Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

Cantata BWV 119
Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Parrott's book & OVPP defended against dream sequences (as if that were necessary)
Parrott's book etc. and BWV 119
BWV 119

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 24, 2004):
>> Granted, it would probably take someone with little or no training in the field somewhat longer to "study it critically" as the correspondent suggests. If "studying it critically" means "looking desperately for any holes in it, destroying or belittling evidence to try to knock it down", that indeed would take quite a bit longer..<<
The strange thing is that these ‘holes’ can be found very quickly and then the entire ‘house of cards’ begins to tumble down. If these musicologist authors were truly ‘convincingly plausible’ in their books and articles, then this would not be the case. I have offered contrary evidence in the past (which is all part of the record in Aryehâ?Ts site) and will not indulge in further repetition of a discussion with others who have already made up their minds by reading the same sources without seriously entertaining the possibility that the ‘original evidence presented’ may not pertain directly to the critical period and geographical region of Bach’s most important compositions and the possibility that some of the translations rendered from the original German may be misleading or even erroneous. >
Aha. I see now at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/OVPP7.htm
what is being referred to here. The "contrary evidence" presented there is an entertaining piece of fictional creative writing. It's about a dream Bach had, where Bach met Alfred Duerr and Andrew Parrott and Joshua Rifkin, time-travelers from the future; he recovered from his surprise and contradicted them. They even referred to themselves by nicknames, the better to seem like just a bunch of vernacular guys and not like serious thinkers.

The dream includes a pretty strange notion put into Dürr's mouth (probably against his will): that a recording of a Bach performance of a cantata would completely capture Bach's intentions, for all time, so that "no doubt would be left in any person's mind." Clearly, this does not come from anyone who has ever had much experience in leading church music, where flexibility is necessary. I suspect the real Alfred Duerr is not as rigid or uninformed as his caricature here suggests.

The dream piece says nothing substantial, except about the writer's own preferences and his willingness to misrepresent other people's serious investigative work: trying to trump scholarly research with his own intuitive imagination and wishful outcomes. Instead of presenting substantial research, he focuses on trying to reduce other people's credibility, and putting hopeful words into the mouth of a personal hero: all around, not a very effective strategy, except maybe for personal amusement. If the presentation is to be believed, the writer's imagination evidently tells him that he (but remarkably, nobody else who's researched the topic for years!) is in possession of evidence that topples a house of cards. Wow.

And, his imagination evidently tells him that this imaginative/wishful approach, coupled with repeated assertions (like the one quoted above, from several days ago), should be sufficient to convince anybody else.

Well, the only house of cards toppled is the one he's built in his own imagination on the opponents' property, as a representation of the real thing, so that it may be riddled with holes and thereby knocked down. In that sense, it works. Dreams can go anywhere. It's the old "straw man" fallacy, renamed "house of cards", but the same thing. Build your own voodoo doll, stick pins into it, yippee. Build him a house, knock that down too, watch the suffering. Oh, the humanity. Very convincing, when the whole thing is imaginary, and when it's not necessary to convince anyone other than oneself.

That plays into a second problem: even if the opponents' case would be a house of cards, and knocked down, that doesn't automatically prove an opposing position. One needs real evidence to demonstrate anything. To rebut Parrott's book, one would need to prepare a convincing counter-argument, with enough evidence. The dream sequence does not fill that bill. It's the fallacy of false dichotomy.

The follow-up discussion on that page is interesting, too, where there was an attempt to defend that dream fantasy against questions. Clearly, the other writers there were not taken in: unable or unwilling to be swept into that odd world.

The writer's reluctance to provide "further repetition of a discussion" now is a wise move, because the first one wasn't convincing (as the "contrary evidence" presented was intuitive fiction). Repetition therefore would accomplish nothing, except to replay the whole construction-and-toppling process in his own imagination...again convincing nobody but himself. Dream sequences are entertaining, but hardly the basis for serious rebuttal. Ignis fatuus. Let the volunteer firemen continue their game of Skat, undisturbed. A nice little cottage could be built from the otherwise unused 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, and 6s.

That earlier discussion was all from summer 2002, before I was a member of the BachCantatas list, and this (today) is the first that I've seen any of that. Those other members provided more than adequate defense. I would have liked to have met that Andrew Lewis, especially. He projected a wise perspective. It's right there at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/OVPP7.htm

Then after a hiatus there was a more recent attempt to play the Wolff card, on: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/OVPP8.htm
Again, it wasn't that convincing. The writer picks a new hero, Wolff, but at the same time chastises him for providing a statement that is "severely truncated and as such is quite misleading." It's rather presumptuous to sit in judgment above Christoph Wolff, correcting his work for New Grove (as if their editors didn't do their own jobs adequately), but there it is in black and white. Bringing in the Big Bad Wolff to blow down the House of Cards, but on a leash. What fantasy!

