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Recitatives in Bach’s Vocal Works

Part 5

Continue from Part 4

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 27, 2003):
BL (quotes Dreyfus): >> “Ultimately, it is the strict consistency of method characterizing these exceptional instances which suggest that Bach's orchestra followed the mainstream practice."<<
TB: This is amazing! From a few exceptional instances which Dreyfus claims are evidence of a ‘strict consistency of method’ he wishes to establish the existence of a ‘mainstream practice’ regarding an esoteric tradition that was posited beginning in 1936 in Germany!

BL: >>This is one of the strongest features of Dreyfus' whole book, not only in this chapter on recitative: he has scrupulously compared the extant PARTS for Bach's vocal works against the extant SCORES to see what we can learn from any differences. This is Dreyfus' specialty, and what makes his whole book so valuable.<<
TB: We will see just how scrupulously Dreyfus accomplished this task! In the examples that follow, you will see that he had no autograph scores to compare the parts with.

BL: >> And what do you think of Dreyfus' facsimile examples (in Bach's hand) on pages 92-93? He has compared two different manuscript parts for the same bass line of cantata 18 (one for cello, the other for bassoon) and it is very clear that the differently notated passages of secco recitative are supposed to sound the same: long notes (in this case with wedges above all of them) in the cello, and short notes (with rests interspersed) in the bassoon. Obviously, Bach changed his mind between the times that he wrote out those two parts, and these are two ways (among others) of getting the same sound in practice; in other performance circumstances he wouldn't have even needed those wedges on the cello part to clarify this same sound of normally separated notes in secco recitative.<<

TB: Let’s examine the circumstances regarding BWV 18! Some background is necessary here, so bear with me, lest we jump to the conclusions that Dreyfus would like us to believe without seeing the fuller picture.

Some quick comments by David Schulenberg (“Oxford Composer Companins: J.S.Bach [Boyd]”): This is a cantata from the Weimar period. Separate organ and cello parts provide the continuo. The organ is doubled by the violine. The bassoon part was added later in Leipzig. (The NBA KB I/7 contradicts this, see below.) Background on the opening secco recitative (after the introductory sinfonia): This recitative sets the simile of Isaiah 55:10-11 comparing the watering of the earth and the spreading of the word, thereby alluding to the parable of the sower (Luke 8:4-15), the Gospel for the day. Let me explain this as Bach’s word painting. As the bass sings the text, Bach conjures up musical images of precipitation falling from the sky and seeds falling upon the ground. He does this by supplying this effect in the bassoon part primarily. If the violoncello detaches as well (how do you play a staccato whole or half note?) it would not hurt, but one thing is certain: the long notes are still being played long with the left hand (or pedal) on the organ which is part of the continuo group.

This cantata underwent a major revision in Leipzig when Bach added among other things the recorder parts. Here is a quick summary of the continuo parts:

There is no autograph score on which we can view the original state of the continuo part, only the original parts exist. Of these there are the following:

Violono ò Organo -- this part is figured and is an autograph. The organ alone used this part for the Leipzig performance. (It appears that ‘ò Organo’ was added later – the handwriting is different)

Violoncello (Fac. 3-3 in Dreyfus) This part was probably not used in Leipzig. It is an autograph.

Fagotto (Fac. 3-4) ( autograph) This was probably transposed at sight when used in Leipzig since it is in G minor just as were the above parts.

Continuo This is the transposed part copied out in A minor by an unknown copyist in Leipzig. The violoncello and violone both played from this part in Leipzig.

The purpose of the bassoon part in the secco recitative was to underline musically the ideas being presented by the bass soloist. This has nothing to do with an esoteric tradition. This is Bach representing the text in the music through whatever means he has at his disposal.

Another reason by bassoon parts might have been treated this way was to reduce the volume of the instruments all playing the same bc line. The organ would have been sufficient and the Heinichen ‘rule’ would also be in effect in case the chords in the right hand detracted from or began to overwhelm the singer’s voice.

BWV 185 (Fac. 3-5) What do you think that Dreyfus is having you look at here: A portion of Bach’s autograph copy of the violone part showing the secco recitative mvt. 4 below the middle of the page? No! Why not, because the violone part did not contain mvt. 4 of this cantata (according to the NBA I/17.1 KB.) So it has to be either the autograph fagotto part or the violoncello part copied by an anonymous Weimar copyist.
On p. 90 Dreyfus states: “Among the performance materials for two cantatas from the intervening years, Cantatas 18 (1713?) and 185 (1715), are autograph bassoon parts in which Bach notated the only secco recitative in quarter notes and rests. Since Dreyfus is intent on showing Bach’s parts completely in his own handwriting, then we must assume that Dreyfus would not show the violoncello part which is not an autograph. This is leaves the fagotto part as being genuinely in Bach’s handwriting. If this is the part that he is showing on p. 94 (Fac. 3-5) then this genuinely autograph bassoon part shows the long notes instead of the quarter notes and rests. If Dreyfus is having trouble keeping careful tabs on the images that he displays, then this is a sign of a continuing careless attitude about the facts. How can one legitimately base one’s opinion on this type of research? Dreyfus’ summary of BWV 185 on p. 202 shows the continuo group parts available as:

9 Fagotto
10 Violone
11 Bctr (fig:JSB)
18 Violoncello
19 Violoncello
20 Violone (fig:JSB)

The NBA I/17.1 KB gives the following information:

BWV 185: There are 4 versions of this Weimar cantata. The Weimar score from the beginning through mvt. 5, ms. 27 not in Bach’s handwriting but rather by Anonymous Weimar I. This cantata could be a parody of a yet earlier cantata

In the original set of parts (Weimar 1715) there are 4 separate states or performances with additional parts added:

Here is the distribution of the continuo group parts:

1st Group (Weimar 1715)

Fagotto in F# (Bach autograph) this instrument played in all mvts. There are unusual variants not available elsewhere. It was probably created after the score was completed (not based upon the yet earlier version)

Violone in F# (Bach autograph) Mvt. 4 (the secco recitative is missing here!!!)
This can not be Dreyfus’ Fac 3-5 because the facsimile shows the long notes of the secco recitative..

Violoncello in F# copied by Weimar anonymous 1 & 3 copied from the above part.

Organo in F# minor is conjectured to have existed as well.

2nd Group (Weimar 1715? Or also possibly the 1st Leipzig performance)

Violoncello in G minor copied by Anonymous Weimar 3 (contains mvt. 4)

Violone in G minor (figured) Anonymous Weimar I) probably used as a harpsichord part in Leipzig. It also includes mvt. 4.

3rd Group (Leipzig 1723)

Organo in F (Figured, based on the violone part in the 1st group) This could also have been played from by the harpsichord. Kuhnau copied everything and also included all of the figured bass himself. It includes mvt. 4.

4th Group (Leipzig 1746/47)

Violoncello in G minor copied entirely by Anonymous N6 (not by Bach) It includes mvt.

