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Trumpets in Bach’s Vocal Works
Part 7

Continue from Part 6

Bach trumpet parts

Chris Rowson wrote (March 6, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< ... some trumpeters who find Bach's trumpet parts very difficult to play on reconstructions of original instruments and who then insist on perpetuating the myth that Bach's trumpeters could not play these parts cleanly either and that Bach actually found good reasons (perhaps even pleasure) to deliberately make these parts unplayable to a certain extent. >
What is your source for this, please?

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 7, 2007):
Chris Rowson wrote:
>>What is your source for this, please?<<
All of this was covered rather recently, but here it is again for any who may have missed that thread:

Andreas Brischle, in his short article entitled "Zum Gebrauch der Trompete bei J. S. Bach" in the 'Archiv für Musikwissenschaft' 44th year, 1987, pp. 306-312, unsuccessfully attempted to prove that Bach would use certain notes not available in the natural tone row as a means for expressing certain aspects/ideas contained in the text.

In their book, "Die Blechblasinstrumente in J.S. Bachs Werken" Merseburger, 1994, p. 23, Gisela and Jozsef Csiba state that it is frequently/commonly argued that J. S. Bach had intentionally/deliberately composed the trumpet part for BWV 77/5 in such a way that it could only be performed in an insufficient/flawed manner in order to represent/correspond to what was expressed in the words "Ach, es bleibt in meiner Liebe lauter Unvollkommenheit" ("O, so much imperfection still remains in my [ability to] love.") The Csibas disagree completely with this idea.

Likewise, the Csibas state, there are still some specialists who seriously advocate/support the untenable notion that J. S. Bach's trumpet parts, at no point in time, were ever played in such a way that the notes were perfectly clean and in tune, not even by Bach's famous trumpeters, Gottfried Reiche and Ulrich Heinrich Ruhe.

The Csibas then point out that it is possible to play these original instrument reconstructions cleanly with sufficient practice. Friedemann Immer and Edward H. Tarr, at a symposium in 1998, demonstrated that they were capable of playing cleanly and in tune Bach's most difficult trumpet parts, including all the notes outside of the natural tone row.

Chris Rowson wrote (March 7, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< All of this was covered rather recently, but here it is again for any who may have missed that thread:
Andreas Brischle, in his short article entitled "Zum Gebrauch der Trompete bei J. S. Bach" in the 'Archiv für Musikwissenschaft' 44th year, 1987, pp. 306-312, unsuccessfully attempted. >
Sorry, I didn´t realise you were still simply arguing with the Brischle article. It´s a very well reasoned piece, and really quite credible.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 7, 2007):
Bach trumpet parts (and into BWV 126)

< Friedemann Immer and Edward H. Tarr, at a symposium in 1998, demonstrated that they were capable of playing cleanly and in tune Bach's most difficult trumpet parts, including all the notes outside of the natural tone row. >
My duo-partner, this trumpeter: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/larips/cd1001.html is living in Germany right now (this semester on sabbatical) to take post-doctoral lessons with Tarr. He told me last week that Tarr is an outstanding teacher, and has an excellent collection of 17th and 18th century materials that he uses in his pedagogy. Is there anything you'd like to have asked of Tarr?

By the way, I agree with Chris Rowson's remark that the Andreas Brischle article ("Zum Gebrauch der Trompete bei J. S. Bach") is well-reasoned and worth reading. "Daneben dient die Trompete auch zur direkten Textverdeutlichung..." (p307). And at the bottom of page 308 going forward, he presents a bunch of examples where Bach exploited the differences in tone and/or intonation, corresponding with meaning in the sung text: "(...) und es scheint, dass er in diesen, allerdings relativ seltenen Faellen die veraenderte Klangfarbe dieser Toene -- vielleicht auch die schlechtere Intonation besonders des 7. Naturtons -- bewusst zur Textverdeutlichung einsetzt."

On page 311 I like his example from BWV 126 (apropos of next week's discussion): where Bach has a trumpet in D playing in a movement that's in A minor (notated G minor for the trumpeter) - and as Brischle points out, Bach was making special use of the 7th harmonic and its natural out-of-tuneness, in a rather incendiary text that's about fighting off murderous Popes and Turks.

Whether the notes could be played more evenly by a top virtuoso is rather beside the point: because the music is making more direct and unsubtle effects than that. Virtuosi -- outstanding musicians -- needn't seek merely to be smooth/even, which would be only a thin technical goal serving its own ends to be unobtrusive; arguably more important is to express the meaning of the music, which (here in BWV 126's first movement) is to let it rip with Bach's deliberate snub against Turks and Popes.

Susan Williams gave a remarkably clean performance (IMO) in the opening movement of BWV 126, for Leusink. The part is obviously as tough as anything in Brandenburg 2, although she made it sound unproblematic (perhaps with anachronistic holes on the instrument to "correct" that 7th harmonic's intonation?). The piece could, with a different artistic choice more closely focused on the text and its insults, be allowed to sound more challenging and fierce than this: Bach putting up the fickle finger of fate against other cultures and religions. The low Bb (sounding C) indeed hits right there on the word "Mord", in accented position. The text of movements 3 and 4 is even more incendiary against infidels. Bach wasn't pulling any punches here, and it's Bach's responsibility as the composer for putting this political message out there (whether anybody today agrees with it or not). Why be polite in the musicianship expressing this, then? The job of expert musicians -- IMO anyway -- is to express as vividly as possible what's already there in the music; and if the music is throwing barbs, so be it.

Another piece that Brischle singles out is BWV 70, with the cataclysms in its text and music.

