sound, short as it is, for the entire note value before pronouncing the 'st' at the end of the word; in contrast, the singer must pronounce consonant cluster at the beginning of the word "sterben" at the very moment that the attack on the note associated with the word is initiated. These are two very different situations with two very different 's' sounds that can only become a problem when the choir director or conductor allows them to become so. In such a case the problem that you hear will be compounded immensely. Imagine a Harnoncourt-type version (I have not listened to this recording recently to know if this is the case -- I am only theoretically calling attention to his (and his followers') typical mannerisms in conducting Bach) where the note values are shortened, then the consonant clusters will fall much closer together and become quite distracting. Also, Bach's tempo would probably not have been as fast as that used by many HIP conductors who have recorded this mvt. Thus, in a slower version, the 'funny' sound would not be apparent.

As you indicate, you may have been listening to an OVPP recording (it is very possible that Bach may have performed this as OVPP because it is an early (non-Leipzig) cantata.) Success in appropriately presenting this music depends on a number of factors, : 1) the tempo, 2) the singers' ability to sing German properly, 3) the precision in attacks, 4) adhering to Bach's notation of note values and not using abbreviated note values (not singing the notes as written,) and 5) the recording ambiance and recording engineers' preferences in (over-)emphasizing sibilant sounds.

Whether Bach may have been trying to portray death as associated with snakelike sounds is something that I can not easily determine. Does anyone have an ideas or similar examples from other cantatas?

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (October 5, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] In both a live performance, this same thing occurs in a section of thick counterpoint in Jesu Meine Freude (or another motet). I can't recall this happening with Herreweghe's OVPP version of the motet (because I only heard it once as I borrowed it from a library), but as I just noted, it happened in both the performance and the recording of the Tafelmusik motets-the one and only downside to it, of course.

As Tom said, this likely had to do with the tempo employ by HIP conducting Ivars Taurins (oy-he might be my conducting teacher in a few years...), but then again Herreweghe is HIP, so I'm not too sure.

Juozas Rimas wrote (October 5, 2002):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< These are distinctive consonants that are pronounced differently and also have a different position within each word: 'sterben' is, as you hear it, pronounced "schterben" and 'mußt' is pronounced as "musst" [the vowel is a short u in German and the consonant cluster is 'ss' which the German calls a 'sharp' 's' that is not vocalized just as the 's' in English 'sing' is also not vocalized.] When singing 'mußt' the singer must extend the vowel sound, short as it is, for the entire note value before pronouncing the 'st' at the end of the word; in contrast, the singer must pronounce consonant cluster at the beginning of the word "sterben" at the very moment that the attack on the note associated with the word is initiated. >
Do you mean the two consonants should blend perfectly, forming something
like "muschterben"?

< As you indicate, you may have been listening to an OVPP recording (it is very possible that Bach may have performed this as OVPP because it is an early (non-Leipzig) cantata.) >
Indeed, I listened to Konrad Junghaenel's OVPP ensemble performing it (most singers have German names so I think their German is good). I also listened to Leonhardt's choir version and the "sst-sht" effect is dampened but still present. If I were the text writer, I wouldn't use "musst" there - maybe "will" would do or some other verb? I'd sacrifice semantics for euphony nevertheless! :)

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 5, 2002):
< Juozas Rimas Jr asked:
< Do you mean the two consonants should blend perfectly, forming something like "muschterben"? >
No, I don't think so. They must be enunciated properly, but not clipped short in their time duration (redundant?), a characteristic which I have described as existing among many HIP conductors since Harnoncourt.

=== My comment was:
As you indicate, you may have been listening to an OVPP recording (it is very possible that Bach may have performed this as OVPP because it is an early (non-Leipzig) cantata.)
===

< Indeed, I listened to Konrad Junghaenel's OVPP ensemble performing it (most singers have German names so I think their German is good). I also listened to Leonhardt's choir version and the "sst-sht" effect is dampened but still present. If I were the text writer, I wouldn't use "musst" there - maybe "will" would do or some other verb? I'd sacrifice semantics for euphony nevertheless! :) >
I have just listened to this recording to refresh my memory of this performance. While the singers' German pronunciation may be impeccable, their mannerisms in this performance are extreme. There is strong evidence of 'clipping' or 'shortening' (the first 3 quarter notes of the fugal subject are reduced to only eighth notes - half of their original value) which means that the conductor has decided in favor of an over-exaggeration of expression and against Bach's own notation. Once in this 'mind-set' of "we can take a lot of liberties with this score," it is not surprising that the consonants will also be given a rather extreme treatment.

