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Ripieni

 

 

The meaning of ripieni?

Dale Gedcke
wrote (May 19, 2004):
Recently there has been a recurring use of the term "ripieni" when referring to the voices specified by Bach. For example, on 5/19/04 Thomas Braatz wrote:

"They do, but only partially. If you listen carefully, you will hear some choral cantata mvts. with the solisti (obviously, the OVPP group) vs. the ripieni, remaining 2, 3, or 4 voices which fill in when called for in the score. There are other instances, choral mvts., where it can be assumed that the same procedure is called for."

The term "ripieni" is new to me. I checked a dictionary of modern Italian. The closest word I could find was:

ripieno: full; stuffed; filled; stuffing.

What is the historical meaning of "ripieni" in Baroque music? Did it refer to 'filling out' or 'stuffing' the music with the addition of many voices on the same part? That would appear to have a slightly different connotation than the term "tutti" (all) that Bach used. Although, the net result may have been the same. Was "ripieni" also used in place of "tutti" for orchestral accompaniment?

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 19, 2004):
Dale Gedcke wrote: < What is the historical meaning of "ripieni" in Baroque music? Did it refer to 'filling out' or 'stuffing' the music with the addition of many voices on the same part? That would appear to have a slightly different connotation than the term "tutti" (all) that Bach used. Although, the net result may have been the same. Was "ripieni" also used in place of "tutti" for orchestral accompaniment? >
It's from concerto grosso nomenclature: typically orchestral.

Concertino texture is one player per part (i.e. a small group of several soloists, each playing alone on a line of music).

That's contrasted with ripieno texture, in which more players are on each part (reading from the same music: giving the line a different tone color through this doubling).

The same distinction holds, if it's singers instead of players. Concertino = a group of vocal lines, each sung by one person. Ripieno = a group of vocal lines, each sung by more than one person.

Going from concertino to ripieno, or vice versa, is pretty much like adding or subtracting an organ stop at the same pitch. It's the same set of musical lines going along, but they simply sound fuller or thinner (not necessarily louder or softer!) depending on the deployment of sound sources on each part; giving the sound a different character.

=====

In a nutshell--but see Andrew Parrott's book The Essential Bach Choir to see the full development--the Rifkin/Parrott theory is: in Bach's own performance tradition, the group of concertist singers (soloists) was in a different position within the performing space, from any group of ripienist singers (if the piece even had any at all: being no more than optional, in most cases). That is, if there were any more than four singers, the extra people were NOT standing around the soloists reading over their shoulders from a single shared copy of each vocal part (a deployment asserted by early 20th century commentators without enough solid evidence). Instead of doubling part or all of the vocal line in a movement, such a ripieno group (if participating in the performance at all) was standing elsewhere, reading from their own set of parts; and such a separate set of parts for ripieno singers exists for fewer than 10% of the extant Bach vocal works.

That, along with a close reading of Bach's famous document in which he petitions his employers for more resources, suggests that the normal performances of Bach's music under his own direction had (in most cases) no more than four singers: that he wrote his music with the expectation that it would be performed by merely a concertino group of singers, and usually no ripieno (for all or parts of movements) unless he specified it with a separate set of the parts.

The difficulty of the vocal lines themselves further bolsters this line of reasoning: it's more practical to have a group of four good soloists deliver four difficult parts, than to try to get a larger group of singers all to deliver four difficult parts accurately, on very little rehearsal time. This also (incidentally) allows more flexibility of interpretation within each vocal line, since there doesn't have to be any agreement forced upon multiple performers of the same line (as there aren't any).

If any additional singers beyond the four of the concertino group also learned the parts, they were understudies (substitutes), not expected to sing along in performance as if it were "the more, the merrier", or to make the vocal lines louder against the orchestra (as if such doubling would even accomplish that at all).

But, I emphasize: read the book, don't just take my or anyone else's word for this.

That's all I intend to say on this topic, as that well-researched and well-written book is readily available.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 20, 2004):
Here is Johann Gottfried Walther’s definition of ‘Ripieno’ in his “Musicalisches Lexicon…” [Leipzig, 1732]:
‘Ripieno,’ plural ‘ripieni’ (Italian origin) a compound word made up of the parts ‘ri’ and ‘pieno’ [see definition of ‘pieno’ below] and meaning ‘with the full chorus/choir.’ It is often indicated in music notation as a single capital “R” [this abbreviation does not occur in Bach’s scores and parts]; it is also used to designate a vocal part and is usually put above such parts where there needs to be a ‘filling out’ or ‘strengthening’ [‘Verstärckung”] of the music.

‘Pieno,’ feminine form: ‘Piena’ from the Italian; in French: ‘Plein,’ ‘Rempli,’ or ‘Entier’; in German: ‘filled out entirely’ or ‘complete in every way’ for example: ‘Choro pieno’ is the full chorus, ‘Note piene’ the ‘filled-in’ or blackened notes that are not white (with open space in the note – half notes, whole notes, etc.) Sometimes it also refers to the emphasis upon or strength of a ‘consonance’ or of a chord – in this way people say that a fifth sounds stronger (more powerful) than an octave; that is to say, it has a stronger effect, it penetrates more and is more easily heard (perceived with the ability to distinguish it from other intervals or chords.

