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Recordings of Bach Cantatas
General Discussions - Part 12: Year 2008

Continue from Part 11: Year 2007

OT: Recordings from 1860 (20 years prior to Edison's invention) surface

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 27, 2008):
This was a very interesting article I thought, so I'm passing this along to the list: NY Times

I don't believe it requires a site log-in.

Vivat Bach ;)

Drew (BWV846-893) wrote (March 29, 2008):
First Recorded Music of Bach??? [was: O.T. Recordings from 1860 surface]

[To Kim Patrick Clow] A fascinating find. That 10 second clip is haunting.

According to the Edison National Historic Site, the earliest known recorded music is an excerpt from Händel's "Israel in Egypt" (recorded in London, at the Crystal Palace, in June 1888): http://www.nps.gov/archive/edis/edisonia/very_early.htm

Even though it is "a chorus of 4000 voices" [Hysterically Informed Performance?], the music in this clip is faint - perhaps because the recording device was 100 yards away.

The second clip, "The Lost Chord" (music by Arthur Sullivan) - recorded about 2 months later - is clearer (esp. about 20 seconds in).

My question, then: What is the first known sound recording of Bach's music?

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 27, 2008):
BWV846-893 (?) asked:
"My question, then: What is the first known sound recording of Bach's music?"
It might be the recording of Bist du bei mir, BWV 508 by Blanche Marchesi, back in 1906.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV508-523-Rec2.htm [M-1]
Although we now know that this work was not composed by J.S. Bach, at the time of that recording this piece was thought to be composed by him.

The earliest recording of a segment from a 'real' Bach's vocal work is probably from c1917.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV244-Rec7.htm [M-1]

The earliest recordings of Bach's solo keyboard works are probably by Violet Gordon-Woodhouse from 1922.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/NVP/Gordon-Woodhouse.htm

There are piano rolls of Busoni playing his Bach transcriptions from 1920-1921.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/NVD/PT-Busoni-Rec1.htm

TNT, who is an expert in the area of historical recordings, might come with better results.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 29, 2008):
BWV846-893 (?) asked:
"My question, then: What is the first known sound recording of Bach's music?"
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< It might be the recording of Bist du bei mir, BWV 508 by Blanche Marchesi, back in 1906. >
Nope. I have Joseph Joachim's recordings of excerpts from the violin partita in B minor, and sonata in G minor, from 1903. Hear samples here: Amazon.com

That same CD also has Pablo de Sarasate's 1904 performance of the prelude from the E major partita.

Those probably weren't the first recordings of any Bach, either.

Maud Powell's recordings of Bach violin solos are also worth hearing, too, from 1913 and 1916.
Amazon.com & Amazon.com

Tom Dent wrote (March 29, 2008):
[To BWV846-893] Haunting ... in a nightmarish sort of way.

Now the Gouraud recordings (Crystal Palace, Israel in Egypt 1888) are actually worth listening to once or twice. You have never heard a large choir sounding like that: the phrase 'sea of sound' is perfectly appropriate. When was the last time a 4000-strong choir even existed?

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 29, 2008):
Tom Dent wrote:
< Now the Gouraud recordings (Crystal Palace, Israel in Egypt 1888) are actually worth listening to once or twice. You have never heard a large choir sounding like that: the phrase 'sea of sound' is perfectly appropriate. When was the last time a 4000-strong choir even existed? >
When Israel really was in Egypt.

Couldn't resist.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 29, 2008):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< When Israel really was in Egypt.
Couldn't resist. >
p.s. I had to think of that because somebody a couple of years ago asked me in all seriousness about the harpsichords they had in the Bible. I said, "Whaaaaat?!" They sent me to look it up specifically in The Living Bible, that bizarre amplified mistranslation from c1971 when harpsichords were especially prominent in American pop music, and sure enough: King Solomon had harpsichords. Anything to make the Bible connect with youths, the translator threw it into there.

