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Cantata BWV 175
Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of June 17, 2007

Julian Mincham wrote (June 16, 2007):
BWV 175 Introduction

CONTEXT
(See BWV 183)

The cantata of the week BWV 175 Er Rufer seinen Schafen mit Namen
He calls his sheep by name.
Recit (tenor)--aria (alto)--recit (tenor)--aria (tenor)--recit (alto/bass)--aria (bass)--chorale.
The fifty-second cantata of the series for 3rd day of Pentecost.
Librettist:- Mariane von Ziegler.

This is the second of the two cantatas of the cycle to begin with a recitative.

There are similarities to BWV 183 (originally performed a week earlier) but BWV 175 contains an additional recitative and aria.

In the opening tenor recitative (Mvt. 1) three recorders envelop the voice as he gives us the simple biblical quotation of Jesus calling his flock by name and leading them without. Recorders are given a more substantial role in the alto aria where the continuing pastorale allusions justify their further use, and the 12/8 time signature is obviously chosen for the same reason. The choice of a somewhat leaden E minor key may seem more surprising.

The text continues the idea of 'leading out' but also stresses the individual longing/ craving, to reach the Elysian pastures. Von Ziegler's personal approach leads her to stress this feeling as a continuous yearning, continuing throughout both day and night. Bach colours the mood with the minor mode and endows the ritornello melody with a series of drooping, wilting, sighing motives. The music never cadences in a major key and does not suggest a fully settled spirit. There is no clearly defined middle section: rather more of the same!
(Although it is generally believed that Bach did not particularly like von Ziegler's texts, her passion may have been infectious).

The tenor recitative (Mvt. 3) seems ardent and deeply felt and concludes with one of those end-of-recit U turns. Minor becomes major and we skip rapidly into C major, the key of the tenor aria (Mvt. 4).

Bach's piccolo 'cello is heard for the first time bustling along in what is essentially a bourree suite movement pressed into cantata service (originally from Cantata BWV 173a). Once Jesus has appeared, the yearnings and reservations have gone; this aria is positive and encompassing.

It has clear elements of ritornello and suggestions of ternary form but as in the previous aria there is no clear-cut middle section nor is there a traditional recapitulation. Bach, though clearly drawing upon established forms, seems to be feeling his way towards more 'through-composed' structures. Possibly von Ziegler's imaginative texts were instrumental in guiding him gently in this direction despite his reservations.

The following recitative (Mvt. 5) is divided between the alto (playing the role of narrator) and bass (the authoritative voice of the pastor).

The text of the bass aria (Mvt. 6) exhorts us to open our ears and listen to Christ's message---death is slain, the blessings of life are profuse and all we need do in return is to obey. The two trumpets are there to proclaim the power and majesty of Jesus. Furthermore they are used to punctuate the word 'Ohren'---ears----which we are firmly exhorted to keep open! Structurally, Bach returns now to the traditional da capo aria with an exact repeat of the first section. It may be that he felt two arias with relatively unconventional formats were enough within the one work.

The closing chorale (Mvt. 7) is one of the longest (nearly thirty bars) and most beautiful in the repertoire. Its mixture of phrase lengths convey a complex message, gracefully offering a final reminder that we should close our ears to any persuasions of doubt, skepticism or heresy.

Cantata link: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV175.htm

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 17, 2007):
BWV 175 - Bach working against the clock again

BWV 175

Based on NBA KB I/14 pp. 188-222

Indications that this cantata was composed under great pressure of time:

1) Mvt. 4 & Mvt. 7 are parodies. Mvt. 4 is from BWV 173a/7 and the final chorale Mvt. 7 is from BWV 59/3. Bach saves time by reusing previously composed music. An already existing final chorale setting is easily copied over from another cantata. Johann Andreas Kuhnau does not need to wait for Bach to finish composing the final chorale.

2. Both the autograph score (via CPE Bach) and the original set of parts still exist today. The score has many corrections by Bach. Remarkably, Mvt. 4 and Mvt. 7 have just as many errors as the other movements which were new compositions. This is a composing score and Bach never made a clean copy of it. There are circa 135 instances of Bach's corrected errors many of which involve more than a single note or even go on for a few measures. In his corrections Bach often uses a single tablature letter to indicate which note is the correct version. There are 16 such instances in the score. It would appear that the use of tablature letters is preferred in those instances where the corrected note is very close to the original wrong note, since it would then be difficult to decipher which note is intended. The use of the letter makes this clear. Even then Bach made one of the letters doubly dark so that there would be no doubt for the copyist as to which note Bach wanted.

Description of Copy Session

There are 6 copyists who prepared the parts.

1. As usual Johann Andreas Kuhnau prepared the largest portion of them. These include:
Soprano, Alto, Tenore, Baßo, Tromba 1, Flauto 1 & 2, Violino 1 & 2, Viola, Violoncello piccolo, Primary Continuo [it is assumed that JAK would have copied this part - this part is missing from the set]

2. Copyist 2 prepares the Violin 1 & 2 doublets

3. Copyist 3 writes the title of the Violoncello Piccolo part

4. Copyist 4 copies a doublet of the Violoncello Piccolo part

5. Copyist 5 prepares the transposed organ continuo part

6. Copyist 6 is Wilhelm Friedemann Bach makes a copy of the now missing Primary Continuo part.

Bach's revision

Here it becomes quite apparent that Bach was working against the clock once again.

"J. S. Bach, der üblicherweise die Stimmen zu revidieren und mit zusätzlichen Eintragungen zu versehen pflegt, tritt im vorliegenden Stimmenmaterial nur als mutmaßlicher Schreiber der Bezifferung in Erscheinung. Doch ist es sehr wohl denkbar, daß auch einige Eintragungen von Bögen von seiner Hand stammen. Andererseits ist die Zahl der in B gegenüber A zusätzliche angebrachten Vortragszeichen merkwürdig gering, was die Vermutung nahe legt, daß die Arbeitshäufung der Pfingstfeiertage eine Revision der Stimmen durch Bach überhaupt verhindert haben könnte oder über geringfügige Anfänge in der Flauto-I-Stimme (Bögen bis Satz 2, Takt 23) nicht hinausgedeihen ließ." p. 201

("In the present set of parts [this refers to the original set of parts], J. S. Bach, who normally revises and tends to add things to them, appears only as the probable writer of the figured bass [of the transposed continuo part]. And yet, it is quite possible that some of the phrasings were written by him. On the other hand, the number of additional marks of articulation when comparing the parts with the score is remarkably small, all of which would make it appear that the increased workload for Pentecost [3 Feast Days are involved ] could have kept him generally from revising the parts, or did not allow him to go beyond the insignificant beginning he made in the 1st recorder part (phrasing markings up to Mvt. 2, m 23). "

What is remarkable here is that Bach conducted from a score riddled with corrections and that his musicians sang/played from these parts without the benefit of Bach's markings (other than those copied from the score). The usually more complete markings involving articulation, dynamics, embellishments, etc., would be missing in the parts that were used for the first performance and from which the performers most likely sightread the music. Of course, none of these missing markings would have been added by the musicians - there is simply no evidence that musicians put their own markings on these parts (as a result of private study of the part or during any rehearsal where such markings might have been conveyed verbally by Bach to the singers and players).

Russell Telfer wrote (June 17, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote
< Recorders are given a more substantial role in the alto aria where the continuing pastorale allusions justify their further use, and the 12/8 time signature is obviously chosen for the same reason. The choice of a somewhat leaden E minor key may seem more surprising. >
You imply that E minor is sometimes 'somewhat leaden'. Would you like to elaborate, Julian?

