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Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

Systematic Discussions of Bachís Other Vocal Works
Motet BWV 226
Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf

Discussions in the Week of January 11, 2004

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 11, 2004):
Motet BWV 226 - Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf

Introduction

The chosen work for this weekís discussion (January 11, 2004) is the Motet BWV 226 ĎDer Geist hilft unser Schwachheit aufí (The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness).

Recordings, discussions & additional information

Your gate to the Motets BWV 225-231 - list of recordings, previous discussions, and additional information (texts & translations, score, commentaries, music examples, etc.) - is located at the page:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV225-231.htm

Some Background

The leading German composers of the 17th century, Samuel Scheidt, Johann Hermann Schein and Heinrich Schütz, with Michael and Hieronymus Praetorius, were Bachís predecessors in the art of motet composing both in Latin and in German. Their motets depended heavily on instrumental accompaniment to the vocal forces employed. But in the 18th century the vocal parts began to outweigh the number of instruments used in the motet setting, so that the result would seem to be a capella singing, although the German motet, including Bachís was usually accompanied by an organ or strings, even tough it was called a capella. For special ceremonies more instruments could be added. The funeral to which the Motet BWV 226 was composed was most probably a very unique event, because this is the only one of his motets, apart from BWV 118 (which is most probably a fragment from a lost cantata), that Bach provided with a full orchestral accompaniment. It includes two oboes da caccia, a bassoon, strings and basso continuo (organ). However, there is also another explanation. This funeral service was held in St. Paulís, the University Church of Leipzig, where the orchestra and the organ were allowed for burial service.

Bach composed this 8-voice (2 choirs) motet for the Gedächtnispredigt (memorial sermon) at the funeral service, October 30, 1729, for Johann Heinrich Ernesti, rector of the Thomas School and Professor of Poetry at the University of Leipzig, who had died couple of days earlier. Bachís rapport with him had been most friendly, unlike his dealings with his successor, Johann August Ernesti, who was not related. Yet Bach does not display his own personal affection for the deceased Rector in this motet, but confines himself to translating the Biblical texts that he had chosen into music. He does this by dividing the libretto into three parts: two Biblical quotes and then a final chorale verse.

The central theme of the motet is to show how Holy Ghost influences our lives, according to Godís will. Bach has chosen two verses from Paulís Epistle to the Romans 8: 26, 27 and the third stanza of the chorale by Martin Luther to illustrate this in words and in music.

Letís the discussion begins!

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (January 11, 2004):
I have sung this motet a dozen times in concerts. I uploaded a performance of the Laurenscantorij, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 2001.
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV225-231.htm

It is not the most difficult motet, in terms of notes, breathing space and length. And of course there's the orchestral support. What is particularly fun to sing, is the part with "unaussprechlichem Seufzen" because here really text and music come beautifully together. I like the choral as well, with words like Brunst, Fleisches Blödigkeit, Trübsal abtreiben, ritterlich. Nice words which you as a singer can really use to give clarity of expression, and to let the public know what you are doing. The best performances have clear expression (you should hear the entire sentences sung), transparent voices (you should be perfectly able to follow individual lines, but the voices should perfectly merge in a warm, clear group sound). I like it when occasionally a voice is given priority over the others for a short (!) while. There are some of these spots, like bar 87 -92, where it seems written as if the tenor is accentuating the Conclusio.

These things are what I am looking for in the recordings. In the end, I don't know of really bad performances. They all sound great, because Bach's music is great. That is my particular experience with the motets, not with all of his music. To me, Corboz, Herreweghe and Harnoncourt do a perfect job. Corboz/Ensemble vocal de Lausanne is warm/gai in a French-like way, Herreweghe's approach is as always perfect (but perhaps a little bit too outstanding, so that it becomes dry), Harnoncourt/Stockholm Bach Choir's attack and is exact (or occasionally choppy?) in letting us hear the structure (the conversations between the voices, the way they come in each after another). Koopman and Dutch Chamber Choir are fine as well, but did not try to be too exact on end-nouns. I hear: der geiz hielf, without t's. Are they singing seusen or seu-f-tzen. The tempo is rather quick (get it over with, bury the man so we can go home). The Laurenscantorij recording is somewhat slower than the aforementioned professional ones. In terms of attack it resembles Harnoncourt. That's all I dare say of it.

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (January 19, 2004):
Bradley Lehman stated:
< And it also very much ticked me off when, on December 31st, I presented a recording from one of my own performances, and Braatz (not even four hours later) lambasted it as completely wrong according to his literalistic way of reading Bach's scores. >
Somebody bashing at your own performance is bad. Worse is that nobody takes the trouble to post a reaction, as happened with my recording (BWV 226) last week....

Neil Halliday wrote (January 20, 2004):
[To Arjen van Gijssel] Your group's performance of BWV 226 has much more character than Rilling's, and has similarities with the Herreweghe recording, an excerpt of which can also be heard at the BCW: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV225-231-Mus.htm

As usual, the less than ideal recording engineering used for this performance by the Laurenscantorij is obviously a drawback - it's about on a par with the low quality Herreweghe 20 b/sec internet sample - but otherwise this recording displays solid musicianship from the choir (and orchestra, a nice addition in this performance). I like the adoption of the moderate tempo, which you noted.

Thomas Braatz noted in his multi-recording review of BWV 225, that Rilling's recording of BWV 225 is less than inspiring, with which I concur, and the same can be said about BWV 226.

The high speeds that Rilling chooses in some sections of this complex choral writing is perhaps part of the problem. More importantly, the generally diffuse sound of the choir(s), which results in an often featureless, amorphous body of sound, is disappointing.

(I'm beginning to wonder what happened to the gloriously colourful, clear and rich sound Rilling was able to achieve in many of the church cantatas that he recorded in the 70's and 80's.)

Jason Marmaras wrote (February 26, 2004):
BWV 226 - Herreweghe

I just downloaded the sample from the BCWs and couldn't stop myself. In exactly the same most naive and childish way that I thought while growing up with Herreweghe's Weinachts-Oratorium (BWV 248) recording, I state: Herreweghe's trills remind me of Bach and Baroque in such a manner as can't be described in words!

(what's going on? what is this long silence that's befallen the list?)

Avi Eilam-Amzallag wrote (February 26, 2004):
[To Jason Marmaras] No silence my dear, that is the greatness of music, and that is the greatness of J.S. BACH, the greatest of the greatest. Don't try to express it with words.

 

Discussions in the Week of January 3, 2010

Neil Halliday wrote(January 3, 2010):
Discussion: BWV 226 Der Geist hilft

Vivid antiphonal effects, a feature of all the double-choir motets, occur in first movement of this motet, in 3/8 time.
On recordings, prominent spatial separation of the two choirs is essential, IMO.

