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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

Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248
General Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Christmas Oratorio

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (December 12, 2002):
Over at Bach Recordings, I've gotten a few suggestions about which Chr O to buy.

The prevailing recommendation seems to be the Gardiner, which was also suggested in a very extensive (almost mvmt by mvmt!) survey a few years back on this list (I read it on the bach-cantatas site). The thing is that I don't want to act on one person's recommendation alone

I do know that my Gardiner of Händel's Solomon is my favourite recoreding of anyone and anything, and good brass/winds are essential for me, so Gardiner looks like the one for me.

in BR_l, I said of other relevant recordings:

I would prefer HIP, but I'm still open to non-HIP. I borrowed the Richter box set (the one with the predominately silver packaging) from the library, and even though it still lets the great music shine through and was enjoyable to listen to (yes, there are Bach recordings out there that the opposite can be said of), the tempi seemed a bit slow, and imo the singing seemed even forced at times. So the Richter isn't too bad, but I know there's better out there, I just don't know which ones.

I have the Herreweghe Mass in B min, and that's great (except the Gloria could be a bit stronger), so I also already have the fun CD-ROM that comes with it. Does this recording have any other works included (the Mass also has BWV 80 and BWV 243)?

As well, I have the Christmas CD from the Bach 2000 collection, which includes Koopman, the ABO et al doing excerpts from the Oratorio: the opening chorus to Cantata One, the arias "Bereite dich, Zion" and "Groser Herr, o starker Konig", the Chorale "Wie soll ich dich empfangen" (addn)and others. All are very well done (addn: except for perhaps Esswood in "Bereite dich Zion"), so this could be an indicator as to what I like. Is this Koopman the one I should go with? (addn)It should be noted that this from the Complete Works set (Bach 2000), not the individual Chr O that Koopman also did, so can the Bach 2000 one purchased individually? Is the other Koopman (the one that was subject to the extensive survey) better?

note: where there is "addn" the following comment is a correction from my BR_l post, and as such was not in the original post

anyway, any suggestions? should I go with the Gardiner? I also like the Ascension Cantatas CD from his Cantata Pilgrimmage, which I also borrowed from the library

Lalis Ivan wrote (December 13, 2002):
I know only Gardiner, so I cannot tell you how he compares with other available recordings. But if you got a DVD bug (as I did :-) you may try another Gardiner's Christmas Oratorio from his Bach Pilgrimage (on TDK label). I find it more vivid and spontaneous than his CD recording, but one also gets occasional (very rare) problems with instruments and singers. Seeing the players, singers, and Gardiner himself performing this music really added to my enjoyment of this work.

Jane Newble wrote (December 13, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] One of my favourites is a live recording (1998) I bought when I was in Leipzig. It is Georg Christopher Biller with the Thomanerchor Leipzig and the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester. Soloists are Barbara Schlick (my only 'don't like so much' about this CD), Yvonne Naef, Christopher Pregardien, and Klaus Mertens. It is on Philips 464 130-2.

At one time I thought I might collect all the CO's available, but I have only got 5 so far, so I have some way to go!!! As for Gardiner, I only know the Bach Pilgrimage one, and thought that was very good.

Paul Farseth wrote (December 14, 2002):
Regarding which Christmas Oratorio recording to buy, let me put in a good word (again) for The Capriccio (60 025-2) recording from 1991, conducted by Ralf Otto. This has very clean singing, but the singing is vigorous, and the instrumental playing is (IMHO) wonderful. The performers are:

Ruth Ziesak, Sop,
Monica Groop, Alt,
Christoph Pregardien, Ten.
Klaus Mertens, Bass
Vokalensemble Frankfort, and
Concerto Koeln [O umlaut]
Ralf Otto, Conductor

You may be able to find a nice lot of customer reviews of many performances of the Weihnachts Oratorium/Christmas Oratorio at: www.amazon.com

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (December 14, 2002):
[To Paul Farseth] Are there any Canadian sites that have this recording for sale" I don't want to have to spend USD and import it through customs-too much money, too much hastle.

Robert Sherman wrote (Decmber 14, 2002):
[To Paul Farseth] Who's the trumpeter?

Jane Newble wrote (December 14, 2002):
[To Paul Farseth] This was the one (from Brilliant Classics) that got me totally hooked on the CO in the first place. You are right, it is wonderful (IMHO).

Paul Farseth wrote (December 15, 2002):
Robert Sherman asked "Who's the trumpeter?" on the Ralf Otto/Vokalensemble Frankfort recording of the Christmas Oratorio.

My copy gives the trumpeters as:
Graham Nicholson, Gilles Rapin, and Jean Baptiste Lapierre

Whoever did the solo work was (to my layman's ear) really good.

Paul Farseth wrote (December 15, 2002):
To get the Ralf Otto Christmas Oratorio in Canada, try: www.amazon.ca

There would be other Canadian sites as well, of course, both for new and for used copies.

The original recording was produced in Germany, of course.

Jane Newble wrote (December 16, 2002):
Paul Farseth wrote:
< My copy gives the trumpeters as: Graham Nicholson, Gilles Rapin, and Jean Baptiste Lapierre >
Thank you for that info. My Brilliant Classics copy was extremely cheap, but did not have a booklet.

Santu De Silva wrote (December 15, 2002):
[To Paul Farseth, regardng the Ralf Otto recording]
I heartily agree. This is beginning to displace the performance of Harry Christopher's Sixteen Ch & O in my personal top spot.

At the risk of repeating myself too often, I'd like to put in a plug for certain numbers (movements) that I like to listen for. I'm referring to the Otto and Christofers versions.

