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Matthäus-Passion BWV 244
Conducted by Günther Ramin

V-4

J.S. Bach: Matthäuspassion

 

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - Omits 18, 19, 28-31, 34, 37, 38, 41, 56, 61, 65, 66, 70, 75

Günther Ramin

Thomanerchor Leipzig / Members of the Gewandhauschor and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

Tenor [Evangelist, Arias]: Karl Erb; Baritone [Jesus]: Gerhard Hüsch; Soprano: Tiana Lemnitz; Contralto: Friedel Beckmann; Bass [Pilatus, Petrus, Hohepriester, Judas, Arias]: Siegfried Schulze; [Maids]: Two Thomaners
Max Fest (Organ); Hans Heintze (Harpsichord); Willy Rebhan (Continuo-Cello)

Calig CAL-30859/60
EMI Historical
Documents
Membran
Preiser Records

Mar 1941

2-CD / TT: 130:33

1st recording of Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 by G. Ramin.
Listen to this recording at Rapidshare: CD-1 | CD-2
Buy this album at:
Calig 2-CD: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de
Documents 2-CD: Amazon.com | Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de | Amazon.de
Membran 2-CD: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de
Preiser 2-CD: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de
Quadromania 4-CD: Amazon.com

 

V-5

J.S. Bach: Matthäus-Passion

 

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244
Cantata BWV 4 [25:34]

Günther Ramin

BWV 244: Chor und Sinfonieorchester des Hessischen Rundfunks
BWV 4: Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

BWV 244: Tenor: Ernst Haefliger; Bass: Gerhard Gröschel; Soprano: Elfriede Trötschel; Contralto: Gertrude Pitzinger; Bass: Helmut Fehn
BWV 4: No soloists; all parts are sung by the choir; Organ: Ekkehart Tietze

Archipel 278

Mar 17, 1952 [BWV 244]; Feb 24, 1950 [BWV 4]

3-CD / TT:

Recorded by Frankfurt Radio. 1st release in any format in March 2005.
2nd recording of Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 by G. Ramin.
Buy this album at:
3-CD: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de
Music Download: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de

V-6

J.S. Bach: Matthäus-Passion - Excerpts

USED

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - Nos. 12, 18, 19, 33, 57, 58

Günther Ramin

Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

Soprano: Irmgard Seefried; Alto: Hertha Töpper

Deutsche Grammophon

Mid 1950's ?

2-EP / TT:

3rd recording of Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 by G. Ramin.
These excerpts were released shortly before Ramin died. It is not known if this is a part of a complete recording.

SMP comparisons
Ramin PS
Terraced dynamics

Santu De Silva wrote (April 30, 2003):
What a blessing is a not-too-discriminating ear!

I enjoy all these performances so much! I was listening to the Herrewighe (2) the other day, and that was a lot of fun ...

I do have preferences for the Arias. I like Cornelius Hauptmann in Gardiner's recording, but generally speaking, I think the solos are just a little too hurried there. It's as though Gardiner is impatient with the arias, and wants to hurry on to the choruses.

I have a "best of" disk by Rilling (on Sony), which I enjoy very much. The arias there are wonderful, and nicely paced. Herrewighe(2)'s Bass arias are just a little too firm and jolly, for my liking.

Peter Bright wrote (April 30, 2003):
Talking of the SMP I have just picked up a historic recording conducted by Günther Ramin, with the choir of St Thomas, Leipzig! The company is The International Music Company. The recording was made in 1941 (can this be right?), but the booklet comes with very little further information (quite nice artwork and an unnecessary biographical sketch but that's it). What we do have is:

Karl Erb, Tenor
Gerhard Husch, baritone
Tiana Lemnitz, soprano
Friedel Beckmann, alto
Siegfried Schulze, bass
Thomanerchoir, Leipzig
Gewandhausorchester, Leipzig
Günther Ramin, 1941

On the Bach Cantatas site there is a 1947 Ramin disc that appears to fit the bill. Is anyone able to confirm that the CD booklet is incorrect (it states1947 as the recording date in several places) or anyone else with general comments on this (these?) recordings?

Hugo Saldias wrote (April 30, 2003):
[To Peter Bright] This is a great buy!!

Please who plays the continuo?