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 25, 2004):
On the question of the size of the choir ( the number of singers certainly being not simply OVPP even allowing for additional ripienists) based upon a good balance between the choir and a very large (probably the largest ever used by Bach) continuo group (a fact documented by Bach personally on the autograph score of BWV 119 and conveniently overlooked by Parrott & Dreyfus because it runs contrary to the theories they and others wish to uphold), see my comments from May 9, 2003: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV119-D.htm

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 25, 2004):
Parrott's book etc. and BWV 119

< On the question of the size of the choir ( the number of singers certainly being not simply OVPP even allowing for additional ripienists) based upon a good balance between the choir and a very large (probably the largest ever used by Bach) continuo group (a fact documented by Bach personally on the autograph score of BWV 119 and conveniently overlooked by Parrott & Dreyfus because it runs contrary to the theories they and others wish to uphold), see my comments from May 9, 2003: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV119-D.htm >

If anything is being "conveniently overlooked" in those remarks on that page, it is the acoustical fact that an ensemble of 3 singers per part is really not that much louder than an ensemble of 1 singer per part. The difference is mainly in the timbre, not the volume: the vocal lines blend differently. And especially if the singers are placed in front of the orchestra, instead of behind it, the projection of four good singers would be no problem here.

Of course, this point about volume is conveniently overlooked here because it runscontrary to the theory our cynic here regularly upholds, which is that real musicologists are ignorant, dishonest, "misleading", "deceptive", and self-serving. He it states regularly, by "correcting" their omissions and facts, and chiding them on his perception of their methods. But, that perception of their methods is really just a reflection of HIS OWN untrained methods of self-guided research, projected onto them. They're not allowed to know those methods better than he does, or use better methods. Hence, the cynic's extraordinary belief that he knows what's true but the professional musicians and musicologists do not.

He points out that 'Organo, Violoncelli, Bassoni è Violoni | all' unisono col' | Organo' is the continuo group for BWV 119, and continues:
>>Now imagine the powerhouse continuo group that Bach has assembled for BWV 119. How many upper strings will you need in order to create an appropriate balance? What will the size of the choir need to be? OVPP?<<

Again, the volume question. But the assumption that it's a "powerhouse" group is his own: again an assumption that more instruments is automatically equivalent to louder, not just more varied and flexible. And it leads him into the further extrapolations which he then takes as settled truth. We're supposed to "imagine" that something is true, and presto changio, it's suddenly true without any documentation!

And his assertion that the string bass is categorically too loud is based on his own stated dissatisfaction with the Leusink recordings: which were done with multiple miking and tell us nothing one way or another about the natural balances in a church balcony. Our critic clearly has no concept of the way a string bass (or more accurately, a violone) can play quietly in real life, if the musician playing it has any sensitivity whatsoever. Again the critic's own assumptions are elevated into truth that we're all supposed to accept, as he observed it.

He next puts his own words and thoughts into Bach's head, and the heads of
the church authorities:
>>Bach must have been thinking to himself: "Certainly they will realize that I can use even greater forces than these to glorify the higher powers, when they see and hear what kind of great music I am capable of producing with limited means and space." Unfortunately, they, in their miserly ways, not really recognizing Bach's greatness because he was not really the top-name musician that they originally had in mind, decided: "He has proven that he can do much more with much less space and with a limited number of musicians. What incentive do we have to spend more money to help him out, when he has done just fine with what he has available to him?"<<

Everybody there in that portrayal, including Bach, is self-serving. Everybody's trying to manipulate somebody.

cynic, n. A fault-finding captious critic, especially one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest. [Webster's 9th]

captious, adj. Marked by an often ill-natured inclination to stress faults and raise objections. Calculated to confuse, entrap, or entangle in argument. [ibid]

In a cynic's quest to explain his own preferences as the only possible true ones, he assumes that everyone else is similarly guided by self-interest...or just doesn't know any better...or both. No one else is allowed to come to reasoned understanding of things by other methods, or to have different preferences. As he tells us regularly:
- Musicians do things differently in new recordings to stand out and be different (a self-serving goal), not to serve the music by performing it as honestly and forthrightly as possible to their abilities.
- Musicians distort the score with false expression, to put their own aims ahead of the composer's (a self-serving goal).
- Scholars present only one side of the evidence to further their own theories (a self-serving goal).
- Bach and the authorities (here in this example) all "think" in self-serving goals, instead of considering the good of the schools or the city: it's all about what they can get out of it personally.