One is the Bass aria: Grösser Herr. Mertens does a great job. Alto aria: Bereite dich, Zion. Done nicely in both versions. The trio: Ach, wenn wird die Zeit erscheinen?

This number is almost magical. I'm partial to trios in any case, and Master Bach has written some insurpassable (? is that a real word?) ones; but this particular trio is one of my absolute favorites. Both teams do a great job. another nice performance was with Janet Baker and Ledger, I believe, but I think I was slightly disappointed with Gardiner.

The whole of the second cantata. This is of course the most Christmassy of the whole work, with all the lovely magical touches with the shepherds and the angels, and the incredibly tasteful meditations. Again, Christophers and Otto both do superlative work. Otto is more restrained or subdued, which I think I like, while Gardiner is a mite too edgy, though one is grateful for what restraint there is. Boy, do they ever try too hard...

The fifth cantata, I believe--at any rate, the one with the horns. To be honest, I can't remember details, except that I thought Concerto Köln did a good job with the horns.

 

Christmas Oratorio – SOS!

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (December 29, 2002):
Oy! I just came back from the Buffalo area, and I didn't find the Otto recording anywhere - all I found just now is this: Amazon.com

Is this even the right one? Is the listing of BWV 1-6 merely a mistake?

If this isn't the right one, then what do you all think of this one: HMV

It’s Christophers/The Sixteen, it’s in Canadian $, and only 3 of them!

As well, Matt Westphal's review (I think he's on this list too) says that the Frankfurt Vocal Ensemble doesn't have as good of a blend as the Gardinerecording, and that the alto soloist has a lot of vibrato-which tells me that it isn't as good as the Gardiner. As well, for me the introverted parts don't have to be perfect if the extroverted parts-with brass and winds and choruses, et al are great-and that's the kind of thing that Gardiner excels at

Lastly, its much more accessible, and with the exchange rate its actually cheaper than the Otto recording: HMV

So, is the Gardiner going to satisfy me the most, is the Christophers an unbeatable deal despite the shortcomings it might have compared to the other two, or is the Otto worth the customs hastle and the higher price?

Thanks for everyone's help! (not sarcastic)

Paul Farseth wrote (December 29, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] If Händelnext can get Gardiner's production of the Christmas Oratorio for less work and money than Ralf Otto's, then very well. The Amazon.Com link he gave for the Otto appears correct, but for a used copy. It seems to be currently unavailable new on this side of the Atlantic.

Keep an eye out for the Otto, though, as it has real value.

David Harbin wrote (December 29, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] On BBC Radio 3 Building A Library the Gardiner was top recommendation.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (December 29, 2002):
[To David Harbin] was the Otto recording included in the list?

David Harbin wrote (December 29, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] I was so long ago I cannot remember. Try sending a
query within the www.bbc.co.uk/radio3 pages.

Riccardo Nughes wrote (December 29, 2002):
Matthew Neugebauer wrote:
< Oy! I just came back from the Buffalo area, and I didn't find the Otto recording anywhere >
Otto's CO is available at: http://www.berkshirerecordoutlet.com

Bach, Christmas Oratorio. (Ziesak, Groop, Pregardien, Mertens w.Frankfurt Vocal Ensemble & Concerto Koln/Otto. PLEASE NOTE: NO BOOKLET. SAME PERFORMANCE AS CAPRICCIO #60025-2)
Add to cart | Price: $ 3.98 | 2 in set. | Country: DUTCH | D/A code: D | Code: CD 99016 | BRO Code: 24718 | Label: BRILLIANT CLASSICS Genre: Oratorio

Look also for the sell-out of Koopman's Cantatas & other Bach works (MP, JP, Mass, CO)

 

Bach – Christmas Oratorio [Choral Talk]

Brent F. Miller wrote (April 17, 2003):
I have an unauditioned community chorus of between 50 - 70 singers. I would like to perform parts of the Bach Christmas Oratorio. I would welcome suggestions as to what parts could be performed for a satisfying representation of the piece. I would prefer to do three sections. Definitely Part I....but after that not sure. I would welcome any suggestions you might have.

We have performed many major choral works: Durufle Requiem, Mozart Requiem, Copland Early American Songs, Pinkham Christmas Cantata, Haydn Lord Nelson Mass, Thompson Testament of Freedom.......

The group is quite capable and willing to work hard.

Thank you in advance and please respond to me personally.

John Howell wrote (April 18, 2003):
[To Brent F. Miller] You might want to check the instrumentations, which change from one cantata to another. At least one of them calls for entirely too many oboes/oboes d'amore. When we performed them a year and a half ago, we selected two cantatas with similar instrumentation--One and Three, I think--and paired them with Corelli's Christmas Concerto. Of course if you are going to use keyboard accompaniment, the point is moot.

Hinrich Müller wrote (April 18, 2003):
[To Brent F. Miller] The most popular set is I - III, with the beautiful Part II, which requires 2 oboes d'amore and 2 English horns, but you cannot beat that sound in the Sinfonia and the recitativos. The Baerenreiter orchestra parts have the oboe d'amore parts also transposed for oboe, or for English horn in the A,B part.

Part IV requires 2 horns, instead of the trumpets, which gives it a beautiful dark sound. I guess, for a balanced set, one could do Part I, Part V, and Part III or VI.

Part I and II are about 30 minutes each, the other ones about 25 min. each.

 

A Parrott and a pair of Gardiners

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (July 11, 2003):
Well, the day of getting my wisdom teeth pulled, I finally got my Dover mini-score of the SJP from Amazon.ca (after a horrendous delay!), and took a more critical, attentive and complete spin through my on;y recording, the Andrew Parrot one from thecrazy-label's (Virgin) Black-Box budget set. I know it's a bit old, hence has probably been discussed to death, and from what I can gather quite negatively reviewed.