< The music (of 175'2) never cadences in a major key and does not suggest a fully settled spirit. >
Also interesting, but despite staying in the minor much of the time, I find it it a comparatively cheerful and light cantata - especially the last Choral which is resolutely major.

BTW I hope you won't leave the list - take a break perhaps. I find myself in a similar situation, always slowed down, nearly always two weeks behind everyone else, sifting through the musicological posts which as Brad rightly says should be on BMML which few people read. My Delete key works overtime these days, and that's the answer, I'm afraid.

Nessie Russell wrote (June 17, 2007):
< Recorders are given a more substantial role in the alto aria where the continuing pastorale allusions justify their further use, and the 12/8 time signature is obviously chosen for the same reason. >
I listen to the weekly Cantata a few times each week. I have some recordings but mostly I listen to the example provided on the Bach Cantatas Web Site. BWV has been one of my favourites. Perhaps this is because I love recorders and the alto voice. I prefer a female alto.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 17, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] And, as usual, NO evidence is presented that this was necessarily (1) one massive copying session by a bunch of guys in a room together all at once, or (2) Kuhnau started copying his part before Bach was done composing the rest of the piece (finishing the chorale, or whatever).

It's just asserted by Mr Braatz. Again. And again. A premise being recycled as a conclusion. Hence the forced conclusion that we also have Bach sitting there feverishly composing, during the same session where the other guys are feverishly copying from a score that still isn't complete yet.

Different plausible conclusions can emerge from the same evidence.

Why can't they have worked on their assignments coming in individually? The resulting part copies would look exactly the same as they do now, would they not?

Why can't Bach have finished the whole score (even if it's sloppy, and still being changed in some details) some days or weeks before Kuhnau and co started copying? And then putting his changes into his score after the copies had been made, with people already practicing them (or learning their parts in lessons from Bach or a prefect or an accompanist, or whatever). The resulting score would look exactly the same as it does now, would it not?

Neil Halliday wrote (June 17, 2007):
Russell Telfer wrote:
>You imply that E minor is sometimes 'somewhat leaden'. Would you like to elaborate, Julian?<
If I can jump in here, I note a previous contributor has said of this aria that it contains "music of great beauty and sadness".

Certainly the predominant mood is the strong longing expressed in the text: "Come, lead me, I long for greener pastures. My heart weakens and groans day and night (for) my shepherd, my joy."

As well as sadness, sometimes there is a bitter-sweet expression in the music leading up to a melisma on "Weide" (pastures), and the instance of the word painting on "schmacht" and "Ächzt" is obvious.

So, 'leaden' E minor, to describe the "aching and groaning, day and night"?
---------
The other two arias are in major keys, with moods predominantly confident (tenor aria, C major) and powerfully assured (bass aria, D major).

Another contributor to previous discussions noted the "similar dancing cello piccolo" part in this tenor aria, compared with that in the soprano aria in BWV 68.

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 17, 2007):
BWV 175 - exploring this cantata

[To Bradley Lehman] Brad's comments above point up what seems obvious to me...that is, that it really isn't very important just exactly how the timing went on the writing of these compositions. This cannot really be known, and it doesn't matter for this list. What is wonderful is that again this week we have a great cantata with interesting textures offering a message and a way to make our minds work productively.

The weeping and longing motifs through my first listening reflect the texts, but in a manner that is to my way of thinking more personal and artistic than the Biblical content. I was interested in the fact that Julian mentions that the librettist's writings might not have been particularly to Bach's liking, but that they were probably infectious. In my view the poetic content is a way of moving beyond the story telling of the texts to an area of experience, and that element may in some respect contribute to the fact that these works still continue to draw in those who listen today.

Moving on a bit, in the tenor aria there is a motif pattern that is a downward scale pattern shown for the first time on 'es dünket mich' and is used sequentially on six more occasions. During Baroque music theory a few years back, the falling motives were sometimes revealed to be used in Bach as a perspective in text painting of God coming from heaven in some manner. The text here generally speaks of the Shepherd coming to the sheep, so I think Bach's usage of them may be interpreted to some degree in the manner mentioned. Near the end when the text turns to the idea that 'I am enraged in my soul,' we have a step-rise rising motif in sixteenth notes. This could be another example of text painting in that rising motifs were explained in class to sometimes be the human response or a case of a plea being offered to heaven.

In the bass aria there are rising scale motifs in the context of addressing the Spirit in wishing to follow the Shepherd. Also, interestingly, the upward scale pattern occurs where the human response is affirming that God will vanquish the devil and death, followed a little later by a downward scale motif that deals with the idea of the power for defeating the devil comes from above. Such phrases clearly augmented the Biblical texts very effectively, and also provided the singers with an effective tool for musical conveyance. The role of the music from where I look is to carry the texts meaningfully. I do not think every connection or motif has great or deep meaning as in the architecture of a piece there have to be connecting elements. But in this case I think we have a classic example of how effectively Bach combined ideas with the tools available for building beautiful and meaningful works.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 18, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>And, as usual, NO evidence is presented that this was necessarily (1) one massive copying session by a bunch of guys in a room together all at once, or (2) Kuhnau started copying his part before Bach was done composing the rest of the piece (finishing the chorale, or whatever).<<
First of all, in regard to #2 as pertaining to BWV 175, itwas never claimed that Kuhnau began copying his parts before Bach was done composing. At most, since Kuhnau copied each part entirely from the beginning to end without stopping (not the case for some of the cantatas that were discussed here earlier this year, where another copyist or Bach had to add the final mvt.(s) later on), he may have begun, let's say for the sake of an example, with the soprano part while Bach was putting the finishing touches on the final chorale (with Bach recopying his setting from an earlier cantata and adding a new text), but by the time Kuhnau came to the end of the soprano part, he would also have had in his hand Bach's final chorale before proceeding to all the other parts which he copied during this session. Again, it makes sense that the other copyists began copying the doublets and WFB the copy of the Kuhnau's Primary Continuo part as soon as they were finished. In summary, it is quite possible and reasonable, considering all the other aspects that point to Bach being under pressure of time while preparing this cantata for performance, that the ink was hardly dry when Kuhnau commenced with copying the main (minimum) set of parts. The question that needs to be asked is: "Why didn't Kuhnau copy the other parts (doublets) as well?" He certainly could have done this on another day, if he needed a rest and when he would have more time. JAK was also one of the most reliable copyists Bach had. Evidence from some of the cantata parts from the pre-Leipzig and the Leipzig period after circa 1729-1730 indicates that Bach could write out all the necessary parts himself without a copyist if he had time, but more often than not, Bach would nevertheless find himself in a situation that forced him to engage a small 'army' of copyists (more than a dozen at least) as he did for the cantatas that make up the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248).

BL: >>It's just asserted by Mr Braatz. Again. And again. A premise being recycled as a conclusion. Hence the forced conclusion that we also have Bach sitting there feverishly composing, during the same session where the other guys are feverishly copying from a score that still isn't complete yet.<<
But this is just what the evidence does show. Bach is: 1) under pressure of time (have you considered Bach's performance schedule around Pentecost, 1725?), recycling some previous movements to save himself time; 2) making and correcting a greater than usual number of errors in his own score; 3) not having time to make a more readable 'clean' copy of the score for himself or for anyone else with whom he might eventually share the musical materials; 4) leaving the copy work for the necessary parts to 6 different copyists; 5) not having time to make the necessary corrections to the parts, nor to add articulation, dynamics, ornamentation marks (aside from a feeble beginning in one of the recorder parts); and 6) leaving uncorrected mistakes in the parts (these are not the mistakes which Bach originally corrected in his score as he was composing - if Bach had seen these mistakes in the parts, he would have corrected them, but he simply ran out of time.)

