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Cantata BWV 109
Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben!
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of November 13, 2005

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 13, 2005):
BWV 109 - Intro to Weekly Discussion

Identification:

The cantata which has been selected, based upon the chronological sequence of Bach's performances, for this week's discussion is BWV 109 "Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben" which had its first performance in Leipzig on October 17, 1723.

Provenance:

This cantata has a very good transmission with both autograph score and original parts extant and in good to very good condition.

The autograph score went through the most common channel from J. S. Bach's estate to CPE Bach and from the latter's estate to the Berlin Singakademie [Zelter] and in 1854 to the BB [(Staats) Bibliothek Berlin.

Just where the original parts went after Bach's death is not clear. The first record of them is in a catalog of the Poelchau Collection of Manuscripts from the year 1832. In 1841 it also went to the BB where both the autograph score and the original parts are stored today.

Description of the Score and Original Parts:

At the top of the score Bach wrote:
J. J. Doica 21. post Trinitatis. Concerto

The marking at the end of the final page was simply:
Fine

The only other designations are "Recit." above Mvt. 2 and "Chorale" to introduce the final chorale.

The score is quite clean, particularly for a composing score and the paper is in very good condition.

The original parts were copied primarily by Johann Andreas Kuhnau, the exceptions being: Corne du Chasse by J. S. Bach; Violino 1 by Christian Gottlieb Gerlach; Violino 2do by Anonymus Ik; Continuo (not transposed, no figures) Unknown; CONTINUO (transposed, figured by J. S. Bach) Christian Gottlob Meißner; There is an additional "Continuo pro Cembalo" part; this makes a total of three continuo parts: 1) not transposed, no figured bass; 2) transposed, figures by Bach; 3) not transposed, figures by Kuhnau and another unknown individual.

The Corne du Chasse part was added later by Bach. It does not exist in the autograph score. It is not possible to tell when Bach added this part. For many years it was thought that Bach added it for a later performance, but from a careful examination of watermarks and handwriting, it is not at all clear how much time transpired between the completion of the score and Bach's writing out of the part on the back of another part (discarded part?) It might have been a quick last minute decision just before the 1st performance.

Cantata Text:

The librettist is unknown. A passage from Mark 9:24 is selected for the 1st mvt. In the rest of the cantata text, the librettist makes use of a number of allusions to biblical texts:

Mvt. 2 "Des Herren Hand ist ja noch nicht verkürzt, mir kann geholfen werden" is an allusion to 4. Buch Moses 11:23 "ist denn die Hand des Herrn verkürzt?" and Isaiah 59:1 "des Herrn Hand ist nicht zu kurz, daß er nicht helfen könne" Other allusions in the same mvt. are Jeremiah 31:20: "sein Vaterherze bricht" Isaiah 38:17 "es bleibt mir um Trost sehr bange" Psalm 6:4 "Ach Herr, wie lange?' Mvt. 3: "des Glaubens Docht glimmt kaum hervor, es bricht dies fast zustoßne Rohr Isaiah 42:3 "Das zerstoßne Rohr wird er nicht zerbrechen, und den glimmenden docht wird er nicht auslöshcen." Mvt. 5: "Der Heiland kennet ja die Seinen: John 10:14; 27 [See Dürr's commentary below for a more detailed explanation.]

7th verse of "Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt" by the poet, Lazarus Spengler, 1524

Liturgical Readings for the 21st Sunday after Trinity:

For a better understanding of the background for the chosen text, you may consult the side-by-side readings (German original and English translation) from the Epistle and Gospel as prepared by Francis Browne at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Trinity21.htm

At the top of this page you will see listed, in addition to this one, three later cantatas which Bach set for this particular Sunday of the liturgical year.

Find out about the author of the chorale text used in the last mvt. at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Spengler.htm

The text of the entire chorale with its English translation is still to be completed at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale045-Eng3.htm

Find about the chorale melody's possible earliest origin as a battle-victory drinking song along with all other aspects of this chorale melody (Bach's use of it elsewhere in his oeuvre but also its use by other composers) at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Durch-Adams-Fall.htm

Scoring:

Scoring for each mvt. can be easily determined by clicking on the links on the main recordings page for the scoring of each mvt., for instance, for the final mvt. at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/INS/BWV109-06.htm
where you will find further links to other aspects of this mvt.

Libretto and Translations:

For those needing the entire original libretto and/or a translation of it into various languages, the following links will be of service:

Original German Text (prepared by Walter F. Bischof) at: http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~wfb/cantatas/109.html

English Translation (prepared by Z. Philip Ambrose) at: http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/BWV109.html

French Translation (note-to-note format prepared by Jean-Pierre Grivois) at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV109-Fre4.htm

Hebrew Translation (prepared by Aryeh Oron) at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV109-Heb1.htm

Indonesian Translation (word-for-word format prepared by Rianto Pardede) at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV109-Ind.htm

Spanish Translation (prepared by Francisco López Hernández) at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV109-Spa3.htm

Cantata Commentaries:

In his discussion of this cantata from Nov. 12, 2000, Aryeh, after expressing his enthusiasm for this particular cantata, also included excerpts from commentaries by W. Murray Young, Alec Robertson, Ludwig Finscher and Simon Crouch.

In addition to these the BCW gives links to the following shorter commentaries:

Simon Crouch: http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/works/bachjs/cantatas/109.html

James Leonard (AMG): http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=42:100530~T1

Julio Sánchez Reyes (in Spanish): http://www.cantatasdebach.com/109.html

Here are two commentaries also worth reading: [Stephen A. Crist, Alfred Dürr]
See: Cantata BWV 109 - Commentary

Available Score:

A vocal & piano score of the entire cantata is available for download in PDF format at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV109-V&P.pdf

The Recordings:

Recordings by Harnoncourt [2] and Leusink [6] available for listening at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV109-Mus.htm

Chronological List of Complete Cantata Recordings:

Rilling (1971,1981) [1]; Harnoncourt (1980) [2]; Koopman (1998) [3]; Suzuki (2000) [5]; Leusink (2000) [6];

Previous discussions on the merits of available recordings can be found at the bottom of the same page, [http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV109-D.htm] but before reading them, I would suggest first listening to whichever recording(s) you may have access to. With this approach you will not be unduly influenced to form a preconception regarding the quality of the various recordings. You are cordially invited to share your views and comments on the recordings and the music itself.

Peter Smaill wrote (November 13, 2005):
Thomas Braatz' very comprehensive analysis of this Cantata contrasts with a relative paucity of prior commentary in the 2000 discussions, and at that time only a few performances were available. Whereas Harnoncourt in BWV 48 produces one of his best efforts, we have a much less attractive rendering for BWV 109, "Ich Glaube, lieber Herr, hilf mein Unglauben!". Personally I find the Koopman recording [3] very attractive, with the adaptation of Scheide's suggestion that the opening chorus should be given OVPP treatment, allowing for beautiful vocal interplays with the poignant canonic writing for oboes.

The real germ of the Cantata is the duality of faith and unbelief. The opening phrase of the tenor aria has the key word , "zweifelhaftig", translated as "doubting" "irresolute" "uncertain" , but the root is in "zwei" , -"in two minds " is buried deep in my dictionary's renderings for "zwiefelhaftig".