Compared to the Richter and Suzuki recordings of the same mvt., I find that recording technology and ambiance play a large role in focusing attention on these consonants. Suzuki does not indulge in 'clipping' here, but, as you probably know, if you have heard any of the Suzuki recordings, the recording technology and ambiance (acoustically extremely alive) is very similar to that of Junghaenel's. The result is that they sound quite alike in regard to the consonant effect that you have described.

Richter, on the other hand, suffers from a poor acoustical environment where it appears, in this particular recordings (and in a number of others) the large choir is even unable to hear the organ (which Richter very likely is playing and from which he conducts.) The sound engineering is 30 to 40 years old, hence the consonant sounds are audible, but very subdued - they do not call attention to themselves as in the other two recordings.

Your question whether this was intentional on the part of the composer is important. This cantata shows Bach in the midst of a daring experiment. Although Bach always continued to experiment during his Leipzig years, here (BWV 106) we have an example of compositional innovations, some of which he never used again in his later cantatas. We have no way of asking Bach if he was deliberately attempting to create a connection between subject of death and the sound of snakes hissing or that of someone deathly ill who can only lisp words that are barely understood by those standing nearby. Perhaps it was only a coincidence that was bound to happen when Bach had to rely upon an already written-out text in a fugue where each voice, staggered, sings these consonants at a different intervals of pitch and time.

In any case Bach would not consider changing the text of the Bible. The phrase that you are concerned about comes from Sirach 14:17. Although there were other translations of the Bible in German, most people in Bach's time would think it rather strange to change a Bible text from the exact wording (Luther's) that they had become accustomed to.

There is a long history of changing Bach's cantata texts ever since his death. The last century is replete with many examples of this and this 'tradition' still continues. This is truly unfortunate, particularly when such individuals think that they are 'saving' Bach for a modern audience that might otherwise 'get the wrong idea about Bach.' I find it ironic, however, that HIP performances attempt to remain quite true to the original Bach text, but then go overboard in changing elements of the musical score. Thus we gain something in one aspect, while losing something else in another.

 

The German ‘r’

Juozas Rimas wrote (October 18, 2002):
A short phonetic inquiry to the German speaking list members - in the region where JSB lived and composed, is the letter "r" pronounced as a long, gargling sound? I never payed attention to this detail until I listened to Leonhardt's boy alto singing the aria in the BWV 106 (Gottes Zeit...) with a very emphasized "r" sound: "du getreuer Gott" turns into "du getrrrreuer Gott" (eg at 1:58, 2:09 in the alto aria).

Does this show a certain dialect, non-standard language? Are singers advised to avoid this pronunciation when singing?

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 18, 2002):
[To Juozas Rimas] It will be difficult to determine with any degree of certainty just which of the two (actually 3) pronunciations of "r" that are currently used were actually in vogue in Bach's time and place. One educated guess would be that it might be like that which is currently heard in the spoken Saxon dialect. There is, however, a significant caveat involved here: linguistic change over 2 1/2 centuries can be significant and there were no easy ways back then to correctly document the actual phonetic sounds (no tape recorders, etc.)

I listened quickly to Raphael Harten, boy alto from the Hannover Boys' Choir, who sings very clearly and correctly (and beautifully, I might add) the alto aria, "In deine Hände" from BWV 106. Looking at the key line from that aria: "du hast mich erlöset, Herr, du getreuer Gott," you will discover as he repeats singing this phrase that he rarely uses what you describe as 'a long, gargling, very emphasized "r,"' but he does change 'getreuer' to 'getrrreuer.' Listen to what he does with "er" in "erlöset" and "Herr."

Books on German pronunciation stress mainly the difference between two types of German 'r': the gutteral (as the word indicates, this is the 'gargling'-type of 'r') and the tongue-trilled 'r' that is found in some Romance languages. The other type involves a 'vocalization' of the 'r' that sounds very much like the English word 'air' without any type of consonant sound that is audible. [Harten does this with "er-" and "Herr."] That is actually how many German pronounce the consonant 'r' when appearing as a letter of the alphabet. Harten does this more often than not, but when he needs to stress or pronounce more clearly the 't' of 'getreuer,' the tongue-trilled 'r' is in an easy position because the tongue is already involved in pronouncing the 't'. Harten is doing, for the most part, what comes rather naturally here. He does not attempt to use either the gutteral or tongue-trilled 'r' for 'sterben' which would take a bit more effort on the part of the singer or speaker. He represents that type of choices that are made in the area around Hannover which is considered to be, for the most part, free of obvious dialect influences, a kind of standard German, if there even is such a thing.