The New Grove [Oxford University Press, 2004] has the following definition:
>>(It.: ‘filled’).A term used to denote the tutti (or ‘concerto grosso’) in an orchestra performing music of the Baroque period, particularly the concerto repertory, in distinction to the solo group (the ‘concertino’); it is more rarely applied to vocal music (as to the boys’ choir in the first chorus of Bach’s St Matthew Passion). The direction ‘senza ripieni’ requires all players except those at the leading desks to be silent; it is commonly found in Handel’s extended vocal works. The term ‘ripienista’ designates an orchestral player who is not a leader or soloist. ‘Ripieno’ occurs in various corrupt forms (‘ripiano’, ‘repiano’) in band repertories, to denote players (particularly clarinettists and cornet players in military bands) not at the leading desk.<<

[Remember, yesterday we saw a single instance in the cantatas where Bach used the terms 'con/senza ripieni.']

Bach, in his letter “Eingabe an den Rat der Stadt Leipzig” dated Leipzig, August 23, 1730 speaks of his vocalists being divided into ‘Concertisten’ [the ‘section leaders’ who also function as soloists] and the ‘Ripienisten’ [the ‘fill’ voices needed for a full chorus sound.] The ‘Concertisten’ are generally 4 in number but there can be as many as 8 of them [which may mean that there can be doubling of a single part using those voices deemed to be good enough to be section leaders.] The minimum number of vocalists per part (including the ‘Ripienisten’ at any of the Leipzig churches should be 3, but “it would be better to have at least 4 vocalists for each part so that each choir would then consist of at least 16 vocalists.” [“Zu iedweden musicalischen Chor gehören wenigstens 3 Sopranisten, 3 Altisten, 3 Tenoristen, und eben so viel Baßisten….wiewohin es noch beßer, wenn der Coetus so beschaffen wäre, daß mann ieder Stimme 4 subjecta nehmen, und also ieden Chor mit 16. Persohnen bestellen könnte.“] Hence, in Bach’s mind, the absolute minimum would be a choir of 12 voices, but 16 would definitely be better. Add to that the eyewitness account [shared in yesterday’s message] of someone who really heard and saw what Bach was doing during his church performances [Johann Matthias Gesner – who saw Bach usually directing 30 to 40 musicians in church] and the fact that the parts that Bach had prepared for these performances were read by more than simply a single singer, as Rifkin-Parrott would have it, then it should become quite clear that the bulk of Bach’s cantatas, oratorios, passions, masses, etc. were most likely not performed in OVPP style.



Bradley Lehman wrote (May 20, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < (...) Hence, in Bach’s mind, the absolute minimum would be a choir of 12 voices, but 16 would definitely be better. Add to that the eyewitness account [shared in yesterday’s message] of someone who really heard and saw what Bach was doing during his church performances [Johann Matthias Gesner who saw Bach usually directing 30 to 40 musicians in church] and the fact that the parts that Bach had prepared for these performances were read by more than simply a single singer, as Rifkin-Parrott would have it, then it should become quite clear that the bulk of Bach’s cantatas, oratorios, passions, masses, etc. were most likely not performed in OVPP style. >
Of course, there will always be some who claim to know what is in the Mind of Bach, and who believe themselves to be more astute and intelligent than the musicologically capable professionals are.

Charles Francis wrote (May 20, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < Of course, there will always be some who claim to know what is in the Mind of Bach, and who believe themselves to be more astute and intelligent than the musicologically capable professionals are. >
There are professional on both sides of the argument, though. On the one hand Rifkin (42 Bach publications) who is pro OVPP versus Stauffer (39 Bach publications) who is not convinced. Then what are the respective positions of Dürr (201 Bach publications) and Wolff (also 201 Bach publications)? And if you prefer to trust musicians with musicological credentials, there is Parrott (11 Bach Publications) who is pro OVPP versus Rilling (17 Bach publications) and Koopman (15 Bach publications) who are against. So, in my opinion, an astute and intelligent position is to consider OVPP an unproven theory. Of course, this in no way detracts from ones enjoyment of such performances (likewise Bach on accordion, synthesiser, guitar etc.).

Pierce Drew wrote (May 20, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < Of course, there will always be some who claim to know what is in the Mind of Bach, and who believe themselves to be more astute and intelligent than the musicologically capable professionals are. >
Whoa, hang on, everyone -- here we go again . . .

Is there any meat left on that dead horse?

Johan van Veen wrote (May 20, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] This must be an example of post-modern musicology. The debate is decided by the number of books the advocates of the respective arguments have written. And I always thought it was the quality of the arguments which counted. Silly me!

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 20, 2004):
References used:

Andrew Parrott “The Essential Bach Choir” [Boydell, 2000]
Arnold Schering “Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik” [Breitkopf & Härtel, 1936]

For those who would like to follow my commentaries, the above references are essential for verification.

