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Rehearsing
Part 2

Continue from Part 1

French Emphasis on and German Lack of Rehearsals

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 1, 2007):
< Wolffgang Caspar Printz (1641-1717) from his "Musica modulatoria vocalis", 1678 as reported by Johann Mattheson in "Der vollkommene Capellmeister", Hamburg, 1739, p. 480, § 3:
"Vom Amte des Directors werde ich hier nichts sagen. Der Director regieret die gantze Musik; erwehlet die Stücke, so musiciret werden sollen; theilet aus die Stimmen oder ,partes'; ordnet die ,Subdirectores' mit ihren untergebenen Chören an ihre Stellen; formirt den Tact, und sorget um alles dasjenige, was erfordert wird, daß ein zierlich-gesetztes musikalisches Stück seinen rechten Zweck und ,effect' erreiche."
("I will not say anything here about the office (and duties) of a conductor (musical director). The director/conductor is in charge of all aspects of music-making: he selects the pieces which are to be performed, he hands out the parts, determines which assistant conductors will be conducting in which venues the choirs assigned to them, designates which tempi are to be used, and in general is concerned about all the things that are necessary so that a graceful, musical composition will attain its proper purpose and have the right effect.")
[Although this commentary on what is expected of good conductors of music is rather short, it is nevertheless remarkable in that no mention at all is made of the preparation or rehearsal of the music to be performed. >

It also doesn't mention other duties of the conductor, such as:
- making sure the right instrumentalists or vocalists are available;
- making sure the instruments are brought to the gig;
- making sure the instruments were in tune;
- telling the musicians when to show up;
- coming up with a seating or standing plan for the ensemble;
- getting the parts prepared;
- catching any errors in the parts before they're handed out;
- making any sort of gestures to indicate musical expression;
- visiting the venue ahead of time to plan the gig;
- getting the musicians to perform with proper balance;
- helping the musicians to get along with one another personally;
- attending the performance himself.

So, according to your illogical presentation here (i.e. assuming that a properly exhaustive list of duties has been presented, and rehearsal wasn't mentioned, so maybe didn't exist...), apparently those other things probably didn't happen either. If your argument were valid, in the wiping out of rehearsals according to this single smoking-gun piece of evidence, all that other stuff should be wiped out too.

As for "all the things that are necessary so that a graceful, musical composition will attain its proper purpose and have the right effect" ... that's an obvious purpose of the rehearsal process.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 2, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>It [the very short quotation from a book by Printz] also doesn't mention other duties of the conductor, such as:...[long list of conductor activities before a performance]
So, according to your illogical presentation here (i.e. assuming that a properly exhaustive list of duties has been presented, and rehearsal wasn't mentioned, so maybe didn't exist...), apparently those other things probably didn't happen either. If your argument were valid, in the wiping out of rehearsals according to this single smoking-gun piece of evidence, all that other stuff should be wiped out too.
As for "all the things that are necessary so that a graceful, musical composition will attain its proper purpose and have the right effect" ... that's an obvious purpose of the rehearsal process.<<

There is nothing 'illogical' in my presentation, the purpose of which is to uncover the actual historical situation which prevailed in Germany at the beginning of the 18th century. The fact that rehearsals are not mentioned at all, even in Printz's short description of a conductor's duties, can be understood as supporting the notion that they were unimportant or at least not as important as those items which were ennumerated by Printz. Coming to an understanding about this in this manner is much better than your shotgun approach listing the numerous duties of conductors from a later century one by one and presuming thereby to speak the truth about a certain area in Germany at the beginning of the 18th century. Working backwards in time by stating that everything back then must be the same as it is now because that is how we do things today may be fraught with even greater potential for error unless historical evidence (or historical clues pointing in a certain direction) is taken into consideration.

I am trying to uncover some of this historical evidence and give it a possible, reasonable interpretation.

Is not more important to emphasize the significance of Kusser as a conductor who was 'charging at the windmills' in Germany after he had accepted from Lully in body and soul the French method of preparing musicians for a concert:

1. he coached each singer and instrumentalist privately until they had practically learned their part by heart

2. in full rehearsal or in public performance, he expected absolute perfection from his musicians or else he would reduce them to tears with possibly only a fierce glance in their direction.

Mattheson, many years later, in 1739 reflects on Kusser's methods and holds them up as good examples to follow. What this means to me is that Mattheson, in 1713 when he described German musicians scoffing at the French method of rehearsals culminating in their presentation of music performed with the greatest precision/accuracy, is pointing out a weakness in this regard among German conductors and their ensembles. This is reiterated by Mattheson in 1739 with Kusser as a potential model to cure what Mattheson sees as an 'illness' undermining German performances of music generally. A little later on, in a section, which I still want to present here, Mattheson, in 1739, laments the fact that there were at that time cantors in Germany who themselves were not able to sing at all! Truly musicianship seemed to be declining in Germany, if we take Mattheson's word for this. One cure which Mattheson will recommend is some time spent in rehearsals to improve the situation. With Mattheson, we could be observing general increase in the need for rehearsals (in the first 40 years of the 18th century in Germany), a period which begins with few (or no) rehearsals (possibly the level of musicianship was higher at this earlier point in time because there were more and better-trained musicians available) but one which continues to erode (Bach's Entwurff also seems to describe this decline musically gifted Thomaner entering the school each year) toward the middle of the century. I am certain that many factors were involved in bringing about this general decline which Mattheson attempts to remediate by suggesting that German musicians should stop looking down at rehearsals as an unnecessary evil. But certainly, by pointing out that there were cantors who were unable to sing, he is demonstrating at least one factor which was influencing a decline that could be obviated by having more rehearsals.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 2, 2007):
< There is nothing 'illogical' in my presentation, the purpose of which is to uncover the actual historical situation which prevailed in Germany at the beginning of the 18th century. >
The purpose of "uncovering" the "actual historical situation" is a noble one. But, the methodology is flawed: searching your books to find triumphantly what they DO NOT say, and then interpreting that lacuna in a self-serving way: to be somehow evidence of they allegedly didn't do, as working musicians.