Yet another example, this one by me: is there a more dissonant and violent piece of Bach harpsichord music than the Sarabande of the E minor partita (BWV 830)? Anguish, cries, the whole range of human emotions/expression...down to its isolated moments of extreme and sudden tenderness, too, when the various suspended notes resolve into their cadences. The tender spots can't sound tender and quiet -- by contrast -- unless the violent spots sound harsh enough on their part. Mere politeness and caution aren't good enough to catch the fire of the piece. And that range/juxtapositioning is what makes the piece hard to play, along with its racks of fast notes (64ths etc) that are a means to that end. The Toccata, Corrente, and Gigue of that same partita have more courses of the same meal: extreme contrasts with dissonance and temporal shifts of notes, and angular melodic lines, vs the exquisite calm when they finally resolve. I remember that one of my teachers even suggested a text for the first movement (Toccata), at the fugal bits: "Mein Heiland, mein Heiland..." contrasting with the outbursts and the intense sharps of the other sections.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 7, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>He told me last week that Tarr is an outstanding teacher, and has an excellent collection of 17th and 18th century materials that he uses in his pedagogy. Is there anything you'd like to have asked of Tarr?<<
Yes, have him ask Tarr, if he finds it credible that Bach, in order to express the text more directly, would have a trumpeter deliberately play notes (like the 7th tone of the natural tone row) out of tune when it is possible to play these notes cleanly (in tune).

Re: Brischle's contention (I notice for instance that Brischle has written only 6 pages on the subject of the trumpet in Bach's music while Tarr has 57+ pages and the Csibas 155 pages (including other brass instruments, not only trumpet).

BL: >>On page 311 I like his example from BWV 126 (apropos of next week's discussion): where Bach has a trumpet in D playing in a movement that's in A minor (notated G minor for the trumpeter) - and as Brischle points out, Bach was making special use of the 7th harmonic and its natural out-of-tuneness, in a rather incendiary text that's about fighting off murderous Popes and Turks.<<
A trumpet in D is not necessary for BWV 126. The Csibas list the tromba part for BWV 126/1 as being played by a Tromba in C (notated in G minor). Assuming Brischle's theoretical assumption for a moment, it should be pointed out that there is a unwritten, but reasonable, rule that governs Bach's word painting: the musically descriptive notes must be in very close proximity to the text which is being sung. In the tromba part, I fail to see anything at all of the special use of the 7th harmonic in mm 20-26 of BWV 126/1. Please enlighten me, if I have missed something crucial here.

BL: >>Whether the notes could be played more evenly by a top virtuoso is rather beside the point: because the music is making more direct and unsubtle effects than that. Virtuosi -- outstanding musicians -- needn't seek merely to be smooth/even, which would be only a thin technical goal serving its own ends to be unobtrusive; arguably more important is to express the meaning of the music, which (here in BWV 126's first movement) is to let it rip with Bach's deliberate snub against Turks and Popes.<<
So, in your usual interpretive style, you would have the tromba player exaggerate the passage in mm 20-26 by taking these normally relatively easily playable notes and distort them, make them 'ugly' sounding according to the Harnoncourt doctrine rather than considering why Bach did not specially mark these notes so that the tromba player would know how to play them when he sight-read them in performance for the first time.

BL: >>The low Bb (sounding C) indeed hits right there on the word "Mord", in accented position.<<
But this is not a problem. The imaginary ascription of this trumpet part to only a Tromba in D creates the problem which is resolved by the use of a C tromba. In any case the lowest note already occurs 5 times in the opening ritornello in various places throughout (I count 21 instances of this same note!), only once in the passage you have specified on "Mord", but then "Mord" occurs 3 times in the combined lower voices with the low note barely corresponding to only one entrance with "Mord" in the bass voice. The whole idea is not convincing because the evidence from the score is completely unfocused and unreasonable.

BL: >>The text of movements 3 and 4 is even more incendiary against infidels. Bach wasn't pulling any punches here, and it's Bach's responsibility as the composer for putting this political message out there (whether anybody today agrees with it or not). Why be polite in the musicianship expressing this, then?<<
The reason is that Bach found other means of expressing these ideas without becoming excessively 'ugly' in the presentation of a chorale melody. Chorale melodies, in themselves, are not supposed to be performed in an ugly manner (although Harnoncourt occasionally slips into this mode in his cantata recordings).

BL: >>The job of expert musicians -- IMO anyway -- is to express as vividly as possible what's already there in the music; and if the music is throwing barbs, so be it.<<
There are certainly definite limits that need to be imposed on such wildly excessive, overly exaggerated interpretations.

BL: >>By the way, I agree with Chris Rowson's remark that the Andreas Brischle article ("Zum Gebrauch der Trompete bei J. S. Bach") is well-reasoned and worth reading.<<
And I do not consider it credible because it is based upon some flawed assumptions regarding the instruments being used and the unproven notion that Bach would have his instrumentalists play their parts in such a way that certain notes would be deliberately distorted from being in tune. Where is the evidence for this (Bach's diacritical markings which he placed in the parts when he corrected them and added various types of markings (articulation, embellishments, dynamics, etc.)? If not a procedure upon which Bach commented himself, what about secondary sources from the period where such a procedure/method was employed?

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 7, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Re: Brischle’s contention (I notice for instance that Brischle has written only 6 pages on the subject of the trumpet in Bach’s music while Tarr has 57+ pages and the Csibas 155 pages (including other brass instruments, not only trumpet). >
I notice for instance that you apparently haven't read the Brischle article, and don't even have the correct count of its pages. And yet, somehow, this ignorance doesn't stop you from writing two or three whole pages, yourself (all deleted here to save space), about the things you guess Brischle might not be smart enough to know? Based on your self-excuse not to read it?!??!

I'm quite willing to discuss this fine Andreas Brischle article with Mr Rowson or anybody else who has read it. And to discuss the music, too.