So then what am I missing? I found the performance as engaging and accesible as the work itself-very few arias, and most of them in the much more melodious Italian style than the more subdued and unengaging (imo) German style. Heck, even notes inegales abound in "Ach mein sinn"! I wasn't bored one bit, and was surprised how fast the work seemed to go by!

I also recieved in the same shipment the mini-score for Verdi's Requiem, of which I have the superb Gardiner recording.

This last paragraph is merely a segway into a more relevant discussion of another Gardiner recording, one that was an object of a discussion I brought up around Christmas time: that is, the Christmas Oratorio. Being JEG, of course the more extroverted parts of the work are executed to precision, but the more introverted mvmts are also very sublimely done, and since I could never find the hailed Otto recording, this one is definitely a worthy substitute.

All I need now is the score for this work, and to hold on till my mouth heals itself!

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 11, 2003):
< Matthew Neugebauer wrote: Well, the day of getting my wisdom teeth pulled,(...) the Christmas Oratorio. Being JEG, of course the more extroverted parts of the work are executed to precision, but the more introverted mvmts are also very sublimely done, and since I could never find the hailed Otto recording, this one is definitely a worthy substitute. >
http://www.berkshirerecordoutlet.com had the Otto set for $3.98 a few months ago; that's where I got mine. The Christophers recording, too, for not much more than that. Good luck! Looks as if the Christophers is still there.

< All I need now is the score for this work, and to hold on till my mouth heals itself! >
The Dover (Bach-Gesellschaft) is still readily available, I believe....

When they took out my wisdom teeth recently, I took along the Alfred Deller recording of cantatas BWV 170 & BWV 54 for comfort. Helped me relax in the car, anyway. That's a landmark CD, both because it's an excellent performance and because [according to the booklet note] it's the first recording that Leonhardt and Harnoncourt made (of any music) using period instruments, 1954.

p.s. Get yourself a couple of pudding snack packs. :)

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (July 11, 2003):
< http://www.berkshirerecordoutlet.com had the Otto set for $3.98 a few months ago; that's where I got mine. The Christophers recording, too, for not much more than that. Good luck! Looks as if the Christophers is still there. >
W
ell, as my adventures with Amazon.ca has proven, I don't usually like to buy things off the net, and the American conversion, S/H and all that stuff will just be a nuissance, but thanks anyway-I'll still take a look!

< The Dover (Bach-Gesellschaft) is still readily available, I believe.... >
Dad's gonna take me downtown to a great store that's got loads of scores-gonna get it there-I think it's only available in full size, but I'm gonna check if it's available in mini-score-better suits my purposes (taking it to school in September, just following along-not gonna conduct it till I finish at least my BMus!)

< When they took out my wisdom teeth recently, I took along the Alfred Deller recording of cantatas BWV 170 & BWV 54 for comfort. Helped me relax in the car, anyway. That's a landmark CD, both because it's an excellent performance and because [according to the booklet note] it's the first recording that Leonhardt and Harnoncourt made (of any music) using period instruments, 1954. >
That's what I got the ChrO for!

< p.s. Get yourself a couple of pudding snack packs. :) >
Mom's got it covered!

Thanks Brad (not sarcastic)

 

Xmas Oratorio and dogmatic queries, part 6

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (September 6, 2003):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< 1.) I never said that they were the best. All I said was that for myself and for people who would like to get a true sense of and/or understanding of Bach one should go "to the source". There are some problems I have with Richter, for example. The next-to-last movement in his recording of the Weinachtsoratorium he scores for full choir instead of (as Bach has it) 4 soli. >
I also have some problems with your religious insistence on proving and disproving associations with Bach. You appear to say that the recitative "Was will der Höllen schrecken nun" should be sung by solo voices, an opinion which I would assent to. But why do you invoke Bach's authority for this?

Karl Richter also used massed voices for the first phrase of BWV 44 and the recitatives interpolated in the fifth verse of BWV 178.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (September 7, 2003):
[To Alex Riedlmayer] Because when the score is all one has to go by, then that is what one uses.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 7, 2003):
“Only” the score

[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] David, your logic here is flawed. You say you're looking at only the score. OK, here's what I see looking *only* at the score (Bach-Gesellschaft/Dover) also:

RECITATIVO ["Was will der Hölle Schrecken nun"]
Soprano.
Alto.
Tenore.
Basso.
Organo e Continuo.

Turn the page, and we see:

CHORAL:
Tromba I.
(...)
Soprano.
Alto.
Tenore.
Basso.
Organo.
Continuo.

That's it. There is nothing in those two listings to "prove" that one of these movements is to be sung by four soloists and the other by a larger chorus. Just "Soprano. Alto. Tenore. Basso." next to the voice parts in both cases. (And the word "CHORAL" there simply means that this movement is chorale-based, in this case the tune HERZLICH TUT MICH VERLANGEN, not that it must be sung by a chorus of more than four people.)

You're adding your expectation (outside the score, from performance traditions) that a recitative would be done by soloists rather than a chorus, and that the next movement would be by more singers, but it's not in the score.

I agree with the musical decision that it should probably be soloists there in the recitative and more people in the next movement, to make a nice grand ending to the piece; I'm just pointing out that youcan't legitimately claim this point by (literally) looking only at the score. It doesn't say "4 soli" or anything else about soloists.