That is: you're basing your argument on LACK of evidence. That's what my list of a dozen other conducting duties pointed out: if your argument had merit in somehow "proving" they didn't rehearse, it "proves" in exactly the same way that the conductor didn't even show up for the performance (and the other duties in the list, similarly).

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 2, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>The purpose of "uncovering" the "actual historical situation" is a noble one. But, the methodology is flawed: searching your books to find triumphantly what they DO NOT say, and then interpreting that lacuna in a self-serving way: to be somehow evidence of things they allegedly didn't do, as working musicians. That is: you're basing your argument on LACK of evidence. That's what my list of a dozen other conducting duties pointed out: if your argument had merit in somehow "proving" they didn't rehearse, it "proves" in exactly the same way that the conductor didn't even show up for the performance (and the other duties in the list, similarly).<<
There is no lacuna in Mattheson's statement from 1713, one which you perhaps would wish that it could disappear by simply ignoring it. That statement makes quite clear the difference between the French method of preparing music for public performance and the common attitude on the part of German musicians that such rehearsals amounting to learning a piece by rote in order to attain perfection are not necessary for a reasonably good performance.

To avoid leveling unwarranted criticism against the quotations which I shared, it would indeed help if you read the second one on Kusser's contrasting French style of preparing for rehearsals, having rehearsals and actual public performance of any given work (in this instance, the spotlight is more on preparing an opera for performance).

There is also a change indicated by Mattheson's later statement (1739) where his concern is focused on the general state/quality of musical performances in Germany (with the exception, of course, of those particularly favored, highest-paid musicians). Certainly Bach may have begun to experience some of this during the last twenty years of his life.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 2, 2007):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote to Bradley Lerhman:
< Given what you write below, it seems to me you might have missed the following from Thomas' post, to which you were presumably replying:
(...) [Thomas:]
Mattheson, many years later, in 1739 reflects on Kusser's methods and holds them up as good examples to follow.(...)
[Cara again:]
I hope you will not let any personal disagreement between you and Thomas put you in the compromising position of reading only the first paragraph of what he says, and then proceeding to reply. If you find his writing so offensive as to only want to read the first paragraph (or not even that), then by all means, if I were in your shoes I probably wouldn't read the whole post either. But may I make bold to suggest that in such circumstances, it may be better to withhold comment concerning the offending post? >
Cara, take another look. My reply was principally to his first posting of the day (it says he actually posted it before midnight his time yesterday), which started this thread. What you've quoted here comes from his second one.

His first one, which had nothing about Mattheson approving any of that stuff (and I did read all of it, even the New Grove bits he clipped into there as the second half): http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/22923
NB: the humongous unbroken paragraphs along with his editorializations make it difficult to read, but I plowed through!

And my reply to it, late afternoon today, where I pointed out a dozen other things that also weren't mentioned as conducting duties: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/22928

After which he pulled in his horns and offered this Mattheson cheerleading: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/22930

And then I clarified and restated my same main point with my second posting, the one you're now chiding me on: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/22931

And that's all I've seen, until yours just now.

The offending post, in my opinion, remains the first one of this thread: the one that puts up this Prinz-and-Kusser business as if it's the smoking gun, to prove that people in Germany typically didn't rehearse; and that if they did try to rehearse, like Kusser, they just got frustrated, couldn't hold a steady job, and eventually left the country. Thomas put it like this, in that first posting:

< In Germany, wherever Kusser tried to introduce the French custom of long and many rehearsals along with a goal of absolute perfection in performance, he met with strong resistance. He never stayed in any place very long. Eventually he left for England in 1704 and then later for Ireland where he died. >
He bolstered that with the further bit from Grove:

< One also learns from Walther that ‘because of his volatile and fiery temperament he was unable to remain long in one place’. >
(And Kusser continues to be cast as a primarily quarrelsome musician.)

I took, from this, Thomas's apparent opinion that people with more sense didn't even try to rehearse, normally, because they'd just end up like that dude: frustrated because the German musicians didn't see things that way.

Which is his own foregone conclusion, to be somehow proven using stuff like this.

See what I mean, now?

And: the "personal disagreement between you and Thomas", as you've put it, is (to me) that he makes up impractical and absurd things against serious work by musicians, and then he argues things into the ground for
weeks; never admitting even the possibility that musicians know what we're talking about. In a nutshell, that's it.

And he's started yet another thread here, to beat his same dead horse that he believes Germans (and by extension, Bach) went into performances of difficult music cheerfully sight-reading the lot. Music that real musicians insist would take a minimum of several days (or better, weeks) to work up to a decent level, presenting a whole cantata from start to finish in a church service. As experienced professionals of this very repertoire and style! His thread, once again and again and again and again, is that Bach's teenagers could somehow do all this stuff better than modern specialists, and without rehearsal, to boot; and that Bach not only tolerated this, but cultivated it!

Absurd. Ab-surd. Ab-SURD!

