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The “Shortening of the Supporting Notes” in the Bc of Bach’s ‘Secco’ Recitatives

By Thomas Braatz (April 2002)

Last year (Aug 4, 2001) I posted a question to the site (listed on Aryeh’s site under “Recitatives”) and attempted to answer the question with the limited resources and understanding I had at the time. It concerns subject that has had a number of descriptive titles attached to it: the ‘recitativo semplice,’ or the ‘secco’ recitative (as opposed to the ‘accompagnato’ recitative) [actually the term 'secco' recitative did not exist in Bach's day], in which a supposed stylistic phenomenon occurs: the bass notes of the basso continuo which Bach writes as half or whole notes, or even tied over whole notes are automatically reduced by the continuo player to a quarter note value or sometimes even less. This has become more and more evident since Harnoncourt introduced this assumed ‘authentic’ performance practice in his early recordings of the passions and cantatas by Bach. Since then, many recording artists have adopted this style of performance. If, however, you listen to the pre-Harnoncourt recordings or those of conductors like Rilling who try to find a balance between the extremes of the late romantic style and the HIP recordings of late, it will become apparent to you that there is a major difference in regard to the treatment of the continuo part in a ‘secco’ recitative.

I realize that the new generation of listeners may not even be aware of the fact that this is happening, because so many recent recordings all follow this method of playing the ‘secco’ portion or the entire ‘secco’ recitative. It truly becomes bothersome, however, if you are viewing a Bach score and realize how many of the notes that Bach deliberately put down on paper are not sounded at all. It is for this reason that I have been quietly pursuing this matter, hoping that something might turn up that would point me into the right direction so that I might be able to clear this matter up. This means that I will either accept the primary evidence and cogent arguments presented by the musicologists who have investigated this subject area thoroughly (in which case I will, as a doubting Thomas, be able to put my fingers directly upon the evidence and feel the truth emanating from it,) or I will find some definite flaws that will cause me to hestitate and reject what has been presented. My purpose is not to play the devil’s advocate, but rather to ascertain the truth of matter as difficult as that may be more than 250 years after Bach’s death.

First and foremost I am indebted to the words of encouragement that I have received from list members. I wish to express my gratitude especially to Brad Lehman who took the time to type out long passages from Harnoncourt’s books, which he posted, and also recommended other sources such as the recently mentioned “Bach’s Continuo Group” by Laurence Dreyfus (Harvard University Press, 1987.) The latter book, I believe, represents best of all the current musicological thinking on this matter, because Dreyfus cites and documents the primary and secondary sources critical to obtaining a better understanding of the origin of this phenomenon. I am also grateful for Charles’ encouragement that I read carefully Mattheson’s “Der vollkommene Capellmeister” and report my findings taken from this truly significant primary document that Bach read as well.

It was through the combination of Brad’s Harnoncourt quotations as well as the Dreyfus book that I was able finally to determine the true origin of the ‘short accompaniment’ [the term used by Dreyfus] or the “Kürzung der Stütztöne” [“shortening of the supporting tones” this phrase coined by Alfred Dürr] or “Aufgehoben oder ausgehalten?” [“held back/lifted up vs. held out for full length of note value” this phrase by Emil Platen.] By sighting along the Harnoncourt and then the Dreyfus lines of sight, I found the point of convergence: it is a secondary source that both have used as the primary reference base from which almost everything begins and a point to which they both return for evidence and proof. This book is Arnold Schering’s “Johann Sebastian Bach’s Leipziger Kirchenmusik,” Leipzig, 1936.

Just a short note on Schering (1877-1941) who was a pupil of the great Joachim (violinist), a professor of music Leipzig, Halle, and Berlin, and is known primarily as the editor of the Bach Jahrbuch [from its inception until his death.] Just recently I did an internet search on his name and came up with articles from the periodical “Early Music America” written by Bernard Sherman and Joshua Rifkin who both refer to Schering’s ideas as being ‘wacky.’ Here are some quotes (taken out of context) “wacky theories of Bach performance have had a way of disappearing into the graveyard of interpretive fads. One thinks of the curved "Bach bow" that had its moment after the Second World War.” Somewhere I read that Schering also supported the idea of the “Bach bow.” Rifkin, again out of context, stated: “But let's not kid ourselves: Schering's hypothesis has nothing more behind it than the "Bach bow" did. Although I wouldn't necessarily bet on it, perhaps it, too, will eventually find its way into "the graveyard of interpretive fads."

I, likewise, foresee that possibility that ‘short accompaniment’ will eventually go into the same graveyard of interpretative fads. This will occur mainly because conductors, musicians, and even musicologists have allowed Schering to ‘pull the wool over their eyes,’ and did not attempt to reexamine the primary sources and think clearly about the evidence as presented in Bach’s own handwriting.