Theologically the work has attracted interest accordingly. Jaroslav Pelikan says of it :

"Bach's simple-minded champions and his detractors have both sometimes maintained that, even in the face of the rationalistic critique of the biblical message by the Aufklarung (Enlightenment), his was a placid and unruffled faith. Repeatedly in his works, both in the texts and the music we can hear echos of the Credo that has, ever since the rationalism of the Aufklarung, been the way moderns have confessed their faith, employing the words of the father of the demoniac child in the Gospel of Mark (9:24), who, we are told, "cried out [with tears] and said, 'I believe; help my unbelief!'"

That very text is the theme of the Cantata BWV 109, "Ich glaube, liebe Herr,hilf mein Unglauben!". And in the cantata BWV 78, "Jesu, der du mein Seele!", whose opening chorus is a reminder of the Crucifixus in the Mass in B minor (BWV 232)......- the closing Chorale prays:

"Herr! Ich glaube, hilf mir Schwachen,
Lasz mich ja verzagen nicht;
Du, du kannst mich staerker machen,
Wenn mich suend' und Tod nficht
"

{Lord, I trust Thee, help my weakness,
Let me, yea, know not despair.
Thou, thou canst my strength make firmer
When by sin and death I'm vexed}.

BWV 109's incipit commences with "Ich" , as do fifteen of the Cantatas. "Herr" (8), "Jesus"(4), and even "Gott"(5) are far behind , a sign of the frequent emphasis on the position of the individual believer in the scheme of redemption. This Cantata is thus at the pinnacle of those exploring the duality of faith and doubt, and is a beautiful and moving reaction to the story the father of the epilectic child. As such it is a fine example of the Lutheran stress on the need for personal discovery of religion and of Bach's vivid understanding of the tensions in the authentic Christian experience of doubt and longing for faith.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 14, 2005):
BWV 109/1 The Instrumental Motif

Aryeh Oron has informed me that he has inserted the missing musical illustration into Dürr's commentary. It can now be viewed on the Commentaries Page at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Guide/BWV109-Guide.htm

Aryeh has also prepared a page on the BCW for an examination of the instrumental motif which Dürr pointed out above. List members are invited to share the comments and reactions to this motif analysis. It can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV109-Sco.htm

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 14, 2005):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>>BWV 109's incipit commences with "Ich" , as do fifteen of the Cantatas. "Herr" (8), "Jesus"(4), and even "Gott"(5) are far behind , a sign of the frequent emphasis on the position of the individual believer in the scheme of redemption.<<
Using Bischof's search facility which includes all of Bach's texts, I selected only the cantatas and quickly came up with the following:

1089 instances of 'ich' ('I') (have not checked for 'mich' or 'mir' which should add to this total

1394 instances of the forms of "Gott" ['God'] This does not include 'Herr' which may be used alone without 'Gott' or 'Jesus Christ' and could refer to either. This could be a sizable humber but probably a number somewhere between the instances for 'Christ' and those of 'Gott.'

135 instances of the forms of "Christ" (Christus, Christo, Christum, etc.) but not 'Christ' or 'Christen' meaning 'Christian.' (Originally this number was 212, but it was reduced to remove the references to 'Christian(s.)' This number seems amazingly low.)

71 forms of "Geist" referring to "Holy Spirit/Ghost" but not to the individual, eternal spirit of Man.

Very rough calculation:

Circa 1600 textual references to the members of the Trinity vs. 1089 to the individual in the texts to all of Bach's cantatas.

I wonder how this would compare with the chorale texts and sacred figural music texts from the 16th century. My guess would be that the 'I' would be more frequently found as a 'we' representing the individual merged with the congregation and thinking and feeling more with the group rather than as a separate individual. This is, however, mere speculation (a feeling) on my part at this point without having done any rudimentary statistical check of such materials.

What do other list members think about this?

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 15, 2005):
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV109-Sco.htm
"There is a great likelihood that some symbolic, text interpretative significance can to attached to at least some of these. List members are invited to speculate on what these symbolic connections might be."
OK. I speculate that Bach, as an excellent composer of music, was mostly doing the things that excellent composers do: providing general variety (and ornamentation) to the melodic/harmonic texture, and providing modulations and other normal musical events. It would be really surprising and remarkable if he didn't provide such variety, if all those thematic entrances within a rich orchestration and a long movement had to be the same as one another. Especially so, as he had to fashion multiple minutes of music here out of only seven words of sung text.

This is basic compositional technique, altering some of the intervals within a basically recognizable subject on some of its appearances. Try analyzing Bach's instrumental fugues, to see if he does the same thing there. (Hint: Contrapunctus 4 is a good example.)

Where does "great likelihood" of "symbolic significance" come from, other than wishful thinking that items will be "found" that real musicologists haven't yet drawn attention to? As long as the first note or two fit into the preceding harmony, and the ending note fits into the next harmony, why does there have to be a theological/symbolic point to any of the choices? And, for it to have any special meaning here in BWV 109, one would have to show that Bach typically did not offer such variety elsewhere, in pieces that have nothing to do with didactic theology.

Oh, my goodness! Brandenburg 4's finale! He has the first two notes of the theme sometimes leap by fourths, fifths, octaves, minor third, or unison (no leap). He even uses some major seconds and augmented(!) fifths and minor sevenths in ttheme, on the last page. Sometimes elsewhere he fills in that leap with three or four running notes. Sometimes the theme is given in major, sometimes in minor, sometimes it even leaps down by a tritone instead of up by the fourth/fifth we expect. Sometimes he shifts the theme over by half a bar so the accentuation is in the opposite direction on those first two notes. And then there's also sometimes a variety between the second and third note of the theme, having some different number of steps in between. We could make a handy chart of all these and speculate what his symbolic theological connections are, hidden all through this. Wow!

We can't we just let Bach be an excellent composer doing his job? Why force un-falsifiable symbolic speculations (i.e. probably meaningless coincidences) on top of his already apparent skill? Especially if it would compel performers to micro-manage the texture to try to bring out all this nons.....er, to try to make audible all this esoteric theology that's so subtle it's only noticed by those who would put it there.

Bach wrote BWV 109 for one known performance, and all these little distinctions of leap-sizes whiff by so quickly. And some of the quick escape-tones in that figure are non-harmonic in context. So? Why assume they're terribly meaningful or symbolic, to any allegedly "great likelihood"?

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 15, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Bach wrote BWV 109 for one known performance, and all these little distinctions of leap-sizes whiff by so quickly. And some of the quick escape-tones in that figure are non-harmonic in context. So? Why assume they're terribly meaningful or symbolic, to any allegedly "great likelihood"?<<
Why then also assume that the decorative squiggles which Bach so hurriedly executed at the top of the autograph title page of WTC1 have any hidden significance whatsoever? Decorative 'c-hooks' are found on capital letters other than the 'C' of "Clavier." Why should they suddenly become extremely important in a single instance and take on special, hidden meaning?

Why do "all these little distinctions of leap-sizes whiff by so quickly?" Mainly because the HIP groups performing these movements tend to treat them as 'lite' entertainment with generally faster tempi than the non-HIP ensembles.

To deny the meaningful or symbolic aspects of Bach's music appears to short-change the genius of Bach's music. You seem to claim that you have already understood all of it to your own satisfaction. I, however, would tend 'to leave the door open' to other possibilities that a mundane musicologist would overlook.

Neil Mason wrote (November 15, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] I quite agree. What the music sounds like is most important.

Neil Mason wrote (November 15, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] You are indeed correct in your assertion that HIP ensembles use faster tempos (than performers generally did earlier in the 20th century).