[The 'midi' examples on the BCW page are totally incomprehesible, in part due to lack of separation. Of course, following the score while listening is much easier with clear left-right separation of the choirs].

The counterpoint at the beginning is laced with lively 1/16th note passages, often arranged antiphonally, which are virtually always melismas set to the word "Geist"(spirit). This section uses the first four lines of text.

The next section (4/4 time) has a surprisingly transparent fugal form (considering the eight stave, double choir set-up). A syncopated two bar subject (see the BCW score) occurs continually end to end throughout the movement (except in the last four bars), sometimes heard in one choir, sometimes in both choirs (ie, with two voices doubling the subject); this subject is always relatively easy to identify in the 8-part counterpoint as the movement progresses. Lines five and six of the text are employed here.

[In one sense, Bach makes incredible demands on his listeners who don't have access to the score; I had to learn this rhythmically tricky subject - which always begins on the 2nd beat - by heart in order to easily discern its constant recurrence in the counterpoint; but the music is much more satisfying if one can bring this feature of the counterpoint into focus while listening. As one enthusiast states, in reviewing Jacob's excellent recording of the motets, : 'BACH'S MOTETS ARE AMONG HIS MOST PERFECT WORKS AND CONSITUTE ONE OF THE SUMMITS OF WESTERN POLYPHONY.']

The last section (cut C time) is an impressive quasi double fugue in four voices (the two choirs double one-another). An interesting aspect of the two fugue subjects, both four bars long, is that the fourth bar of each is the same. The first subject is always associated with the 7th and 8th lines of text, and the second subject always has the last two lines of text; the two combine in the double fugue section which completes the work. Note (for those reading the score): the initial statement of the
second fugue subject - in the tenors - is missing its first three minims, which are heard thereafter in the exposition of this second subject.

Finally, note the important countersubject (also taking the text of the first subject) that accompanies the reappearance of the first subject into the counterpoint toward the end.

Those with broadband can sample many recordings of this work, available at the BCW.

BTW, I found the rich acoustic on Parrot's recording of some of the motets (but not BWV 226) to be most attractive; that CD also has a gorgeous performance of BWV 198, with lovely flowing articulation of the opening chorus, and strong instrumental sound (compensating for lack of a 'choir' in the modern sense, for those who find OVPP inadequate at times).

The difficulties these motets present for amateur groups can be seen from some music examples on the page linked from the BCW, which is at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV225-231.htm

The Bethlehem choir commentary on BWV 226: http://www.bach.org/bach101/motets/motet_dergeist_226.html

This page has an interesting facsimile of the autograph of BWV266; apart from the scratching out of the second bar (in all 8 staves) seen at the bottom, this score appears to be relatively free of mistakes.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 3, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< throughout the movement (except in the last four bars), sometimes heard in one choir, sometimes in both choirs (ie, with two voices doubling the subject); this subject is always relatively easy to identify in the 8-part counterpoint as the movement progresses. Lines five and six of the text are employed here.
[In one sense, Bach makes incredible demands on his listeners who don't have access to the score; I had to learn this rhythmically tricky subject - which always begins on the 2nd beat - by heart in order to easily discern its constant recurrence in the counterpoint; but the music is much more satisfying if one can bring this feature of the counterpoint into focus while listening. As one enthusiast states, in reviewing Jacob's excellent recording of the motets, : 'BACH'S MOTETS ARE AMONG HIS MOST PERFECT WORKS AND CONSITUTE ONE OF THE SUMMITS OF WESTERN POLYPHONY.'] >
I wonder to what extent Bach cared about his listeners, other than himself, in an analyticl sense? In most cases (cantatas, motets, and occasional vocal works), the writing was intended for a single hearing, or a repetition at widely separated intervals. SDG?

Of course, Bach might have enjoyed the working out during rehearsals, for his own ear? Unless the performances were sight-read.

Either way, I think the intent was for the listener to absorb by osmosis rather than analysis. Nice that we now have the opportunity to do both.

Edward Lilley wrote (January 3, 2010):
[To Ed Myskowski] I've heard (can't remember source) that Bach's motets were possibly written has training pieces to be used in his choir school, and not for normal liturgical use -- possibly this is why he wrote so few. I agree with bachloverau's enthusiast's sentiment that they are among his most perfect works -- even among normally pop-music-loving friends of mine, they are somehow captivating to the ear.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 3, 2010):
Edward Lilley wrote:
< I've heard (can't remember source) that Bach's motets were possibly written has training pieces to be used in his choir school, and not for normal liturgical use -- possibly this is why he wrote so few. >
I'd be interested in the source if you have it. Bach's motets may be few in number but they contain some his greatest music: "Jesu Meine Freude' and "Singet dem Herrn' are extraordinarily complex works with tremendous technical difficulties. It is unfair that they are neglected because Romantic tastes valued the concerted works more. The situation is much like the Latin masses -- superb mature works which are ignored because they use parody techniques.

We should look at Bach's motets in the context of the large repertoire of 16th - 18th century pieces which were the core repertoire which Bach performed with his choirs. The great double choir motets of Gabrieli, Schütz and the Bach family are A-list works, not some primitive music which Bach had to endure. In fact, Wolff has shown that Bach had a motet of a relative copied undoubtedly in preparation for his own funeral.

We focus so closely on the cantatas and oratorios that we forget that the greater part of Bach's conducting was directed at the motet repertoire. The "stile antico" was still very much alive in Bach's compositional toolbox.

George Bromley wrote (January 4, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] I have had the privilege of singing a few of the motets with the Johanesburg Bach Choir. they went down very well over there.

Peter Smaill wrote (January 4, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] On this subject there is to be recommended Dan Melamed's "J S Bach and the German Motet" which very much agrees that Bach is developing an art form in which the previous generation was steeped.

Bach's interest in it is by no means confined to what we generally consider to be his motets. Indeed, the term "motetto" is applied by bach to BWV 71, th Mühlhausen ratswahl Canatta, which has subdivision of instrumental and choral groupings but is not waht we would orinarily consider a motet. BWV 118, Herr Jesu Chist mein Lebens Licht" is listed as a Canata bu is really a motet, albeit the orchetral parts are partly independent of the vocal.

Bach also describes his adaptation of the Pergolesi Stabat Mater as "motetto".