Chris Rowson wrote (March 7, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
BL: >>By the way, I agree with Chris Rowson's remark that the Andreas Brischle article ("Zum Gebrauch der Trompete bei J. S. Bach") is well-reasoned and worth reading.<<
< And I do not consider it credible. >
I guess we can agree to differ on this, then.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 7, 2007):
Leusink excerpts from BWV 92 and BWV 126

[About the soprano aria in BWV 92, movement 8:]
>>And then think of the armchair critics: poised to slaughter every such top-level professional performance with their own nit-picking and fault-finding, and to post this venting of their own spleens on the internet. (...)
I cannot imagine Bach selecting and/or allowing a Ruth Holton, with her demi-voice and unsuccessful attempt to emulate a boy soprano, to sing his arias, much less have to listen to her attempts at variation as if Bach's music would be boring without such over embellishment. Remember what Birnbaum (Bach's proxy) said about this matter: Bach knew what he wanted. His sense of good taste in music was far superior to that of any of the musicians he worked with. As a result, Bach indicated precisely what he wanted to hear -- he did not want to allow vocal soloists or instrumentalists to perform their 'mannerisms' (which meant adding variations/embellishments to the part as Bach had composed it.)
For this reason I still hold the same opinion regarding Ruth Holton's performance that I expressed in 2002:
"It sounds really silly for her [Ruth Holton] to engage in special flourishes and embellishments as a great artist might, when she should be thankful that she can get the notes right."
The last part of this statement refers to the fact that in the low range, Ruth Holton's voice lacks sufficient support. She is unable to sing these lower notes properly so that they might be heard from a balcony in a larger church. As for great artists, they would most likely realize the importance of Bach's intentions and would feel no need to improve with additional mannersims what Bach presents in the score.
In a way, Holton's 'special flourishes and embellishments' are more of a distraction than an improvement. One main characteristic of her singing is a decided lack of expression. She should rather be working on this aspect while improving the production of her low notes rather than succumbing to using these "Firlefanzen" (adfancy bits) which were probably prompted by her acquaintance with Handel's music. >
In short, that critic didn't fancy it, and goes on to offer patronizing and gratuitous advice to (against!) professional musicians. A "decided lack of expression", as if she and her colleagues, and those who hire her, all know less about this than her self-appointed critic? To be thwacked in the head by citing Birnbaum against them? Plus the meaningless and further gratuitous swipes against Handel and the style of his music, as well?

Here is an opportunity for that Holton/Leusink recording to defend itself against such poisonous hearsay. For any who would wish to listen to it directly, instead of taking as gospel those words against Holton's artistry, here's that movement 8 of cantata BWV 92: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/files/leusink/

Let's furthermore be perfectly clear what the critic's complaint is, against the ornamentation ("special flourishes and embellishments") that he doesn't fancy in Holton's performance. She ornaments the vocal line in three (and only three) bars, namely bars 71 to 73 -- I've checked this with score --, gently altering a melody that we've already heard sung straight, earlier in the piece. Shortly after that, she changes the last two notes of bar 77, filling in the leap of a fifth with different passing notes, during the weakest third beat of this bar. And she inserts one other obvious short trill, elsewhere. So??

So, this melodic license with two consecutive phrases of Bach's music (bars 71-73 and then the slight change to 77) is obviously far too much for the critic to stomach, that she'd ornament it at all. Somehow a violation of Bach's sacred writ, or something? To punish her on this, Holton's taste has to be called into question by that critic, with a selective citation from "Birnbaum (Bach's proxy)" to back up his prejudices: that somehow Johann Sebastian Bach never would have allowed Ruth Holton to sing his music...let alone to ornament it with any tasteful musical license. JSB's opinion? Or the critic's own opinion, passing it off as if he himself (citing Birnbaum for added emphasis) speaks authoritatively for JSB?

And, what "lack of expression" here in Holton's singing, or alleged problem with any of the notes, either low or high? It's a simple aria about a contented spiritual life with Jesus, the Good Shepherd! Isn't that an Affekt that Holton's performance puts across? What about the tasteful and differentiated coloration in her tone, as this aria and its text go along? Text, movement 8:
http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/BWV92.html
http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~wfb/cantatas/92.html

=====

At that same folder: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/files/leusink/ also have a listen to the first movement of Leusink's recording of BWV 126 that I mentioned, with regard to the tromba playing. My remark about that was as follows: "Susan Williams gave a remarkably clean performance (IMO) in the opening movement of BWV 126, for Leusink. The part is obviously as tough as anything in Brandenburg 2, although she made it sound unproblematic (perhaps with anachronistic holes on the instrument to "correct" that 7th harmonic's intonation?). The piece could, with a different artistic choice more closely focused on the text and its insults, be allowed to sound more challenging and fierce than this: Bach putting up the fickle finger of fate against other cultures and religions."

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 7, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>I'm quite willing to discuss this fine Andreas Brischle article with Mr Rowson or anybody else who has read it. And to discuss the music, too.<<
If you are willing to discuss the Brischle article with Mr. Rowson "or anybody else who has read it", why not do so in this forum so that others may also profit from this exchange inspired by Brischle's great insights into Bach's performance practices. However, be prepared then to allow reasonable criticisms to be voiced without once again 'clamming up' as you do now and 'bluffing about a handful of cards' which turn out to be practically worthless after all.

Note: I have not terminated this discussion. On the contrary, you have short-circuited it by refusing to address directly the issues that I have raised.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 7, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< A trumpet in D is not necessary for BWV 126. The Csibas list the tromba part for BWV 126/1 as being played by a Tromba in C (notated in G minor). Assuming Brischle’s theoretical assumption for a moment, it should be pointed out that there is a unwritten, but reasonable, rule that governs Bach’s word painting: the musically descriptive notes must be in very close proximity to the text which is being sung. In the tromba part, I fail to see anything at all of the special use of the 7th harmonic in mm 20-26 of BWV 126/1. Please enlighten me, if I have missed something crucial here. >
I try to enlighten you and other readers almost every day here, although very little of it apparently sticks. Your words beg for explanation, while your actions then show a refusal to listen to or accept the explanations! Well: the crucial thing you're missing here, by refusing to read Andreas Brischle's article where he explained this musical point, is:

In mm 21-22, right there at the word "Mord" as it's being sung in alto and tenor and bass, the tromba has to play the written A (sounding B natural) three times, and Bb (sounding C) five times. That C (playing it as Bb on a D trumpet) is the remarkably flat 7th harmonic on the trumpet. And this twiddling about with the 6th, 7th, and 8th harmonics (where the player is reading A, Bb, and C) is the most misshapen part of the natural-harmonic scale, melodically...right there during the word "Mord", where the foreigners (Turks) and popes are cast as infidels trying to murder the fidels.