The "dead end" here, more than anything, is a mindset of dogmatic literalism (in the interest of purity or whatever). If we're going to scour the score to try to come up with some "thou shalt not" dicta about performance, based on what we see (or do not see!) there, we might as well forget the whole thing. Art is guided by rules and patterns, but not bound by them. And good performance is much more than mechanically converting symbols from a hallowed page into sounds. The surest way to kill the musical result is to treat that page as a "hallowed page" in the first place, as if it contained the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (September 7, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] That's just it. Turn the page and the movement is over. Most of
Bach's recitatives are short affairs.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 7, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] David, you've missed the point. What you're saying here about movement length is a non sequitur, and irrelevant. By exactly the same FLAWED reasoning, if you were consistent in this, you should be insisting that the soprano recit "Du Falscher" followed by the soprano aria "Nur ein Wink" should be done respectively by soloist and choir section, just because the recit is short and there is a page turn between them. (They both say "Soprano.") You know that's not right.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 8, 2003):
The NBA II/6 KB:

Mvts. 63 & 64 are the final mvts. of Pt. VI of the XO according to the NBA.

Both the autograph score and the original set of parts have survived the passage of time.

At the end of mvt. 62, Bach wrote "Recit a 4 seqt." [sequitur] to indicate that the following mvt. (63 - the penultimate mvt.) is to be a recitative for 4 voices [the original parts {corrected & revised by Bach} for SATB, the continuo part as well as the doublet continuo part and organo part are marked simply with the designation "Recit." above mvt. 63.]

The NBA has written "Recitativo à 4" above mvt. 63. This reflects clearly Bach's intentions, but what are his intentions here?

By marking the score and parts clearly as 'recitativo' in mvt. 63, Bach is clearly indicating who is to sing (and play) in mvt. 63: only the solo voices or a limited subset of the vocalists available for a given part; the ripieni are to be limited or excluded in this mvt., but not in the final mvt. 64 where they (the ripieni) join the soloists who were singing alone in mvt. 63. (This is only my personal view on this matter.) Others might argue that 'recit.' is only a stylistic marker indicating at most a difference in the style of singing between recitatives on the one hand, and arias, and choral mvts. on the other; and as such this has nothing to do with the number of singers involved. There may be a gradation of the amount of freedom allowed to the singer(s) with recitatives being the most free, arias with less freedom and choral mvts. with the least amount of freedom.

Other interpretations: as already indicated, Richter and others (Rilling, for example) have sometimes had entire sections of a choir sing a specific voice part of recitative in unison. Even having 2 or 3 boys singing a Bach aria in unison (Schweitzer already mentions and proposes this type of singing!) is not unheard of as part of the Leipzig Thomanerchor tradition! Where does this leave us with the traditional distinctions between recitatives/arias and choral mvts?

Tom Braatz (for personal reasons still unable at this time to contribute regularly to the discussions)

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (September 8, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] It was you that brought the length question up. My point was for you to look just at that movement. I have seen the score for the movement in question and it does not read as you state, whereas the following movement reads "Choral" since it is a Chorale setting. the Rezitativ and Choral are two separate movements. That was my point. By the way, the length issue is true; if you look at the scores of Bach's Vocal works the Recitatives rarely are more than 1/2 of a page. The only two exceptions I could think of are in the two funerary Kantaten BWV 244a and BWV 198, or in the Pilate movements of BWV 244. Also, by Recitatives I mean the Recitativo Secco ones not the accompanied Recitatives.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (September 8, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] You bring up a good point. I have always had a problem with recordings that have soloists aside from the Choir. My understanding (based on almost 27 years of reading on the subject) was that Bach (as was very customary of the time) would have had soloists from members of the Choir (say a boy that had an exceptionally good Sopranstimme would be a Sopransolisten,etc.). However, as far as I know from my reading, the Soli parts would be performed by Soloists (not, as some would have it, a whole section of the Choir). In other words, Bach would most likely have used this time to display the virtuosity of the students and/or performers, just as in his Collegium Musicum performances (or in Instrumentalsolisten movements in his Kantaten and Oratorien), he would haveused such points in say a Konzert or Sonate or Suite to display the virtuosity of an Instrumentalsolisten student.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 9, 2003):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< (...) My understanding (based on almost 27 years of reading on the subject) (...) >
27 years of reading on this subject? I thought you were about 30 years old now?

Anyway, I agree with you that in Bach's vocal works, to be more correct historically, we should probably be hearing the soloists sing along with the chorus more than is currently done.

There's some expectation (now) that the chorus rehearsals and solo rehearsals are done separately; and the soloists as employees are hired as soloists and not to sing along with the chorus, additionally. But that's a modern expectation, and not necessarily Bach's.

One could make a similar point about the piano "soloist" in the Mozart piano concertos no longer playing along enough; to be more historically accurate, s/he should be adding continuo material during the tuttis, but most players now on modern instruments don't do that. (Gulda, Gould, and Levin are some exceptions here.)

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (September 10, 2003):
[To Bradley P. Lehman] One must make exception of three (almost 4) years that it took me to learn to read. I was born with multiple Learning Disabilities along with Mild Cerebral Palsy, so it took me a little longer to get out of the "picture-book" stage of Reading.

John Pike wrote (September 10, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Well, you have certainly more than made up for your early disability.

Christian Panse wrote (September 10, 2003):
[To John Pike] What he still has to improve is the quoting of other's messages in a way that one can immediately understand what he is referring to. His current method (first his text, then many empty lines, then full quote) is so adverse that I decided to filter him until I accidentally notice that it has changed.

To keep the BCML readable, I again recommend the following website to all who intend to be read: http://www.netmeister.org/news/learn2quote.html

Best regards (and back to Bach ;-]),

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (September 10, 2003):
< Bradley P Lehman wrote: There's some expectation (now) that the chorus rehearsals and solo rehearsals are done separately; and the soloists as employees are hired as soloists and not to sing along with the chorus, additionally. But that's a modern expectation, and not necessarily Bach's. >
Whatever Bach's expectations were, recording the chorus and soloists separately also would ruin attempts to allocate for concertists choral passages of lighter texture, which would produce a grander effect in the Magnificat (for example) than drastic reductions of vocal forces.