Re: the use of illustrations to ‘prove’ how Bach performed his vocal works OVPP

Both Schering and Parrott [not Rifkin, as far as I know] make use of period illustrations to prove their points and both come to different conclusions about copy-sharing among the ‘Concertisten’ [‘Solo-singers’ and section leaders] and the Ripienisten/Ripieni. Parrott (pp. 54 ff.), as well as Koopman and Smithers, all maintain they can see different things in the now frequently appearing Friedrich Groschuff, 1710, illustration of a church music performance in one of the churches of Leipzig. They are not in agreement about what is shown in the picture. How can this be? There is a good reason for this:

Schering, who throughout his book goes into great detail regarding the physical space within the churches of Leipzig during Bach’s tenure there, had come to the realization that ‘what was actually seen back then is not what you get from looking at these illustrations today.’ These are not in any way to be understood as actual photographs of reality, a fact which seems amazing when the Baroque period was coming to an end and the Enlightenment was gradually taking on greater importance Schering was frustrated by these illustrations, and eventually resigned himself to the thought that (p. 56) Groschuff, in drawing the interior of what might seem to be the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, omitted depicting the organ balcony entirely in order to show the activity of Communion taking place at the main altar, this much to Schering’s dismay as he wanted to get a better idea of what Bach’s organ balcony might have looked like. Eventually, on p. 141, where Schering discusses both Groschuff’s illustration [in this instance, Parrott pp. 55, 121, see file location below] as well as the other only possibly viable illustration that appeared as a frontispiece to Johann Gottfried Walther’s “Musicalisches Lexicon…” [Leipzig, 1732 – also in file location below] and comes to the conclusion: “Aber weder der eine noch der andere Stich kann füt die Bachsche Praxis als verbindlich gelten“ [“But neither one of these engravings can be considered to be binding (meaning signifying anything clearly one way or the other) in regard to Bach’s performance practices.”] Elsewhere in the book, Schering laments the fact that another period illustrator of the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig had seemingly removed an entire section of pews, again, in order to achieve a perspective/view that had little to do with reality, but gave evidence of much more personal interest being projected into the scene so that large objects that must have existed at that time were simply removed because the interest of the artist lay elsewhere. So it could easily be the case that what Schering, Parrott, Koopman, Smithers, and scores of others are arguing about never did exist in the way it had been depicted. The illustrators of that time and place in Germany were still operating on the rules of pre-Renaissance art: take the necessary liberties to represent what is really important. Perhaps, as artists, they were far ahead of their time as well in not recording things as a camera would. There is, however, a very practical concern at work here as well. It was imperative for Groschuff and other engravers like him to focus on what was more important and not to clutter the engraving with many tiny human figures which might hardly be discernable. It would be more interesting to show just 4 overly large/tall singers (out of perspective) representing the 4 different vocal parts to give a representation of a choir at its bare minimum and still be able to show all the other instrumentalists rather than stuff the illustration full with many tiny, almost indistinguishable singers. In the Walther frontispiece, the conductor is shown turned around looking out toward the viewer rather than actually conducting the group that is playing/singing, and the list of incongruent viewpoints [artist’s view vs. photographic reality] goes on and on. To extrapolate a proof of OVPP from engravings and drawings such as these is pure folly, but this is one of the major linch-pins of this shaky theory.

For those who do not have easy access to the books above to see these key illustrations (the others in Parrott's book have little or nothing to do with Bach's performance practices in Leipzig and are prone to the similar use of artistic license by the illustrators as those discussed above,) I have added 3 files [illustrations taken from these books] to file section of the BCML: 2 files are of Friedrich Groschuff’s 1710 engraving and the other is the frontispiece for Walther’s Musiklexikon.

See: Ripieni - Examples

John Pike wrote (May 20, 2004):
[To Johan van Veen] The inclusion of the number of publications was, indeed, irrelevant, but the general points that both Charles and Thomas (in his 2 recent e mails on the subject) made were, I thought, reasonable and well balanced. All the scholars listed are (or should be) well-respected. Many are also experts in the performance of Bach's music. The fact that some of them hold different views does, indeed, suggest to me that OVPP is not proven as Bach's preferred performing style. I suspect that he employed it in certain places where it made musical sense. This seemed to be borne out by the quotations from Thomas' e mail yesterday.

Does all of this matter? In a sense, yes. It is good to try and work out the composer's original intentions. But, in another sense, it does not matter. So long as the performance is pleasing to the listener, sensitive, thoughtful and respectful of the original markings that are clear, then it is a valid contribution to the discography. I had thought yesterday that some peace might be breaking out, but then I read Mats' latest attempt to discredit Brad...pathetic.

Peter Bright wrote (May 20, 2004):
Further to Thomas's point, list members may want to take a look at the following article: http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~grossman/cemp/one-per-part.pdf

This has been briefly discussed before (see: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Rifkin-Gen.htm), but I have pasted below the last few paragraphs (for a probably slanted review of the evidence, you should refer to the full article). Personally, while I think that the evidence for or against OVVP is important from a historical perspective, in terms of the 'listening experience' (and bearing in mind that this is not set up as a list for academics), this is what is most important: Which style of recording and ensemble sounds best to our individual (and modern) sensibilities.

Peter
..

Now that the extensive argument surrounding the Bach chorus controversy has been explored, the important question remains: what are its broader implications to so-called early music performance practice? To answer that question, it is necessary to return to a different question that Don Smithers and John Butt both posed: how can we have such strong opinions about a music whose original sound we do not know? The size of Bach’s chorus is only one unknown in a long list.