Chris Rowson wrote (March 2, 2007):
Rehearsal

Only a non-musician could believe they did not rehearse.

Think how fine JSB“s writing is, and then think that 50 times a year he heard that music played once, unrehearsed, after which it was put away for years. Only to be taken out again to be performed by a largely different set of singers and players, again unrehearsed.

Musicians rehearse because the performance is better after rehearsal. Not to rehearse would be disrespect to the Divine Service, and soul-destroying for the composer.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (March 2, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< I took, from this, Thomas's apparent opinion that people with more sense didn't even try to rehearse, normally, because they'd just end up like that dude: frustrated because the German musicians didn't see things that way.
Which is his own foregone conclusion, to be somehow proven using stuff like this.
See what I mean, now?
And: the "personal disagreement between you and Thomas", as you've put it, is (to me) that he makes up impractiand absurd things against serious work by musicians, and then he argues things into the ground for weeks; never admitting even the possibility that musicians know what we're talking about. In a nutshell, that's it.
And he's started yet another thread here, to beat his same dead horse that he believes Germans (and by extension, Bach) went into performances of difficult music cheerfully sight-reading the lot. Music that real musicians insist would take a minimum of several days (or better, weeks) to work up to a decent level, presenting a whole cantata from start to finish in a church service. As experienced professionals of this very repertoire and style! His thread, once again and again and again and again, is that Bach's teenagers could somehow do all this stuff better than modern specialists, and without rehearsal, to boot; and that Bach not only tolerated this, but cultivated it!
Absurd. Ab-surd. Ab-SURD! >
I took a different message from the Mattheson quotes he cited. I think those quotes do provide some sort of evidence that the Germans did a lot less rehearsing than the French back in Bach's day. But at the same time, they also show that this practice (or rather lack thereof) did have a deleterious effect on the quality of the German performances. See, it is one thing to claim that there were no rehearsals, or almost none, and quite another to claim that this is how things were done AND that the performance did not suffer because of it. I don't see such a claim as the latter being made here (maybe it has been made in the past, but if so, it must be among the couple thousand BCML posts I have yet to read ;;) ).

Shawn Charton wrote (March 2, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Music that real musicians insist would take a minimum of several days (or better, weeks) to work up to a decent level, presenting a whole cantata from start to finish in a church service. As experienced professionals of this very repertoire and style! His thread, once again and again and again and again, is that Bach's teenagers could somehow do all this stuff better than modern specialists, and without rehearsal, to boot; and that Bach not only tolerated this, but cultivated it!
Absurd. Ab-surd. Ab-SURD! >
First off, the flaw I find in your logic (which is absolutely logical) is that while Bach's music IS hard, you're looking at it through the eyes of modern musicians who are required to know 400 years worth of musical concept along with Mr. Bach's. If the only thing you ever sing is Bach, his music gets exponentially easier both to read and to perform. (even for teenagers) In a LOT of ways, Bach was a VERY inventive one trick pony >collective gasp< which is why he was eventually called "old Bach" by the likes of Frederich the Great.

I also find GREAT merit that, while Bach may have taken his music very seriously, the powers that be at his church gigs probably just thought of it as servicable music... thus it follows that the performances weren't (and weren't expected to be) the most polished and phenominal performances ever. Reports ABOUND about first performances that basically suck, (just off the top of my head - Brahms Requiem premier...) If I recall, the first seeds of true synchronized performances and GOOD rehearsal techniques happened with the Mannheim orchestra. That is why Mannheim is so famous... and yet, Bach stands on his own merits in posterity - NOT the merits of his fine performances...

I'm also recalling his general reputation for being cantankerous, for instance the "nanny goat bassoonist" incident, which would lead me to believe that Bach was rarely satisfied with the quality of the performances of his music. Wasn't Bach better known as an organist and a composer than a choir master?? Who in the world sits around and thinks, "Boy, that choir at Thomas Kirche... now THAT'S something..." We simply cannot make the assumption that great music has always been performed to exceedingly high standards. This raises the statement that great music, however it is performed, is STILL great music and is thus impressive. That's all I have to say... so, back to beating the horse if you wish...

Respectfully,

P.S. sorry about the obnoxious blue line... I can't get rid of it.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 2, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<< And he's started yet another thread here, to beat his same dead horse that he believes Germans (and by extension, Bach) went into performances of difficult music cheerfully sight-reading the lot. Music that real musicians insist would take a minimum of several days (or better, weeks) to work up to a decent level, presenting a whole cantata from start to finish in a church service. >>
Cara Emily Thornton wrote:
< I took a different message from the Mattheson quotes he cited. I think those quotes do provide some sort of evidence that the Germans did a lot less rehearsing than the French back in Bach's day. >
I previously cited a few sentences from Ledbetter's WTC text, in the context of Bach's relation to equal temperament. I omitted the following statement as unnecessarily contentious. It does seem appropriate here, relevant to the risk of relying on Mattheson as the ultimate, or single, authority on any topic:

<Unlike Bach, Mattheson keeps us copiously informed in theoretical publications about the development of his ideas. Being a contentious spirit he is not above taking sides variously in the same argument, so it is sometimes difficult to tell in what direction, if any, his real opinions lie. [...] Most organ builders are unable to tune it [Neidhardt's 1706 tuning], but although Mattheson says that it may be done on the harpsichord, it seems unlikely that he had achieved it himself since he says two years later that he had never found it outside of Neidhardt's book. <end quote>

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 2, 2007):
I wrote:
< The purpose of "uncovering" the "actual historical situation" is a noble one. But, the methodology is flawed: searching your books to find triumphantly what they DO NOT say, and then interpreting that lacuna in a self-serving way: to be somehow evidence of things they allegedly didn't do, as working musicians.
That is: you're basing your argument on LACK of evidence. That's what my list of a dozen other conducting duties pointed out: if your argument had merit in somehow "proving" they didn't rehearse, it "proves" in exactly the same way that the conductor didn't even show up for the performance (and the other duties in the list, similarly). >
Let me try this just one more time: to point out that the main problem here is a LOGICAL one, and not about rehearsal (per se) one way or the other! It's a problem in misuse of the source material, and faulty argumentation drawn from that.

