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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

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244
Conducted by John Butt
Part 1

V-2

J.S. Bach: Matthew Passion (Final performing version, c. 1742)

 

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244, Final performing version, c1742

John Butt

Dunedin Consort & Players

Tenor [Evangelist]: Nicholas Mulroy; Bass [Jesus]: Matthew Brook
Choir One: Soprano: Susan Hamilton; Alto: Clare Wilkinson; Tenor: Nicholas Mulroy; Bass: Matthew Brook
Choir Two: Soprano: Cecilia Osmond; Alto: Annie Gill; Tenor: Malcolm Bennett; Bass: Brian Bannatyne-Scott
Other vocalists: Soprano in ripieno: Alison Darragh (as Ali Darragh) [also Ancilla I& II, and Uxor Pilatus], Frances Cooper; Bass [Petrus, Pilatus, Pontifex, Pontifex II]: Michael Wallace, Bass [Judas, Pontifex I]: Roderick Bryce

Linn Records CKD-313

Sep 1-6, 2007

3-SACD / TT: 161:00

Recorded at Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.
See: Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - conducted by John Butt
Buy this album at:
3-SACD:Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de

St. Matthew Passion from John Butt (1742 performing edition)

BWV 846-893 wrote (January 27, 2008):
This looks interesting (due out Mar. 10) . . .
http://www.linnrecords.com/recording-matthew-passion.aspx

BWV 846-893 wrote (February 7, 2008):
Audio samples now available . . . too bad the one for the opening chorus is not longer.
http://www.linnrecords.com/recording-matthew-passion.aspx

Yoël L. Arbeitman (Malvenuto) wrote (February 7, 2008):
[To BWV 846-893] Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I always find listening to these samples on NO VALUE at all in forming any opinion. in 2006 when Linn Records released Butt's 1742 Dublin version of someone's Messiah, I bought it from them, from the UK (the US dollar still had some worth at that time). I found it very worthwhile in that it did what it intended to do, not be THE Messiah performance of all time and which one wanted above all others but representing the version in question within the strictures of using the singers and
instrumentalists of their own group.

Now this appears to be the stated purpose in this last performing version of the Matthäus-Passion. That sounds fine. Now of course when they do not use boys but claim that they are representing the instruments of that last performing edition by JSB, they are misleading us. Some caveats are necessary like: representing Bach's last version with singers he would never recognize. I have recently heard here and there superb boys in various Bach works, not inadequate ones as in some recordings best known.

There will not be anything really authentic about this performance. I did enjoy the Handel although a list-mate of mine kept on insisting that it was "Plain Jane", compared to his favorite recordings (he missed the point, it seems to me).

Paul Dirmeikis wrote (February 7, 2008):
[To BWV 846-893] Thanks for the link.

The samples, even too short (and with a mistake in the last sample), are quite impressive, in my opinion. Great lisibility and presence in the choral parts, and an excellent recording of the instruments. Of course, 30-second samples can't allow anyone to hear if the solo singers really do their job, i.e. constructing an aria with emotion and spirituality, and if the conductor has succeeded in giving unity, spiritual coherence and breath to the whole work, but what I've listened to sounds quite appealing. I'll probably download this version.

William Hoffman wrote (February 7, 2008):
[To BWV 846-893] Will Hoffman wonders: Now that we have John Butt's rendition of the SMP(BWV244), is it possible that he will author a Cambridge Music Handbooks edition of the SMP(BWV244) as he did with his excellent work on BWV232? A comprehensive study of the Passions is long overdue after the recent fine work on BWV 232 by Butt, Stauffer and Rilling.

Uri Golomb wrote (February 7, 2008):
William Hoffman asked if John Butt is planning a Cambridge Music Handbook on the SMP, adding that "A comprehensive study of the Passions is long overdue after the recent fine work on BWV 232 by Butt, Stauffer and Rilling".

First of all, I think (though I'm not sure) that he is indeed planning book on the Bach Passions, though not necessarily within the Cambridge Music Handbook series. As a former student of his (John Butt supervised my doctoral dissertation), I might be prejudiced, but I certainly believe that it should prove an invaluable contribution to our understanding of Bach's Passions -- especially given the articles he's already published on these works.

Secondly, it's not quite accurate that a study of the Passions is "long overdue". There is, in fact, a fascinating book on them already -- Hearing Bach's Passions by Daniel Melamed (Oxford UniversityPress, 2005). Shortly before that book came out, Melamed published an article on the Passions in Goldberg magazine; you can read it on their website -- start from http://tinyurl.com/yu25kh or go to http://tinyurl.com/yo6shv for a printable version. That article can be seen as a useful summary of his book. I'm sure that John Butt's book, when it comes out, will add significant and unique insights beyond those on offer in Melamed's book, and that many interested readers will want to possess both books. For now, however, Melamed's book is already available, and strongly recommended.

Neil Halliday wrote (February 8, 2008):
[To BWV 846-893] Butt pays special attention to the "crowd" choruses. If you have good computer speakers, listen carefully to number 81 of the samples. (You can hear the whole movement). You can hear the two separate groups of voices and instruments (Coro I and Coro II, with eleven staves for each group); at first we hear antiphonal affects, but the the parts gradually combine so that 'Coro I' (voices and instruments) conclude by doubling Coro II, giving the impression, in the lively acoustic, of much larger choral and instrumental forces as the two groups combine in this fashion. This is exciting music!

{Some of the tempi are not my choice, but the instrumentation and voices generally sound strong and attractive).

Paul Dirmeikis wrote (February 8, 2008):
[To Paul Dirmeikis] I downloaded the recording this evening, and I am currently listening to the first part of this SMP. My first impressions are confirmed. This is undoubtedly a great recording.

But... I want to warn those who intend to download it: there is indeed a mistake concerning the final Chorus, mistake which doesn't affect only the listening samples, but the downloaded samples as well!

I've just written to Linn Records to inform them about this problem. I guess they will fix it quickly (and I do hope they'll send me the right file!).

So better waia while before downloading, until they fix it...

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 12, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Butt pays special attention to the "crowd" choruses. If you have good computer speakers, listen carefully to number 81 of the samples. (You can hear the whole movement). >
I have my computer plugged into my tuner. Warning. turn the sound down.

What I do not understand is how they can sell a continuous work in separate MP3 (flac, etc.). These days at least on operashare, continuous works are made available for downloading in a single file with cuesheets. One then splits the file and one gets seamless tracks rather than separate tracks as with separately uploaded MP3s, etc. for continuous music. Funny that commercial sites (this place and Amazon too where downloading is replacing CDs alas) are less up to speed than a sharing place.

Uri Golomb wrote (April 20, 2008):
I have finally purchased and received my copy of John Butt's recording of the SMP, and have heard it through once -- an experience I have every intention of repeating in the near future. This recording has already been discussed here, and as I recall in strictly positive terms.

I have, actually, little to add on this -- it is indeed a superb performance. For someone like me, who's done research on Bach recordings (under Butt's supervision), it's probaby impossible to hear any Bach recording without having some minor quibbles. So I can note that the recording, mostly clear and resonant, does tend to obscure the instrumental bass lines at times (the bass has PRESENCE -- but the actual notes cannot always be distinguished, which is a pity since it often has a rich melodic-figurative content). Also, the singers here are, perhaps, not the most vocally alluring on record -- compare, say, the voice of Nicholas Mulroy (the tenor of Choir I, who takes the role of Evangelist) with such singers as Mark Padmore, Ian Bostridge, Anthony Rolfe-Johnson... In terms of sheer vocal beauty, I feel they all excel him. And I could make similar comparisons for the other singers.

But somehow, it doesn't really matter. Mulroy is a fine singer and a fine Evangelist, who demonstrates an acute understanding of Bach's text-music relationship and communicates his insights with a winning combination of dramatic verve and musical subtlety. The same can be said of all the singers in this performance -- one senses how closely they identify with Bach's music and how well they understand it (an understanding obviously enhanced by Butt); and when they sing together -- the chorus consists of the soloists -- they form a wonderfully integrated consort, blended yet still retaining a degree of individuality. The orchestral sound is beautiful, and their phrases are beautifully shaped (and wonderfully complement the vocal phrasing); the choice of tempi is (to my ears, at least) always convincing. The performance is a whole that is larger than the sum of its parts, and it sounds fluent, natural and spontaneous -- which is, in all probability, a sign of intense preparation.

Someone asked whether Butt is planning a book on the Passions. The answer is yes: the book is to be titled Bach's Dialogue with Modernity: Perspectives on the Passions, and it will be published in 2009 by Cambridge University Press (see also Butt's online biography -- http://www.gla.ac.uk/music/ourstaff/johnbutt ). I'm sure many members of this list will be eager to acquire this book, once it comes out.