Germans speak of "Bühnendeutsch" ["Stage German"] as the absolutely best type of German pronunciation that is reserved for speaking on the stage or singing as well. Speech-hygienically the 'r' to be preferred in most instances is the 'tongue-trilled' variety. Even if the 'gutteral' variety is used widely in shouting out commands or speaking forcefully, speech hygienists have determined that the 'gutteral' variety is very hard on the voice. You will get hoarse more quickly using the 'gutteral' rather than the 'tongue-trilled,' which is all the more of a reason to prefer the 'tongue-trilled' variety over the 'gutteral' if there is a choice. Frequently, however, the 'vocalized' 'r' will be used as a replacement. These choices vary according to the dialect regions in German-speaking countries, where there are regions in which the 'tongue-trilled' version is the most common.

For singers the general rule would be: Try to use the 'tongue-trilled' 'r', and avoid the 'gutteral' 'r' (if you want to spare your voice from overexhaustion). Don't be afraid to use the 'vocalized' 'r' where it seems natural. The best advice that can be given (rather than reading and studying books on German phonetics or believing what you are reading here) is: Listen to truly great German singers such as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Thomas Quasthoff, whose pronunciation of Geris impeccable, and try to emulate what they do with German pronunciation as they are singing (since singing is not quite the same as speaking.)

 

German Latin pronunciation [ChoralTalk]

Vaughn Roste [M. Mus program, Choral Conducting - University of Alberta] wrote (November 22, 2002):
Does anyone have an internet resource to suggest about the differences of German and Italian Latin pronounciation of the Mass? I can post a compliation with enough interest. Also, I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who can perhaps send me a Mass text in German Latin in IPA - just trying not to reinvent the wheel here. Thanks very much,

John Howell [Virginia Tech Department of Music - Blacksburg, Virginia, USA] wrote (November 23, 2002):
[To Vaughn Roste] "Singing Early Music," ed. by Tim McGee, Indiana University Press. Uses IPA and includes a CD. Quite comprehensive.

But you can come very close by hardening all the "Ge"s and pronouncing "Qu" as "Qv."

David P. Patterson [PatterD Consulting, Inc. - Rockville Maryland] wrote (November 25, 2002):
Vaughn Roste wrote:
< Does anyone have an internet resource to suggest about the differences of German and Italian Latin pronounciation of the Mass? >
I researched this last year and the only published work I could find that described the differences was "Translations and Annotations of Choral Repertoire -- Volume I: Sacred Latin Texts" by Ron Jeffers. It is published by Earthsongs in Oregon. I ordered it from their website: http://www.earthsongsmus.com/

It has a 2 1/2 page section on "Austro-German Pronunciation Guide" with differences between the "church Latin" and Austro-German Latin.

< Also, I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who can perhaps send me a Mass text in German Latin in IPA - just trying not to reinvent the wheel here. Thanks very much, >
If you find this, I'd be very interested in a copy also. I've spent a good bit of time developing a publishing approach to pronunciation guides. (My first one was Beethoven's Ninth.) I have a way of publishing a guide that has a side-by-side translation of the original text, and an interleaved listing with the text and the IPA alternating lines. My goal is to automate the preparation of the IPA text, but I have not had the time to devote to it yet.

Contact me offline if you are interested in this topic.

Alan Jones wrote (November 25, 2002):
[To John Howell] .... and "ce" or "ci" as "ts" - pacem is "pahtsem".

David Topping wrote (November 25, 2002):
and one last redirected response:

From: Ardeleanu Amalia:
I am also very interested in this pronunciation, especially because there are here fights between latin and German.The germans can pronounce in Latin very corecctly, but they don't want.I will search next week something official about it and I wiil send you also that Mass.Greetings, Amalia Ardeleanu, Folkwang-Hochschule Essen, Germany

 

German Latin pronunciation compilation [ChoralTalk]

Vaughn Roste wrote (December 7, 2002):
Summary: beside two generous personal offers of assistance and two responants trying to outline the various differences by email, there only seemed to be two possibilities for printed resources on German Latin pronounciation. I found the first one here to be of immense value - so much so that I didn’t need to resource the second, to tell you the truth. Thanks to all those who responded!