But in my opinion this is a plus rather than a minus, as it brings the music to life.

Ken Edmonds wrote (November 15, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< ...which Bach so hurriedly executed at the top of the autograph title page of WTC1 >
So, you were there when Bach was writing the title page! What a revelation! Please tell us more...

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 15, 2005):
Neil Mason wrote:
>>You are indeed correct in your assertion that HIP ensembles use faster tempos (than performers generally did earlier in the 20th century). But in my opinion this is a plus rather than a minus, as it brings the music to life.<<
...at the expense of many notes which are then in unaccented positions barely or completely inaudible to the normal listener. What happens to the first note (the base of the interval leap upwards) of the instrumental motif when it is barely heard as treated by HIP practitioners who consider it as part of a 'gesture'?! [Answer: the exaggeration of unaccented vs. accented and the dynamic range between a piano vs. forte becomes even greater.] These base notes of the interval leaps are not simply harmonic variations that Bach called upon to make the movement less boring. To be sure, in some of the instances, it is possible that Bach needed to make certain choices in the size of the leap because the harmonic progressions preceding and following it demanded a different note; however, a jump upward of a 9th, for instance, is obviously conspicuous to the reader of the part/score. It could, however, easily be overlooked (and not heard by a listener) by a conductor (particularly HIP) who considers the sizes of leaps in the main instrumental motif as insignificant for a performance of this movement since these leaps, in the mind of such a conductor, are 'simply decorative and serve no other real purpose than to provide a little variety.'

Stephen Benson wrote (November 15, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< ...at the expense of many notes which are then in unaccented positions barely or completely inaudible to the normal listener. >
This does not have to be the case. In fact, the clarity of HIP performances, even with quicker tempi, frequently reveals details lost in the thicker textures of performances by the bloated orchestras and choruses of the pre-HIP generation. It is only when faster tempi are grossly exaggerated that loss of detail occurs, and, in fact, the most egregious example I can recall in Bach came, admittedly not from an orchestra and chorus, but from Walter Gieseking, hardly an HIP-er, in his recording of the Partitas, all six of which appear on a single disc and at such a blinding speed that handfuls of notes disappear in a blur.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 15, 2005):
Stephen Benson wrote:
>>...the most egregious example I can recall in Bach came, admittedly not from an orchestra and chorus, but from Walter Gieseking, hardly an HIP-er, in his recording of the Partitas, all six of which appear on a single disc and at such a blinding speed that
handfuls of notes disappear in a blur.<<
As a pianist who was born and grew up in France and who subsequently spent much time there, Gieseking's forte was French Impressionism (Debussy, Ravel, etc.) the techniques of which (as formidable as they are) he naturally applied to his interpretations of Bach.

Stephen Benson wrote (November 15, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] I do love Gieseking's Debussy. But why "naturally" extend that technique to Bach? Isn't it more natural to adapt one's technique to the music rather than force the music into the straitjacket of one's technique? I can think offhand of a number of pianists who are strong in repertoire other than Bach who make adjustments in their technique in order to bring out the felicities of Bach's contrapuntal keyboard writing: Guller, Browning, Argerich, Horszowski, Lipatti, Pires, Rosen, Kapell, and Schiff, for example.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (November 16, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman & Thomas Braatz]
I'm happy!

I disagree with Brad on this, and at last I can prove to Thomas that I do not always take Brad's side and I have retained some capacity for independent thinking! Thank you very much, Brad, for this opportunity of saving my head!

I definitely cannot adhere to the ideas expressed by Brad here. If he were talking about Haendel, well, ok. Bach, not ok.

All right, Bach was a good composer and the music he wrote was probably perfectly adapted to what was expected of him.
(even if his employers didn't always think so...). But Bach was much more than a good composer. He was much more than a superlatively good composer. He was... well, Bach.

He could write extremely intricate pieces, obeying very strong constraints, and pack them with additional meaning [of a non-musical nature] and at the same time make them sound very simple and natural [there are many explicit and undeniable instances of this in the cantatas, as we all know here], and when hearing the music one sometimes feels that he didn't have to put on his thinking cap to do it.

The fact that the music he produced is good to hear doesn't prove that it is only good to hear. Obviously the graphic aspect of his music matters; it is a fact, not a vague romantic theory, that Bach was not solely cwith the effect of his music on the ears of his listeners. Is the BACH theme the result of a coincidence? Consider the fourth fugue of the WTC. The four kreuz's which form a meta-kreuz in the key-signature, the kreuz-shaped theme; the fact that this fugue definitely sounds deeply relegious even to an irredeemable agnostic frenchman. Can one reasonably assume that all this never occurred to Bach when he wrote this fugue, especially considering his background? Not only was he a christian (and, which is more to the point, a christian composer); he was also a man who lived in a time when symbols and emblems were greatly valued. In the cantatas, in chorales - in about half of his works, he explicitly put more that just sounds in his music, but stuffed it with meaning. How can one reasonably assume that in his instrumental works he systematically refrained from doing what in the remainder of his works he did all the time, as naturally as if he were just breathing?

Does this mean that all the speculations about Bach's secret meaning are true? Of course, not, and it's hard to determine what Bach actually meant and what is a mere coincidence. More to the point, there is no definite test in this matter - a serious problem from a scientific point of view. Not Bach's problem, but ours... if we choose to see it as a problem; we may also choose to see it as an additional degree of freedom for creative thinking! Take the numerological aspect, for example. For a 'modern' man, this seems silly. Numbers are just digits and so what? But, if you read Marcel Granet's La Pensée Chinoise, you'll see that for other civilizations numbers mean more than Bourbaki's definition : each number has a symbolic, quasi magical value of its own. In this respect, Bach doesn't belong to our civilization; this reduction of the notion of number to a mere computational tool is quite recent, actually. Musing about the esoteric meaning Bach may have hidden in his work is part of the pleasure I have listening to his music, or meditating about it.

Now does this mean that an interpreter should figure out all the hidden meaning and play in such a way as to bring it forth? I'm no interpreter, no musicologist, and at the time when you read this I have probably lost my head (if not, thank you Thomas!) so take what comes next for what it's worth : I don't think so. For one thing, it's impossible. But even if it were, it is not the interpreter's job. If Bach kept things hidden, he meant them to remain hidden (to the ear, I mean) so this should not interfere with interpretation, in my humble opinion. Playing a piece in a manner contrary to its musical logic in order to spotlight a supposedly meaningful detail would be underestimating Bach's ability to incorporate subliminal signals in a seamless way.

Neil Mason wrote (November 16, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] Ah Thomas....

You may choose to disagree, but it doesn't mean I'm wrong!!!

This is not a matter of science but of aesthetics.

Now, as it happens, I agree with you with respect to SOME recordings of, for example, Harnoncourt.

But your comment simply doesn't apply to the likes of later recordings such as those by Gardiner.

In trying to make your point you over-generalize, IMHO.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 16, 2005):
BWV 109/1

This chorus rewards close examination and listening.

The initial dotted-note motive, which eventually occurs in all the parts, soon devolves into a `figura corta' (mentioned by Thomas Braatz recently) - 'long, short, short' rhythm - that has an important use in the vocal parts later on (with the "-nem Um-" - of "meinem Unglauben" occurring on the `short, short' part of the rhythm).

An interesting aspect of the opening ritornello is the Brandenburg Concerto-like contrast between `soli' and `tutti' passages, with canonical entries of the dotted-note motive being a major feature of this section.