Richard Taruskin’s view of “early music performing practice” is, quite simply, that it is modern performance.18 He has concluded that the rise of early music scholarship—for example, the construction of Baroque instruments—coincided with a change in public taste toward smaller orchestras and choirs, faster tempi, and the like. For example, Bach’s music was considered outdated at the beginning of the 20th century, whereas today his music is generally considered timeless. According to Taruskin, this is only because we have made him our own by altering our performances “with unprecedented success” to suit modern taste, whereas performances in the early 1900s were not representative of the public’s taste and were therefore seen as anachronistic. Thus, what we think of as period performance is really only a reflection of public opinion in 2002.

When musical choices are carefully examined, many that claim to be based on historical precedent are actually seen to be based on nothing more than modern musicians’ opinions. For example, we cannot know what a 17-year-old male soprano sounds like, and yet conductors claim to. For example, David Wulstan, founder and director of the Clerkes of Oxenford, claims that “girls’ voices can produce exactly the right sound [as the older male sopranos that used to be commonplace].”19 The “right sound” that he mentions can only be an imaginary reconstruction, and he cannot help but be influenced by his 20th-century musical upbringing and experiences—it is, then, highly unlikely that he has managed to imagine the exact sound that existed in the sixteenth century (his choir’s area of specialty). And yet, this reconstruction is taken as historically accurate because it is “early music performance practice.”

This leaves us in a rather uncomfortable state of affairs. If the “period performance movement” is nothing more than the name we have applied to modern performance practice, how does that affect the one-per-part debate? There is unquestionable merit in the purely historical research to determine for whom Bach was writing (if that is possible to ascertain). The petty quibbling over whether one vocalist per part is more “authentic” than current performing practice, on the other hand, is irrelevant. Knowing the size of Bach’s chorus may not bring a modern performance any closer to Bach’s, and demystifying period performance practice instead of idealizing it as a definitive answer to interpretative concerns humanizes the music in question—socalled early music—by making it relevant to another century of listeners and musicians. Even if we can determine and replicate Bach’s exact performing conditions, if the audience does not enjoy the result, what purpose has that served? Peter Phillips, director of the Tallis Scholars, has said that “the evidence suggests that imitation of [sixteenth-century choirs] would be highly undesirable…[and] we can be so bold as to say that we think we can do better.”20 Though this perhaps begs the question of music’s purpose, it seems in the 21st century that music should strive to please living performers and audiences. They must decide whether that means performing Bach with a chorus of eight or of eighty.

---
18 The discussion of Taruskin’s opinions is based on Richard Taruskin,
“The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past,” in Authenticity and Early Music, ed. Nicolas Kenyon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 137-210.

19 Qtd. in ibid., 144.

20 Qtd. in ibid., 143.

ohn Pike wrote (May 20, 2004):
[To Peter Bright] Interesting points and ideas, but they (especially No. 18) prove nothing, of course.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 20, 2004):
Peter Bright wrote: < For example, we cannot know what a 17-year-old male soprano sounds like, and yet conductors claim to. For example, David Wulstan, founder and director of the Clerkes of Oxenford, claims that “girls’ voices can produce exactly the right sound [as the older male sopranos that used to be commonplace]. >
Interestingly Peter Philips, a Wulstan protegee, has always refuted the often-made suggestion that the very pure-voiced sopranos of the Tallis Scholars (and other such groups) are meant to sound like boys. And indeed they don't! I didn't know until now that it was Wulstan himself that first made such a claim!

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 20, 2004):
John Pike wrote: < The inclusion of the number of publications was, indeed, irrelevant, but the general points that both Charles and Thomas (in his 2 recent e mails on the subject) made were, I thought, reasonable and well balanced. All the scholars listed are (or should be) well-respected. Many are also experts in the performance of Bach's music. The fact that some of them hold different views does, indeed, suggest to me that OVPP is not proven as Bach's preferred performing style. >
Of course it could also mean that it has been proven, but some scholars don't accept/believe it!

"It is good to try and work out the composer's original intentions. But, in another sense, it does not matter. So long as the performance is pleasing to the listener, sensitive, thoughtful and respectful of the original markings that are clear, then it is a valid contribution to the discography."
Absolutely! And even it is the case that Bach performed these pieces OVPP that should never be a reason for larger groups not to perform them. It would be very interesting to hear a Bach Cantdone OVPP with boys - if the justification for doing the music that way is that one is seeking to try and reproducce Bach's performing forces then it is illogical to use women on the top two parts. But if the justification is simply that the greater transparency and intimacy of OVPP says something interesting and new about the music that, it seems to me, is reason enough.

