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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 183
Sie werden euch in den Bann tun [II]
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of May 27, 2007 [Continue]

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 30, 2007):
>>> What's so disrespectful about 'colorful'? To me 'very interesting and colorful' doesn't sound that bad. What's wrong with me? <<<
Because in idiomatic American English, a phrase such as "a colorful character" refers to a person whose actions are reprehensible, a person who is a bad role model for behavior, a person who is barely redeemed or excused through charm or quaint provinciality.

Not a good way to review a book; especially a book that the writer of the "colorful" phrase didn't even bother to read.

Well, here's directly what was said:
< Find the book listed on Amazon.com, where it is possible to access the table of contents and the index and even search the book for specific words like "censor, censorship, superintendent" and it will become quite apparent that this book will offer little or no insight on whether Salomon Deyling, Bach's superintendent, might or might not have passed prior judgement on any cantata texts which Bach wished to set to music.
(...)
It is evident from obtaining a short insight into Herl's otherwise very interesting and colorful presentation that covers about 2 1/2 centuries in all the various principalities, cities, towns and villages from the North and Baltic Seas to Saxony and cities like Nürnberg and Ulm in the south, that there is little or nothing here that can relate specifically to Bach's situation in
Leipzig as far as possible censorship of the sacred texts he selected for composition is concerned. >
And by his own admission here, he didn't read the book but just spent a short time running the Amazon "search inside this book" feature; apparently just enough to prove to himself that the book wasn't worth reading, or wouldn't satisfy his own personal expectations.

And then, it's dismissed as merely an "otherwise very interesting and colorful presentation"...although this happens to be an Oxford University Press book, by an author (Dr Joseph Herl) whose dissertation work was in this field of Lutheran church music: http://www.wels.net/s3/uploaded/6038/herl-presentation.pdf
and whose 2004 book here from OUP has more than 350 valuable pages of detail and historical argument about the topic. Amazon.com

Herl is a respected instructor at a Lutheran university, doing research into that church's historical practices as to music and worship; is that not important to our topic of Bach's church music? And Herl is also a published composer of music for choir and organ, for Lutheran worship use. Gee, maybe Dr Herl actually knows his topic both from research and practice, at least enough that his 366-page book of his post-doctoral research might be worth reading.

Get the point now, as to why the comment was offensive against Herl's and OUP's work? "Otherwise very interesting and colorful presentation" is just a bunch of pseudo-polite rationalization for "flush this, I can't be bothered to read this seriously, as I already know it's wrong and not what I wanted to see." Even though it's a book written by a high-profile Lutheran expert, and published by one of the top research publishers in the world!

As we've seen here regularly, this is just the latest in a long line of books that the same guy has dismissed in a similar manner, WITHOUT READING or considering as serious scholarship. "A short insight" is apparently euphemism for "just barely long enough to verify my prejudice that the object is worthless to me." If a book can't answer a specific question that he himself just made up (one about Leipzig superintendents, here), the whole book is therefore irrelevant and to be pooh-poohed in public forum. How convenient, as an excuse not to study it, and an excuse never to set foot in any serious research library. How convenient, as an excuse NOT to have a civilized or reasonable discussion with a church-music expert (Douglas Cowling) who HAS read the book and recommends its importance.

Well, the "colorful character" of that dilettante's charm and quaint provinciality has run out, long ago. It's the "otherwise interesting and colorful presentations", i.e. the way he offers dismissals of other people's serious scholarship, and the way he offers stuff he's totally made up against evidence, and the way he argues points into the ground on his own REFUSAL to trust (or even seriously read) scholarly material written in English. He even seems proud of NOT reading things, in the excuses he offers.

His attitude against other people's published work (record reviews, books, etc) is apparently the attitude that should be applied to reading HIS OWN UNpublished work, if these things were symmetrical and reasonable: take one quick 15-minute look at it, see that it's unpalatable, and flush the whole thing as not worth taking seriously.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 30, 2007):
< Herl's study is hardly a "colourful presentaton". It is the most significant original research on music and the Lutheran church since Stiller. You should show more respect for scholarship. Perhaps you should even read the book. >
Hear, hear. To dismiss any excellent scholarly resource instead of reading it (and instead of entertaining its argument and evidence) is irresponsible, childish, patronizing, pathetic, and more.... I've even seen some real scholars fall into such a prejudiced trap against things they'd rather not consider as plausible; and it's a deplorable practice, no matter who does it, whether dilettante or scholar. Good stuff gets dismissed on hearsay or even less.