Peter Bright wrote (April 30, 2003):
[To Hugo Saldias] I'm afraid it doesn't list any instrumentalists - a shame as they have made some effort with the artwork and quality of the packaging (for a budget release). I don't know much about the company (TIM), except that they've been around a while and I think they are based in Hamburg. Once I've listened to the discs I'll share some thoughts...

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 1, 2003):
[To Peter Bright] Thanks a lot for looking...

Everything about the Thomaskantor or Kreuzkantor (the one in the Famous Dresden Choir of the Cross) that is Georg Biller in Leipzig or Roderich Kreile in Dresden is if high interest and respect for me...

Thank you again

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 1, 2003):
[To Peter Bright] Here is some information:

First Thomaskantor Prof.Günther Ramin had that position from 1940 till 1956. So the date is OK according to the dates this great man had J.S. Bach's job.

Second I checked the THOMANERCHOR WEB SITE AT: www.leipzig-online.de/thomanerchor/merchandising and saw the recording with the same singers as you list.The work is the SMPassion.I do not remember you gave the name of the works of your recording.The serial number of the one listed on the web site is: 2 CD FONO LAER PR 90228...

There is an historic recording of the previous Leipzig Kantor:Karl Straube was in that position between years 1918 - 1939. They have a recording from 1931. It has Cantatas 67/76/75/70.

Any news on your side? Like the works played on your CD please?

Uri Golomb wrote (May 1, 2003):
[To Peter Bright] I don't have this recording, but I heard it a while ago at the National Sound Archive in London, in a different re-mastering (Preiser Records, Mono (AAD), 90228; 2 CDs). The recording was indeed made in 1941. It's a fascinating document, but I must admit -- and I know there are many on this list who would not share this view -- that I did not enjoy it very much as a performance.

To put it simply: many parts of it struck me as same-ish, unshaped -- mechanical when applying non-legato articulation, tired and bland (despite intense sonorities) when the articulation was legato. (There were also weird bits of declamation, especially from the evangelist -- e.g., "Gehen sie hinauf auf den Oel. Berg", and from Christus -- e.g. "In Galile. Am".) The dynamic range was usually quite narrow -- with long stretches of completely static treatment and no change at all (be it in dynamics, articulation, sonority, tempo or any other parameters -- except of course the notes themselves).

But then, I have never been much of a Ramin admirer. I do have his Leipzig Classics box (cantatas, Johannes-Passion, organ works), and the only disc there I really enjoyed is the organ disc (though there were some impressive cantata movements here and there). And I found some reviews of his recordings puzzling. Not because they enjoyed it more than I did -- I have no problem with aesthetic disagreements. To cite just one example: I like many of Harnoncourt's recordings, but I am not in the least puzzled when I read negative, even scathing reviews of his performances. I usually think: "Well, it's obvious that these critics heard the very same recording that I heard -- they just have different expectations and different tastes, so what I find compelling, they find mannered". Fair enough. But with Ramin, I often find myself wondering: did these people hear the same recording that I've heard?

What puzzles me is the reasons some people give for liking him. Whether performance x is better than performance y is a matter of opinion; whether performance x has a wider dynamic range than performance y, or a faster tempo, is a matter of fact. Their statements imply, for instance, that Ramin employs a wide dynamic range -- not just in the work as a whole, but within specific movements; or that he makes much use of detached articulation. One critic wrote that Ramin's performances are "crisply delivered [granted, he uses heavy staccato -- but to my understanding, crispness means lightness, not just non-legato detachment], strongly text aware"; another wrote of Ramin "bringing out significant phrases".

But what I hear on Ramin's recordings is deliberately same-ish: that is, he rarely alters his basic dynamics, articulation etc. once he set the initial parameters at the beginning of a movement. (There are tempo fluctuations -- but the dynamics, articulation and timbre are, in most cases, near-static). He does not even allow phrases to acquire a modicum of ebb-and-flow (compare his opening movement of BWV 36 with the same movement as performed by his third successor, Hans-Joachim Rotzsch -- Ramin is heavy and uninflected, deliberatley preventing phrases from any sense of movement or goal-orientation; Rotzsch allows for subtle but clearly-perceivable dynamic inflection, giving phrases a clear shape).

