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Writing in Bach’s Style

Writing in Bach’s Style

Continue of discussion from: Members 2004 [General Topics]

John Reese wrote (April 30, 2004):
My name is John Reese. I've been lurking for a few weeks and thought I'd take this opportunity to jump in. I'm a composer who does some software development on the side, since ten dollars a year in royalties doesn't really pay the bills. ;)

I've been hooked on Bach cantatas since singing the opening chorus from BWV 79 in high school choir. In fact, in my student composition years, I tried to emulate Bach's style in every conceivable way, including my manuscript. OK, I was a little naive back then, and was quickly broken of the habit.

Nevertheless, I still like to write in the style of Bach every now and then. I'm currently working on a reconstruction of several Bach cantatas where only the text has survived. I don't know if this will ever be of interest to anyone but myself, but in the meantime I'm having a blast doing it.

This project has involved a lot of research, and the bach-cantatas website, as well as this list, has proved a valuable resource.

I hope to contribute (and learn) more in the near future.

Don't let me interrupt. Please, continue as before. :)

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (April 30, 2004):
John Reese wrote:
< OK, I was a little naive back then, and was quickly broken of the habit. >
I know I'm in my "student composition years", and I agree that trying to emulate the look of Bach's manuscript is a bit much, but why neo-baroque composition considered naive? Do people seem to believe that there's nothing left to say in that language? What if I don't agree with what is said using the modern, dissonant language? I'm not in any way against post-modernism, except for the fact that I don't find listening to it particularly worthwhile and disagree with it's inherent dissonant (humanist?) message. If so many composers go through this, at least as a "stage" or "phase" during their education, isn't there something to it? As well, is it not the spirit of post-modernism to be open-minded in giving the composer artistic freedom?

Matt (who has recieved opposition to this at school, but from another student and this opposition has obviously failed to persuade me. I have also experimented in a more dissonant style, as well as classical and romantic style, and want to learn about the more consonant styles of Rutter and Vaughan-Williams)

Uri Golomb wrote (April 30, 2004):
Matthew Neugebauer wrote:
< I'm not in any way against post-modernism, except for the fact that I don't find listening to it particularly worthwhile and disagree with it's inherent dissonant (humanist?) message. >

I am not sure you wanted to say post-modernism in this context... and why connect dissonance with humanism?

Charles Francis wrote (April 30, 2004):
John Reese wrote:
< I've been hooked on Bach cantatas since singing the opening chorus from BWV 79 in high school choir. In fact, in my student composition years, I tried to emulate Bach's style in every conceivable way, including my manuscript. >
I suspect one reason academic authorities and contemporary composers do not condone writing in Bach's style, is that it is very difficult for them to do so; poor taste may also play a role. Bach's surviving works, of course, do not say everything that could be said in his style; otherwise those lost masterpieces would count for nothing!
From my personal perspective, everything after Bach is down hill; contemporary music, in particular, reaches uncharted depths of inanity.

John Pike wrote (April 30, 2004):
Matthew Neugebauer wrote:
< everything after Bach is down hill >
Surely not? What about Mozart and Beethoven, just for starters?

Uri Golomb wrote (April 30, 2004):
John Reese wrote:
< I've been hooked on Bach cantatas since singing the opening chorus from BWV 79 in high school choir. In fact, in my student composition years, I tried to emulate Bach's style in every conceivable way, including my manuscript. >
Sounds a bit like Koopman (see: http://www.goldbergweb.com/en/magazine/interviews/2003/09/16243_6.php)

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 30, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote:
< contemporary music, in particular, reaches uncharted depths of inanity. >
All contemporary music?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 30, 2004):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] It depends, surely, on what you mean by neo-Baroque. A young aspiring composer came to me for advice a little while ago and ended up showing me quite a lot of pieces that he's written. He only liked Baroque music and sought, essentially, to compose 'Baroque' music. The pieces he wrote were full of solecisms - whether this was because of his relatively undeveloped compositional ability, or because we live in very different times and an awful lot of music has been written (and heard) since then, and that couldn't fail to impact on what he was writing, I don't know. Probably it was a bit of both. In the end, I stopped seeing him for while I could do my best to try and help him write echt-Baroque music as skillfully as possible, in the end I didn't see the point of what he was trying to do. It is an incredibly useful training for composers to do this kind of thing but as an end in itself it sems rather redundant to me. Apart from anything else, when there is such an abundance of interesting, genuine Baroque music out there, why would performers (or listeners) be interested in pasriche Baroque music written in 2004?

