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The Esoteric Bach - Feedback

Feedback to the article ‘The Esoteric Bach’ By Thomas Braatz

Tjako van Schie wrote (April 8, 2001):
(To Thomas Braatz) Wow. Interesting article! You might want to read also this: http://users.castel.nl/~schic02/articles.htm especially the article on the 14th invention relates to the use of the # sign too.

Jim Morrison wrote (April 9, 2001):
"relates to the use of the # sign too."

As a piece of esoteric trivia to some of the more verbally concerned list members, the # sign can be called in English not only the pound sign, but also an octothorpe.

Read a bit more about it at: http://www.strowger.net/tel_tech_octothorpe.html

Jim (who only recently found out about this word and has yet to use it in a context when he wasn't defining it)

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (April 9, 2001):
[To Jim Morrison] Gee Whiz, I always thought that was the "sharp" sign in music. I never did take to the word "pound". I think I'll started using Octothorpe. Maybe we should name the star "hexathorpe" or some such.

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (April 9, 2001):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< During this most solemn period in the Christian church calendar, a time when Bach was probably thinking about, composing, or preparing to perform one of his Passions, it seems appropriate to investigate an esoteric phenomenon relating to that most central Christian symbol, the cross. >
Thank you, Thomas, for your research. This is very interesting. It deserves further studying. I don't think I can quite follow your esoteric approach, but I certainly agree that Bach did not include the use of sharp notes on the words "Kreuz" or "kreuzigen" by coincidence. I don't think it was only intended for an inner circle of the initiated, but I agree that the application of these "double crosses" must have eluded most listeners.

You probably did not realize that also in Dutch the word "kruis" has that same double meaning of "cross" and "sharp". In your treatise, you already mentioned the turbae "Lass ihn kreuzigen" in SMP (BWV 244). In the first, which is in C-major, before the central aria "Aus Liebe", all the voices are allotted a sharp note on the first syllable of "kreuzigen": basses a-sharp, tenors c-sharp, altos f-sharp and trebles c-sharp and a-sharp. Similarly in the second, in D-major, right after "Aus Liebe", the first notes on "kreuzigen” are raised a semi-tone. Moreover all voices are set a tone higher than in the first "Lass ihn kreuzigen". It is as if Bach not only wishes to express that the outbursts of emotions are nearing hysteria, but also that the actual erection of the cross and subsequently the crucifixion are at hand.

It struck me that this emphatic and imaginative use of the "Doppel-Kreuz" is only used in the turbae, sung by the people who want to crucify Jesus.

Yet, sharp notes are also applied in other parts of SMP where "Kreuz" is explicitly mentioned. "O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß", the great final chorale of the "Erster Teil" is written in E-major, using four sharps. Especially when the choir sing "wohl an dem Kreuze lange", the imagery is highly effective. Here, however, Bach does not want to "double-crucify" the Lord, but to show pity at his high and long suffering at the cross. In the magnificent bass-aria "Komm süßes Kreuz", in F-major, there are no double crosses either. The mood is contemplative. Thinking of Jesus, who fell under the heavy weight of the cross and had to be helped by Simon of Cyrena, the singer asks Jesus to hand over the cross to him. But at the same time, he must realize that he is only human and therefore asks Jesus to help him bear the cross, when his suffering will be too heavy for him. The agony, the stumbling, the getting up and falling again, is most effectively expressed in the accompaniment of the viola da gamba and the organ.

The most astonishing illustration of the erection of the cross and the hanging of Jesus by means of an ascending scale, including sharp notes, is to be found in SJP (BWV 245), where the choir shout "Weg, weg mit dem, mit dem weg, weg! Kreuzige ihn!" In no uncertain ways, Bach shows us what is bound to happen to Jesus.

It is said that J.S. Bach is the composer, to whom the largest number of studies and books have been devoted, still it is crystal-clear, that there will never be an end to exploring his music and least of all to enjoying it, deeper and deeper, higher and higher. No one will ever be able to claim with regard to exploring Bach: "Es ist vollbracht!"

In the meantime, all of you, stay with us! Bleib bei uns!

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 10, 2001):
Peter Bloemendaal stated:
< You probably did not realize that also in Dutch the word "kruis" has that same double meaning of "cross" and "sharp". >
Yes, I did think about that, but decided to follow slavishly the jist of Friedrich Blume's quote, which probably was not such a good idea.

< Peter stated: In your treatise, you already mentioned the turbae "Lass ihn kreuzigen" in SMP (BWV 248). In the first, which is in C-major, before the central aria "Aus Liebe", all the voices are allotted a sharp note on the first syllable of "kreuzigen": basses a-sharp, tenors c-sharp, altos f-sharp and trebles c-sharp and a-sharp. Similarly in the second, in D-major, right after "Aus Liebe", the first notes on "kreuzigen' are raised a semi-tone. Moreover all voices are set a tone higher than in the first "Lass ihn kreuzigen". It is as if Bach not only wishes to express that the outbursts of emotions are nearing hysteria, but also that the actual erection of the cross and subsequently the crucifixion are at hand. >
I really did not want to get into the Passions too much because of the frequent use of "Kreuz" and "kreuzigen." That would be another research project all by itself. But your description in your last sentence is very suitable description of the feature I had in mind.

In regard to the double crosses, I think it will take a major research project to determine where and how often they do occur in Bach's vocal music. My feeling at this point is that you will find more double sharps in the WTC than in all of the cantatas that we have, and particulary few in the vocal parts. The Passions are a great exception here, and for a very good reason.

Armagan Ekici wrote (April 10, 2001):
In SMP (BWV 244), I think there is another example of word-painting of the cross, although without the sharp sign. In the recitative No. 76 ('Und da sie ihn verspottet hatten...'), where the actual cruxification takes place, look at the movement in the bass corresponding to the word 'kreuzigten'. Am I right in thinking the four notes C-G-A flat-F sharp are drawing a cross?

It is interesting that in this place the word 'kreuz' sung by the Evangelist is does no have a sharp sign, but it is E flat; of course it is the most distant note of the tonality of the recitative.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 10, 2001):
Armagan Ekici stated:
< In SMP, I think there is another example of word-painting of the cross, although without the sharp sign. In the recitative No. 76 ('Und da sie ihn verspottet hatten...'), where the actual cruxification takes place, look at the movement in the bass corresponding to the word 'kreuzigten'. Am I right in thinking the four notes C-G-A flat-F sharp are drawing a cross? >
Interesting, I never thought of it that way.

< It is interesting that in this place the word 'kreuz' sung by the Evangelist is does no have a sharp sign, but it is E flat; of course it is the most distant note of the tonality of the recitative. >
I think the real test of this would be: "How does it sound in mean-tone temperament?" That is what I really would like to know.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 10, 2001):
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Aryeh Oron for the considerble time and effort he expended in putting my article on "The Esoteric Bach" on his website. Thistask took about two weeks from inception to the moment of completion. As I began working on this project, I happened to read Kirk McElhearn's comment (BRML) on Verlet's recording of the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue BWV 903, just as I was trying to determine Bach's motivation for applying in his sacred cantatas the device/phenomenon that I was attempting to describe. I eagerly look forward to hearing from anyone or reading anything that can shed further light on trying to understand why Bach did this, and most importantly, to find out how reasonable it would be to assume that Bach still used some form of modified mean tone in the years of his maturity in Leipzig (after his 'Sturm und Drang' period during which he composed the WTC BWV 846-93.)

 

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Last update: ýNovember 1, 2010 ý20:18:30