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Systematic Discussions of Bach’s Other Vocal Works

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - Role of the Evangelist

 

 

Discussions in the Week of August 1, 2004

Have not started yet.


Learning the Evangelist

Derek Chester wrote (May 6, 2005):
Tenor singing bach- sound files

I joined this group a while back, and I'm thrilled by the topics. I have just given my first year graduate recital at Yale which feautered a few Bach arias for tenor, traverso, and continuo. I've posted the a recit from Cantata BWV 55 "Ich armer mensch" and "Frohe Hirten" from the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) on my Yahoo Group (see link below). Come check it out. Next year, a Bach blowout is planned at Yale. We are doing the St. Matt and St. John in the Spring of 2006. I've heard they are bringing in some big Bach scholars to people do lectures. Maybe some of you are coming. I'm preparing my first evangalist role this summer. Wish me luck.
www.groups.yahoo.com/group/derekchester/

Thanks,

Doug Cowling wrote (May 6, 2005):
Derek Chester wrote: < I'm preparing my first evangalist role this summer. Wish me luck. >
Derek, I would be very interested in your plan for learning such a daunting role. SJP (BWV 245) or SMP? What is your teacher's concept? Who are your models? What are you reading? Listening to? What passages require more work than others? Are you learning it English and German at the same time?

Keep us posted,

Derek Chester wrote (May 9, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] Frankly, I'm not quite sure how I'm going to learn this. I'm tackling the St. John first then the Matt, hoping to learn them both in the next year. The first thing I'm doing to help me out with learning the role is taking a German Language course at Yale this summer. I've had a lot of German diction classes and coachings, but I want to know the syntax and grammar a little more. I'm coaching once a week with a pianist/diction coach to become comfortable with the music and text. I'm very slow right now when it comes to learning recitatives, but i'm sure by the time I've learded this, it will be much easier.

My teacher next fall will be James Taylor, a tenor who has recorded some cd's with Rilling and Jacobs: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Taylor-James.htm

We won't have lessons till the fall. I'm very excited about working with him. I worked some Cantata BWV 55 recits with him, and I really like his approach.

As for models, I'm still researching. I'm most familiar of Ian Partridge's rendition in Christophers' 1989 Chandos recording of SJP (BWV 245). I have to look into others though. Any suggestions? I ultimately want to create my own rendition rather than someone elses, but I'm sure that listening to great evangelists will help me decide what i like and don't like.

I just finished Dürr's book... St. John: Genesis, Transmission something or other and wrote a paper comparing and contrasting the arias of the St. John with those of Reinhard Keiser's St. Mark passion for Markus Rathey's class at Yale School of Music. That of course has nothing to do with the recits, except for that Bach and Keiser had very similar recit styles in there passions, more so than aria styles.

I'm doing all german first and probaly learning it scene by scene starting with the last. I'll keep you posted. Thanks for your intestest. It has caused me to rethink my game plan!.

Robert Sherman wrote (May 9, 2005):
[To Derek Chester] For both SJP (BWV 245) and SMP I recommend Ernst Haefliger with Richter.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 9, 2005):
Derek Chester wrote: >>Frankly, I'm not quite sure how I'm going to learn this. I'm tackling the St. John first then the Matt, hoping to learn them both in the next year. ...I have to look into others though. Any suggestions? I ultimately want to create my own rendition rather than someone elses....<<
For anyone studying and preparing to sing the role of the evangelist in Bach's Passions, the following is certainly worth reading and contemplating: [my translation follows the original.]

p. 189 ff. from Arnold Schering's book "Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik" [Leipzig, 1936]:

"Es muß hier dieselbe Erkenntnis walten, die längst dazu geführt hat, zwischen Chor- und Orchesterbesetzung eine Ausgewogenheit der Sänger und Spielerzahl herbeizuführen.