Uri (taking this opportunity to wish a Happy Passover to those members of this list who celebrate it).

 

Butt's SMP

John Pike wrote (March 25, 2008):
Apologies if this has already been discussed before I rejoined this list, but I read a review of John Butt's new recording of the SMP with the Dunedin consort in BBC Music Magazine last night. I trust the reviewer's judgement absolutely. This is an OVPP performance and it gets a rave review. Indeed, the reviewer says that it is now his benchmark recording. Sounds like one I should get.

A few months ago I saw Brad had said how much he admired a performance he had heard of the SMP on the radio, with Van Veldhoven and his Dutch choir. Does anyone know if there are plans to release this recording commercially?

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 25, 2008):
[To John Pike] CBC Radio played excerpts on Good Friday and it sounds like a first-rate recording. All of the soloists are sensational. As someone who was raised on Klemperer and then Richter, I find it hard to shake off my prejudices that the SMP has to have a big, monumental sound. However, this recording gives drama as compensation. I thought that the string playing was very sweet -- not the steel-wool sound that is often passed off as HIP these days.

Dorian Gray wrote (March 25, 2008):
[To John Pike] I just got it this week in the mail from Linn records directly. I am still speechless...

Neil Halliday wrote (March 26, 2008):
You can listen to samples: http://www.linnrecords.com/recording-matthew-passion.aspx

The OVPP voices sound underpowered in (for example) no. 36 "Thunder and lightning", but there is certainly plenty of drama in this performance.

Over Easter I tuned into a performance of the SMP by "Akadaemie für Alte Musik, Berlin" at "Konnen Trannen" (umlauts); this aria was a quick, fussily-articulated, happy little dance, with the soloist often trailing off into inaudibility on the "weak" notes. No passion or sorrow at all, just completely dry and academic (reflecting the ensemble's name perhaps). I turned it off straight away.

Butt's example has much more emotion; and the singer avoids the silly "swelling" tone production mentioned above.

Enjoy the samples.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 26, 2008):
I've listened to all the samples; this is possibly the most consistently enjoyable SMP I have heard (if I can judge from the samples) with all the vocal soloists able to please. It is excellent in many parameters, though some tempi are too fast for my taste, eg, "O man bewail thy sins (38)", "Give me back my Jesus" (no.58), "Make my heart pure", and the final chorus. Following the score, I notice the baroque flutes, with important parts, are weak in the choruses no. 51 and 62.

I suppose one reason why generally excellent, well-recorded performances such as this might be successful in 'OVPP' is due to the fact that the two OVPP choirs (from Coro I and Coro II) come together at some point in most of the choruses, therefore we in fact have 2VPP most of the time (in the choruses).

Butt tastefully holds most fermatas in the chorales, eschewing a common (unattractive) HIP characteristic. His 1st violins seem strong enough (only just in no.95) also a welcome change from many fussy HIP violin examples. One detail, I wish conductors would follow Bach's direction by playing 'forte' the chord that modulates from Bb minor to Eb minor (!), in the emotion-charged "My God, why have you forsaken me" section
(no. 87 in the samples).

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (March 27, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] As someone equally who was raised, no, rather who rose on Klemperer and Richter, I gladly got rid of them when I found other performances. I really found it very easy to shake them both off with all due respect to their devoted lives to their music(s).

 

Review of John Butt's recent Matthew Passion recording

Peter Bright wrote (April 24, 2008):
I am just completing my review of John Butt's SMP for MusicWeb and thought list members might want to read my draft (below). The complete review should appear on MusicWeb International in 2-3 weeks time.
----------------
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Matthew Passion BWV 244 (c. 1742)
Nicholas Mulroy (tenor) – Evangelist; Matthew Brook (bass-baritone) – Jesus; Susan Hamilton (soprano); Cecilia Osmond (soprano); Clare Wilkinson (alto); Annie Gill (alto); Malcolm Bennett (tenor); Brian
Bannatyne-Scott (bass)
Dunedin Consort & Players/John Butt
Recorded at Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh, UK, 3 - 6 September 2007
LINN RECORDS CKD 313 [3 CDs: 67:41 + 50:24 + 43:11]

This wonderfunew recording of the St Matthew Passion is the first to adopt Bach's final revisions to the score as performed in 1742. Most casual listeners may not be able to identify the departure in scoring from the most commonly performed 1736 version (which amounts to the replacement of organ with harpsichord in the second orchestra, and an additional viola da gamba in a recitative and aria). However, where this recording really stands out is in the size of the vocal forces. A total of eight singers are employed, therefore providing just four voices for each of the two choirs. This arrangement clearly has potential disadvantages for those of us raised on the full chorus monumental direction from the likes of Richter and Klemperer. On the other hand, and as John Butt points out in his informative essay, there might be an aesthetic advantage of hearing the voices 'as individuals constituting a group rather than simply as a crowd'.

John Butt is one of our foremost authorities on Bach and historically informed performance more generally, and a great deal of intellectual vigour has undoubtedly been applied to this project. However, whether one agrees on principle with the veracity of one-to-a-part performance practice adopted here (I don't), on purely aesthetic terms it simply doesn't matter. The performance is a triumph from start to finish, immeasurably assisted by the usual superb, spacious and crystal clear engineering by Linn Records.

The most obvious comparison recording is that of Paul McCreesh with the Gabrieli Consort [DG Archiv 474 200-2], which also adopted the one-to-a-part approach. That important recording was graced with several highly regarded and established soloists (including Magdalena Kozena, James Gilchrist and Mark Padmore). Overall, Butt's vocal forces cannot quite compete at the same technical level – yet, somehow this doesn't matter. The total experience transcends the sum of its parts, and if the individual peaks cannot match the likes of Dietrich Henschel in Mache dich, mein Herze, rein under Harnoncourt or Michael Chance in Erbarme dich, mein Gott under Gardiner, they come very close. In particular, Nicholas Mulroy shows outstanding emotional flexibility as the Evangelist and Clare Wilkinson's contribution is also highly expressive throughout.

The smaller forces employed in this performance provide a level of intimacy and immediacy that I don't think exists in any other available recording (including McCreesh). Butt's pacing is beautifully judged, never seeming rushed (to my ears, many 'historically informed' recordings suffer from overly swift tempos). The Dunedin Consort also plays magnificently, supporting the drama of the Passion with clean and colourful expression which is constantly involving.

There is no single recording of the Matthew Passion to rate above all others, but this one is very special indeed – and an essential alternative to the large scale, full chorus offerings of the past.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (April 24, 2008):
Peter Bright wrote:
< I am just completing my review of John Butt's SMP for MusicWeb and thought list members might want to read my draft (below).
There is no single recording of the Matthew Passion to rate above all others, but this one is very special indeed – and an essential alternative to the large scale, full chorus offerings of the past. >
Thank you for your considered review.

I have also read some reviews on Amazon.com.

I am somewhat less than interested in that all the singers, to my knowledge, are English and not German. Somehow that matters. It's one of the things that often turns me off on Parrott's recordings (don't mind my spelling).

Then you add that most of the singers are not great soloists. Well, that too can be reasonable as, as you say, the whole is greater the the sum of the parts. Different persons seek different things from a performance of any work very important to them. I wonder why you do not compare the Veldhoven aircheck (in spite of its not being commercially available). It seems to me that such comparisons are relevant in this day and age. When I consider these days a survey of any work very important to me, I do take into consideration the non-issued performances. If for example (today a poor example) one were to do a review of recordings of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra and fail to compare the 1935 and the 1938 MET airchecks (only a bad example as now finally they are issued albeit on so called pirate labels and on uploads), one would be excluding from the reader's knowledge the incomparable recorded performance(s). Ditto for many other works. I know that many critics often state that they will only include the readily available and not for example out of print issues. At all events thank you for the foretaste of your review.

 

Butt's SMP

John Pike wrote (May 7, 2008):
The SMP has been my favourite piece of music of all time ever since I listened to my father's recording as a child (Richter on Archiv, 1958) and virtually wore out the LPs. I prefer it even to the B minor mass (BWV 232), because it is such a human work, the most extraordinary expression of universal human emotions.