Luckily I happen to have in my possession a copy of Schering’s earth-shaking book which was owned by my father-in-law, who, in addition to serving as an ambulance driver, was a church music director who conducted Bach’s passions and oratorios in the main churches of Hamburg (or what was left of them) during WWII. He had underlined Schering’s words in red pencil: “daß Orgel wieVioloncell bei Seccorezitativen n i e m a l s den Baßton ausgehalten” [“the organ as well as the cello NEVER held out (for full value) the bass note(s) in secco recitatives.”] Remember that this was in 1936! Why did it take so long for this “truth” about performance practice to be realized? As far as I know (I do not have any hard evidence for this,) my father-in-law never enacted this performance directive, although he had noted it specifically in the book as a remarkable statement. Passion, oratorio and cantata performances that have come down to us, even as late as Richter and Rilling recordings, do not seem to ascribe to this performance practice at all. Were these noted Bach conductors oblivious to the import of this statement, or is there something that they intuitively suspected that kept them from moving in this new direction? To answer these questions we need to look at Schering’s statements and examine the evidence and analyze the arguments he puts forth in support of this startling conclusion.

In order to prepare the reader for the shocking effect that this statement would have, Schering asks, “Why is it that certain continuo parts (in Bach’s recitatives of the Leipzig period) are figured, but as soon as a non-recitative movement follows it, the numbers (these are the thoroughbass/figured bass numbers written above the bass note to indicate to the continuo player which chords are to be played) disappear altogether? Schering gives a sampling (he admits it is not complete) of cantatas that demonstrate examples of this: BWV 18, BWV 20, BWV 28, BWV 41, BWV 60, BWV 84, BWV 87, BWV 88, BWV 122, BWV 127, BWV 134, BWV 151, BWV 164, and BWV 168. The simple solution or answer he suggests is that these accompaniments were solely for cello and not keyboard, which raises two new questions: 1. In which manner was a cello used in the recitative? and 2. Why were many of these parts transposed lower? The extended answers he suggests go beyond the scope of this present investigation. To summarize Schering, this was due to an earlier tradition of combining the viola da gamba with the lute where both instruments complemented each other, the viola da gamba sustaining certain notes of the figured bass chord. As the viola da gamba, however, was gradually replaced by the cello during Bach’s lifetime, the cello, less able to sustain more than a simple double-stopped note, was forced to resort to breaking up the chords. This was not done as an arpeggio, but spread out over the full duration of the sustained note noted in the bass. This means that the cello player had to abandon the bass note in order to play the higher notes of the chord. This means that the cello is playing something all the time the bass note in the score is indicated, but it may not be the bass note that you will hear all the way through [unless of course the continuo group contains an organ, which it most often does.] Citing Johann Baumgartner’s [the Augsburg Baumgartner that was also discussed here earlier because Harnoncourt cites this book] Instructions de Musique théorique et pratique à l’usage du Violoncello (1774) [Schering had wished that Corrette (1741) in a similar book would have stated something definitive regarding this matter, but he does not,] Schering was forced to use a reference which is really ‘too late’ to have an direct bearing on Bach’s performance practices. Here are Baumgartner’s points:
1. The volume of the cello in the secco recitative continuo accompaniment was to match the voice, but never to overshadow it or to draw attention to itself in its supporting role.
2. The broken chord necessitated by the nature of the cello must not be repeated unless additional harmonic changes (new figures above the sustained bass note) are indicated.
3. The accompaniment must remain simple, without embellishments or additional runs and flourishes

The musical examples from Baumgartner’s treatise that Schering includes are:
1. One example where the bass note is held for its full value and it forms the lower part of a double stop while another finger intones the remaining parts of the chord in sequence.
2. Another example where a very low bass note is abandoned prematurely (not held for its full value because the chord extends upward to another double stop – a combination otherwise impossible to execute on a cello.)

Does Baumgartner’s treatise go far enough to substantiate that all long notes in the bass line of a Bach secco recitative must be played with shortened note values (a quarter note with one beat rather than a whole note with 4 beats?) No, Baumgartner does not succeed in fully substantiating Schering’s claim regarding this ‘shortened accompaniment’ performance practice.

In desperation, Schering also cites
1) Joseph F. Fröhlich’s (1780-1862) cello method that supposedly appeared in the 1820’s, but all that Schering could find was a later expanded edition printed in Berlin in 1870.
2) F. S. Gaßner’s cello method, Karlsruhe, 1844.
3) [a secondary source] Max Schneider’s “Die Begleitung des Seccorezitativs um 1750, in the Gluck-Jahrbuch III, 1917.

Now we come to Schering’s main argument which is based on that marvelous German word “Selbstverständlichkeit” [“Selfunderstoodness” = “Itgoeswithoutsayingness = “Withoutaquestionness” – If a German ever wants you not to question his motives or ask why he is doing something a certain way, he will say, “Es ist doch selbstverständlich” which means 'simply accept it as it is.'] Schering waves his magic wand using this word and then condescends to explain to the reader that this was all part of an unspoken, undocumented esoteric tradition among musicians who played continuo parts of a secco recitative. Wherever recitatives of this sort were played, it was always done this way. The musicians translated the long bass notes in their minds to the shortened notes, because ‘this was part of the general custom.’ Being a doubting Thomas and having found a long list of primary sources, none of which, to my knowledge, have mentioned anything closely related to this point, I remain entirely skeptical. Perhaps Schering is ‘wacky’ after all.