BL: >>Different plausible conclusions can emerge from the same evidence.<<
However, some 'plausible' conclusions are more reasonable than others which are very much less likely. It all depends on what you happen to consider 'plausible'. I, for instance, do not consider 'plausible' this evidence of rushing to complete a project so that musicians can devote weeks of personal study to the parts and the numerous rehearsals that you consider necessary before a first performance in church. Under the circumstances we can see as a general situation where Bach was composing and performing at least one cantata a week, the notion of planning weeks in advance so that the score and parts are ready for study and rehearsals makes little sense and disregards as well what we know about the expectations known to exist for composer/cantors who held important positions in Saxony in the 1720s. Remember the quotation from Johann Friedrich Fasch which I shared with this list: He literally describes his life as a composer and performer in Zerbst where he had received an appointment in 1722 (BTW, after accepting the position in Zerbst, Fasch was asked by Mayor Lange of Leipzig to apply for the St. Thomas cantor position that was open, the negotiations failed because Fasch did not want to teach science as well - he knew that composing and performing regularly was a full-time job):

»gleich in dem ersten Kirchenjahre von 1722 bis 23 einen doppelten Jahrgang (Kantaten) ... componiren ... hierzu kam noch eine starke Passion und 3 Serenaten zu den hohen Geburtstagen« ("Right away during the 1st liturgical year from 1722-1723, [I had to] compose [and perform - performing is understood here in this context] a double set of cantatas [one for the morning service and a different one for the afternoon service]. in addition [I also composed and performed] a great/large Passion and 3 serenatas for the birthdays of royalty."

BL: >>Why can't they have worked on their assignments coming in individually? The resulting part copies would look exactly the same as they do now, would they not?<<
So if these copyists (as far as I know they were all Thomaner during this period) were treated properly by their great teacher Bach who gave them these assignments well in advance of an actual performance so that they could possible learn to sing or play these parts properly (or at least copy music correctly), why, then, did he not bother to correct their handiwork in order to show them where they were making mistakes? What kind of teacher is this who simply gives his music students work to keep them busy, but does not even glance at what they had created 'as an exercise' and what he would need to use for his own performances?

BL: >>Why can't Bach have finished the whole score (even if it's sloppy, and still being changed in some details) some days or weeks before Kuhnau and co started copying?<<
This was answered above: Kuhnau, for instance, copied most of Bach's original corrections correctly into the parts, but he did 'mess up' in a few instances. These instances were never corrected by Bach or any of the singers/players who used these parts which do not appear to have suffered any wear and tear from being used in one or two performances. The questions that need to be asked are: "Why didn't the performers at least correct the glaring errors that slipped through" "How did they manage to find the correct articulation, dynamics, embellishments which Bach never got around to adding to the parts as he usually did even when he was in a hurry?"

BL: >>And then putting his changes into his score after the copies had been made, with people already practicing them (or learning their parts in lessons from Bach or a prefect or an accompanist, or whatever). The resulting score would look exactly the same as it does now, would it not?<<
Idle speculation of this sort does not reflect a careful inspection of the score and parts. This question has already been answered above. Once again we see Brad Lehman desperately trying to support an untenable notion that Bach, as a composer, would have planned his performances with ample time for composing, then copying the parts, then giving them to his students to study, then rehearsing with them individually, then in sectional groups and finally with a number of complete rehearsals culminating in a dress rehearsal by which time all the mistakes would have been corrected and a unified pattern of articulation, dynamics, ornamentation and meaningful expression would have been achieved before the first public performance of the cantata would take place in church on the designated Sunday. This is a dream scenario which cannot be extrapolated from the evidence which keeps piling up in favor of understanding Bach to have a very limited time (within the course of one week, sometimes less) to accomplish the following: a) re-reading the text whichhad already been printed so that he can be inspired to compose music appropriate for the text; b) the initial composition (getting the notes down in a composing score); c) assembling a crew of copyists from among the Thomaner who then copy either from the score or from a copy freshly completed; and d) sight-reading the music for the first performance at one of the main churches on the morning after the parts had been completed. [If there had even been a rehearsal, it might only have taken place in the afternoon or evening before the morning of the performance, but why weren't the parts corrected to reflect this? If there had been a rehearsal very early on a Sunday or Feast Day morning, possibly there would not be time to make the corrections, but the performers might have noted and had fresh in their minds where the problems were and how Bach wanted the music to be performed (phrasing, etc.)]

Paul T. McCain wrote (June 18, 2007):
Please, somebody make them stop! This inane childish arguing about irrelevancies like this is really ruining this list. Mr. Moderator...please...do some moderating.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 18, 2007):
Paul T. McCain wrote:
< Please, somebody make them stop! This inane childish arguing about irrelevancies like this is really ruining this list. Mr. Moderator...please...do some moderating. >
"Irrelevancies"?! This is about performance practice, ACTUALLY PLAYING THE MUSIC better than is possible to do in a sight-reading session (which is what makes the hypothesis so silly, and so annoying as it keeps going).

I went through that first aria, studying the piece from full score (Bach-Gesellschaft). I went through it as an expert player of basso continuo (organ and harpsichord), looking mainly at the bass line and working out what the appropriate harmonies are to play. And I identified 21 spots in this aria alone -- 17 on choice of harmony, and 4 others where it's questionable to play the correct bass note itself with missing accidentals! -- where a sight-reading player having never heard the piece is just not going to get it right. The bass line is unfigured; no clues there, other than looking at the melodic motion in the bass part itself. The music does too many tricky things to read it straight off the unfigured continuo part in isolation.

Some possibilities:

- The organist just didn't play at all.

- The organist played from full score.

- The organist at least studied it from full score long enough to memorize the oddities.

- The organist rehearsed it enough with singer and/or instrumentalists to figure out the oddities, and memorize where they are.

- The organist was Bach, not sight-reading but fully aware of what the piece should do since he composed it.

- The organist indeed performed the thing without ever having seen or heard it before, but had some incredible psychic connection with both Bach and the ensemble to be able to do it perfectly.

- The organist performed the thing without ever having seen or heard it before, and there were just dozens of clashes where he guessed wrongly; oh well, Bach's fault for not letting him practice.

And this is just one aria. There are two others. This week. And that's not taking into account any difficulties by the other players or the singer, if they're sight-reading.

Neil Halliday wrote (June 18, 2007):
Paul T. McCain wrote:
>arguing about irrelevancies like this is really ruining this list.<
These topics are not "irrelevancies", though they might be better discussed on the BMML (I have noted Brad's comments about this).

However, the main cause of the irritation indicated here may be reception of the list's messages by email, which necessitates reading, or at least opening, every message. Why not simply log onto the BCML's web-site to read the group's messages? It's much simpler.

Alain Bruguières wrote (June 18, 2007):
[To Neil Halliday] I agree with Brad as well as Neil that these topics (sightreading/musical practice in Bach's time/relearsal/composition timing...) are not irrelevant. It seems to me that the way the cantatas were composed and performed is entirely relevant, and indeed I find these questions most nteresting.

Besides, I do not agree that we have no elements to decide on those issues; in fact, much information and evidence has been put forward on the list and in my opinion a general picture can be formed from the Bach dokumente, the original scores, the opinions of contemporary musicians and musicologists, and even experiments which have been carried out and reported about by list members. The discussions have been very rich.

However I do oagree that these discussions are often tiresome, mostly because there is a huge amount of posts who bring no new argument or idea but keep harping on material which has already been put on the list, the only variation being in the amount of acrimony or sarcasm involved.