The pattern here is clear.

Q.E.D.

=====

I listened to the Harnoncourt [6] and Leusink [10] recordings of BWV 119 this morning, and really enjoyed them both. Such a lively, bright piece! And I noticed how careful Bach was to keep the trumpet and drum interjections out of the way most of the time when people were singing. And the words are repeated enough that the message is clear, anyway, even if (one might argue) they're briefly obscured now and then.

And, as practicing musicians know, bass line accompaniments can be loud or quiet without necessarily affecting the number of higher parts played and/or sung; and good players know how to adjust their volumes as they play, so it all works out. A paramount consideration for a continuo player is: what is a good volume and mood for any given moment in the music? On organ and harpsichord this is done by improvising more or fewer notes, and on the other instruments with tone color and dynamic shading. Listening while playing, instead of woodenly following instructions from a page. Duh.

Therefore all the cynic's objections and confusions and entanglements (on the cited web page) fall away as irrelevant.

It's clear that this cantata 119 tells us nothing (one way or another) in sound alone about how many people "should be" singing or playing the upper parts. Therefore, the arguments from balcony space and written-out parts have more weight here than bean-counting balance fantasies do.

In the case of cantata 119, the vocal and instrumental parts don't survive. That is also probably why Dreyfus and Parrott don't address this piece, having only the score--their research focus is on what we can learn specifically from extant parts. The cynic knows this from reading both books, but conveniently overlooked it in his argument (see the quote at the top of this posting), trying to show that Dreyfus and Parrott are dishonest and/or ignorant.

So, what more is there to go on beyond the balcony space? The venue of St Nicholas, smaller than St Thomas, had to be dealt with, so Bach did so. That part of the cynic's report is worth consideration. Indeed, it strengthens the thesis about having fewer singers (few or no ripienists), rather than destroying it. If the balcony is so full of instrumentalists, there simply isn't much room left for singers. How difficult is that to
understand?

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 25, 2004):
BWV 119

< I listened to the Harnoncourt [6] and Leusink [10] recordings of BWV 119 this morning, and really enjoyed them both. Such a lively, bright piece! >
And Herreweghe's [8], too, on right now: another good one.

I missed this disc in the first search of the shelf, as the spine doesn't say this cantata is on it. Anybody else here annoyed about that, regularly, with the packaging of the Herreweghe recordings on Harmonia Mundi? Ditto for the Suzuki series and the Erato Koopman: have to pull each disc or box off the shelf and look at it individually (or maintain a catalog, or look every piece up on the web). I'm about ready to write out little stickers to put onto each spine.

Benjamin Mullins wrote (March 25, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<SNIP> I listened to the Harnoncourt [6] and Leusink [10] recordings of BWV 119 this morning, and really enjoyed them both. Such a lively, bright piece! And I noticed how careful Bach was to keep the trumpet and drum interjections out of the way most of the time when people were singing. And the words are repeated enough that the message is clear, anyway, even if (one might argue) they're briefly obscured now and then. <SNIP>
Last Sunday night I was privileged to be able to attend a lecture/recital by Crispian Steele-Perkins. I know his playing isn't to everyone's liking, but I doubt one could find a more dedicated and enthusiastic proponent of the Baroque Trumpet or, indeed, thtrumpet in general!

During his presentation (which included demonstrations of the modern piccolo trumpet, keyed trumpet, coach horn, true natural trumpet, etc.) he spoke of how Baroque trumpeters cultivated the ability to play quietly. He said how the Baroque trumpet, with its great amount of overtones, accompanies voices, and other instruments, exceedingly well. Better, he thought, than the modern piccolo trumpet, due to its comparative lack of overtones.