Vaughn Roste
University of Alberta

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I researched this last year and the only published work I could find that described the differences was "Translations and Annotations of Choral Repertoire -- Volume I: Sacred Latin Texts" by Ron Jeffers. It is published by Earthsongs in Oregon. I ordered it from their website: http://www.earthsongsmus.com/

It has a 2 1/2 page section on "Austro-German Pronunciation Guide" with differences between the "church Latin" and Austro-German Latin.
David Patterson
PatterD Consulting, Inc.
Rockville Maryland

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Singing Early Music," ed. by Tim McGee, Indiana University Press. Uses IPA and includes a CD. Quite comprehensive.

But you can come very close by hardening all the "Ge"s and pronouncing "Qu" as "Qv."

John & Susie Howell
Virginia Tech Department of Music
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A. 24061-0240

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

.... and "ce" or "ci" as "ts" - pacem is "pahtsem".

Alan Jones

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I'm a choir cobductor here in Austria. Perhaps I could help you. Definitely the German words, also the Italian pronounciation of the Latin words.

Musical hellos from Austria
Wolfgang

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I am also very interested in this pronunciation, especially because there are here fights between latin and German.The germans can pronounce in Latin very corecctly, but they don't want.I will search next week something official about it and I wiil send you also that Mass.Greetings, Amalia Ardeleanu, Folkwang-Hochschule Essen, Germany
From: Ardeleanu Amalia

 

Latin pronunciation in Bach masses

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 31, 2004):
< The Agnus Dei is very nice, but the boy-Alto gets to say quaei instead of qui in the lowest notes (I always felt better with the latin <cvi> rather than the usal italian pronounciation...) >
Germanic Latin. :) Mostly the treatments of the letters Qu and soft C and hard G.

I noticed they use Germanic Latin also in Cantus Colln/Junghaenel's and some others. I like it too.

But I can't recall hearing in any of the Bach masses a recording where it's also brought over to Germanic Greek: where "Kyrie eleison" and "Christe eleison" have "eleison" as a three-syllable word instead of four...along with Germanic pronunciation of the y vowel in "kyrie". Anybody know of one?

I was in a performance of the F major mass some months ago, and suggested that possibility to the conductor (a good musicologist). He agreed it would be feasible, especially in that piece where the word underlay really had "ei" on the page, and he and the choir were trying to decide where to split it during melismas. But he decided not to go with it...the choir was already more familiar with Italianate "e-le-i-son" than Germanic "e-ly-zon" and it would have been too hard to change the gears at that point, just a week or two before the gig.

In some of the French repertoire I enjoy hearing French Latin: the treatment of J and soft C and several vowels.

Not sure I'll ever be ready to accept sung English Latin, though. Or sung classical Latin, with V pronounced as W and the hard C always as K.

=====

A funny little book: Mother Goose rhymes still in English, but recast as if it's French, with ridiculous annotations to explain the French meanings.

Title Mots d'heures: gousses, rames : the d'Antin manuscript / edited and annotated by Luis d'Antin Van Rooten.
Author Van Rooten, Luis d'Antin.
Published New York : Grossman Pub., 1967.
Description 75 p. : ill.
Subjects Nonsense verses
Notes French verses constructed to reproduce phonetically a selection of
Mother Goose rhymes in English.
ISBN 0670490644
http://www.google.com/search?q=van+rooten+gousses+rames

Gabriel Jackson wrote (March 31, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< In some of the French repertoire I enjoy hearing French Latin: the treatment of J and soft C and several vowels.
Not sure I'll ever be ready to accept sung English Latin, though. Or sung classical Latin, with V pronounced as W and the hard C always as K. >
Strictly speaking, one ought to pronounce Latin as if it was one's own language. The ubiquity of Italianate Latin pronunciation (in the UK, at least) is a shame, to my mind.

Johan van Veen wrote (April 1, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] As far as I know the regimentation of Latin pronunciation (the Italian way) in the Roman Catholic Church dates from the early 20th century. Before in every country they did it their own way.

In recent years some older recordings been released of the Monk's Choir of Santo Domingo de Silos, and they use Spanish pronunciation.

An ensemble like the Cappella Pratensis does sing renaissance music strictly according to the supposed habits - both in pronuncation and style of singing - of the country or region where the music was composed or performed.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 1, 2004):
Johan van Veen wrote:
< As far as I know the regimentation of Latin pronunciation (the Italian way) in the Roman Catholic Church dates from the early 20th century. Before in every country they did it their own way. >
The Anglican church here did the same thing.