Slightly OT, Andrew Parrott has always insisted that there were no male falsettists in 16th century English choirs and eschews them in his performances and recordings of Tudor polyphony. He may well be right (I don't know) but it is again not logical to adhere to this historical fact (if it is one) and then undermine it by using adult female trebles instead of boys.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 20, 2004):
<< Of course, there will always be some who claim to know what is in the Mind of Bach, and who believe themselves to be more astute and intelligent than the musicologically capable professionals are. >>
< There are professional on both sides of the argument, though. On the one hand Rifkin (42 Bach publications) who is pro OVPP versus Stauffer (39 Bach publications) who is not convinced. Then what are the respective positions of Dürr (201 Bach publications) and Wolff (also 201 Bach publications)? And if you prefer to trust musicians with musicological credentials, there is Parrott (11 Bach Publications) who is pro OVPP versus Rilling (17 Bach publications) and Koopman (15 Bach publications) who are against. So, in my opinion, an astute and intelligent position is to consider OVPP an unproven theory. Of course, this in no way detracts from ones enjoyment of such performances (likewise Bach on accordion, synthesiser, guitar etc.). >
However, that is a bucket of red herrings. Here's why:

- Rifkin and Parrott in their articles and this book (The Essential Bach Choir) have proven that their reading of the historical evidence is a plausible one, with clear evidence and valid argumentation. Furthermore, they have confirmed in numerous performances that the application is a practical one: the theory has practical value, and is not mere argumentation on paper.

- The fact that their findings have not become universal (and restrictive!) practice yet says nothing one way or another about the plausibility of their findings; but merely that some other people don't all like what was said, or prefer to follow it in practice. Everybody can bring a personal preference to the table: but such preferences don't prove or disprove scientific theory. The point of a theory is not to restrict practice, anyway, but to describe reality and to offer predictive value for data points not yet encountered.

- The totting-up of paper counts, especially when the papers and books are not all about this topic (as these are not), is merely a piece of circumstantial misdirection. It elevates eminence over truth. It's "argumentation by authority", which is an invalid method of "proof". Even if a person publishes 50 papers on the same topic, all built upon untenable premises, the work is still incorrect (and starts to look like desperate rationalization--especially if it feeds upon itself and puts forth meaningless coincidences) because it's been built upon untenable premises.

- The citation of performances on accordion, synthesizer, and guitar is yet more misdirection, and irrelevant: since those instruments did not exist in Bach's milieu. Whether we like them today or not is irrelevant; the issue is that Bach did not use them.

- One could just as well put up the same bucket of red herrings to try to demonstrate the theory of one singer holding a piece of paper and one more on each side reading over the shoulders, for a total of three singing the part. It just happens to be an older theory. The bucket of red herrings (such as the citation of publication counts, and experts being on both sides) doesn't prove it, or refute it. Evidence does.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 20, 2004):
>> The bucket of red herrings (such as the citation of publication counts, and experts being on both sides) doesn't prove it, *or* refute it. Evidence does.<<
It’s how this ‘evidence’ is being used/construed to fit one’s favored view of the pros and cons of OVPP that makes an even greater difference.

What concerns me most about the research methods employed by some musicologists is that they use the ‘shot-gun’ approach whereby they wish to hit/make a specific point but call upon a multitude of loosely-related, anachronistic quotations made by sources living in and writing about a different time and place. It is a sort of meaningless and misleading ‘overkill.’ Often such sources are accepted unquestionably as reliable in their application to Bach’s performance practices in the 1720s and 1730s. It would be like having Praetorius or Werckmeister, the latter with whom Bach may even had had personal contact, give us the certain information we would need to know to determine precisely which temperament Bach was actually using in his prime period in Leipzig.

An example of this type of ‘shot-gun’ approach can be found in a citation offered as proof by Parrott on p. 38-39 where he states that a statement by Fuhrmann ‘reminds’ us that 1) concertists sing throughout; 2) ripienists do not (often) sing throughout; 3) ripieno parts are (usually) optional; 4) ripienists are placed apart from concertists (and therefore require separate copies.) This is based upon Fuhrmann’s, as Parrott states this, ‘revealing’ definition of the term 'Capella':
>>’Capella’ is [used] when, in vocal music, a separate choir joins in in certain sections for the splendour and strengthening of the music [or musical ensemble]; [it] must therefore be separately positioned in a place apart from the concertists. With a shortage of people, however, these capellas can even be left out, because they are in any case already also sung by the concertists.<< [Translation offered by Parrott on p. 38]

[Parrott on pp. 35-36 quotes Johann Gottfried Walther’s Musiklexikon (1732) when he states:
>>Bach’s ‘Entwurff’ flatly states that for ‘Kirchenstücke (i.e. cantatas as opposed to motets) ‘the vocalists must be divided…into two sorts, viz. concertists and ripienists,’ but otherwise reveals little more than that the concertist – unlike today’s soloist – was counted as a member of the choir and not as a supernumerary. Johann Gottfried Wlather (1732) borrows Mattheson’s [1713] turn of phrase [where Johann Mattheson differentiates between two types of vocal choir: one type ‘with its own instrumental support – called ‘Capella,’ {“mit zugehörigen ‘Accompagnement,’ welches ‘Capella’ heist”} and the other a choir of singers which forms the principal choir and [which} consist of concertists, who are the selected best singers; this is where the chief performers are [located] and [where] the [musical] direction is given. {“ein Chor Sänger / welches das Haupt-Chor ist / und aus ‘Concertisten’ die der Auszug der besten Sänger seyn / bestehet; allda sind die vornehmsten ‚Symphonisten’ und wird die ‚Direction’ geführet.“}]

[returning from a digressive reference to Mattheson back to Parrott's treatment of Walther at this point:] Walther borrows Mattheson’s turn of phrase when defining vocal concertists as ‚a selection of the best singers,’ a definition which seems to reflect this collective (non-solistic) function. The adjective ‘Concertante,’ he also tells us, “is applied to all reciting [i.e. solo] voices, in order to distinguish them from those that sing only in the large choir or capella” [“wird zu allen ‘Recitirenden’ Stimmen gesetzt, um sie von denen, so nur im grossen Chor, oder ‘à Capella’ singen, zu unterscheiden.”]