< One could make a similar point about the piano "soloist" in the Mozart piano concertos no longer playing along enough; to be more historically accurate, s/he should be adding continuo material during the tuttis, but most players now on modern instruments don't do that. (Gulda, Gould, and Levin are some exceptions here.) >
That would be an interesting option, but it should be used intelligently, not perfunctorily.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 11, 2003):
<< I wrote: One could make a similar point about the piano "soloist" in the Mozart piano concertos no longer playing along enough; to be more historically accurate, s/he should be adding continuo material during the tuttis, but most players now on modern instruments don't do that. (Gulda, Gould, and Levin are some exceptions here.) >>
< Alex responded: That would be an interesting option, but it should be used intelligently, not perfunctorily. >
Another pianist who does this especially well, but whom I forgot to mention: Chick Corea (with Bobby McFerrin conducting, and earlier with Gulda in the double concerto conducted by Harnoncourt). What joy and freshness there is in his performances of Mozart!

 

Bach christmas oratorio down half step [Choral Talk]

Rich Traube wrote (October 30, 2003):
Does anyone know where to get sheet music for Bach's Christmas Oratorio, preferably just the accompaniment, a half step down? A group I am in (www.chicagochorale.org) is performing it with period instruments and we'd like to be able to rehearse with a modern piano but pitched for period instruments, hence the half step down.

Bernard Hill [Bernard Hill, Braeburn Software, Author of Music Publisher system, Music Software written by musicians for musicians] wrote (October 30, 2003):
[To Rich Traube] Music Publisher 5 together with MP Scan can scan in music, transpose and reprint.

But it's a lot of music!

It would be easier to borrow a digital keyboard with a transpose button :-)

Kevin Sutton wrote (October 30, 2003):
[To Rich Traube] It doesn't happen. Get a harpsichord or chamber organ that can adjust pitch. Can you imagine the nightmare of playing those pieces in the monstrous keys that writing it out a half step down would make? Not practical, not scholarly, not done.

Gerald Place wrote (October 30, 2003):
[To Kevin Sutton] There are excellent digital "chamber organs" eg the Ahlborn H6 for around £1000. They're good enough to use in concert too with decent speakers and will transpose & do old temperaments (eg vallotti) which your orchestra may want to use.

Failing that, find a church hall with a piano that has sunk appropriately.

In any case, all the professional choirs I have ever worked with have rehearsed at 440 and then gone to 415 with the instruments. The perfect pitch brigade winge, but it's no problem really.

Myrn Music wrote (October 30, 2003):
pitch brigade winge?

John Howell wrote (October 31, 2003):
[To Rich Traube] I've never found a problem in rehearsing at modern pitch with the choir, and switching to baroque pitch when you start working with the orchestra. I assume you have a few rehearsals with the orchestra? That ought to be plenty for the choir to get used to it. Many may not even notice.

Those in the choir with such a good sense of absolute pitch such that it causes a problem ought to be also good enough musicians to be able to compensate (this won't stop some of them from complaining loudly of course).

John Howell [John Howell, Virginia Tech Department of Music, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA] wrote (October 31, 2003):
[To Rich Traube] Someone among those who answered this suggested that there would be no problem, except for the rare people with absolute pitch, with rehearsing at 440 and then performing at 415. That isn't necessarily true. Many singers have a sort of muscle memory that isn't absolute pitch, but does tell them when they are singing the note on the paper. And of course the inner feeling of the voice and the placement of the passaggii are pitch dependent as well.

When Harnoncourt started his set of all Bach's cantatas, passions and oratorios (did he ever complete them?), he used both the Vienna Choir Boys and the boys of Kings College Cambridge. The very first set issued--and I can't remember which group of boys it was--had the boys constantly singing sharp as if their muscle memory was stronger than their ears. Subsequent issues seemed to have solved the problem.

Moral? Practice at the pitch you'll be using.

Hinrich L. Müller wrote (October 31, 2003):
[To Rich Traube] I would go with a transposing kwyboard. Anyway, I don't think there would be any problem rehearsing at 440, and switching to 415 once the orchestra is available (unless the whole choir has perfect pitch).

Hinrich L. Müller wrote (October 31, 2003):
< pitch brigade winge? >
wince, I'm sure :-)

Anthony Maydwell [Anthony Maydwell, Department of Classical Music, West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University] wrote (October 31, 2003):
I would concur with John Howell's comments re rehearsing in the intended key/intonation.

I would go further and suggest that John's description of the effect: that singer's have a "memo" of a pitch/symbol relationship to be essentially a form of absolute pitch - if somewhat defective. The recognition of this relationship is fundamental to strict solfege (not to be confused with sol-fa).

Harnoncourt's recordings on Telefunken were the first complete set.
One of the great disappointments in life was the re-issue of that set on CDs without the comprehensive articles and the complete scores as was issued with the original vinyls.

Stephen E. Bacher wrote (October 31, 2003):
Myrn Music wrote: < pitch brigade winge? >
(The full nominal phrase was "perfect pitch brigade".)

...from dictionary.com...

whinge

intr.v. Chiefly British whinged, whing-ing, whing-es

To complain or protest, especially in an annoying or persistent manner.

[Dialectal alteration of Middle English whinsen, from Old English hwinsian.]