Here is 1 Kings 10, v 11-12, as rendered in The Living Bible:

"(And when King Hiram's ships brought gold to Solomon from Ophir, they also brought along a great supply of algum trees and gems. Solomon used the algum wood to make pillars for the Temple and the palace, and for harps and harpsichords for his choirs. Never before or since has there been such a supply of beautiful wood.)"

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 29, 2008):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< They sent me to look it up specifically in The Living Bible, that bizarre amplified mistranslation from c1971 when harpsichords were especially prominent in American pop music, and sure enough: King Solomon had harpsichords. Anything to make the Bible connect with youths, the translator threw it into there. >
This is a long-standing tradition in English translations. The King James Bible (1611) translated Daniel 3:5 to make Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonian musicans sound like a 17th centtury Engish Renaissance consort:

"That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:"

Rock on ye dudes ...

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 29, 2008):
[To Tom Dent] Pretty remarkable.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 29, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] I remember studying Greek with Bible translators from all over the world when I was at Fuller. In each culture these folks worked with they had to find relevant examples to try their best to convey the story. I love your last line--sometimes the parallels are just too funny.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 29, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] Really priceless.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (April 1, 2008):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] I heard this (I heard????this????) several times on the radio the other day. Frankly I heard nothing FYI the NYTIMES does require registration.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (April 4, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] The first Berlioz arias are recorded in 1901. I don't have them, they are Paris wax cylinders but I do have a few from 1903 and they are sonicly great and of course indicate what French singing was like back then. In other words they have great aesthetic importance.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (April 6, 2008):
The earliest known commercial Bach recording

[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] The earliest known commercial recording of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach is a flat (gramophone) disc of the "Air" from the "Ouverture No. 3 in D Major", BWV 1068, arranged for 'cello and piano, that was made in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1902. The soloist is Anton Vierzbilovich, a very fine 'cellist who, sad to say, generally is remembered only for being so drunk at Tschaikowsky's wake that he kissed the corpse. The pianist who accompanied him is not identified on the label of the disc.

<Pic/NonVocal-BIG/Vierzbilovich-O01[Concert-Record]>

Recently, from a reliable source, I learned of the almost certain existence of a cylinder of a movement from one of the violin works, also Russian in origin, dating from around 1890, but that recording was not made for commercial release.

I had the honor of playing an "unrestored", "raw" transfer of the Vierzbilovich disc on the radio this past December 27, when I made an on-the-air appearance at the WKCR BachFest. I had not heard the recording before, and I was (and am) amazed at how fine the sound is for a disc that was made 106 years ago.

I hope that this clarification is helpful.

PS: The second earliest commercial recording of the music of Bach appears to be Arnold Rose's 1903 recording of the same "Air", in a violin arrangement (August Wilhelmj's?); this disc evidently predates the Joachim discs by a couple of months.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 6, 2008):
>The soloist is Anton Vierzbilovich, a very fine 'cellist who, sad to say, generally is remembered only for being so drunk at Tschaikowsky's wake that he kissed the corpse. The pianist who accompanied him is not identified on the label of the disc.<
I shudder to imagine what the pianist might have done to earn that anonymity.

>I had the honor of playing an "unrestored", "raw" transfer of the Vierzbilovich disc on the radio this past December 27, when I made an on-the-air appearance at the WKCR BachFest. I had not heard the recording before, and I was (and am) amazed at how fine the sound is for a disc that was made 106 years ago.<
That was an enjoyable webcast, thanks for informing us in advance of its availability. Quite a marvel to consider all the technical links between the Vierzbilovich cello and my room speakers, not the least marvellous was WKCR overcoming the limitations of slow dial-up connections! I agree, pretty fine sound, beyond the curiosity factor.