Here comes the ‘Paradebeispiel’ [the primary, key, most powerful, first-hand proof that is ‘paraded’ before the audience of doubters whenever any request for direct evidence is expressed,] that is supposed to remove any skepticism that you may have felt until now. Schering writes, “For this [method of performance practice] Bach himself occasionally has even given us directions [on how to play the continuo part according to his wishes.] At this point Schering gives musical examples taken from the first recitative of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244). One is from the autograph score and shows a bass note in the continuo held out with tied whole notes and a quarter note for a total of 9 beats. But in the continuo part that was copied out from the score, a quarter note replaces all the held notes. This means that there are 8 beats of rests between the first quarter note and the next dotted half note! Schering comments that since the figured bass numbers are missing, the cello was probably not playing along at this point. Schering adds that this was probably done so that the evangelist could be understood better and that an evangelist should sing as fast as one would naturally speak. The style should be very impersonal, devoid of emotional inflection. If Bach’s students had attempted to sing the recitatives more like a Wagner opera, “the master, because he would consider them to be comedians, would have chased them out of the church.” At this point we will have to leave Schering’s ideas and come closer to the present time.

Dreyfus essentially confirms Schering’s statement as follows, “Although he referred to an ‘old tradition’ mandating the convention, Schering based his judgment on the notational inconsistency in Bach’s parts for the St. Matthew Passion. While Bach had notated the secco recitatives in his score in long values, he systematically replaced them with quarter notes and rests in the continuo parts. Schering supposed that Bach’s parts made explicit a musical practice that was actually implicit in the score.” [I have serious difficulties with Dreyfus’ loaded word, ‘systematically’ which reminds me very much of Schering’s ‘Selbstverständlichkeit.’ Dreyfus then mentions that “Arthur Mendel supplemented this view in 1950 with further bits of evidence from other manuscript parts and, in addition, cited several eighteenth-century treatises that described the convention.” Does Dreyfus give the proof in the form of quotations from the latter? No, even though this is the critical evidence that is still lacking. After all is said and done, it is Schering’s ‘Paradebeispiel’ that Dreyfus returns to for comfort and solace: “The parts for the St. Matthew Passion present the most impressive evidence regarding Bach’s use of short accompaniment.”

It is Dreyfus’ explanation here that is worth repeating literally as it represents current thinking on this matter:

“A contemporary copy of Bach’s now-lost original score represents the earliest stage of this composition. In this version Bach conceived of only one continuo line, as in the earlier St. John Passion (BWV 245). The secco recitatives, moreover, are notated in their usual long notes. In 1736 Bach prepared a substantially revised version of the work which resulted in a new autograph score incorporating the changes. The most important of these was the division of the continuo into twodistinct parts – one for each orchestral choir. Despite some minimally revised recitatives, the score retains the regular notation for the secco movements. In the continuo parts, however, which Bach prepared himself, all secco recitatives were copied with the usual reduction to quarter notes. “

Did you notice Dreyfus’ phrase “with the usual reduction to quarter notes?” This is essentially ‘leading the witness’ because there is nothing ‘usual’ here, but rather very ‘unusual.’ This is the same type of argumentation the Schering uses when he says this was “selbstverständlich” [“it goes without saying, without questions being raised, you must accept what is being stated or done.”]

Allow me now to present my proof of a contrary contention to that of Schering and Dreyfus (and all the conductors who follow in their footsteps) based upon the evidence given in the NBA II, 5 and the KB (Kritischer Bericht supplied by Alfred Dürr):

The earliest performance of the St. Matthew Passion, of which the autograph score is missing or was destroyed took place in 1729. Some parts of the passion are from an even earlier date than this. After 1729 Bach made no major changes to this version until 1736 when a major revision was undertaken. It was then that the division into two choirs and orchestras took place with the instrumentalists located in different sections (balconies) together with the two organs (possibly even three?) that existed at that time in St. Thomas church. This autograph score is one of the most beautiful from Bach’s hand with red ink (now faded to a duller light brown color) used for Jesus’s words. Parts were prepared with the help of copiers, but Bach also assisted in this project. At this point in 1736 we still have the secco recitatives written out with the long, held notes in the basso continuo and it is possible that even the separate continuo part from which the continuo group played was also still notated in this fashion. Here comes the surprise: according to Dürr (and this is what Schering was referring to) at some point between 1736 (it could be as early as 1737) and Bach’s death, three parts were added or substituted for existing parts: 1. the soprano in ripieno part consisting of only one sheet copied out by copier number 7 (also referred to as ‘Vm’) 2. the viola part consisting of 5 pages completely in Bach’s handwriting; and 3. the continuo part for the 2nd choir consisting of 6 pages copied by copier number 7 (or ‘Vm’) with some additions by another hand (not Bach’s!!!) It is this latter part that has become the primary source of evidence for “shortened accompaniment in secco recitatives.” Dürr notes this change as evidence of the final intention of Bach (the NBA always wants to show Bach’s final intention just as it did in the Easter Oratorio in the slow movement (mvt. 2) with the wonderful oboe solo, which, when performed for the last time under Bach’s direction has a substitution of a flute – the NBA was able to get around this by placing a footnote at the bottom of the page noting that the original instrument was an oboe) and unfortunately this continuo part was then ‘reflected back’ into the printed edition of the score, so that you will not see Bach’s notes for the continuo as he had indicated them in his beautiful score from 1736, but rather as based on this anomaly that could derive from a point much later in Bach’s life. Attempting to give an explanation of this anomaly, Dürr states that these changes giving the ‘shortened accompaniment” were evidently made in order to set off the accompaniment of the evangelist from the legato chords (halo effect) that accompany Jesus’ words so as to create an even greater dramatic effect [“offenbar um die Beleitung des Evangelisten noch wirkungsvoller von der Jesusbegleitung in gehaltenen Streicherakkorden zu unterscheiden.”] A few other reasons come to mind as to why Bach did this: 1. The organ used was too loud for the voice or 2. the vocalist had insufficient volume in his voice and could not otherwise be heard properly; or 3. the location of the evangelist made it particularly difficult to hear him due to the acoustics, etc. etc.