Many of the examples are from the periphery and not the mainstream of Bach’s cantata production. Many things were quite different in the Pre-Leipzig period and must be viewed in this light. Why would Dreyfus choose such a cantata with an extremely complex histor, a history where even he gets lost occasionally? Where are the easy, straight-forward examples. Was Dreyfus unable to find any of that type?

How would you rate Dreyfus on accuracy? Is he dependable, or is it sufficient to ‘bend’ information here and there just as HIP performers are also prone to do with the music that they play? Perhaps with performance practice a bit more freedom for individual expression should be allowed, but is this acceptable when presenting musicological information of this sort?

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 27, 2003):
< Thomas Braatz wrote (inter alia): (how do you play a staccato whole or half note?) >
Short.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 27, 2003):
TB asked: "How do you play a staccato whole or half note?"
BL responded: "Short."
TB: There seems to be disagreement here. The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians (article by Donington who gives no bibliography - is he simply making this up?) indicates that a vertical dash or wedge indicates a greater degree of separation and emphasis than the dot ('through the later Baroque period'). But this is not the conclusion that the MGG (article by Hermann Keller) comes to. "Das staccato wird entweder durch Pausen oder (meist) durch Punkte oder Keile (') bezeichnet. Der runde Punkt über der Note, der im 16. Jahrhunder in Spanien auch als Zeichen für einen Praller gebraucht wird, wird im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert vielfach gleichbedeutend mit dem scharfen schrägen Strich angewandt. Letzterer bedeutet im 18. Jahrhundert oft mehr einen Akzent als eine Verkürzung, erst im 19. Jahrhundert bürgert sich der Gebrauch des ' als scharfes staccato ein." ["Staccato is designated either by means of rests or usually by dots or wedges. The round dot over a note, which was used as the sign for the prall trill in 16th century Spain, has the same meaning as the wedge in the 17th and 18th centuries. During the 18th century *the wedge meant more of an accent than a shortening* (of the note value); only in the 19th century did it take on the meaning of 'a sharp staccato.'"]


Bradley Lehman wrote (February 27, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote: (...)
TB: Let’s examine the circumstances regarding
BWV 18! Some background is necessary here, so bear with me, lest we jump to the conclusions that Dreyfus would like us to believe without seeing the fuller picture.

Some quick comments by David Schulenberg (“Oxford Composer Companins: J.S. Bach [Boyd]”): This is a cantata from the Weimar period. Separate organ and cello parts provide the continuo. The organ is doubled by the violine. The bassoon part was added later in Leipzig. (The NBA KB I/7 contradicts this, see below.) Background on the opening secco recitative (after the introductory sinfonia): This recitative sets the simile of Isaiah 55:10-11 comparing the watering of the earth and the spreading of the word, thereby alluding to the parable of the sower (Luke 8:4-15), the Gospel for the day. Let me explain this as Bachâ?Ts word painting. As the bass sings the text, Bach conjures up musical images of precipitation falling from the sky and seeds falling upon the ground. He does this by supplying this effect in the bassoon part primarily. If the violoncello detaches as well (how do you play a staccato whole or half note?) it would not hurt, but one thing is certain: the long notes are still being played long with the left hand (or pedal) on the organ which is part of the continuo group. (...) >
Tom, this creative idea of yours that the cello, bassoon, and organ are all playing the same notes at the same time, but releasing each note at two or even three different times (bassoon releases it, then cello releases it, then organ holds it all the way through; then we all go on to the next note where the same thing happens)...I must say, thank you for the most entertaining paragraph I have read all day, anywhere. It truly made me laugh out loud. Changes of the tone color during a note, by progressively releasing its components to change the blend. I like that. Sort of reminds me of Schoenberg's "Farben" from Opus 16.

Not only the part about the two-way or three-way releases gave a chuckle, but also the bit where (with your incredulous tone) you alleged you've never heard of a staccato whole or half note, and asked how they should be played. To pick one of the most obvious and convenient examples that everybody probably already knows, have you ever listened to the last page of the Brandenburg Concerto #4? Of course you have, and therefore my conclusion has to be that you've been putting me on.

A very close second place in the humor sweepstakes goes to this paragraph:

< Another reason by bassoon parts might have been treated this way was to reduce the volume of the instruments all playing the same bc line. The organ would have been sufficient and the Heinichen “ruleâ” would also >be in effect in case the chords in the right hand detracted from or began to overwhelm the singerâ?Ts voice. >
That one made me grin: just short of a laugh, but entertaining nonetheless. If you have ever been in the same room as a Baroque bassoon, while it was actually playing, you would know why your conjecture here is funny. As I bopped around Wal-Mart this evening, I'll bet the people I met had no idea why I had a grin on my face, but hey, let them guess.

But anyway, one more point. You're the guy who thinks we should discredit entire books if there's one thing in them we don't like. So, since you've quoted so gleefully from the Oxford Composer Companion, the "Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee..." article from page 193 as accepted fact...what do you make of page 408 (assuming you haven't already ripped that page out of your copy, torn it up, chewed and swallowed it just in case you're captured), where it says the following?

"Correct performance of Bach's recitatives involves knowledge of several conventions not reflected in the notation. Although written in normal values, the rhythm must follow the declamation of the text rather than a strict metrical interpretation of the notes. Moreover, it is customary for the singer to add occasional appoggiaturas, especially at the final cadence. Finally, the tied semibreves and minims in the typical continuo line of simple recitative are to be played as crotchets followed by rests
until the next change of harmony, in accordance with the 18th-century convention of 'short accompaniment' (see Dreyfus, ch. 3)."

Oh, right, I forgot. Malcolm Boyd and John Butt were duped by Laurence Dreyfus, who made a long series of errors and fantastically contrived conclusions himself, along with being duped by Arnold Schering from several generations earlier; everybody's wrong. Perhaps you should write to Oxford University Press and recommend that they reprint this Composer Companion with the appropriate corrections. Then we will be able to rely on everything in this reference book as fact. Whew.

Anyway, again, I thank you for this discussion. Hallelujah, and praise Bach, I finally do see the fuller picture! The scales have fallen from my eyes. All the world's a stage, and you and I are but comedy players upon it. And, of course, it almost goes without saying that all our communications have been monitored by that orbiting spaceship of Black Lectroids from Planet 10 in the Eighth Dimension; we're just a TV show to those guys, like the equivalent of the Smothers Brothers. You (or whatever alien force is coercing us) really had me going there in this routine: I've been given the "straight man" role, presenting straightforward accepted facts as your setup, while you got to have all the punch lines playing off them. (Brookshire was right, weeks ago: you've been playing the role of the faux naif. Pretending you don't get the point, or accept the facts, to see how long I or anyone else will keep giving them to you as fuel for your creative flights of whatever-they-were!) I've taken you seriously, and kept feeding you the facts, in good faith thinking it was actually accomplishing something. It's a bit dismaying now to realize that it's all been mea comedy setup for the amusement of extradimensional aliens, but hey, I have a sense of humor, so it's OK. So, thanks.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 27, 2003):
Brad Lehman stated: >>I have a sense of humor, so it's OK.<<
TB: This may be the only way that we may be able to make some progress. Be patient and remember Haydn who had better and more important things to do.