All of which probably makes no sense to listeners/readers (and indeed also some musicians), who would rather that the notes simply line up as nicely as possible with their positions in equal temperament. Making no fuss, and calling attention to nothing, text-painting or musical or otherwise. But, Bach wrote for a natural trumpet here, playing in the shaggiest little section of its natural-overtone scale: where the melodic inflection is farthest from any equal-tending positions! And it illustrates the word "Mord" on these "Papsts und Tuerken".

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 7, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< If you are willing to discuss the Brischle article with Mr. Rowson "or anybody else who has read it", why not do so in this forum so that others may also profit from this exchange inspired by Brischle's great insights into Bach's performance practices. However, be prepared then to allow reasonable criticisms to be voiced without once again 'clamming up' as you do now and 'bluffing about a handful of cards' which turn out to be practically worthless after all. >
REASONABLE criticisms can emanate only from people who actually study the thing being discussed; not from those who rely only on second- or third-hand hearsay about it, or (even less) on the hearsay that they THEMSELVES have made up. That's you.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 8, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>REASONABLE criticisms can emanate only from people who actually study the thing being discussed; not from those who rely only on second- or third-hand hearsay about it, or (even less) on the hearsay that they THEMSELVES have made up. That's you.<<
But you are tenaciously holding onto a very tentative speculation by Brischle (who BTW is not otherwise represented in the Tomita Bach Bibliography) who wrote this arti20 years ago. A lot of water has flowed over the dam during the subsequent period during which the Csibas, Prinz and other experts have continued to re-examine all the pertinent evidence and have come to their own reasonable conclusions reflecting a more recent state of scholarship in this matter. As of now, we still do not know for certain which type of instrument was used to play the tromba part in BWV 126/1. Prinz has the range of the tromba instrument listed as going from f1 to c3 (range of notation)(Chorton), but the Csibas have a1 to d3 on a Tromba in C (the notes written by JAK not notated as they would actually sound - original notation in g minor).

Have you considered the possibility that in the key passage under discussion (mm 20 to the beginning of 27 of BWV 126/1), Bach is simply and very characteristically re-emphasizing the upward ascending fugal entries in the voices? In order to do this, he must first have the tromba begin on the low end and only when the cantus firmus enters on "und" (middle of m 21) in the soprano, does Bach continue to expand this upward movement with the help of the tromba picking up, as it were, its lowest note in a musically-related figure, then, a bit later, jumping up a 5th for its next entry, and finally up another 4th until it reaches the high D at the top of its range. (It is typical for Bach to have fugal entries in ascending fashion reach the top of the voices, but then have the tromba, with its crowning glory, once again state the fugal subject in its highest register.) I still see no reason whatever to deliberately play out-of-tune the 3 notes in mm. 21-22. Assuming that a conductor actually carried out this unlikely bit of word-painting, the artificial effect of its out-of-tuneness would be weakened considerably because the tromba is playing its lowest notes while the full choir and instrumental ensemble are singing and playing at the same time. This does not make sense musically from the standpoint of dynamic balance (the tromba being overwhelmed by the rest of the full ensemble) if Bach were really interested in this type of word-painting using instruments deliberately playing certain notes out of tune.

Another point: I have read in several places about the symbolic significance of the tromba in various contexts (for instance, Michael Marissen, in his "The Social and Religious Designs of J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos" Princeton, 1995, and elsewhere) which, I believe, would place Brischle's suggestion in direct contrast to the tromba's sublime, preeminent position in Bach's church music. I would think that Bach would not even consider such a use of this noble instrument nor would he ask Gottfried Reiche to surrender his mastery of the instrument, which he displayed in public two or three times a day, in order to create a special effect which might be construed by his audience as "Reiche suddenly having a bad day with his horn". Such a treatment of these few notes would cause undue attention to be drawn to the tromba player and would be as bad as playing wrong notes during a performance.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 8, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] Frankly I don't know why I bother explaining things here, anymore. All you've done here -- ONCE AGAIN -- is to dump all over an article that you won't be troubled even to go read, and replaced all of it with your own speculations. Several hundred words by you here, maybe as many as a thousand, simply excusing yourself from reading an article that several members here have pointed out is interesting and worth looking at.

And you've misused Marissen's book, now, too -- a book that I happen to have: in citing it (barely) and then going on to say your opinion (not in Marissen's book) that "Bach would not even consider such a use of this noble instrument" in the way that Brischle's article suggests he DID.

All to excuse yourself from reading Brischle. Or taking his ideas seriously.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 8, 2007):
Bradey Lehman wrote:
< Frankly I don't know why I bother explaining things here, anymore. >
Dood, I appreciate your posts ;) Don't stop please!

I'm curious how does the trumpet player on the new Suzuki recording on BIS handle this passage that's being discussed now? I purchased this CD last week, but haven't had the time to listen yet.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 8, 2007):
Bradey Lehman wrote:
>>Frankly I don't know why I bother explaining things here, anymore.<<
On the symbolic significance of trombae in Bach's works:

From Erich Valentin's "Handbuch der Instrumentenkunde", Regensburg, 1954, p. 81:

As far back as antiquity, trombae with their festive-radiating/beaming quality were considered to confer high status and special privileges. Trombae were used for festive but also on military occasions (the connection to BWV 126/1).