"An ensemble like the Cappella Pratensis does sing renaissance music strictly according to the supposed habits - both in pronuncation and style of singing - of the country or region where the music was composed or performed."

Quite a few groups here do it - for instance the Sixteen attempt a (kind of) Tudor pronunciation of Latin in Tudor music, with soft Cs etc. ("pacem" is "pass-em") and the Orlando Consort are very conscientious about attempting geographically/historically correct pronunciation. I wish more would.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (April 1, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] I was quite surprised (pleasantly) when Minkowski's gang sang a very French Latin in their Charpentier Te Deum recording, and McCreesh's group sings with quite a Spanish inflection on their Morales Requiem CD-especially in the chant sections. It's quite hard to tell if there's a more Germanic Latin in the latter group's Biber Missa Salisburgensis, but recordings of Haydn and Mozart masses all follow Italian Latin-is this just an Austrian thing? They're of course right next door to Italy and have been religiously connected to them (i.e. while most of the German states were switching to Lutheranism during the Reformation, Austria remained Catholic and still is).

Johan van Veen wrote (April 1, 2004):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] This subject can be confusing. Take Dresden at the time of Zelenka and Hasse, for instance. I suppose the colloquial language was French (as at most courts in Europe). But the musical taste was strongly Italian. And Dresden is in Germany, of course. So how was Latin pronunciated: the German way, or Italianate, or French?

On Thomas Hengelbrock's recent recording Bach's Magnificat (BWV 243a) is sung with German pronunciation, but Lotti's Missa Sapientiae is performed in Zelenka's edition, as he has performed it in Dresden, and here the Italian pronunciation is used. So it seems Hengelbrock believes Latin was pronunciated the Italian way in Dresden. Is he right? I don't know.

 

Greek pronunciation in Bach masses

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 1, 2004):
Someone mused: >>But I can't recall hearing in any of the Bach masses a recording where it's also brought over to Germanic Greek: where "Kyrie eleison" and "Christe eleison" have "eleison" as a three-syllable word instead of four...along with Germanic pronunciation of the y vowel in "kyrie". Anybody know of one?
I was in a performance of the F major mass some months ago, and suggested that possibility to the conductor (a good musicologist). He agreed it would be feasible, especially in that piece where the word underlay really had "ei" on the page, and he and the choir were trying to decide where to split it during melismas. But he decided not to go with it...the choir was already more familiar with Italianate "e-le-i-son" than Germanic "e-ly-zon" and it would have been too hard to change the gears at that point, just a week or two before the gig.<<

Italianate :e-le-i-son and Germanic "e-ly-zon"?? and Germanic Greek "e-ly-zon"??

Check 1st mvt. of the BMM where Bach clearly separates the supposed diphthong "ei" into its constituent parts

BWV 233/1 and similar mvts. of this type in other masses attributed to Bach are based on parodies from other earlier cantatas. In most instances, these works do not exist in Bach's hand but are based upon copies by Altnickol and others. In the process of creating a parody (there are other aspects of Altnickol's copy of BWV 233 that point to irregularities which were not corrected in his copy), there were situations such as a whole note with 'lei' indicated, where common sense would have dictated how/when to split the diphthong into its separate parts. This does not prove one way or the other that it was a Germanic custom to normally sing the 'lei' as a Germanic diphthong, "ly"; on the contrary, the Grimm brothers' DWB, indicates that the entire expression "kyrie eleison" was pronounced in German (before 1840) according to the New Greek pronunciation of the phrase. There are a few instances where it assumed a more Germanic form (shortened to 'kyrleise' or 'kirleis' and 'kirieleisen'; or in some German chorales where it takes on a corrupted (folksy) form such as 'Kyrieleis' sung as 'Ky-ri-e-leis' ('Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ' - text by Martin Luther)

In the liturgy by Martin Luther (sing antiphonally by choir and congregation) 1526 which is printed in a German hymnal that I am looking at right now, there are separate, distinct notes to be sung for each syllable as follows: Ky-ri-e-e-le-i-son.

Imagine the University of Leipzig professors hearing the corrupted Germanic pronunciation of this phrase in church!