Ginny Siggia wrote (November 1, 2003):
Original query by Rich Traube: << Does anyone know where to get sheet music for Bach's Christmas Oratorio, preferably just the accompaniment, a half step down? A group I am in (www.chicagochorale.org) is performing it with period instruments and we'd like to be able to rehearse with a modern piano but pitched for period instruments, hence the half step down. >>

John Howell replied: < Someone among those who answered this suggested that there would be no problem, except for the rare people with absolute pitch, with rehearsing at 440 and then performing at 415. That isn't necessarily true. Many singers have a sort of muscle memory that isn't absolute pitch, but does tell them when they are singing the note on the paper. And of course the inner feeling of the voice and the placement of the passaggii are pitch dependent as well. >

Jon Paxman replied: < I've never found a problem in rehearsing at modern pitch with the choir, and switching to baroque pitch when you start working with the orchestra. I assume you have a few rehearsals with the orchestra? That ought to be plenty for the choir to get used to it. Many may not even notice.
Those in the choir with such a good sense of absolute pitch such that it causes a problem ought to be also good enough musicians to be able to compensate (this won't stop some of them from complaining loudly of course). >
Another take on Rich's query: We are rehearsing "Die mit Tranen saen" (Schütz SWV 378) which is an a cappella motet. We started with scratchy old Barenreiter scores while waiting for the new scores to arrive from overseas. Text in the old score is printed in faded old Germanic (Gothic?) script and has confusing bar lines. The new scores because they are easier to read, but there is a critical difference. I can't say with conviction the key in which it's written, because I think it involves a mode -- Aeolian sticks in my head -- and I'm weak on modes. (I'm a generic singer, not a teacher.) Let's just say that the new scores are written a whole tone lower than the old ones. I don't know why this was done -- anyone have a suggestion? Meanwhile, the conductor has decided to have us sing at the old, higher pitch.

Yes, those with perfect pitch -- a surprising number -- are experiencing varying degrees of torment. And yes, there some whinging about this, and depending on how it's expressed, it can be kind of amusing. I suggested that people who found the new scores unworkable should simply use the old scores, mark bar lines where needed, white-out the old script, and write their own text over that. This suggestion was greeted with some moans and groans (MORE WORK!). Interestingly, one of our PP singers is German, an accomplished musician, and old enough that the old-style script is quite easy for her to read. So using the old score worked out fine for her.

I also agree with John's comment about muscle memory (how the vocal apparatus feels when producing the music) and I have experienced auditory memory that is also strong. I can't reproduce a particular note on command, but a line of music will run through my head and usually it's pitch-accurate (but not if I try to conjure it up unbidden). Something must be imprinting on my brain.

Kevin Sutton wrote (November 1, 2003):
< Another take on Rich's query: We are rehearsing "Die mit Tranen saen" (Schütz SWV 378) which is an a cappella motet. >
Actually, it is not an a cappella motet. There is tremendous historical evidence that the music of the early baroque was played with either organ, or with wind or string doublings of the vocal part. Such was Schuetz' situation in particular with many of the male singers off fighting the thirty years war, that he often had to resort to filling in entire vocal lines with instruments. If you look carefully at most modern, historically informed performances and recordings of Schuetz' music, you will note the presence of instrumental continuo.

< We started with scratchy old Barenreiter scores while waiting for the new scores to > arrive from overseas. Text in the old score is printed in faded old Germanic (Gothic?) script and has confusing bar lines. >
Fraktur, not Gothic, and they aren't bar lines at all. This technique is called mensurstrich, and it is used to avoid the heavy downbeats associated with music of
later periods. They are not difficult to use if you get accustomed to them, which should take a trained musician, oh, say, an hour or so. The Helios Ensemble uses this style of notation whenever possible as it is a great aid in maintaing the sense of forward motion and line.

< The new scores because they are easier to read, but there is a critical difference. I can't say with conviction the key in which it's written, because I think it involves a mode -- Aeolian sticks in my head -- and I'm weak on modes. (I'm a generic singer, not a teacher.) Let's just say that the new scores are written a whole tone lower than the old ones. I don't know why this was done -- anyone have a suggestion? >
This is because there was no set pitch in the early 17th century. Tuning (i.e. what Hz "A" was) was determined by the the pitch of the local organ, and the variance was huge from city to city. Often in works of earlier periods, the tessitura can be screaming high, but in fact, the original performers would have hear "A" (440hz as we know it) as much as a minor third lower.

< Meanwhile, the conductor has decided to have us sing at the old, higher pitch. >
A perfectly legit thing to do.

Ginny Siggia wrote (November1, 2003):
[To Kevin Sutton] Wow, that was an education -- very interesting. My music knowledge tends to be broad but sometimes shallow, and I appreciate the chance to learn more. Thanks very much.

Kevin Sutton wrote (November 1, 2003):

[To Ginny Siggia] Think nothing of it Ginny. Knowing that stuff can always make music more enjoyable. BTW, the Schütz works very well as an unaccompanied piece too.

John Howell wrote (November 1, 2003):
Ginny Siggia wrote: < Another take on Rich's query: We are rehearsing "Die mit Tranen saen" (Schütz SWV 378) which is an a cappella motet. We started with scratchy old Barenreiter scores while waiting for the new scores to arrive from overseas. Text in the old score is printed in faded old Germanic (Gothic?) script >
It's called Fraktur, and it's a real drag to read! I wouldn't wish it on anybody who wasn't familiar with it already.

< and has confusing bar lines. >
There's an even chance that the original didn't have bar lines at all, or that they were irregular in the original. That's typical during Schuetz' lifetime. In either case you're probably dealing with the decisions of a modern editor.