In his search for more evidence, Dreyfus tries to give another example from Bach’s vast repertoire, but ends up with Cantata BWV 30a (“Angenehmes Wiederau,” a secular cantata with a sacred parody, Cantata BWV 30 (“Freue dich, erlöste Schar”) where, the recitatives had to be replaced and, once again, the autograph score contains the usual long note values in the continuo, but this time the continuo parts have pieces of paper pasted over them. By allowing an x-ray machine to peer under these papers and examining the other side of a page to see which notes had the ink bleed through the paper and measuring the distance between the notes, it could be revealed that the notation “exactly paralled Bach’s consistent reduction in the St. Matthew Passion.” Methinks, he protesteth too much by referring to this as the “consistent” reduction of note values.

Since I am not trying to write a book on this subject, I believe that I have correctly focused on the key item in this entire argument about using the ‘shortened accompaniment.’ Something is truly amiss here, in my estimation.

In perusing the following bibliography, the reader should begin to understand that quite a few primary sources do exist, but these do not shed any further light on this subject matter. Certainly the musicologists have been scraping the bottom of the barrel and have yet to come up with anything truly significant.

I would certainly like to hear your comments on what I have presented here, particularly if there is something significant that I have overlooked.

Tom Braatz



The purpose of this long list is to ‘read into the record’ a bibliography that might be rather difficult to find otherwise and to allow anyone to consider the question, “Why is there so little information available that could shed light on the problem of performing the secco recitative properly the way that Bach would have wanted to hear it played?”
In the MGG, Fritz Oberdörffer gives the following list of original sources that give information on basso continuo/figured bass. Although these works may contain information on all aspects, or sometimes, only part of what is considered to be necessary for understanding how to compose, read, and perform basso continuo parts, all of them potentially might be able to shed light on the conventions of playing a secco recitative. The following list is fairly complete and gives us an idea of just what is available to musicologists who are trying to determine just how a secco recitative was played in Bach’s vocal works. An asterisk before the number indicates that Laurence Dreyfus quoted the primary source in this chapter dealing with the secco recitative:

I. General instructions on basso continuo/figured bass:

1. Viadana, L.G. da Concerti ecclesiastici, Venice, 1602
2. Praetorius, M. Ordinanzen zu Musae Sioniae, 1610
3. Praetorius ,M. Polyhymnia Caduceatrix, 1613
4. Praetorius, M. Polyhymnia Exercitatrix, 1620
5. Praetorius, M. Puericinia, 1621
6. Aichinger G. Cantiones ecclesiasticae, Dillingen, 1607
7. Demantius, J. Chr. Triades Sioniae Introitum, Missarum et Prosarum, Freiberg, 1619 8. Staden, J. Kurzer und einfältiger Bericht für diejenigen, so im Basso ad Organum unerfahren, in Kirchenmusik, Ander Teil, Nürnberg, 1626
9. Albert, H. Ander Teil der Arien oder Melodien, Königsberg, 1640
10. d'Anglebert, J.H. Principes de l'accompagnement in Pièces de clavecin, Paris, 1689 11. Telemann, G. Ph. Musikalisches Lob Gottes in der Gemeinde des Herrn, Nürnberg, 1744