This all becomes a rather academic argument if you consider that we have no definite proof of an autograph copy of the score of BWV 233 or others of this type. How do we know that these pieces were ever performed at all under Bach's direction? We don't! Perhaps Altnickol was given the task of learning how to create 'parodies' from already existing works, a very useful procedure that Bach frequently used. Some of Bach's parodies are remarkable, but there are other, not so genuine parodies by Bach (more likely by Altnickol) (BWV 235/1) where knowing the original conception makes it quite clear that something is definitely lost (even incongruous) when an adaptation to a Greek 'Kyrie eleison' is undertaken. Was BWV 235 just another one of Altnickol's projects, possibly undertaken because Bach ordered it, or possibly Altnickol did it on his own or under the guidance of WF Bach in whose possession these copies were found? In any case the NBA KB II/2 states: "Es gibt jedoch keine dokumentarischen Spuren einer solchen Konzeptpartitur der g-moll-Messe, ebensowenig wie ein Zeichen für das Vorhandensein eines Originalstimmensatzes. Dessen Existenz kann nur vermutet werden, da wir ... keine genaue Kenntnis über Bestimmung und mögliche Aufführungen der vier lutherischen Messen Bachs haben." In essence, there is no proof of the existence of either the autograph score (of BWV 235 and others like it) nor of the existence of an original set of parts. It is only a guess that they may have existed [in other words, they may never have existed in the first place!] We also do not know specifically for which purpose these copies were created, nor do we know of any possible performances of these works that may (or may never) have taken place.

By the way, singing a mass by Bach is not a 'gig' even if it might not have been J. S. Bach who undertook these transformations/parodies.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 1, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< By the way, singing a mass by Bach is not a 'gig' even if it might not have been J. S. Bach who undertook these transformations/parodies. >
Sanctimonious and po-faced, or what?!!

Charles Francis wrote (April 1, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < By the way, singing a mass by Bach is not a 'gig' even if it might not have been J. S. Bach who undertook these transformations/parodies. >
Hopefully, the correspondent does not use such terminology for his lucrative funeral contracts!

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 1, 2004):
OT: gig

Thomas Braatz wrote: < By the way, singing a mass by Bach is not a 'gig' even if it might not have been J. S. Bach who undertook these transformations/parodies. >
Showing up at an appointed time and place, in appropriate clothing, to perform agreed pieces of music? That's a gig. I don't know what non-performers would call it; perhaps "frosted toaster pastry"? [being OT, continue of this sub-topic is not included being OT]

 

German Latin?

Eric Bergerud wrote (August 23, 2005):
The text below comes from the notes to Paul McCreesh's version of John Sheppard, "misa cantate". (I find it a wonderful recording: am really getting to like McCreesh's work.)

Like Erasmus some 250 years earlier, [Samuel] Johnson was aware that Latin, that pan-European language of education and culture, was actually pronounced strikingly differently in each country, often leading to baffled incomprehension or mutual ridicule. On this recording we have shed the anachronism of "Church Latin" pronunciation - not adopted until the 20th century - in favor of the traditional "English Latin" that Sheppard would have used. This alters one or two of the consonants and many of the vowels, matching them with the sounds of English itself, which was undergoing radical changes in pronunciation at the time. The vowel quality varied according to the quite complex phonological rules, relating to word stress and the surrounding consonants, they were the same rules as for English, so singers would have achieved uniformity quite naturally. (A version based on "modern" English, would be equally natural for us today and would sound like English Legal Latin.)

Does anyone know if Bach's Latin works would have been sung in some kind of "German Latin"?

Doug Cowling wrote (August 23, 2005):
Eric Bergerud wrote: < Does anyone know if Bach's Latin works would have been sung in some kind of "German Latin"? >
German and Austrian choirs have always sung Latin with the traditional German pronunciation. If you listen to the old Richter Mass in B Minor (BWV 232), they begin with a "Kyrie" which sounds like "Walküre"! In general, German pronunciation does not use the "cheese and chaws" of Italian pronunciation -- (that little joke goes back to 16th century England)

A few examples ...

Kyrie = Kür-
Excelsis = ek-tzell
suscipe = zu-tzee-pe
Agnus, Virgine = hard "g"

Historically, there was no unified system of pronunication until 1903 when Pope Pius X decreed that Italian pronunciation would be normative. German-speaking Catholics were divided in their obedience to the ruling and the great choral establishments which had Mozart and the Viennese repertoire tended to ignore it. Even today, Catholic choirs are divided in their loyalty to the "Pope's Latin". Period performances use German pronunciation.

Certainly, the Lutherans maintained the old traditional pronunication and Bach's Latin works should never be performed with Italian pronunciation.