I try to avoid writing posts which contain no new information or point of view. I have recently put forward on the list an interview of Rifkin's which in my opinion gives insight into these questions, just as I had previously quoted a paragraph of the 'Entwurff' which equally seems pertinent to these questions. Unfortunately, it seems that such texts cannot be examined in a relaxed and open-minded way on the list. In my opinion, this doesn't mean that the subject shoud be avoided, just because a bunch of list members cannot have a grown-up attitude with respect to it...

PS : I'm really slow in the uptake, I only recently realized that bachoverau meant bach lover australia... (or at least that's now ùy guess!)

Neil Halliday wrote (June 18, 2007):
Alain Bruguières wrote:
>I only recently realized that bachoverau meant bach lover australia<
Correct! Sorry if this has been a mystery for a long time :-).

Casimir Vetter wrote (June 18, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] I like what you said about lots of other possibilities. This looks like an interesting subject!

It seems really likely the organist had to practice, no matter what they were doing. I saw somewhere that the organ was in some different key than everybody else and that's why they had to write out a separate part. So your idea of the organist (or Bach?) playing the aria from the full score isn't quite as likely as he would be in the wrong key that way -- he might have to practice it no matter what, reading all the notes over by 1. So he might as well learn it from the written out part in the right key for the organ. Or both ways!

Did Bach write out the figured bass numbers for any of this cantata? You said there aren't any in the arias but how about the rest of it. Maybe they could sight read more easily with the numbers, but if they were going to practice for a week or whatever he left them out, to give the musicians sort of a puzzle for their lessons. If they had to learn how to play both with and without the figuring numbers they get to be better musicians. Since the arias would need the most practice by everybody to get it together, those would be the songs Bach most left open as a puzzle for them to learn, and save himself some time too in not having to do it.

Mr Braatz said something about the parts not looking like any "wear and tear" on them, and therefore the people didn't use them much for practice. Or at all as he seems to think! That doesn't make sense to me, maybe they were just careful with the pages when they practiced.

And if they found mistakes what were they suppose to do, get out their own inkwell and write on it in dipping ink while they were practicing? Who had a dipping ink special desk in their practice room or the church, to write in anything new? Maybe there was some rule where nobody was allowed to write on them, since they were the official music for church.

Less time writing things on the music, more time practicing it to do it the right way. And the more they had to figure out problems the better attention they paid to it. I don't know if that works in music but it works in learning other things. The more attention you pay to something the better you remember it.

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 18, 2007):
[To Alain Bruguières] Alain has a good idea here. Brnew material forward instead of beating a dead horse by repeating and repeating should make for a more interesting time. Some do, already...and that's great.

Neil Halliday wrote (June 18, 2007):
BWV 175: recordings

The alto aria has greater emotional impact at slower tempos, as can be ascertained by comparing Leusink [6], Rilling [3], and Richter [2] (all slower) on the one hand, with Coin [5], who gives a brisk, dance-like reading. Richter's continuo is too soft; this continuo line has melodic significance vis a vis the vocal and recorder parts.

In the tenor aria, the semi-ostinato nature of the cello part is noteworthy, as it moves through various keys. The melodious melisma on "holde" is beautifully expressive of Jesus' `gracious' voice; the other melismas on "ergrimme" and "Zweifelt" have different functions. Rilling's continuo [3] (continuous crotchets) is given to a lively, pizzicato double bass, contrasting nicely with the cello piccolo part.

The section of the accompanied recitative sung by the bass has two contrasting sections; the strings in the first part express the sorrow of our state of "deafness" and folly in following blind reason, while in the second section the strings wonderfully express the sweetness of Jesus' words that are spoken for our health/salvation.

Notice the little rhythmic `trick' Bach brings to the bass aria with two trumpets. In the second bar (in 6/8 time) he introduces the little figure on ...4,5,6, which seems to throw the remainder of the ritornello's theme (on the 1st trumpet) off the beat by half a bar. This theme is, of course, picked up by the bass, though two octaves lower.

I had trouble following the theme with Huttenlocher/Rilling [3] at first because of the singer's vibrato, but after learning the theme from the score, this is my preferred recording. The tempo is livelier than Leusink [6] or Richter [2].

I'm sorry, but only the modern trumpets (Rilling [3], Richter [2]) have the accuracy and brilliance required to produce the truly exciting sound that is the point of the aria. In comparison, the period trumpets are merely satisfactory, except in the case of Coin's recording [5], where it might be better for a listener to "close both ears" while the trumpets are playing! (There is no sample for Leonhardt [4]).

Is this the reason why Koopman [8] may have attempted to `liven the sound up', with the addition of timpani? It actually seems to work, but this is certainly taking liberties with the score if none of the sources indicate tympani.

For some reason I find Rilling's final chorale [3] to be harsh and pedestrian. Richter [2] has a fine, large-choir version (not too forceful) in which the engineers have nicely captured the sound of the recorders. Koopman's chorale [8] flows nicely and is my pick of the period versions.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 18, 2007):
< Did Bach write out the figured bass numbers for any of this cantata? You said there aren't any in the arias but how about the rest of it. Maybe they could sight read more easily with the numbers, but if they were going to practice for a week or whatever he left them out, to give the musicians sort of a puzzle for their lessons. If they had to learn how to play both with and without the figuring numbers they get to be better musicians. Since the arias would need the most practice by everybody to get it together, those would be the songs Bach most left open as a puzzle for them to learn, and save himself some time too in not having to do it. >
I did some further digging into this, especially the statement (by Thomas B) that "Copyist 5 prepares the transposed organ continuo part".

The piece was performed at least twice: May 22 1725 and a later one. And this transposed organ part for it survives...with continuo figures written in by Bach himself! We don't know if those figures are from the first performance or only from the second one. But in any case, they're only in the three short recitative movements, not the arias. The continuo players, singer, and other instrumental soloists were left to work out the appropriate continuo harmonies themselves, in these three extended arias. We don't know if Bach coached them or not, but that's all we get with the written materials: no immediate clues that would make the realization task any easier, like the recitatives have with the figures.

According to the handy list in the back of Laurence Dreyfus's book Bach's Continuo Group, the set of parts is still in Berlin (as of 1987 publication of that book). One part each for the four vocal lines; one part each for violin 1, 2, and viola; one part each for the three recorders; one part each for the two trumpets; one for violoncello piccolo; the regular basso continuo part; the transposed basso continuo part for organ (with figuring by JSB in the three recits); and one extra copy each of the violin 1, 2, and violoncello piccolo. A total of 18 parts.

=====

As for the movement 4 aria being borrowed from BWV 173a (birthday cantata for Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen), sometime in 1717-22): yes, it is...but it was a bass aria there in A major, and it's become a tenor aria here in C major with entirely different instrumentation, and of course a different text. So, he rewrote it and rescored it, along with transposition. Bach had already reused most of that birthday cantata into BWV 173, for May 29th 1724. Here in BWV 175 he was saving out and reusing another movement of it, previously unused in Leipzig. This doesn't necessarily say anything one way or the other about being in a hurry (i.e. reusing old music); it only argues that he had some old pieces that he liked enough to use and hear again. This is practical efficiency! He still had to rework the whole thing to make it fit.

=====

Yesterday I mentioned finding nearly two dozen spots in the first aria (for 3 recorders, alto, and continuo) where the harmony and/or the bass note itself would require some non-obvious decisions. I should be clear about this: this is at the rudimentary level of working out what note(s) and harmonies to play in the first place, let alone going on to do anything expressive or suave with it!

I myself am a strong sight-reader and an ensemble-music coach whenever I play; and frankly, the notion that anybody sight-read such music as this in performance (instead of working it out ahead with sufficient group rehearsal) is offensive to me as a musician. It reduces the value of serious preparatory work, both pedagogically and in performance values, to something near zero.