But, people who condemn things unread will create their own problems and short-change themselves (i.e. unwanted principles can't be proven or demonstrated to them anyway within their own little closed paradigm). They've erected their own limits of comfort around themselves, and they can't or won't get out. So, it's not worth worrying about trying to reach such unreachable folks anymore, where it's their own attitudes blocking them; there are more productive things to go do, instead. Let the serious forward-going research be done by people who have a healthy respect for scholarly processes, sound reasoning, and practical matters such as performing and composing church music....

=====

Many thanks are due to Mr Cowling for presenting this Herl book; I'm going to order an interlibrary copy of it right away, for my summer reading, to learn more about this important topic of Lutheran worship styles leading into the 18th century.

I've rather enjoyed the interesting thread of Bach's compositional planning, but I'd like to become better informed by actually reading the resources, before arguing possibilities. This Herl book looks like a terrific thing to study, so thanks again for mentioning it. I'd missed that reference, the first time on-list last August.

From a short bit of digging into the references, it's this book from Oxford University Press, following up Joseph Herl's own dissertation on related topics:

http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Books/Worship-Wars%5BHerl%5D.htm
http://tinyurl.com/2cx2zx
Amazon.com

=====

At about 20 minutes into today's "Performance Today" show, a guy improvises a Debussyesque arrangement of "Yesterday" by the Beatles: http://performancetoday.publicradio.org/programs/
May 30, hour 1. And theKorngold concerto is always a whipped-cream treat to hear.

=====

Another article by this same Joseph Herl:
"Are Bach's Cantatas the Praise and Worship Music of the Eighteenth Century?"
http://www.calvin.edu/worship/luce/2003/herl.php

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 30, 2007):
It is truly amazing how much time and effort is spent in devising and presenting diatribes against me and my method of asking for more specific information in attempting to uncover what may have led to bold assertions made in this forum rather than in focusing directly on the subject matter at hand and providing as succinctly as possible the available evidence upon which these assertions are based.

Certainly these digressions (which may be intentional on the part of those who steer our attention away from the actual questions or subjects of discussion) could easily be avoided and thereby create less clutter for other BCML members who are required to sift through these extraneous personal reactions and reflections which have little or nothing to do with the original points of discussion).

Repeatedly Alain has unsuccessfully attempted to refocus attention on the Rifkin interview which he had presented to the BCML a short while ago. Thus far he has been met by a 'stonewall' response from the other vociferous BCML supporters of Rifkin's now famous, but still much debated, OVPP theory. I have attempted in vain for a long time to obtain from these Rifkin proponents an intelligible response outlining the new, seemingly irrefutable arguments and evidence that Rifkin has allegedly presented in his most recent booklet. The rather amazing unwillingness (or is it incapability?) on the part of these Rifkin supporters to point out specifically some key points of evidence that Rifkin uses in continuing to defend his OVPP theory may indeed be indicative that there really is not anything significantly new or different that might move a careful and reasonable reader closer toward accepting the possibility that most of the Leipzig cantatas and other sacred music composed there were performed OVPP under Bach's direction.

The assertion that Bach would, as a matter of course, have submitted his cantata texts to Salomon Deyling, Superintendent of Lutheran Churches in Leipzig, for approval is another assumption that needs to be questioned. And when, as it appears now, there really is nothing in Herl's book to connect the few fragmented statements about superintendents who lived elsewhere in the numerous principalities of what was then called loosely "Germany" and who lived primarily between 1520-1650, a century or more before the situation Bach encountered in an 'awakened' environment of the Enlightenment issuing primarily from the University of Leipzig with which St. Thomas School was rather closely associated (some members of the teaching staff were also teaching or would eventually teach at the university), then it becomes quite apparent that Herl's book cannot supply any meaningful supporting evidence for the contention mentioned above. Why should one necessarily read Herl's book for an answer to a question about possible censorship of Bach's cantata texts if an examination of the books contents on Amazon.com proves that there is nothing that relates directly to Bach's personal situation vis-à-vis Deyling and why should anyone need to read Rifkin's newest booklet, if what has already been presented in Parrott's book has not been surpassed with new and credible evidence that Bach's Primary Choir in Leipzig rarely, if ever, sang as a group of singers performing simultaneously in cantata mvts. scored for all four voices, but that generally only 4 solo (concertist) voices would have sung such (normally considered "choral") mvts.?

"Colorful" = OED: full of color, also figurative usage: full of interest, excitement, force, etc.