The following link gives some bibliography for regional pronunciation systems, rimarily English, Spanishm, French and German: http://www.music.princeton.edu/~jeffery/pronunc.html

Joost wrote (August 23, 2005):
Adding to Doug Cowling's remarks (thanks for the link, Doug!): For an impression of the French pronunciation of Latin texts, listen to (religious) recordings of Charpentier a.o. by Les Arts Florissants (except for their very early discs, where they still use an Italianate pronunciation).

Doug Cowling wrote (August 23, 2005):
[To Joost] Even the monks of Solesmes can't shake their Gallic roots: a text such as "tu solus altissimus" always sounds like Simone Signoret. It was interesting to hear the Sistine Chapel during the recent papal ceremonies. Their Italian is very broad, positively verismo.

 

Pronunication of Bach Texts

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 18, 2005):
David Hitchin wrote:
< Coming back to Bach, surely some of the texts were archaic when he used them, and there was no one standardised grammar and usage over the disparate states which have now been lumped together as Germany. >
There are interesting questions here which impact on how Bach's congregation perceived Luther's text. Did they hear a slightly archaic 16th text for the Passion narrative in apposition with a contemporary poetic text? I suspect that the shift from scriptural to poetic text had a marked effect.

The other question relates to pronunciation. Certainly in English there are differences in pronunciation between the 18th and 21st centuries. Have any linguistic scholars done work on the way in which German was spoken and sung in 18th century Leipzig? How marked was the regional dialect? Should we be adopting a particular schema of pronunciation when we sing the works of Bach rather than using the stage German of modern classical theatre? Church choirs in Berlin still sing very differently from choirs in southern Bavaria!

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (September 19, 2005):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Have any linguistic scholars done work on the way in which German was spoken and sung in 18th century Leipzig? How marked was the regional dialect? Should we be adopting a particular schema of pronunciation when we sing the works of Bach rather than using the stage German of modern classical theatre? Church choirs in Berlin still sing very differently from choirs in southern Bavaria! >
Considering the kind of linguistic and philological investigations that have been pursued by scholars, particularly German scholars, in the most arcane matters (I will leave it at that and not enter into specifics) it is totally excluded that such investigations have not been done and done in painful detail.

As to the practical side, where there is still a live active tradition, as you mention for Bayern vs. Berlin (and I am sure many other places), these performances will follow such local traditions. However it is totally unrealistic to expect any English group for example performing Bach to pursue such problems. The use of a standard modern German is what most groups will attempt and succeed at in various degrees. "Dialects" are rapidly becoming homogenized, I trust even in Germany and Italy in this age of world wide communication starting with national radio and tv, etc.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 19, 2005):
[To Yoel L. Arbeitman] I don't agree with this conclusion. If we labour hard to ensure that instrumentalists are informed in period practice, why not singers? Performers of Renaissance music have long performed Latin polyphony with regional pronunciations. The "eggshells" of an Italian's "excelsis" was very different from the "excellence" an Englishman. Bach would have been amazed to hear his Latin works performed with Italianate pronunciation. And why stop there? Why should Bach's cantatas be sung in a homogenous 21st accent from German TV? Should we not try to reconstruct how Bach's singers sang "ich" -- "ish" or "ick"? North American choirs routinely adopt an English accent when singing Engish music. Why shouldn;t we be interested in how Bach expected his texts to be pronounced?

Santu de Silva wrote (September 19, 2005):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
<<< Have any linguistic scholars done work on the way in which German was spoken and sung in 18th century Leipzig? How marked was the regional dialect? Should we be adopting a particular schema of pronunciation when we sing the works of Bach rather than using the stage German of modern classical theatre? >>>
Yoel L. Arbeitman replies:
<< However it is totally unrealistic to expect any English group for example performing Bach to pursue such problems. The use of a standard modern German is what most groups will attempt and succeed at in various degrees. "Dialects" are rapidly becoming homogenized, I trust even in Germany and Italy in this age of world wide communication starting with national radio and tv, etc. >>
Doug comes back with:
< I don't agree with this conclusion. If we labour hard to ensure that instrumentalists are informed in period practice, why not singers? >
A perfectly logical expectation. If we care about the instrumental music, we must care about the singing too. But I've always taken the position that taking care about performance practice is simply a matter of giving the listeners options, rather than a pseudo-religious or professional obligation. Just as it isn't wrong for Rilling to do what he does, so it isn't wrong (in my very humble opinion; this is by no means an accepted position even on this very enlightened-at-certain-moments list) to aim for a neutral, homogeneous German accent, which would probably be preferable to an American accent, though I could be wrong even about that. Getting both (instruments and voices) to sound as reasonably close as possible to what Bach would have heard
is a matter of consistency, not of right or wrong (again imho). And being consistent is something to strive for!