In den Rezitativen ist es nicht anders. Hier wird gleichfalls jede übermäßige Gefühlsbetonung zu vermeiden sein, auch wo ariose Führung ein lebhafteres
inneres Ausschwingen zuläßt. Nichts ist unleidlicher, als wenn Bachs sorgfältige, peinlich ausgewogene Rezitativ-Rhythmik durch Gefühlsschwulst (sog. "Ausdruck") unverständlich oder unklar gemacht wird. Genügt es nicht, daß Bach bei "und weinete bitterlich" den Evangelisten so erschütternd als nur denkbar weinen läßt? Muß der Sänger seinerseits dazu noch das triviale Bild eines seiner Stimme kaum Mächtigen, qualvoll Dahinwinselnden erwecken? Genügt es nicht, wenn Bach bei der Gefangennehmung und Kreuzigung die Erzählung in gesteigert lebendige Deklamationsform bringt? Muß der Sänger durch zunehmende Hast und Eile dem Vorgang seine majestätische epische Breite nehmen, nur weil die objektiv berichteten Ereignisse sich hier überstürzen? Ich halte es überhaupt für einen kunsttheoretischen Fehlschluß, in der Gestalt des Evangelisten eine beim Passionsvorgang anwesend gedachte Person zu sehen, die bei jeder neuen Phase der Tragödie selbst vor Mitleid geschüttelt wird. Diese irrige Meinung hat zu der sog. 'dramatischen' Auffassung der beiden Evangelistenrollen geführt. Solchen Charakter haben sie nicht, sondern berichtenden, erzählenden. Wird der von Bach streng festgehaltene Berichtston mit periodisch wechselnden Momenten des Gefühlsanteils und dramatischer Selbstbetätigung vermischt, so schwindet der Unterschied von Bericht und Handlung, und der eigentümliche, großartige Gegensatz des Epischen (Evangelist) und Dramatischen (Personen der Handlung) fällt in sich zusammen. Das geschieht, wenn der Evangelist die Übersetzung des "Eli, eli" auf die Worte "Mein Gott, mein Gott." mit derselben fassungslosen Todesbetrübtheit wiedergibt, mit der soeben Christus sie gesungen. Vernünftigen Hörern muß das wie eine respektlose oder kindische "Nachäffung" des Affekts vorkommen. Trotz der von Bach gesetzten gleichen Noten vielmehr, die symbolisch nur den gleichen Sinn des Ausrufs bezeichnen sollen, muß die Wiederholung, wenn sie nicht lächerlich wirken soll, auch hier durchaus den Berichtston wahren. Erst dann, wenn überirdisches Christuswort und schlichtes Menschenwort als Gegensätze erscheinen, erhält die Stelle ihren tiefen Sinn. Und so noch mancherorts. Man könnte sich denken, daß wir mit der Zeit auch hier auf eine neue, höhere Stufe des Stilempfindens gelangen werden. Das würde auf alle Fälle einen Fortschritt zu größerer Einfachheit bedeuten, ein Abwenden von allmählich bis zur Spitzfindigkeit getriebener Komplizierung subjektiver Vortragsgewohnheiten, -- mithin ein "Zurück zur Natur!" im Sinne der Geistigkeit Bachs und seiner Zeit.
"