**> One cannot pluck out some historical source and force it to deliver reliable information about what did not happen, based on what it did not mention! <**

Here is an even more mundane example of that principle, which I hope shouldn't confuse anybody. Set all musicianship and rehearsals aside, because they're distracting away from this point. Look at the specification of Bach's estate, on pages 250-256 in the New Bach Reader. It is a straightforward document, listing categories of Bach's possessions and their monetary value at Bach's death.

This roster of his possessions, in the clothing and linen sections, enumerates: 1 silver dagger, 1 stick with silver mounting, 1 pair silver shoe buckles, 1 coat of gros de tour, 1 funeral coat, 1 cloth coat, and 11 linen shirts. That is all.

Should we mistakenly interpret this document -- Bach's evaluated estate -- as "proof" that Bach ordinarily had no use (or possession) of trousers, stockings, shoes, undergarments, gloves, wigs, and/or hats? Or, only that these other things -- all or several -- were too ordinary to get separate evaluation?

The estate also doesn't mention that Bach owned any copies of music by himself or anyone else, except for one eight-volume h. It doesn't mention any other unbound papers either. Does this omission constitute any type of proof that Bach didn't retain copies of anything he had ever written?

Obviously, no. And that's the point: a document such as this (even an official and legal one as this) can't be forced to say reliably what was not there, on what it doesn't mention.

=====

In the same way, the little WC Printz thing cited about conducting duties, in its non-mention of rehearsal, does not prove that rehearsal wasn't an ordinary and unmentioned part of the job. That's the document, in Thomas's presentation on Wednesday night, that started this thread down its illogical path.

This is Thomas's presentation plus his illogical conclusion drawn from it:
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/22923
[Printz/Mattheson as translated by Thomas:]
< ("I will not say anything here about the office (and duties) of a conductor (musical director). The director/conductor is in charge of all aspects of music-making: he selects the pieces which are to be performed, he hands out the parts, determines which assistant conductors will be conducting in which venues the choirs assigned to them, designates which tempi are to be used, and in general is concerned about all the things that are necessary so that a graceful, musical composition will attain its proper purpose and have the right effect.") >
[Thomas then explicated his own opinion immediately with that:]
< [Although this commentary on what is expected of good conductors of music is rather short, it is nevertheless remarkable in that no mention at all is made of the preparation or rehearsal of the music to be performed. This might confirm Mattheson’s own statement (1713) about German musicians scoffing at the French with their emphasis on very frequent rehearsals to the point of actually memorizing the music before finally playing/singing it in public. German musicians (and conductors) did not feel a strong obligation to provide for rehearsals in advance of performances (operas, of course, being the exception with staging and choreography that needed to be coordinated with the orchestra)]. >
So, because rehearsal wasn't mentioned in this short list, that's somehow proof that it wasn't an ordinary occurrence? BZZT. And using this particular Printz/Mattheson source as proof-text, with things it doesn't mention? BZZT.

"German musicians (and conductors) did not feel a strong obligation to provide for rehearsals"...that's 100% pure Thomas Braatz, building his own polemical opinion (and illogically generalized conclusions) on misuse of that Printz/Mattheson source.

p.s. I see that Bach did have "1 sugar bowl with spoons" evaluated at more than the total all three of his listed violas!

Alain Bruguieres wrote (March 2, 2007):
Since the rehearsal theme pops up again in our discussions, and I find it very interesting, I have looked up in the Entwurff. After all, this is Bach speaking, so why not give it a try? I did find a passage which - in my opinion - sheds light on this question.

Since I only have the Enfwurff in French translation (in Gille Cantagrel's book 'Bach en son temps'), I have consulted Thomas who has very kindly provided me with the German text as well as the English translation.

Here is the German text:

Bach-Dokumente I, "Eingabe an den Rat der Stadt Leipzig" Leipzig, August 23, 1730 [known in English as the "Entwurff"] Item 22, p. 63

Es is ohne dem etwas Wunderliches, da man von denen teütschen Musicis praetendiret, Sie sollen capable seyn, allerhand Arthen von Music, sie komme nun aus Italien oder Franckreich, Engeland oder Pohlen, so fort ex tempore zu musiciren, wie es etwa die jenigen Virtuosen, vor die es gesetzet ist, und welche es lange vorhero studieret ja fast auswendig können, überdem auch quod notandum in schweren Solde stehen, deren Müh und Fleiß mithin reichlich belohnet wird, praestiren können; man solches doch nicht consideriren will, sondern läßet Sie ihrer eigenen Sorge über, da denn mancher vor Sorgen der Nahrung nicht dahin dencken kan, üm sich zu perfectionieren, noch weniger zu distinguiren.