This presentation was given in a classroom about 30 by 40 feet in size. I was sitting no more than 20 feet away from Crispian. While he was playing the Baroque trumpet there were times when one could have easily heard, say, a thumb tack hit the floor. In other words, he was playing very quietly. His playing had a pronounced vocal quality, it could be surprisingly delicate. This was true even in the higher range. To suggest that four competent singers would be unable to be heard over trumpets and drums playing as quietly as this is ridiculous! No, from my personal experience at least, the presence of trumpets and drums is not enough to necessitate extra singers. If the trumpets and drums are overpowering the singers, then it is better trumpeters that are needed, not more singers! That is, in my humble opinion, of course ;-)

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 25, 2004):
In a desperate attempt lead astute readers away from focusing on the key points under contention here, the extremist poster refuses to admit directly:

Dreyfus and Parrott have negligently omitted stating a pertinent fact about BWV 119:

Bach personally indicated on his autograph score (a score which both authors have conveniently overlooked) the use of the largest continuo group ever used by Bach for a performance of one of his works. The assemblage of such a large number of instrumentalists for a church performance by Bach is unprecedented, particularly in regard to size of the continuo group. That such a fact is overlooked by musician-scholars who wish to demonstrate the limited sound of Bach’s music by promoting the use of the smallest number of instrumentalists and singers with even a reduction in the full values of the notes which Bach prescribed in his scores is not at all remarkable. That extremist musicians should feel an obligation to uphold at all costs the tenets based upon such faulty, incomplete research should not amaze any reader or listener who may be aware of the head-strong attitudes promulgated by these fanatic adherents to main body of HI performance practices.

There is simply no reasonable excuse that can be provided to explain such a glaring omission: “I was only looking at the parts which were, for the most part not copied by Bach but by other copyists which he employed. Examining the autograph scores would not yield any useful information about the continuo group or the parts used.”

To attempt to explain how Bach would have reduced and silenced the large instrumental forces in order to preserve a seemingly insignificant OVPP vocal group that he assembled for this performance by having the instrumentalists play softly while making the singers create ugly, forced vocal sounds almost constantly at the top volume level of their voices (shouting, rather than singing – this can be heard in numerous OVPP recordings) is ridiculous. Bach calls for 4 trumpets (trombae), timpani, 2 transverse flutes, 3 oboes, a full group of strings (1st, 2nd violins + viola with at least a doubling of these parts if not more) and the colossal continuo group: organ, violoncelli (plural), bassoons, violoni (plural of the large violone) all playing in unison with the organ.

To assume that the rather cramped space in the St. Nikolai church was an obstacle that Bach could not overcome without restricting the vocal forces to an absolute minimum is to underestimate Bach’s inventiveness in such situations. Certainly the limited perspective of an extremist is revealed when compared with the abilities and accomplishments of Bach with whom this extremist and others of his ilk constantly wish to identify themselves (they think they know better as composer/performers {they themselves being quite inferior to Bach in just about every way} just how Bach wanted his music performed!) The cynic is the extremist who would ‘sell short’ Bach’s abilities to create the type of celebratory music he wanted for specific occasions. He undauntedly worked at great odds with the ‘powers that be’ to bring about glorious effect of the music he had envisioned. He did not listen to the ‘nay-sayers’ who constantly wished to remind him about the restrictions that had been placed upon him by the prevailing circumstances. In the large churches in Leipzig, he no longer had to ‘think small’ (some of the Weimar cantatas could very likely have been performed by the very best instrumentalists and singers OVPP/OPPP.) BWV 119 is a prime example of Bach attempting to accomplish what may seem impossible for us to imagine today. He did not have to resort to ‘reduced forces’ to accomplish this and to impress his very important listeners. To think otherwise is to be simultaneously cynical and extreme.

Uri Golomb wrote (March 25, 2004):
Benjamin Mullins wrote (about Crispian Steele-Perkins)
< His playing had a pronounced vocal quality, it could be surprisingly delicate. This was true even in the higher range. To suggest that four competent singers would be unable to be heard over trumpets and drums playing as quietly as this is ridiculous! >
A furhter point: Bach often pitted a single soloist against trumpets and drums (cases in point can be found in cantatas BWV 51, BWV 70 and BWV 147 -- among others). If a single singer can confront a single trumpet, or a complement of three trumpets and drums -- why not four singers?

No, from my personal experience
< at least, the presence of trumpets and drums is not enough to necessitate extra singers. If the trumpets and drums are overpowering the singers, then it is better trumpeters that are needed, not more singers! That is, in my humble opinion, of course ;-) >
A few years ago, I heard the B minor Mass two days in a row in live concerts -- one employing an alteration of OVPP and 2VPP (that is, single "concertists" occasionally doubled by single "ripienists"), the other employing -- throughout all choruses -- a chamber choir of about 5VPP. In the former, the singers were placed in front, while the trumpets were placed more to the back of the stage (as Parrott recommends). The balance was better in in the OVPP/2VPP performance (even in passages where the ripeinists did not participate -- as Brad points out, ripienists affect the timbre much more than they affect the volume). The trumpets never drowned the singers, or vice versa. In the choral performance, the choir sometimes overwhelmed the trumpets... (though in other choral performances, with the same size choir and the same types of instruments and similar acoustics, there were no such problems).