Soon after solo sopranos, then full choir, then solo sopranos (most effectively a single soprano, to judge from the Suzuki example) have introduced the first part of the text "I believe, Lord" we have the second part of the text "help my unbelief" straight away presented by sopranos, then by full choir accompanied by an important swinging octave- interval figure on the horn. It's certainly interesting to speculate that this henceforth frequently occurring stark, striking figure on the horn (always in conjunction with the words "help my unbelief') is a musical representation of vacillation between faith and doubt, belief and unbelief.

The most glorious, moving writing does seem to occur on these latter words; note the lovely,long choral melisma of 1/16th notes on the "-glau" of "Unglauben" given by A and T, followed by S and B. (The ecstasy of belief, with the sting of unbelief close by).

Toward the end of the movement this extended choral melisma occurs again, this time presented in the order B and S, then A and T. The music reaches a glorious climax soon after, with punctuating chords in the orchestra accompanying a stretto like BTAS choral exposition on "help my unbelief".

There follows a moment of sheer magic and genius reserved for the very last statement of these words for full choir; at the very instant when the basses reach to their high C (middle C) on "hilf", all other voices (and instruments except for continuo) are silent for a quaver rest, resulting in the basses momentarily dominating the texture, as if Bach wishes to express, right at the movement's climax, the depth of the emotion and anguish involved in unbelief and doubt, and the great need of God's help.

As noted above, Suzuki's arrangement of the choir into solo and tutti passages [5] is very effective, and shows the superiority over the OVPP approach adopted by Koopman [3] (to judge from the samples; the BCW has links to amazon samples). However, I enjoyed the charming chamber-like presentation of the ritornello, in Koopman's recording, featuring a harpsichord in the continuo. It appears Koopman does not use a horn, which might have significant consequences later on in the movement.

Rilling [1] and Leusink [6] employ full choir throughout. Rilling's (1971?) performance builds up to a stunning climax of clearly delineated choral and instrumental complexity.

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 16, 2005):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< As noted above, Suzuki's arrangement of the choir into solo and tutti passages [5] is very effective, and shows the superiority over the OVPP approach adopted by Koopman [3] (to judge from the samples; the BCW has links to amazon samples). However, I enjoyed the charming chamber- like presentation of the ritornello, in Koopman's recording, featuring a harpsichord in the continuo. It appears Koopman does not use a horn, which might have significant consequences later on in the movement.
Rilling
[1] and Leusink [6] employ full choir throughout. Rilling's (1971?) performance builds up to a stunning climax of clearly delineated choral and instrumental complexity. >
Is there anything in the score -- in a comparable score -- which justifies the solo and tutti markings? If not, then I would say that the cantata really should be OVPP. Full choir on the "solo" sections of the chorus does not work and Suzuki [5] instinctively deploys his forces to reflect the music -- that's just good choral leadership. It is my imagination but does Leusink's choir [6] sound more tired and flat than usual in this cantata?

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 16, 2005):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>Is there anything in the score -- in a comparable score -- which justifies the solo and tutti markings?<<
What is a 'comparable score'? The Kubik-Breitkopf & Härtel score?

The NBA I/25 gives the following authentic (in Bach's own handwriting) markings as follows: (Most, but not all of these, were entereon the original parts and did not exist on the autograph score -- from these marking other similar parts and recurring situations could be similarly marked -- the NBA makes these appear in smaller print)

m 17 Oboe 1 (2nd 8th note) 'p' for 'piano'

m 18 Violino 1 (high F which occurs as the next 8th note to follow immediately at the conclusion of the Soprano phrase - the soprano phrase/line is the equivalent to a pastor (solo) singing a line of the liturgy to the congregation to which the entire congregation answers with a shorter, antiphonal response having the same phrase in the soprano - it can be assumed at not only the 1st violin, but also the remaining instruments would play a normal forte also)

m 20 Oboe 1 marked 'p' on the 2nd 16th note - this is the very spot where the 3 voices supporting the soprano drop out - all other instruments drop out (except Bc)and the 1st violin is clearly marked 'solo' so as to preserve the balance between the Soprano (we can assume 'solo' here as well) and the 1st Oboe which is playing 'piano.')

m. 23 Violino 1 on the 16th-note pickup to the 3rd beat - "tutti" in slightly different color ink - could still be Bach's indication, perhaps from a repeat performance

m 30 entrances of the Oboe 1 and Violino 1 marked 'p' with both reverting to 'f' on the 2nd half of the 1st beat in m. 31

m 41 the last 16th note is marked 'f' for both Oboe 1 and Violino 1

m 43 each entrance of the Oboe 1 and Violino 1 is marked 'p'

m 44 ditto for Oboe 2 and Violino 2

m 47 the last 16th is marked 'f' in the viola part, but it can be assumed that the other string and oboe parts would play similarly.

m 51 the entrance in mid measure of Oboe 1 is marked 'f'

m 55 the entrances of Violino 1 and Oboe 1 are marked 'p' and both revert to a 'f' on the 2nd 16th note of m 56

m 61 on the 2nd half of the 3rd beat 'f' for Oboe 1

m 64 on the 2nd beat of Violino 1 part: 'p'

m 66 on the 16th note pickup to beat 3 Violino 1 'f'

mm 67 - 69 entrances of Viola (on 2nd half of 1st beat), Violino 2, Oboe 2, Violino 1, Oboe 1 marked 'p' (this could be an indication that soli vocal parts are expected for the florid melismata in this section

m 72 (mid-measure pickup for Viola and Oboe 2 'f' (it can be assumed that the other strings and oboe do likewise)

m 87 the Violino 1 entrance with the instrumental motif is marked clearly 'solo' and in m 88 with the repeat of the motif one note higher the Violino 1 part is marked 'tutti' This is the same thing that happens in mm 9 and 10 in the introductory ritornello.

Summary:

The markings to reduce the volume by marking a 'p' or indicating 'solo' seems to imply that the vocal part (usually singing a florid part alone without the other voices) is intended for a single voice.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 16, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< To be sure, in some of the instances, it is possible that Bach needed to make certain choices in the size of the leap because the harmonic progressions preceding and following it demanded a different note; however, a jump upward of a 9th, for instance, is obviously conspicuous to the reader of the part/score. It could, however, easily be overlooked (and not heard by a listener) by a conductor (particularly HIP) who considers the sizes of leaps in the main instrumental motif as insignificant for a performance of this movement since these leaps, in the mind of such a conductor, are 'simply decorative and serve no other real purpose than to provide a little variety.' >
And you know what's "in the mind of such a conductor"......HOW?

And "particularly HIP" has anything to do with this...exactly HOW?

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 16, 2005):
>>...the most egregious example I can recall in Bach came, admittedly not from an orchestra and chorus, but from Walter Gieseking, hardly an HIP-er, in his recording of the Partitas, all six of which appear on a single disc and at such a blinding speed that handfuls of notes disappear in a blur.<<
< As a pianist who was born and grew up in France and who subsequently spent much time there, Gieseking's forte was French Impressionism (Debussy, Ravel, etc.) the techniques of which (as formidable as they are) he naturally applied to his interpretations of Bach. >
What an over-generalization that does disservice to Gieseking! Yes, the man grew up on the French and Italian Rivieras, up to age 16, but how does it have anything to do with pulling "French impressionism" into Bach?!