Uri and Peter have both posted reviews of John Butt's new recording with the Dunedin consort and I agree with everything they say. They both commented that the soloists were not absolutely top standard and, while agreeing with that, found that, paradoxically, the lack of final polish heightened my enjoyment of this recording. For me, it seemed to emphasise the worldly/human (rather than the ethereal) nature of this work. At times, I felt as if we all (performers and myself) were actually there at the time of these tragic events as it was being performed; it is a very moving performance. The soloists sing with real feeling, as if they have become emotionally deeply involved in the action and performance. There is real attention to the words being sung and a great sense of drama and this is built up and then maintained. Butt never lets the emotional energy created to dissipate. For example, as he proceeds atacca from "Es taugt nicht, dass wir sie in den Gotteskasten legen, denn es ist Blutgeld" to a superlative account of "Gebt mir meinen Jesum wieder!" the emotional charge already built up reaches even higher levels. And I have never heard such an impassioned cry of anguish, pain and despair in "Eli, Eli, Lama asabthani" as here. The diction throughout is superb and one can clearly here every word. I also loved the little ornaments added; not obtrusive, but enough to bring added interest to music which we have heard so often. By the closing chorus, sung with great passion, I had shivers going down my spine. A very remarkable recording indeed.

 

John Butt Matthew Passion (OVPP)

Chris Kern wrote (June 12, 2008):
I love OVPP recordings, but my absolute favorite Bach piece (the SMP) I had only heard OVPP by McCreesh. McCreesh's recording is very problematic, in my view, and it ranks near the bottom of my 11 recordings. I always hoped that someone else would do a better recording.

Enter John Butt. His OVPP recording of the SMP, while not perfect, is much better than McCreesh's. The singers are less operatic, and the pace less frenetic. The evangelist does not scream and wildly fling the phrases around like the guy in McCreesh's recording.

A definite highlight is "Ach, nun ist mein Jesus hin!" -- the alto singer pitted against the solo quartet is very moving, and you can actually hear the contrapuntal lines of the chorus. I haven't gotten a chance to listen to the whole thing yet (I will next week on my drive to Florida), but this sounds like a definite keeper.

David Glenn Lebut, Jr. wrote (June 13, 2008):
[To Chris Kern] I also like the recent recording featuring John Butt of the 1742 Matthäus-Passion, but have issues with it. Here are my issues:

The booklet outlines that it (the OVPP principle used) is taken right from Bach's 1730 "Kurtzer, jedoch höchstnöthiger Entwurff einer wohlbestallten Kirchen Music; nebst einigem unvorgreiflichen Bedenkken von dem Verfall derselben". According to this, aideal Choir would consist of a maximum of 2 per part(and also 2 per part for the ripienists). However, Bach in it also states that it was customary in Leipzig to use 3 per part in each of the three main churches, with 2 per part for the Universistaets-Kirche (which choir would also be used for the ripieno parts). Thus, it clearly belies its own claims when it uses 1 per part.

On the positive side, however, it does use the right amount of instrumentalists.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 13, 2008):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< I also like the recent recording featuring John Butt of the 1742 Matthäus-Passion, but have issues with it. Here are my issues:
The booklet outlines that it (the OVPP principle used) is taken right from Bach's 1730 "Kurtzer, jedoch höchstnöthiger Entwurff einer wohlbestallten Kirchen Music; nebst einigem unvorgreiflichen Bedenkken von dem Verfall derselben". According to this, an ideal Choir would consist of a maximum of 2 per part(and also 2 per part for the ripienists). However, Bach in it also states that it was customary in
Leipzig to use 3 per part in each of the three main churches, with 2 per part for the Universistaets-Kirche (which choir would also be used for the ripieno parts). Thus, it clearly belies its own claims when it uses 1 per part. >
David: is your complaint therefore that Dr Butt has read and understood Rifkin's and Parrott's books (in which all of this Entwurff roster business is fully explained within proper context), and you think he shouldn't have?

In effect, with your phrase "clearly belies its own claims": you're asserting here that your own reading of the Entwurff is more historically responsible and more careful than the reading of it by Rifkin, Parrott, and Butt.

Which pages of the Parrott and Rifkin books do you personally disagree with, specifically?

Evan Cortens wrote (June 13, 2008):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] I wonder where you're getting your information about Bach's ideal consisting of "a maximum of 2 per part(and also 2 per part for the ripienists)." Furthermore, after reading through the Entwurff myself, I see no mention of the Universitätskirche (Paulinierkirche) there, only St. Thomas, St. Nicholas, St. Peter and the New Church (see paragraph 7 below). My understanding is that it was not generally Bach's responsibility to provide music for the University church, but rather that this responsibility fell to the organist there. Bach did certainly perform there of course, but only on special occasions. The weekly cantatas were, of course, only performed at the Thomaskirche and Nikolaikirche (one in the morning, the other in the afternoon); likewise with the passions (where the performance rotated between these two churches on a yearly basis, see Table 8.16 in Wolff 2000, 295).

Regarding numbers specified in the Entwurff, I've included perhaps the most specific passage three times below, from three sources, as well as a transcription of the first few paragraphs taken from Parrott; a translation I believe to be the most accurate. Nowhere does it state that two voices is the ideal for concertists, though it does state this for ripienists (paragraph 5). However, Bach does clearly say that "each choir must consist of" 3/3/3/3 (=12), preferably 4/4/4/4 (=16). This seems to make a clear point: Bach, in an ideal world, would have performed his concerted vocal works with choirs of 12 to 16 singers. This is not the case though. Right off the bat, Bach tells us that these numbers are inflated to account for illness, thus he's asking for a "roster" (to crib Rifkin and Parrott) of singers from which to draw a performing group, rather than an actual performing group itself.

Secondly, Bach goes on in the Entwurff to discuss his need for instrumentalists. Eight positions are covered by the town musicians (4 Stadtpfeifer, 3 Kunstgeiger and one apprentice), but this leaves, he says, 11 further positions to cover: 2 vl1, 2 vl2, 2 vla, 2 vc, 1 violone, 2 fl/recorder. He goes on to say, in paragraph 14: "The shortage evident here has hitherto been made up partly by studiosi [university students] but mostly by the school's own alumni [the St. Thomas student, the same ones being drawn upon to form the choirs]." (trans, Parrott, 168)

Finally, Bach complains quite extensively about the quality of the available musicians. He breaks them down into three groups: "usable", 17 names; "not yet usable", 20 names; and "unproficient", 17 names. (Parrott, 170) Clearly, when looking at these numbers, this makes it all but impossible for Bach to have formed one performing group per church consisting of 12-16 singers and 18-20 (see paragraph 10) instrumentalists. This is a total of 120 to 144 musicians when Bach had only 55 Thomas students, 8 town musicians and an unknown number (but certainly not more than a handful) of university students to draw upon.

This brings me to my concluding point: the Entwurff is really not a description of "Bach's ideal", but rather a practical memo written to a government body intended to plead for the minimum (or preferably a bit more) of resources necessary to provide quality music. Thus, it is unlikely that Bach would propose figures wildly different than his current ones.

There is certainly a lot to disagree about when it comes to OVPP vs. MVPP, but lets at least get our facts straight.

TEXT AND TRANSLATIONS

Parrott's translation (pp. 167ff.):

Brief yet highly necessary outline of a properly constituted church music establishment, with some sober reflections on the decline of the same.

1) A properly constituted church musical establishment must have vocalists and instrumentalists.

2) The vocalists in the present locality are made up of pupils from the Thomasschule, and are specifically of four sorts, viz. trebles, altos, tenors and basses.

3) Now, in order that the choirs for [concerted] church pieces be correctly constituted, as is befitting, the vocalists must be divided further into two sorts, viz. concertists and ripienists.

4) Concertists are ordinarily four [in number], indeed even five, six, seven [and] up to eight -- if one wishes, that is, to perform music per choros [i.e. for more than one choir].

5) Ripienists must also be at least eight [in number], namely two for each voice.

6) The instrumentalists are also divided into various kinds, viz. violinists, oboists, flute/recorder-players, trumpeters, and drummers. NB 'Violinists' also include those who play violas, cellos and violones.

7) The total number of Thomasschule alumni [resident pupils] is 55. These 55 are divided into four choirs, for four churches in which they have partly to perform [concerted] music, partly to sing motets, and partly to sing chorales. In three churches (the Thomaskirche, the Nikolaikirche and the Neue Kirche) the pupils must all be 'musical' [i.e. capable at least of performing the traditional motet repertoire]. Those left over go to the Petrikirche, namely, those who do not understand music at all but, rather, can just barely sing a chorale.

8) Each 'musical' choir must have at least three sopranos, three altos, three tenors, and as many basses, so that even if one person falls ill (as very often happens, and particularly at this time of year [late August], as the prescriptions written by the school doctor for the apothecary must show), at least a two-choir motet can be sung.
(NB though it would be better still if the student body were composed in such a way that one could take four individuals [subjecta] for each voice and thus set up each choir wsixteen persons.)