This doesn't prove that OVPP is essentially better, only that such an ensemble is perfectly viable against trumpet and drums, in a live context, with no microphone tricks.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 25, 2004):
< BWV 119 is a prime example of Bach attempting to accomplish what may seem impossible for us to imagine today. He did not have to resort to ‘reduced forces’ to accomplish this and to impress his very important listeners. >
Of course not; he just used the normal four singers plus some extra instrumentalists. No "reduced forces" there. I still don't see why this is difficult to understand.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 25, 2004):
Uri Golomb stated:
>>A furhter point: Bach often pitted a single soloist against trumpets and drums (cases in point can be found in cantatas BWV 51, BWV 70 and BWV 147 -- among others). If a single singer can confront a single trumpet, or a complement of three trumpets and drums -- why not four singers?<<
If a full-voiced bass such as Nimsgern is used, this combination (orchestration by Bach) with/against trumpets and/or timpani works out welbecause the trumpets (trombae) do not feel that they need to hold back, but with many of the demi-voix bass voices that have been recorded with original instruments, the trombae are played so reticently (deliberately adjusting to the lower volume of these voices, or simply fortuitously unable to play these instruments at full volume) that the nobility of these instruments is lacking. They begin to sound like slightly louder oboi. The boldness of projection of such trombae is lacking. The differentiation in volume and characteristic timbre between these instruments become more and more negligible.

The trombae were also played outdoors. [Remember that Gottfried Reiche died after inhaling too much torch smoke while playing a Bach cantata (BWV 215) outdoors!] It would be hard to imagine the same subdued manner of trumpet playing being used under these circumstances. Why would these trombae, corni da caccia, etc. suddenly assume a different manner of playing in a large church simply to accommodate the voices unless these voices were inferior and could not produce a fully sustained volume throughout a movement as necessary as is frequently the case today? Bach, however, was known to have at his disposal a very good bass singer in Leipzig. There would be no need for the tromba players to engage in any 'pussy-footing' when accompanying such a commanding voice.

'Why not four singers' singing against 3 trumpets and timpani? Because in the full chorus sections (not arias) the full complement of instruments that I listed comes into play and they are not instructed to play with reduced volume, nor is the 'imagined' OVPP choir told to sing forte in order to be heard over the instruments. A proper balance would be more easily achieved if there were a better balance of instrumentalists vis à vis singers (that is, more singers - at least 2 or 3 per part).

Johan van Veen wrote (March 26, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Ah, that's the middle-of-the-road approach again. Instruments have to play in one volume all the time - not too loud, not too soft - unless the composer explicitly says they should play 'forte' or 'piano'. Why cant't instruments play louder one time and softer next time without the composer explicitly saying so?

Benjamin Mullins wrote (March 26, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< If a full-voiced bass such as Nimsgern is used, this combination (orchestration by Bach) with/against trumpets and/or timpani works out well because the trumpets (trombae) do not feel that they need to hold back, but with many of the demi-voix bass voices that have been recorded with original instruments, the trombae are played so reticently (deliberately adjusting to the lower volume of these voices, or simply fortuitously unable to play these instruments at full volume) that the nobility of these instruments is lacking. They begin to sound like slightly louder oboi. The boldness of projection of such trombae is lacking. The differentiation in volume and characteristic timbre between these instruments become more and more negligible. >
The use of solo trumpet in combination with an oboe ensemble was widespread in Europe at the turn of the 17th century, and nowhere is the floridity oftrumpet technique better demonstrated than in this fine concerto [Concerto for Trumpet, 3 Oboes, Bassoon, and Basso continuo in C major] by Tomaso Albinoni. No allowances are made in any of the movements for the limitations of the trumpet, whose tone was often described by contemporary commentators as resembling that of an oboe; the unison passages and imitative figures give us a clear indication of the more subdued dynamic level typical of performance in those days - a long way removed from the brash and coarse tone of the modern trumpet.