Jean Laaninen wrote (May 31, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks so much Brad. After reading the PDF file given by the link below, I can tell you that this material is right on target. My means of knowing comes first from my own Lutheran heritage. Although the PDF does not contain the references, the tone of this document is right on target with the oral history passed down in my own family--one which has had fourteen Lutheran pastors and/or church staff members in the last one hundred and twenty years. This writing (PDF) coincides with the literature upon which we were raised. My study of the History of Theology at Fuller Seminary, and even the time I spent in the study of Prebyterian history and polity supports what this document contains. I am sure the book itself offers a great deal more than an entertaining trip through time based upon the factual material contained therein.

Perhaps there is room to call the style of the writer (Herl) engaging, rather than colorful, but there is some evidence that the stories have the tone of Lutheransim, if not exactly color. Semantics tend to divide people at times, and personality also does show through--and we have many personalities on this mail list. Even so, I am persuaded from this preview found in the PDF that we have the genuine article here and if someone really wants to know the heart and soul and the scholarly facts of Lutheran History and the 'wars' intact, this book is right on target. I learned church history and church polity from the high chair up. Our home was filled with pastors and scholars in the Lutheran tradition as my parents entertained the dignitaries that came to the towns where we lived. My father served as the president of a small Lutheran college (later merged in Nebraska) and was on the board of another midwestern college besides. So I heard a good many discussions on the matter of history and much debate on the issue of the appropriateness of church music. There were personal differences and there were scholarly differences.

The same kinds of issues that required supervision in Bach's time, still prevail in some ways today, and not only in Lutheranism. For one and a half years I had a weekly dialogue with a person highly involved in the charismatic movement. By way of illustration, once we overcame some of the semantic issues the dogmatism on both sides dissolved. No person who has not been a Lutheran deeply entrenched in the history of Lutheranism can vouch for this book on Lutheran grounds, but scholarly grounds are highly supported, and therein a person with depth in the history of church music like Doug, or in musicology lilke Brad will realize that jointly we are able to substantiate the validity of a work such as Herl's. So there is room for unity. I would be more comfortable, if anyone writing on the forum would have the courtesy to read a book cover to cover before pronouncing a final judgment and my review is only regarding the PDF, I must add. Or if only covering a review substantiate his or her background. Is the writer a Lutheran? If so, what history does he/she have in regard to the literature of Lutheranism? Is the writer a scholar? When I have done translations for people at times I have learned that the context of the material is critical and revisions have been made to my work I considered to be a blessing. Even when one edits in English, one may not always grasp the context of the writer. This is why scholarly work does not place dictatorial absolutes on the basis of opinion. There is nothing wrong at all with saying "in my opinion....such and such."

We will work together better as a group of people who have worth while material to share if we can carefully separate our opinions from historical facts and rigid conclusions regarding them.

A year ago I joined this group, and then dropped out in part due to the controversy herein. But I decided to come back, and I am learning a great deal. When Thomas suggested reading to me regarding figured bass I did the reading, and in my opinion I gained quite a bit from the adventure. Brad also contributed to my knowledge and has continuedto do so. In the end I am finally understanding much later that different approaches had to do with time period and with formal or informal settings. Even the controversy over what may have been appropriate formally or emotionally enters into the avenue of why some people like what the composer noted down and keeping it simple to the opposite approach of adding ornamentations and thereby possibly more emotional content.

I hope we can all continue to learn from each other, but good manners does in my opinion mean that when we have an opinion we state it as an opinion and note the facts and what we think they mean as scholarly possibilities. The greatest scholars I have ever been privileged to study with all say, 'in my opinion and from my analysis this is what I take this or that combination of factors to mean.' Directly quotable history also comes from various authors and the possibility is that on some issues we do not have all the historical documentation to have a completely clear picture. But we can all grow from knowledge, and a life without expansive thinking is pretty dull.

Thanks for listening to me.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 31, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Certainly these digressions (which may be intentional on the part of those who steer our attention away from the actual questions or subjects of discussion) could easily be avoided and thereby create less clutter for other BCML members who are required to sift through these extraneous personal reactions and reflections which have little or nothing to do with the original points of discussion). >
Wow! This is just like being in the 18th century. Censorship is about to be imposed on us!

Peter Smaill wrote (May 31, 2007):
Reverting to the subject: why is this Cantata so short?

My suggestion is that the reason is theological: it is a build up to Whitsun and, once the component movements have covered the Gospel for the day, and then set the Christian in relationship to each member of the Trinity, concluding with a prayer to God through the Holy Spirit, then there is nothing further to add.

The Chorale is most beautiful, and Brad has added a good analysis of the setting. My error here is that the setting given out as "Zeuch ein zu deinen Toren" in Reimenschneider is apparently different from the BWV 183 setting, even though the words of this verse are not used according to the BCW in any other Cantata. The word painting (not really a theological observation here ) is valid for the Reimenschneider version.