9) Accordingly, the number of those who must understand musica works out at 36 persons.

Original text (from Parrott, p. 163ff.):

8) Zu iedweden musicalischen Chor gehören wenigsten 3 Sopranisten, 3 Altisten, 3 Tenoristen, und eben so viel Baßisten, damit, so etwa einer unpaß wird (wie denn sehr offte geschieht, und besonders bey itziger Jahres Zeit, da die recepte, so von dem Schul Medico in die Apothecke verschrieben werden, es ausweisen müßen) wenigstens eine 2 Chörigte Motette gesungen werden kan. (NB. Wiewohln es noch beßer, wenn der Coetus so beschaffen wäre, daß mann zu ieder Stimme 4 subjecta nehmen, und also ieden Chor mit 16. Persohnen bestellen könte.)

NBR (p. 146):

8) Every musical choir should contain at least 3 sopranos, 3 altos, 3 tenors, and as many basses, so that even if one happens to fall ill (as very often happens, particularly at this time of year, as the prescriptions written by the school physician for the apothecary must show) at least a double-chorus motet may be sung. (N.B. Though it would be still better if the group were such that one could have 4 subjects on each voice and thus could provide every choir with 16 persons.)

REFERENCES

Parrott, Andrew. The Essential Bach Choir. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2000.

Rifkin, Joshua. Bach's Choral Ideal. Dortmund: Klangfarben Musikverlag, 2002. [German press, German series, German preface, but the content of the book is in English.]

Wolff, Christoph. Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician: New York: Norton, 2000.

Wolff, Christoph, ed. The New Bach Reader. New York: Norton, 1998. [NBR]

David Glenn Lebut, Jr. wrote (June 13, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] Except that he totally ignores the part about the 3 per part that was traditionally used (even by Bach himself) in Leipzig. As I stated before, the part about 1-2 per part was the ideal, not the actual. If one is out to try to re-create the conditions in which the work was originally performed (which the recording advertises itself to be), one should follow actual performance practices, not ideal.

Uri Golomb wrote (June 13, 2008):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote
< Except that he totally ignores the part about the 3 per part that was traditionally used (even by Bach himself) in Leipzig. As I stated before, the part about 1-2 per part was the ideal, not the actual. If one is out to try to re-create the conditions in which the work was originally performed (which the recording advertises itself to be), one should follow actual performance practices, not ideal. >
On what is this based, really? For what it's worth, and contrary to what David claims, Butt never once states that he bases anything on the Entwurff. Scholars on both sides of the OVPP debate -- from Joshua Rifkin to Christoph Wolff -- agree, and demonstrate, that one cannot adequately reconstruct Bach's actual practices on the basis of the Entwurff.

Butt clearly states that his -- and Rifkin's -- case is made primarily "on the basis of the surviving sets of performance parts"; he doesn't mention the Entwurff at all. In the case of the SMP, the basis not a general thesis about BAch's practices, but an analysis of the written parts for the SMP itself, which unambiguously indicate that the singers who did the Evangelist, Christus and the arias also took part in the choruses, and strongly suggest that the parts were not shared. As noted before, the part labelled Christus (which contains the complete music of the bass in Chorus 1, from the opening chorus onwards) was used by the Christus singer, and by him alone; and same with the other vocal-choir parts. Hence, the two choirs included four singers each -- period. Additional singers, who were not part of the two choirs -- the soprano-in-ripieno, Pilatus, etc. -- were explicitly instructed to remain silent during the choruses and chorales.

David Glenn Lebut, Jr. wrote (June 13, 2008):
Evan Cortens wrote:
< I wonder where you're getting your information about Bach's ideal consisting of "a maximum of 2 per part(and also 2 per part for the ripienists)." >
From the Entwurff itself.

< Furthermore, after reading through the Entwurff myself, I see no mention of the Universitätskirche (Paulinierkirche) there, only St. Thomas, St. Nicholas, St. Peter and the New Church (see paragraph 7 below). My understanding is that it was not generally Bach's responsibility to provide music for the University church, but rather that this responsibility fell to the organist there. Bach did certainly perform there of course, but only on special occasions. The weekly cantatas were, of course, only performed at the Thomaskirche and Nikolaikirche (one in the morning, the other in the afternoon); likewise with the passions (where the performance rotated between these two churches on a yearly basis, see Table 8.16 in Wolff 2000, 295). >
As to the Paulinerkirche, the numbers were specified in the Entwurff (It was identified as the Peters-Kirche [which was the University Church untill it was destroyed, at which time the Paulinerkirche was already built and was sanctioned as the University Church]), but more specifically in "A Note in Bach's Hand on the Minimum Requirements of the Choirs" also possibly dating from the same time (1730) as the Entwurff. The New Church mentioned in the Entwurff was always used as the University Church as well.

< Regarding numbers specified in the Entwurff, I've included perhaps the most specific passage three times below, from three sources, as well as a transcription of the first few paragraphs taken from Parrott; a translation I believe to be the most accurate. Nowhere does it state that two voices is the ideal for concertists, though it does state this for ripienists (paragraph 5). However, Bach does clearly say that "each choir must consist of" 3/3/3/3 (=12), preferably 4/4/4/4 (=16). This seems to make a clear point: Bach, in an ideal world, would have performed his concerted vocal works with choirs of 12 to 16 singers. This is not the case though. Right off the bat, Bach tells us that these numbers are inflated to account for illness, thus he's asking for a "roster" (to crib Rifkin and Parrott) of singers from which to draw a performing group, rather than an actual performing group its >
This is the actual, which is totally ignored by Butt in his recording. What he looks at is the first part, which states that "The concertists are ordinarilly 4 in number; sometimes also 5, 6, 7, even 8; that is, if one wishes to perform music for two choirs (per choros). The ripienists, too, must be at least 8, namely, two for each part".

Chris Kern wrote (June 13, 2008):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< Butt clearly states that his -- and Rifkin's -- case is made primarily "on the basis of the surviving sets of performance parts"; he doesn't mention the Entwurff at all. In the case of the SMP, the basis not a general thesis about BAch's practices, but an analysis of the written parts for the SMP itself, which unambiguously indicate that the singers who did the Evangelist, Christus and the arias also took part in the choruses, and strongly suggest that the parts were not shared. As noted before, the part labelled Christus (which contains the complete music of the bass in Chorus 1, from the opening chorus onwards) was used by the Christus singer,
and by him alone; and same with the other vocal-choir parts. Hence, the two choirs included four singers each -- period. Additional singers, who were not part of the two choirs -- the soprano-in-ripieno, Pilatus, etc. -- were explicitly instructedto remain silent during the choruses and chorales. >
I highly recommend the book "Hearing Bach's Passions" by Daniel Melamed. This contains a good explanation of Bach's performing forces for the SMP and SJP (BWV 245) that focuses on the parts, not the Entwurff. It is very convincing and leaves little doubt in my mind that the SMP was performed by 8 principal singers plus a few extras who only sang small parts.

(It is an interesting book aside from that also; I think the most fascinating article in it was the one where he argues that the SMP is not, fundamentally, a double-choir composition and that it probably required forces very similar to the SJP (BWV 245) to perform.)

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 13, 2008):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< Additional singers, who were not part of the two choirs -- the soprano-in-ripieno, Pilatus, etc. -- were explicitly instructed to remain silent during the choruses and chorales. >
Is this true? I always assumed that the "bit" parts like Pilate also had the "choir" music. If this is the case, then OVPP was so important to Bach that he had singers sitting by silently when they could have stood up and shared a copy of the chorusses.

Uri makes a crucial point that the OVPP hypothesis was formulated out of the study of sets of performing parts. The Entwurff simply isn't clear enough -- or perhaps was never intended -- to be documentary evidence for the interpretation of particular scores.

I think I better put Butt's book on my summer reading list.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 13, 2008):
Uri:
>> Additional singers, who were not part of the two choirs -- the soprano-in-ripieno, Pilatus, etc. -- were explicitly instructed to remain silent during the choruses and chorales. <<
Doug:
>Is this true? I always assumed that the "bit" parts like Pilate also had the "choir" music. If this is the case, then OVPP was so important to Bach that he had singers sitting by silently when they could have stood up and shared a copy of the chorusses. ...
I think I better put Butt's book on my summer reading list.<
EM:
I understood the Butt reference to be to notes to his recording, rather than to a book (still in process?). Confirmation/correction?

See also the Melamed book, often recommended on BCML, most recently today by Chris Kern.