(c) 1993 Crispian Steele-Perkins

>From the booklet notes accompanying:
"Music for Trumpet & Orchestra"
Steele-Perkins, natural trumpet
Tafelmusik
Lamon, direction
SONY SSK 6245

Charles Francis wrote (March 26, 2004):
Brad Lehman wrote:
< Of course, this point about volume is conveniently overlooked here because it runs contrary to the theory our cynic here regularly upholds, which is that real musicologists are ignorant, dishonest, "misleading", "deceptive", and self-serving. He it states regularly, by "correcting" their omissions and facts, and chiding them on his perception of their methods. But, that perception of their methods is really just a reflection of HIS OWN untrained methods of self-guided research, projected onto them. >
Without wishing to take sides in this debate, one notes the purported "untrained methods of self-guided research" have led to results consistent with Stauffer, Wolff and various wanna-be musicologists like Koopman and Leonhardt.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 26, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote:
< Without wishing to take sides in this debate, one notes the purported "untrained methods of self-guided research" have led to results consistent with Stauffer, Wolff and various wanna-be musicologists like Koopman and Leonhardt. >
Of course you don't wish to take sides in this debate, Sir Charles, because you're already on record at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/OVPP6.htm
as convinced to accept OVPP by Parrott's book. You'd have to side with me, instead of with your regular hero. Horrors.

Fortunately, it's not about taking sides, but about getting to the truth about Bach's practical expectations for his vocal works.

Uri Golomb wrote (March 26, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
<snip> such a fact is overlooked by musician-scholars who wish to demonstrate the limited sound of Bach's music by promoting the use of the smallest number of instrumentalists and singers >
It is a common mistake -- but a disappointing one from one who claims to have read all of Parrott's book -- to claim that Parrott and Rifkin advocate minimal forces at all costs, and attribute this to Bach. Anyone who has read them thoroughly would be aware of the two following points:

1) The thesis is one singer per written part -- not one player per written part. Rifkin has specifially argued against the historicity of employing single strings.
2) They do not claim that Bach never used ripienists, or even that he was unwilling to add ripienists to works initially conceived for soloists only (see, for instance, Rifkin's detailed examination of Bach's performances of his cantata BWV 21). In practice, Parrott was often willing to add ripienists when they are explicitly indicated (as in his St. John Passion) and even when they are not (as in his B minor Mass (BWV 232) and Jesu, meine Freude). Rifkin is more reticent in adding ripienists without explicit "permission", but he acknowledges the practice as legitimate: 17th- and 18th-century composers did this all the time, to their own music as well as to others'.

BWV 110 has an opening chorus which is very similar in character to that of BWV 119. Parrott has no problem whatsoever acknowledging that Bach added ripienists to this work, though he believes these parts were added c. 1728-1731 (that is, the work was first performed, in 1725, with concertists only, but Bach expanded its scoring for a later performance).

More generally, Parrott states that 11 of the 14 works for which Bach provided ripieno parts "employ an instrumental ensemble which includes one or more trumpet". So Bach was prone -- sometimes, not always! -- to associate trumpets with ripienists. Not, BTW, to create appropriate "balance" -- as previously noted, the addition of single ripienists does not alter the volume much -- but presumably to create a more opulent sound, and to achieve greater variety. The latter aim is reflected in his deployment of the expanded forces: in BWV 110, ripienists are used selectively; many passages are allocated to soloists. It's not unreasonable to speculate that, if Bach used ripienists in BWV 119, he'd have deployed them along similar lines.

< There is simply no reasonable excuse that can bprovided to explain such a glaring omission: "I was only looking at the parts which were, for the most part not copied by Bach but by other copyists which he employed. Examining the autograph scores would not yield any useful information about the continuo group or the parts used." >
Two comments on this. First of all, even if Bach did not copy the parts out himself, he used them himself, and had his copyists -- who were working under his supervision -- include indications more detailed than those he included in his score.

More importantly -- Parrott does not ignore scores. In fact, he specifically lists a number of works where the parts are missing, but the score indicates the use of ripienists. It's all part of a chapter called "Bach's use of ripienists". If he doesn't mention BWV 119, that's probably because the score of that work doesn't tell us much, one way or another, about Bach's use of ripienists; and since Parrott never claimed that Bach always used small continuo groups, that score doesn't contradict anything he has said.

So, if the thesis is "Parrott dishonestly ignores any evidence that proves that Bach used more than one singer per vocal line", then that thesis is simply wrong, and amounts to libel.

PS: I haven't read Dreyfus's Continuo Group, so I won't comment on it. Just a general question: the score for BWV 119 tells us what continuo instruments were required overall. Does it include any indication on how these forces were used? Did all continuo players participate in each and every movement, without exception? IF not, how were they deployed? My guess -- but it is only a guess -- is that the score doesn't answer those questions.