Gieseking famously was a phenomenal sight-reader who could learn just about anything in one or two play-throughs. It's that facility of his that (I believe) informed his interpretations, more than any "French impressionism" influences in particular. His hobby as a child was to sight-read through entire opera scores in an afternoon, to learn them. And by the time at age 16 he went to the Hanover Conservatory, he had already memorized most of Bach's keyboard music, all of Chopin/Beethoven/Schumann, and a lot of Schubert/Mendelssohn/Liszt.

[Notes to the "Music & Arts" issue of his broadcast recitals 1949-51, #743: includes Beethoven, Schumann, and Bach...almost all the inventions/sinfonias, two of the French suites, four of the English suites.]

Yes, Gieseking was very good at Debussy and Ravel. So? He was a phenomenal pianist all-round. So?

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 16, 2005):
Alain Bruguieres wrote:
< Dear Brad, Thomas, and All,
I'm happy!
I disagree with Brad on this, and at last I can prove to Thomas that I do not always take Brad's side and I have retained some capacity for independent thinking! Thank you very much, Brad, for this opportunity of saving my head! >
Glad to oblige! :)

< I definitely cannot adhere to the ideas expressed by Brad here. If he were talking about Haendel, well, ok. Bach, not ok.
All right, Bach was a good composer and the music he wrote was probably perfectly adapted to what was expected of him. (even if his employers didn't always think so...). But Bach was much more than a good composer. He was much more than a superlatively good composer. He was... well, Bach. >
Agreed.

< He could write extremely intricate pieces, obeying very strong constraints, and pack them with additional meaning [of a non-musical nature] and at the same time make them sound very simple and natural [there are many explicit and undeniable instances of this in the cantatas, as we all know here], and when hearing the music one sometimes feels that he didn't have to put on his thinking cap to do it. >
Another good model in this regard is Frescobaldi, operating compositionally within deliberate restraints to see what can happen.... Like the pieces where all suspensions resolve upwards, or all melodies move only by leaps instead of steps.

< The fact that the music he produced is good to hear doesn't prove that it is only good to hear. Obviously the graphic aspect of his music matters; it is a fact, not a vague romantic theory, that Bach was not solely concerned with the effect of his music on the ears of his listeners. Is the BACH theme the result of a coincidence? Consider the fourth fugue of the WTC. The four kreuz's which form a meta-kreuz in the key-signature, >
Or a diamond... And recall also that the first manuscripts had all these compositions in soprano clef in the right hand, instead of treble clef, and that layout of the sharps on the page was therefore different from the way we see it in modern editions.... The minor music didn't have the same modern number of symbols in the key signature, either, until at least Bach's second or third copy preparing the autograph manuscript. I don't know offhand how many sharps this piece originally had in its C# minor signature in the earliest drafts: three, four, or five.

It was also quite common for Bach to reproduce the flats or sharps at the tops and bottoms of the staves; for example, C minor pieces in manuscript (e.g. organ continuo part of cantata BWV 46) having what look like five flats because the Bb and Ab are given at both the bottom and top. In the full-score opening page of cantata BWV 49, with the organ playing in D major, the right hand staff has two sharps displayed and the left hand staff has three. And the first violin part, playing in E major, has six sharps displayed but the second violin part immediately under it has only four.

< the kreuz-shaped theme; >
Only if one draws lines between the 1st and 4th notes, and the 2nd and 3rd notes, instead of connecting them serially...which would make a nice zigzag looking nothing like a "diagonal, recumbent cross" (Hermann Keller's designation, 1965, translated 1976). Why would anyone connect the notes in some different sequence from the sequence in which they're played? What if Bach in making a zigzag with those four notes was trying to illustrate the shape of a serrated knife? Or something else? Or nothing?

The same observation holds, for the different ways some people draw or imagine "lines" in the sky making the constellations. What is it that makes five or six arbitrarily chosen stars into a particular animal or mythical figure, as viewed only from one particular planet?

< the fact that this fugue definitely sounds deeply relegious even to an irredeemable agnostic frenchman. >
I can't argue with that, how the piece sounds to you or anyone else, but it just sounds like a good piece of music to me when I listen to or play it. And it has some delightfully crunchy spots. I don't see why this is necessarily religious, or irreligious.

< Can one reasonably assume that all this never occurred to Bach when he wrote this fugue, especially considering his background? Not only was he a christian (and, which is more to the point, a christian composer); he was also a man who lived in a time when symbols and emblems were greatly valued. In the cantatas, in chorales - in about half of his works, he explicitly put more that just sounds in his music, but stuffed it with meaning. How can one reasonably assume that in his instrumental works he systematically refrained from doing what in the remainder of his works he did all the time, as naturally as if he were just breathing?
Does this mean that all the speculations about Bach's secret meaning are true? Of course, not, and it's hard to determine what Bach actually meant and what is a mere coincidence. >
Amen to that!

A long time ago, in college, under the influence of Schumann's "ABEGG" variations and "Carnaval", I wrote a keyboard piece that contained the coded name of a girl I had a crush on, influencing my choice of notes at that point. She never knew, and neither did anybody else but me. Does her name actually exist in that composition, then or now, or is it all imaginary, existing only in my personal memory?

< More to the point, there is no definite test in this matter - a serious problem from a scientific point of view. Not Bach's problem, but ours... if we choose to see it as a problem; we may also choose to see it as an additional degree of freedom for creative thinking! Take the numerological aspect, for example. For a 'modern' man, this seems silly. Numbers are just digits and so what? But, if you read Marcel Granet's La Pensée Chinoise, you'll see that for other civilizations numbers mean more than Bourbaki's definition: each number has a symbolic, quasi magical value of its own. In this respect, Bach doesn't belong to our civilization; this reduction of the notion of number to a mere computational tool is quite recent, actually. Musing about the esoteric meaning Bach may have hidden in his work is part of the pleasure I have listening to his music, or meditating about it. >
Fair enough.

< Now does this mean that an interpreter should figure out all the hidden meaning and play in such a way as to bring it forth? I'm no interpreter, no musicologist, and at the time when you read this I have probably lost my head (if not, thank you Thomas!) so take what comes next for what it's worth : I don't think so. For one thing, it's impossible. But even if it were, it is not the interpreter's job. If Bach kept things hidden, he meant them to remain hidden (to the ear, I mean) so this should not interfere with interpretation, in my humble opinion. Playing a piece in a manner contrary to its musical logic in order to spotlight a supposedly meaningful detail would be underestimating Bach's ability to incorporate subliminal signals in a seamless way. >
Agreed!

Something I find currently interesting: when playing in what I believe to be Bach's temperament, the notes written on the page with accidental sharps do make a noticeable effect in the sound, because of the way they inject irregular intervals into the musical texture. This is especially noticeable in music that's in D minor or A minor or E minor. The intruding sharped-notes draw attention to themselves with a perceptible "hardness" from making different-sized semitones with their neighbors. Try the sample of the F# minor fugue at: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/larips/samples.html and you might hear what I mean. Whenever the notes A# and E# show up, as accidentals outside the key signature, they are especially high in melodic context. I didn't have to do anything special while playing the piece to bring those out; they emerge just from being tuned especially high. Likewise in the C major prelude there; any note marked with a flat or a sharp calls attention to itself, slightly, by being irregular against the context of 1/6 comma naturals. And some of those did influence me as a player to give them a slightly additional accentuation...because of the things the sound was already doing, as I listened and played.