Ludwig Prautzsch "Bibel und Symbol in den Werken Bachs" Thomas-Morus-Bildungswerk Schwerin Band 4 ISBN 3-8311-1028-X, pp. 99ff.:
Bach uses trombae in most of his cantatas for the High Feast Days of the church year. They are used to praise God and Christ as Lord and King...
[many examples excluded here]

pp. 102-103

The single tromba can also symbolize God on his throne as judge. It then serves in the capacity as the "trumpet shall sound on the Last Day of Judgment".

In this category are the following mvts.:

BWV 5/1,5
BWV 46/1,3,6
BWV 48/1
BWV 70/1,9
BWV 90/3
BWV 126/1
BWV 127/4

It is completely incongruous to demote or enfeeble (as suggested by Brischle by having the trumpeter play some notes out of tune) the role of the single tromba representing such a powerful idea. In their books covering Bach's use of trombae (among other things), both the Csibas and Prinz have seriously called into question Brischle's now out-dated (20-year-old) theory which was then and is still gladly embraced by some present day trumpeters as an excuse not to have to attain the highest mastery of a tromba. Audiences and and those who listen to recordings are then told not to expect clean playing because allegedly Bach deliberatly wrote some of these trombae parts in such a way that parts of them were unplayable, i.e., a tromba player, they say, could not play them cleanly and in tune unless he had achieved true mastery of the instrument after many years of practice.

I have already presented many reasons why this practice [deliberately having a certain instrument play some notes out of tune even if they can be played in tune] is highly questionable and have shown in regard to BWV 126/1 that many things still need to be seriously considered before 'jumping on the bandwagon' created by Brischle's highly conjectural theory. Why would any listener want to hear Bach's music with certain notes not played cleanly or with proper intonation? Why should the noble tromba (and tromba player, unless one is less adept at playing this instrument) be humiliated by being placed into such an unwarranted position in the performance of Bach's great music by conductors who have not considered all the aspects of the problem involved here?

Neil Halliday wrote (March 8, 2007):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
<"I'm curious how does the trumpet player on the new Suzuki recording on BIS handle this passage that's being discussed now? I purchased this CD last week, but haven't had the time to listen yet.">
I find Suzuki's trumpet to be a bit soft, even inaudible in places - including the notes on "Mord" (C, B natural, A) previously discussed, so whether the B natural is in tune or not, a listener to the recording will not be able to determine one way or the other.

Leusink's trumpeter cannot play successive notes with equal loudness, and the notes on "Mord" are inaudible here as well. The long held trumpet note near the end is quite inaudible at its start.

In BWV 126/1, the trumpet needs to capable of `sounding the alarm' all the way through. On the basis of these recordings, and comparing with Richter's recording employing a modern trumpet, I am led to conclude that the ancient instrument is simply incapable of bringing the desirable level of brilliance to the part.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 8, 2007):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>>I find Suzuki's trumpet to be a bit soft, even inaudible in places....
Leusink's trumpeter cannot play successive notes with equal loudness,and the notes on "Mord" are inaudible
here as well....
...comparing with Richter's recording employing a modern trumpet, I am led to conclude that the ancient instrument is simply incapable of bringing the desirable level of brilliance to the part.<<
Thanks, Neil, for quickly sharing your observations in this matter. No doubt modern trumpets will always be more brilliant in sound, but there simply is no excuse for tromba players using modern reconstructions of original instruments to become inaudible on certain notes. Bach did not write down notes so that they become "Augenmusik" (only to be seen, but not heard), but rather knew that his tromba players could play them audibly.

The entire Brischle conjecture becomes an empty academic exercise when confronted with results like those described above. These results, however, are not like those achieved by true experts who have practiced long and hard in order to master the technique which Bach's trumpeters had once had. We must avoid the notion that some portions of Bach's tromba parts are simply unplayable and then offer spurious reasons why Bach composed them this way and thus expect listeners to accept substandard results offered by players who have not yet completely mastered their instruments.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 8, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< The entire Brischle conjecture becomes an empty academic exercise when confronted with results like those described above. These results, however, are not like those achieved by true experts who have practiced long and hard in order to master the technique which Bach's trumpeters had once had. We must avoid the notion that some portions of Bach's tromba parts are simply unplayable and then offer spurious reasons why Bach composed them this way and thus expect listeners to accept substandard results offered by players who have not yet completely mastered their instruments. >
Let me refresh what I offered as a possible suggestion: 1st performances of the Bach cantatas maybe weren't so silky smooth as some would think.

I didn't mean to start WW III by my suggestion-- I was only offering my personal observation of the rehearsal of BWV 63 by J.E. Gardiner in 1998 (that's available on DVD). I noticed that Mark Bennett had a bit of hard time and cracked some notes--his frustration at himself was quite obvious. I then mentioned how some have suggested that cracked notes could have been expected in the first performances.

Mark Bennett is no rank amateur: his credentials (from his agent's website):

Quote:
He has made two solo recordings with the Purcell Quartet (a Purcell collection and Biber's Sonatae `Tam Aris Quam Audis Sevientes').

Mark has recorded Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2. with Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (when he was just 21) as well as with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Hanover Band and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.

Mark was a professor at the Royal Collage of Music between 1990 and 2000 teaching both modern and baroque trumpet.

He has been involved in many different types of music making, including playing principal trumpet with the LPO, LSO, RPO as well as many feature films, including Shakespeare in Love.

Mark has worked with many conductors including Frans Brüggen, William Christie, Ton Koopman, Iona Brown, Christopher Hogwood, Robert King, Simon Rattle, Philippe Herreweghe, and Sir John Eliot Gardiner.

Abroad, Mark works frequently with the Norwegian Baroque Orchestra, the Oslo Baroque Orchestra and as soloist with Terje Tønnesen and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra. He has also appeared in the Oslo Chamber Music Festival playing Brandenburg Concerto No. 2.