That's the bit I can't figure out. If Ramin had been praised for his sobriety and severitry, for his upright, honest and text-faithful (the "text" being the musical text, not the verbal one) performances, I still would not share that view -- but I wouldn't be puzzled by their statements. I don't abide by literalism as an ideal, but I recognise that some people do; and if Ramin had been praised for that -- I wouldn't have raised an eyebrow.

And I think all the effects I just described are the result, not of lack of rehearsal time or poor recording conditions, but of Ramin's success in obtaining the kind of effect he wanted to obtain. Consider the following testimony from his son, Dieter Ramin:

"About two weeks in advance of the church calendar, he would with great enthusiasm play through the appropriate cantatas from the scores in the main Bach Edition [...] He selected the best of the cantatas and let us help in the early days in marking the orchestral parts and in removing most of the existing phrase markings."

If the description is accurate, the anti-interpretational stance implied therein is extra-ordinary: Ramin simply assumed that the Bach Gesellschaft's markings are inauthentic (without checking against sources), and he did not replace its phrasing with his own - he simply presented his ensembles with un-phrased parts. To judge by the results, he often kept it that way, fostering a static, unyielding performance style. Such an ideal would also be consistent with Ramin's own writings, where he praises the simplicity, containment, distinctly un-operatic, non-Romantic, non-heart-on-sleeve nature of Bach's expressiveness. Ramin was also surrounded by scholars and fellow-performers who spoke of the virtues of simplicity, severity, containment and minimal interpretative intervention as ideals in Bach performance (I am thinking of writers like Arnold Schering and Wilibald Gurlitt).

So descriptions which imply that Ramin was a dramatic performer, who sought to bring out Bach's word paintings and draw attention (as a performer) to particular moments within a movement -- such descriptions continue to puzzle me. AFAIK, the most detailed "recipies" available for producing such performances in Ramin's lifetime were to be found in Schweitzer's book on Bach -- where Schweitzer advocates a detailed style of performance, rich in nuances of articulation, accentuation and dynamic inflection; where he argues that phrase marks should be added to Bach's scores, not taken away.An opposite view was expressed by Arnold Schering (who dedicated one of his books to the Thomanerchor and to Karl Straube, Ramin's teacher and predecessor). Schering shared Schweitzer's approach to analysing Bach's music: they both spoke of the music's rich symbolism. But their views on erformance were diametrically opposed: Schering believed that Bach's music can speak for itself, and that the performers should leave it alone and add as little inflection as possible. (Incident, he did not believe in letting-music-speak-for-itself across the board: he advocated restraint specifically in German Lutheran Baroque music). Reviewers leave the impression that Ramin shared Schweitzer's aesthetics, but I cannot hear him doing any of the things Schweitzer advocates: instead, I hear him realising in sound the kind of restraint and self-effacement that Schering advocated.

Uri Golomb wrote (May 1, 2003):
Ramin PS

Just one further note to what I said before: when referring to Ramin's restraint and literalism (except that he removed phrase marks from the score...), I did not mean to imply that he was lightweight. His performances are anything but that. I do not even they say that they like intensity: the basic sonority and dynamics can be quite imposing. What I am puzzled by is those writers who imply that Ramin modulated intensity, that there are patterns of change within his movements. What I hear, in most of his performances, is unvaried intensity.

Bart O’Brien wrote (May 1, 2003):
[To Uri Golomb] I don't know anything about Ramin, but I hope you won't think me presumptuous if I thank you for an excellent piece of careful, rational thought - all too rare in writing about music.

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 1, 2003):
[To Bart O’Brien] Since you said that 'I don't know anything about Ramin', you can find the following information about Günther Ramin in the Bach Cantatas Website:
Short Biography: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Ramin-Gunther.htm
List of his recordings of Bach's Vocal Works: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Ramin.htm
An Article by Michael Meacock presenting a point of view quite different
from Uri's: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/Ramin-Arton.htm

Neil Halliday wrote (May 1, 2003):
Uri Golomb wrote: "What I am puzzled by is those writers who imply that Ramin modulated intensity, that there are patterns of change within his movements. What I hear, in most of his performances, is unvaried intensity."
Many of Bach's choruses 'lift off the planet' from the very first note, and stay in orbit for the duration. Ramin obviously experienced this too - no reduction in intensity is required in such music. That's my take on the matter.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 1, 2003):
Uri Golomb stated:
>> And I think all the effects I just described are the result, not of lack of rehearsal time or poor recording conditions, but of Ramin's success in obtaining the kind of effect he wanted to obtain. Consider the following testimony from his son, Dieter Ramin:

"About two weeks in advance of the church calendar, he would with great enthusiasm play through the appropriate cantatas from the scores in the main Bach Edition [...] He selected the best of the cantatas and let us help in the early days in marking the orchestral parts and in removing most of the existing phrase markings."