II. Books that devote only a section to basso continuo/figured bass:

1. A. Agazzari, A. Copia d'una lettera scritta dal Sig. A. A. à un virtuoso Sanese, Rome, 1606,
2. Banchieri, A. Del sonare sopra'l basso con tutti li stromenti e dell' 'uso loro nel conserto, Siena, 1607
3. Banchieri, A. Conclusioni nel Suono dell' organo, op. XX, Bologna 1609
4. Banchieri, A. Dialogo musicale, Appendix to L'organo suonarino op. XV, Venedig, 2/1611
5. Praetorius, M. Syntagma Musicum III, Wolfenbüttel 1619
6. Bernhard, Chr.Tractatus compositionis augmentatus
7. Penna, L. Li primi albori musicali per li principianti della musica figurata, Bologna 1672, 2/1674, 3/1679, 4/1684, 5/1696
8. Sanz, G. Instruccion de musica sobre la Guitara española, Saragossa 1674, 2/1697
9. Speer, D. Grundrichtiger, kurz, leicht und nötiger Unterricht der musikalischen Kunst, Ulm, 1687, 2/1697 (expanded)
10. Printz, W. Des satyrischen Componisten 2. Teil, Dresden, Leipzig. 2/1696
11. Rameau, J. Ph. Traité de l'harmonie reduite à ses principes naturelles, Paris, 1722
12 Baron,E. G. Historisch.-theoretisch und praktische Untersuchung des Instrumentes. der Lauten, Nürnberg, 1727
13. Maichelbek, F. A. Die auf dem Clavier lehrende Cäcilia op. 2, Augsburg, 1738
14. Majer, J. Fr. B. C. Museum musicum theoretico practicum, Schwäbisch Hall, 1732, Nürnberg 2/1741
15. F. W. Marpurg, F. W. Der critische Musicus an der Spree, Berlin. 1749/50
16. Hahn, G. J. J. Clavierübung, welcher eine Erklärung der Ziffern nebst praktischen Exempeln beigefügt sind, Nürnberg, 1750
*17. Quantz, J. J. Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversière zu spielen, Berlin, 1752 18. Adlung, J. Anleitung zu der musikalischen. Gelahrtheit, Erfurt, 1758, 2/1783
19. Rameau, J. Ph. Code de Musique Pratique, Paris, 1760
20. Löhlein, G. S. Clavierschule oder kurze und gründliche Anweisung zur Melodie und Harmonie, Leipzig, 1765, 2/1773, 3/1779, 4/1782, 5/1791
*21 Petri, J. S. Anleitung zur praktischen Musik, Lauban, 1767, Leipzig. 2/1782 (expanded)
*22. Rousseau, J. J. Dictionnaire de Musique, Paris/Amsterdam, 1768
23. Daube, J. F. Der musicalische Dilettant, Wien, 1770-1773
*24. Klein, J. J. Versuch eines Lehrbuchs der praktischen Musik, Gera, 1783
25. Portmann, J. G. Leichtes Lehrbuch der Harmonie, der Komposition und des Generalbasses, Darmstadt, 1789, 2/1799

III. Those books that primarily cover the subject of improvisation or playing partimento on the organo or harpsichord:

1. Spiridion, B. Instructio nova pro pulsandis Organis, in 4 parts, I & II Bamberg, 1669/70 and 1672, III & IV 1679
2. Niedt, F. E Musikalische Handleitung, Hamburg, 1706
3. Niedt, F. E. Handleitung zur Variation, Hamburg, 1706, 2/1721
4. Mattheson, J. Exemplarische Organistenprobe, Hamburg, 1719
5. Mattheson, J. Große Generalbaß-Schule, 2nd expanded edition, Hamburg, 1731
6. Bemetzrieder, A. Leçons de clavecin et principes d'harmonie (intro by Diderot), Paris, 1771
7. Mattei, St. Pratica d'accompagnamento sopra bassi numerati, Bologna (1788?)
8. Tritto, G. Partimenti e regole generali per conoscere qual numerica dar si deve a vari movimenti del Basso, Milano, 1821

IV. Books mainly devoted to improvisation:

*1. Hahn, G. J. J. Der nach der neuen Art wohlunterrichtete Generalbaß-Schüler, Augsburg, 1757, 2/1768 (expanded)
2. J. F. Daube, J. F. Generalbaß in drei Akkorden, Leipzig, 1756

V. Books with an emphasis on harmony and figured bass accompaniment (the latter subject becomes less important in the late 18th century:

a) Germany

1. Ebner, W. Eine kurze Instruction und. Anleitung zum Generalbass (original manuscript in Latin) contained in Herbst, J. A. Arte prattica et poetica, Frankfurt/Main, 1653
2. Anonymous (attributed to Carissimi ), Kurzer, jedoch gründlicher Wegweiser, Augsburg, 1689, 2/1692, 1693, 3/1696 (expanded), 4/1700, 5/1708, 6/1718, last edition 1758
3. Werckmeister, A. Die notwendigsten Anmerkungen und Regeln wie der Generalbass wohl könne traktieret werden, Aschersleben, 1698, 2/?, 3/1715
4. Niedt, E. F. Musicalische Handleitung I. Teil, handelt vom Generalbass, denselben schlechtweg zu spielen, Hamburg, 1700, 2/1710, 3/1717
*5. Heinichen, J. D. Neuerfundene gründliche Anweisung zu vollkommenerer Erlernung des Generalbasses, Hamburg, 1711
6. Gugl, M. Fundamenta Partiturae in compendio data, Augsburg, 1719, 2/1727, 3/1757, 4/1777
7. Anonymous (Fräulein von Freudenberg?) Kurze Anführung zum Generalbass, Leipzig, 1728, 2/1733, 3/1744
8. Heinichen, J. D. Der Generalbass in der Komposition, Dresden, 1728
*9. Kellner, D. Treulicher Unterricht im Generalbass, Hamburg, 1732, 2/1737 (Intro by Telemann), 3/1734, 4/1767, 5/1773, 6/1782, 7/1787, 8/1796, (Swedish) 1739, (Dutch) 1741
10. Telemann, G. Ph. Singe-, Spiel- u. Generalbass-Übungen, Hamburg, 1733/34
11. Mattheson, J. Kleine Generalbass-Schule, Hamburg, 1735
12. Reinhard, L. Kurzer und deutlicher Unterricht im Generalbass, Augsburg, 1744, 2/1750, 3/1761
13. Humano (Hartong), P. C. Musicus Theoretico-Practicus I, Nürnberg 1749
14. Nauß, J. X. Gründlicher Unterricht im Generalbass, Augsburg, 1751, 2/1769
15. Weitzler, G. Chr. Kurzer Entwurf der Anfangsgründe den Generalbass zu spielen in Marpurg, Hist.-krit. Beitr. III, Berlin, 1757, p,.223
16. Marpurg, F. W. Die Kunst das Clavier zu spielen, 2. Teil, worinnen die Lehre vom Accompagnement abgehandelt wird, Berlin, 1761
*17. Bach, C. Ph. E. Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen II, Berlin, 1762, 2/1780, 3/1787, 4/1797
18. Wiedeburg, M. J. F. Anderer Teil des sich selbst informierenden Clavierspielers, oder deutlicher und gründlicher Unterricht im Generalbass, Halle, 1767
19. Schröter, Chr. G. Deutliche Anweisung zum Generalbass, Halberstadt, 1772
20. Telemann, G. M. Unterricht im Generalbass-Spielen auf der Orgel, Hamburg, 1773
21. Hesse, J. H. Kurze, doch hinlängliche Anweisung zum Generalbass, Hamburg, 1776
22. Bach, J. M. Kurze und systematische Anweisung zum Generalbass, Kassel, 1780
23. Kirnberger, J. Ph. Grundsätze des Generalbasses als erste Linien zur Komposition, Berlin, 1781
24. Löhlein, G. S. Clavierschule oder kurze und gründliche Anweisung zur Melodie und Harmonie II, Leipzig, 1781, Züllichau und Freystadt, 1788, both volumes revised 5/1791
25. Bossler, H.P. Elementarbuch der Tonkunst zum Unterricht beim Klavier II, Speyer, 1789
26. Kellner, J. Chr. Grundriß des Generalbasses. op. 16, Kassel (1788?)
27. Kessel, J. Chr. B. Unterricht im Generalbass, Leipzig, 1790, 2/1791
28. Türk, D. G. Kurze Anweisung zum Generalbass-Spielen, Halle/Leipzig, 1791, 2/1800 (expanded), 3/1816, 4/1824, 5/1841 (corrected and expanded)
29. Knecht, J. H. Theoretisch Praktische Generalbass-Schule, Freiburg (c. 1800)
30. Westphal, W. Theoretisch praktischer Leitfaden zur Erlernung des Generalbasses, Hannover (after 1800)
31. Litzius, C. Anleitung einen Generalbass praktisch spielen zu lernen, Mainz (after 1820)

b) France:

1. Delair, E. D. Traitè d'accompagnement pour la théorbe et le clavecin, Paris, 1690, 2/1723 (added in 2nd edition: die règle d'octave)
2. Saint Lambert, M. de Nouveau Traité de l'Accompagnement du clavecin, Paris 1707 3. Campion, F. Traité d'accompagnement et de composition selon la règle des octaves de Musique, Oeuvre second, Paris, 1716, Amsterdam (1716)
4. Dandrieu, J. F. Principes de l'accompagnement du clavecin, Paris (1718)
5. Rameau J. Ph. Dissertation sur les differentes Méthodes d'accompagnement pour le clavecin, ou pour l'orgue, Paris, 1732
6. Corrette, M. Le Maître de clavecin pour l'accompagnement, Paris, 1753, 2/1790
7. Dubugrarre, Méthode plus courte et plus facile que l'ancienne pour l'accompagnement du cla, Paris, 1754
8. Clément, Ch. Fr. Essai sur l'accompagnement du clavecin, Paris 1758, 2/ c. 1765
9. Bemetzrieder, A. Méthode et Réflexions sur les leçons de musique, Paris, 1778, 2/1781
10. Zimmermann, J. Précis de la basse chiffrée, Paris (after 1800)

c) England:

1. Locke, M. Melothesia or certain general rules for playing upon a Continued Bass, First Part, London, 1673
2. Blow, J. Rules for playing of a Through Bass upon Organ & Harpsicon, Manuscript British Museum
3. Bayne, A. An Introduction to the Knowledge and Practice of the Thoro'bass, Edinburg, 1717
4. Keller, G. A compleat Method for Attaining to play a Thorough-Bass, London, 1707, (1721)
5. Holder, W. A Treatise of the Natural Grounds and Principles of Harmony, London, 1731
6. Lampe, J. F. A plain and compendious Method of Teaching Thorough-Bass, London, 1737
7. Geminiani, F. Rules for playing in a true taste on the Violin and Harpsichord particularly the Thourough-Bass op. VIII, London c. 1739
8. Geminiani, F. The Art of Accompaniment op. XI, London, 1755
9. Pasquali, N. Thorough Bass made easy, Edinburg 1757, London, 3/1790, also Dutch and French
10. Heck, J. C. The Art of playing Thorough-Bass, London, 1780
11. King, M. P. Thorough Bass made clear to every capacity, London, (1796?)
*12. Kollmann, A. F. Chr. A practical Guide to Thorough-bass, London, 1801, 2/1807, German Offenbach, 1808
13. Corfe, J. Thorough bass simplified, London c. 1808.

d) Italy, Spain, Holland:

1. Bianciardi, F. Breve regola per imparar a sonare sopra il basso con ogni sorte d'instrumento, Siena, 1607,
2. Sabbatini, G. Regola facile e breve per sonare il basso continuo nel Organo, Venice, 1628, 2/1644, 3/1669
3. Torres Martinez Bravo, J. de Reglas generales de Accompañar, en Organo, Clavicordio y Harpa, Madrid, 1702, 2/1736 (expanded)
4. Gasparini, F. L'Armonico pratico al Cimbalo, Venice, 1708, Bologna 1713, Venice, 2/1715, 3/1729, 4/1745, 5/1764, 6/1802
5. Fischer, J. P. A. Korte en noodigste Grondregeln van den Bc., Utrecht, 1731
6. Tomeoni, P. Regole pratiche per accompagnare il Bc., Florence, 1795

VI. Books of a more theoretical nature:

1. Sorge, G. A. Vorgemach der musikalischen Komposition., 3 Teile, Lobenstein, 1745, 1746, 1747
2. Marpurg, F. W. Handbuch bei dem Generalbass und der Komposition in 3 Teilen., Berlin, 1755-1758
3. Clément, Ch. F. Essai sur la basse fondamentale, Paris, 1762
4. Kirnberger, J. Ph. Die Kunst des reinen Satzes I, Berlin, 1771
5. Vierling, J. G. Allgemeinfaßlicher Unterricht im Generalbass, 2 Teile., Leipzig, 1805 und 1807
6. Albrechtsberger J.G.. Sämtliche Schriften über Generalbass, Harmonielehre und Tonsatzkunst, herausgegeben von I. Ritter von Seyfried, Vienna (1837?)

VII. Books on specific aspects:

1. Böddecker, Ph. J. Manuductia nova, Stuttgart, 1701 (Generalbass an einer Chorkomposition praktisch abgehandelt)
2. Treiber, J. Ph. Der accurate Organist im Generalbass, Jena, 1704, 2/1716 (Generalbass an 2 Chorälen, durch alle Tonarten mit veränderter Harmonik abgehandelt)
3. Burrigel, J. G. Compendiöse musikalische Maschine, bestehend aus einem großen dreyfachen Circul und zwei Generaltabellen, Augsburg, 1737
4. Mizler, L. Anfangsgründe des Generalbasses nach mathematischer Lehrart abgehandelt und vermittelst einer hierzu erfundenen musikalischen Maschine aufs deutlichste vorgetragen, Leipzig, 1739 (die Maschine, bestehend aus Zirkeln und Stäben, ersetzt die sonst gebräuchlichen Intervall- und Akkordteb. Das ganze Buch enthält weder Noten noch durch Zahlen ausgedrückte Akkorde.)
5. Choronet, A. E., Fiocchi, V. Principes d'accompagnement des écoles d'Italie extraits des meilleurs auteurs, Paris, 1804 (earliest figured bass instruction book with a historical approach)

Additional primary sources cited by Laurence Dreyfus:

*1. Walther, J. G. Musikalisches Lexicon, Leipzig, 1732

*2. Stölzel, G. H. „Abhandlung vom Recitativ“ Manuscript Vienna, 1739

*3. Voigt, J. S. Gespräch von der Musik, Erfurt, 1742

*4. Marpurg, F. W. Historisch-kritische Beyträge, Berlin, 1754

*5. Lustig, J. W. Musykaale Spraakkonst, Amsterdam, 1754

*6. Türk, D. G. Von den wichtigsten Pflichten eines Organisten, Halle, 1787

*7. Prixner, S. Kann man nicht in zwey oder drey Monaten die Orgel lernen? Landshut, 1789

*8. Stölzel (both brothers) Kurzgefaßtes Musicalisches Lexicon, Chemnitz, 1749

VIII. Secondary sources:

Some older secondary sources (articles from music dictionaries are not listed, and substantial books or articles are mentioned first, followed then by specialized categories):

a. Covering both 17th and 18th centuries:

1. Arnold, F. T. The Art of Accompaniment from a Thorough Bass as practised in the 17th and 18th Centuries, London, 1931
2. Dolmetsch, A. The Interpretation of the Music of the 17th and 18th Centuries, London, 1916, 2/1946
3. Frotscher, G. Geschichte des Orgelspiels und der Orgelkomposition, Berlin, 1935
4. Haas, R. Aufführungs-Praxis der Musik, Potsdam, 1931
5. Schering, A. Aufführungs-Praxis alter Musik, Leipzig, 1931
6. Harich-Schneider, E. Die Kunst des Cembalo-Spiels, 1939
7. Neemann, H. Laute und Theorbe als Generalbass-Instrumente im 17. u. 18. Jh. in ZfMw XVI, 1934
8. Riermann, H. Geschichte der MusikTheorie, Berlin. 1898, 2/1920
9. Schünemann, G. Geschichte des Dirigierens, Leipzig, 1913
10. Seiffert, M. Geschichte der Klavier-Musik, Leipzig, 1899
11. Strunk, O. Source Readings in Music History, New York, 1950
12. Zingel, H. J. Harfe. u. Harfen-Spiel vom Beginn des 16. bis ins zweite Drittel des 18. Jh., Halle 1932

b. Covering the 17th century:

1. Kinkeldey, O. Orgel und Klavier in der Musik des 16. Jh., Leipzig, 1910
2. Schneider, M. Die Anfänge des Basso continuo und seiner Bezifferung, Leipzig, 1918 3. Schmitz, E. Geschichte der weltlichen Solo- Kantante = Kleines Handbuch der Musikgeschichte nach Gattungen V, Leipzig 1914
4. Blume, F. Zur Aufführungs-Praxis geistlicher Solokonzerte von H. Schütz in Musikantengilde III, 1925
5. Blume, F. Zur Generalbass-Praxis der Schützzeit, ebda. V, 1927
6. Blume, F. Die Orgelbegleitung. in der Musik des 17. Jh. in Berlin über die 3. Tagung für deutsche Orgelkunst in Freiberg i. Sa., 1928.
7. Fortune, N. Continuo Instruments in Italian Monodies in Journal of the Galpin Society V, 1953
8. Goldschmidt, H. Die Instrumental Begleitung der italienischen Musikdramen in der ersten Hälfte des 17. Jh. in MfM XXVII, 1895
9. Goldschmidt, H. Studien zur Geschichte der italienischen Oper im 17. Jh. I, Leipzig, 1901
10. Haas, R. Das Generalbass-Flugblatt Francesco Bianciardis (1607) in Fs. f. J. Wolf aus Reihe Mw. Beitr., Bln. 1929
11. Hess, A. G. Observations on the Lamenting Voice of the Hidden Love in JAMS V
12. Schulz, M. Francesco Corbetta und das Generalbass-Spielen in Mf IV, 1951
13. Solerti, A. Le Origini del Melodramma, Turin 1903
14. Torchi, L. L'accompagnamento degl' instrumenti nei melodrammi italiani della prima metà del Seicento in RMI I, 1894
15. Wellesz, E. Die Aussetzung des Basso continuo in der italienischen Oper in Report of the 4th Congress of the IMG, London, 1912

c. Covering the 18th century:

1. Oberdörffer, F. Der Generalbass in der Instrumenten-Musik des ausgehenden 18. Jh., 1939, BVK
2. Ulrich, E. Studien zur deutschen Generalbass-Praxis in der ersten Hälfte des 18. Jh., 1932, BVK
3. Eitner, R. Der Generalbass des 18. Jh. in MfM XII, 1880
4. Fellerer, K. G. Das Partimentospiel, eine Aufgabe des Organisten im 18. Jh. in Kgr-Berichte der IGMW, Lüttich, 1930
5. Goldschmidt, H. Das Cembalo. Orchester der italienischen Oper der 2. Hälfte des 18. Jh. in Liliencron-Fs., Leipzig, 1910
6. Landshoff, L. Über das vollständige Accompagnement und andere Fragen des Generalbass-Spiels in Sandberger-Fs., München, 1918
*7. Mendel, A. On the Keyboard Accompaniments to Bach's Leipzig Church Music in MQ 36, 1950
8. Mersmann, H. Beiträge zur Aufführungs-Praxis der vorklassischen KammerMusik in Deutschland in AfMw II, 1920
9. Mersmann, H. Die KammerMusik I in H. Kretzschmar, Führer durch den Konzertsaal, Leipzig, 1933
*10. Schering, A. J. S. Bachs Leipziger KirchenMusik, Leipzig, 1936, 2/1954
11. Schneider, M. Der Generalbass. J. S. Bachs in JbP 1914/15
12. Schneider, M. Die Begleitung des Secco-Rezitativs um 1750 in Gluck- Jb. III, 1917
13. Schultz, H. Eine Continuoaussetzung Bachs und eine Messenskizze Mozarts in ZfMw XV, 1932/33
14. Toni, A. Sul basso continuo e l'interpretatione della musica antica in RMI XXVI, 1919
*15. Westrup, J. A. The Continuo in the St. Matthew Passion in Bach-Gedenkschrift, hrsg. v. K. Matthaei, Zürich, 1950
16. Riemann, H. Handbuch des Generalbass-Spiels (= Hesses Hdb. Nr. 10), Berlin, 1889
17. Keller, H. Schule des Generalbass-Spiels, 1931, BVK, 3/1955
18. Grabner, H. Generalbass-Übungen, Leipzig (no year)
19. Fellerer, K. G. Der Partimentospieler, Übungen im Generalbass-Spiel und in gebundener Improvisation, Leipzig (no year) B & H.
20. Platen, E. Aufgehoben oder ausgehalten? Zur Ausführung der Rezitativ-Continuopartien in J. S. Bachs Kirchenmusik, Bachfest-Symposium 1978, Leipzig, 1981
21. Emans, R.Überlegungen zum Bachschen Secco-Rezitativ, in Bach und die Stile, Dortmund, 1999


Written by Thomas Braatz (April 15, 2002)

Feedback to the Article

Articles: The “Shortening of the Supporting Notes” in the Bc of Bach’s ‘Secco’ Recitatives [Thomas Braatz] | Playing Plain Recitative in Bach's Vocal Works [Bradley Lehman]
Discussions of Recitatives:
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 | Continuo in Bach’s Vocal Works: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8


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