["The same realization must prevail here {in regard to soloists singing Bach's arias - Schering, in the previous passage emphasizes the difference in the sound, dynamics, and shading of an all male choir consisting of boys and young adults, but also the uniform balance created by making the voices and instruments become more like each other}, which has already since quite some time led to balance between choir and orchestra in sound but also in numbers. {In this book, Schering pioneered the idea of small choirs (all boys and young men + falsettists) with generally only 3 - 4 singers per part) and small orchestras, but not OPPP.} The situation is not any different with the recitatives (as opposed to the solo arias.) Here, also, any kind of excessive/exaggerated emphasis upon feeling is to be avoided, there where an arioso passage might seem to allow for letting one's inner voice/spirit indulge in a more lively presentation. Nothing is more intolerable than when Bach's carefully planned, meticulously balanced use of rhythm in his recitatives is made unintelligible or unclear by pompously inflated expression of feeling (that which is commonly known as 'adding expression to the music.') Is not already sufficient that Bach already {as given in the notes} has the evangelist cry tears as deeply moving as possible? Is it then necessary, in addition, for the singer, to try to conjure up the trivial image of someone barely having his voice under control as he whines away in excruciating pain? Is it not sufficient that Bach, in the scenes of Jesus' capture and crucifixion, presents the story in an increasingly lively form of declamation? Is it really necessary for the singer to deprive the proceedings/events of their majestic, epic breadth by rushing and hurrying through them only because the things are starting to happen very fast as viewed objectively? On the whole, I consider it a fallacy of artistic theory to view the role of the evangelist as one who is considered to be present at the events taking place in the Passion, or as a person who is shaken with pity/compassion by every new phase of this tragedy. This mistaken notion has led to the so-called 'dramatic' interpretation of the roles of both Evangelists {SJP (BWV 245), SMP}. However, this is not their nature, bur rather one of reporting and telling a story. If you mix Bach's strictly narrative tone with periodically inserted moments of sympathetic interest and wishing to be part of the dramatic action, then the distinction is lost entirely between narrative commentary and dramatic action, in the form of the unusual, grand contrast between the epic element (the evangelist) and the dramatic element (the others involved in the action.) This happens when the evangelist interprets in translation Jesus' words "My God, my God." as "Eli, eli." using the same stunned/bewildered expression of grief in the face of death which Christ previously used in singing these words. This must appear to sensible/reasonable listeners as a disrespectful or childish imitation of the Affekt involved. Despite the fact that Bach uses the same pattern of notes which should symbolically indicate that the same meaning of the cry is inherent in both, the repetition of it, if it is not to have a comic effect, must be retained in the narrative tone of voice. Only then, when the divine statement by Christ appears in contrast to the simple words spoken by a human being, does this passage take on its deeper significance. And this type of thing happens elsewhere in the Passions as well. It is possible to think that we will, in time, come to a newer, higher level of sensibilities regarding the style {of performance needed.} In any case this would certainly mean progress toward greater simplicity, an aversion/turning away from the complications created by subjective performance habits that gradually lead to greater and greater subtleties of interpretation, -- consequently, a calling for 'back to nature" with the purpose of returning to the spirituality of Bach and his age."]

Derek Chester wrote (May 9, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks for that interesting passage. What great things to consider. I do hate an overly dramatic interpretation. However, I'm not so sure the evangelist is not to show emotion though. Bach has clearly written emotional music for him at times. No one wants to hear a story told by a narrator who is impartial to the action. I agree with many of Schering's points, but his description of the ideal evangelist seems pretty dull. Bach writes in a wonderfully speech-like method, but one cannot simply sing the notes on the page. Would Bach not want the singer to use a variety of colors and dynamics? Take No. 33 "Und siehe da der Vorhang im Tempel zeriss". In my opinion, this is the most dramatically charged recit in the SJP (BWV 245). In evangelist's part there is clear painting of the text. If one simply sings the notes that are there without adding any interpretive color of their own, the music is not alive. It becomes passive and detracts from the effect. I agree that the evangelist should be sung as one who is removed from the action. However, music is not just ink on a page, even for a narrating role. Why would one who is removed from the action dryly interpret such a dramatic text and musical line just because they are not in the action? There is probably a happy medium between a dry interpretation and Schering's "over-exaggerated" interpretation. Bach's music, even in the recitatives, is too
dramatic to be sung without feeling or emotion. That being said, the evangelist cannot attract all the attention to himself, and must know his role in the grand scheme. What do you think?