Cantata movements in motet style are listed a BWV 6/1, BWV 22/1, BWV 24/3, BWV 76/1 BWV 105/1 and BWV 41/1. These are an interesting group, BWV 22 and BWV 76 heavily connected to the opening of Bach's career in Leipzig, and BWV 41 for the New Year. As far as I know there has not been any theory posited as to why Bach uses motet style movements in the Canatats from time to time.

As mentioned previously the Cantata BWV 76 is considered to be set by the Burgomaster Dr Gottfried Lange, Bach's ally, (see Wolff, p244 of JSB:The Learned Musician") and concludes with the Luther chorale, "Es danke Gott". This is precisely the text of the very last chorale harmonisation we have by Bach, for the Ratswahl Canatata BWV 69 in 1748. Lange died later that year and we are left to guess whether this isolated late chorale harmonisation (there had been nothing in the cantata form since BWV 195 in 1742) was a coincidence or a tribute to Lange. Either way- the first and last chorales composed for Leipzig are for the exact same text.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 4, 2010):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Bach's interest in it is by no means confined to what we generally consider to be his motets. Indeed, the term "motetto" is applied by bach to BWV 71, th Mühlhausen ratswahl Canatta, which has subdivision of instrumental and choral groupings but is not waht we would orinarily consider a motet. BWV 118, Herr Jesu Chist mein Lebens Licht" is listed as a Canata bu is really a motet, albeit the orchetral parts are partly independent of the vocal.
Bach also describes his adaptation of the
Pergolesi Stabat Mater as "motetto".
Cantata movements in motet style are listed a
BWV 6/1, BWV 22/1, BWV 24/3, BWV 76/1 BWV 105/1 and BWV 41/1. These are an interesting group, BWV 22 and BWV 76 heavily connected to the opening of Bach's career in Leipzig, and BWV 41 for the New Year. As far as I know there has not been any theory posited as to why Bach uses motet style movements in the Canatats from time to time. >
It is an interesting question as to what Bach called a motet as opposed to how we think of it today. The ones you quote usually have a more Itaniante opening section, the 'motet' aspect (i.e. with no independent instrumental parts ) coming later. I must say that I had never myself thought of BWV 6/1 as a motet; it's a free ternary form movement in which the middle section has motet charcteristics.

I think that the changes in the nature of the motet from the C13 on have made it difficult to define. I note that different writers have referred to 'motet style' with reference to a) pieces which are wholly vocal b) vocal but supported by an independent continuo line (which may or may not double the basses) and c) vocal with instruments doubling the lines but with no independence of their own (like many of the Bach chorales ending the cantatas).

Bach used all three layouts and went even further by combining them with other formal principles e.g. as chorale fantasias in several of the second cycle first movements (see 2 and 38 for example). These are often referred to as 'motet' styles because of the instrument doubling.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 4, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< c) vocal with instruments doubling the lines but with no independence of their own (like many of the Bach chorales ending the cantatas). >
To this category of "motet cantatas", I would add the opening choruses of "Ein feste Burg" (BWV 80) and "Wir Danken Dir" (BWV 29) which later became "Dona Nobis Pacem" in the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232). The latter is fascinating because the instruments double the voices until the trumpets become independent, a "modern" example of the extra instrumental parts "ad placitum" (= at pleasure, ad lib.) which Praetorius would add to motets. The second Kyrie in the Mass is also in motet style.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 4, 2010):
What is a motet?

[To Julian Mincham] Listening to the Rilling recording of the motets recently, I was sure I knew the music in the motet "Jauchzet dem Herrn", which indeed, as the OCC notes, is an arrangement of 28/2 which is a chorale fantasia with brass, woodwinds and strings all doubling SATB voices. The continuo mostly doubles the vocal basses.

William Hoffman wrote (January 5, 2010):
[To Neil Halliday, regarding What is a motet?] Bach is supposed to have presented numerous motets, yet we have only about six originals. But there are many more to be found in the Old Bach Family Archives and works formerly attributed to him (BWV Anhang). You'll find some 10 in BCW www.bach-cantatas.com/Other/Work-Perform.htm
.
Many, especially from the OBFA, also can be found on various CD recordings: "Kantaten us dem Alt-Bachischen Archiv," Capriccio 10029; "Bach Family Motets," Conifer 51306; "De Johann a Johann Sebastian Bach Motets", Pierre Vernay 797111; and "The Bach-Family, Hänssler 98.911. Happy Listening.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 5, 2010):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< On this subject there is to be recommended Dan Melamed's "J S Bach and the German Motet" which >very much agrees that Bach is developing an art form in which the previous generation was steeped. >
As it happens, I am listening to a nine hour radio program of the music of Orlando de Lassus, including numerous motets, as well as the expected sacred music, and the not so expected bawdy (for his time) music. Several generations prior to Bach. I gather Lassus was Belgian, although since Belgium did not yet exist, the French may disagree (?). I think it is clear that he was not German, and that he was familiar with Italian styles.

PS:
< Bach also describes his adaptation of the Pergolesi Stabat Mater as "motetto". >
EM:
Perhaps he got it via Belgium?

PS:
< we are left to guess whether this isolated late chorale harmonisation (there had been nothing in >the cantata form since BWV 195 in 1742) was a coincidence or a tribute to Lange. Either way- the first and last chorales composed for Leipzig are for the exact same text. >
EM:
It is certainly a satisfying guess that this was intentional, to my mind. Thanks.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 5, 2010):
Edward Lilley wrote:
<< I've heard (can't remember source) that Bach's motets were possibly written has training pieces to be used in his choir school, and not for normal liturgical use -- possibly this is why he wrote so few. >>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< We focus so closely on the cantatas and oratorios that we forget that the greater part of Bach's conducting was directed at the motet repertoire. The "stile antico" was still very much alive in Bach's compositional toolbox. >
It is a pleasant surprise to start the New year with so much timely discussion. Re Dougs point, it is approptiate to get out your recording of the McCreesh Epiphany Mass and experience the spread of Bachs performance and composition styles, on the liturgical date (Jan. 6). For today, I am still on ten maids-a-milking.

Recent discussion re the disgrace of DG allowing the Epiphany Mass to lapse from in-print status duly noted and seconded.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 5, 2010):
[To Neil Halliday, regarding What is a motet?] Thanks Neil. Bach's practice is for the continuo to double the basses accept sometimes for a few bars when they drop out before an important entry and he wants to keep the impetus going.

By the way, I hear it's pretty hot where you are---it's bloody cold over here at the moment.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (January 6, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< [...] As it happens, I am listening to a nine hour radio program of the music of Orlando de Lassus, including numerous motets, as well as the expected sacred music, and the not so expected bawdy (for his time) music. Several generations prior to Bach. I gather Lassus was Belgian, although since Belgium did not yet exist, the French may disagree (?). I think it is clear that he was not German, and that he was familiar with Italian styles. >
Indeed Orlando (or Roland in French) de Lassus was born in Mons, which is now in the French-speaking part of Belgium.