BL: >>but also the bit where (with your incredulous tone) you alleged you've never heard of a staccato whole or half note, and asked how they should be played. To pick one of the most obvious and convenient examples that everybody probably already knows, have you ever listened to the last page of the Brandenburg Concerto #4? Of course you have, and therefore my conclusion has to be that you've been putting me on.<<
TB: Thanks for reminding me. The NBA shows pairs of half-notes with only second half note having a dot on it. This means a kind of ‘lifting off’ only on the second note of the pair. These are not pairs of wedges! Does your score show wedges on both half-notes in each pair, or do you play both notes in the pair with extreme abruptness (cutting seriously into the value of each half-note?) I remember now the example that we discussed a long time ago: the penultimate measure of the Gavotte I from BWV 811. These I would characterize as a last moment ‘lifting off’ after each note, but not an abrupt staccato. It is for the purpose of retarding slightly the momentum and providing a special accent. Bach could easily have written these notes differently (shorter note values, but he chose this instead, not because it ‘looked better’ on paper, but rather because he wanted it this special way (with extra length, but suddenly lifting off before attacking the next note.) But where else have you seen a series of whole note wedges? Do you have any examples of a series of whole notes with wedges. I’d really like to know where you might have encountered them elsewhere (other than the few obscure examples that Dreyfus was able to find in the bc parts which seem mainly to derive from compositions that originated in the Pre-Leipzig period.

BL: >>Changes of the tone color during a note, by progressively releasing its components to change the blend. I like that. Sort of reminds me of Schoenberg's "Farben" from Opus 16.<<
TB: Schönberg may have understood Bach better than you and even dared to emulate in his own style of music what he saw Bach doing in BWV 18 and didn’t laugh about it either. Now in retrospect, after I discovered in the MGG article last night a possible definition of the wedges in Bach’s time, it would appear that the wedges could really mean a single, slight extra emphasis on a note without releasing it until the note actually changes. Now there’s nothing funny about this. The concurrent abbreviated bassoon notes in BWV 18 stand as I have interpreted them previously, albeit not to your liking but only to your amusement. Brad, spend a little bit more time with Bach’s cantatas, and you will be surprised at what you will learn from them. I believe your teacher, Parmentier, had advised that type of study because it can apply directly to the performance of Bach’s keyboard works. Am I mistaken about this reference to your teacher?

BL: >>If you have ever been in the same room as a Baroque bassoon, while it was actually playing, you would know why your conjecture here is funny.<<
TB: I have not investigated sufficiently Baroque bassoons, nor do I know from your comment, whether the sound was too loud or too soft. My listening experience (HIP cantata recordings) informs me that the tendency might be that they would be too loud, yet I have read that they are much softer than the standard bassoon of today. Perhaps others on the list could convey they opinions on the matter of Baroque bassoon. Using the Harnoncourt/Leonahardt Bach cantata series as an example, there were wind players (bassoons included) who had considerable difficulty mastering their Baroque instruments or reconstructions thereof. So it could possibly be that what you heard really made a funny sound, but it is not necessary to think that Bach heard them that way or that he tolerated such sounds. Think of the Geyersbach episode (Zippel Fagottist).

BL: >>You're the guy who thinks we should discredit entire books if there's one thing in them we don't like.<<
TB: Correction! I only have serious doubts about the validity of the Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory on the shortened accompaniment for secco recitatives in Bach’s sacred works. Generally, however, a doubt is also cast upon the rather careless methods (lack of attention to important details, strained interpretations of original sources, etc.) used by these scholars and all who rigidly follow in their footsteps without calling this type of research to task. There is a lingering implication that these scholars may have worked in similar fashion on other aspects of musicology, but I can not judge that for myself. This does not mean that everyone currently ascribing to the theory is automatically held responsible to the same degree as those who have promulgated this theory, but there ought to be a ‘watch-dog’ committee out there in the general listening public which collects and disseminates information which does not agree with the ‘peer-review’ group that exists among musicologists. This is why I do not necessarily hold Stephen A. Crist, who wrote the article in the “Oxford Composer Companions: J.S.Bach [Boyd]” on p. 408 responsible for what he is stating here. In his short bibliography, he has honestly accounted for the sources that he is using and Dreyfus, as one would expect, is among them. The other sources may confirm the Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory, because that is all that is ‘out there’ at the present time, but theories have a way of coming and going unless they truly hold out very well to continual scrutiny and prove themselves to be worthy. From what I have uncovered so far, the shortened-secco-recitative theory stands on shaky legs.

BL: >>Then we will be able to rely on everything in this reference book [“Oxford Composer Companions: J.S.Bach [Boyd]” as fact.<<
TB: Although not without mistakes, it is possible to gain an appreciation for this book which I highly recommend. In most instances any failings can be traced back to a source, often even to the individual writing the article. This is as it should be. I have learned much from this book and I expect to learn a lot more, but this does not mean that it becomes a bible from which I need to accept each word or theory as the absolute truth.

Brad B. wrote (February 27, 2003):
<< Thomas Braatz wrote (inter alia): (how do you play a staccato whole or half note?) >>
< Bradley Lehman wrote: Short. >
Case in point: the last 20 mm. of the Fourth Brandenburg. The "Keil" represents an accented staccato, and they are written over half-notes.

Problem is, Tom just lacks experience. He hasn't handled the repertoire the way performers have.

Brad B. wrote (February 27, 2003):
BL: >>but also the bit where (with your incredulous tone) you alleged you've never heard of a staccato whole or half note, and asked how they should be played. To pick one of the most obvious and convenient examples that everybody probably already knows, have you ever listened to the last page of the Brandenburg Concerto #4? Of course you have, and therefore my conclusion has to be that you've been putting me on.<<
Ha! I just scrolled down to see that you had quoted the same example of the use of the Keil!

BTW, have you read of the controversy that swirled around Mozart's dots and wedges (it erupted c. 1975, I think)? To grossly oversimply the debate: some see conscious differentiation (and have developed an elaborate critique to justify it), others say Mozart's penmanship is just too sloppy to scruitinize reliably.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 27, 2003):
Brad Lehman stated:

>> In Brandenburg 4, last page, in the bars that are comprised entirely of a pair of half notes (for everybody in the ensemble), yes, it is as you say: only the second note of each pair has an articulation mark.

Now tover to Bach's later thoughts on this piece, his rearrangement of it where he gave the violin solo over to harpsichord solo (and transposed the piece to F major, among other changes),
BWV 1057. In this version, both half notes of each pair have the marks, for everybody. (I'm looking at the Bach-Gesellschaft/Dover edition; I haven't seen the NBA volume of this particular piece but presume it also has those marks.) The only clue to dynamics here, but I believe an important one, is: in the second of each of these pairs, the harpsichord part has bigger chords (and therefore makes a louder sound).