Nessie Russell (Anne) wrote (April 6, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>The soloist is Anton Vierzbilovich, a very fine 'cellist who, sad to say, generally is remembered only for being so drunk at Tschaikowsky's wake that he kissed the corpse. The pianist who accompanied him is not identified on the label of the disc.<
< I shudder to imagine what the pianist might have done to earn that anonymity. >
Ed, merely being a pianist gives one that anonymity. Many soloists do not acknowledge their accompanists.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (April 6, 2008):
[To Nessie Russell] In fairness to Vierzbilovich, it may not have been his fault; it may have been the record company which chose not to acknowledge the existence of the worthy pianist who provides the accompaniment.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (April 6, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] Thanks, Ed, for the kind words. It was great fun working with the Columbia students again, and they went the extra mile for me.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (April 7, 2008):
Teri Noel Towe wrote:
< The earliest known commercial recording of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach is a flat (gramophone) disc of the "Air" from the "Ouverture No. 3 in D Major", BWV 1068, arranged for 'cello and piano, that was made in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1902. The soloist is Anton Vierzbilovich, a very fine 'cellist who, sad to say, generally is remembered only for being so drunk at Tschaikowsky's wake that he kissed the corpse. The pianist who accompanied him is not identified on the label of the disc. >
These Russian stories:-). Recently I heard on some program that Stravinsky cried and fell apart so much as Rimsky's funeral that Mrs. Rimsky, the Widow, went over to Stravinsky and said: Why are you so despondent? We still have Glazunov? Do we believe these stories?

< Recently, from a reliable source, I learned of the almost certain existence of a cylinder of a movement from one of the violin works, also Russian in origin, dating from around 1890, but that recording was not made for commercial release. >
I hope it doesn't sound like the Mary had a Little Lamb we were recently supposed to hear. I really heard nothing and doubt there was anything but imagination.

< I had the honor of playing an "unrestored", "raw" transfer of the Vierzbilovich disc on the radio this past December 27, when I made an on-the-air appearance at the WKCR BachFest. I had not heard the recording before, and I was (and am) amazed at how fine the sound is for a disc that was made 106 years ago. >
I listened to all your numerous appearances there and don't recall this one but whatever.

< I hope that this clarification is helpful.
PS: The second earliest commercial recording of the music of Bach appears to be Arnold Rose's 1903 recording of the same "Air", in a violin arrangement (August Wilhelmj's?); this disc evidently predates the Joachim discs by a couple of months. >
This is what I was suggesting to Terejia:
Shall we limit the introduction to Bach to the Schafe können sicher weiden transcriptions and the Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben thingie and to the Air on the G-String? I think a total immersion in something massive supplies the only right baptism.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (April 7, 2008):
Teri Noel Towe wrote:
< In fairness to Vierzbilovich, it may not have been his fault; it may have been the record company which chose not to acknowledge the existence of the worthy pianist who provides the accompaniment. >
There is some disputed/conflicted errors here re the Tchaikovsky story. According to the Davidovs,Catherine Drinker Bowen and von Mecks (Beloved friend: the story of Tchaikowsky and Nadejda von Meck (relative of both T. via a Davidov marriage) and and Catherine Drinker Bowen Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1976, c1937) Tchaikovsky's coffin was sealed and no one could have kissed him or in their right mind would have). Alexander Poznansky is reponsible for the story that V was so drunk he kissed the Corpse.(pg 592 Tchaikovsky--The Quest for the Inner Man Shirmer Books/Macmillan New York 1991). Poznansky attributes his tale to Rimsky-Korsakov who said in his Memoirs he recalled V. doing this. FYI V. was a cellist and professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. V. died in 1916.

There is a great mystery that surrounds T.'s death which may never be solved until we dig him up and examine the contents of the coffin in light of modern DNA analysis and forensics. Poz. seems to indicate that the waiters and management at Leitners Restaurant were his murderers by serving him contaminated Ice in his mineral water. T. always drank water with his meals generally. He had the best physicians of the time to treat him. T. aggravated his condition (if it was Cholera by being macho and not calling for a physician soon enough and taking castor oil. No autopsy was done which could have affirmed the cholera diagnosis. For the record; then Berensons---T.s physicians went to their graves wrongly feeling guilty that they had caused T.s death by not doing enough for him.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (April 7, 2008):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< I hope it doesn't sound like the Mary had a Little Lamb we were recently supposed to hear. I really heard nothing and doubt there was anything but imagination. >
Oh it's not the imagination, it's a real recording :-) Several friends of mine at work heard it as well and thought it very haunting, as did several here on the list.