At that time, the region which now covers Belgium and the North of France was a famous musical centre in Europe, with composers such as Roland de Lassus, but also Josquin des Prés, Ockeghem,...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Flemish_School

As a student of the vocal chamber music class, I have sung in some pieces (motets or songs) written by Lassus or Josquin des Prés and I enjoyed it very much. Their music is much more complex than one would expect at first guess and you find features that you also find in Bach's motets (we are currently rehearsing motet BWV 228 and we have previously performed BWV 225, BWV 227 and BWV 230). I am no musicologist so I can not explain the technical details but I feel common points.

For those interested, Belgian conductor Paul Van Nevel with his ensemble Huelgas has performed a lot of music of this place and period. I have heard them in concert and they were excellent. They have also produced a number of recordings: http://www.huelgasensemble.be/

Regarding motets, I would be interested to know whether there are links between motets by Bach (and his family) and French motets of the same period (e.g. by Campra, Mondonville, Rameau,...)?

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (January 6, 2010):
Addendum:
among performers of Franco-Flemish polyphony, I shoud have added the ensemble Capilla flamenca: http://www.capilla.be/EN/index.php
One of the conductors of the Chapelle des Minimes, Jan Caals, has been a member of this ensemble until recently: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Caals-Jan.htm

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 6, 2010):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< Regarding motets, I would be interested to know whether there are links between motets by Bach (and his family) and French motets of the same period (e.g. by Campra, Mondonville, Rameau,...) >
This is an interesting question. The grand motet tradition in France is really a 17th century genre which can be still seen in a work such as the "De Profundis" of Delalande from the 1720's. The works are almost all settings of Latin liturgical texts.

Interestingly, the genre of the cyclical mass is underrepresented. Louis XIV disliked the longeurs of high mass, and prefered a low mass said sotto voce at the altar while the choir sang an extended motet.

Even in the later motets, the style is more like the "verse" anthem than the modern German cantata of Bach and Telemann. Choruses, ariosos and many small ensembles succeed each other, often in a continuous texture. The only Bach work which recalls this form might be "Gottes Zeit" in which the "solo" and "choir" sections are almost continuous. But there are more German models than French for this cantata.

I suspect that French influence was probably more significant for Bach cantatas through keyboard dance forms and orchestral genres like the ouverture.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (January 6, 2010):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
<< Regarding motets, I would be interested to know whether there are links between motets by Bach (and his family) and French motets of the same period (e.g. by Campra, Mondonville, Rameau,...) >>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< This is an interesting question. The grand motet tradition in France is really a 17th century genre which can be still seen in a work such as the "De Profundis" of Delalande from the 1720's. The works are almost all settings of Latin liturgical texts. >
Two years ago we performed a motet ("Merk auf, my Herz, merk auf") by Johann Christoph Bach (who died in 1703), and I was struck by a feature I had not heard yet in any motet we performed (either by Bach or by someone of his family): "tremulo" indications on a repeated note on the word "ruhn".

This gives a very special effect which reminded me of a section of Mondonville's motet "In exitu Israel", where something of this kind gives a spectacular effect of waves (imitating waves of the Red Sea?).

But "In exitu Israel" is dated from 1753, and so the influence can only be in one way (J.-C. Bach => Mondonville).
Of course I have no idea whether this "tremulo" effect was frequent or not...

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 6, 2010):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< Of course I have no idea whether this "tremulo" effect was frequent or not... >
Purcell used it in the "Freezing" Chorus of "King Arthur" (it's dramatized in the new film "The Young Victoria" although I'm sure the opera wasn't revised until the 20th century.

Handel used the effect in one of the Chandos Anthems for "The Earth Trembled"

Julian Mincham wrote (January 6, 2010):
[To Thérèse Hanquet] You get it quite a bit in Monterverdi. I have also read that he was the first composer to make effective use of string tremelando effects too although that information may now be outdated.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (January 6, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] Thanks Doug. Indeed I had forgotten Purcell's "Cold Genius".

Your examples (and Julian's) show that it was indeed not limited to a special type of piece, and that Mondonville had many predecessors.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 6, 2010):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< Their music [Roland de Lassus, but also Josquin des Prés, Ockeghem] is much more complex than one would expect at first guess and you find features that you also find in Bach's motets. >
Renaissance polyphony is light years ahead of music written during the baroque (yes Bach included), and I'd like to add at least 3 major names to your list: Tallis, Striggio, and especially Jacob Obrecht's music.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (January 6, 2010):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Thanks Kim.

Jacob Obrecht, another "Belgian" composer indeed... I will try to find his music.

I can not understand how this music is (comparatively) so scarcely known and played.

Even here in Belgium, I have never seen any international festival or event that would focus on this fantastic heritage. There remains a lot to do in this domain.

Well, maybe we should go on off-list, unless we can establish some connection with Bach's vocal music?

Julian Mincham wrote (January 6, 2010):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Well, I'd have to question a statement that broad. Ahead in what ways? the devices used? the harmonic language? Instrumentation? Formal structures? Expressive character? Complexity?

To say it's years ahead also implies a progession from something in to something better or superior as in the way that scientific knowledge and technology 'progress'---a dangerous criteria to apply to the arts which are always changing and adapting to different cultural circumstances--but not necessarily getting better, becoming superior or falling behinds predecessors 'light years ahead.' I don't think of Tallis as being superior or inferior to Bach --it's just different.

(Although having said that, when looking back at a lot of C20 popular musical crap I may be arguing against myself !)