End quote.

In short-- Mark Bennett is NO slouch. And in the final version on the CD that was released, Mr. Bennett got all the notes perfect ;)

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (March 8, 2007):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] ALL OF BACH'S TRUMPET PARTS ARE PLAYABLE However, these days with less skilled players---one must resort to other insturments as the Piccolo Trumpet in B or A. These insturments can make what was even impossible notes in Bach's day playable.

Bach generally wrote for Natural trumpet in D or E and I do not recall if they had crooks then to convert one to the other ss they did in Beethoven's and Hadyn's day.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 8, 2007):
So, in a nutshell, Neil and Thomas are both complaining that they don't fancy the way Leusink's trumpeter played the opening movement of BWV 126. It doesn't suit their modern expectations as listeners.

And as I pointed out yesterday, that movement can be heard here directly, for anyone to formulate their own opinion instead of relying on such hearsay: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/files/leusink/

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 8, 2007):
< (...) including the notes on "Mord" (C, B natural, A) previously discussed, so whether the B natural is in tune or not, a listener to the recording will not be able to determine one way or the other. >
As was explained yesterday:

The notes are A, B flat, and C as read from the trumpeter's part. The C is no problem as it's directly in the overtone series. The B flat is also in the overtone series, but it's very far flat of "modern" expectations on any evenness of pitch. And the A isn't in the series, but has to be fudged with other techniques instead of simply picking overtones. And that's the point, in Brischle's article: these two odd notes (both the B flat and the A) are not necessarily meant to sound slick and even; they appear to be a special effect that Bach has written into the music for its very oddity, to go along with the words.

These three notes sound as B natural, C, and D -- when played on a D instrument, which is the way the part is written. If one is merely looking at a piano score or whatever, it's the notes that look like B natural, C, and D, where the part has been transposed.

=====

Brischle's article also singles out other notes that Bach has used in approximately half of his trumpet parts, considered across all the cantatas that use trumpet. As he explains, these are notes that are not in the overtone series, but get played by other techniques: A, B natural, C#, D#, E flat, F# (fudging between F/F#), G#. All of which is from the perspective of the player reading in C, where the natural overtones are C, C, G, C, E, G, [lowish] Bb, C, D, E, [highish] F, G, A, [lowish] Bb, [lowish] B, C, ....

So, to put together diatonic scales in those half of the Bach pieces that use the non-overtone notes, it's a shuffled-together mixture of the natural overtones and these other borrowed notes in between; and the borrowed notes are usually played in fast passing or in unaccented positions (where listeners probably won't notice their differences very much), but not always.

Some players can "overcome" such alleged deficiency and play more evenly, if they choose to and if it's appropriate for the music. But, the broader question is: is it appropriate for the music, if Bach wrote some of these spots as special effects? It's worth consideration that maybe the bumpiness of tone and/pitch and/or volume is what Bach really wanted or expected, as an expressive part of his music.

One must also consider different types of trumpets, which of course is also part of Brischle's argument. Way too much to go into here, as any summary.

And now I reckon my summary of the issue here will get plastered yet again by somebody who refuses to READ Brischle's article, to see what the man actually said in it.

My point this morning is: we shouldn't just point at recordings of natural trumpets in this piece (BWV 126/1), whine that they're uneven according to our modern expectations, and assume either that (1) the players are deficient (and to be complained about in public forum here!!), or (2) the unevenness itself would have been in any way undesirable to Bach.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 9, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>"As was explained yesterday: The notes are A, B flat, and C as read from the trumpeter's part".>
Don't we just transpose the trumpet part one whole tone (from G minor shown in the score) to the A minor of the rest of the ensemble? This is how I obtained the notes A, B natural, and C, which corresspond to the notes of G, A, and B flat, in G minor, which are shown in the trumpet part. In other words, regardless of any considerations of natural trumpets, would not the trumpet part when transposed look and sound as if in A minor? (If bach had wanted a B flat to sound there, I presume the G minor score would have had an A flat shown there).

Careful listening to the Richter recording at this point confirms that Pierre Thibaud is playing the B natural of the A minor scale, not B flat.

<"we shouldn't just point at recordings of natural trumpets in this piece (126/1), whine that they're uneven according to our modern expectations, and assume either that (1) the players are deficient (and to be complained about in public forum here!!), or (2) the unevenness itself would have been in any way undesirable to Bach".>
It's the second point that concerns me. Bach had to work with what was available, obviously, but may he not have dreamt of a trumpet with more controllable pitch and dynamics?

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 9, 2007):
>> "As was explained yesterday: The notes are A, B flat, and C as read from the trumpeter's part".<<
< Don't we just transpose the trumpet part one whole tone (from G minor shown in the score) to the A minor of the rest of the ensemble? This is how I obtained the notes A, B natural, and C, which corresspond to the notes of G, A, and B flat, in G minor, which are shown in the trumpet part. In other words, regardless of any considerations of natural trumpets, would not the trumpet part when transposed look and sound as if in A minor? (If bach had wanted a B flat to sound there, I presume the G minor score would have had an A flat shown there).
Careful listening to the Richter recording at this point confirms that Pierre Thibaud is playing the B natural of the A minor scale, not B flat. >
Yes, but Brischle's point is not about the one that looks (to the trumpeter) like a G and sounds (to everybody else) like an A. It is, rather, about the Bb (sounding like a too-low C) and the A (sounding like an oddly-toned B since it doesn't belong to the natural overtone series, and has to be played with a different technique).

The twelve notes in that phrase, for the trumpeter, are: Bb, A, Bb, Bb, A, G, C, Bb, C, C, Bb, A. And, as I said the first time (reporting from Brischle's article), his point is about those five Bb's and the three A's.