Why don't you simply write what you want to write, without putting a label on it? That will be less limiting for you and more interesting for you and your listeners. And bear in mind that not all modern music is uniformly dissonant (and arguably not dissonant at all strictly speaking, in many cases, given the harmonic language it is operating in). Bach wasn't afraid of a bit of dissonance either, of course.....!

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 30, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote:
< I suspect one reason academic authorities and contemporary composers do not condone writing in Bach's style, is that it is very difficult for them to do so; >
Why do you think 'acacdemic authorities' (whoever they may be) and 'contemporary composers' don't 'condone writing in Bach's style' as you put it? It is not for them to condone, or not condone, what someone else is trying to write. I assume you mean that is difficult for contemporary composers to write in Bach's style (not that it is difficult for them to condone it!); the former is true (though I think you're probably implying that living composers aren't good enough to manage it), but that isn't why most of us don't do it. Believe it or not, it's because we don't want to!

Charles Francis wrote (April 30, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote:
< I assume you mean that is difficult for contemporary composers to write in Bach's style (not that it is difficult for them to condone it!); >
Yes.

< the former is true (though I think you're probably implying that living composers aren't good enough to manage it), >
There may be an exception, but I have yet to discover her.

< but that isn't why most of us don't do it. Believe it or not, it's because we don't want to! >
Why would anyone not want to compose superior music?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 30, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote:
<< the former is true (though I think you're probably implying that living composers aren't good enough to manage it), >>
Charles Francis wrote:
< There may be an exception, but I have yet to discover her. >
What evidence do you have that, let us say, John Adams, Louis Andriessen, Harrison Birtwistle, Pierre Boulez, Gavin Bryars, Elliott Carter, Henri Dutilleux, Philip Glass, Henryk Gorecki, Sofia Gubaidulina, Hans Werner Henze, Magnus Lindberg, Arvo Pärt, Steve R, Kaaija Saariaho, Karlheinz Stockhausen or John Tavener cannot write competent and convincing Bach pastiche?

< "but that isn't why most of us don't do it. Believe it or not, it's > because we don't want to! >
Why would anyone not want to compose superior music?"

Superior to what? You expressed the view that Bach's music is superior to anything that has been written since. Is music written 'in Bach's style' (your phrase, and what the above refers to) also equally superior? If one writes music 'in Bach's style' are the results of the same quality as Bach's own music? Why would it be desirable, over 250 years after Bach died, to attempt to compose as he did? If Bach had taken the same view as you, he would have spent his life producing pastiche Ockeghem (or whatever). Would that have been a good thing?

I don't know if your question is meant to be clever, or funny, but it is neither. It is inane (an epithet that you were happy to use about all contemporary music). You recently expressed a desire for rational debate - sadly, it is clearly impossible to have that debate with someone who seems incapable of saying anything remote sensible about music.

John Reese wrote (May 1, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] I have to disagree that academic authorities and contemporary composers do not write in the style of Bach because of the difficulty involved. Most learned musicians have been thoroughly trained in such things as counterpoint and figured-bass realization.

Also, I don't think there has ever been a shortage of inanity in any historical period, it's just that the inane music of Bach's time has been largely forgotten.

It's possible that's the reason so much of Bach's music has been lost – it must have been extremely difficult to separate the wheat from the chaffe, so to speak, when deciding what music to keep for future generations and what to glue to a tree.

John Reese wrote (May 1, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] "Neo-baroque" probably best describes my favorite composition style today, although it probably means something very different from the reference here. "Neo-baroque" music is modern music that has substantial elements of baroque built into it, so it is instantly recognizable as both modern and baroque. It makes for an interesting way to create something new within the framework of something familiar.

John Reese wrote (May 1, 2004):
To Gabriel Jackson] It wasn't my intention to start a debate about music composition, which is not the purpose of this forum. I consider the Bach reconstruction project I'm working on to be somewhere between a musicological study and music composition. I only brought it up because this forum has been invaluable in providing useful information, and thought the project might be of interest to some.