Robert Sherman wrote (May 9, 2005):
[To Derek Chester] I disagree with Schering. Of course the tenor should avoid random histrionics. But I'm not interested in hearing the Evangelist sung in a dry monotone narrative. It's a work of emotional as well as intellectual genius. Although I'm not religious, I find myself deeply drawn into an intense and emotional performance of both works. But if you're going to simply recite the text, you don't need Bach's music.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 9, 2005):
< Bach's music, even in the recitatives, is too dramatic to be sung without feeling or emotion. That being said, the evangelist cannot attract all the attention to himself, and must know his role in the grand scheme. What do you think? >
Until your lessons with Taylor start in the fall, you might consult with some other professional singers who specialize in these roles. I personally recommend that you contact Dr Timothy Stalter of the Univ of Iowa, arranging some lessons (or at least a phone conversation) with him or hearing his recommendations of resources. Terrific guy, and inspiring to work with. He also happens to play jazz piano very well, and that freedom of imagination enriches his Baroque musicianship....
http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/bios/CONDstalter.htm

I'm currently enjoying the clear delivery by Nico van der Meel in the Fasolis recording (1998) of the SJP (BWV 245).

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 9, 2005):
Derek Chester wrote: >>Bach's music, even in the recitatives, is too dramatic to be sung without feeling or emotion. That being said, the evangelist cannot attract all the attention to himself, and must know his role in the grand scheme. What do you think?<<
Schering is reacting directly to the worst of the romanticized versions of Bach that he had heard between 1900 - 1936. It is his great achievement to call attention to many factors which had been overlooked because too much attention was being placed upon making Bach's Passions become an opera with all that that entailed in modern 20th century terms. He mentions that the pendulum had swung too far in one direction and that a correction was absolutely necessary. Many of his recommendations (all male voices in the choir, a limited number of singers and players, but not OVPP or OPPP, singing without vibrato, mastering the instruments of the Baroque period, etc.) have borne fruit in the HIP movement and have even exceeded his expectations by going to the opposite extremes.

Schering mentions in the section that immediately follows the quotation I gave that singers will not gladly renounce, give up, or deny themselves what would come more easily to them and be more immediately attractive to an audience: the tendency to want to overplay and exaggerate musical expression beyond what Bach has already placed into the music. This does not mean that the human element of warm, heartfelt emotion in delivering musically a text set to music by Bach is to be completely removed; on the contrary, a natural style of delivery which is true to what the singer feels inwardly and expresses naturally is to be encouraged wallowing various studied, disingenuous expressive devices to creep into the singer's interpretation.

Along with possessing the gift of a voice 'von hoher sinnlicher Schönheit und Reinheit' ['of a high, sensuous beauty and purity'] as Schering envisions the ideal Bach voice, such a singer, who might be accused of a coldness of expression or even "Empfindungslosigkeit" ['a lack of sensitivity'] by a listening public who does not understand this style or wishes to hear a more operatic voice, must embrace, interpret, and express 'den Gesamtaffekt' ['the overall emotion'] of any given movement within Bach's vocal works.

A singer, particularly an evangelist such as Haefliger, Equiluz, or others who have discovered their own way to 'speak'/sing directly to the heart of a listener can serve as a shining example only to a limited degree to another singer who desires to do these noble settings of the evangelist by Bach justice. Schering has simply warned against too much emotive expression and childish overexaggeration on the part of the singer, but neither does he, as far as I can see, advocate a dead-pan treatment of these recitatives. I like his ideal of a 'sensuous beauty and purity' of voice and the genuine, heartfelt communication of the text to the listener without extremes of modulation of the voice. Bach has, according to Schering, accommodated the music to the human voice by providing 'ein ruhiger, klarer, fließender...Vortrag' ["that which lends itself to a calm, clear, flowing {cantabile} performance interpretation."] There is no need for overdramatizing the text or infusing it with numerous special emotional effects which easily become artificial and disingenuous to a critical listener.

Dale Gedcke wrote (May 9, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] Another good scheme for learning how a particular composition in music should sound is to listen to the recordings of that same work by a variety of professional performers. This method is limited only by the amount of funds you have for buying CDs.