And then I'd argue again, this is music and the important events are there primarily to be heard directly in the sound; not merely stared at on paper. Or else they're not important enough to bother with. If we play these pieces in equal temperament, it becomes only an on-paper phenomenon, and anything inaudible is (in my opinion) probably not part of the music. To me, the selection of particular notes because of the special way they sound is a lot more compelling reason for a composer than any mere on-paper games. It allows Bach to have worked within his own best medium of expression: musical sound.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 17, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>And you know what's "in the mind of such a conductor"......HOW?<<
The same way that you know what Bach had in mind when he placed some decorative squiggles at the top of the WTC1 title page.

>>And "particularly HIP" has anything to do with this...exactly HOW?
Because non-HIP performances generally will give full value to each note without resorting to unnecessary 'gesturing' which causes unaccented notes to become almost inaudible or completely disappear. A generally slower, more cantabile phrasing will usually cure the HIP tendency toward allowing certain notes to be seriously weakened.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 17, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>To me, the selection of particular notes because of the special way they sound is a lot more compelling reason for a composer than any mere on-paper games.<<
What about that 'mere on-paper game' in the form of squiggles at the top of the autograph score of Bach's WTC1 title page? An interpretation of those squiggles is now supposed to change entirely the way we should hear Bach's music in the future?

Also, the 'selection of particular notes' in the instrumental motif' is what this thread is supposed to discuss and the different interval leaps 'do have a special sound' if the first note of the motif can be heard by the listener. So it does seem to be a 'compelling reason' to be examining these interval leaps more closely.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 17, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>And you know what's "in the mind of such a conductor "....HOW?<<
I do not claim to "know what's "in the mind of such a conductor." However, it is possible to judge a conductor on the results he has produced.

>>And "particularly HIP" has anything to do with this...exactly HOW?<<
You may not like categories. That happens to be your choice. believe that categories can be helpful in understanding the differences created (sometimes based upon false assumptions or careless research) between the return to 'the way Bach did it or would have experienced it' and the earlier 'let's stay with the old traditions that have come down to us.' Both of these approaches have their strong and weak points.

Specifically, HIP has its weak points in generally preferring a 'lite' entertaining style with faster tempi than usual and heavier accents on some notes to the detriment of others. These things do have a bearing on just how the first interval leap of the instrumental motif in BWV 109/1 will be performed.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 17, 2005):
BWV 109: movements 2 - 6

The tenor recitative (movement #2) is unusual in that it has alternate `forte' and `piano' markings for each successive line or sentence of text. Robertson says this is unique in the cantatas. Each `positive/hopeful' (forte) section is followed by a `piano' section, occurring three times in the course of the movement after the appearance of the words "Ach nein", which expresses the opposite viewpoint of doubt/fear. The closing short arioso, forte, anxiously asks "Lord, how long?", with the tenor's last note falling on an unresolved (in his line) A, in the key of E minor. (Note: this recitative begins - with apparently false confidence - in an unruffled B flat major!).

Equiluz, supported by correspondingly expressive continuo strings, is able to bring considerable variety of expression in Rilling's performance [1], taking note of the changing `forte' and `piano' markings in the score. There appears to be less scope for such variety of expression, judging by all the HIP examples, where the minimal accompaniment results in the vocalist having to carry most of the expression, unaided by the instruments. (No doubt, if Rilling had used a piano instead of a harpsichord in the continuo, even more expression could have been brought to this movement).

Thus the stage is set for a forceful, agitated E minor tenor aria of impressive dotted rhythm and melodic vigour (especially in Rilling's performance [1]). The string ritornellos have rich four-part writing, and there is an important wedge-shaped motive with intervals increasing from a 2nd to a 7th, in association with the jagged dotted rhythm. Equiluz brings the necessary passion to the vocal part. This aria brings to mind another forceful tenor aria expressing strong emotional agitation, namely, that of BWV 153.

The melodious alto aria features the two animated closely intertwined oboe parts. Schreckenbach is one of Rilling's better altos [1]; though the vibrato is sometimes too insistent/pronounced, her voice has a lovely rich timbre.

The final movement turns out to be a splendid, fully developed large-scale chorus with a powerful, uncomplicated rhythmic pulse (in 4/4 time) which results partly from the continuo's repeated downward-swinging octave figure on the 1st two beats in the bar. The animated scale-like passages in the strings (and sometimes in the oboes) are most effective, with the first and second violins sometimes moving in contrary, as well as similar motion. The additional colour of the soaring, unwavering horn part doubling the sopranos complements the expression of Bach's rock solid faith and confidence in God's help, despite earthly misfortune and peril.

The harmonisation of the chorale tune is glorious, especially in the large-scale Rilling performance [1]. I like the vast, if slightly leisurely rhythmic pulse Rilling brings to this chorus (4.22). At the other extreme, Suzuki's recording sounds [5], IMO, as if someone has mistakenly set the turntable at 45 RPM (to use the old terminology). The score is marked "allegro", not "prestissimo". The lower sections of the 1st and 2nd violin lines, with the crossing parts, are inaudible at this fast tempo (2.53). Strictly for those who like frenetic tempos.

John Pike wrote (November 17, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< A long time ago, in college, under the influence of Schumann's "ABEGG" variations and "Carnaval", I wrote a keyboard piece that contained the coded name of a girl I had a crush on, influencing my choice of notes at that point. She never knew, and neither did anybody else but me. Does her name actually exist in that composition, then or now, or is it all imaginary, existing only in my personal memory? >
A very entertaining anecdote. It reminds me of Brahms's "Agathe" theme in his second string sextet, Op.36, of 1864/5 (or the FAE Sonata (Frei aber Einsam, Free but Lonely)).

In Op.36, the notes A-G-A-H(B)-E are conspicuously introduced at the end of the second subject in the first movement. Brahms is citing the Christian name of Agathe von Siebold, to whom Brahms had been engaged in the summer of 1858, over 6 years before. He broke off the relationship shortly after, partly out of unwillingness to commit and partly out of his unaltered love for Clara Schumann, with whom he had officially split up in 1856.

John Pike wrote (November 17, 2005):
BWV 109

I think this is another very fine cantata. The opening and closing choruses are superb and there are 2 fine arias, especially the alto one.

I have listened to Suzuki [5], Rilling [1], Harnoncourt [2] and Leusink [6].

Suzuki [5] gives a wonderful account of the exquisitely beautiful opening chorus. It is very nicely shaped. I also enjoyed Rilling's recording of this movement very much. There seem to be some intonation problems with Harnoncourt's [2] and Leusink's [6] accounts of this opening movement. I usually enjoy Leusink's recordings a lot, but I found him not as enjoyable as usual this week. This may be partly because I think there may be a fault with the CD I have.

I agree with Neil about the excellent contrast between piano and forte sections in Rilling's account of the tenor aria [1] and this was my favourite recording of this aria. The other recordings were enjoyable but the contrast was less marked than with Rilling. However, I am not sure I agree with the reason for this. Suzuki [5], for example, takes quite a slow tempo for this movement.

The vibrato of Rilling's alto spoilt my enjoyment of the alto aria, but the other recordings are all most enjoyable, especially Suzuki [5].

I do not see how Suzuki's [5] tempo for the superb final movement can be described as "Prestissimo" by any stretch of the imagination. It seemed an eminently suitable allegro to me, and I found Suzuki's account of this movement very energetic and thrilling.

Incidentally, Suzuki's recording of the opening movement of BWV 148 on the same CD is an absolute joy. I could spend the rest of the day listening to it!