Uri Golomb wrote (June 14, 2008):
My sources regarding the 'tacet' markings in the 'bit' parts are, IIRC, Rifkin's early article (re-printed in Parrott's The Essential Bach Choir) and John Butt's article "Bach's Vocal Scoring". I've lent both of these to a friend, so I cannot confirm this at the moment. In any case, Butt indeed states this in his notes: the singers who did the small parts "play no further role in the performance (not even the chorales)". The full text of Butt's booklet is on http://www.linnrecords.com/recording-matthew-passion.aspx.

Butt's book is still being written, I believe; it's scheduled for publication in 2009. Daniel Melamed's Hearing Bach's Passions, however, is readily available and highly recommended; an article summing up the main points of his book can be read on the web, starting on http://tinyurl.com/yu25kh.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (June 14, 2008):
Chris Kern wrote:
< (It is an interesting book aside from that also; I think the most fascinating article in it was the one where he argues that the SMP is not, fundamentally, a double-choir composition and that it probably required forces very similar to the SJP (BWV 245) to perform.) >
Ultimately we shall have no reality. I have just fast-read a print-out of the Melamed article from the URL to Goldberg Magazine which Uri kindly provided us and from the article (I have not seen his book) I hardly derive that the MP is to be dismissed as having required forces similar to the JP (BWV 245). Of course he only discusses the MP en passant here and devotes what I myself with respect deem as silly time to the Markus-Passion question. His conclusion thereunto that there is no such passion today and that our time is far better spent with the great Trauerode is something with which I totally agree. Of course I am stating my view (which is stronger than what Melamed said).

We live in a time where having recordings of various versions of the JP is rather simple. Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini has worse problems: Paris I and II, Leipzig I and II. Again today all easily heard.But many variables enter such as the particular performance e.g. in the JP version Parrott uses.

Anyway I believe that the MP will survive as a work so far surpassing all other works of the genre whatever format various scholars and conductors do it in.

David Glenn Lebut, Jr. wrote (June 14, 2008):
[To Chris Kern] Except that, again, Leipzig tradition and usage dictated the use of 3 per part for both Choirs. I again turn attention to the Entwurff and also to a companion document Bach wrote at the same time (1730) in which he notated the requirements for the church choirs in Leipzig. In it, he lists for the Thomaskirche, the Nikolaikirche, and the Matthaikirche (labeled in the document as the Neukirche) the minimum requirements for the Choir as 3 per part each, with the Peters-Kirche (the University Church) having the minimum requirement as 2 per part. This latter Choir was also used as the ripieno soloists or ripienists at the other churches.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 13, 2008):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< Except that, again, Leipzig tradition and usage dictated the use of 3 per part for both Choirs. >
You speak about "Leipzig tradition and usage" as if it's demonstrable by solid documentation.

There just ain't such evidence.

David Glenn Lebut, Jr. wrote (June 14, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] Actually, there is.

Look at the Leipzig Council meetings write-ups.

Look at the two Bach writings I cited.

The list goes on.....

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 14, 2008):
Brad Lehman wrote, in response to David Glenn Lebut Jr.:
>In effect, with your phrase "clearly belies its own claims": you're asserting here that your own reading of the Entwurff is more historically responsible and more careful than the reading of it by Rifkin, Parrott, and Butt.
Which pages of the Parrott and Rifkin books do you personally disagree with, specifically?<
Seems like a quite reasonable request? A response would be more convincing than endless repetition of a single point.

Neil Halliday wrote (June 14, 2008):
Chris Kern wrote:
>I think the most fascinating article in it was the one where he (Melamed) argues that the SMP is not, fundamentally, a double-choir composition and that it probably required forces very similar to the SJP (BWV 245) to perform.)<
This strikes me as an argument without merit, or not worth making; the SMP does have many double choruses - I count eleven where 8 singers at a minimum are required to perform the music at all (the SJP (BWV 245) does not), and of course the score calls for all the chorales and several other choruses to be performed by Coro I and Coro II together. As for instruments, the SMP needs (more than) twice as many as the SJP (BWV 245)!

David Glenn Lebut, Jr. wrote (June 14, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] I would bolster that comment with the following:

It is hard to base any assumptions about ensemble (whether Vocal or Instrumental) size requirements from extant parts of any work. Otherwise the Horns in any of Beethoven's Symphonies would be reduced in number from 4 to 2, etc.

I again turn people's attention to both the Entwurff and the notation Bach made about minimum Choir requirements at the same time (1730). Both could be found in the Bach Reader and the New Bach Reader. I walso call attention to the article "Alumnen und Externe in den Kantoreien der Thomasschule zur Zeit Bach" by Andreas Gloeckner in the 2006 Bach-Jahrbuch.

I would also point out that all the items heretofore discussed only applies to Bach's tenure in Leipzig. As to the other locales, I have no idea whatsoever about the ensemble sizes available nor about the local customs and peculiarities in regards to size of ensembles used in performances. Any help in this area would be greatly appreciated (especially as I am still trying to work on reconstructions of all versions of Bach's Passion music and other works (such as BWV 244a)).

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (June 14, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] It would indeed be helpful to have a clearer sense of exactly what the points of disagreement are.

David Glenn Lebut, Jr. wrote (June 14, 2008):
<>

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 14, 2008):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< I again turn people's attention to both the Entwurff and the notation Bach made about minimum Choir requirements at the same time (1730). <
You are still not speaking to the central question that the surviving performing parts strongly indicate OVPP. There are no parts for the musicians you have assumed were present.

I suggest that you step back from this question and lose the dogmatic assertions. The OVPP and MVPP hypotheses are here to stay and short of finding a truckload of new documents, it's not going to be solved.

David Glenn Lebut, Jr. wrote (June 14, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] I would also ask the same of you. What makes you think that they are OVPP? Rifkin? Butt? Parrott(sp?)? I use Bach's own words here, not some 20th-21st century idea of Bach's words. Or would you have Bach write out all the parts? This would be both tedious and time-consuming. For me, if it says 2-3 for Violin I, by golly it should be 2-3 for Violin I. The same for the Choirs and the other instrumentalists.

Bach himself tallied about 18-20 instrumentalists needed for a "well-regulated Church-Music" (for 1 orchestra). for Choir about 12 (again based on current trends in Leipzig). This means that for a typical Passion performance, about 14-16 instrumentalists and 12 choristers would be needed (along with the 8 ripienists for the solo parts). The 4 missing instrumentalists would be three Trumpets and a Timpani. This would mean that for most (1727, 1729, and 1736) of the performances of the Matthäus-Passion during Bach's lifetime, the instrumental ensemble would consist of 29-33 performers, along with 24 choristers and 8 ripienists. Things would be different in 1742, when Bach added the ripieno Soprano Choir part in both Movements 1 and 29, and when he added the Viola da gamba part in Continuo II to supplement the Harpsichord replacement of the Organ. So the totals would be 34 instrumentalists, along with 15 choristers and 8 ripienists.

When Bach or his copyists wrote out parts, he/they assumed that the instrumentalists and choristers knew for which parts they would have to share music (i.e., Violin I, Violin II, Viola, Violoncello, Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass).

Not to mention the fact that what we have now in regards to parts is not the entirety of the work in most cases.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 14, 2008):
Uri responded to my query:
>My sources regarding the 'tacet' markings in the 'bit' parts are, IIRC, Rifkin's early article (re-printed in Parrott's The Essential Bach Choir) and John Butt's article "Bach's Vocal Scoring".<
The acronym drove me to the dictionary. In the context, I take it as <If I Recall Correctly>, but I also note with amusement, the possibility <If I Really Cared>. Full credit for all humor, intentional or otherwise.

Thanks for the reply: concise, precise, and prompt!

Chris Kern wrote (June 14, 2008):
Chris Kern wrote:
<< I think the most fascinating article in it was the one where he (Melamed) argues that the SMP is not, fundamentally, a double-choir composition and that it probably required forces very similar to the SJP (BWV 245) to perform.) <<
Neil Halliday wrote:
< This strikes me as an argument without merit, or not worth making; the SMP does have many double choruses - I count eleven where 8 singers at a minimum are required to perform the music at all (the SJP (BWV 245) does not), and of course the score calls for all the chorales and several other choruses to be performed by Coro I and Coro II together. As for instruments, the SMP needs (more than) twice as many as the SJP (BWV 245)! >
The SJP (BWV 245) was performed with more than 8 singers because Bach wrote out ripienist parts and some additional bit parts. The instruments for the initial performance of the SMP were divided in such a way that there were not strictly twice as many instruments as the SJP (BWV 245) -- I suggest reading the book since he devotes almost an entire chapter to this and I don't want to try to summarize his entire argument (especially since I don't have the book now; I had it from the library). I believe his conclusion is that the initial performance of the SMP (which still had single continuo) required possibly as few as 5 or 6 extra performers over the SJP (BWV 245).