Just for the record:

1. I do not write exclusively in the style of Bach
2. I do not disagree with my college instructors who discouraged me from writing in the Baroque style (although I was pretty bitter for a while)
3. I didn't kill Mozart. Honest.

Just thought I'd mention it...

Stephen Benson wrote (May 1, 2004):
[To John Reese] A favorite of mine of what I think of as "neo-baroque" music is Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's "Concerto Grosso 1985", based on the first movement of Handel's Violin Sonata in D but with a large dose, for me at least, of Shostakovich. Is this the kind of thing you're talking about?

John Reese wrote (May 1, 2004):
[To Stephen Benson] I'm not familiar with that one. I always think of Stravinsky's "The Rake's Progress", although that may be called neo-Roccoco or even neo-Classical.

For a short example of TRUE neo-Baroque, here is part of an organ fugue that I'm working on: www.geocities.com/jmreese.geo/faminor.mid

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (May 1, 2004):
< For a short example of TRUE neo-Baroque, here is part of an organ fugue that I'm working on: www.geocities.com/jmreese.geo/faminor.mid >
GREAT. I like it very much! I believe this is a perfect way of spending your time. It always sharpens the mind, and will help your composition technique, whatever the direction it might go.

IMO, you have a rather extended theme. Length is adding much to complexity. Perhaps due to Quick player stream, I also somewhat missed a real low base entry in the first quarter of the piece (ABC-A-BCD-B, it still is singing around).

Do you have more of such examples. I have done some work myself as well. Unfortunately my pc crashed one year ago, and my music files were the only ones I had forgotten to back-up.

Jef Lowell wrote (May 1, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] Well,
If you want to be a perennial student, by all means try to write like the Grandmaster. There is no better example. Just be sure that you realize that following his example literally will doom you to be always a desciple, and perhaps, never to come to your own style. This is a trap I've spent the last thirty-odd years trying to crawl out of. As Lucas Foss once pointed out "You can't begin to do it too". Try as we might, that marvelous Bachian counterpoint which "hangs in the air like a miracle" is practiced only by Bach, and is forever out of the reach of we poor mortals. His manifestation is beyond analysis or any ordinary explanation. Still, anyone who is brave enough (or foolish enough) to try to write serious music today certainly earns my good wishes. Who knows what you might come up with?

Charles Francis wrote (May 1, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote:
< What evidence do you have that, let us say, John Adams, Louis Andriessen, Harrison Birtwistle, Pierre Boulez, Gavin Bryars, Elliott Carter, Henri Dutilleux, Philip Glass, Henryk Gorecki, Sofia Gubaidulina, Hans Werner Henze, Magnus Lindberg, Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich, Kaaija Saariaho, Karlheinz Stockhausen or John Tavener cannot write competent and convincing Bach pastiche? >
You're asking me to prove a negative, which can't be done. But to demonstrate your point, just provide an example of convincing Bach pastiche - preferably a fugue as this will soon separate the sheep from the goats.

< Superior to what? >
To their own inane music. BTW, I fully realise this is subjective, but after all this is a Bach group (not Elvis or Harrison Birtwistle etc.).

< You expressed the view that Bach's music is superior to anything that has been written since. >
From what I have heard to date, this is self-evident (for me). But for you, Harrison Birtwistle may be ultimate. Tastes do differ: I have a brother-in-law, for example, who loves Wagner and considers Bach a "boring old fart" (apologies for the exact quote).

< Is music written 'in Bach's style' (your phrase, and what the above refers to) also equally superior? If one writes music 'in Bach's style' are the results of the same quality as Bach's own music? >
Obviously not. That is why all the Bach pastiche I've heard fails to convince.

< Why would it be desirable, over 250 years after Bach died, to attempt to compose as he did? >
For the same reason it would be desirable to recover his lost works, i.e. there would be more superlative music in the world.

< If Bach had taken the same view as you, he would have spent his life producing pasticheOckeghem (or whatever). Would that have been a good thing? >
The Gratias agimus tibi and Dona nobis pacem from Bach's B-minor Mass are for me the peak of musical creation, but at the same time they are routed in an earlier style.