Translation from The New Bach Reader, Norton, 1998, p. 150:

It is, anyhow, somewhat strange that German musicians are expected to be capable of performing at once and ex tempore all kinds of music, whether it come from Italy or France, England or Poland, just as may be done, say, by those virtuosos for whom the music is written and who have studied it long beforehand, indeed, know it almost by heart, and who, it should be noted, receive good salaries besides, so that their work and industry is thus richly rewarded; while, on the other hand, these are not taken into consideration, but they [German musicians] are left to look out for their own wants, so that many a one, for worry about his bread, cannot think of improving -- let alone distinguishing -- himself.

Now here is how I interpret this.

First of all one must recall the general drift of the Entwurff.

Bach is writing to his employers. He reports on the conditions in which he produces music. I assume that most of you know this text much better than I do so I won't give you a summary. The message is 'I am supposed to produce good music but the means at my disposal are not sufficient to achieve this goal.'

After a precise description of the means at his disposal and their inadequateness, comes a paragraph where Bach shifts the focus from the current conditions at Leipzig and speaks about music in more general terms.

Bach begins by remarking that the status of a musician has considerably changed recently. The level of the Art has risen, the public taste has changed drastically. In view of this evolution it is necessary to recruit of form high level musicians, and this means money.

Then comes the passage quoted above.

This is how I understand it. Bach is saying here that the standards of appreciation of a musical performance are changing, and suggesting that his employers are not aware of it.

Then he denounces the idea that German performers are able to play 'ex tempore' any form of music. Obviously he is accusing his employers of entertaining this idea, which he considers wrong. It is interesting to notice that we do have other testimonies showing that this idea corresponds to a certain reality - if not the reality of German music in Bach's time.

He says basically that a good performer who works/rehearses sufficiently produces better music than one who play 'ex tempore', and that the secret is: pay your musicians them adequately.

Now this does suggest that (and more than suggest, in fact, the whole paragraph would be pointless unless) Bach's musicians did play ex tempore, there were no rehearsals, or at least no rehearsal was considered necessary by Bach's employers, and consequently there was no budget for rehearsals.

Agreed, this is an interpretation. Still in view of this text it seems that even if Bach organized rehearsals, he would have done so by his own decision, without being payed for it, and he would have had to pay the musicians himself. I don't think he would have consented to that.

I would like to conclude this post by thanking the many list members who approach this discussion with an open mind, it takes an effort to accept ideas which go against the grain of one's personal experience. Julian's question about BWV 92 has lead to very rich exchanges and I'm very grateful to Cara for attempting experiments and sharing the results with us.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 2, 2007):
[Bach's "Entwurff":]
< Translation from The New Bach Reader, Norton, 1998, p. 150:
(...which is only a slight update of the English translation from the original Bach Reader of 1945 and 1966; page 123 in the 1966 version, where there was more of the Lthat got replaced in 1998...)
It is, anyhow, somewhat strange that German musicians are expected to be capable of performing at once and ex tempore all kinds of music, whether it come from Italy or France, England or Poland, just as may be done, say, by those virtuosos for whom the music is written and who have studied it long beforehand, indeed, know it almost by heart, and who, it should be noted, receive good salaries besides, so that their work and industry is thus richly rewarded; while, on the other hand, these are not taken into consideration, but they [German musicians] are left to look out for their own wants, so that many a one, for worry about his bread, cannot think of improving -- let alone distinguishing -- himself. >
And here's that whole paragraph (not merely that middle section), in the newer English translation as printed on page 169 of Andrew Parrott's book, The Essential Bach Choir (2000). The original German version of that paragraph is given on page 165-6. The new translation is exactly as given here, including the [bracketed] bits:

"But as the current state of music is now quite different in nature from before, [and as] artistry has progressed very much [and] taste [has] changed astonishingly -- such that music of the former kind no longer sounds [good] to our ears and [such that] one is all the more in need of considerable assistance, so that subjecta can be chosen and appointed who can assimilate current musical taste, get to grips with the new kinds of music, [and] thus be in a position to satisfy the composer and do justice to his work -- [now, despite all these changes,] the few beneficia, which should have been increased rather than reduced, have been completely withdrawn from the chorus musicus. It is, anyhow, rather odd that German musicians are expected to be capable of immediately performing at sight music of all kinds, whether from Italy or France, England or Poland, just as, perhaps, can those virtuosi for whom it is written and who have studied it long beforehand, [who] indeed know it almost from memory, [and] who moreover, it should be noted, are also in receipt of solid wages, with which their pains and diligence are richly rewarded. These things, though, are not given any consideration; rather, they [i.e. German musicians] are left to fend for themselves, so that many a one, out of [sheer] concern for his livelihood, cannot think of improving -- let along distinguishing -- himself. To illustrate this point one only has to go to Dresden and see what sort of salaries the musicians there receive from His Royal Majesty. It cannot fail, since the musicians are relieved of concern for their livelihood, chagrin is left behind, [and] moreover each person also has to master only a single instrument; it must be [an] exquisite and excellent [thing] to hear. The conclusion is accordingly easy to draw, that with the stopping of the beneficia my power to put the musical ensemble into a better state is removed."