Noting the variety of approaches by different perfomers will heighten your awareness of the possible scope of interpretation. Then you have to pick an interpretation that seems best for you. That is where the advice of a professional can help. The coach can hear nuances in your performance that you had not noticed.

Frequently, the conductor of the perfomance will provide some effective guidance on the nuances.

I suspect that studying the styles of previous performers by listening to their CDs is one of the least expensive and most readily accessible ways of preparing for the role.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 10, 2005):
< Bach has, according to Schering, accommodated the music to the human voice by providing 'ein ruhiger, klarer, fließender...Vortrag' ["that which lends itself to a calm, clear, flowing {cantabile} performance interpretation."] There is no need for overdramatizing the text or infusing it with numerous special emotional effects which easily become artificial and disingenuous to a critical listener. >
All of which is a continuum and wide open to matters of taste and experience. It's a question of expressive range. What to one listener's expectations might be plenty or even too much, might to another listener be barely beginning to scratch the surface of the expression that's composed into the music. If there's too much of a consistent calmness, it undercuts the dramatic thrust of the composition, reducing the emotional content to a batch of sameness (and sounding rather like underacting). On the other hand (as somebody else has already pointed out), there shouldn't be random histrionics either; all has to fit the flow of the story and the meaning of those words.

Another thing to consider: basic human communication in language thrives on variety, and music itself is artifice. A healthy level of variety aids the clarity in presenting the composition, taking it seriously. The "Baroque" period itself was, after all, an age of extravagance and even excess in emotion, with strong and sharp contrasts; and if that vivid contrast gets blunted off the results are merely pretty, not as moving as they might be. Is the listener engaged in the drama and its motion forward? If not, the performance is probably underdone. Is the listener annoyed by too much intensity? Maybe so, sometimes, but isn't it better to err on that side than on the side of lackluster sameness?

For perspective: there are "critical listeners" on both sides of this same fence as to range and intensity, and it's just as valid to say that a flattish approach of sameness is "artificial and disingenuous" by not being inflected enough. The special emotional effects composed into the music don't make their emotional punch, their clearly focused Affekt, if the performance is too polite or reserved-sounding.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 10, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote: >>All of which is a continuum and wide open to matters of taste and experience. It's a question of expressive range. What to one listener's expectations might be plenty or even too much, might to another listener be barely beginning to scratch the surface of the expression that's composed into the music.<<
A careful study of key sources of the period (c. 1700-c. 1750) reveals quite clearly that there is a vast difference in performance style between church vs. chamber vs opera performances. The descriptions by Mattheson, Agricola, Heinichen and others point to this "Kirchen-Musik" (figural church music) style as being something very special dedicated towards creating a reverential attitude among the listeners in the congregation. The descriptive adjectives generally used to describe recitatives performed in church are 'serious' and 'reserved.' These recitatives are not be confused with those in secular cantatas or recitatives performed in an opera. A solid, earnest performance of a church recitative is not to be confused with an overly lugubrious presentation of the recitative text.

The evidence of this essential difference, often overlooked by modern performances by vocalists that seek to extend the expressive range of the voice primarily to please themselves or to please a modern audience with different expectations, can be found in the printed discussions of church style and church recitatives by the above authors. These authors are only important for consideration if there is a modern-day attempt to perform Bach as he might have envisioned such a performance. But otherwise anything goes and the sky is the limit.

>>Another thing to consider: basic human communication in language thrives on variety, and music itself is artifice. A healthy level of variety aids the clarity in presenting the composition, taking it seriously.<<
Not if final syllables are dropped or garbled/mumbled. Mattheson and Agricola are quite specific about this. Communication/language in church (as in Bach's time) was generally on a much higher, loftier level. Such a level of communication demanded much greater control than commonplace conversations between human beings and it also could not indulge the possible excesses of actors on a stage.

Schering compared the performance of Bach's sacred recitatives with Gregorian chant. That is not 'every-day, basic human communication.'