….The nature of the concertists’ role is also implicit in Walther’s definitions of the complementary ripieno group or capella:

[Capella]…that special or large choir which in a musical [i.e. concerted] piece joins in only occasionally as strengthening. [“denjenigen besondern oder grossen Chor, welcher in einem musicalishen Stücke nur bißweilen zur Verstärckung mit einfällt.“]

[Ripieno]…those voices which are added only filling out and strengthening a musical ensemble. [“diejenigen Stimmen…,welche nur zur Ausfüll-und Verstärckung einer Music beygefüget werden.“]

…Walther’s choice of words (‚besondern, bißweilen, Verstärckung, mit einfällt, Ausfüllung, beygefüget’) unambiguously conveys the ancillary or supplemtary nature of the ripienists’ function: in fact, he falls only a little way short of describing the ripienists as optional.” [End of citation from Parrott's book]

[But the fact is that Walther does not describe the ripienists as optional, otherwise he would have done so.

Here, once again, is Johann Gottfried Walther’s definition of ‘Ripieno’ in his “Musicalisches Lexicon…” [Leipzig, 1732]:

‘Ripieno,’ plural ‘ripieni’ (Italian origin) a compound word made up of the parts ‘ri’ and ‘pieno’ [see definition of ‘pieno’ below] and meaning ‘with the full chorus/choir.’ It is often indicated in music notation as a single capital “R” [this abbreviation does not occur in Bach’s scores and parts]; it is also used to designate a vocal part and is usually put above such parts where there needs to be a ‘filling out’ or ‘strengthening’ [‘Verstärckung”] of the music.

Here is the original German: [‘Ripieno, pl. ripieni’ (‘ital.’) ein aus ‘ri’ und ‘pieno’ zusammen gesetztes Wort, heisset ‘mit vollem Chor.’ Wird öffters durch ein blosses ‘R’ angedeutet; auch als ein Stimm-Titul gebraucht, und über diejenigen Stimmen gesetzet, welche nur zur Ausfüll- und Verstärckung einer Music beygefüget werden.]

‘Pieno,’ feminine form: ‘Piena’ from the Italian; in French: ‘Plein,’ ‘Rempli,’ or ‘Entier’; in German: ‘filled out entirely’ or ‘complete in every way’ for example: ‘Choro pieno’ is the full chorus, ‘Note piene’ the ‘filled-in’ or blackened notes that are not white (with open space in the note – half notes, whole notes, etc.) Sometimes it also refers to the emphasis upon or strength of a ‘consonance’ or of a chord – in this way people say that a fifth sounds stronger (more powerful) than an octave; that is to say, it has a stronger effect, it penetrates more and is more easily heard (perceived with the ability to distinguish it from other intervals or chords.

Here just the beginning of this longer definition in the German original: [‘Pieno, fœm. Piena (ital.) Plein, Rempli, Entier (gall.)’ ‘ausgefüllet, gantz vollständig,’ z. E. ‘Choro pieno,’ der volle Chor….]

Here is Walther’s German original beginning of his fairly lengthy discussion of ‚Capella’:

‘Capella, pl. Capelle (ital.) Chapelle (gall.) bedeutet (1. in grosser Herren Hof-Kirchen den Ort, wo musiciret wird. (2. Das gantze ‚Corpus’ der daselbst musicirenden, davon die ‚membra Capellisten’ heißen; und (3. denjenigen besondern oder ‚grossen Chor,’ welcher in einem musicalischen Stücke nur bißweilen zur Verstärckung mit einfällt, und ‚Chorus ascititius’ gennenet werden kann, weil er aus den andern ‚concertirenden’ Stimmen genommen, und heraus gezogen wird. Wobey es denn wohl eine ausgemachte Sache ist, daß, wenn viele ‚Vocal-‚ und Instrumental-Stimmen einerley ‚accurat’ zusammen heraus bringen sollen, die ‚Composition’ auch so beschaffen seyn müsse, damit es füglich geschehen könne. [at this point he launches into a discussion of the ‚serious a Capella musical style with a long description of the etymological origin of the word and refers to a description of the Papal Capella which consisted almost always of 32 singers (no organ or other instruments were allowed. Bach most certainly would have read this article and possibly with some envy another one as well where Walther reports Domenico Scarlatti’s Royal ‘Capelle’ as consisting of 30 to 40 singers, most of which were Italian, not to mention a full assortment of instrumentalists.]