Rank order (for what it is worth): Suzuki [5] - Rilling (except alto aria) [1] - Harnoncourt [2] - Leusink [6].

Santu de Silva wrote (November 17, 2005):
Ooh! I'm just as happy as the other list member . . .

Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>And you know what's "in the mind of such a conductor >>
"....HOW?
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< I do not claim to "know what's "in the mind of such a conductor." However, it is possible to judge a conductor on the results he has produced.
...
You may not like categories. That happens to be your choice. I believe that categories can be helpful in understanding the differences created ... between the return to 'the way Bach did it or would have experienced it' and the ear'let's stay with the old traditions that have come down to us.' Both of these approaches have their strong and weak points.
Specifically, HIP has its weak points in generally preferring a 'lite' entertaining style with faster tempi than usual and heavier accents on some notes to the detriment of others. >
Tom has made a good defense of the human strength --and failing-- of making generalizations. Without generalization we can make no progress at all; all we have is We Like Bach.

On the other hand, I believe Tom goes a little overboard in claiming that HIP performers tend to provide a "light, entertaining performance."

In the first place, there are HIP performers and HIP performers; one can see how early efforts of those such as Hogwood and Harnoncourt were faster than those of the Royal Philharmonic we listened to in the 40s and 50s. Once it was seen how effective the faster tempi were, there seemed to be a trend towards doing things a little TOO fast. Slow, serious movements did suffer most -- but I would say, not so much as to cause as much concern as Tom feels.

But often a HIP ensemble hits the perfect pace even for slow movements. So a blanket criticism of HIP performances as being cavalier with the emphases of the written music is not warranted, IMO.

On another topic:
A semi-HIP performer who doesn't get much time on this list is Menuhin and the Bath Festival O. I find his Orchestral Suites the most satisfying of all. Wonderful, emotional dance movements (with all notes given perfect emphasis), amazing, bell-like brass (what is he using: baroque trumpets? They seem a little too 'perfect' to be baroque...) and amazingly enlightened values for the late 60s, when these were recorded. What a treasure was Menuhin!

In contrast, Rilling's performances are often unsatisfying. His Matthew Passion (BWV 244) is good (I have only a single disc of exerpts), but some of his cantatas sound heavy and too massive. I have no problem with weight as such; one of my favorite composers is Wagner, and some Wagner moments are undeniably massive. But Rilling's performance of BWV 199, for instance, is close to intolerable.

John Pike wrote (November 17, 2005):
Brad Lehman wrote:
< Where is it written by anybody BUT YOURSELF that any "HIP" musicians prefer overall a "lite entertaining style", as an active and definite preference?
I believe it's just your own categorization to slap a label onto it as unworthy (i.e. against YOUR preferences), and then to dismiss the practitioners as having presumably flawed motivations. The sound produced is a "weak point" only in YOUR rhetoric!
And "faster tempi than usual" means what? What's "usual"? >
I agree 100%.

These continued daily attacks on HIP musicians, which are unsubstantiated and based purely on Mr Braatz's own tastes, are very wearisome. I am only allowed to say on this list that I beg to differ most strongly with the sentiments he has expressed. My own thoughts about them are not printable.

Johan van Veen wrote (November 18, 2005):

Thomas Braatz wrote:
>>Specifically, HIP has its weak points in generally preferring a 'lite' entertaining style with faster tempi than usual and heavier accents on some notes to the detriment of others. These things do have a bearing on just how the first interval leap of the instrumental motif in BWV 109/1 will be performed. <<
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Where is it written by anybody BUT YOURSELF that any "HIP" musicians prefer overall a "lite entertaining style", as an active and definite preference? >
I know some people who consider Gustav Leonhardt - one of Mr Braatz' 'bêtes noirs' - as anything but 'entertaining'. And his aim has certainly never been to just 'entertain' his audiences.

Mr Braatz continues to act like Don Quixote: fighting against windmills. He still doesn't know he can't win.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 18, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Specifically, HIP has its weak points in generally preferring a 'lite' entertaining style with faster tempi than usual and heavier accents on some notes to the detriment of others. These things do have a bearing on just how the first interval leap of the instrumental motif in BWV 109/1 will be performed. >
Where is it written by anybody BUT YOURSELF that any "HIP" musicians prefer overall a "lite entertaining style", as an active and definite preference?

I believe it's just your own categorization to slap a label onto it as unworthy (i.e. against YOUR preferences), and then to dismiss the practitioners as having presumably flawed motivations. The sound produced is a "weak point" only in YOUR rhetoric!

And "faster tempi than usual" means what? What's "usual"?

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 18, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< What is a 'comparable score'? The Kubik-Breitkopf & Härtel score? >
I meant another cantata chorus which has the same kind of solo and tutti structure.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 18, 2005):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
<"I meant another cantata chorus which has the same kind of solo and tutti structure">.
As you know, there are certainly other choruses in which Bach has specified 'solo' and 'tutti' passages in the vocal parts, in the BGA. I found this message (#14731) of mine regarding BWV 24:
<"Rilling vivdly captures the contrast between the 'soli' and 'tutti' passages in the fugue of the following chorus - you can hear the soloists gradually being incorporated into the choir from the bass up, until the soprano alone is singing against the entire choir and orchestra for a few bars, before the soprano part is also taken over by the choir. (This chorus is one of a number we have considered that cannot be performed OVPP if Bach's designations of 'soli' and 'tutti' are observed). Rilling and Suzuki, with polished performances, have the liveliest, most engaging tempos, in the two sections of the chorus">.

As Thomas has shown, in 109/1 the 'solo' and 'tutti' markings in the score are confined to the instrumental parts, but the very existence of these markings suggests that similar treatment of the vocal parts, where appropriate, may have been intended by Bach.

Compare Koopman (OVPP), and Suzuki who contrasts vocal soloists with full choir. Which approach best captures the dynamic contrasts of the vocal and instrumental material, and makes for the most satisfying reading of this expansive chorus?

Rilling [1] quite often takes the opportunity to contrast vocal soloists with choir - I'm surprised he did not do so in BWV 109/1.

I notice the opening chorus of BWV 110 on the same CD - the overture of the 4th Orchestral Suite, with vocal parts added to the cental (fast) section - has 'tutti' and 'senza ripieno' designations in the vocal parts (BGA), followed by Rilling, but I'm sure I have also seen cases where Rilling takes this approach, where appropriate, even if there are no such markings in the score.

[BTW, Rilling's performanne of the 'French overture'introduction in BWV 110/1 is a particularly fine example of the stately non-HIP approach to this genre, with great clarity in all the parts including thrilling trumpets and timpani].

Conclusion, the employment of OVPP is certainly contradicted in a number of instances by Bach himself; as to the default position, I personally enjoy larger scale performances of the cantatas, but I have heard some engaging OVPP versions.

Neil Mason wrote (November 18, 2005):
BWV 109/1 The Instrumental Motif - and Menuhin

[To Santu de Silva] Interesting comments about Rilling's performances [1].

I too find Rilling to be too heavy in many instances. His bass lines in particular often seem to have too many instruments playing them.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 18, 2005):
Neil Mason wrote:
<"(Rilling's) bass lines in particular often seem to have too many instruments playing them".>
I think the problem is mostly due to the lack of phrasing in the continuo; and depending on the shape of the music, this can result in a more or less continuous legato, has the effect of thickening the sound of the bass. In Rilling's BWV 109/1 also [1], this problem exists to some degree, not helped by the "thick" "raspy" timbre of the continuo organ which you can hear at the start, but fortunately there are positive aspects to this performance.