Bach's main point here, I think, is not about rehearsal; but rather about the requirement that German musicians have to work within all kinds of foreign styles in addition to the German music...and all within an inadequate pay scale, let alone opportunity to go improve oneself [through enough financial security to have time to practice, rehearse, and learn!]. Not only foreign-styled music, but new music; not something that one can simply pull up from memory of previous years of work. He compares: the Dresden professionals on pension have it easy, with plenty of money and dedicated time to work on their music well, next to the intolerable situation that Bach has to deal with. And the Italian, French, English, and Polish virtuosi also have the luxury of performing music they've already worked up and/or memorized, [through adequate rehearsal and performance opportunities;] whereas Bach has to put up with insufficient time and money to get his job done, with the musicians available to work with him -- a group that's largely made of students, and moreover, some of them having to master more than one instrument! The stinginess of Bach's employers is only making matters worse rather than better: where "better" would be having the time and money [to rehearse adequately and to work on all these styles, along with the requirement of using new-styled music rather than conservative and easier stuff].

p.s. Here's an American Express commercial, using the song "Gimme Some Money" by Spinal Tap (aka The Thamesmen)...and used as if the song is no longer satirical! http://youtube.com/watch?v=uLYk0CgxQbM

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 2, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>One cannot pluck out some historical source and force it to deliver reliable information about what did not happen, based on what it did not mention!<<
Just as one cannot presume, based upon methods used today to achieve a goal, that 'if we do it this way today, they also must have done it the same way three centuries ago in a different cultural setting.'

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 2, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] Not "the same" way, but at least roughly similar ways: like having musicians actually take music lessons to learn their craft, instead of merely flipping open books. And learning ensemble pieces of music by practicing them at least once as a group. And requiring people who teach music (and related topics) to have demonstrable skills in doing what they teach.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (March 2, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thank you for giving us the English translation of the whole paragraph, which I had read only in French.

Your interpretation of the whole paragraph I largely agree with; however by quoting the whole thing you have subtly removed the focus from the particular passage I wished to highlight.

Bach did write the following sentence:

It is, anyhow, rather odd that German musicians are expected to be capable of immediately performing at sight music of all kinds, whether from Italy or France, England or Poland, just as, perhaps, can those virtuosi for whom it is written and who have studied it long beforehand, [who] indeed know it almost from memory, [and] who moreover, it should be noted, are also in receipt of solid wages, with which their pains and diligence are richly rewarded. These things, though, are not given any consideration; ...
[The last bit may apply to your treatment of this passage;)]

This may not be Bach's main point in your opinion. However Bach did make this point and this seems relevant to our present discussions.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 3, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Not "the same" way, but at least roughly similar ways: like having musicians actually take music lessons to learn their craft, instead of merely flipping open books. And learning ensemble pieces of music by practicing them at least once as a group. And requiring people who teach music (and related topics)to have demonstrable skills in doing what they teach.<<
Not necessarily 'roughly similar' ways, but possibly ways which differed considerably in regard to the way music was learned/taught and the different attitude generally held by German musicians (with the exception of the few highly paid individuals) compared to French musicians toward frequent repetition of a single piece of music, in essence practically memorizing the music, with a number of rehearsals to ensure a performance which was entirely 'accurat' in every respect. I would say that today's attitude toward public performance, particularly by very highly trained and/or professional musicians of note, tends much more toward the French attitude prevalent at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century. I would also emphasize the difference between a single performance of a composition in Bach's time where Bach's musicians/singers rarely played/sang the same piece of music more than once or twice during a lifetime and the current experience (going back to the last half of the 18th century) in which concentration on a generally accepted repertoire of certain woimplies a repeated return to certain compositions which process in itself causes fierce competition among musicians (and demands by the listening public) because ever higher standards of precision and expression are required each time a new performance of such a work is presented to the public.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 3, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< I would also emphasize the difference between a single performance of a composition in Bach's time where Bach's musicians/singers rarely played/sang the same piece of music more than once or twice during a lifetime and the current experience (going back to the last half of the 18th century) in which concentration on a generally accepted repertoire of certain works implies a repeated return to certain compositions which process in itself causes fierce competition among musicians (and demands by the listening public) >
This is simply not true. There was a standard repertoire but it was not Bach's music. The core repertoire was the sequence of 16th - 18th century Latin and German motets which Bach's choirs sang every day of the year. For the entire time of his tenure in Leipzig, the choirs probably sang more Lassus than Bach. The music was so well-used that Bach had to order new copies.

Together with the chorale books, this was the music that Bach performed most often. Just like modern choirs (gasp!), Bach' choirs probably followed a fairly familiar sequence of music through the church year, and, like choirs today, they probably anticipated that a particularly fine piece was coming up. The four choirs had a graded repertoire that was the basis of their musical education.

The cantatas were a small part of the choir's work -- 20 minutes in 3-4 hour service. They were the new part of the service, just as the sermons were new. Bach repeated them so rarely precisely because they were not the
standard repertoire of his choirs. The whole purpose of the five-year cantata project (if it was an integrated project) was to have some something new all the time -- Bach judged that 5 years probably ensured that congregations felt they were hearing something new every week.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 3, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>And here's that whole paragraph (not merely that middle section)...<<
"Da nun aber der itzige status musices gantz anders weder ehedem beschaffen, die Kunst üm sehr viel gestiegen, der gusto sich verwunderens-würdig geändert, dahero auch die ehemalige Arth von Music unseren Ohren nicht mehr klingen will, und mann üm so mehr einer erklecklichen Beyhülffe benöthiget ist, damit solche subjecta choisiret und bestellet werden können, so den itzigen musicalischen gustum assequiren, die neüen Arthen der Music bestreiten, mithin im Stande seyn können, dem Compositori und dessen Arbeit satisfaction | zu geben, hat man die wenigen beneficia, so ehe hätten sollen vermehret als verringert werden, dem Choro Musico gar entzogen. Es ist ohne dem etwas Wunderliches, da man von denen teütschen Musicis praetendiret, Sie sollen capable seyn, allerhand Arthen von Music, sie komme nun aus Italien oder Franckreich, Engeland oder Pohlen, so fort ex tempore zu musiciren, wie es etwa die jenigenVirtuosen, vor die es gesetzet ist, und welche es lange vorhero studieret ja fast auswendig können, überdem auch quod notandum in schweren Solde stehen, deren Müh und Fleiß mithin reichlich belohnet wird, praestiren können; man solches doch nicht consideriren will, sondern läßet Sie ihrer eigenen Sorge über, da denn mancher vor Sorgen der Nahrung nicht dahin dencken kan, üm sich zu perfectionieren, noch weniger zu distinguiren. Mit einem exempel diesen Satz zu erweisen, darff man nur nach Dreßden gehen, und sehen, wie daselbst von Königlicher Majestät die Musici salariret werden; Es kann nicht fehlen, da denen Musicis die Sorge der | Nahrung benommen wird, der chagrin nachbleibet, auch überdem iede Persohn nur ein eintziges Instrument zu excoliren hat, es muß was trefliches und excellentes zu hören seyn. Der Schluß ist demnach leicht zu finden, daß bey ceßirenden beneficiis mir die Kräffte benommen werden, die Music in besseren Stand zu setzen."