Of course it sounds like A, B, C, and D of the A minor scale. Nobody is disputing that. The point is: the sounding B and C in there have pitch and/or tone problems due to their placement in the instrument; and Brischle's suggestion is that Bach deployed these weird notes deliberately, to help depict the word "Mord" that is being sung at this same time.

To get this, which I have now explained already three or four times(!), perhaps it is better if anybody interested in this should just go read the article. My frustration in explaining this point multiple times (while the whole concept seems plenty clear to me, and plausible!) is probably not helping matters.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 9, 2007):
Brad Lehman wrote:
>>These three notes sound as B natural, C, and D -- when played on a D instrument, which is the way the part is written.<<
No one can rightfully claim that the tromba part BWV 126/1 was written for a D tromba only because that was "the way the part is written." Playing it on a D tromba (which makes the part much harder to play) is only one possible choice (and a poor one at that) left to modern tromba players, but there is nothing in the way that Bach composed this part that forces it to played on a D tromba.

BL: >>One must also consider different types of trumpets, which of course is also part of Brischle's argument. Way too much to go into here, as any summary.<<
Yes, and the way Brischle considered different types of trumpets 20 years ago, is not necessarily the way the breakdown according to which types of trumpets are assigned to which Bach's trumpet parts is accomplished today. Just because Brischle constructed his theory based upon only a D trumpet being used in BWV 126/1, his theoretical explication loses any sound basis that it might have had since the use of a different tromba type would alleviate the problematic situation.

BL: >>Some players can "overcome" such alleged deficiency and play more evenly, if they choose to and if it's appropriate for the music.<<
It is always appropriate for tromba players to "overcome" any alleged deficiencies and, as a result play more evenly and in tune.

In BWV 126/1, it (allowing unevenness in volume and tuning which is too flat or too sharp) is not appropriate for the music, as I have already explained based upon the ascending groups of musical figures in the key passage under discussion. The symbolic function of the tromba in Bach's sacred music also prevents it from being misused in the way the Brischle describes.

BL: >>.we shouldn't just point at recordings of natural trumpets in this piece (BWV 126/1), whine that they're uneven according to our modern expectations, and assume either that (1) the players are deficient (and to be complained about in public forum here!!), or (2) the unevenness itself would have been in any way undesirable to Bach.<<
The public criticism of the rather apparent ineptitude of the tromba players in the recordings that Neil mentioned is absolutely necessary, otherwise this poor performance style will continue to proliferate as more and more tromba players find these recordings and such ill-conceived theories such as that propounded by Brischle as a convenient excuse not to attempt to attain the same level of excellence as Bach's trumpeters must have had. Bach did not write parts with passages where the notes could only be played weakly and out-of-tune. He knew perfectly the capabilities of his instrumentalists and adjusted his music accordingly, not simplifying it, but pushing the instrumentalists to demonstrate the great skill that they had. There simply is no proof, other than second-guessing Bach's intentions as Brischle has done, that Bach ever had any instrument deliberately play out of tune or with irregular volume from one note to the next. When Bach was hired to check out an organ, one key point which he frequently emphasizes in his reports was that the sound of the organ pipes, when he played a scale, diatonic or chromatic, must be 'egalite'. Brischle's theory is completely antithetical to this idea/ideal.

BL: >>So, in a nutshell, Neil and Thomas are both complaining that they don't fancy the way Leusink's trumpeter played the opening movement of BWV 126.<<
Yes, this is correct.

BL: >>It doesn't suit their modern expectations as listeners.<<
This is typical Brad Lehman in his attempt to twist and distort the statements made by others. The fact is that anyone with a truly musical ear and withoa political agenda to allow substandard performances to be declared as excellent will hear what is wrong with such a performance. If I understand Neil correctly and try to speak for him (it is always dangerous to speak for another and I hope that Neil will correct me if he differs with what is presented here) and myself in this matter, then there is agreement that, of the available recordings of this mvt., the results produced on a natural tromba appear to be much less than satisfactory compared to what is more easily achieved on a modern trumpet. We are encouraged by the fact that some players of these original instrument reconstructions are willing to try to master playing these otherwise, for the present generation of trumpeters at least, quite intractable instruments. We encourage further improvement of these skills since we know that the goal is achievable (as Friedemann Immer and Edward H Tarr have demonstrated in a symposium), but we also feel that it is inherently dishonest to declare that the recorded results referred to in regard to BWV 126/1 are "as good as it will get" or "in accordance with Bach's intentional and deliberate manner of expression".

"It doesn't suit their [Neil's and my] modern expectations as listeners".This seems to imply that Bach's expectations, or those attending church when these cantatas were performed, would have welcomed the feeble, out-of-tune sounds created by unskilled trumpeters, or even harder to believe by Gottfried Reiche, who would destroy his own credibility as a renowned trumpet virtuoso, because Bach wanted to employ some instrumental 'trickery' to add expression to a passage so as to prove that he was the ultimate master who could surprise his instrumentalists with something they could not play so that they would be 'put into their places' and not let their performances 'go to heads'.

BL: >>My frustration in explaining this point multiple times (while the whole concept seems plenty clear to me, and plausible!) is probably not helping matters.<<
It certainly is not helping matters either when you refuse to recognize that the article along with its explanations is 20 years old and that subsequently further research has been conducted which makes clear that a D trumpet is not necessarily what we should be talking about here. A D trumpet may have been considered the only possibility back in 1987, but now another viable option is a tromba in C. There is also frustration caused by not considering sufficiently the counter arguments to Brischle's thesis. These counter arguments, in my estimation, far outweigh anything that Brischle attempted use as 'proof' for his notion that Bach would consider using certain difficult notes in the natural tone row for purposes of word-painting.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 9, 2007):
Bradley Lrhman wrote:
<"The twelve notes in that phrase, for the trumpeter, are: Bb, A, Bb, Bb, A, G, C, Bb, C, C, Bb, A. And, as I said the first time (reporting from Brischle's article), his point is about those five Bb's and the three A's". >
I think I understand now. Thanks! But I take it that Tom's point, about the possibility of a trumpet in C being used, renders unnecessary Brischle's ideas in relation to that phrase? Not that I understand why one type of baroque trumpet might be chosen over another. BTW, could the trumpet part in 126/1 have been written in a key other than G minor? I notice one score of the 2nd Brandenburg in F major with similar writing for trumpet, calls for a trumpet in F (not specified in the BGA), with the trumpet score written an interval of a fourth lower, in C. (That score has the trumpet reaching two tones higher than BWV 126/1).