If the description is accurate, the anti-interpretational stance implied therein is extra-ordinary: Ramin simply assumed that the Bach Gesellschaft's markings are inauthentic (without checking against sources), and he did not replace its phrasing with his own - he simply presented his ensembles with un-phrased parts. To judge by the results, he often kept it that way, fostering a static, unyielding performance style. Such an ideal would also be consistent with Ramin's own writings, where he praises the simplicity, containment, distinctly un-operatic, non-Romantic,
non-heart-on-sleeve nature of Bach's expressiveness. Ramin was also surrounded by scholars and fellow-performers who spoke of the virtues of simplicity, severity, containment and minimal interpretative intervention as ideals in Bach performance (I am thinking of writers like Arnold Schering and Wilibald Gurlitt).<<
I believe that you may have misinterpreted Dieter Ramin’s statement: "About two weeks in advance of the church calendar, he would with great enthusiasm play through the appropriate cantatas from the scores in the main Bach Edition [...] He selected the best of the cantatas and let us help in the early days in marking the orchestral parts and in removing most of the existing phrase markings."

1) ‘the main Bach Edition’ [Schering – in 1936 refers to the BGA simply as the BG or ‘die Gesamtausgabe’] that Dieter Ramin may have been referring to is the Breitkopf & Härtel (Leipzig) edition called “Sämtliche Kirchenkantaten” [complete church cantatas] which existed not only in piano reduction form [this is the way most people know it today – CD-ROM version, the scores on Aryeh’s site, etc.] but also as a complete set of parts which included a performance (full orchestral & vocal) score in a modern, more easily readable form (with clefs as we would expect them today.) This was the “main [performing] Bach Edition.” If Günther Ramin was not playing from the piano reduction scores, he may well have been playing from the Breitkopf & Härtel full orchestral scores that were available to him. This would not be too difficult for a well-versed musician of his caliber.

2) The BGA or BG, on the other hand, would not be a score that would provide ‘easy’ access to play through ‘with great enthusiasm’ since the numerous moveable clefs as Bach had used them were retained as is in this scholarly edition. I think it would be difficult to find anyone alive in Ramin’s time or in ours who would not ‘sweat’ his/her way through a ‘casual’ sight-reading of a Bach cantata from the BGA scores.

3) Besides the Breitkopf & Härtel edition there is also the “Edition Peters” (also Leipzig) of the Bach cantatas. I have checked a few cantatas in the piano reduction scores of both editions, and, sure enough, there were phrasing marks all over which are not in the NBA with which I compared them. Add to this the typical crescendo-decrescendo markings (the opening and closing horizontally oriented ‘v’s’: < >) and other markings that are typical of late 19th and early 20th century Bach scores because musicians expected them to be there. But these were not in Bach’s autograph scores or even in the original set of parts (where Bach indicated most of these phrasings and dynamics.)

4) Uri states: >>Reviewers leave the impression that Ramin shared Schweitzer's aesthetics, but I cannot hear him doing any of the things Schweitzer advocates.<<
You are certainly correct here! Ramin was trying to remove the overly Romantic musical performance practices that had become an incrustation which needed to be removed because they no longer allowed the performer and listener to see and hear what Bach had originally put down on paper. Schweitzer, having lived and absorbed this type of performance esthetic, represented that which Ramin (Schering and others) eschewed. It is not surprising that Ramin knew that much of the articulation indicated in the performance scores that most conductors were using was not genuine, but he certainly would not have removed the phrasings that were original with Bach. I will now listen more carefully to the next Ramin cantata performance that comes up for discussion and check it against the NBA. It would be interesting indeed if Ramin also removed Bach’s articulation in pursuit of >>distinctly un-operatic, non-Romantic, non-heart-on-sleeve nature of Bach's
expressiveness.<<