Charles Francis wrote (March 26, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Of course you don't wish to take sides in this debate, Sir Charles, because you're already on record at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/OVPP6.htm
as convinced to accept OVPP by Parrott's book. You'd have to side with me,instead of with your regular hero. Horrors. >
Having developed a taste for madrigals as a kid, it certainly was a revelation to encounter Rifkin's work. But do be careful not to confuse aesthetic preferences with facts relating to historical performance. While I have spent more than a "couple of hours", reading Parrott's book, I do accept that Wolff, Stauffer and others grasp of the relevant facts may go deeper than my own. So while I personally find Rifkin's performances and arguments compelling, that is not to imply I dogmatically side with your extremist position. Rather, I fully endorse caution in regard to accessing the evidence presented by Rifkin and others.

< Fortunately, it's not about taking sides, but about getting to the truth about Bach's practical expectations for his vocal works. >
That may be a worthy, if unachievable, intellectual goal. But what really matters to me is enjoyment of the music; as I once wrote "If Bach didn't use OVPP, he really missed out!"

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 26, 2004):
< So while I personally find Rifkin's performances and arguments compelling, that is not to imply I dogmatically side with your extremist position. Rather, I fully endorse caution in regard to accessing the evidence presented by Rifkin and others. >
Well, who's being "dogmatic" or "extremist"? Not I. All I've said is that the Rifkin/Parrott presentation is "convincingly plausible," along with stating clearly that it's more important to be flexible (use whatever forces are at hand, intelligently) in practice in church music, not dogmatic about anything. Parrott in the book isn't dogmatic, either. He's only made to appear so by one who would wish to knock him down; the old straw-man scheme.

Of course, the misrepresentation of my own position as "extremist", a word slung around freely by a polemicist, is not my responsibility. He has his fun, or whatever. "Extremism" in his usage appears to mean variously "anything that doesn't agree with his own intuitive preferences," and/or "anything a person who has university music degrees knows but he doesn't". Sort of a catch-all word for anything he doesn't understand or agree with.

I don't know what it means in your usage unless you're merely echoing him. Perhaps you should explain further. Is an "extremist" anyone who has gone through the intense work of graduate school, and therefore holds well-informed and strongly reasoned convictions about his field? If such convictions do or don't agree with the preferences of an ordinary record-collecting enthusiast, that's neither here nor there; the aim is to understand objectively the content of the music, and bring it out clearly with deep respect for it.

<< Fortunately, it's not about taking sides, but about getting to the truth about Bach's practical expectations for his vocal works. >>
< That may be a worthy, if unachievable, intellectual goal. But what really matters to me is enjoyment of the music; as I once wrote "If Bach didn't use OVPP, he really missed out!" >
I agree with that. The best we can do is come to a reasoned position according to the evidence, and then be musical with the results. The same as on any topic of musical interpretation. That's not difficult to understand, but it does take years of background work and a mind open to broad possibilities.

John Pike wrote (March 26, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] I am not at all knowledgeable about this subject but my guess is that it would be wrong to read too much into the scoring of a particular piece (in this case BWV 119) and assume that, if Bach used a large instrumental group for that cantata (and possibly a large choir as well) in that cantata, he always wanted a large choir. There was a time where he specified a double chorus (the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244)) for artisitic and other reasons, and, quite possibly, there were many other times when he would have preferred a smaller choir (eg OVPP/2VPP) for artistic reasons. It would perhaps have depended on whether he was performing intimate or private music, or great music of praise and glory, as, for example, in Christmas music.

 

BWV 119. Anomolies in BGA score?

Neil Halliday wrote (March 27, 2004):
During last year's discussion of BWV 119, I only had access to the piano reduction score, which is available at the BCW, and as well I only had Herreweghe's recording [8]; I now possess the CD-ROM of the BGA score, as well as Rilling's recording [5].

The editor of the piano reduction score suggested a 'tempo' of crotchet = 60; (but as Brad pointed out, it should have read 'minim = 30', since that score is notated as 'cut C'); and since I was not entirely happy with Herreweghe's performance, at a speed of around minim = 42, I wondered what a recording, with a speed more in line with that editor's recommendation, would sound like.

Rilling [5] has a speed of minim = 25, which is a little slower than I would have liked to have heard (ie, minim = 30, as per the editor's recommendation). (BTW, these two recordings - Rilling and Herreweghe [8] - give the extremes of speed, of the presently available recordings, shown at the BCW).

However, as a matter of fact, the CD-ROM BGA score, unlike the piano reduction score, shows the first part of the 'slow' section of the opening movement to be notated in common time - not cut C; and Rilling's powerful opening, though slow, does appear to be within the range of acceptable tempos, if it is 'conducted' at 4 beats to a bar (with crotchet = 50).