<ad hominem snipped>

John Reese wrote (May 2, 2004):
Arjen van Gijssel wrote:
< Do you have more of such examples.>
Five tocattas for organ: http://www.geocities.com/jmreese.geo/five.htm
Magnificat (composed with Laura Faulkner): http://www.geocities.com/jmreese.geo/mag.htm

< Unfortunately my pc crashed one year ago, and my music files werethe only ones I had forgotten to back-up. >
Man, have I been there! I've still got a bunch of files that I'm trying to reconstruct from the MIDI and/or hard copies after a crash six years ago.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (May 5, 2004):
[To Jef Lowell] Well, firstly, I'm looking at more a Handelian style, which isn't
necessarily as abstract in technique as Bach (is that an oxymoron? abstract in technique?). After some thought however I've resolved that I'm open to using both 17th/18th cent English/Italian choral style as well as 20th/21st cent English choral style (i.e. Vaughan-Williams, Rutter, Tavener, etc.) as merely different tools in my shed. However through that I'm also exploring my own voice which uses these styles (of course not in the same work!) as a springboard!

Jef Lowell wrote (May 5, 2004):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] Edgar Varese said it: "The present-day composer refuses to die!"

 

Composers?

Jeremy Martin wrote (July 10, 2004):
I was wondering if anyone here composes Baroque works? I started composing not long ago and I always find myself writing in the Baroque style. Here is my last Organ Work. Hope you like it. http://www.pangenix.com/music/Jer/OrganWork.mp3

Ludwig wrote (July 10, 2004):
[To Jeremy Martin] No one can compose Baroque Music anymore because that is an age past. Just as is the Romantic period is an age past during which Baroque art came to be. People can compose in baroque style but it is not baroque music. Same for romantic or impressionistic music or art.

There is little intrest in Baroque art:sculpture and painting which is usually charecterized by cluttered depictions of gods and godessess, angels and cherubs with cutsey baby faces. The foremost museum of this is the Bob Jones University Museum in Greenville, South Carolina. There you can see paintings by name painters of the period.

No one who is a professional composer composes in the baroque style anymore except perhaps if they are working on a film and the period demands it. (vide Dangerous Liasons)

lvb
professional composer

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (July 10, 2004):
[To Jeremy Martin] I am.

Ludwig wrote (July 10, 2004):
[To Jeremy Martin] I also forgot to mention that your work does not sound all that original.

It sounds to me as if you have copied the music of a film composer Lenny Niehaus who wrote some organ music for the film MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL.

Your piece compared to it does not vary too much from what Niehaus has written---the main difference is that he had one minute or less to get this in the film
whereas you have extended this (no legal excuse to claim yours). Also for the short period Niehaus used these chords it was interesting but yours is not. If you did this is a NO NO and can get you into some serious legal trouble as it a crime to take someone elses work and use it as one's own--much less to play it without their permission.

John Reese wrote (July 10, 2004):
[To Jeremy Martin] Sometimes. I've mentioned earlier the composition/musicology project of the lost bach cantatas: http://www.geocities.com/jmreese.geo/bachrecon.htm . And I like to write Baroque-style fugues just for grins.

Jeremy L. Thompson-Martin wrote (July 10, 2004):
[To Ludwig] I assure you it's not taken from anyone else. If you doubt I can compose in the Baroque style then Present me a workable theme for a Fugue and I will write one. Although, I do not need to prove myself to any man.

Concerning your OFF-List letter. I never claimed to be a good composer, as I said I recently started composing. This work I composed quickly in 2 maybe 3 days time. Concerning the Counterpoint clarity it did not come through very clear on Organ if it was saved as Piano Sound it would. I composed a Fugue for it here. http://users.castel.nl/~schic02/fugasnew/FugueCminornew.mid Not the best fugue but it's Ok. Again, only thrown together in 2 or 3 days.

I am sure I will learn more as I go on with God's help.

 

Another question

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (July 26, 2006):
Many thanks to all that responded to my last post about the Flauti traversi in the Johannespassion (BWV 245).

I have another inquiry at present. Here it is:

I am composing a birthday cantata for my mother (the text will be in Italian, since she is 100% Italian). To accomodate the pastoral feel of the cantata, I am using the Italian bagpipes in it. How does one write for bagpipes? Do they play at a different interval than written, and if so, at what interval?