Musicians with any responsibility to the resulting music have to practice it ahead, at least in this genre of Baroque music where the accompaniment isn't even written out as more than a vague sketch. There has to be time to work it out and try possibilities, both for balance and expression, and to hit the right progressions of harmony in the first place...plus holding together an ensemble of other musicians who also have difficult parts.

These days, most of the Baroque playing I do is with professors or other colleagues who also have doctorates in their instruments or voice: and we never wing it on zero rehearsal. Sometimes we get by with one rehearsal or two, plus our own practice time off-group, for some 10-minute piece. But we also have access to full scores, not just some single unfigured part, and we can study at libraries or with recordings to get a sense of the piece before coming together for a firsrehearsal reading. This is what musicians are trained to do: to be prepared, to be able to put out a beautiful and efficient result that is better than prima vista guesswork.

And we don't write in every little nuance or correction, either. We work out any problems in rehearsal and learn the piece, well enough to play it in the scheduled performances. Our memories and our musical sensibilities are decent enough that we correct any obvious errors without having to write it in. (I liked your other question about making corrections in dipping ink: if we had to use dipping ink we probably wouldn't write in anything, either! The cheap graphite pencil is a wonderful tool not available to 18th century people.) Even if our parts look pretty clean after rehearsals, it's not proof that we didn't rehearse!

Back in college, eons ago, I was the kid who accompanied everybody in their voice/instrumental lessons, along with playing in church. One school year I kept a tally for myself, and found out that I played more than 70 performances during that time...which involved being efficient and learning quickly. I look back on the scores I played from during that time: in some of them I made no markings at all, even on the stuff I rehearsed for three or four weeks in a row at people's lessons with their teachers. The lack of marking is not proof that I didn't play or ever practice.

I didn't mark my solo music very thoroughly either, in those years. I got more into that habit of marking things after I was 25, and realized that the more thoroughly I mark it up, the more time and effort it saves me later when I come back to the piece. The markings also give me mental reassurance, during performance, that I have thought about the details and planned out the things that are not negotiable, the basic grammar of the musical language. This gives me more freedom in the moment to try interpretive ideas that keep the music fresh (i.e. not having to worry about all the little details that have already been worked out sufficiently). It also give much better stability if something unforeseen goes wrong, like having one of the other ensemble musicians miscount or come in on the wrong pitch, or a page turn flipping itself back. The better prepared I am through practice and through working out all the details, the better I can get things back on track quickly in emergency.

For what that's worth! It's obviously worth nothing to Thomas, but maybe it's worth something to people who believe that musical experience is valuable.

=====

As for Thomas's other rhetorical question, "have you considered Bach’s performance schedule around Pentecost, 1725?" -- yes, of course. It seems to me that a busy performance schedule is a pretty good argument for getting the compositions done far ahead (instead of the opposite), since Bach is going to be especially busy rehearsing and/or teaching all these compositions up to performance time. The bigger the Pentecost crunch is going to be, in terms of pulling everything together for all the scheduled gigs, the more it's necessary to be prepared
well in advance! This is basic organizational competence, here.

I'm not opposed to a notion that Bach composed some of this music rather quickly; I'm just opposed to the impracticality of leaving it (along with the copying and teaching it) until the week of the performance, especially during a season that has more performance responsibilities than usual. The extant materials don't argue against him getting it done as early as, say, February or March for the Pentecost season coming up. Perhaps even before that! Git-R-Done in some spare moments whenever they're available, as it's not easy to put together music of this complexity without sufficient planning and rehearsal.

A nifty thing about BWV 175 is that every aria (and its recit) is for entirely different instrumentation and different singer, except for the overlap where the same continuo players might play in more than one of them. That is, it's a modular piece whose sections could have been rehearsed in any spare moments where all the right people were available...and having different teams of the students/players to work up each one. If Bach needed to coach any of these movements, he could have made the rounds at any odd moment, between all his other tasks. This is just the right kind of music to write when there is going to be a hectic schedule of preparation and performance coming up: no individual student (except maybe the continuo players) is going to have more than three or four minutes of music to work up to performance level.

Working inside my own hypothesis for the moment, to sketch how it plays out in a practical way:

- Bach finishes the score (perhaps somewhat quickly, perhaps not!) some months in advance, and immediately hands out the assignments: to have it copied, and to have the student groups work up the performance in their lessons or other rehearsals.

- There's not a lot of time for anybody to waste, because the school's performance schedule as a whole is especially busy going into Lent, Easter, and on through at least Pentecost. Everybody has multiple pieces to work on, for various upcoming Sundays and other non-Sunday performances.

- As problems present themselves in the various group rehearsals, Bach and/or his assistants go around helping the ensembles or teaching them directly in lessons. What better way to learn practical musicianship than to solve real problems, and play the results in scheduled upcoming church services as the acid test that the music has really been learned?

- The libretti have also been prepared for printing, months ahead, so the congregation will see and follow the words of the piece. The decision-making has to be made in advance of that typesetting, obviously, and the printing is for the whole upcoming season of performances. So, why not just compose the piece too, while all of that is being thought about intensely in those months ahead of performance? That's the most obviously efficient way to produce the product, instead of waiting until the week or so before performance to go nuts.

Inside such a hypothesis, there's indeed no pressing need for Bach to put in a full set of continuo figures, or expression marks or whatever for anybody else: because he knows they're going to work all that out (some with his guidance, some without) in the next couple months of rehearsals and lessons. So, he can compose it rather quickly if he has to, as long as it's far enough ahead to let all this music-production machinery run its course properly. And for the parts that are probably going to get (or need) less rehearsal, he provides fuller markings, e.g. the continuo figures in recitatives here, short little movements. Just enough to get the job done efficiently, as he's a busy man and so are all his students and assistants. Plus, he has to keep composing ahead for summer and autumn...and planning what he's going to use for Advent and Christmas, as to texts and settings...!

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 18, 2007):
Both Casi Vetter and Brad Lehman rely heavily upon empirical 'proof' for their arguments and disregard the evidence available in Bach's composing scores and the original sets of parts from which these cantatas were first performed. This poses a problem, however, when, for instance, Casi Vetter attributes the description of these original documents to me rather than the Bach experts who have spent years working with them and have related their findings in the NBA KBs, or when Brad Lehman calls himself "an expert player of basso continuo (organ and harpsichord)" and judges the performance materials that Bach used from this empirical standpoint alone, not recognizing all the while that basso continuo players in Bach's time and under his direction may well have had a much higher level of expertise that made the problems that Brad pointed out appear to be relatively insignificant.

Re: Brad's objections

Brad Lehman wrote:
BL: >>-The organist just didn't play at all.<<
This possibility is ridiculous. Why would a transposed part have been prepared in the first place? Which other continuo instrument would havplayed from a transposed part? Why were mvts. 1, 3, and 5 figured?

BL: >>-The organist played from full score.<<
And Bach conducted from memory? or played the 1st violin or viola part? But why would a special, transposed and partly figured continuo part have been prepared in the first place?

BL: >>-The organist at least studied it from full score long enough to memorize the oddities.<<
Yes, he may have been allowed to look at it early Sunday morning before the 1st actual performance.

BL: >>-The organist rehearsed it enough with singer and/or instrumentalists to figure out the oddities, and memorize where they are.<<
The continuo parts generally do not show any "wear and tear" that might be expected from such use. If there was a quick 'run-through' of the arias before the church services, then these would have been spotted and noted (quickly 'memorized').

BL: >>-The organist was Bach, not sight-reading but fully aware of what the piece should do since he composed it.<<
This is a reasonable possibility and would also explain why some of today's continuo players are unable to do this at sight.