Lack-luster sameness is just as bad as excessive emotion/intensity. Moderation is the key!

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (May 10, 2005):
Derek Chester wrote: << I'm preparing my first evangalist role this summer. Wish me luck. >>
Doug Cowling wrote: < Derek, I would be very interested in your plan for learning such a daunting role. SJP
(BWV 245) or SMP? What is your teacher's concept? Who are your models? What are you reading? Listening to? What passages require more work than others? Are you learning it English and German at the same time? >
You are forgetting other possiblities that require an Evangelist: the Weinachtsoratorium (BWV 248), Markuspassion, the three Markuspassion Passionspaticcios, the Lukaspassion, etc.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (May 10, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < A carefulstudy of key sources of the period (c. 1700-c. 1750) reveals quite clearly that there is a vast difference in performance style between church vs. chamber vs opera performances. The descriptions by Mattheson, Agricola, Heinichen and others point to this "Kirchen-Musik" (figural church music) style as being something very special dedicated towards creating a reverential attitude among the listeners in the congregation. The descriptive adjectives generally used to describe recitatives performed in church are 'serious' and 'reserved.' These recitatives are not be confused with those in secular cantatas or recitatives performed in an opera. A solid, earnest performance of a church recitative is not to be confused with an overly lugubrious presentation of the recitative text. >
One thing is very clear to me from the discussion at hand, namely: we must be very clear about our criteria, what we are trying to accomplish, already at the outset of our work. Otherwise it will be just like a certain incident where an old cellist acquaintance of mine asked me to sit in on her lesson once upon a time, and at certain points I was not sure what articulation she was striving for. I asked her afterwards about whether she felt she understood the musical text. She said yes. Turned out the problem was that she still hadn't quite decided what articulation she wanted, and had actually been thinking about that while playing. The bottom line: if we don't know what we want, it will show, and it may even come across that we don't understand the music.

Another thing: references have been made elsewhere in this thread to 'disingenuous gestures' in music (or something to that effect). I don't know whether I heard this stated plainly by some particular person, or whether I put two and two together from various sources and personal experiences, but it seems to me that the best way to induce a reverential attitude in the listener, or move the listener emotionally, or what have you, is to ourselves have a reverential attitude toward the material, or allow ourselves to be moved by it. What I hear being said here is that we should not go beyond that. But neither do I think we should stop short of it.

Enough for now :)

Doug Cowling wrote (May 10, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < For perspective: there are "critical listeners" on both sides of this same fence as to range and intensity, and it's just as valid to say that a flattish approach of sameness is "artificial and disingenuous" by not being inflected enough. The special emotional effects composed into the music don't make their emotional punch, their clearly focused Affekt, if the performance is too polite or reserved-sounding. >
It's worth considering Bach's recitative technique within the continuum of liturgical recitation in which the scriptural text is sung to repeated formulas. This takes us back through composers such as Schütz and into the cantillation of the Latin mass. The tradition is rather objective in that it creates music based on the grammatical structure of the text: e.g. The drop of a minor second for a clause, a drop and rise of a minor third at the end of the sentence.

We see this approach at work in the various oratorios of Schütz, and for Bach this was the way scripture was sung every Sunday. It is very interesting in Paul McCreesh's recreation of the Epiphany Mass to hear the account of Herod and the Wisemen sung to German chant and compare to Bach's setting of the same text in the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248).