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 6, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Well, I'd have to question a statement that broad. Ahead in what ways? the devices used? the harmonic language? Instrumentation? Formal structures? Expressive character? Complexity? >
Well, you're the person that's written several times "Bach was the greatest polyphonic composer ever," (or words to that effect). That's a pretty broad statement, and shows a wee bit lack of historical knowledge about the subject I'm afraid. Bach was the greatest polyphonic of the baroque period, but these renaissance composers mentioned earlier could write circles around Bach. Yes, much more incredibly complex music and formal structures. Absolutely

< To say it's years ahead also implies a progession from something in to something better or superior as in the way that scientific knowledge and technology 'progress'---a dangerous criteria to apply to the arts which are always changing and adapting to different cultural circumstances--but not necessarily getting better, becoming superior or falling behinds predecessors 'light years ahead.' I don't think of Tallis as being superior or inferior to Bach --it's just different. >
I don't know about that, again you're the one who made the blanket statement that Bach was the absolutely king of the polyphonic music of history. As for the metaphor of "ahead" versus "back", when Bach performed on organs, reactions were usually to the effect they were hearing the "old style" of music (i.e. sophisticated polyphony) revived, and some of Bach's peers obviously considered that very "old fashioned" style of music as some sort of golden age. So they were looking back to that period as their classics. Vivaldi couldn't write any fugal music in the style of Palestrina and was horrible at it (Michael Talbot the British Vivaldi scholar has written about this point specifically). That doesn't mean Vivaldi is a bad composer, it just means he had his limits. Telemann said he could write music that looked pretty on paper, but sounded awful (a swipe at the "old style" of music?). He believed in an absolute focus on melody and thought too much counterpoint hindered that. So every composer in a sense has to be true to his age-- Bach included.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 6, 2010):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Excuse me I don't think so. I may well have written that Bach was one of the greatest composers of counterpoint which is by no means the same thing.

Do prove me wrong, but i think you may be putting words in my mouth. I am sure that I never made the sort of blanket statement you accuse me of twice.

I take exception to your comment about my having 'a wee bit lack of historical knowledge about the subject'. This is both patronising and ignorant because you have no idea what knowledge I have of other earlier music; I don't tend to write about it on this list becasue this is a list about Bach.

Much of the rest of your rant I don't want to comment on as it seems to me to be rather childish.

I note that you don't really attempt to answer the questions i put to you, in which ways, specificlly were the earlier composers 'streets ahead?'

Perhaps you think that misattributing and rudeness counts as a response. If so we disagree so fundamentally that there is probably no point in trying to have a grown up discussion.

And finally, do please point out where I have made this alleged statement about Bach----------' you're the one who made the blanket statement that Bach was the absolutely king of the polyphonic music of history'

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 6, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Excuse me I don't think so. I may well have written that Bach was one of the greatest composers of counterpoint which is by no means the same thing. >
That doesn't change anything, it's still historically wrong I'm afraid.

< Do prove me wrong, but i think you may be putting words in my mouth. I am sure that I never made the sort of blanket statement you accuse me of twice. >
"history has judged the supreme contrapunalist the greater composer."

< I take exception to your comment about my having 'a wee bit lack of historical knowledge about the subject'. This is both patronising and ignorant because you have no idea what knowledge I have of other earlier music; I don't tend to write about it on this list becasue this is a list about Bach. >
That's ok, I went by what you said, not by what you didn't say. We disagree.

< Much of the rest of your rant I don't want to comment on as it seems to me to be rather childish. >
I see.

< I note that you don't really attempt to answer the questions i put to you, in which ways, specificlly were the earlier composers 'streets ahead?' >
You asked in general terms, so I answered in general terms.

< Perhaps you think that misattributing and rudeness counts as a response. If so we disagree so fundamentally that there is probably no point in trying to have a grown up discussion. >
I don't believe I was rude, but you certainly seem to have your feathers ruffled.

< And finally, do please point out where I have made this alleged statement about Bach----------' you're the one who made the blanket statement that Bach was the absolutely king of the polyphonic music of history' >
Didn't you write "history has judged the supreme contrapunalist the greater composer," at one point?

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 6, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Renaissance polyphony is light years ahead of music written during the baroque (yes Bach included), and I'd like to add at least 3 major names to your list: Tallis, Striggio, and especially Jacob Obrecht's music. >
I don't think we need to score composers from such radically contrasting periods. The purpose of counterpoint is so different in various periods, and mere complexity is not the aribter of greatness. Monteverdi, the enfant terrible of the solo style of the Baroque also wrote the Missa in Illo Tempore in which he took Gombert's motet and turned it into a churning mass of added strettos and counter-canons. He was able to out-Gombert Gombert. One suspects that he did it on a dare -- happily it's a gorgeous piece of music. I prefer to enjoy counterpoint in Josquin, Bach and Mozart, not rank them.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 6, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I prefer to enjoy counterpoint in Josquin, Bach and Mozart, not rank them. >
Me too, and that's why you wouldn't see me making the original silly statement I had pointed out.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 6, 2010):
[To Kim Patrick Clow, regarding his previous message]
1 tell me where you (appear to ) quote me from

2 it's 'historically wrong' that Bach was one of the greatest composer's of counterpoint???? I leave that to others to judge.

3 You didn't go by what i said--but by what you thought I said.!

4 I asked you to explain in quite explicit terms--you didn't.

5 if you 'quote' me by saying 'didn't you say----' please give the precise reference.

And finally--really finally---my feathers are not ruffled. Your silly comments simply remind me why I really don't want to engage in meaningful debate or discussion with some of the people on this list. Nothing personal (before the moderator steps in) because i know as little of you as you know of me---I just don't make unwarrented assumptions about you. I just think that what you are posting is rubbish.

And that's the end of it as far as i am concerned.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 6, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Me too, and that's why you wouldn't see me making the original silly statement I had pointed out. >
Inaccurately attributed.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 6, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< And that's the end of it as far as I am concerned. >
Ditto.

Happy New Year!

Neil Halliday wrote (January 7, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
> Excuse me I don't think so. I may well have written that Bach was one of the greatest composers of counterpoint which is by no means the same thing.<

Wow! Kim must be a bcold over there or something I'm afraid; you certainly copped a serve, Julian!

In fact, 'bachlover' wrote "history has judged the supreme contrapunalist the greater composer." This was my response to an article in which Telemann implied he disliked contrapuntal complexity; note the word greater; my comment was simply that history has judged Bach, who obviously enjoyed contrapuntal complexity (unlike Telemann) to be the greater composer.
(Kim obviously disagrees).

But notice the huge difference between my statement comparing Bach to Telemann, and Kim's comment that "Renaissance polyphony is light years ahead of music written during the baroque (yes Bach included)".

Perhaps Kim is feeling a tad insecure about Telemann's greatness vis a vis Bach, which would explain his mis-attributed response to your rquest for clarification of his statement that renaissance polophony is "light years ahead" of the baroque counterpoint (as if you can compare Tallis polyphony to, for example the 'Art of Fugue' or the fugues of the WTK). In fact when making my statement I deliberately avoided the word "polyphonic" because I wanted to avoid comparison with music of previous centuries - I was aware that a comment like Kim's above could well be made, which would only muddy the point I was making.

Doug made the point that we should enjoy the counterpoint/polyphony of the renaissance and the baroque without ranking them; Kim agrees with this, but he has obviously entirely misread my original statement, for reasons I have suggested above.