5. Uri, in searching for “dynamic inflection” and “modulated intensity,” are you advocating a return to Romantic performance ideals that existed in a prescribed form c. 1900? Isn’t it better to begin with a reliable Urtext rather than a score that includes many additional forms of articulation that happen to be the choice of a single editor? With the Urtext as a basis, the performer(s) can then judiciously add, as needed and appropriate, phrasings, dynamics, etc. Do you really think, for instance, that Bach may have wanted the following type of articulation ( < >) above many half and quarter notes in sequence as evident in the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt cantata series although they are not in the Urtext? Was Ramin wrong in attempting tavoid the sometimes overly Romantic approach that can now be heard in numerous HIP recordings?

6. >>But what I hear on Ramin's recordings is deliberately same-ish: that is, he rarely alters his basic dynamics, articulation etc. once he set the initial parameters at the beginning of a movement.<<
‘Terrassed’ dynamics, although now frowned upon by many performers, represent what is commonly seen in Bach’s scores and original parts. Bach will mark entire sections ‘piano’ or ‘forte’ which means that there is a generally ‘static’ level of volume (this does not and should not preclude some variations within these groupings.) Often, however, these are now overlooked by many conductors. Somehow the sense of ‘stepping up or down’ in volume level and maintaining it until the next dynamic marking occurs should be evident, but often it is not. If it is true that Ramin “set the initial parameters at the beginning of a movement” and then did not change noticeably the ‘terrassed’ levels of the dynamics as indicated by Bach, then he would fall into the same category as many current conductors who likewise disregard these markings in the Urtext.

Peter Bright wrote (May 1, 2003):
[To Uri Golomb] As I kick started this discussion when I bought the Ramin discs I would like to join in these discussions (so please keep them alive!). Unfortunately I won't be able to listen to them until tomorrow night at the earliest (away at a conference at present). I will send my own comments over the weekend...

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 1, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] You are TOO TIED up to the score.

Looking with too much detail at things.
1.There must be freedom.
2.Thomaskantor Prof.Günther Ramin memorized everything he plyed or conducted, so he was not tied up to the score like lots of conductors are.I never seen him conduct but I have seen one of his pupils:everything by memory, this is not only amazing but also an art. And theycan show you how to concentrate in other things besides one mark here or there.
3.The basis of this is always MUSIZIEREN with great talent and inspiration.There may be mistakes (we all make them because we are human) but the basis of music and performings arts is always there and form the bottom of the soul.

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 1, 2003):
[To Neil Halliday] Yes,that intensity makes me compare Ramin with Anthony Newman who once was called the express train...

Is something you have inside you and projects with every bar of music you play...

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 1, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thanks so much for all these important facts about the Leipzig Bach Tradition.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 1, 2003):
Terraced’ dynamics

< Thomas Braatz wrote: ‘Terrassed’ dynamics, although now frowned upon by many performers, represent what is commonly seen in Bach’s scores and original parts. Bach will mark entire sections ‘piano’ or ‘forte’ which means that there is a generally ‘static’ level of volume (this does not and should not preclude some variations within these groupings.) Often, however, these are now overlooked by many conductors. Somehow the sense of ‘stepping up or down’ in volume level and maintaining it until the next dynamic marking occurs should be evident, but often it is not. If it is true that Ramin “set the initial parameters at the beginning of a movement” and then did not change noticeably the ‘terrassed’ levels of the dynamics as indicated by Bach, then he would fall into the same category as many current conductors who likewise disregard these markings in the Urtext. >
"Terraced dynamics" are frowned upon because they were invented by Busoni and Stravinsky, and then repeated ad nauseum by textbook writers and teachers who did not do their homework.

(Sure, there are occurrences of "subito piano" in Beethoven &c, and special effects in Bach such as the echo last movement of the B minor keyboard partita...but they are special effects, not indicative of an overall style for all pieces.)

Or do you have hard evidence that "terraced dynamics" (as such) existed before 1900 as a general practice? I could be wrong on this, but I'm pretty sure it's an early 20th century invention: from a too-literal (mis)reading of Baroque scores, and an ignorance of performance practice documentation.