I think it is inevitable that this objective style of scriptural recitation influenced Bach somewhat. Bach never uses the recitation formula that must have been so familiar in the Sunday gospel, but the Passions are filled with melodic gestures and cadential figures which become a recognizable style which are could be called "recitation formulas" in the most general sense. Whether that informs the "emotionalism" of performance is worth a continuing discussion.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 10, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] OK, fair enough. Let's make the simple deal of exchanging shoes. Go ahead and produce some Bach recordings, and some public performances of Bach's music (as conductor, soloist, whatever), illustrating exactly how it must be done, according to any and all sources of your choosing. It should be exemplary and flawless, which of course is the record producer's job in consultation with the performing musicians, to put forth something that will bear years of repeated listening and study! Then we critical listeners and connoisseurs will judge the results to see if it's done right, bringing in any and all authoritative books of our own choosing, to be sure we're properly objective and broad-minded about it. Then if we find something wrong with the musicianship, i.e. something we disagree with for whatever reason, or just don't happen to enjoy, that's just the way it goes...and we're free to say whatever we want to in dissent, anywhere we want to. Such is life and that's the risk that performers and producers take, putting the work out there for contemplation and study. There will always be dozens if not hundreds who will hate it and say that they could have done it better, and that's just something to get accustomed to.

This is a serious request: go ahead and produce something, please, that we all may hear how it should be, and how it should sound different from opera, and how strongly the syllables should be pronounced, and whatever and whatever and whatever. Be exemplary, please. How better to teach musical principles of Bach performance than to demonstrate them in practice, which was Bach's own preferred manner of teaching music?

Doug Cowling wrote (May 10, 2005):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote: < You are forgetting other possiblities that require an Evangelist: the Weinachtsoratorium (BWV 248), Markuspassion, the three Markuspassion Passionspaticcios, the Lukaspassion, etc. >
Other than the SJP (BWV 245), SMP and Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), there aren't many tenors who will have to prepare the other works.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 10, 2005):
Brad Lehman wrote: >>It [referring to a recording of the SMP or SJP, for instance] should be exemplary and flawless, which of course is the record producer's job in consultation with the performing musicians, to put forth something that will bear years of repeated listening and study!<<
This is a reasonable expectation if a listener invests money to purchase the CDs that will bring years of repeated listening and study. There is also, generally, an expectation that the conductor and the musicians will, as part of their education and training, have familiarized themselves with some of the basic tools of musicological research (original sources from Bach's time, but also standard modern references) and will have used the most up-to-date Urtext version for their performance of Bach's music.

BL:>>Then we critical listeners and connoisseurs will judge the results to see if it's done right bringing in any and all authoritative books of our own choosing, to be sure we're properly objective and broad-minded about it.<<
Critical listeners and connoisseurs are the consumers. Before they make a purchase, unless it is one based solely upon impulse, they inform themselves by reading critiques or commentaries by those who have already listened very carefully and often to these recordings and have made comparisons with other existing ones. If their interest and enthusiasm for Bach's music has grown over the years, they may begin to investigate details of performance practices which they have experienced in various recordings and which often differ from each other. Human curiosity will eventually lead them in seeking out sources which will enlighten them even more about the musical practices they are able to discern in the recordings.

BL, once again: >>Then we critical listeners and connoisseurs will judge the results to see if it's done right, bringing in any and all authoritative books of our own choosi, to be sure we're properly objective and broad-minded about it. <<
This seems to be a rather reasonable approach because many sources, if properly chosen for its pertinent application and accurately translated, will reveal material which musicians have overlooked or which was not readily available to them. Who is then more properly objective and broad-minded about these matters: the musicians, who have not continued to keep up with continually educating themselves in light of authoritative information which is brought to their attention and then adjusting their performances accordingly, or the listeners and connoisseurs who have done the necessary homework to know what they are talking about?

BL:>> Then if we [here referring to listeners and connoisseurs as opposed to university-trained performers] find something wrong with the musicianship, i.e. something we disagree with for whatever reason, or just don't happen to enjoy, that's just the way it goes...and we're free to say whatever we want to in dissent, anywhere we want to.<<
There is certainly nothing wrong with expressing opinions in dissent, especially when these opinions can be found re-echoed in authoritative sources from the period (c. 1700 to c. 1750.) The onus is upon these university-trained performers to attempt to explain away, if they can, what such authorities such as Mattheson, Heinichen, Agricola, Walther, and others have already stated.