BL: >>-The organist indeed performed the thing without ever having seen or heard it before, but had some incredible psychic connection with both Bach and the ensemble to be able to do it perfectly.<<
No, not 'some incredible psychic connection' but greater experience in what to expect. "To be able to do it perfectly" is another matter entirely. We will probably have to rid ourselves of this notion based on 19th and 20th century concert expectations that Bach's performances were on such a level. [Bach points this out in the "Entwurff" where he expresses his wish to have well-paid musicians, as those appointed to play at court, concentrating on one voice or instrument and practicing and rehearsing music to the point of ultimate perfection [the way that French court musicians were known to do].

BL: >>-The organist performed the thing without ever having seen or heard it before, and there were just dozens of clashes where he guessed wrongly; oh well, Bach's fault for not letting him practice.<<
Bach expected his musicians to be 'in practice' by constantly, at every available opportunity, playing various types of music. This skill would then be apparent when sight-reading any new music Bach placed before them. As noted above, the results were not perfection as we expect it today, but probably made up for any mistakes or slips by offering a very moving, inwardly exciting performance that comes from the freshness of performing such new music for the first time. Imagine the amazement and pride on the part of the parents of those Thomaner chosen to perform this music. Imagine, also, how the city council members and staff of St. Thomas School perceived the accomplishments of these boys and young men who were performing this new music to the glory of God. Imagine how the other members of the congregation and visitors in Leipzig were aided by this music in their devotion as they pondered the texts before them that were so splendidly being expressed through music. Would they have been concerned by slight imperfections? All of this, however, is tempered by the extreme pressure placed upon the singers, who, if they sang a wrong note, were penalized (probably they had to forfeit some money from their personal cash box to the general cash box as a reminder that they should not allow themselves to become sloppy in their performances). The mystery regarding how all these issues actually played themselves out remains. We can only hope to gain a few glimpses here and there that might help us to understand Bach's performance situation. Empirical evidence, in this regard, must be used very judiciously since it too frequently leads to the misleading notion that "Things back then must have been the same as they are now."

Re: Casimir's questions and objections

CV: >>Did Bach write out the figured bass numbers for any of this cantata?<<
Presumably (this is not even certain) for mvts. 1, 3, and 5.

CV: >>Mr Braatz said something about the parts not looking like any "wear and tear" on them, and therefore the people didn't use them much for practice. Or at all as he seems to think! That doesn't make sense to me, maybe they were just careful with the pages when they practiced.<<
The description of the parts is not mine, but has been reiterated by the Bach scholars who have closely inspected the original parts and reported them in the NBA KBs. They often describe, among other things, the condition of the paper, noting the absence of any dog-ears, tallow/wax droppings, oily spots created by fingers holding the part (as in the case of singers, but also when page turns are necessary for the instruments), saliva spots caused by singers who sing toward the page (this might even cause the ink to smear where these saliva spots fall on the page), etc., etc.

No extra copy of any part or even a notation in a personal notebook has ever been found, other than the legitimate doublets that have been accounted for. No fingerings for instruments added by instrumentalists working with the parts or breath marks for singers added by the soloists have ever been found on Bach's original parts. Generally these parts give the impression of being fixed/frozen in time from the moment the copyists turn them over to Bach who finishes the revision of parts. Amazing is the fact that most of these cantatas were performed at least once or twice subsequently often involving changes but reusing as many parts as possible from the original set. What this implies is that a similar non-practice, non-rehearsal situation also took place at these repeat performances. In the absence of proof of how extremely careful Bach's performers were with his parts so that not even a trace of normal wear and tear is evident (there are some exceptions here like BWV 80 in its various incarnations which was reused and modified repeatedly), it makes no sense to dream up scenarios like: 'they were extremely careful and did not touch the parts during practice and rehearsal sections', 'Bach had them make their own copies from his original copies'. This only leads to more questions like: "Why did they not make any obviously needed corrections or ask Bach to correct the part before the next rehearsal, etc., etc.?"

CV: >>Maybe there was some rule where nobody was allowed to write on them, since they were the official
music for church.<<

No, not necessarily for that reason, but much more likely because Bach lived at a time when printed music was very expensive and handwritten scores (and their accompanying parts) were extremely valuable. It is a fact that Bach's son, Wilhelm Friedemann, asked for an exhorbitant daily fee for anyone to even look at his father's scores, not because they were the official music for church, but because by allowing anyone to make copies of them meant that the trading value of the original was being diminished.

BL: >>The more attention you pay to something the better you remember it.<<
The more intensive your act of concentration is the first time that you look at it, the less time you will need to spend repeating it over and over again during individual study and numerous rehearsals. Perhaps the soloists and instrumentalists, simply by glancing at their parts which were placed on the lectern-like stands in the choir loft during the morning service were able to familiarize themselves sufficiently with the music they were to sight-read that this served as a quasi-rehearsal. Good sight-readers (which Bach's musicians had to be) could hear their parts in their minds simply by looking at them shortly before they were performed. This constitutes a kind of practice that would prevent blatant missteps from occurring during the actual performance. The ability to sight-read music meaningfully and expressively, although there have always been some musicians who can do this, seems to have become a declining art since Bach's time. When Liszt sat down and played at sight Grieg's piano concerto from a manuscript he had brought with him, Grieg was amazed. It is perhaps this higher level of sight-reading which was much more prevalent during Bach's time that we have difficulty understanding today. Bach's musicians were faced with a veritable barrage of new music which they would encounter at every performance. Imagine Fasch's musicians performing two new cantatas under his direction each Sunday and Feast Day with not a single one being repeated all year! From all appearances, Fasch composed at least two of them during the week and presented these compositions to the musicians who were truly capable of playing them at sight.

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 18, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks for this well developed discussion above.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 18, 2007):
Brad Lehman wrote:
>>I did some further digging into this, especially the statement (by Thomas B) that "Copyist 5 prepares the transposed organ continuo part". The piece was performed at least twice: May 22 1725 and a later one. And this transposed organ part for it survives...with continuo figures written in by Bach himself! We don't know if those figures are from the first performance or only from the second one. But in any case, they're only in the three short recitative movements, not the arias."<<
Well, I suspect that the sources you have 'dug up' are incomplete and erroneous, particularly in regard to your emphasized statement that the "continuo figures were written in by Bach himself!"

Here is what we know about this continuo part which is transposed down one whole tone and has figures only for mvts. 1, 3, and 5. It is a large folio size paper containing 4 pages of music containing all the mvts. 1-7. It was most likely copied and transposed not from the autograph score, but from the now-missing Primary Continuo part which would have been prepared by Johann Andreas Kuhnau. The copyist is the same one, who, a year later, became Bach's main copyist. The figures added in mvts. 1, 3, and 5 are only "vermutlich autograph" ("presumably autograph") or as the NBA KB I/14 also puts it: "Bach.tritt.nur als mutmaßlicher Schreiber der Bezifferung in Erscheinung." ("Bach appears only as the probable/presumed writer of the figures") (p. 201).

This means that there is a remote, but credible possibility that Bach may not have written in these figures himself. It may have been done hurriedly by someone else (unidentified as yet) for the first performance or added later to this part at a subsequent performance (possibly by Bach or less likely by someone else.)

BL: >>The continuo players, singer, and other instrumental soloists were left to work out the appropriate continuo harmonies themselves, in these three extended arias. We don't know if Bach coached them or not, but that's all we get with the written materials: no immediate clues that would make the realization task any easier, like the recitatives have with the figures.<<
Just imagine the possibility that there were no figures at all for the 1st performance and that they might have been added for a subsequent performance years later!