Keep warm in the northern hemisphere.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 7, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< you certainly copped a serve, Julian! >
I gather that copped a serve is Australian slang, as follows:
<I tried to remember how many times I had copped a serve (physical beatings by prison guards) for having one item out of its designated place.>

Now accepted in my version of American English. Unless I have it wrong, in which case please inform.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 7, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>"history has judged the supreme contrapuntalist the greater composer."<, ie, comparing Bach to Telemann who by his own mouth was averse to contrapuntal complexity.

Perhaps this should have been more clearly stated:

"history has judged one of the supreme contrapuntalists to be the greater composer", (comparing Bach to Telemann).

Would this have avoided the "light-years ahead" remark (comparing renaissance polyphony with baroque counterpoint, which is another topic)?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 7, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< In fact, 'bachlover' wrote "history has judged the supreme contrapunalist the greater composer." This was my response to an article in which Telemann implied he disliked contrapuntal complexity; note the word greater; my comment was simply that history has judged Bach, who obviously enjoyed contrapuntal complexity (unlike Telemann) to be the greater composer. >
< (Kim obviously disagrees).>
I offer profuse apologies to Julian for my mistake. And yes, I think you're wrong about Telemann.

< But notice the huge difference between my statement comparing Bach to Telemann, and Kim's comment that "Renaissance polyphony is light years ahead of music written during the baroque (yes Bach included)". >
I noticed that.

< Perhaps Kim is feeling a tad insecure about Telemann's greatness vis a vis Bach, which would explain his mis-attributed response to your rquest for clarification of his statement that renaissance polophony is "light years ahead" of the baroque counterpoint (as if you can compare Tallis polyphony to, for example the 'Art of Fugue' or the fugues of the WTK). >
Perhaps not. Perhaps Kim couldn't find the correct attribution because the archives for Emails didn't go back to October, so Kim couldn't find the original E-mail, so perhaps it had nothing to do with Telemann or insecurity at all. But back in Ocotober, I did share your original E-mail with several musicologists, and they were amused and baffled with it as much as I was.

< Keep warm in the northern hemisphere. >
I will, with plenty of Bach and Telemann and Striggio.

:-)

Neil Halliday wrote (January 7, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
>I did share your original E-mail with several musicologists, and they were amused and baffled with it as much as I was.<
They were amused and baffled by my statement that history has judged Bach (who also was a supreme contrapuntalist, Telemann by his own mouth was averse to contrapuntal complexity) to be a greater composer than Telemann?

It would be interesting to take a poll among the world's musicologists on this point; I'm certainly confident it's not a silly proposition.

Since I admire Bach's great contrapuntal masterpieces, a form Telemann eschewed by his own mouth, Bach is already ahead of Telemann in my estimation.

I see you have admitted Bach to be the greatest baroque contrapuntalist. So the debate comes down to whose music one most prefers?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 7, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< They were amused and baffled by my statement that history has judged Bach (who also was a supreme contrapuntalist, Telemann by his own mouth was averse to contrapuntal complexity) to be a greater composer than Telemann? >
No, that Bach was the supreme contrapuntalist. Obviously, you've made a distinction now you were only talking about Telemann and Bach, not renaissance polyphony.

< It would be interesting to take a poll among the world's musicologists on this point; I'm certainly confident it's not a silly proposition. >
Why don't you ask them? It would be a fun project!

< Since I admire Bach's great contrapuntal masterpieces, a form Telemann eschewed by his own mouth, Bach is already ahead of Telemann in my estimation. >
No true Scotman's fallacy much?

< I see you have admitted Bach to be the greatest baroque contrapuntalist. So the debate comes down to whose music one most prefers? >
Nah, I retract that now on 2nd though, Purcell's fantastias while technically weren't fugues, he was doing things Bach never dreamt of.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 7, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
>No true Scotman's fallacy much?<
Why fallacy? - I am just stating my own opinion there, with one reason being that Telemann is disinterested in one of my favourite forms (fugue).

But to the specific point: has history - from the baroque up to now, mind you -judged Bach the greater composer (than Telemann)? I originally stated the proposition this way to avoid interjecting personal opinion AFAP.

Purcell's counterpoint greater than Bach? That's an interesting proposition.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 7, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Purcell's counterpoint greater than Bach? That's an interesting proposition. >
Bach could never have written the electrifying 8 part "Hear My Prayer" because he wasn't Purcell -- the job was already filled.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 7, 2010):
Thanks to Neil for identifying the source of the mis-attributed quoand to Kim who has apologised to me on list and privately. I guess this demonstrates the dangers of relying on memory for quotations.

Without wishing to carry on a flame war can i go back to my original question which was actually asking for detail about the specific musical aspects which put some medieval music ahead of the 'high baroque'. I actually thought that this could lead to a lively discussion (well, it did, but not of the type I was expecting)

Incidentally I do agree about the Purcell fantasias. I studied all the scores in some detail a few years ago and they are an amazing compendium of contrapuntal devices and very individual harmonic language, pretty much unlike anything else he wrote (stylistically) and all the more incredible when you remember that he was only about 19 when he composed them. I have never heard that Bach had any access to Purcell's music but it would be fascinating to conjecture what he might have thought of them.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Henry Purcell & Bach [Bach & Other Composers]:

Julian Mincham wrote (January 7, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
<< you certainly copped a serve, Julian! >>
< I gather that copped a serve is Australian slang, as follows:
<<I tried to remember how many times I had copped a serve (physical beatings by prison guards) for having one item out of its designated place.>>
< Now accepted in my version of American English. Unless I have it wrong, in which case please inform. >
ED I always thought it was related to tennis and the big serves of some of the great 1950-60s players. Didn't know about the prison connection.

Morten Lambertsen wrote (January 7, 2010):
The discussion about the superiority of renaissance to baroque (Bach-) counterpoint or vice versa on the forum reminds, me of a similar ongoing paragon-like debate in scholarly circles from my time at the conservatory. Counterpoint - at that time in the 1980's - was still taught from both the Fux 'Gradus ad Parnassum' method (stile antico and Palestrina) - in a modernized version - and from baroque fugue writing in Bach style. The promoters and scholars of either method (from the 1940's onward) had strongly opposed each other, and the debate was very heated in a way that today seems a bit silly and anachronistic. I suspect it partly arose from the neoclassicistic revival of pre-romantic music and counterpoint in general in the 1930's - the Palestrina camp being the more purist, didactical, and the Bach camp more Hindemith and Les Six oriented.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 7, 2010):
Polyphony/counterpoint [was: BWV 226]

Morten Lambertsen wrote:
< The discussion about the superiority of renaissance to baroque (Bach-) counterpoint or vice versa >on the forum reminds, me of a similar ongoing paragon-like debate in scholarly circles from my time at the conservatory. Counterpoint - at that time in the 1980's - was still taught from both the Fux 'Gradus ad Parnassum' method (stile antico and Palestrina) - in a modernized version - and from baroque fugue writing in Bach style. The promoters and scholars of either method (from the 1940's onward) had strongly opposed each other, and the debate was very heated in a way that today seems a bit silly and anachronistic. >
Silly academic debates never exactly become anachronisitic, in my experience. The proponents get old, die, and the next generation adopts its own issues for debate, often silly. The original issues from the previous generation often remain unresolved. Thanks for the perspective.