Now, if we're talking about Stravinsky's or Hindemith's "neo-Baroque" compositions, terraced dynamics are the ticket. But Bach isn't Hindemith.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Dynamics [General Topics]

 

Ramin, Schweitzer, terrace dynamics etc.

Uri Golomb wrote (May 2, 2003):
First of all, I want to thank Thomas Braatz for his thoughtful comments -- his remarks about the editions that Ramin might have used are particularly useful. Dieter Ramin's statement is generalised and not entirely clear (perhaps the English translation also has a share of the blame: I can reproduce the German original if anybody's interested, though anyone who has the CD re-issue of Ramin's recordings should easily find it in the booklet in any case). I must stress that my comment about the apparent non-phrasing in Ramin's performance reflects, not so much a detailed comparison between Ramin's performance and the BG edition (Ramin would not have known the NBA, of course, and I don't know how much research he's done on the source materials themselves), as my impression of the performances themselves.

Brad: About terrace dynamics and their invention: I have read an interesting doctoral dissertation which partly addresses this topic -- "J. S. Bach Recordings, 1945-1975: 'St. Matthew' and 'St. John' Passions, 'Brandenburg Concertos' and 'Goldberg Variations'. A Study of Performance Practice in the Context of the Early Music Movement" (PhD Dissertation; The University of New South Wales, Australia, 1999). The author is a Hungarian musicologist, Dorottya Fabian; a revised version of this dissertation will soon be published by the British academic publishers Ashgate. [The main results of Dr. Fabian's research are summarised in her article "Musicology and Performance Practice: In Search of a Historical Style with Bach Recordings"; Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 41/1-3 (2000): 77-106].

Much of the thesis is dedicated to comparing the state of musicological research at the time with performative practices (the period under examination being 1945-1975 -- the formative years of the Early Music Movement). She says that there was some debate among scholars at this time about the use of gradual dynamic changes in Baroque music; arguments in favour of terrace dynamics were based on the characteristics of keyboard instruments, whereas their opponents emphasised the links between playing and singing, arguing that the very emphasis that playing should imitate singing makes an exlucisve focus on terraced dynamics rather unlikely. Recordings indeed testify to the dominance of terraced dynamics -- and not just in keyboard music; and to a strong tendency towards literal interpretations of forte and piano indications (piano being interpreted all too often as pianissimo -- especially in vocal music: a voice enters, the orchestral parts are marked piano -- and instantly become almost inaudible), and assuming that these terraced transitions are the only ones allowed.Another interseting point: advocates of gradual dynamic changes tended not to treat dynamics in isolation, but rather to relate it to other aspects (phrasing, articulation, tempo, agogics).

Fabian does not discuss the link between terraced dyanmics and neo-classical compositions -- perhaps because her discussion covers the post-war era. I am sure the point is a valid one. In any case, terraced dynamics indeed dominate most of this period -- though, of course, not without exceptions. I must say I'm quite thankful that they've lost that dominance: there is something inherently unconvincing about the idea of a phrase retaining the same dynamic level, without the slightest inflection, throughout its duration. To my ears, it makes for somewdepressing listening. I can understand the reaction against exaggerated crescendi and diminuendi, but strict terrace dynamics usually strike me as a grotesque over-reaction in the opposite direction. If I have to choose between these two extremes, I'd rather go for the romantics...But we don't need to settle for extremes: there is room for natural, moderate dynamic inflection, that goes with the phrase but not beyond it. Again, I point to the comparison I made earlier between Ramin and Rotzsch in the opening movement of Cantata 36. I don't think many listeners can describe Rotzsch's dynamic inflections as heavily romanticised! They just sound like natural breathing; whereas Ramin seems to exhort his Thomanerchor to avoid natural breathing. Of course, the starting point should be a "clean" text, with judicious additions from the performers. But the Urtext itself is not enough, either. I know Tom Braatz does not like to hear this, but you need to know the conventions behind the notation -- and that does mean that there might be room for nuances for which there is no trace in the Urtext itself. One danger, I suppose, is that performers might find out that something was sometimes done in a particular notational context, and jump to the conclusion that it was always done. Then you end up with something that is just as formulaeic as following the Urtext blindly, and can be (to some ears) even more annoying...