BL: >>As for the movement 4 aria being borrowed from BWV 173a (birthday cantata for Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen), sometime in 1717-22): yes, it is...but it was a bass aria there in A major, and it's become a tenor aria here in C major with entirely different instrumentation, and of course a different text. So, he rewrote it and rescored it, along with transposition.<<
And yet there are 28 instances of errors which Bach had to correct in his own score. Some of these instances are quite extensive.

BL: >>Bach had already reused most of that birthday cantata into BWV 173, for May 29th 1724. Here in BWV 175 he was saving out and reusing another movement of it, previously unused in Leipzig. This doesn't necessarily say anything one way or the other about being in a hurry (i.e. reusing old music); it only argues that he had some old pieces that he liked enough to use and hear again. This is practical efficiency! He still had to rework the whole thing to make it fit.<<
As indicated by the numerous errors he committed, as mentioned above, he made more than his usual number of errors in this reworking than in composing a new mvt. What would make more sense here is: the more time you have to plan and work efficiently without worrying about deadlines, the greater the chances of coming up
with a cleaner working score than he did in this instance.

BL: >>I myself am a strong sight-reader and an ensemble-music coach whenever I play.the notion that anybody sight-read such music as this in performance (instead of working it out ahead with sufficient group rehearsal) is offensive to me as a musician. It reduces the value of serious preparatory work, both pedagogically and in performance values, to something near zero.<<
As already pointed out repeatedly: whatever current methods you may use in preparation for performances may have little or no connection with Bach's methods which may have been very different. There is no need to be offended by what Bach could do and you are unable to do. In any case, there is a world of differences (historically almost 3 centuries separating you from Bach's time and culture) which you tend to overlook every time you maintain: "If I have to do it this way, then Bach likewise would have done this the same way." In any case, the differences between your ways and Bach's are growing wider each day.

BL: >>Musicians with any responsibility to the resulting music have to practice it ahead, at least in this genre of Baroque music where the accompaniment isn't even written out as more than a vague sketch.<<
But this was just about the only kind of music Bach's musicians knew. It was the "Age of Figured Bass". It was there almost every time they (continuo players) played any music at all.

BL: >>This is what musicians are trained to do: to be prepared, to be able to put out a beautiful and efficient result that is better than prima vista guesswork.<<
The "prima-vista" playing of Bach's ensembles included beautiful and efficient results. It is only that some musicians with doctorates have difficulty getting beyond their personal limitations which include not living in the German musical culture of the 1720s in Leipzig and participating in music composed and conducted by J. S. Bach, and are hampered by the belief that today's concert hall or recording demands were exactly the same as the expectations which J. S. Bach had.

BL: >>And we don't write in every little nuance or correction, either. We work out any problems in rehearsal and learn the piece, well enough to play it in the scheduled performances. Our memories and our musical sensibilities are decent enough that we correct any obvious errors without having to write it in.<<
This is interesting. It means that Bach's musicians were probably much better yet at sight-reading the parts after only silently glancing them over for a short while before actually performing from them.

BL: >>Back in college, eons ago, I was the kid who accompanied everybody in their voice/instrumental lessons, along with playing in church. One school year I kept a tally for myself, and found out that I played more than 70 performances during that time...which involved being efficient and learning quickly. I look back on the scores I played from during that time: in some of them I made no markings at all, even on the stuff I rehearsed for three or four weeks in a row at people's lessons with their teachers. The lack of marking is not proof that I didn't play or ever practice.<<
An interesting point, but you were able to play from printed scores which had been edited and corrected. Now change this to manuscript copies which included uncorrected errors and were devoid of any markings: phrasings, dynamics, trills, etc. Also, you had the advantage of seeing the complete score each time. Try accompanying solo voices/instrumentalists without knowing what they are singing or playing.

BL: >>For what that's worth! It's obvioworth nothing to Thomas, but maybe it's worth something to people who believe that musical experience is valuable.<<
As long as it is not applied as a straitjacket according to which Bach's musicians are to conform so that we can understand better what they really did based upon Brad Lehman's experiences as a musician today.

BL: >>As for Thomas's other rhetorical question, "have you considered Bach's performance schedule around Pentecost, 1725?" -- yes, of course. It seems to me that a busy performance schedule is a pretty good argument for getting the compositions done far ahead (instead of the opposite), since Bach is going to be especially busy rehearsing and/or teaching all these compositions up to performance time. The bigger the Pentecost crunch is going to be, in terms of pulling everything together for all the scheduled gigs, the more it's necessary to be prepared well in advance! This is basic organizational competence, here.<<
Simply because the cantata texts were printed weeks in advance, (this is like a syllabus for a college course with assignments indicated), does not mean that Bach would have set to work immediately on them so that he could remain 'on schedule' for all the presumed rehearsals and practice sessions (for which there is no evidence). Procrastination is a matter of human nature and the evidence of stress and hurry demonstrated repeatedly by the autograph scores and parts points toward a last-minute hurry to get the performance parts ready in time for an actual performance rather than rehearsals stretching over weeks. Also, last minute changes in the choice of vocal soloists or obbligato instruments would dictate waiting until almost the time of the performance to make such decisions. Why increase what is already a horrendous workload?

BL: >>The extant materials don't argue against him getting it done as early as, say, February or March for the Pentecost season coming up. Perhaps even before that! Git-R-Done in some spare moments whenever they're available, as it's not easy to put together music of this complexity without sufficient planning and rehearsal.<<
This piecemeal approach is not borne out by the evidence: the type of ink and the size of the nib as well as the flow of ink Bach used remains rather consistent throughout the writing out of the composing score. Certainly, greater variation would be observable if your contention had any merit at all.

BL: >>- Bach finishes the score (perhaps somewhat quickly, perhaps not!) some months in advance, and immediately hands out the assignments: to have it copied, and to have the student groups work up the performance in their lessons or other rehearsals.<<
Unreasonable contention, no evidence to back this up.

BL: >>- There's not a lot of time for anybody to waste, because the school's performance schedule as a whole is especially busy going into Lent, Easter, and on through at least Pentecost. Everybody has multiple pieces to work on, for various upcoming Sundays and other non-Sunday performances.<<
Very confusing with parts getting lost and continual questions "Which piece are we working on now?" It makes much more sense to concentrate on one thing at a time (unless you are a Gemini).

BL: >>- As problems present themselves in the various group rehearsals, Bach and/or his assistants go around helping the ensembles or teaching them directly in lessons. What better way to learn practical musicianship than to solve real problems, and play the results in scheduled upcoming church services as the acid test that the music has really been learned?<<
Where is there even a shred of evidence that Bach's cantatas were incorporated into these lessons?

BL: >>- The libretti have also been prepared for printing, months ahead, so the congregation will see and follow the words of the piece. The decision-making has to be made in advance of that typesetting, obviously, and the printing is for the whole upcoming season of performances. So, why not just compose the piece too, while all of that is being thought about intensely in those months ahead of performance? That's the most obviously efficient way to produce the product, instead of waiting until the week or so before performance to go nuts.<<
Whatever may be your modern notion of 'producing a product', it most likely was done very differently in Bach's time.

BL: >>So, he can compose it rather quickly if he has to, as long as it's far enough ahead to let all this music-production machinery run its course properly.<<
This modern jargon, "music-production machinery" makes it appear as though a clock-maker has wound up the clock and simply bides his time as it slowly unwinds itself. Here we have the image of Bach as God, the cosmic clockmaker, who steps back to see his marvelous creation unfold without little or no intervention. I see Bach as having a much more human aspect which allows him to realize that if he wishes to accomplish his goals as cantor practically, he will need to work on a very short-term basis, allowing for sudden changes which would only cause him greater concern otherwise and more work if he had attempted to complete the performance parts weeks in advance.