Thank you.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (July 26, 2006):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] It depends on the kind of bagpipes you are going to use. So you mean this as in British if so that is an easy thing to do. You write for the Bagpipe just as you would for Blockflute except the range is shorter. The melody is played on a chanter. It's range is from the G above middle C on the Piano to A and octave above the G+1 note higher notes might just possibly be obtained by overblowing but I would not count on this. Please be aware that Bagpipe notes are not precisely the same as on the Piano and some notes are more quarter pitches than equal temperment scale. This may present some problems.

If you are talking about a musette then we have a different problem because I have no information on this. Your best bet is to purchase a chanter and find out how the drones are tuned. Also I would like to advise you to consult a number of Orchestration books such as Forsyth's, Berlioz et al.

Borjon de Scellery wrote a treatise on the Musette "Traité de la musette" (Treatise on the Musette), Lyons, 1672. You might find a copy somewhere online or through a library such as Yale University or Indiana University. Mersenne and Borjon described it has having a range of ten notes (f'–a'') and drones in F and B which is about the same as the modern Bagpipe. You also need to consider if you are writing for Keyed bagpipes or traditional forms. The Italian form is called a Zampogna and is a double reed instrument.

The Italian form is a complicated affair of 4 chanters one type is played by one player and the other is played by two players. A collection of music for this instrument was published in tablature by Giovanni Lorenzo Baldano (1576–1660). The larger type low notes sounds more like a note of a low Organ pipe.The two drones are tuned to an octave or a 12th.

I would urge you to obtain a copy of the Baldano manuscript and use it as a guide to writing your music.

William Rowland, composer.

Julian Mincham wrote (July 26, 2006):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< How does one write for bagpipes? In a spirit of complete flippancy I would be tempted to reply "as seldom as as possible!" >
But I guess that would only upset someone!!

Have to say, though, that my idea of purgatory would be being forced to listen to continuous Strauss waltzes played on the bagpipes!

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 26, 2006):
< How does one write for bagpipes? In a spirit of complete flippancy I would be tempted to reply "as seldom as as possible!" >
Another flippant answer would be "legato".

< Have to say, though, that my idea of purgatory would be being forced to listen to continuous Strauss waltzes played on the bagpipes! JM >
...Indoors....

No slight intended toward Strauss or his music, which I like. :)

A few months ago I attended a concert by the Irish group "Lunasa", wherein their Uilleann pipes player gave a beautiful and remarkably pensive-sounding solo. I especially liked the just intonation of some of his intervals on long notes, pure against his drone.

D. Kerr wrote (July 26, 2006):
[To Bradley Lehman] There actually IS a bagpipe-notation writing program contained in MUSIC PUBLISHER 5.

The best way to hear/appreciate bagpipes is when the players are somewhere in Scotland and you are at the bottom of Howe Caverns...

 

Writing a three-part fugue

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 15, 2007):
A short instructional video on writing a threvoiced fugue, illustrated by having the voices all in different-color ink in the composer's score...and by having three copies of the lecturer talk at once, color-coding his shirts to the different voices of the piece. Nifty! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgDcC2LOJhQ

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 15, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] I imagine such cleverness was a constant feature of Bach family gatherings!

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (January 15, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] This (Glenn Gould's "So You Want To Write A Fugue") is in a similar vein. Unfortunately, I have not found an MP3 of it, but I have found the next best thing: sheet music. It's absolutely hysterical! http://www.musicroom.com/se/ID_No/013013/details.html?kbid=1353

Anthony Olszowy wrote (January 15, 2007):
[To Cara Emily Thornton] I seem to recall a recording of the fugue on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for non Canadians on the list) web site, (CBC Radio Two)--they had a page or two of their Gould archives on line for a number of years. Don't know if it'sstill there.

By the way, for those who are more musically literate than I am, what's the relationship between Gould's fugue and the fugue ending Bach's bit of keyboard juvenalia, usually entitled "On the Departure of a Beloved Brother?"

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 15, 2007):
Anthony Olszowy wrote:
< I seem to recall a recording of the fugue on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for non Canadians on the list) web site, (CBC Radio Two)--they had a page or two of their Gould archives on line for a number of years. Don't know if it'sstill there. >
I doubt (give that Canadian pronunciation which I can never do: Peter Jennings used to do it all the time on ABC network TV news in the USA) that many of us have not heard of the CBC. At all events, since I endured two years in Buffalo, I spent a lot of time listening to both English and French CBC.