Tom asked for confirmation of my agreement that:
<".of the available recordings of this mvt. (BWV 126/1), the results produced on a natural tromba appear to be much less than satisfactory compared to what is more easily achieved on a modern trumpet." >
Yes, I agree with this, at least for the three recordings that I have heard - Richter, Leusink and Suzuki. I'll get around to listening to Rilling, and samples of Harnoncourt and Koopman next week, to see if the observation is confirmed.

The idea that virtuosi such as Immer and Tarr on baroque trumpets might be able to rival talents such as Thibaud or Andre on modern trumpets, is an interesting one, but if it turns out that only a handful of baroque trumpeters in the whole world can match the high standard achieved by dozens of modern trumpeters, then there is a problem, IMO.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 9, 2007):
<<".of the available recordings of this mvt. (BWV 126/1), the results produced on a natural tromba appear to be much less than satisfactory > compared to what is more easily achieved on a modern trumpet." >
< Yes, I agree with this, at least for the three recordings that I have heard - Richter, Leusink and Suzuki. I'll get around to listening to Rilling, and samples of Harnoncourt and
Koopman next week, to see if the observation is confirmed.
The idea that virtuosi such as Immer and Tarr on baroque trumpets might be able to rival talents such as Thibaud or Andre on modern trumpets, is an interesting one, but if it turns out that only a handful of baroque trumpeters in the whole world can match the high standard achieved by dozens of modern trumpeters, then there is a problem, IMO. >
The "problem", as I see it, is this: The "high standard achieved by dozens of modern trumpeters" is by playing instruments that DID NOT EXIST in Bach's lifetime...taking Bach's music over to a different medium where it's indeed easier to play, and to get results that some more modern people might prefer.

That is, this anachronistic "standard" itself (deciding what's "satisfactory" or "less than satisfactory") doesn't judge the work of natural trumpets on the job they're actually doing, but rather on their failure to sound like players of some wholly different instrument! The "problem" here is in the judging, not the performance.

Look at this way. Bach wrote music for the instruments that were actually available to him. In the case of the cantatas, he wrote for specific dates: some Sunday that was somewhere from zero to (let's say) maybe a hundred or two hundred days in the future, tops. And some curmudgeons might argue it much closer to "zero" than "a hundred", but that's not the point. The point is that it's not a hundred or more years in the future, when wholly different instruments and playing techniques have become some new norm!

If some modern people happen not to fancy the normal results of old instruments, or consider them primitive or unsatisfactory or whatnot, that's their problem...not Bach's. Bach simply did not write any music for Schilke valved trumpets, or Steinway pianos, or Boehm-system metal flutes, or synthesizers, or saxophones. Those instruments did not exist. People might play his music on those instruments now and do very well at it, judged by standards other than Bach's own (where he never heard them), but it's sui generis. And some listeners today might even prefer what they hear, done that way in transcriptions for these various anachronistic instruments; but again that has nothing to do one way or the other with the way Bach actually wrote the music: for the instruments available to him, and (at least in the cantatas) for specific dates/performances.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 9, 2007):
<<"The twelve notes in that phrase, for the trumpeter, are: Bb, A, Bb, Bb, A, G, C, Bb, C, C, Bb, A. And, as I said the first time (reporting from Brischle's article), his point is about those five Bb's and the three A's". >>
< I think I understand now. Thanks! But I take it that Tom's point, about the possibility of a trumpet in C being used, renders unnecessary Brischle's ideas in relation to that phrase? Not that I understand why one type of baroque trumpet might be chosen over another. >
A natural trumpet in C makes piece even harder than it is when played on a natural trumpet in D!

Try it: transpose the trumpeter's part so the whole thing is in A minor, starting A, C, A, E, etc. That very first note, the A, is already one that's not in the overtone series above C (in that octave); it has to be played by a different technique fudging it. And notice: that A is used a bunch of other times in this movement, as tonic of the piece, and usually approached by leap. Good luck with that. Along with that, another problematic note is the one that has become G#, nearly an octave higher. And the various uses of F#, also, next to that.

And it especially doesn't solve our "Mord" passage, either. It would now be C, B, C, C, B, A, D, C, D, D, C, B. Well...now the B and the A there are the false notes (not belonging to the overtone series above C, in that octave). So, even if we would rewrite the whole part as transposed for C trumpet instead of D trumpet, the "Mord" passage here still has some of the odd notes in it -- the notes that are played with a different technique, and yielding a different tone.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 9, 2007):
Bradley Lrhman wrote:
< If some modern people happen not to fancy the normal results of old instruments, or consider them primitive or "unsatisfactory" or whatnot, that's their problem...not Bach's. Bach simply did not write any music for Schilke valved trumpets, or Steinway pianos, or Boehm-system metal flutes, or synthesizers, or saxophones. Those instruments did not exist. People >
We have the same problem with horns. In many Bach works, (e.g. "Sie Werden Aus Saba", Missa Mrevis in F), Bach wrote the horn parts "in alt", their highest register. However, most of us have never heard the sound Bach intended because modern horns play the music an octave lower. I don't know how many times I;ve read cover notes about the "warm", "mellow" sound of the horns in a cantata, when in fact wanted a intense, brassy, regal sound.

 

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