97 words in the 1st sentence and 108 words in the second, 60 in the third, 23 in the last! Bach could compose some really long sentences!

This is what Bach is really saying here:

"The current state of music composed for public performances is quite different from what it had once been. More artistry is now demanded in both the composition and performance of such music. This is due to the fact that the public taste (demand for a certain type of music) has changed so that the older music does not sound right anymore. For this newer type of music we need more than just the measly amount of money that is now being paid so that appropriately talented boys can be selected. For performances given now, these boys will need to master all different kinds of compositional styles composed according to this new taste so that the composer, for all the time and effort he has put into composing such music, can be satisfied with the results. However, instead of supporting such efforts at providing new and better music by increasing funds to support the Primary Choir, the City Council has even reduced them! It is anyhow somewhat astonishing to expect from German musicians that they should be capable of performing immediately at sight [as is normally customary here in Leipzig with the primary choir], all [other] types of music, whether this music originates from Italy, France, England, or Poland, the same way [to the same degree of perfection] that those virtuosi [like those in Dresden] do. The latter virtuosi accomplish this high-level performance by studying the music for a long time beforehand until they practically know it by heart. Besides this, they are richly compensated for their efforts. This is, however, not the case here where the City Council does not even want to consider paying musicians any more money for their greater efforts [for which they would then practice such required music more assiduously, engage in numerous rehearsals and learn the music by heart the same way that well-paid virtuosi do now.] Instead the City Council simply allows some of the Thomaner to be so concerned about where their next meal will come from that they have no time to devote themselves toward perfecting their musical abilities, or even less so to distinguish themselves in this regard. This idea can be proven with one example: you need only go to Dresden to see how His Royal Majesty provides good salaries to his musicians. There you cannot miss achieving the highest goals in music-making, since the musicians do not have to worry about their daily sustenance and thus the anger or annoyance over being concerned about these things is avoided. It should also be noted in addition that every one of these Dresden musicians is specialized in a single instrument and does not need to switch from one to another in the course of a single performance or to play a different instrument one week, but another the next. It must be great to hear outstanding and excellent performances such as those given by these Dresden virtuosi! Accordingly, the conclusion that can be easily reached is that with the cessation of the usual monies that had been previously paid by the City Council, I will be deprived of the higher quality of musician that I require in order to improve the conditions surrounding the performances of figural music in the churches of Leipzig."

Alain Bruguieres wrote (March 3, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] In your last rejoinder to Thomas, you very cleverly mix up two completely undisputable general facts with one debatable opinion:

Brad Lehman wrote::
< Not "the same" way, but at least roughly similar ways:
like having musicians actually take music lessons to learn their craft, instead of merely flipping open books.
Obviously, of all times, true,and of all human occupations. >
< And requiring people who teach music (and related topics) to have demonstrable skills in doing what they teach. >
Here again true of all times, of any form of teaching.

< And learning ensemble pieces of music by practicing them at least once as a group. >
Here, however, it is an opinion that you state, somewhat ambiguously: do you mean that the only way of learning is that? or that one possible way of learning is that? If you mean the latter, the statement is tautological; I must assume that you mean the former. I don't know if what you assert here is true or false, and in fact I believe that this very assertion is based on a preconceived idea.

You talk about learning ensemble pieces. If you mean 'learning to perform a certain piece in an manner as close to perfection as one can achieve', I think you are correct, and this is what is expected of a professional musician now. But taking things from a more universal point of view, people do not ask musicians to learn pieces, they just ask for music. I very much doubt that Bach's performers ever said to themselves 'So this week, we learn BWV 66?'.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 3, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
<< I would also emphasize the difference between a single performance of a composition in Bach's time where Bach's musicians/singers rarely played/sang the same piece of music more than once or twice during a lifetime and the current experience (going back to the last half of the 18th century) in which concentration on a generally accepted repertoire of certain works implies a repeated return to certain compositions which process in itself causes fierce competition among musicians (and demands by the listening public) >>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< This is simply not true. There was a standard repertoire but it was not Bach's music. The core repertoire was the sequence of 16th - 18th century Latin and German motets which Bach's choirs sang every day of the year. For the entire time of his tenure in Leipzig, the choirs probably sang more Lassus than Bach. The music was so well-used that Bach had to order new copies.
Together with the chorale books, this was the music that Bach performed most often. Just like modern choirs (gasp!), Bach' choirs probably followed a fairly familiar sequence of music through the church year, and, like choirs today, they probably anticipated that a particularly fine piece was coming up. >
And perhaps took some comfort in the knowledge that small errors were not likely to be noticed in a new piece? Especially in some of those twelve-tone recitatives (if 'twelve-tone' has any meaning before equal-temperament became entrenched).