So, it looks as if the sound he wanted here, at least in this second version of the piece, is to have both half notes played short, and the second one louder than the first. And that's the way I would play it. "Bup, BUP! [rest] Da da da, da da Bup, BUP!" I would indeed "cut seriously into the value of each half-note".

As for the way this later version
BWV 1057 should affect anyone's performance of Brandenburg 4, it's an open question. Did Bach change his mind between the times when he wrote these two versions, or is he (the second time around) merely clarifying the notation of the sound he wanted the first time as well?<<
TB: He is probably changing the articulation to adjust it to this specific ensemble. Perhaps in the later version, he wants the accompanying instruments to emulate the percussive effect of and agree with the concertato harpsichord part. And also, yes, both of the half notes in each pair have ‘dots’ over them in all of the instruments playing. Both the autograph score and the autograph cembalo part are from c. 1738. I concur with your observations as the faster tempo here really makes these notes move quite quickly, even as half notes that begin to sound more like quarter notes. But what about some examples of slow-moving whole notes (as in the recitatives) with wedges or dots over them, from Bach’s works, if you please? I would still like to see that kind of evidence.

For Jane Newble and anyone else who might be interested: Bach understood this concerto (BWV 1057) to be the last in a series of works BWV 1052-1057 that he had conceived of as a group. At the very end of the score for BWV 1057, Bach wrote ‘SDGl’ to indicate the conclusion of this series. This is the 1st time that I have seen this mark at the end of a solely instrumental work or a series of works!

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 27, 2003):
< Thomas Braatz wrote: But what about some examples of slow-moving whole notes (as in the recitatives) with wedges or dots over them, from Bachâ?Ts works, if you please? I would still like to see that kind of evidence. >
Tom, I have had enough of this silliness. You are, quite frankly and to put it bluntly, lying to us. The impression you give here is: you do NOT wish to "see" that kind of evidence; but rather, it appears you wish to explain it all away as if it didn't exist, and then complain that you don't see any.

You know VERY WELL that a fine example is right in front of your nose, on page 91 of Dreyfus' book: the continuo part from Cantata BWV 31, movement 5, from a set of parts now in Cracow. This is in the chapter that we've been discussing here for more than a week. This example even includes some notes that are tied across barlines, but yet (because of the vertical stroke on each note, and because this is secco recitative) they are to played briefly. And then wait out all the notated amount of time, and then play the next note, also short. And so on, all the way through. How hard is it to see and comprehend that?

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 28, 2003):
Improvisation and the Bach cantatas

< Thomas Braatz wrote: (...) Brad, spend a little bit more time with Bach’s cantatas, and you will be surprised at what you will learn from them. I believe your teacher, Parmentier, had advised that type of study because it can apply directly to the performance of Bachâ?Ts keyboard works. Am I mistaken about this reference to your teacher? (...) >
Perhaps I mentioned this before. In one course with Parmentier, on practical keyboard improvisation, we spent about 1/3 of the semester in intensive study of many arias from Bach cantatas. Each week, each of us would prepare several arias: in class we played them while improvising continuo realizations, directly from the NBA edition.

The other 2/3 of the term we worked on other types of keyboard improvisation, some free, some based on a given melody; and that hands-on experience was especially mind-opening, to feel internally the process of improvising (and therefore also composing) chorale preludes. It helped us understand where these pieces were coming from, and (naturally) also suggested ways to play pieces that are already composed, and gave us fresh insight (thinking as composers/improvisers) into reading musical notation...the practical matter of writing down what one has just played. It put us "inside the mind" of a practical musician: training us to learn music as an all-around craft, the same way Bach did.

I'd recommend this type of improvisational exercise to anyone. That creative skill is (I'd say) MORE important in the long run than the skill of learning how to play existing music (which is merely re-creating it by rules that are foreign to oneself). How can one know how to think like a composer and improviser (as all these 18th century composers did), and therefore play the music with the right spirit and understanding, without being able to improvise and compose music oneself?

Such exercise is also good training in perspective. One learns how to recognize groups of notes as figures and shapes, parsing the music into distinct thoughts and gestures, and how not to worry too much about silly little details. Training in improvisation teaches one how to play music naturally, rather than too intellectually.

But there's a price. As an unfortunate by-product of such training, it becomes frustrating to listen to a performance or a recording by players who clearly have none of that background, but who (to borrow CPE Bach's phrase) merely play "like trained birds", reproducing a series of rules with great care but no creative understanding. And it's even more frustrating to see such empty mimicry praised as "great" performance. It's also frustrating to read musicological (and pseudo-musicological) writing by people who clearly have none of that hands-on experience of actually making music, improvisationally, in real time. The facts are there, usually, but where is the understanding, the synthesis, the perspective about form and detail? Music is an art, not merely a collection of facts (notes, rhythms, dates, places, authoritative quotations)! Ah well.

Trevor Evans-Young wrote (February 28, 2003):
< TB asked: "How do you play a staccato whole or half note?"
BL responded: "Short."
TB: There seems to be disagreement here. The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians (article by Donington who gives no bibliography - is he simply making this up?) indicates that a vertical dash or wedge indicates a greater degree of separation and emphasis than the dot ('through the later Baroque period'). But this is not the conclusion that the MGG (article by
Hermann Keller) comes to. "Das staccato wird entweder durch Pausen oder (meist) durch Punkte oder Keile (') bezeichnet. Der runde Punkt über der Note, der im 16. Jahrhunder in Spanien auch als Zeichen für einen Praller gebraucht wird, wird im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert vielfach gleichbedeutend mit dem scharfen schrägen Strich angewandt. Letzterer bedeutet im 18. Jahrhundert oft mehr einen Akzent als eine Verkürzung, erst im 19. Jahrhundert bürgert sich der Gebrauch des ' als scharfes staccato ein." ["Staccato is designated either by means of rests or usually by dots or wedges. The round dot over a note, which was used as the sign for the prall trill in 16th century Spain, has the same meaning as the wedge in the 17th and 18th centuries. During the 18th century *the wedge meant more of an accent than a shortening* (of the note value); only in the 19th century did it take onthe meaning of 'a sharp staccato.'"] >
We go over these problems of dots, dashes and such in orchestra all of the time. To me, these are shorthands instead of writing a dotted or double dotted note withthe corresponding eighth or sixteenth rest. In other words, the dots and dashes describe how much air you have between notes. Or maybe this is just the way violists look at music.

'How do you get a viola to play tremelo?'