[“The ‘Capella’ [Italian & French forms are given] is 1.) the name given to the place in the great courtly chapels and churches, where the music is played; 2) the entire body of all participating musicians, of which each member is called a ‘Chapelist’; and 3) [Here there is the great possibility of misunderstanding what Walther means with ‘Chor’ or ‘grosser Chor.’ For this we need to digress momentarily to Walther’s other uses of this word, uses based upon his understanding (and that of other Classicists in his day) of the Greek chorus which included not only singers but also instrumentalists and also the place of performance:

Walther’s definition of ‘Choro’

1) the special place in a church, or possibly somewhere else, which is set aside for the performance of music

2) that portion of a musical composition when all singers and instrumentalists [‘Stimmen’] move together

3) the half-circle formation of singers [‘Sänger’] who were high-school or university students who would move about on certain days

Back to ‘Capella’ definition 3 above:

3) the large [entire] group of musicians [singers and instrumentalists] or also referring to those, who in the performance of a musical composition are called upon only occasionally for support as needed – the latter can be called a ‘Chorus ascititius’ because they are members who have been taken out or away from the other ‘Concertisten’- parts. [This may refer to the vocalists as well as instrumentalists, who normally are part of the entire ensemble, but who, for certain musical reasons remain silent [tacet] for a portion of a movement, an entire movement or some movements and only join in when needed for the ‘full chorus.’]

Here’s another definition by Walther:

‘Choro palchetto (ital.) Chorus extraordinarius (lat.)’ der ‘Capell-Chor,’ welcher, wenn nicht genug Personen vorhanden sind, aussengelassen werden kan. [‚Choro palchetto (Italian), Chorus extraordinarius (lat.)’ the {‚special’}type of ‚Capella-choir’ which can be omitted if insufficient individuals [musicians – instrumentalists as well as vocalists] are available.]

‘Choro favorito (ital.) ein Chor, so aus den besten Sängern und Instrumentisten bestehet. [‚Choro favorito (Italian) a choir/chorus which consists of the best singers and instrumentalists.] Note on p. 35 of Parrott’s book, how he refers, with the help of John Butt, to a long list of sources [with 17th century meanings excluding instrumentalists and referring only to voices] which are irrelevant to ‘choro favorito’ as understood by Walther. This should cause anyone to ponder what is really going on here.

Finally, coming back to the Martin Heinrich Fuhrmann (1669-1745) quote cited by Parrott above: The MGG informs us that Fuhrmann, in his writings: >>Aus seinen Jugendjahren berichtet er Einzelheiten über den Kirchengesang in Kyritz in der Prignitz und in Prenzlau; er wird also vermutlich an diesen Orten die Schule besucht haben.<< [“{Fuhrmann} reports in detail about the {type of} singing in the churches in Kyritz in the Prignitz and in Prenzlau; he probably attended school in these places.”] About 1693-1694 Fuhrmann was in Leipzig and had contact with Schelle, but this was his only real contact with the area, well before Bach took over as musical director in Leipzig. Fuhrmann’s experiences relate primarily to his experiences in North Germany and then primarily in and around Berlin. How Parrott can seriously consider using Fuhrmann’s description as possibly applying to Bach’s performance practices in Leipzig c. 1730 is beyond me. Certainly Walther is the prime source to be consulted here and it would be much better to let Walther explain Walther rather than pulling in Fuhrmann for this purpose. Fuhrmann is essentially out of time and out of place to render any kind of significant judgment in the matter of concertisten vs. ripienisten as understood by Bach and used in his performance practices..

I have found no evidence as yet that Walther indicates anywhere that the ripienists stand apart from the concertisten [possibly when they sing arias and recitatives this may be the case] or elsewhere in the area where musicians assemble for performing a normal Bach cantata c. 1730 in the Leipzig churches.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (May 20, 2004):
I'm getting the impression from reading the evidence put at our disposal that we can't really question that sometimes OVPwas used, sometimes not. The issue seems to be the criteria used to determine at which moments something will be sung OVPP, at which moments a coro ripieno will be used.

Would be nice if Bach or someone back then wrote a treatise stating 'This is when we use Concertisten, this is when we use a coro ripieno'... I mean, beyond saying that the coro ripieno serves the purpose of Verstaerkung. This is self-explanatory. The question is, when do we want the effect of Verstaerkung, when do we not? And it doesn't look like anyone has come across a treatise that, um, treats this question (or if they have, I have not been informed of same as yet :) ).

Someone made reference to the idea that certain passages are written in a style typical of a larger-scale, ripieno-type choir, and some are written in a more coro concertato style. How about a treatise (from Baroque times, obviously) which tells us how to write for coro concertato, how to write for coro ripieno - what should characterize the writing for each type of choir? This sort of thing would provide a pretty good set of criteria for our decision of when Verstaerkung is indicated, when it is not.

Now it may be that the matter was left in large measure to the artistic sensibilities of the performers. But then we have the problem alluded to elsewhere that 18th-century sensibilities might be different from those of the 21st century. So then we have to ask if there are any criteria that are truly timeless??? From personal experience, I would have to conclude that at very least the question of what personnel is available (also alluded to elsewhere in this discussion) must be a timeless criterion ;-)

Johan van Veen wrote (May 20, 2004):
Peter Bright wrote: < I think that the evidence for or against OVVP is important from a historical perspective, in terms of the 'listening experience' (and bearing in mind that this is not set up as a list for academics), this is what is most important: Which style of recording and ensemble sounds best to our individual (and modern) sensibilities. >
a) You state: this list indeed wasn't set up as a list for academics. That is right. But why would that mean that the historical evidence regarding OVPP is not important? Do you really think non-academics don't care about historical evidence?

b) You state: most important is what sounds best to our individual and modern sensibilities. That is your personal view with which I wholeheartedly disagree. And has it ever crossed your mind that it may be possible that some 'individual and modern sensibilities' are the same as or come very close to those of Bach's time?