Is Bach interested in the doctrine of the Trinity such that theology shapes his approach to music? In the B minor Mass (BWV 232) we have direct evidence for his use of musical symbolism to reinforce the sacred pattern of the unity of father and Son. Not only does the duet treatment of "Et in unum......." emphasise the concept of "unigenite", but Bach himself writes in the score, "Duo Voces Articuli 2" ,i.e "Two voices express 2"..

Just as Bach expresses "two in oneness" in the MBM (BWV 232) so in this Cantata the structure is built around the Trinity.

Neil Mason wrote (May 31, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Wow! This is just like being in the 18th century. Censorship is about to be imposed on us! >
I sympathise with this comment. It is only reasonable for list-members to require others in the same category to read a book or listen to a recording before criticising it. It's called "manners".

Julian Mincham wrote (May 31, 2007):
I don't agree with (or maybe I just don't grant as sufficiently credible) such comments that would press Bach to have done deliberate little supposedly-theologilittle supposedly-theologi<WBR>cal things.is (to me) just a bunch of evidence that Bach's musical mastery was excellent, and it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with word-painting here. This chorale BWV 183/5 is a good example of freedom/decoration of melodic parts, within a harmonic framework.

I agree partly but not wholly with these comments and their expansion in the remainder of the email.

Howevr they raise some interesting issues which I would like to explore a little.

The first is the idea that Bach may well have written as he did principally to fulfill the musical rather that the textural, word painting or theological imperatives. I am sure that for the most part he did although the two are clearly not exclusive---in fact probably less so in his music than in anyone else's. I believe that Bach probably took personal pride in fulfilling different imperatives simultaneously just as he seems to have done by representing quite different emotions,statements in the same movement (BWV 103/1)

However I thing it is wrong to assume that the musical imperative (or effective) ALWAYS took precedence over other factors. Tovey pointed out many years ago that some of Bach's fugues subjects, when inverted, became, angular and verged upon the ugly (I think, from memory he gave as examples the G+, D- and A- fugues fro book 1) Here the musical imperative took second place to the need to show compositional brilliance or to demonstrate his own cleverness. Very difference is the stretto inversion of the subject in the D-f ugue from book 2---so natural and flowing that most people would probably not notice it without reference to a score.

There are also examples where Bach takes a sudden and (on the surface) somewhat musically unconvincing twist at the end of some recitatives. Usually this is to portray the asking of a question, the introduction of a new and contrary thought, a moment of incompleteness etc.

In other words the musical imperative is largely but not wholly inevitably the driving force.

As to the harmonisations of chorales, my own research has shown examples where Bach has reharmonised an early version in order to end a cantata and in it he has introduced details--a dissonance here, a diminished chord there--which seem to have been suggested by the particular text of that final verse. So I have no problem with the recognition of details which are both musically and textually driven at the same time.

There is always the danger of reading something into the music which may not have been intended. But how do we judge this? 'Intention' is a most dangerous element for assumption: In fact much musical analysis carries such dangers.

All of which leads me to a hobby horse. What I like about this particular quoted posting, whether I agree or not, is that it deals directly with the MUSIC itself. Many of the postings deal with relevant issues (ignoring the irrelevant ones for the moment!) rather than about the music per se------text, translation, performance details and practices, comparative interpretations etc etc. I don't complain about this--some interesting views always turn up.

BUT I do feel that we tend to get the balance a bitwrong. What is there that attracts us to this canon (apart from the odd-ball who occasionally writes in to tell us how boring it all is) but the deeply felt reaction to the expressive character of the music itself? But we tend to spend most effort discussing matters adjunct to the music rather than the centrality of the music itself.

Maybe some people don't feel they have the musical background to enter into such discussion--to which I would respond 'phoo-ey' (or an even ruder word!) If you feel it, you can talk about it. Whether you can distinguish between a third inversion dominant 7th and a German 6th is entirely irrelevant. Some peoples' reaction to the (apparently) truncated bass aria a week or so ago is an excellent example of what I mean about music based discussion.

Other such questions which anyone, practising musician or not, might offer a view on might be

* do you find the recits in the two cantatas which begin with one, to feel to be of a different quality than those in other cantatas?

* what about the different uses of obligato instruments--particularly flute, violin, picc cello, oboes? How do you feel they colour particular arias/duets?

* how do you respond to the use of conventional suites movements in the cantatas?--minuets, gavottes etc

(and a lot more possible questions) can be addressed and commented upon by those with minimal or nil musical background.