Finally, a comment on Schweitzer: I am not at all sure that the type of performance he advocates was what he absorbed from his surroundings. He says that he is offering corrections to the practices of his contemporaries -- that he is giving recommendations on how the style of Bach performance should change. I am not yet sure to what extent he was right about the difference between him and his contemporaries; in the absnece of recordings, it's difficult to know for sure, though one can always compare with other books, and with printed editions.Anyway, his focus is not so much on dynamic inflection as on articulatory inflection -- he objects to constant, unaltered legato, and favours a much more detailed articulation and accentuation (derived, in part, from his study of Bach's original parts). Another important facet, for him, is giving phrases a clear sense of direction -- which means, often, linking a group of notes just beyond the bar line, creating a sense of continuous upbeats leading towards downbeats (rather than the downbeats being severed from what went before the barline). Treated as a formula, this can be an annoying affectation; but often enough, it does give the music a sense of movement and momentum which is very convincing.

In dynamics, he advocated a mixture of terraced dynamics -- to distinguish between sections of a movement -- and small-scale dynamic nuance within individual phrases. So he definitely did not want huge dynamic swells, but he also objected to dynamic uniformity across long stretches of music. I feel that's basically right, though that doesn't mean accepting each and everyone of his (or anyone else's) detailed recommendations.

Well, this message is getting too long already... so I'd better stop here.

Thanks again for your responses,

 

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 2, 2003):
[To Uri Golomb] When these great musicians do learn by memory any music they do know all the different editions too.

Example:
There was a blind organist from Germany that studied organ with Günther Ramin: Helmut Walcha>
A friend of mine studied with him and he told me this amazing story:
Following a phrasing in an organ piece Walcha said:
I see that you are reading from the Marcel Dupré Edition, know open this other edition and go to that bar that is on page XX at the bottom of the page... Some people can remember editions and pages and locations of any particular passage or bar...

These are gifted people and sometimes is difficult to understand how they can get all that. So do not underestimate Thmaskantor Günther Ramin, he may know all the editions of the work and may have seen the manuscripts too in Bach's own hand writing. Please, please be very careful...

Paul Farseth wrote (May 2, 2003):
Is it maybe possible that old recordings (such as Ramin's 1941 disks) mastered on 78 rpm phono records had an electronically compressed dynamic range to compensate for the limitations of the recording medium? Perhaps the re-mastering to tape used the wrong correction or frequency compensation curve? My recollection is that back in the days of AM radio, records intended for broadcast may also have been recorded with a lower range of volumes than those intended for home use (????).

Neil Halliday wrote (May 2, 2003):
[To Paul Farseth] Such dynamic changes caused by the recording engineers are frustrating, even with much more recent recordings.

And it's interesting that Ramin got the majority vote on this board for his performance of the 1st movement of BWV 79, despite the horrible quality of the recording.

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 14, 2003):
[To Peter Bright] Any news?

I remember I went to the lIbrary of Congress to listen the the SMP by Günther Ramin in 78 RPM records. He does not repeat the arias all the way but a few bars only from the start... is that the same as in your set below please?

Remember that the timings on these recordings were very strict, so may be that is why this is done...

Let me know about who plays the continuo under Ramin.

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 14, 2003):
[To Bart O’Brien] If you still have questions about him please just ASK !

I am waiting....

 

Ramin/Krauss MPs

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (October 11, 2004):
I ran into the TIM label Ramin 1941 MP the other day (as many know, the price doesn't let you leave it). It is an altogether fascinating document and I for better or worse read the conversation about it in Aryeh's wonderful archives. I myself totally enjoyed it on its own terms. I was dumbfounded by one reality. The singer who is most remembered today of the four soloists and the Jesus is the soprano Tiana Lemnitz. I have heard her in much Wagner and some other stuff. I was amazed at how simply awful she was both in the soprano arias and in the duet with the alto. In part II she improved. Tenor/Evangelist Erb was of the first class. Alto Friedel Beckmann left nothing to be desired. The bass and the Jesus baritone were both excellent. After this I turned again to the excerpts of the 1944 Krauss which are a bonus on the Scherchen Trauerode (BWV 198) on Archipel. The amazing difference in sopranos is astonishing (yes, I have too many adjectives in that sentence). Trude Eipperle in "Blute nur" shows us how awful Lemnitz is. The other singers, contralto M. Klose (a superb Ortrude in a 1942 Lohengrin) is less interesting to me than F. Beckmann in Ramin's. Ditto for Patzak as tenor and Ludwig Weber as bass. All are bettered in the Ramin except for the soprano to my surprise. The final chorus is however terrific in the Krauss, more interesting to me (at least tonight) than in Ramin's. I wonder whether the Krauss exists complete.