Write a whole note and above write 'solo'.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 28, 2003):
Brad Lehman indicated:
>> You know VERY WELL that a fine example is right in front of your nose, on page 91 of Dreyfus' book: the continuo part from Cantata
BWV 31, movement 5, from a set of parts now in Cracow. This is in the chapter that we've been discussing here for more than a week. This example even includes some notes that are tied across barlines, but yet (because of the vertical stroke on each note, and because this is secco recitative) they are to played briefly. And then wait out all the notated amount of time, and then play the next note, also short. And so on, all the way through. How hard is it to see and comprehend that?<<
TB: Another bad example! Why? Did you happen to notice that he did not include a facsimile of this? This is another Weimar cantata with an extremely complicated history, but the NBA KB gives all the details which I will not report here because I have the feeling that you would prefer to believe Dreyfus rather than Alfred Dürr. There is no autograph score available and the original set of parts, well, some of these were lost as well, others were added later when the cantata was performed in Leipzig. The NBA shows no such markings in the bc of mvt. 5 as indicated by Dreyfus’ reconstruction. There are no wedges anywhere in mvt. 5 of BWV BWV 31. Once again Dreyfus strikes out as he continues to ‘scrape the bottom of the barrel’ in order to attempt to bolster his theory. This is just another reason why I am unable to conjure up the necessary blind faith to believe everything the Dreyfus has presented in support of the Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory on shortened secco-recitative accompaniment.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 28, 2003):
The nature of Urtext…

[To Thomas Braatz] Dreyfus probably felt he didn't need to go to the expense of THREE facsimile reproductions to explain the same thing redundantly. On pages 92 and 94 he gives a whole page each to facsimiles of parts from cantatas BWV 18 and BWV 185 that also show the wedges over their bass notes. I didn't mention these two other examples yesterday because you've already made fun of these two. It's as I said yesterday: it's clear that you do not want to "see" evidence here in this discussion, but rather to destroy it and then to complain that there isn't enough evidence.

As for your bizarre allegation about my supposedly not wanting to believe Dürr: who's scraping the bottom of the barrel here? I have no quarrel with Alfred Dürr. Also, before sending that example of cantata BWV 31 yesterday, I first studied the history of this piece in Schulenberg's article (which relies on Dürr): page 136 in Boyd. The work had several performances and several revisions, and some parts have been lost. So what? Parts that do still exist in Bach's hand have the wedges. That is a fact. I don't see how you can prestidigitate that away by simply saying since you don't see it in Dürr's chosen reading for the main text of NBA, it is therefore not important enough to be true.

[And now I'll explain, even though you will probably accuse me of circular reasoning...] The wedges in this example are redundant; Dürr knows this as well as anyone. To Bach, the notes would be played short whether or not there were wedges on them, because this is secco recitative. The wedges are there only to help the clueless get a clue, as Dreyfus pointed out: for inexperienced players who may not have been aware of the performance convention. Bach wrote the wedges to MAKE SURE the notes got played short, to make sure that he got the sound he wanted from the players who would be reading from them. Because these wedges are musically redundant, and because they only appear in one copy of the parts, they do not need to be shown in the main text of the NBA (other than acknowledging them in the KB as a variant, which I trust Dürr has done). I agree with Dürr's choice not to show them. Every editor makes choices to establish a "best" Urtext with credibility.

We shouldn't hold it against Alfred Dürr, or against Bach, if some modern people who don't know how to read Bach's notation as it meant to him get confused by it, as you are. Rather, this is a training issue: training such people to read Bach's notation as it meant to him, as opposed to reading it with generic musical skills from a more literalistic culture (our 20th century Neue Sachlichkeit).

The nature of scholarship, and Urtext, has changed within the past century. Back when Brahms and Chrysander prepared an Urtext edition of Couperin, and Saint-Saens an Urtext edition of Rameau, they were eager to strip away accretions (19th century dynamics, phrasing, pedaling, tempo markings, octave doublings, other textual inaccuracies). And they delivered a clean text. But they also deliberately changed some of the notation (articulation marks, ornamentation) in a practical way, to make sure that their modern readers (primarily pianists) would deliver the correct sound, as opposed to needing to understand the original notation of the composers. [This is of course the same thing that Bach did to help his players, preparing a continuo part with wedges in it here in cantata BWV 31, and revising the St Matthew Passion...change the notation so the player isn't required to understand the original notation.] The goal in changing the notation was to clarify the composer's intentions, for the reading of people who otherwise wouldn't know how to understand or imagine the correct sound. It's helpful in a practical sense, a good musical choice.

Now, in the NBA (and the similar critical editions of other composers), the nature of Urtext is different. Now the editors strive to reproduce the original notation (with the exception of changing clefs), so we can see more directly what the composers actually wrote. The danger is: if some readers do not know what the composers MEANT by what they wrote, those readers can get confused by what they see. This is just a 20th century choice about the new nature of Urtext, for better or worse. The modern critical method is "hands-off, show us what he actually wrote, rather than what he intended by it." It requires the readership to be more intelligent and discerning about what they see on the page, doing the background work (and believing the experts who have done it) to find out what sound the composer intended. When such an Urtext is read by a person who would have needed the practical help (the type of reader whom Brahms and Saint-Saens served), the unfortunate result is confusion. It is not Alfred Dürr's fault that you (Tom) are confused; but his methods did unfortunately contribute to your confusion.

We who specialize in performance and scholarship in this field have to learn how to read every composer differently, and sometimes even to read the same composer differently from himself in other parts of his career, to discern what he meant by his notation. That's just the nature of this field, where we try to interpret the music responsibly per each situation, rather than applying a "one size fits all" attitude to reading notation, across all composers and milieus. The "one size fits all" method (which appears to afflict you, Tom, although I have no doubt you mean well) forces composers and their works into the box of modern expectations (the assumption that they wrote down exactly what WE moderns would expect to see on a page, as a universal standard), and really, one size actually fits none.

Nor is it Bach's fault for failing to anticipate he should things a different way, lest he confuse some of the people who would be looking at his music almost 300 years in the future. Bach simply wrote his secco recitatives with the simplest and most elegant notation known to him, from common practice, for use in known situations. Plain and simple, it was a practical thing to do under his time pressures, and personally knowing the people who would be playing his music; no chance of confusing them. The only people confused here are those who refuse to (or who are honestly unable to) read him HIS way: the inexperienced players of his own day, and
the overly literalistic people of our day. Bach helped some of the former type of people by occasionally writing the same music in several different types of notation. The fact that he unwittingly confused the heck out of people such as yourself: well, that's not Bach's fault.

I don't know how to put it more plainly than this, without being accused of further arrogance or elitism, so I'll borrow the famous quip from Wanda Landowska to a colleague: "You play Bach your way; I'll play him HIS way."

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 28, 2003):
Brad Lehman stated:
>>I didn't mention these two other examples yesterday because you've already made fun of these two.<<
TB: This is the problem! You accuse me of ‘making fun’ of the facsimile examples, and in doing so you are not taking this matter seriously, because you adamantly hold onto the Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory, refusing even to admit that all the items that I have pointed out do shed rather serious doubts upon the theory which, as presented by Dreyfus, reveals numerous concerns about the validity of his evidence. You continue to denigrate my sources and interpretations as if they are worthless without seriously and objectively contemplating this matter ‘from the other side.’ I have looked at Dreyfus ‘from the other side’ and what I find there, and still continue to find there as you point out additional features, in regard to the shortened secco-recitative- accompaniment theory is lacking in many respects, but you seem unable to look at this from another perspective for even a moment.