BL:>>Such is life and that's the risk that performers and producers take, putting the work out there for contemplation and study. There will always be dozens if not hundreds who will hate it and say that they could have done it better, and that's just something to get accustomed to.<<
The fact is, and this is evident in the commentaries archived on Aryeh's site, the BCW, there, generally, are others who have 'done it better' but this does not preclude artists in the future from surpassing the best efforts of the past. The listeners and connoisseurs are frequently in a position to be able to decide on their own whether all aspects of a performance are working in harmony: talented and intelligently trained voices who represent the ideal voice to convey Bach's music and message to the listeners; conductors who have themselves left no stone unturned in reproducing as accurately as possible all the facets revealed by true scholarship while melding the corps of musicians and singers into a greater unity than simply the disparate elements that they otherwise represent.

Performing musicians today will have to accustom themselves to having a generally better-informed audience that also expects well-written, up-to-date, and interesting liner/program notes. They will not as easily accept uncritically just anything that is placed before them.

BL:>>How better to teach musical principles of Bach performance than to demonstrate them in practice, which was Bach's own preferred manner of teaching music?<<
This is exactly what listeners and connoisseurs are expecting from those who have been properly trained as musicians: they should deliver performances that are memorable and moving while at the same time adhering as much as possible to what is known about the manner in which Bach himself may have performed this music.

All of this will be no problem at all for the musicians if they decide to do the music in any way that they deem appropriate, disregarding key elements based upon musicological scholarship. Any church choir with its soloists and musicians can and should sing/play Bach to the best of their abilities. This, in itself, can be an ennobling experience which is not being denied here. The only quarrel here, actually an unnecessary one, is when the highest standards of authoritative period performances are invoked. Then certain rules and principles must be accurately applied as far as this is humanly possible.


Matthäus-Passion BWV 244: Details
Recordings: Until 1950 | 1951-1960 | 1961-1970 | 1971-1980 | 1981-1990 | 1991-2000 | From 2001 | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | BWV 244a | BWV 244b
Systemetic Discussions:
Part 1: Mvts. 1-8 | Part 2: Mvts. 9-20 | Part 3: Mvts. 21-29 | Part 4: Mvts. 30-40 | Part 5: Mvts. 41-50 | Part 6: Mvts. 51-57 | Part 7: Mvts. 58-63b | Part 8: Mvts. 63c-68 | Part 9: Role of the Evangelist
Individual Recordings:
BWV 244 - Bernstein | BWV 244 - Brüggen | BWV 244 – Cleobury | BWV 244 - Daus | BWV 244 - Fasolis | BWV 244 - Furtwängler | BWV 244 - Gardiner | BWV 244 - Gönnenwein | BWV 244 - Goodwin | BWV 244 – Guttenberg | BWV 244 - Harnoncourt | BWV 244 - Herreweghe | BWV 244 - Karajan | BWV 244 - Klemperer | BWV 244 - Kuijken | BWV 244 - Lehmann | BWV 244 - Leonhardt | BWV 244 - Leusink | BWV 244 - Max | BWV 244 - McCreesh | BWV 244 - Mengelberg | BWV 244 - Münchinger | BWV 244 - Norrington | BWV 244 - Oberfrank | BWV 244 - Ozawa | BWV 244 - Parrott | BWV 244 – Ramin | BWV 244 - Richter | BWV 244 – Rilling | BWV 244 - Scherchen | BWV 244 - Solti | BWV 244 - Spering | BWV 244 - Suzuki | BWV 244 - Veldhoven | BWV 244 – Walter | BWV 244 - Werner | BWV 244 - Wöldike
Articles:
Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244 [by Teri Noel Towe] | Two Easter St. Matthew Passions (Plus One) [by Uri Golomb] | St. Matthew Passion from Harnoncourt [by Donald Satz] | The Passion according to Saint Matthew BWV 244 [By Joshua Rifkin]

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

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Last update: ýMay 16, 2005 ý10:24:40