Morten Lambertsen wrote (January 7, 2010):
[To Ed Myskowski] I agree. Anachronistic only cause it was a hot topic among theorists and scholars at the time of Elvis and Darmstadt. Silly was perhaps the wrong term, rather highly entertaining, as I remember it.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 7, 2010):
Morten Lambertsen wrote:
< The discussion about the superiority of renaissance to baroque (Bach-) counterpoint or vice versa on the forum >
What prompted this was someone's comment thta when they recently performed some Josqin, they were pleseantly surprised at its complexity. I merely only wanted to provide a broader historical context for that renassisance vocal counterpoin. "Bach" style counterpoint didn't merely spring out of his head when he was trained. The foundations and context for counterpoint before Bach is something rarely talked about on these pages, I wanted to stir that pot, so to speak. Considering some of the more "arcane" debates here, one about renaissance polyphony in relation to Bach hardly seems far-fetched or trivial. And I'd bet at least in the debates in the 1980s that you allude to, the participants KNEW the material and composers involved (although I doubt seriously there was nearly as much knoweledge about Striggio as there is now).

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 7, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< What prompted this was someone's comment [Therese] thta when they recently performed some Josqin, they were pleseantly surprised at its complexity. I merely only wanted to provide a broader historical context for that renassisance vocal counterpoin. >
That is a reasonable objective, as I read it, but not readily apparent from the original statement (which did indeed stir the pot).

KPC:
< Renaissance polyphony is light years ahead of music written during the baroque (yes Bach included) >

Morten Lambertsen wrote (January 8, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
"Considering some of the more "arcane" debates here, one about renaissance polyphony in relation to Bach hardly seems far-fetched or trivial."
No, that's a vital subject for Bach viewed in a historical perspective, certainly. But to be a bit more clear - Students of counterpoint (for analytical or compositional purpose) have since the 18. century widely been taught using the methods that Fux presented in his famous "Gradus ad Parnassum" (1725), which is primarily based on the stile antico polyphony of the 17. and 16. centuries. After Bach and the Bach-renaissance, fugue-writing in his style (more or less) also became 'fashionable' as a discipline, and in the 20. century these two methods became the subject of academic controversies as to which one was the best, the main difference being modality in renaissance versus functional tonality in Bach on the vertical level. There are many examples of 17./18. century polyphonic music that seems to correspond to the methods of Fux. Bach's double and triple fugues in particular, almost structurally proceeds like one of Fux' excersises.

On a different note though, comes to renaissance polyphony of the first order, the triple canon of the motet 'Nesciens mater virgo virum' by Jean Mouton - wow!

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 8, 2010):
In the course of reviewing (that is, viewing again, scanning, etc.) the BCW archives re BWV 226, it strikes me as worthwhile to point out the source of a comment cited by bachlover (Neil H.) in his introduction:

From amazon.com, re Jacobs CD:

<5.0 out of 5 stars a voice teacher and early music fan, July 26, 2009
By George Peabody "Ariel" (Planet Earth) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)
"BACH MOTETS ARE AMONG HIS MOST PERFECT WORKS AND CONSTITUTE ONE OF THE SUMMITS OF WESTERN POLYPHONY" ...> (end quote)

I am especially satisfied that the writer identifies himself as a resident of Planet Earth (my locale, as well!), presumably true of almost all BCML correspondents?

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 8, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
<< "Considering some of the more "arcane" debates here, one about renaissance polyphony in relation to Bach hardly seems far-fetched or trivial." >>
Morten Lambertsen wrote:
< No, that's a vital subject for Bach viewed in a historical perspective, certainly. >
Indeed, this overheated, as yet barely stirred pot, began with the response by Therese to my mention of a radio program (an Orgy (r) in fact, nine hours worth) featuring the music of Roland de Lassus (aka Orlande de Lassus, etc.). I wrote with the hope that Therese (or someone) would clarify his st(or not) as Belgian, which she did almost immediately (he hailed from Mons).

From the program notes to The Lassus Orgy:
<His name may have varied, but his influence was unquestionable. Lassus (ca. 1532-1594) brought enormous variety, invention, and sheer joy to polyphonic music, and was widely admired as a composer and teacher.>

Less formally, if more picturesquely, the producer and announcer of the program called Lassus <the Leonard Bernstein of his day>, while pointing out that his activities spanned comic theater to sacred music, and the full spectrum between. Geez, Officer Krupke, youve done it again!

I wondered at the time (still do) if there is any connection to Bach, expecially given Schütz, Schiedt, Schein, et al as temporal intermediaries. If all those French chansons damour found their way to become sanitized as Luther chorales, it is hard to imagine otherwise, lack (or lack of discovery, as yet) of specific evidence notwithstanding. I believe this is similar to the point Therese made at the outset.

For those interested in the concept of music Orgies on radio, see http://www.whrb.org

Paul Johnson wrote (January 8, 2010):
I have a preference for the Motets sung a cappella and I've been listening an expanded Hilliard Ensemble sing BWV 226. It's a funny thing, I adore the Hilliards - they could sing the 'phone book and I'm sure I would enjoy it - but there is something about their Bach which doesn't work for me. I'm not sure what it is. Anyone else a Hilliards fan, and got their ECM recording of the motets?

Neil Halliday wrote (January 8, 2010):
Paul Johnson wrote:
>Anyone else a Hilliards fan, and got their ECM recording of the motets? <
I don't have the CD, but listening to the BCW BWV 226 sample, I find the voices lovely; however the first movement is perhaps a little slow and choirs I and II appear not to be sufficiently spatially separated.

This latter shortcoming ofcourse does not apply in the grand double-fugue movement, where the two SATB choirs combine; I find the performance here very satisfying.

But as to your broader point about not liking the Hilliards' Bach, I can't comment.