The repeat of the 'slow' section (after the 'fast' choral section, in 12/8), is notated in cut C in the BGA score, but Rilling performs it the same as previously (still sounding powerfully festive if conducted in four).

Is it likely that Bach wrote these two sections with different time signatures as shown in the BGA?

Uri wondered (BRML) if the score sheds any light on the deployment of the continuo instruments - the answer is no, as he expected.

Further, there are no figures (of figured bass) to be seen in the entire score of the cantata; and the final chorale has only four staves - SATB - without any indication of the instrumental disposition at all.

If only Rilling [5] was a little faster in the 'grave' sections of the first movement, I would have no hesitation in recommending his recording (and the trumpets and drums have plenty of impact); as it is, I like it much more than the Herreweghe [8], since I prefer the legato, 'as notated' approach, to these 'French overture' scores. (I'm not at all confident what Rilling would do with this score these days - the recording I have was made in 1978, before his current 'flirtation' with historical performance practice).

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 28, 2004):
Neil Halliday inquired:
>>The repeat of the 'slow' section (after the 'fast' choral section, in 12/8), is notated in cut C in the BGA score, but Rilling [5] performs it the same as previously (still sounding powerfully festive if conducted in four).<<

BWV 119/1

The NBA I/32.1 indicates that the ‘C’ returns after the middle section in 12/8. Rilling [5] seems to have it right as far as having both slow sections performed in the same manner or at the same tempo.

To fill in some additional information beyond my previous post on the possible parodies involved [http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV119-Ref.htm] Here is some more from the NBA KB I/32.1 p. 105:

The introductory mvt. to BWV 119 has been seen for a long time already as reworking of an entirely instrumental mvt. cast in the form of a French Ouverture. Upon examining the handwriting of the autograph score more carefully, Robert L. Marshall (“The Compositional Process of J. S. Bach: A Study of the Autograph Scores of the Vocal Works” Princeton, 1972) came to the conclusion that framing sections of this mvt. (ms. 1-41 and ms. 71-88) are what is best described as a clean copy (one which is being copied from another source, possibly the composing manuscript which would have been Bach’s 1st conception and writing down of this music), while the middle section (ms. 42-70) is described as a ‘composing score’ showing the irregularities and cross-outs that occur when the composer is working rapidly to get his ideas onto the paper Alfred Dürr suspects that this middle section is a parody of another work (Bach-Jahrbuch 1986, pp. 117-120.) This opinion is based upon the corrections in ms. 67-68 which were undertaken in respect to how the text is placed under the notes, and the difference in rhythmic notation between a specific motif sung by the voices and the same motif as indicated differently for the instruments. For instance, the title page mentions only 3 trombae while on the 1st page of the score 4 separate parts appear.

Mvts. 3, 5, and 7 also give evidence for that fact that older material might have been used as a basis for this new composition. Particularly mvts 5 and 7 give the appearance of being ‘clean copies’ without almost any errors, and yet it is still not possible to state with confidence that this composition is definitely a parody.

[I really love mvt. 7, particularly the fanfare aspects of the 4 trumpets and the crowning fugal entrance of tromba I and the 2 recorders.]

Neil Halliday wrote (March 28, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
"The NBA I/32.1 indicates that the 'C' returns after the middle section in 12/8."
Thanks, Thomas.

I've had a look at the BGA scores for the other 'French overture' movements that I know of in the cantatas (BWV 20, BWV 61, BWV 97, BWV 110, and BWV 119).

All of them (for the 'slow' sections) have a time signature of 'C', except for the second exposition of BWV 119 (with its cut C, which you have shown is unlikely to be correct), and BWV 110, which the BGA shows with the 1st exposition in cut C, but the second in 'C', also most certainly not correct, because exactly the same music in the 4th Orchestral Suite (BWV 1069) is in common time, both in the BGA and Dover scores.

Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 119: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

Introduction | Cantatas | Other Vocal | Instrumental | Performers | General Topics | Articles | Books | Movies | New
Biographies | Texts & Translations | Scores | References | Commentaries | Music | Concerts | Festivals | Tour | Art & Memorabilia
Chorale Texts | Chorale Melodies | Lutheran Church Year | Readings | Poets & Composers | Arrangements & Transcriptions
Search Website | Search Works/Movements | Terms & Abbreviations | Copyright | How to contribute | Sitemap | Links



 

Back to the Top


Last update: ýApril 25, 2013 ý19:58:42