< The new scores because they are easier to read, but there is a critical difference. I can't say with conviction the key in which it's written, because I think it involves a mode -- Aeolian sticks in my head -- and I'm weak on modes. (I'm a generic singer, not a teacher.) Let's just say that the new scores are written a whole tone lower than the old ones. I don't know why this was done -- anyone have a suggestion? >
There are two competing factors at work here. First, there was no standard pitch. Let me repeat that: THERE WAS NO STANDARD PITCH! There were local standards, probably tito the pitch of the organ at a particular church or court, but no standard pitch. Pitch in Paris was generally much lower than in Germany, and Venice was said to have the highest pitch in Europe.

Second, church music was still sung by boys and men exclusively. That means trebles on the soprano part, which is no problem, but high men on the alto part. (After all, the Italian "alto" and the Latin "altus" both mean "high"!) Female contraltos get carried into extreme low registers in some of this music, and a modern editor may have decided to "adjust" the pitch to make it more practical for a modern mixed chorus. Has nothing to do with the mode.

< Meanwhile, the conductor has decided to have us sing at the old, higher pitch. >
And it's his or her decision, quite properly, as to what sounds best in your voices.

< Yes, those with perfect pitch -- a surprising number – are experiencing varying degrees of torment. >
Yes, given experienced singers with a combination of absolute pitch, good relative pitch and strong muscle memory of pitch, this doesn't surprise. However, the answer is not all that complicated. Someone with good computer skills and a good music notation program can enter the music from the lower-pitched score with the barlines as you want them and automatically transpose it up to the higher pitch. The problem is not in the notation, but in the lack of transposing skills on the part of those singers who are bothered. They should start by learning to read the 9 movable clefs, which can then be used for transposing quite easily. (AFTER they are mastered!) I know, more work! But a real necessity for singers with absolute pitch.

Anthony Maydwell [Anthony Maydwell, Department of Classical Music, West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University, Anthony Maydwell / Director, SUMMA MUSICA Chamber Choir] wrote (November 2, 2003):
From my experience choirs become conversant quite quickly in using scores edited Fraktur.

Advantageously, it helps choirs also understand more easily the usual published/manuscript format of the era: part books without barlines which draws the eye towards the melisma/emphasis. I have, for this reason, sometimes chosen to edit music using this device preferentially.

Remember, that many 16th century manuscripts which commence with an alla breve or tempus imperfectus don't automatically define the entire piece.
In the present age there is a tyranny in the measure which did not exist in Renaissance counterpoint.

Fraktur attempted to metrically contextualise for the modern (chiefly early 20th century) chorister.

Charles Q. Sullivan wrote (November 3, 2003):
Kevin Sutton wrote: "BTW, the Scheutz works very well as an unaccompanied piece too."
True. And although perhaps most people define "a cappella" narrowly in the sense of "without accompaniment" -- literally "in chapel style," and possibly originating in the sense of "in the style of the (Sistine) chapel," others interpret it more broadly as meaning "without independent accompanying parts." So, for those using the broader interpretation, instrumental doubling or replacement of vocal lines is still "a cappella."

Christof Biebricher wrote (November 3, 2003):
John.Howell wrote: < Yes, given experienced singers with a combination of absolute pitch, good relative pitch and strong muscle memory of pitch, this doesn't surprise. >
In a `detonating' choir there is no remedy against the torment of singers with absolute pitch because after a while it is oneself that is considered to be out of tune. As a young man I was singing in such a choir and had to interrupt if it became too bad. I re-entered when the sinking has reached a half tone and I could transpose...

The first time I had to play an organ with 415 Hz derailed my playing because the fingers tried to correct the obvious correlation break between keys and the acustical result.

Christof Biebricher wrote (November 3, 2003):
Charles Q. Sullivan wrote: "BTW, the Schütz works very well as an unaccompanied piece too."
As a matter of fact, Schütz wrote in the prefaces of several works that his publisher demanded adding a continuo voice (otherwise the sales would have suffered in those times), but that he himself preferred the music without continuo.

If a continuo seemed to be indispensable, than the organist should preferably duplicate the vocal setting and not play independent continuo accords.

Charles Q. Sullivan wrote (November 4, 2003):
[To Christof Biebricher] My point exactly!

 

More XO’s

Continue of discussion from: Weihnachts-Oratoriom BWV 248 – conducted by John Eliot Gardiner

Sw Anandgyan wrote (December 5, 2003):
I can understand Yoel's comment about the Christophers' recording of the XO as being soporific; I have found it somehow subdued.

Thanks to Mr. Lebut's warning, I'll skip the Münchinger Christmas Oratorio acquisition and invest in the Pierre Cao rendition of the Motets instead.

I was glad to read someone considering the Harnoncourt XO belonging to his Top Five for I hold in high esteem what I have of this gentleman recorded output. ( Just the '80s Brandenburg Concertos, The Motets, SMP III and MBM I & II )

 

Tafelmusik BWV 248

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (December 6, 2003):
Well I'm going to the first half of Tafelmusik's performance of the ChrO in a few ours (the first three cantatas are tonight, the second three are tomorrow night-yes I'm going to that too). I expect a top-class performance, and I'll let everyone know how much they shattered that expectation (i.e. went beyond it)!

 

Tafelmusik BWV 248 - review

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (December 6, 2003):
Well I came, I saw, I conquered (Tafel's recording of the Brandenburgs, that is-great as always).

I opened the program and it had a note saying that Leblanc couldn't sing because of an illness, and that she was being replaced by Monoyios. So I thought "ok, I've seen her in the same spot doing Messiah-she's a good replacement-albeit a bit heavy on the vibrato". It didn't quite matter in this half (i.e. first 3 cantatas), as the alto soloist seemed to be featured more than the soprano (is that quantitatively true?)

So anyway, I can't say that the group exceeded my expectations, but I can say that at least after the intermission they met them.