Casimir Vetter wrote (June 18, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] Mr Braatz, does "empirical proof" mean I should trust the opinions of my friends who took music lessons, when i want to learn about music? You are just confusing and you write way too much. I am a simple person in how I decide who to believe. I ask the person who really knows what they are doing. If I see a broken faucet I ask a plumber to fix it, not somebody who has never done it. It gets done better that way. It is his job to know it and that is why I pay him to do it right.

I asked you 2 times what YOUR musical experience is with playing or teaching, and you did not answer. You did not prove that you can do any of this stuff yourself. Instead you just make fun of people who look like they know what they are talking about, like here where you say continuo players can't do it right. You changed the subject and put up mean comments about other people, instead of saying why I should believe YOUR knowledge.

I'm sorry but that is why I believe you less and less each time you do it. Did you EVER hear any of today's players sight read anything to see if they can do it, or are you just making that all up because you don't want to listen to their knowledge? What school or job do you demonstrate that you can do it better, or that you at least know who is doing it right or not!

I am wondering what is the opposite of "empirical" for you--just looking things up in books and not caring if it really works or not for musicians? I don't see why that would be better. It just looks like YOU do not want to trust musician's opinions, and then force everybody to do it your way. You said here Mr Lehman does "empirical" things you don't like, and "disregards the evidence"--I wonder if you know how to read. Didn't he give a book just a couple days ago describing how Bach composed, from somebody who was a specialist in that? Last Thursday where he mentioned the book and then you jumped on what he said. You also disagreed with Mr Lehman today saying he was an expert player, but how would you know if he is or not unless you went to hear him. He seemed pretty good on some web samples I found, and his thing about continuo on the web where it looks like he knows it. Why would you supposedly know better than he does if he has taken classes in it? He says what his evidence is. Isn't it part of his job to know how good the players in Bach's time were, and try to do it right himself?

Another thing. YOU are the one saying it is such a big deal here--"Good sight-readers (which Bach's musicians had to be) could hear their parts in their minds simply by looking at them shortly before they were performed." But so what? I met lots of people who do that same thing, back in school, and they ARE good. And I trust their opinion more than I trust a guy who won't say what he plays. It is their job to know what their doing, and maybe not YOUR job to say that they suck at it. It also doesn't prove that Bach's people were better at than todays people.

You said "Bach expected his musicians to be 'in practice' by constantly, at every available opportunity, playing various types of music. This skill would then be apparent when sight-reading any new music Bach placed before them." But again so what? That is what pro musicians do now in their job, like people who play in movie music or for dance class, they do whatever music is handed to them. Or they fake it well enough. They play all kinds of music and sometimes they never saw it before. The lady who taught choir at my high school could sight read anything at piano, and I saw her do it standing up while talking. I think this is awesome. How do you prove Bach's people were better if you never heard HER play, OR them?

Of course things are different in Bach's time against now, but taking music lessons is still taking music lessons, getting good at a job. They practice what they need to know, for whatever might come up. You only show that you do not want to listen to todays musicians and their ideas--somebody else said this better last week. It's like the more skill people have the LESS you believe them, and there is something wrong with that. You are the one screwed up here, not musicans who practice and do their job. Forgive me for being so blunt, but YOU are blunt and mean, so what the hell. You deserve the same thing you dish out.

Then you brought in some new guy Fasch where he wrote 2 cantatas a week, and his people sight read it --says YOU--"truly capable of playing them at sight" that you did not prove here, or said why we should give a crap about him. So who cares. He wasn't Bach either and it does not prove your point. It just proves you can make up names or find them in books. What makes you think todays musicians couldn't play Fasch OR Bach maybe better than those people? Did you meet any musicians and tell them to their face that they suck? I can imagine they would not like that, especially if you said it before hearing them play. You also did not say why playing at sight is better for the music, just that YOU think it is more important than practicing. I do not care about your books or this Fasch, I care about listening to music I enjoy. I buy a CD or pick a radio station because I want it to be beautiful--not to hear anybody sight read.

You said up top "empirical proof," like that is some bad thing. I can imagine you spitting when you say it. Do you hate scientists and musicians, like they should all do their work a different way because you say so? This is getting really frustrating. I signed on to hear things about music I like, not long emails about how you think musicians are stupid.

My friend the plumber said he learned half his stuff from school but the best half by really fixing people's houses, solving real problems. That's how he knows how to THINK in the real world and not just talk a lot. He knows "empirically" that he fixed the leak because it is not leaking anymore. And not wasting time saying the plumbers 200 years ago were better.

Sorry this was so long, this just makes me mad. I can see why people like Mr McCain are mad too, the way you go on and on. If I want to learn a skill I would want to take lessons with people who really know it and do it. I would go along to their job if they let me, to see how they work. I guess I should send your emails straight to the spam filter, because you are just annoying and I can't believe your ideas about music. All they do is have you saying bad things about people who probably know more than you, and making up stupid arguments against what they said. At least they know something by doing their job, that you can't even say you have tried to do! You didn't say you KNOW any musicians, or that you can play any of it, or teach a choir or orchestra! I guess you don't understand Bach's job either becuase he did those things. Did he waste time arguing about it like you do?

This message board seems to have some reasonable and kind people, but I guess that is not you. The way you go on and on I do not see that you like music or the people who do it. When I see your old reviews on the web it is like you just want to make all the musicians look bad and stupid, like they can't do their job. That is sad! When I listen to a CD I want to decide what I like myself, not have some always grumpy guy say everybody is wrong. When the music sounds good to me I listen to it. "Empirically" I see it is not worth listening to you any more.

Russell Telfer wrote (June 18, 2007):
[To Casimir Vetter] I have not made many posts recently. I have been studying cantatas.

You have asked some very good questions. Simple questions, but very difficult questions for the people you asked.Your post was so good I have left it underneath for anyone to read again.

Some of our important members do not always acknowledge other posters by name, nor answer their questions directly.

It seems that one of our problems is that some of our Bach scholars (and they are without doubt top of the range) do not want to allow other scholars to challenge them. They don't even address each other directly! They will probably not reply to you on the list.

If you wait around though, you will get answers to your questions from other members, and be sure, your emails are being read. Other members of the list will explain why what should be so simple is so crazy.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 20, 2007):
Casimir Vetter wrote:
< Did you EVER hear any of today's players sight read anything to see if they can do it, or are you just making that all up because you don't want to listen to their knowledge? >
That I know of, there is one person on this list (but only one) who did do such a thing: a while back (a couple of months ago?), we were talking about BWV 92, which contains a difficult tenor aria, and this person (a soprano) decided to attempt to learn this aria as quickly as possible and see how fast it could be put in order to rehearse it. She sang the aria through once, making corrections of a few mistakes on the most difficult parts as she went along. The second time she sang it through, it was already in good enough condition to begin rehearsing.

This person performs regularly as a soloist in a Baroque ensemble associated with a Lutheran Church, in which, although she does have not-inconsiderable (though exclusively private) vocal training (and absolute pitch), she is the only person who does not actually make her living as a musician. Normally, the ensemble might spend up to two hours on a very difficult aria before performing it - normally spread out over two rehearsals, but if the situation were that the ensemble received the music in the morning and it had to be performed that night, it could be done. A couple of times through in the morning, a rehearsal in the afternoon, and then the performance in the evening. And for the soloist (namely yours truly), a HECK of a lot of mint tea with organic honey throughout the proceedings :P

So Thomas is not entirely making it up, although it should be pointed out that claims of the nature under discussion were made before the above-mentioned experiment was done (which is part of the reason it was done in the first place :P )

 

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Last update: ýMarch 30, 2011 ý12:25:17