BL: >>The work [Brad is referring to BWV 31 mvt. 5 given as the violoncello part – Ex. 3-4 on p. 91 of Dreyfus’ book, “Bach’s Continuo Group”] had several performances and several revisions, and some parts have been lost. So what? Parts that do still exist in Bach's hand have the wedges.<<
TB: I thought last night I could skip a long, drawn-out summary. Let me point out again that this Weimar cantata has a very complex history. For that reason some ‘oddities’ can occur, and this is just what Dreyfus is looking for.

1) There is no autograph score.

2) Whereas many of the original parts from the Weimar period are in Bach’s handwriting and are considered autograph, the violoncello part was copied by Copyist 2 (his identity is unknown). Is this significant? Yes, particularly when Dreyfus states on p. 91, “In the original ‘Violoncello’ part used by the cellist and the organist, Bach must have entered the cues before the thorough-bass figures in Movement 5, a secco recitative.”

What is Dreyfus maintaining or implying here?

a) that this is an autograph part directly from Bach’s hand

b) that this part, one which Dreyfus, for some reason which I do not want to surmise, chose to transcribe as if wishing to spare us the added discomfort of seeing the figures on top of the information which Dreyfus wishes to extract, and as if wanting to spare himself the cost of a whole page facsimile (3-5) where he could easily have cut out 9 lines of music not pertinent to the subject at hand, contains the thorough-bass figures as well as the violoncello part [in short Dreyfus says that the violoncello part contained the figured bass.]

c) that the organist and cellist would be playing from the same part

Correct me, if I have misunderstood Dreyfus’ words. Perhaps I am having a problem with understanding English?

Just how much of this information that Dreyfus presents here can be taken at face value?

a) as already indicated, this violoncello part is completely in a different handwriting – there are even no indications that the articulation marks are in Bach’s hand

b) this violoncello part is ‘unbeziffert’= no figured bass

c) only one other violoncello part, the 5th mvt. of which was copied by Copyist 3 – this part is only partially indicated with a figured bass. The figured bass for mvt. 5, if it was figured at all, was not filled in by Bach in any case.

d) missing from the original set of parts is the Weimar ‘Violone, Organo’ part which did contain Bach’s own figured bass indications. Such a part would have been used by the organist who might be the only one still playing the full value of the bass notes of the recitative. This is the part that would have the organ play according to Heinichen’s description already stated here earlier. That means, no matter what else might happen (a separate bassoon part in Bach’s hand which does exist and which could conceivably be written out in the shortened form because the bassoon would too easily overwhelm the voice if the rest of the continuo group were also playing), the left hand (or pedal) of the organ would nevertheless play the full values of all the bc notes unless special circumstances would cause a temporary change in this practice.

As far as the wedges in another violoncello part not copied by Bach nor articulated by him, they may mean exactly what the MGG had to say about the matter: an accent followed nevertheless by the full value of the note.

By the way, where are those other examples of Bach’s use of slurred whole notes with wedges (as in Ex. 3-4 on p. 91) since I have already explained another legitimate reason why the bassoon part in Facsimile 3-4 appears as it does?

BL: >>The wedges in this example [Brad is referring to Example 3-4 on top of p. 91] are redundant; Dürr knows this as well as anyone.<<
TB: Yes, Brad, you are going in circles. Even if you seem to know that Dürr knows that wedges are redundant, he nevertheless states, as I have indicated before:

"Ich halte es daher persönlich für sinnvoller, die Rezitative (he is referring to the secco recitatives) entweder durchweg wie notiert -- also ausgehalten -- zu begleiten oder aber durchweg kurz, allenfalls mit ausgehaltenen Baßnoten." ["For this reason I personally think that it makes more sense to perform/accompany the recitatives exactly as written from the beginning to the end, which means holding out each long note for its entire value; or possibly, as another option, to play them only with shortened (chords - not mixing both shortened and held chords), but, in any case, the bass notes are always held out for their full value."]

This is Dürr, after waiting for many years while the Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory was gaining momentum in the HIP mvt., finally ‘weighing in’ on this matter after careful consideration of ‘everything that is going on out there in HIP.’ Of course, no expert can claim to be perfect, but some have a better reputation than others [not that reputation alone should ever be the decisive factor.] This reputation, however, is enhanced when others, whether musicologists or simply lay performers and listeners, are able to examine as much as is possible the evidence and consider the steps that these experts have taken to come to their tentative conclusions about the existence of an esoteric tradition that is not easy ‘to track down.’ If some experts demonstrate that they have willingly or unwittingly presented what turns out later upon reexamination to be careless methods of scholarship, deliberate distortion of the evidence causing misinformation to be disseminated, then such experts should be held accountable to a lesser or greater degree. If not the experts, then the avid supporters of the theory should not be afraid to engage in a meaningful discourse with respect shown on both sides. From your statements to me, it would appear that I would not even be considered an expert (not that I have any aspirations in that regard, I do not), hence I may noeven be accountable according to my own reasoning. But I do hope to be taken seriously even if I do not have all the performance expertise and knowledge that you have acquired.

BL:>>Because these wedges are musically redundant, and because they only appear in one copy of the parts, they do not need to be shown in the main text of the NBA (other than acknowledging them in the KB as a variant, which I trust Dürr has done)<<
TB: For your information, they do appear in the score when they are deemed truly genuine and Bach’s latest intention. You probably have not looked at such NBA scores where the separate lines of violoncello, (sometimes bassoon, if is not written out entirely on its own staff) and bc are clearly indicated or condensed but still understandable to a musician consulting the score. I think I understand Dürr’s reason not to include the wedges here because there exists yet a later reading of the bc from 1731 in the part called ‘Basso Continuo’ (transposed and w/figured bass). If, for instance, this part and the Violoncello part from 1715 (which lacks mvt. 5) agree that there are no wedges and the ‘odd’ violoncello part which has mvt. 5 written by a copyist and shows no additional articulation marks by Bach (even if, according to Dreyfus who may have seen such marks on this part from 1724), the editorial policy is fairly clear: the Basso Continuo part from the latest date gives the composer’s last intentions. It then becomes irrelevant to include articulation marks not by Bach (his markings are usually distinguishable from those of any other person, and also – these marks could have been added later on by C.P.E. Bach in whose possession they were until his death and he did perform some of this father's cantatas after 1750. Then a post Bach performance practice [wedges inserted by C.P.E. Bach or someone under his direction] would incorrectly be taken to be J.S.Bach’s intention.