The featuring of the alto soloist in the first parts of the oratorio means that more is on his/her shoulders, which wasn't completely lived up to by Vicki St. Pierre. She seemed a bit cold, her voice was a bit bland and she could have exploited so many wonderful moments in the music that she didn't. She wasn't horrible-there were a few good moments for her, but she didn't measure up to my standard when I see Tafel perform.

Rufus Müller, on the other hand, put in a fantastic turn as the evangelist and tenor soloist-his secco recits were clear and expressive, and his arias were clean and virtuosic. He definitely showed that he was an old hat with Bach evangelist roles, and Bach in general.

The bass soloist wasn't too bad-he had a bit of vibrato (which isn't necessarily too bad, unless it's used constantly in the upper range and no where else-which is what he mostly did), and I felt a tad bit of insecurity. Technical problems aside, he put in a strong performance and modeled well my view of the baroque bass-baritone sound.

I have always had an affinity for the choral sound, and the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir consistently epitomizes what I look for in a choir, and this time around they delivered (this time around 4 to a part including the soloists!). They didn’t always produce a sound large enough for my tastes (when appropriate of course), but that might have been due to my seating. All throughout however, they sang with the agility and life that I expect from them, bringing out an enjoyable sound whether in thick counterpoint or the straight, four-part chorales (which are still contrapuntal, but that’s another discussion).

The orchestra was great as well, bringing out the variety of Bach’s instrumental palette. Like the choir, the trumpets (when calledfor) didn’t always make a large enough sound, but when they did-especially in the 3rd and 6th cantatas, it was spectacular

Oddly enough, the most memorable part over the two-day venture was that right after intermission, they did a small overview of 4 of the chorale tunes in the oratorio, tracing them in various settings from the plainchant intonation of “Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ”, to Hassler’s Madrigal from which is derived the Passion Chorale, to elaborate organ preludes by JSB and his brother (?) Johann Michael. It sparked a healthy fascination in me to explore these chorales, and Lutheran music of the 17th century in general

Despite the weak alto, an impossible parking space (we took the subway today) and the minor blip on the choir’s radar, it was a quite enjoyable experience.

Now to get my parents to take me to see Messiah-they really own the town with that work!

 

New Arrival

Sw Anadgyan wrote (January 6, 2004):
I do wish you three hundred and sixty more good days ...

It was today in Montréal that I was able to purchase the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232)done by Konrad Junghänel and the Cantus Cölln. I did listen to it entirely but just once.

My first impression; it is "precious" as in delicate, as in a drive in a convertible antique on a summery Sunday afternoon in the country. It is very nice but it doesn't grab me often. I'm wondering why the Parrott OVPP version was not so " obvious " to my ears as this one is when it comes to minimal forces. There was a section with the violins in the Gloria that was so rendered in a peculiar way, it seemed the emphasis was put somewhere else than what I'm accustomed to.

I was able to acquire the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and I'm very happy with this recording though again I haven't come around to listen to it more than once. There was the latest Herreweghe, Münchinger's MBM and XO finding their way to my collection thanks to a sale that made their acquisition enticing.

I still intend to pursue my Bach immersion and refine my written expositions; amateurs don't rule !

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (January 6, 2004):
[To S.W. Anandgyan] I have heard Münchinger's Weinachtsoratorium and (not to discourage, but to maybe enlighten) found it wanting (as with his interpretations of the Messe h-Moll, the Magnificat, the Matthäuspassion (BWV 244), and the Johannespassion (BWV 245)).

The chief problem I have with it is the density and the dullness. He seems not to bring out the emotional aspects and the language of the music, but to treat it as a student does his/her books. In other words, it seemed to me that his interpretations were rigid and lifeless.

I have also heard Richter's and Rilling's (for all except the Magnificat) interpretations as well as those of the Thomanerchor Leipaig and Ton Koopman (his interpretation of the Weinachtsoratorium, the Matthäuspassion (BWV 244), and the Johannespassion (BWV 245)) and found these better. Here are some really good recordings, which bring out the life and the language of the music.

So if you want to get Münchinger's recordings, well and good, but be carefull.

Richard Gueriaux wrote (January 8, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] I agree that Münchinger's recording of Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) is dominated by routine. Harnoncourt is enthusiastic, but the instruments are so poor...

We have to regret that Fritz Lehmann recording is not available for the moment...

Peter Bright wrote (January 8, 2004):
[To Richard Gueriaux] My own favourite of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) recordings is that by Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japa, from a few years ago. Small-ish forces, unhurried, graceful playing and beautifully performed chorales - a fine achievement...

Bob Henderson wrote (January 8, 2004):
[To Peter Bright] Ditto Suzuki's XO (BWV 248). The best. No question. For all the reasons cited. And then there is Mera's superb and unusual contribution.

 

Continue on Part 5

Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248: 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
Systematic Discussions:
Cantata 1 | Cantata 2 | Cantata 3 | Cantata 4 | Cantata 5 | Cantata 6 | Part 7: Summary
Individual Recordings:
BWV 248 - Collegium Aureum | BWV 248 - H. Christophers | BWV 248 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 248 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 248 - R. Jacobs | BWV 248 - N. McGegan | BWV 248 - R. Otto | BWV 248 - K. Richter | BWV 248 - H. Rilling | BWV 248 - P. Schreier | BWV 248 - M. Suzuki | BWV 248 - K. Thomas | BWV 248 - J.v. Veldhoven
Articles:
A Bottomless Bucket of Bach - Christmas Oratorio [D. Satz] | BWV 248/19 “Schlafe, mein Liebster” - A Background Study with Focus on the Colla Parte Flauto Traverso Part [T. Braatz]

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: ýApril 26, 2011 ý14:31:28