 

A few notes about BWV 244 Matthaeus-Passion, cond.

Jim Offer wrote (May 24, 2005):
Since this is still a pretty new release and I don't see any reviews on the BCW, I'll give my impressions so far. I haven't listened to the whole thing yet, as I only received it a few hours ago. This is the complete version on 3 discs, not the abridged recording from 1941.

First: the recording quality. This is what concerned me most when deciding whether or not to order it (this is my first SMP). It has certain defects one would expect from a recording made over 50 years ago and presumably lost for long periods between then and now: there are several occurences lasting less than a second during which the sound is audible but muted and muffled. These are not frequent enough to seriously detract from the experience, although I cannot say whether I would still feel that way had I not been able to purchase the set so cheaply. The boys' choir tends to cut through the mchoir and the orchestra, but those can still be heard tolerably well. There was no loud background hiss, but there were occasional pops. I'm guessing it was sourced from master discs instead of magnetic tapes, but I'm no expert.

The singing is first-rate: Haeflinger seems more reserved than in the later Jochum SJP I know him from, but I haven't listened to that very recently and will have to make another comparison later. Gerhard Gröschel's controlled vibrato and tasteful but emotional tone impressed me quite a lot. I can't really give a good technical analysis, being fairly new to this sort of thing, but I can say I'm pleased with my purchase overall, as long as the next two discs don't hold any horrible surprises.

 

A third recording of BWV 244 by Günther Ramin?

Matthias Hansen wrote (March 6, 2007):
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV244-Rec7.htm
"3rd recording of Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 by G. Ramin. These excerpts were released shortly before Ramin died. It is not known if this is a part of a complete recording."

(no english - sorry...)

Es gibt leider keine 3. Aufnahme der Matthäuspassion von Ramin. Die hier zusammengefassten Sopranpartien wurden im Dezember 1955 aufgenommen und sind der einzig realisierte Teil einer geplanten Gesamtaufnahme. Die für Februar 1956 geplante Weiterführung kam wegen Ramins Schlaganfall am 17. Februar 1956 und seinem zehn Tage später erfolgten Tod nicht mehr zustande. Die Aufnahmen erschienen bei Eterna als LP (820 390) und als 2 EP's (520 090 und 520 091).

Zur Beachtung: Auf den Schallplatten sind die Nummern der Alten Bachausgabe angegeben. Die Konkordanz zu neuen Numerierung (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV244.htm) ist folgende:

Mvt. 12 = Mvt. 8 (Aria "Blute nur, mein liebes Herz)

Mvt. 18/19 = Mvt. 12/13 (Rec. "Wiewohl mein Herz in Tränen schwimmt/Aria "Ich will dir mein Herze schenken"

Mvt. 33 = Mvt. 27 (Aria - Duet & Chorus "So ist mein Jesus nun gefangen/Chorus "Sind Blitze, sind Donner")

Mvt. 57/58 = Mvt. 48/49 (Rec. "Er hat uns allen wohlgetan"/Aria "Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben")

Richard Raymond wrote (March 7, 2007):
Gunter RAMIN had begun a complete recording of Matthäus-Passion in 1955-56, but he died before the end of the recording. Archiv-Produktion published the recorded arias on LP. In 1957-58, a new recording was made by Karl Richter, with Irmgard Seefried who had already recorded with Ramin.

 

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 | 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 - 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]

Günther Ramin: Short Biography | Recordings of Vocal Works: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Individual Recordings:
BWV 244 - G. Ramin | Article: Günther Ramin 1898-1956 - Thomaskantor 1940-1956
Thomaskantors: Thomanerchor Leipzig | Gewandhausorchester Leipzig | General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2
Table of Recordings by BWV Number

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 29, 2010 ý01:32:40