Peter Bright wrote (May 21, 2004):
Peter Bright wrote: << I think that the evidence for or against OVVP is important from a historical perspective, in terms of the 'listening experience' (and bearing in mind that this is not set up as a list for academics), this is what is most important: Which style of recording and ensemble sounds best to our individual (and modern) sensibilities. >>
Johan van Veen wrote:
< a) You state: this list indeed wasn't set up as a list for academics. That is right. But why would that mean that the historical evidence regarding OVPP is not important? Do you really think non-academics don't care about historical evidence? >
ai: It doesn't and I did not infer anything of the sort; aii No, although I think it is perhaps remotely possible that there are some people living somewhere in this world that might just prefer listening to a Bach recording that they enjoy and not worry too much about whether it might employ one more singer than some specialist advocates was employed during the eighteenth century.

< b) You state: most important is what sounds best to our individual and modern sensibilities. That is your personal view with which I wholeheartedly disagree. And has it ever crossed your mind that it may be possible that some 'individual and modern sensibilities' are the same as or come very close to those of Bach's time? >
- I'm relieved that you wholeheartedly disagree - of course, what sounds ugly and aesthetically wrong is far more important to the music lover than something that sounds good - as long as it conforms with the available evidence).

In terms of your last point I simply don't understand how you could possibly infer that I would suggest that individual tastes could not be close to what Bach envisaged. We're not all the same. Please try to say something useful next time.

Thanks,

Charles Francis wrote (May 21, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < It elevates eminence over truth. It's "argumentation by authority", which is an invalid method of "proof".>
Delighted to note your conversion (Re: "argumentation by authority"). Hopefully, we'll hear no more about tutelage under eminent scholars, inculcation at prestigious institutions or certification by peers.

But bravely venturing on this new-found territory of factual discussion:I've been thinking back some four years to the time I read Parrott's "Essential Bach Choir". I seem to recall he made great play of Bach's need to host performances in four different churches. So could we, perhaps, start by consideration of the timing of the respective liturgies on Sunday and their associated musical events? Can we establish, in the manner of a criminal investigator, that it would be impossible for some of Bach's musicians to perform in more than one church? I can't recall Parrott addressing this factor (correct me if I am wrong), which seems fundamental to any consideration of the resources at Bach's disposition.

Johan van Veen wrote (May 21, 2004):
Peter Bright wrote: < I'm relieved that you wholeheartedly disagree - of course, what sounds ugly and aesthetically wrong is far more important to the music lover than something that sounds good - as long as it conforms with the available evidence). >
But when the taste of some modern listener is close to those of Bach's time the chance that period performance practice sounds 'ugly and aesthetically wrong' to his ears is rather slim. And what sounds good to most 'modern ears' very likely sounds 'ugly and aesthetically wrong' to his ears. What sounds 'ugly and aesthetically wrong' is totally subjective, what is in line with performing habits of Bach's time is not.

< Please try to say something useful next time. >
Next time I'm planning to post a message, I'll ask your permission first.

Peter Bright wrote (May 21, 2004):
Johan van Veen wrote: < Next time I'm planning to post a message, I'll ask your permission first. >
Really, there's no need for you to ask permission (particularly as I am not an owner of this list), but it's a nice thought for which I thank you ;-) .

Dale Gedcke wrote (May 21, 2004):
At the beginning of this week the paucity of communications on the Bach Cantatas Discussion Group made me suspect that the server had been shut down, or that I had been erroneously unsubscribed.

So, I thought that would be a good time to ask about a word that had been puzzling me. I queried, "What is the meaning of ripieni?"

Never in my wildest dream did I anticipate that question would unleash such a volume of controversy! Maybe I should have realized that it touched on a very sensitive topic, i.e., One Voice Per Part vs. Multiple Voices Per Part. And that is all it takes to bring everyone out of a deep sleep.

In all seriousness, I want to thank Brad Lehman for his quick and satisfying answer, and Thomas Braatz for adding additional material that shed a lot of perspective on the issue. And there were others who contributed significantly to my education on this topic. Thanks to all.

The controversial responses made me realize how difficult it is to get an accurate picture of what really happened in the past. The trail of information and deductions is so convoluted that it is almost impossible to thoroughly vet any argument by reference to facts conclusively established in the past. Even those who center their career on the musicological history of J. S. Bach must get confused about what was conclusively proved, what was someone's conjecture, and what conclusions were built on someone else's presumptions. I get the impression that a cornuof conclusions is extrapolated from a paucity of facts. Fortunately, the difficulty of reconstructing history doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the revelations yielded by the search.

Thanks again for the interesting and controversial revelations!

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Last update: ýDecember 22, 2005 ý12:52:22