BL:>> This is of course the same thing that Bach did to help his players, preparing a continuo part with wedges in it here in cantata 31, and revising the St Matthew Passion...change the notation so the player isn't required to understand the original notation.]<<
TB: So now we are back to the Paradebeispiel (Schering, 1936) that stems from the Neue Sachlichkeit which has been the primary influence and the impetus for Mendel and Dreyfus to ‘scrape together’ a few more examples to attempt to bolster the esoteric theory about the shortened accompaniment of secco recitatives. The example from the SMP is the very one that caused me to wonder about the ‘underpinning’ of this theory. The single, late part, copied by someone other than Bach for an unusual performance where, just as Heinichen had indicated special circumstances prevail to cause a shortening of the notes. I have discussed this all before and am waiting for someone to indicate where my deliberations and considerations may have gone awry. Brad, according to your method of reasoning, this example should not apply because it pertains to a passion and not to the bulk of cantatas from Bach’s hand.

BL: >> The "one size fits all" method (which appears to afflict you, Tom, although I have no doubt you mean well) forces composers and their works into the box of modern expectations (the assumption that they wrote down exactly what WE moderns would expect to see on a page, as a universal standard), and really, one size actually fits none.<<
TB: Things are ‘getting curiouser and curiouser’ all the time. What about your HIP affliction that forces you to begin with the ‘size’ that all secco recitatives in Bach’s vocal works use shortened accompaniment except when experts such as you are able to bend this rule when you are struck by the appropriate intuition which you arrogate for yourself under the rules of ‘musical performance and scholarship expertise?’ Why not choose the other ‘size’ which assumes correctly that Bach notated his works very carefully and that when a performer/scholar dares to deviate from what has been written, it is in full recognition and consciousness that a living performance may allow or even demand this depending on many different circumstances (again Heinichen, when properly understood.) I concur with Heinichen who also did not ‘box things in’ with a simple, straightforward rule, but he did state quite clearly what was customary during Bach’s lifetime, whether you or the adherents of the Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory want to see it that way or not.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 28, 2003):
< Thomas Braatz wrote:
BL: >>The wedges in this example [Brad is referring to Example 3-4 on top of p. 91] are redundant; Dürr knows this as well as anyone.<<
TB: Yes, Brad, you are going in circles. Even if you seem to know that Dürr knows that wedges are redundant, he nevertheless states, as I have >indicated before:
"Ich halte es daher persönlich für sinnvoller, die Rezitative (he is referring to the secco recitatives) entweder durchweg wie notiert -- also ausgehalten -- zu begleiten oder aber durchweg kurz, allenfalls mit ausgehaltenen Baßnoten." ["For this reason I personally think that it makes more sense to perform/accompany the recitatives exactly as written from the beginning to the end, which means holding out each long note for its entire value; or possibly, as another option, to play them only with shortened (chords - not mixing both shortened and held chords), but, in any case, the bass notes are always held out for their full value."]
This is Dürr, after waiting for many years while the Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory was gaining momentum in the HIP mvt., finally ‘weighing in’ on this matter after careful consideration of ‘everything that is going on out there in HIP.’ >
Speaking of going in circles, you've never really explained away the reason why you're using this Dürr quote out of context (explicitly from a book about the St John Passion, not the cantatas) to "prove" that Dürr thinks it should be done in all the other vocal works as well. Instead, you just keep quoting your own translation and interpretation, repeatedly. That's not evidence of him "weighing in" on anything other than the St John Passion (BWV 245).

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 1, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
TB: This is the problem! You accuse me of ‘making fun’ of the facsimile examples, and in doing so you are not taking this matter seriously, because you adamantly hold onto the Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory, refusing even to admit that all the items that I have pointed out do shed rather serious doubts upon the theory which, as presented by Dreyfus, reveals numerous concerns about the validity of his evidence. You continue to denigrate my sources and interpretations as if they are worthless without seriously and objectively contemplating this matter ‘from the other side.’ I have looked at Dreyfus ‘from the other side’ and what I find there, and still continue to find there as you point out additional features, in regard to the shortened secco-recitative- accompaniment theory is lacking in many respects, but you seem unable to look at this from another perspective for even a moment. >
On the contrary, Tom: I have indeed followed your arguments closely, and reconsidered everything from the point of view you have presented, and I can see how you would come to the conclusions you do. You have encouraged me to re-examine ALL of this from a different perspective, for which I am grateful. You have forced me to confront the Dreyfus reasoning head-on, to sift it with your skepticism, and that too is good. I have taken you seriously. However, after considering all that carefully and closely, I still think Dreyfus and the rest of the scholarly community are right on this one.

You've tried to enlist Dürr to bolster "your side," but I suspect you are misusing Dürr's words in a way he would not recognize. And you've accused Dreyfus of some quite serious academic shenanigans: ignoring, denigrating, or tampering with evidence; drawing fantastically untenable connections between bits of evidence; taking things far out of relevant context; "scraping the bottom of the barrel" to come up with evidence. Yet, you have never dethat you are above all such shenanigans yourself, whether intentionally or (more likely) unintentionally.

Further, you in effect accuse Dreyfus of being not only dishonest, but stupid and naive, else he should have been able to realize he's been thoroughly misled by those before him. And you accuse me of the same, both because I support Dreyfus' views, and because I simply don't know the Bach cantatas (or the German language) as well as you do. Admittedly, I don't know nearly as many cantatas you do, or have the NBA and MGG at my fingertips; and my German skill is only from two years of university credit, sufficient to test out of the doctoral competency requirement, and sufficient to understand what the NBA and MGG and Dürr and Agricola and Heinichen and Niedt and Mattheson etc etc etc are actually saying, without needing to rely on your translations. (Yes, I even studied a facsimile edition of Mattheson directly, during grad school.)

But, just for the sake of argument, and supposing Schering and Dreyfus and Mendel ARE wrong (as you'd desperately like us to suppose): I'd have to be EXTREMELY naive if I couldn't see by now the error of my ways, and the error of Dreyfus' ways. You have presented plenty of skepticism about the evidence. But I don't see that Dreyfus has made any error here, nor do I see that I have been wrong in believing him. Let me say it again: I have examined Dreyfus' evidence and argument as closely as you have, and re-examined it at your prompting, and I think he's right.

Your "serious doubts" are noted, even though I believe your outcomes are wrong and (perhaps) stem from a too-literalistic approach to the scores...the 20th-century expectation (or maybe just yours) that Bach "must have" written down exactly what he wanted to hear, in exactly the same way we 300 years later would read his notation in a vacuum.

Nobody is doubting your zeal and your sincerity, Tom, nor your best intentions. I just think your pseudo-scholarly methods, and your preconceptions about notation, have led you into a path where you're grasping at anything you can to "save face," with wild potshots at the acknowledged experts and their supposed motives for saying what they've said. As I pointed out before, the only way you're right about Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus is if the ENTIRE academic community is wrong...and if they have never been clever enough to notice it; Occam's Razor (and common sense) suggests that that's unlikely.