Please don't give me a rant for criticisng commonly discussed topics ---I am not! But I would like to see more discussion of and views about the music itself--a slight shift in the balance would interest me more.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 31, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>>Is Bach interested in the doctrine of the Trinity such that theology shapes his approach to music? In the B minor Mass (BWV 232) we have direct evidence for his use of musical symbolism to reinforce the sacred pattern of the unity of father and Son. Not only does the duet treatment of "Et in unum......." emphasise the concept of "unigenite", but Bach himself writes in the score, "Duo Voces Articuli 2" ,i.e "Two voices express 2".<<
It was not JSB who wrote this into the score, but his son, CPE, in 1786. The latter is also responsible for 're-writing' or 're-composing' his father's score (he changed considerably the 'texting' of the music ---where specific words fall) much to the detriment to the 'formative symbolism' of the entire mvt. (Friedrich Smend, NBA KB II/1 p. 154). Remember that CPE used a razor blade (Foreword to Rifkin's 2006 Urtext edition, B&H) to erase notes from his father's original composition and then superimposed his own inferior modifications upon them in such a way that it becomes impossible to ascertain for certain what his father had originally intended.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 31, 2007):
< It is truly amazing how much time and effort is spent in devising and presenting diatribes against me and my method of asking for more specific information in attempting to uncover what may have led to bold assertions made in this forum rather than in focusing directly on the subject matter at hand and providing as succinctly as possible the available evidence upon which these assertions are based. >
Dude, that was 68 words in a row with no punctuation. Breathe. Organize your thoughts.

It is truly amazing how much time and wasted effort is spent fashioning belligerent demands, and whining about other people's scholarship one can't be troubled to read, INSTEAD OF reading scholarly material in its context.

"In its context": reading straight through a printed book (requiring a time commitment and concentration), to learn about an author's entire presented argument and organization of evidence...as opposed to picking and plucking at it with search engines -- or worse, demanding pre-digested "summaries" of it from intelligent readers to be (mis)used INSTEAD OF a look at the book -- to see if it contains certain keywords that would somehow magically tip the balance toward credibility.

The fashioning of demands and challenges takes longer than a reading of the material would do! It also shows that you're much more interested in pressing YOUR OWN ideas, and the framing of things YOU think are make-or-break important, than in listening to the organized work of experts.

The way you use (misuse!) scholarship is mainly pick-and-choose, yanking things out of context to corroborate things YOU wanted to say, and focusing on little factoids (twistable to whatever use you can fashion for them) instead of on organized musicological arguments; too bad for whatever the author of a published piece really said in context, or decided what was important in context.

That's part of the problem.

And what about the old-fashioned notion of reading books straight through, without agenda or prejudice, to learn something? Instead of treating them as tracts of land to be strip-mined for factoids?

I checked out the Herl book Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism (2004) last night, from a university library with an extensive theology section. While there, I grabbed another half dozen books nearby that also looked interesting and relevant; a nice byproduct of visiting libraries. Stacks browsing is a delightful activity. I look forward to reading these over the summer, to fill myself in on topics I don't understand well enough. The Dewey Decimal call number of the Herl book starts with 264.04102. Wow, five digits after the decimal: the subtlety of this cataloguing system in organizing a large collection, down to sub-categories.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 31, 2007):
183/5: Bach's Orchestration

Julian Mincham wrote:
< * what about the different uses of obligato instruments--particularly flute, violin, picc cello, oboes? How do you feel they colour particular arias/duets? >
One of the joys of this forum -- yes, there ARE joys! -- is the opportunity to marvel and Bach's incredible genius for orchestration. Every cantata has some unique orchestral technique which shows the composer's unceasing exploration of instrumental colour.

It's worth comparing Bach with his most famous contemporaries, Händel, Vivaldi and Telemann.

In spite of his kaleidoscope of concertos, Vivaldi hardly ever uses obligato instruments beyond the occasional oboe in his church music. Even trumpets and drums are very unusual.

Händel is much the same. The "Messiah" has one obligato instrument in one aria -- "The Trumpet Shall Sound". The rest of the oratorio is for strings and doubling oboes only (trumpets and drums appear in only three movements!) Compare that with orchestral treasure trove of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248). There are no obligato instruments in the Coronation Anthems and only the occasional oboe in the Chandos Anthem and the Latin Psalms. Only in a special case like "The Ode for St. Cecilia's Day" do we find obligato instruments in each movement and that is only because of the text celebrating the sound of various instruments.

Telemann is certainly more adventresome than Vivaldi or Händel (I've only heard a handful of cantatas) but there is never the sense of "oooh - ahhhh" that one has when encountering a new orchestral effect in Bach. I don't think there is another composer in the 18th century who could have written the Magnificat (BWV 243), a 23-minute summary of the Baroque orcehstra.