Chris Kern wrote (June 14, 2008):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< When Bach or his copyists wrote out parts, he/they assumed that the instrumentalists and choristers knew for which parts they would have to share music (i.e., Violin I, Violin II, Viola, Violoncello, Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass). >
The idea of sharing the parts does not make sense with the parts that survive. Why would Bach write out a part for Pilatus that explicitly tells the bass to remain silent for the rest of the work? If Choir II has several bass singers sharing a part, Pilatus could have been written into the main bass part with Bach simply instructing one of the singers to be Pilatus.

(Also, you keep claiming that you're using Bach's words, but Bach never says anything about sharing parts.)

< Not to mention the fact that what we have now in regards to parts is not the entirety of the work in most cases. >
For the SMP, there's no reason to believe there are missing parts.

But the book should be read, not criticized without even looking at it.

Neil Halliday wrote (June 14, 2008):
Chris Kern wrote:
>I believe his conclusion is that the initial performance of the SMP (which still had single continuo) required possibly as few as 5 or 6 extra performers over the SJP (BWV 245).<
Interesting, but certainly not Bach's final conception of the work.

Uri Golomb wrote (June 14, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] I wasn't aware that IIRC was also "If I really cared" -- so the humour was not intentional. Nice to be appreciated anyway.

Regarding Melamed and the double-chorus in the SMP, here is the abstract for his article on the subject (where he discusses the issues in greater detail than in his book). The article is titled "The Double Chorus in Bach's St. Matthew Passion", and it was published in Journal of the American Musicological Society 57/1 (2004): 3-50:

"Bach's St. Matthew Passion has long been interpreted and analyzed as a double-chorus work, largely under the influence of typical modern performances. But Bach's original performing materials and analytical features of the work show that very little is actually scored for equal choruses and that the two ensembles do not have the same status. Chorus 2 is subordinate to Chorus 1 and is better viewed as a ripieno ensemble that most often supports the work's concertists (Chorus 1), only occasionally gaining a measure of independence. This flexible and expanded role for a group of ripieno singers had its origins in a movement from Bach's St. John Passion (BWV 245) and was particularly suited to the dialogue texts at the core of the St. Matthew Passion's libretto. It is also consistent with the particular pforces Bach had at his disposal. Understanding the work in this way clarifies its close continuity with eighteenth-century church music practice and with Bach's earlier music. "

(abstract copied and pasted from: http://caliber.ucpress.net/doi/abs/10.1525/jams.2004.57.1.3?journalCode=jams )

The contrast is with full-fledged double-chorus works, where the two choirs are fully equal -- such as four of Bach's six motets.

Neil Halliday wrote (June 14, 2008):
Chris Kern wrote:
<I believe his conclusion is that the initial performance of the SMP (which still had single continuo) required possibly as few as 5 or 6 extra performers over the SJP (BWV 245).>
I see one way to make sense of Melamed's figures is to assume 2PPP, apart from violone and organ, in the SJP (BWV 245), and OPPP in Coro I and Coro II of the SMP. With this arrangement, for example in the opening choruses, I calculate 24 performers in the former and 30 in the latter. (I notice the later version of the SJP (BWV 245) gives the repeated 1/8 notes in the continuo to 'violincelli' and 'fagotti').

Neil Halliday wrote (June 14, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>I calculate 24 performers in the former (SJP (BWV 245)) and 30 in the latter (SMP)<
but not including the soprano in ripieno in the SMP's opening chorus.

Do violin doublets exist for Coro I and II in the SMP?

Chris Kern wrote (June 14, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
<< I calculate 24 performers in the former (SJP (BWV 245)) and 30 in the latter (SMP) >>
< but not including the soprano in ripieno in the SMP's opening chorus.
Do violin doublets exist for Coro I and II in the SMP? >
Not completely. The situation with the violins is complex and Melamed discusses it at length in the article.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 14, 2008):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< Chorus 2 is subordinate to Chorus 1 and is better viewed as a ripieno ensemble that most often supports the work's concertists (Chorus 1), only occasionally gaining a measure of independence. >
I think this is a very important issue. There's no question that Coro 2 has less music to sing than Coro 1 and the notion that Bach sees them as a "ripieno" ensemble is very interesting. Certainly no one imagines the two choirs and orchestras positioned Gabrieli-like in widely spaced galleries. The fact that they perform together frequently argues that they indeed stood together in choir gallery.

Butt's choice of the word "subordinate" is unfortunate but there certainly is an inequality in the disposition of the two ensembles. Much the same thing could be said of Bach's great double choir motet "Singet dem Herrn". The music of the first choir is more extended and difficult than the second's. The second movement has an elaborate "aria" for the first choir which is answered by a simple chorale in the second.

I for one am always grateful to be assigned to the second choir -- easier sing.

Evan Kortens wrote (June 14, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling wrote] Apologies, not to be nit-picky... but it's actually the Melamed article in JAMS that uses the word "subordinate", not Butt's writings (so far as I know, anyway!).

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 14, 2008):
[To Evan Cortens] Thanks. I really should shut up and go read the article. I wish this site had tables which outlined the scoring and part dispostions in works such as the Passions and the B Minor which are the focus of the most intensive debate on this list.

David Glenn Lebut, Jr. wrote (June 14, 2008):
Chris Kern wrote:
< The idea of sharing the parts does not make sense with the parts that survive. Why would Bach write out a part for Pilatus that explicitly tells the bass to remain silent for the rest of the work? If Choir II has several bass singers sharing a part, Pilatus could have been written into the main bass part with Bach simply instructing one of the singers to be Pilatus. >
And you should stop alternating between ripienist roles (soloist roles) and the Choir and Orchestral parts. Bach only wrote out one part for Violin I, but it was assumed that the 2-3 Violin I performers would share it. The same thing with the Soprano part in Coro I and Soprano part in Coro II. It was understood that all three Sopranos in each Coro would share the same part.

< (Also, you keep claiming that you're using Bach's words, but Bach never says anything about sharing parts.)
<< Not to mention the fact that what we have now in regards to parts is not the entirety of the work in most cases. >>
< For the SMP, there's no reason to believe there are missing parts. >
Ah, but there is!!!!! The Flute parts are totally missing in the 1727/1729 version, the ripieno Soprano Choir part (if extant) is missing from the 1727/1729 and 1736 versions (only existing in the 1742 and 1743-1746 versions), the music to Movement 17 in the 1727/1729 version is missing, etc. And this is not the only work in which this has occurred.

David Glenn Lebut, Jr. wrote (June 14, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>I calculate 24 performers in the former (SJP (BWV 245)) and 30 in the latter (SMP)<
< but not including the soprano in ripieno in the SMP's opening chorus.
Do violin doublets exist for Coro I and II in the SMP? >
In regards to the Soprano ripieno Choir part in Movements 1 and 29 of the SMP, the parts only exist in the 1742 and 1743-1746 versions, not in the 1727/1729 and 1736 versions.

Evan Kortens wrote (June 14, 2008):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< And you should stop alternating between ripienist roles (soloist roles) and the Choir and Orchestral parts. Bach only wrote out one part for Violin I, but it was assumed that the 2-3 Violin I performers would share it. The same thing with the Soprano part in Coro I and Soprano part in Coro II. It was understood that all three Sopranos in each Coro would share the same part. >
It seems to me, if I recall correctly, that the vast majority of surviving instrumental parts contain two violin I, two violin II and one viola part (the principal copyist preparing a full set, and a secondary copyist preparing doublettes of the two violin parts).

Granted this isn't exactly scientific, but it's very hard for me to imagine three violinists crowded around a single music stand, surely the maximum practical number of violinists/violists per part is two.

However, the situation gets complex quite quickly. For instance, see the first violin parts for the B minor mass. See also Rifkin's article on the violin parts in the St. John Passion (BWV 245).

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 14, 2008):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< In regards to the Soprano ripieno Choir part in Movements 1 and 29 of the SMP, the parts only exist in the 1742 and 1743-1746 versions, not in the 1727/1729 and 1736 versions >
Are the 1727/29 and 1736 performances the version sthat the "O Lamm Gottes" C.F. Was supposedly played on the organ?