Yes, you raise important questions, and bring up important skeptical points about the evidence. Nobody's doubting that. I just think that the conclusions you've come to are untenable, because you have come to the evidence with the wrong set of expectations, and (perhaps) an overly argumentative attitude about the experts and their competence. I don't consider myself any sort of expert in this area of recitative, so I rely on expert opinion (having followed their arguments closely, and being convinced by them) as well as personal experience, knowing first-hand what works in actual performance of this music. And I have tried to present Dreyfus' argument fairly and faithfully.

It appears to me that all you've done here is attempt to knock Dreyfus, Marshall, and their colleagues down as being ignorant and naive and dishonest. That doesn't work. If you want to play the maverick on this, fine; good luck with it. But I'll warn you, respectfully: if you try your demonstrated methods and your interpretations in a really serious scholarly forum (one that I myself would be barely halfway qualified to participate in), you're gonna get clobbered. They won't be as nice to you as I have been. If in such a forum you said some of the things you've said here, with the same academic strategies you've used here, they would laugh you out of the room; and I don't think you want that. Trust me, I have been in the position of taking a maverick stance on something against real musicologists, from an immature sense of self-importance and an incomplete set of rhetorical tools, and I got my ass kicked (correctly, I might add, now that I look back on the experience). In retrospect I count it as a valuable if painful learning experience. If you still want to go there on this one, taking a lone stand with this topic of recitative, "more power to you"...but please be prepared for major disappointment. One bit of advice, for what my impression is worth: judging from how you come across here in this e-mail group, you'll have to project a much lower aura of desperation when you present any of this, or those in the real academic circles will skin you alive.

Peter Bright wrote (March 1, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I really don't mean to be rude, but could I ask Brad and Thomas to continue this thread via private emails - I can't understand why they think it is benefiting any other subscribers (I wholly take it back if this is not the case). Indeed, it looks like we have just lost Thomas Boyce, a long time contributor to our discussions. I can only see the number of subscribers further diminishing if this is allowed to continue ad infinitum.

The messages are clearly matters of importance to Tom and Brad personally, but I'm struggling to see why they should be sent to everybody on the list. If, however, others are happy with the way the discussions have shifted, I will apologise for being misguided and unsubscribe too.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 1, 2003):
I'll try to limit my remarks to recordings.

Francine Renee Hall wrote (March 1, 2003):
Oh, no fighting please! Let's have a music lesson instead!

(see below):
http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/vermeer/i/music-lesson.jpg

Are Soholt wrote (March 1, 2003):
[To Peter Bright] I agree with Mr.Bright.

I find the matter of secco recitartive interessting, but this look more like a quarrel to me.

Please try to be serious and academical.

Charles Francis wrote (March 2, 2003):
[To Peter Bright] My feeling is that this discussion, while interesting, is more pertinent to the cantatas group. I must say, I am philosophically opposed to Brad's philosophy of "trust the experts" and welcome the attempt of Thomas to re-examine the relevant evidence.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 3, 2003):
The nature of inquiry

[To Charles Francis] Charles, if you please, I'd prefer not to be characterized with such a philosophy, because it is not my view. I have no problem with people challenging the experts or challenging popular opinion, and asking intelligent questions, and coming up with different theories. I think it's a bold and laudable thing to do, if done with a healthy respect for the work of the experts, and done with real research. I enjoy re-examining evidence, whether in music or something else. It's a stimulating exercise.

In fact, just this weekend I received the April 2003 issue of Discover magazine and eagerly read the cover story: about some physicists who have challenged Einstein's assertion that the speed of light is in all situations a constant. They spent several years researching all the ramifications of their theory (with full-time work), and got honest peer review of it, and refined it, and trod very carefully along this path before they went public with it. No half-baked cake there. And their theory is indeed plausible, and revolutionary. It's worth paying attention to, in my opinion.

Anyone who cares about a topic can and should ask questions. That is the way to learn something, and the way to find out why the experts have come to the conclusions they did. And who knows; maybe the experts could be mistaken. [Indeed, for a few years I've been dabbling with a hypothesis about one of Bach's keyboard works that I believe originally existed in a different key for a different instrument, in a version now lost; I'm convinced myself, but I'm still working on the proof before doing anything with it.]

It is one thing to do years of direct research, formulate a hypothesis from it, and to bring in first-hand knowledge of important related facts (such as the volume of Baroque bassoons, and broad knowledge of 17th and 18th century musical notation, and an awareness of the changing nature of "Urtext" over the past 150 years, and the experience of playing a continuo instrument at a world-class level of achievement). That is what Laurence Dreyfus brought to his chapter on recitative, to inform his decisions. He is a scholar who's also unusually well-prepared with performance skill: a wonderful combination.

It is quite another thing to copy someone else's bibliography verbatim, consult fewer than a dozen sources, formulate interpretations based on conjecture, recognize no practical considerations...and then spout off about how the experts have no evidence, chastise the experts for the evidence they did use, and dismiss every piece of evidence with earnest but naive guesses at interpretation. If a university student used such a process for a term paper, in the name of "research," a responsible professor would give it a barely passing mark (if that), red-penciling all the factual errors while acknowledging the creative zeal. How else will the student learn to do responsible research? Earnest intentions plus a handful of good questions do not equal credible scholarship, in proving anything.

As for selling an idea: as they say in The Music Man, "ya gotta know the territory!" Otherwise it's just Harold Hill asking us to learn to play a piece of music by the Think System, and never actually touching the instruments.

=====

The discussion that Tom and I had here was (at least to me) about an issue much more important than recitatives, per se. That is: how do we read Bach's musical notation and discern what it meant TO HIM (which might be very different from our expectations from general 20th century music skills), and translate that into convincing performances? How do we find Bach's intentions?

When we're assessing the merits of recordings, Bach's intentions do matter, don't they?

Kirk McElhearn wrote (March 3, 2003):
< Bradley Lehman wrote: In fact, just this weekend I received the April 2003 issue of Discover magazine and eagerly read the cover story: about some physicists who have challenged Einstein's assertion that the speed of light is in all situations a constant. They spent several years researching all the ramifications of their theory (with full-time work), and got honest peer review of it, and refined it, and trod very carefully along this path before they went public with it. No half-baked cake there. And their theory is indeed plausible, and revolutionary. It's worth paying attention to, in my opinion. >
Funny you should mention that. Talk about a media blitz - there have been articles everywhere to support the scientist's book. Read my review of the book here, if that interests you: http://www.techsoc.com/fasterthan.htm



Continue on Part 6


Articles: The “Shortening of the Supporting Notes” in the Bc of Bach’s ‘Secco’ Recitatives [Thomas Braatz] | Playing Plain Recitative in Bach's Vocal Works [Bradley Lehman]
Discussions of Recitatives:
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 | Continuo in Bach’s Vocal Works: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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Last update: ýAugust 13, 2007 ý10:03:05