Julian Mincham wrote (May 31, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< One of the joys of this forum -- yes, there ARE joys! -- is the opportunity to marvel and Bach's incredible genius for orchestration. Every cantata has some unique orchestral technique which shows the composer's unceasing exploration of instrumental colour. >
I have always found it fascinating and intriguing to note precisely what obligato instrument Bach chooses to use for an aria or duet. One is often initially surprised at his choices. Obviously availability may well have been a factor on occasions (e.g. BWV 1/3 where one might have expected the brighter sounds of the flute or oboe proper) although my strong suspicion is that mostly Bach made a clear choice on musical/textual grounds. There are times when the upbeat text would lead one to expect a brighter instrument but what Bach gives us is the more sombre sounds of the cello picc or oboe da caccia. Usually one finds that it is part of his incredible balancing act, modifying, say, the surface joy of the text with a less extrovert tonal quality of a 'sadder' instrument---- as if to add a note of caution.

Subtle stuff.

Whilst on the subject of his incredible ear for tonal quality, recall the opening bars of SMP--very low growling writing for flutes and oboes doubling strings--on paper it LOOKS wrong and one wouldn't reccomend it to a student of orchestration.

But it SOUNDS just right--that doleful, sad, unique sound was clearly what Bach had in his mind and wanted.

From what I have heard of Telemann I suspect that he was perhaps the more experimental with instrumental combinations (perhaps he simply had a greater well to draw from) but that Bach had the more precise sense of the most appropriate sound for partipurpose.

Peter Smaill wrote (May 31, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] It is widely known that CPE Bach (and others) marked the scores of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232). However, the recent study by Professor John Butt of the MBM (BWV 232), which deals at length with the intrusions, is my source for the J S Bach attribution - do let us know what the academic source is for the counter view, namely, that this is a CPE Bach commentary on the symbolism of the setting?

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 31, 2007):
[To Peter Smaill] Yes, gladly. Both the NBA and the Rifkin Urtext (2006) have not included the "Duo Voces Articuli 2" superscript added by CPE Bach to the "Et in unum Dominum". It appears that Butt has taken a stance which would need much more physical proof (for instance, a statement by Yoshitake Kobayashi confirming that this phrase added to the top is indeed in JSB's handwriting and not in CPE's).

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 31, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] Just wondering: who are you to tell John Butt how to do his job, as to the types of evidence he should consider to be make-or-break? Or at all?

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 1, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] I'm not sure sure why this is such a bone of contention. If it's in JSB's handwriting, it's an unusual confirmation by the composer of what any good analysis would see in the relation of text to counterpoint. If the comment is by CPE, then it shows how well he understood his father's music.

We owe a huge debt to CPE Bach for his role in the transmission of JSB's music. I'm not prepared to cast him as some philistine hacking away at the manuscript with a knife. His orchestral introduction to the Credo looks quite wonderful. I would like to hear it if only to catch an echo of the way in which Bach's son heard his father's music.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 31, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] Just wondering: are we talking about the same John Butt who claimed without any real evidence on p. 195 of the OCC: "With declining health, it is unlikely that Bach himself could play the [Goldberg] variations in the last few years of his life."? Butt seems to know things not available to most serious researchers, things that apparently do not need to be based upon the usual methods of documentation and argumentation but rather upon empirical methods.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 31, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Butt seems to know things not available to most serious researchers, things that apparently do not need to be based upon the usual methods of documentation and argumentation but rather upon empirical methods. >
This coming from YOU as a complaint??!?!!??!

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 31, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>I'm not prepared to cast him [CPE Bach] as some philistine hacking away at the manuscript with a knife.<<
This is your hyperbolic description of the facts as presented by Rifkin whom I have quoted.

DC: >>I would like to hear it if only to catch an echo of the way in which Bach's son heard his father's music.<<
Yes, and only an echo of his father's music it will remain. CPE Bach's genius and contribution to Western music will remain on a level not equal to his father's. CPE's compositions represent a different musical style and period which, although issuing from the earlier trends and styles which his father incorporated in his music, have proven over time to be less profound and enduring than those of this father's. Why this is so is what these Bach discussion groups are all about. Where are there comparable discussion groups and internet sites devoted to the
presentation and discussion of CPE's works?

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 31, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< CPE Bach's genius and contribution to Western music will remain on a level not equal to his father's. >
Sez you; but some keyboard experts, including me, get a great deal of use out of the textbook CPE Bach wrote. It's one of the most systematic and thorough manuals about that topic, from any century.