Paul Johnson wrote (January 8, 2010):
[To Neil Halliday] Perhaps I had overstated it a bit. I am a big fan of the Hilliard's 'Morimur' disc, and I also love their recent recording of BWV 4 (in fact, it's my favourite recording of that early, sublime cantata). There is something 'clinical' about their recording of the motets that doesn't work for me.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 8, 2010):
Choral Vocal Technique

Paul Johnson wrote:
< I adore the Hilliards - they could sing the 'phone book and I'm sure I would enjoy it - but there is something about their Bach which doesn't work for me. >
I have often wondered why the English choral "sound" both in mixed and all-male choirs seems wrong for the Bach motets. The English use counter-tenors for the alto parts and the boys use a pure-head tone without any chest voice at all. Mixed choirs like The Sixteen and the Tallis Choir replicate this treble sound by having the women sing with no vibrato at all. English choirs are absoutely dead on in ensemble and intonation.

German boys choirs have a much "rougher" sound that mixes a lot of chest tone in the sound. It's very interesting to hear the difference between the King's College Cambridge and the Tölzer Knabenchor sing the Bach motets. We could go on for DECADES airing our preferences about national styles of singing, but the question that intrigues me is whether the German style is more influenced by 19th century bel canto techniques. The English sound has no particular claim to historicity as its present techniques were refined after WWII by David Willcocks who pretty much created the English cathedral sound.

Then there's the Pucciniesque swooping of the present Sistine Choir.

Paul Johnson wrote (January 8, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] It's very interesting. I like The Sixteen, The Tallis Scholars, and The Hilliard Ensemble a great deal. But singing the Bach Motets, I wouldn't favour them.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 10, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>German boys choirs have a much "rougher" sound that mixes a lot of chest tone in the sound. It's very interesting to hear the difference between the King's College Cambridge and the Tolzer Knabechor sing the Bach motets.<
Though I'm wondering if the Windsbacher all male choir (under Beringer) is a German example of the 'purer' English cathedral-choir sound, with it's vibrato-less treble boy section: Amazon.com

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 10, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Though I'm wondering if the Windsbacher all male choir (under Beringer) is a German example of the 'purer' English cathedral-choir sound, with it's vibrato-less treble boy section. >
All of the German choirs use a "whiter" more focussed sound for Renaissance and Baroque music than they did 40 years ago. I suspect this is the influence of period ensembles which adopted that sound as a recreation of boys voices in earlier periods.

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 10, 2010):
Bach's Motets

Thomas Braatz contributed the article:
"Information about Bach's Motets with a Specific Examination of BWV 226 Extracted from Klaus Hofmann's Book on This Subject" - Summaries and Translations
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/MotetsHofmann.pdf

Thomas Braatz wrote:
In recent weeks during the discussion of Bach's motets, questions have been raised about their origin and the proper performance practice that Bach may have used. Klaus Hofmann discusses such matters and others as well as he presents in his fairly recent book (2003) a well-documented, up-to-date summary of all the scholarship surrounding these works. I hope to present eventually Hofmann's interesting chronology of the composition and performance(s) of BWV 226 under Bach's direction.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 11, 2010):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
<Thomas Braatz wrote:
In recent weeks during the discussion of Bach's motets, questions have been raised about their origin and the proper performance practice that Bach may have used. Klaus Hofmann discusses such matters and others as well as he presents in his fairly recent book (2003) a well-documented, up-to-date summary of all the scholarship surrounding these works. I hope to present eventually Hofmann's interesting chronology of the composition and performance(s) of BWV 226 under Bach's direction. >
Hoffmann creates a list of cantata movements with the following items:

4. Specialized forms (motetlike mvts. in cantatas and other vocal works {selection only})

a) cantata movements
BWV 2/1 Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein
BWV 28/2 Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren
BWV 38/1 Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir
BWV 64/1 Sehet, welche eine Liebe
BWV 144/1 Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin

b) Magnificat inserts
BWV 243a/A Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her
BWV 243a/B Freut euch und jubiliert

What are his criteria for inclusion? Why not the opening of "Ein feste Burg", the second Kyrie of the Mass in B Minor, or "Sicut Locutus Est" in the Magnificat? The last item in particular seems to be written in the antique motet style to symbolize "adpatres nostro" ("to our fathers.")

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 11, 2010):
Douglas Cowling asked about Klaus Hofmann's reasons for choosing only certain works for his list of motet-like mvts.:
"What are his criteria for inclusion? Why not the opening of "Ein feste Burg", the second Kyrie of the Mass in B Minor, or "Sicut Locutus Est" in the Magnificat? The last item in particular seems to be written in the antique motet style to symbolize "ad patres nostro" ("to our fathers.")"
Thomas Braatz responded:
I clearly indicated that Hofmann was only providing a selection of works in this category and had no intention of listing everything that might be available.

A few minutes ago the PDF was replaced with a corrected and expanded version.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/MotetsHofmann.pdf

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 11, 2010):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< I clearly indicated that Hofmann was only providing a selection of works in this category and had no intention of listing everything that might be available. >
Gee, I miss that tone of voice on the list. Too bad -- the material is interesting and the discussion could have been fruitful.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 11, 2010):
<>

Edward Lilley wrote (January 12, 2010):
Paul Johnson writes [Choral Vocal Technique]:
< It's very interesting. I like The Sixteen, The Tallis Scholars, and The Hilliard Ensemble a great deal. But singing the Bach Motets, I wouldn't favour them. >
Has anyone else experienced Cantus Colln's rendition of the motets? I much prefer them to the Rene Jacobs & RIAS-Kammerchor, and pretty much everyone else. (though I still love the several different versions that I have of King's, under Cleobury, doing Lobet & Der Geisthilft, despite it being a supposedly unauthentic cathedral-y sound)

George Bromley wrote (January 12, 2010):
[To Edward Lilley, regarding Choral Vocal Technique] l admire Sir David very much and have sung under him but Bach, no no , far to a romatic approach and not a Bach sound,

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 13, 2010):
The PDF about Bach's Motets has just been replaced with the completed version.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/MotetsHofmann.pdf

 

Motets BWV 225-231: Details
Recordings: Until 1950 | 1951-1960 | 1961-1970 | 1971-1980 | 1981-1990 | 1991-2000 | From 2001
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Systematic Discussions: BWV 225 | BWV 226 | BWV 227 | BWV 228 | BWV 229 | BWV 230 | BWV 231 | BWV 225-231 - Summary
Individual Recordings:
Motets - K. Junghänel & Cantus Cölln | Motets - E. Ericson | Motets - D. Fasolis | Motets - N. Harnoncourt | Motets - R. Kammler

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Last update: żJanuary 17, 2010 ż11:03:01