< The four choirs had a graded repertoire that was the basis of their musical education.
The cantatas were a small part of the choir's work -- 20 minutes in 3-4 hour service. They were the new part of the service, just as the sermons were new. Bach repeated them so rarely precisely because they were not the standard repertoire of his choirs. The whole purpose of the five-year cantata project (if it was an integrated project) was to have some something new all the time -- Bach judged that 5 years probably ensured that congregations felt they were hearing something new every week. >
Nothing you haven't said before, I don't think, but it comes together concisely and irresistibly here. To me, anyway.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (March 3, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The cantatas were a small part of the choir's work -- 20 minutes in 3-4 hour service. They were the new part of the service, just as the sermons were new. Bach repeated them so rarely precisely because they were not the standard repertoire of his choirs. The whole purpose of the five-year cantata project (if it was an integrated project) was to have some something new all the time -- Bach judged that 5 years probably ensured that congregations felt they were hearing something new every week. >
Or perhaps they used a 5-year lectionary back then? (Nowadays, at least in Poland, they use a 6-year lectionary, the idea being to preach through (more or less) the entire Bible in 6 years).

Alain Bruguieres wrote (March 3, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] You do well to remind us that during religious services the cantata occupied only about 20 to 40 minutes, and other music was performed. When Bach applied for the post in Leipzig, he gave a 'probatory' cantata there (november 1722) and he took notes about the organization of religious services on the score. I only have the French translation of these notes, and I don't feel like translating them since most of you probably have access to a good English translation of these notes. Indeed lots of music was played, beside the cantata.

Douglas Cowling wrote:
< There was a standard repertoire but it was not Bach's music. The core repertoire was the sequence of 16th - 18th century Latin and German motets which Bach's choirs sang every day of the year. For the entire time of his tenure in Leipzig, the choirs probably sang more Lassus than Bach. The music was so well-used that Bach had to order new copies.
Together with the chorale books, this was the music that Bach performed most often. Just like modern choirs (gasp!), Bach' choirs probably followed a fairly familiar sequence of music through the church year, and, like choirs today, they probably anticipated that a particularly fine piece was coming up. The four choirs had a graded repertoire that was the basis of their musical education. >
Let me recall Bach's very words, in the translation posted by Brad:

But as the current state of music is now quite different in nature from before, [and as] artistry has progressed very much [and] taste [has] changed astonishingly -- such that music of the former kind no longer sounds [good] to our ears and [such that] one is all the more in need of considerable assistance, so that subjecta can be chosen and appointed who can assimilate current musical taste, get to grips with the new kinds of music, [and] thus be in a position to satisfy the composer and do justice to his work -- [now, despite all these changes,] the few beneficia, which should have been increased rather than reduced, have been completely withdrawn from the chorus musicus.

Isn't Bach talking precisely about this? He had to produce music from the old repertoire [the one you're referring to], and also due to the change in taste, he had to produce new music. The musical means he has at his disposal and the routine were perhaps good enough for the old repertoire, but not for the new kind of music. It was perhaps ok to expect an ex tempore performance of the old repertoire, but this is no longer acceptable with the new music, not, at any rate, in a manner which satisfies the composer and do justice to his work.

To me the meaning of this whole paragraph is pretty clear. Bach is saying that his music cannot be played properly if the musicians are not better payed, and do not have time (and are not payed) to work on the new music in advance.

A contrario this seems to me to be a rather clear indication that there were no rehearsals. Indeed if there had been rehearsals, this whole paragraph would be a completely unjustified attack on Bach's employers, and would have spoiled the whole message of the Entwurff. Let's recall that, even if Bach is in some sense pleading his own cause here, he was a musical expert of the highest reputation and he would never have stated or suggested things which were not factually correct.

Some time ago, a distinguished list member said that it was an insult to Bach's professionalism to suggest that he could have done without rehearsal. Here Bach is precisely saying basically that he feels insulted as a professional musician by the conditions in which his music is being performed. Things fit in nicely, don't they? ;)

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 3, 2007):
Alain Bruguières wrote:
< A contrario this seems to me to be a rather clear indication that there were no rehearsals. Indeed if there had been rehearsals,this whole paragraph would be a completely unjustified attack on Bach's employers, and would have spoiled the whole message of the Entwurff. >
I would suggest that Bach's employers were of two minds about the "new" music. The latest scholarship indicates that the council was divided between a faction which wanted a Cantor of the old school and a "court" faction which wanted a modern composer.

The Cantor faction may have been perfectly happy with the old familiar musical repertoire of motets and chorales and seen no reason to change the funding for more musicians and perhaps greater time given over to preparation. If it worked before, why change it?

As the Court faction's candidate, Bach clearly felt he had a mandate to change the music in Leipzig so that modern figural music, primarily the cantata, was promoted. That meant that accomplished musicians had to be engaged, and I would speculate that the new music made more demands on preparation time.

The Entwurff has always appeared to me less an artistic statement than a bureaucratic signal to the council that, if it had decided to raise the musical profile of Leipzig, then it had to know what personnel and time resources had to be funded and accomodated. This is a budget negotiation.

 

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