But various members of the list have argued against HIP from the point of view that since we don't know how anything was done for certain, why even try?

If Yoel simply takes the view that it's too difficult to reconstruct german pronunciation in the time of Bach, I'd say, well, then it can't be helped. But if it's possible, we should try it. (I wouldn't be surprised, though, if there isn't any interest in Baroque pronunciation in Germany. Things are different over there; for example, I don't think there is anything similar to SCA* in Germany. Is there?)

*Society for Creative Anacronism

 

Ypsilon / Pronunication

Continue of discussion from: Kyrie Eleison [General Topics]

Richard Mix wrote (March 27, 2006):
< Bach's choirs did not use Italian pronunication. For example "Kyrie" sounded like "Walküre".... >
Are you sure about this example? One of our most HIP literate reviewers in the SF Bay Area took a chorus to task for this last year, but I wonder. Copeman, in Singing in Latin, argues that this pronunciation is first documented around 1850 and therefore ought not to be applyed earlier: hence "Tochter aus Eliesium" in the 9th Symphony. I don’t recal if he drew inferences about German ecclesiastical Greek or not.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 28, 2006):
[To Richard Mix] Reconstructions of historic pronunciation will, like so many other musical aspects, always be conjectural. Scholars balance contemporary pronunication especially collected from remote dialects with literary clues in rhymes.

The Italianate pronunication was only imposed on the whole Catholic Church in 1903. The degree of conformity in catholic choirs depends much on their ultramontane sensibilities. A century later, many modern catholic choirs in Germany and Austria sing with a hybrid pronunication

Certainly in the performance of Bach cantatas and Mozart masses, an Italianate Latin and Greek is inappropriate. Whether we can reconstruct the pronunciation from the way in which Bach's singers sang German is highly
problematical. My knowledge of German is limited and I can't detect whether any of the historically-informed performances use archaic pronunication, say in singing "genug" and "genung". How would Bach's singers have sung such regional variants in "ich" and "dich"?

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 28, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< How would Bach's singers have sung such regional variants in "ich" and "dich"? >

Regional variants, indeed. Isn't all language ultimately a regional variant?

Richard Mix wrote (March 28, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Certainly in the performance of Bach cantatas and Mozart masses, an >Italianate Latin and Greek is inappropriate... >
Yes, your broader point was taken! My re-read of Copeman last year was inspired by Monteverdi's motet Venite, venite sicientes. My latin is very poor and I couldn't find the second word in a dictionary; somehow I finally guessed sitientes and later learned that soft c was ts in Venetian. So now I'm careful about saying 'Italianate'! According to the book Venetian Latin of Vivaldi's day was already much closer to Roman, so I apparantly didn't sin too grieviously last time the Gloria came round... Period Saxon will no doubt be an exiting frontier, but I dont know of anyone attempting it yet. When I visited Leipzig I asked my host about the contemporayr dialect and was told there was no such thing- in fact, High German is much heard in the street. After the 4th beer he was much harder to understand though and it was evident that he had overstated the case!

Peter Smaill wrote (March 28, 2006):
[To Richard Mix] Not only is there a contemporary Saxon dialect, but Langenscheidt publish a current Saxon: German (i.e. Sachsen:Deutsch) dictionary, as they do for the many regions where variant German is spoken.

Chris Rowson wrote (March 28, 2006):
[To Peter Smaill] I can confirm this from practical experience. After nine years living in Germany I can understand standard German quite well in most cases. And after four years in Dresden I can penetrate the local accent quite well. But some people remain largely incomprehensible to me.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (March 28, 2006):
[To Peter Smaill] c. 1986 I had the honor of meeting one of the great scholars of Hebrew, Semitics, The DSS (Dead Sea Scrolls), the greatest Israeli scholar perhaps of the Hebrew language (all periods). This great scholar (a very modest man) was born in Russia and educated from middle school and high school and so forth in Germany (I don't recall right now the town or city or region).

He told me how, when the end of school-day bell would ring, the teacher who had conducted school all day in what we would call "Standard German", agreed national language, would just at the bell switch whatever he was
saying to anyone into his own local Mundart.

This may be an extreme example but certainly this was not very unusual in most European countries and is probably becoming less normal with television and all the travel and so forth today.

The scholar I am talking about, well I guess this was in the late 1920s.

 

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