As for CPE's "genius and contribution" in the way he inspired both Haydn and Mozart, and their contributions to Western music: your opinion remains your own.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 31, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Yes, and only an echo of his father's music it will remain. CPE Bach's genius and contribution to Western music will remain on a level not equal to his father's. CPE's compositions represent a different musical style and period which, although issuing from the earlier trends and styles which his father incorporated in his music, have proven over time to be less profound and enduring than those of this father's. Why this is so is what these Bach discussion groups are all about. Where are there comparable discussion groups and internet sites devoted to the presentation and discussion of CPE's works? >
Thank you for putting CPE Bach in his place. And I hope you will suppress anyone who is perverse enough even discuss his works or his legacy in music history. Perhaps we should take the very penknife which he used on the manuscript of the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) and deface his works everywhere!

A bas Carl-Philippe!!

(This list gets more like the Bizarro world in the Superman comics every week.)

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 1, 2007):
Brad Lehman wrote:
>>> What's so disrespectful about 'colorful'? To me 'very interesting and colorful' doesn't sound that bad. What's wrong with me? <<<
< Because in idiomatic American English, a phrase such as "a colorful character" refers to a person whose actions are reprehensible, a person who is a bad role model for behavior, a person who is barely redeemed or excused through charm or quaint provinciality. >
This definition is perhaps a bit extreme for idiomatic American english, in general? However, it is not far off the mark for the use of the word 'colorful', with respect to scholarly work. There, it certainly implies taking liberties with the data. If 'data' is a word which applies to discussion of the history of music?

Nothing like a good fossil to figure out what happened 500 million years ago, plus or minus.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 1, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Reverting to the subject: why is this Cantata so short?
My suggestion is that the reason is theological: it is a build up to Whitsun and, once the component movements have covered the Gospel for the day, and then set the Christian in relationship to each member of the Trinity, concluding with a prayer to God through the Holy Spirit, then there is nothing further to add. >
Tempting (not to say seductive), but how then the comparison to the same theology in the longer and more complex architecture of BWV 44, from the the previous year? Even considering BWV 183 in isolation, I fail to see the specifics of introducing the members of the Trinity, then signing off, in the text.

This music hangs together marvelously (sorry for the technical jargon). No problem at all for the layman to hear a superb craftsman, responding to challenges from whatever source, tigup his chops. Making every work a unique creation.

This comment is not meant to diminish the importance of the underlying theology, but to serve as a reminder of the variety of musical architectures which Bach built on the same theology. Or, to put it simply, it is not a convincing argument that Bach did it a particular way to match the theology, if he did something much different in another instance, to match the same theology. At the very least, it is necessary to acknowledge and reconcile the differences.

This is the discussion theme proposed for Round 3, I believe, but never out of place.

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 1, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Why insult CPE Bach??? (see message above) and back to Cantata BWV 183.

I like to say that life is a cartoon and we are the characters. Bizarro world it is, but I cannot see any real reason to diminish CPE Bach. Or any other great composer for that matter. It is one thing to look at a score and point out a few details, or even to see a structure in a work that gives it intelligibility, and quite another to compose what are also great works if not the same works as the father. Lutheran settings were at least in one way then as they are now, in that new and fresh compositions were required while preserving something of the past. Creativity enters in, and changes help to ease the possibility of boredom. Lutherans would also, I imagine liked to have heard variations on old themes. Many variations add up to that kind of perspective historically.

What on earth is to be gained by insulting those who have passed on?

One professor of mine said that JSB Bach did it all, and so there was literally nothing for others to do. Yet musicians even today compose in the style of JSB with some lovely results. I don't think I'm up for putting down composers whose work I could not emulate, but personal preference is another thing. Scholastically to take scores and draw comparison makes for an interesting study, and if classical elements have been incorporated into a work at some point I would think there might have been some reasons couched in the simple fact that times change. Thank God so much was preserved, and the Bach Cantatas stand as a particularly unique body of literature...they are the reason for the forum.

I envy in a healthy way the real scholar who has a deep grasp of such matters. My own mind is not like an encylopedia, but more of a nature to synthesize knowledge and apply material in new ways as needed, so I can see the point of transitions even if something got lost (something always gets lost, anyway). So if a scholar of substantial repute says good things about CPE Bach, I am apt to believe that and hope that others will listen up. Frankly, I always liked CPE even before this discussion.