< By the way, for those who are more musically literate than I am, what's the relationship between Gould's fugue and the fugue ending Bach's bit of keyboard juvenalia, usually entitled "On the Departure of a Beloved Brother?" >
I guess it's more accurately said "usually translated (from the Italian) as...."

< Anthony J. Olszowy
Barrister & Solicitor
442 H Grey Street
Brantford, Ontario, Canada >
Do Canadians really avoid the term "fax" and actually use "Facsimile"? I thought that was the name of a Bernstein work:-).
This message is intended for anyone who wishes to see it.

Yoël (neither a barrister nor a solicitor be or kill the lawyers. Didn't someone in Merchant of Venice say something like that??? Did Bach write a cantata about lawyers?

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 15, 2007):
< By the way, for those who are more musically literate than I am, what's the relationship between Gould's fugue and the fugue ending Bach's bit of keyboard juvenalia, usually entitled "On the Departure of a Beloved Brother?" >
The fugue on the mailman's horn call, at the end of BWV 992? Not much similarity, as the subjects diverge from one another after the first few notes. Both start with a couple of tonics (home-key note) followed by the leap upward by a 5th to a note that also gets repeated four times; but everything thereafter winds down differently. Plus, Gould's subject is in a minor key, while Bach's is major.

Gould's piece is for four singers and string quartet; Bach's is a keyboard fugue with only three parts most of the time....

Brad Lehman (coincidentally working on BWV 992 yesterday)

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 15, 2007):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< Do Canadians really avoid the term "fax" and actually use "Facsimile"? >
We use it as noun, verb and adejctive.

Anthony Olszowy wrote (January 15, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks, Brad. I thought there was something of an aural similarity in the fugue themes, but I didn't know if Mr. Gould was parodying Bach's work or not.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 15, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< We use it as noun, verb and adejctive. >
Spending a few extra letters to avoid the reams of misunderstanding between fax and facts?

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 15, 2007):
Anthony Olszowy wrote:
< Thanks, Brad. I thought there was something of an aural similarity in the fugue themes, but I didn't know if Mr. Gould was parodying Bach's work or not >
I think the model for Gould's very clever parody is the big C Minor Fugue for organ.

By the way, it's a very tricky piece to sing. If only us poor 20th century musicians could sight-read perfectly like Bach's 10 yr old choirboys.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 16, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Well, don't neglect the non-trivial string quartet parts of that piece, either: with teenaged string players sight-reading them?

I remember the first time I heard this piece (Gould's "So you want to write a fugue?" for a TV programme) was when one of my college-freshman classmates sang the soprano part to me, for fun. Her high-school choir had sung it...having worked on it for several months of rehearsals first. Not the authentic OVPP (one voice per part) in their case, but with bigger ensemble and piano; yeah, whatever.

I like the way the string parts quote Brandenburg 2.

On this same piece: which of the three available recordings do BCML members prefer? I saw the video of it from the "Glenn Gould Collection" on VHS a long time ago; original broadcast was October 15 1963, according to a Gould discography I have here (in Otto Friedrich's book). I don't remember if that one ever made it to a CD, by Sony or otherwise. The second and third ones I have here on different Sony CDs. Charles Bressler et al, with Juilliard Quartet conducted by Vladimir Golschmann, December 14 1963; and Harry van der Kamp, Bruno Monsaingeon et al, conducted by Nicolas Rivenq, September 1990. Sony's booklet for the Golschmann recording disagrees with the discography as to the original TV date of the CBC production: they give it as January 25 1963 instead of October. Yeah, whatever.

Both of these CD booklets have a nice presentation of the libretto (original English) plus three translations: German, French, and Italian.

I wonder how long the Juilliard Quartet and their singing colleagues worked on it before their recording, or if they had some odd expectation of sight-reading it (with ink still wet from night-before copying)? After all, the Juilliard Quartet of that vintage was really good at Bartok, who was no slouch at counterpoint either. How many other recordings of anything did the Juilliard make, needing a conductor?

The earlier-in-1963 Canadian ensemble, same question? They had the advantage of the composer himself conducting them, for TV, so he could answer any questions they might have. I wonder how far ahead he gave
them the music, or if it was one of those night-before copying jobs before going onto national television with it, performed OVPP.

 

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