Thanks

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (April 7, 2008):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] If the told me that it was "Erbarme dich" sung by a boy soprano, I would not have known the difference.

Correction to a previous post of mine:
I have 1902 Berlioz aria recordings and they are fine. Russian recordings from the same period are not so good in general.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (April 7, 2008):
Vierzbilovich at Tschaikowsky's wake

Ludwig wrote:
< There is some disputed/conflicted errors here re the Tchaikovsky story. According to the Davidovs,Catherine Drinker Bowen and von Mecks (Beloved friend: the story of Tchaikowsky and Nadejda von Meck (relative of both T. via a Davidov marriage) and and Catherine Drinker Bowen Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1976, c1937) Tchaikovsky's coffin was sealed and no one could have kissed him orin their right mind would have). Alexander Poznansky is reponsible for the story that V was so drunk he kissed the Corpse.(pg 592 Tchaikovsky--The Quest for the Inner Man Shirmer Books/Macmillan New York 1991). Poznansky attributes his tale to Rimsky-Korsakov who said in his Memoirs he recalled V. doing this. FYI V. was a cellist and professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. V. died in 1916. >
Whether the story is true or not, and you are correct in suggesting that it very well may not be true, for most people, if they recognize the name Vierzbilovich at all, it's because they know that anecdote.

Terejia wrote (April 9, 2008):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/27198
(snipped)
< This is what I was suggesting to Terejia: Shall we limit the introduction to Bach to the Schafe können sicher weiden transcriptions and the Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben thingie and to the Air on the G-String? I think a total immersion in something massive supplies the only right baptism. >
It took me some time to reply to this message.

For my not so enlightened(yet) ears, these popular pieces of Bach sound no less deep and profound than other heavier pieces. However, these popular pieces feel less enforcing of impact and more embracing in their aethetic frequency to my personal ears.

 

Jim Svejda Program

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (May 14, 2008):
Jim Svejda (syndicated in the USA) whom I often intentionally forget to listen to esp. on subjects where I already long ago have formed my taste, tonight dedicated his program to a beginner's advisement on collecting bach cantatas. In fast summary he presented a number of lovely samples from most everyone and had much good to say about everyone except of course his well-known hatred and abusive attitude to the harnoncourt-leonhardt set.

Of course even a person who despises that set, were he fair-minded, could tell the public about its virtues such as it use of Knabensopran soloist and at various times also Knabenalt. Avoiding even mentioning this matter in re any of his sets, Rilling, Herreweghe, Rifkin (surprising there), Koopman, all strongly recommended and played from. Yes, of course the Harnoncourt-Leonhardt set reflects the growing pains of the authentic instruments mvts. Nevertheless it is a vital set and his totally eschewing it is authentic Svejda.

I have over the years, mostly a long time ago, learned a thing or two from Jimbo and his program tonight actually was most admirable except for this one point and including the lack of mention of any other knaben-solist recordings by anyone.

He absolutely loves the Scholl solo alto recordings and why not? He loves Coin's recordings and likes Kuijken's (as far from sanctimonious as you can get). Did he leave anyone out other than Richter, Werner, Scherchen, Prohaska, and Ramin?

Ten more minutes and I hope he mentions Richter.

Suzuki comes last in place but they rival the finest on the market albeit a little too reserved.

Very last in JEG and "DG's cold feet".

Scholl and Schlick the only singers singled out for praise. Will he do a program on Graupner soon?

Years ago he did a program on the ten best but never heard operas. A good few of them were worthy finds (although known to let us say "Collectors").

 

Gardiner & Suzuki Cantata Series

Vivat205 wrote (July 27, 2008):
Releases in both series seem to be overdue. There's no hint from BIS re Suzuki Vol. 40, and all SDG carries is the juvenile and condescending note, "News about future releases will be available very soon," as it has since the last release several months ago. Does anybody have any insights regarding the release schedules? And speaking of insights, does anybody with more smarts than I have know whether there's any "musico-historical" basis for what's contained in each SDG volume (other than, of course, that each represents a particular concert in the tour)?

 

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