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 14, 2008):
Correspondent A
>> For the SMP, there's no reason to believe there are missing parts.<<
Correspondent B
>Ah, but there is!!!!! The Flute parts are totally missing in the 1727/1729 version, the ripieno Soprano Choir part (if extant) is missing from the 1727/1729 and 1736 versions (only existing in the 1742 and 1743-1746 versions), the music to Movement 17 in the 1727/1729 version is missing, etc. And this is not the only work in which this has occurred.<
Correwpondent A
> But the book should be read, not criticized without even looking at it.<
In fact the points mentioned by <Correspondent B> are covered in detail by Melamed!!!!!!! (Seven exclamation points trump five?) Is it too much to repeat the suggestion that the book should be read, before being criticized. At least to retain any semblance of credibility.

Chris Kern wrote (June 14, 2008):
Evan Cortens wrote to David Glenn Lebut Jr.:
< It seems to me, if I recall correctly, that the vast majority of surviviinstrumental parts contain two violin I, two violin II and one viola part (the principal copyist preparing a full set, and a secondary copyist preparing doublettes of the two violin parts). >
Melamud's hypothesis is that there was only one Violin I player in the initial performance, which goes partway to explaining how Bach was able to perform the piece (the traditional account would suggest that he was able to suddenly call on as many as 20-30 extra musicians in order to perform the SMP).

David Glenn Lebut, Jr. wrote (June 14, 2008):
Evan Cortens wrote:
< It seems to me, if I recall correctly, that the vast majority of surviving instrumental parts contain two violin I, two violin II and one viola part (the principal copyist preparing a full set, and a secondary copyist preparing doublettes of the two violin parts). >
Not from what I have read (which includes the Kritischer Berichts to the Neue Bach-Ausgabe.

David Glenn Lebut, Jr. wrote (June 14, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Are the 1727/29 and 1736 performances the version sthat the "O Lamm Gottes" C.F. Was supposedly played on the organ? >
Yes, and not supposedly, but it was played by the Organ. Also Movement 29 of the 1736 version has the CF in the Organ aw well, as the 1727/1729 version did not have "O Mensch, bewein' dein' Sünde gross" as Movement 29.

Evan Kortens wrote (June 14, 2008):
>>> And you should stop alternating between ripienist roles (soloist roles) and the Choir and Orchestral parts. Bach only wrote out one part for Violin I, but it was assumed that the 2-3 Violin I performers would share it. The same thing with the Soprano part in Coro I and Soprano part in Coro II. It was understood that all three Sopranos in each Coro would share the same part. <<<
>> It seems to me, if I recall correctly, that the vast majority of surviving instrumental parts contain two violin I, two violin II and one viola part (the principal copyist preparing a full set, and a secondary copyist preparing doublettes of the two violin parts). <<
> Not from what I have read (which includes the Kritischer Berichts to the Neue Bach-Ausgabe. <
I think I may have initially been unclear. I didn't mean that this applied to the Matthew passion specifically, but rather to Bach's vocal works in general. I maintain that in most cases, the original violin 1/violin 2/viola parts are 2/2/1.

My apologies!

David Glenn Lebut, Jr. wrote (June 14, 2008):
Chris Kern wrote:
< Melamud's hypothesis is that there was only one Violin I player in the initial performance, which goes partway to explaining how Bach was able to perform the piece (the traditional account would suggest that he was able to suddenly call on as many as 20-30 extra musicians in order to perform the SMP). >
Actually, though, there were 2-3 Violin I performers, and Bach would have performed from the Harpsichord. We have documents from performances of other works that state that Bach always performed and conducted from the Harpsichord.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 14, 2008):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< Actually, though, there were 2-3 Violin I performers, and Bach would have performed from the Harpsichord. We have documents from performances of other works that state that Bach always performed and conducted from the Harpsichord. >
These aggressive categorical assertions need to be modulated

We know that Bach normally conducted the concerted music as "concertmaster" playing Violin 1.

David Glenn Lebut, Jr. wrote (June 14, 2008):
[To Evan Cortens] No, you are not unclear. Nor am I. I am referring to all Bach Vocal works in general as well. They are 1/1/1/1(Vc)/1(Violone). However, in performance, they are 2-3/2-3/2/2/1. Which (as the Preface to the Study Score of the JP from Baerenreiter states) makes the 4th version of the Johannespassion unique because there are 3 parts for the Violin I, 2 for the Violin 2, 2 for the Viola, 1 each for the Concertante Vocal parts, 1 each for the ripieno vocal parts, and 5 for the Continuo (2 for Vc, 1 for Violone (shared by Bassoon), 1 for Cembalo, 1 not figured and not transposed marked "Cembalo" and copied from the other Cembalo one, and 1 part also marked "con Bassono grosso").

David Glenn Lebut, Jr. wrote (June 14, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] But not in Leipzig. He was always from the Harpsichord. And not for the period from 1703-1714. Even in Köthen, there is evidence that he conducted from the Harpischord, only occasionally and rarely from the Violin.

Remember, even though Bach was versed on other instruments, he was primarilly known and associated with the Keyboard instruments.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 14, 2008):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< No, you are not unclear. Nor am I. I am referring to all Bach Vocal works in general as well. >
Apres moi le déluge.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 14, 2008):
>> Actually, though, there were 2-3 Violin I performers, and Bach would have performed from the Harpsichord. We have documents from performances of other works that state that Bach always performed and conducted from the Harpsichord. <<
>These aggressive categorical assertions need to be modulated<
EM:
Not to worry, they are self-destructing in the long run, for the patient.

>We know that Bach normally conducted the concerted music as "concertmaster" playing Violin 1.<
A hint at a reference (from both sides), for <we know>, etc., is especially welcome for those of us who use BCML for self-education.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 14, 2008):
OVPP (was: longer)

>> No, you are not unclear. Nor am I. I am referring to all Bach Vocal works in general as well. <<
>Apres moi le déluge.<
Perhaps a Biblical <The fire next time> would be more appropriate?

John Pike wrote (June 19, 2008):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< My sources regarding the 'tacet' markings in the 'bit' parts are, IIRC, Rifkin's early article (re-printed in Parrott's The Essential Bach Choir) and John Butt's article "Bach's Vocal Scoring". I've lent both of these to a friend, so I cannot confirm this at the moment. In any case, Butt indeed states this in his notes: the singers who did the small parts "play no further role in the performance (not even the chorales)". The full text of Butt's booklet is on http://www.linnrecords.com/recording-matthew-passion.aspx.
Butt's book is still being written, I believe; it's scheduled for publication in 2009. Daniel Melamed's Hearing Bach's Passions, however, is readily available and highly recommended; an article summing up the main points of his book can be read on the web, starting on http://tinyurl.com/yu25kh. >
Many thanks for drawing our attention to these articles. I have not read the Melamed one yet, but will do so, and I have ordered his book.

I recently wrote about the fact that I was not at that time persuaded that Bach's choral ideal was OVPP for all his works. However, having now read the Butt article, the case for the SMP having been performed OVPP for artistic reasons (rather than having been forced on Bach by circumstance) seems now to me to be clear cut. By propagation, it also gives much greater weight to the arguments that singers often did not share parts, that OVPP was indeed Bach's choral ideal and that the arguments for 3 or 4 VPP in the Entwurff indeed (as Rifkin argues) were so that Bach had a roster of singers he could draw on as needed. For an OVPP performance of the SMP he would indeed have needed about 3 or 4 each of SATB; one each in chorus 1 and chorus 2, a few singers for the minor roles (who did NOT sing in choruses) and the sopranos in ripieni for the opening and closing choruses only in part 1). Having established such a successful choral ideal for arguably his greatest work, why change all that for other works? To put it crudely, why change a winning team? Well, maybe there were artistic reasons for doing something different for SOME other works, but I imagine that the OVPP configuration would have worked just fine thank you in many other cantatas etc.

Some weeks ago I raved on list about John Butt's SMP, but I had not had time to read the liner notes at that stage. The performance had moved me like no other but it is only now, (after a very quiet day at work, and time to read the liner notes) that I am beginning to understand fully WHY it was so moving. The notes constitute one of the most brilliant articles about the SMP I have read. Everyone on this list owes it to himself to read them, since it should be crystal clear to everyone by the end that Bach made a conscious artistic decision to perform the SMP OVPP. It should also be clear that other changes he made to the instrumental scoring for the final (c 1742) performance were for artistic reasons, and not due to circumstances beyond his control. Butt discusses at length, in a very compelling way, what the artistic reasons for OVPP were and, hearing it now for the first time as close as possible to Bach's intentions, I can see the depth of Bach's genius in making these decisions. There have been OVPP recordings before, but none that so closely match Bach's explicit instructions in the parts....the singers of "minor roles" sing only those roles (although sometimes singing several of those roles) and have no part at all in the choruses. Nearly 300 years after it's first performance, this OVPP performance is able to move me with its intimacy, immediacy and human appeal like no other because some scholars have simply taken the effort to look at the evidence that has been sitting there for nearly 300 years.