It's the opposite problem that plagues much of the Harnoncourt set [2], namely, excessively short phrasing, overuse of non-legato and staccato, resulting in a disruption to the music's natural flow.

Hoping to hear the happy medium.

Santu de Silva wrote (November 18, 2005):
Neil Mason wrote:
<"(Rilling's) bass lines [1] in particular often seem to have too many instruments playing them".>
Neil Halliday replies:
"I think the problem is mostly due to the lack of phrasing in the continuo; and depending on the shape of the music, this can result in a more or less continuous legato, which has the effect of thickening the sound of the bass. In Rilling's BWV 109/1 also [1], this problem exists to some degree, not helped by the "thick" "raspy" timbre of the continuo organ which you can hear at the start, but fortunately there are positive aspects to this performance.
"It's the opposite problem that plagues much of the Harnoncourt set
[2], namely, excessively short phrasing, overuse of non-legato and staccato, resulting in a disruption to the music's natural flow.
"Hoping to hear the happy medium."
I think this is wonderful; we all like something in between these two extremes, and different performances could appeal to our different tastes. Menuhin's performances --undeniably more romantic than most HIPsters like-- tend to favor long phrases, but compared to Rilling [1], they have a beautiful elasticity together with the brilliant phrasing that Menuhin demanded of his string players. In "The Orchestra Speaks," the writer describes how they longed to have Menuhin actually play a phrase for them, but he wouldn't-- at that time. Later, I suppose, he may have done so.
Towards the end of his life, of course, his playing was nowhere as effective as his conducting.

Menuhin used small orchestras; often just one or two violas, and the rest of the orchestra scaled to match. List members should give a listen to Menuhin's recordings!

John Pike wrote (November 18, 2005):
[To Neil Halliday] I can't see that "solo" and "tutti" markings exclude OVPP. Please explain.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 19, 2005):
Re: 'soli' and 'tutti' in BWV 110/1 (was 109/1)

John Pike wrote:
< I can't see that "solo" and "tutti" markings exclude OVPP. Please explain. >
"Tutti" means something more than an SATB quartet of singers.

This is made clear in the BGA score of BWV 110/1, where at one point the 4 SATB vocal staves, all carrying music, are crossed by a thick line with "Tutti" at the top, and then initially only the A and T lines continue on, making for an interesting contrast between the SATB quartet and the massed altos and tenors of the choir, before all four staves are again occupied. (Annoyingly, the first couple of pages of the score are missing from my CD-ROM copy of the BGA, so I can't see the intial designation of "soli" which must nevertheless be there.)

Moreover, further on in the score, an extended passage written for the bass line alone, is marked "senza ripieno" in brackets, implying that this line is not to be sung by the choir basses, but by a solo bass.

This score was written for Christmas 1725 (or rather, the vocal parts were added to already existing music for that occasion), and revised in 1735 (according to an LP record sleeve note).

--------

[BTW, since Arch mentioned Menuhin and the Suites, I dug up an old HMV LP of Menhuhin and the Bath Festival Chamber Orchestra; interestingly the opening of the 4th Suite, identical to the beginning of BWV 110/1 (ie, the 'slow' section of the French overture), is taken at the same tempo and sounds very similar to the beginning of Rilling's BWV 110/1. The contrast of the unique combination of grace and stateliness of these conceptions of the French overture form, compared with the HIP sharply pointed rhythms, is remarkable (I have no doubt that the general points Arch made about Menuhin's phrasing, especially in the other movements, are correct)].

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 19, 2005):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>>This is made clear in the BGA score of BWV 110/1, where at one point the 4 SATB vocal staves, all carrying music, are crossed by a thick line with "Tutti" at the top, and then initially only the A and T lines continue on, making for an interesting
contrast between the SATB quartet and the massed altos and tenors of the choir, before all four staves are again occupied. (Annoyingly, the first couple of pages of the score are missing from my CD-ROM copy of the BGA, so I can't see the intial designation of "soli" which must nevertheless be there.)<<
In the autograph score the entrances of the vocal parts at the beginning are marked 'Con ripieni.' For the original set of parts, Bach had a copyist copy out the normal, complete vocal parts (including the soli) and then personally copied out separate copies of only the ripieno parts. There is no way that Bach's intention could be construed to imply OVPP. Also, Andrew Parrott in his "The Essential Bach Choir" [Boydell, 2000] p. 69, comments as follows on BWV 110/1: "There are surviving 'in Ripieno' parts for SAT but not for B; [true - and this may be additional proof for how easily these parts were lost] the 'con/senza ripieni' indications in NBA are editorial [not true]." Parrott seems to have little experience in reading the NBA scores properly. This cantata was prepared by Alfred Dürr who examined and discussed everything with the greatest care. It is possible to distinguish in the NBA score which markings are editorial and which are not. It appears that Parrott has not learned how to do this correctly. I sincerely doubt that he has examined the autograph score and original parts to be able to distinguish what is editorial and what is not.

Neil Mason wrote (November 20, 2005):
[To Santu de Silva] I haven't heard any recordings of Menuhin conducting Bach cantatas, but recently I listened to an old cassette I have of him conducting Händel's Coronation Anthems, a performance which I have consistently enjoyed over the years.

When I conduct Bach cantatas (and Händel) here in Brisbane, I use a very small orchestra (even for Messiah, which is usually played here with much larger forces). I find that OVPP - referring to instrumental voices - works very well balanced with an amateur choir of about 40 in a church situation. I must admit that when I first started doing this it was for practical reasons of expense, but now I actually prefer the sound.

As to Rilling, I find Neil Halliday's comment about phrasing logical, and will listen further with that in mind. I do find Leusink very fine instrumentally, but sometimes the singers (solo and choir) leave something to be desired.

Santu de Silva wrote (November 21, 2005):
Neil Halliday writes:
[BTW, since Arch mentioned Menuhin and the Suites, I dug up an old HMV LP of Menhuhin and the Bath Festival Chamber Orchestra; interestingly the opening of the 4th Suite, identical to the beginning of BWV 110/1 (ie, the 'slow' section of the French overture), is taken at the same tempo and sounds very similar to the beginning of Rilling's BWV 110/1. The contrast of the unique combination of grace and stateliness of these conceptions of the French overture form, compared with the HIP sharply pointed rhythms, is remarkable (I have no doubt that the general points Arch made about Menuhin's phrasing, especially in the other movements, are correct)].
True; I remember the Overture of Suite No. 1 -- quite a contrast to HIPinterpretations. But already Menuhin was writing (in the liner notes) that the music should make one feel like dancing. It was a further step to suggest that even the sacred music should have one feeling the rhythm in one's bones; something that I feel is perfectly reasonable, even for grave and solemn music; I don't know whether Menuhin ever gave an opinion on that point. There seems to be a common opinion among certain members of the list (and the Bach List too, bless them,) that solemn, sad and grave music should not be associated with physical movement, certainly not a dance. This directly contradicts the fact that in many cultures there were dances of death,or dances of consolation, and funeral marches, and so forth.

But, to return to your point; I must admit that Menuhin's overtures, satisfying though they are, are not authentic; not as authentically performed as, for instance, Marriner, or Leonard, or Koopman (the only HIP versions I remember owning).

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 109: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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