Jens F. Laurson wrote (June 20, 2008):
John Pike wrote:
< Some weeks ago I raved on list about John Butt's SMP. The performance had moved me like no other but it is only now, that I am beginning to understand fully WHY it was so moving. --the most brilliant articles about the SMP -- it should be crystal clear to everyone by the end > that Bach made a conscious artistic decision to perform the SMP OVPP... etc. >
I must say that I've been greatly moved by the Butt-Passion when I got it some time in February or March. Since then I've done a little M-Passion tour (Narden/Veldhoven, Amsterdam/Fischer, Amsterdam/de Vriend, Munich/von Guttenberg) and listened to several more recordings -- and my enthusiasm for Butt has waned considerably.

In fact, I find it compelling in many ways, but musically ugly... precisely because he can't balance the non-choir to make anything resembling an even sound, and thus voices (literally and in the musical sense) blurt out of the harmonious fabric in ways that is often unfortunate.

Perhaps somehow HIP (though not authentic in any way) that Susan Hamilton sounds a bit like a treble...

To call Clare Wilkinson's (or is it Annie Gill??) voice ugly might be harsh, but "pretty" sure sounds different. Soprano lines dominate the choruses unduly. Surprisingly little sense of dialogue (except in the short phrase "Sehet, Was?").

Matthew Brook's dancing, bouncing "Trinket alle daraus; das ist mein Blut..." -- very pretty. Is it just my subjective view that this should also be touching? There are many other places where I, upon re-re-re listening, don't find that the text has been very obviously considered. (I don't want to say "not very carefully considered", because I suppose Butt did that plenty... it's just not really audible.)

The essay is lucid and intriguing. But it's not without flaws or questionable parts. Observations are made - and then, without logical necessity and sometimes not even inductive reasoning, conclusions are drawn that are merely possible to draw. In defense of Butt, I am not sure if he wishes to be all that ideological in his essay: Perhaps he really is just arguing for the possibility of his approach, not the necessity. (As some of his supporters might.)

His argument about familiarity with the soloist/performers taking on several roles in the past of the story and the presence of the performance is at least confusing, more likely confused.

His most beautiful (and perhaps important) sentence comes in the last paragraph:

--
"Trying to follow Bach's vocal scoring and the instrumentation of his last performances is not done in the name of a sort of pious literalism that condemns every other approach to the realm of inauthenticity. It is rather an attempt to explore the possibilities for creative expression within a particular set of historical parameters (which can thereby become opportunities)."
--

It's a terrific recording to have (despite my strong caveats) -- because of the contrast it provides. Another favorite these days, again for contrast and because it takes the TEXT of the M-Passion so seriously (thus being what I'd consider the most religious performance I've heard of the M-Passion yet), is zu Guttenberg (FARAO) whom I didn't like (because I didn't understand) in concert but who convinces more often than he does not on disc.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 20, 2008):
Jens F. Laurson wrote:
>I must say that I've been greatly moved by the Butt-Passion when I got it some time in February or March. Since then I've done a little M-Passion tour (Narden/Veldhoven, Amsterdam/Fischer, Amsterdam/de Vriend, Munich/von Guttenberg) and listened to several more recordings -- and my enthusiasm for Butt has waned considerably.<
Ed Myskowski replies: It is especially welcome to see a post related to recordings, from a new correspondent.

I am interested in hearing what others consider the most (or perhaps a few) essential SMP recording. I have the McCreesh OVPP, and I am not likely to add the Butt in any hurry. I am more inclined to await Veldhoven (including Bach/Lehman tuning?), but share your opinion, especially if it differs.

I also have five others, so not really in need of more recordings. I will not mention what they are just yet, as I am curious about opinions and favorites, which may well overlap my holdings. If there is any discussion, I will certainly join in early on.

I notice a separate survey, which I am unable to access via yahoo.groups because they have upgraded their software without bothering to remain backward compatible, leaving me SOL (that is from a Louis Armstrong title, SOL Blues, you can look it up). My vote would probably skew the results, in any case, becasue I would vote, for very specific and personal reasons, for the SJP (BWV 245), 1725 version (II), in the recording by Craig Smith and Emmanuel Music. It is certainly a performance I would expect everyone to enjoy, but not necessarily as a first choice among all the passions, in various versions of score and performance..

Peter Smaill wrote (June 21, 2008):
For a selection of reviews of the John Butt SMP, this link should help emphasise the significance of the new recording: Linn Records: Review J.S. Bach Matthew Passion - Dunedin Consort, John Butt

Terejia wrote (June 22, 2008):
John Pike wrote:
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/28432
>> There have been OVPP recordings before, but none that so closely match Bach's explicit instructions in the parts....the singers of "minor roles" sing only those roles (although sometimes singing several of those roles) and have no part at all in the choruses. Nearly 300 years after it's first performance, this OVPP performance is able to move me with its intimacy, immediacy and human appeal like no other because some scholars have simply taken the effort to look at the evidence that has been sitting there for nearly 300 years. <<
I've heard some web examples of it although I've not obtained the CD yet.( In Japan, it is often very inconvenient to obtain Bach cantatas and CD shops so often tells me "this recording cannot be obtained, sorry.") Yes, to the best of my sensitivity, it is absolutely beautiful.

For my modest mind, being historically authentic/correct and being of aethetic/artistic value are two independent separated issues. As for the aethetic value, Ozawa Seiji's performance of the masterpiece gem would be probably none the less superb. Not that Ozawa is my best choice, either. Since historical/academic authenticity and aethetic are two independent separated issues for my modest brain, aethetic/artistic value doesn't always have to depend on historical authenticiy nor correctness.

This is only personal opinion, which may well change as I learn more. I know I have to learn a lot more!

 

Continue on Part 2

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244: Details
Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | 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 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | 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 - L. Bernstein | BWV 244 - G.C. Biller | BWV 244 - F. Brüggen | BWV 244 - J. Butt | BWV 244 - R. Chailly | BWV 244 - S. Cleobury | BWV 244 - J. Daus | BWV 244 - D. Fasolis | BWV 244 - W. Furtwängler | BWV 244 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 244 - W. Gönnenwein | BWV 244 - P. Goodwin | BWV 244 - E.z. Guttenberg | BWV 244 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 244 - P. Herreweghe | BWV 244 - R. Jacques | BWV 244 - H.v. Karajan | BWV 244 - O. Klemperer | BWV 244 - T. Koopman | BWV 244 - S. Koussevitzky | BWV 244 - S. Kuijken | BWV 244 - F. Lehmann | BWV 244 - G. Leonhardt | BWV 244 - P.J. Leusink | BWV 244 - E.&R. Mauersberger | BWV 244 - H. Max | BWV 244 - P. McCreesh | BWV 244 - W. Mengelberg | BWV 244 - K. Münchinger | BWV 244 - R. Norrington | BWV 244 - G. Oberfrank | BWV 244 - S. Ozawa | BWV 244 - A. Parrott | BWV 244 - G. Ramin | BWV 244 - S. Rattlr | BWV 244 - K. Richter | BWV 244 - H. Rilling | BWV 244 - H.J. Rotzsch | BWV 244 - H. Scherchen | BWV 244 - G. Solti | BWV 244 - C. Spering | BWV 244 - M. Suzuki | BWV 244 - J.v. Veldhoven | BWV 244 - B. Walter | BWV 244 - F. Werner | BWV 244 - M. Wöldike
Articles:
Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244 [T.N. Towe] | Two Easter St. Matthew Passions (Plus One) [U. Golomb] | St. Matthew Passion from Harnoncourt [D. Satz] | The Passion according to Saint Matthew BWV 244 [J. Rifkin] | The Relationship between BWV 244a (Trauermusik) and BWV 244b (SMP Frühfassung) [T. Braatz] | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - Early History (A Selective, Annotated Bibliography) [W. Hoffman] | Spiritual Sources of Bach's St. Matthew Passion [W. Hoffman] | Bach and the "Great Passion" [D.G. Lebut Jr.] | The Genesis of Bach's `Great Passion': 1724-29 [W. Hoffman] | Early Performances of Bach's SMP [T. Braatz]

John Butt: Short Biography | Dunedin Consort | Recordings of Vocal Works | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Discussions of Vocal Recordings:
BWV 232 - J. Butt | BWV 244 - J. Butt
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bach Organ Toccatas & Schubler Chorales from John Butt | New JSB Organ Recordings
Books:
Bach Interpretation: Articulation Marks in the Primary Sources of J. S. Bach | The Cambridge Companion to Bach

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: ýJanuary 4, 2013 ý22:57:23