But back to Cantata 183...I listened again twice today since I had not given this work enough time. I'm most inclined to look at what the soprano sings since that's the kind of music I like to make most. I was truly fascinated with the back and forth play that occurs between the oboe and the soprano in the fine ornamentations, and this seemed rather unique to me. The scholars in the group can say even though I cannot whether or not Bach used motives such as we see in this number between soprano and oboe in other similar works.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 1, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Just wondering: are we talking about the same John Butt who claimed without any real evidence on p. 195 of the OCC: "With declining health, it is unlikely that Bach himself could play the [Goldberg] variations in the last few years of his life."? >
The qualifying phrases make this a reasonable sentence. Without even taking the trouble to reread the context, I can infer that Butt is suggesting (speculating?) that Bach did not write the Goldberg Variations for casual performance. I do agree that the careless reader can easily overlook the conditional language, especially 'unlikely', and read Butt's statement as fact..

< Butt seems to know things not available to most serious researchers, things that apparently do not need to be based upon the usual methods of documentation and argumentation but rather upon empirical methods. >
Shall we then judge his entire output by his poorest sentence? Shall we apply that standard universally?

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 1, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< CPE Bach's genius and contribution to Western music will remain on a level not equal to his father's. CPE's compositions represent a different musical style and period which, although issuing from the earlier trends and styles which his father incorporated in his music, have proven >
Not proven at all.

< over time to be less profound and enduring than those of this father's. Why this is so is what these Bach discussion groups are all about. >
Really? I did not see that when I signed on.

< Where are there comparable discussion groups and internet sites devoted to the presentation and discussion of CPE's works? >
If internet chat volume is the criterion for social significance, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and the rest, must be at the very top?

Neil Halliday wrote (June 1, 2007):
BWV 183: soprano aria (Mvt. 4)

Jean Laaninen wrote:
<"I was truly fascinated with the back and forth play that occurs between the oboe and the soprano in the fine ornamentations, and this seemed rather unique to me">
In much of the ritornello the oboes da caccia have passages of demisemiquavers delineating figures that are later heard in their entirety in the soprano's melisma on "wandeln". As well, the initial 4-note demi-semi figure itself keeps popping up in the 1st violins , and also in the continuo in the B section of the aria - and as part of the main `theme', of course, in the soprano part.

Is this unique? I think I read somewhere where Stravinsky said that a feature of Bach's style was a "patchwork" method of composition (some patch-work!). Certainly, such "back and forth play" that you notice between voice and oboe is one of the most endearing aspects of Bach's work, IMO.

For me, the uniqueness of this aria is its orchestral colour resulting from the oboes da caccia being in unison at an octave lower than the 1st violins, in the first four bars that have the main `theme'; and in the following obbligato-style passages for `low-sounding' oboes, the fact that there are two of them also produces a `fuller' effect that is different from the usual single obbligato instrument.

(BTW, all of us with broadband now have access to the BGA).

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 1, 2007):
< If internet chat volume is the criterion for social significance, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and the rest, must be at the very top? >
There's a fantastic Britney/Paris/Lindsay satire, at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uE-F1yMv8nY

Enjoy!

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 1, 2007):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks, Neil...what you have written helps to expand my understanding of what I have heard.

Can you tell me anything about the two types of oboes that frequently show up in Bach works?

Harry W. Crosby wrote (June 2, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< From what I have heard of Telemann I suspect that he was perhaps the more experimental with instrumental combinations (perhaps he simply had a greater well to draw from) but that Bach had the more precise sense of the most appropriate sound for particular purpose. >
Julian, I would be unable to recognize the experimental nature of Telemann's orchestration, but I beg of you to strengyour statement about Bach's sense of the most appropriate sounds for each occasion.

To me, Telemann at his most expressive and illustrative sounds, by comparison, formulaic and skin deep --- if he's lucky. I rarely think of his instrumental combos as venturesome or specially interesting, whereas I seldom hear my daily returns to Bach without renewed wonder at just that.

Richard Mix wrote (June 2, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Just wondering: are we talking about the same John Butt who claimed without any real evidence on p. 195 of the OCC: "With declining health, it is unlikely that Bach himself could play the [Goldberg] variations in the last few years of his life."? >
I dont think taking this remark out of context gives anyone a fair chance to judge whether Butt is being reasonable or not. Here is the preceding paragraph (from the Goldberg article in the Oxford Composer Companion):

According to...Forkel, Bach composed the variations at the request of J. G. Golderg, who needed the pieces to entertain Count Keyserlingk, the Russian Ambasador to the Saxon court and a notorious insomniac who desired music during the night. The story has some plausibility given that Bach was a guest of Keyserlingk in Dresden in Nov. 1741, although this is evidence for Bach's presentation of the new publication rather than for the initial impetus for its composition. But even if Fokel's account is not strickty accurate, it may well be that Golberg, as a talented pupil of Bach and a virtuoso performer, soon gained a reputation as a performer of these pieces. With declining health, it is unlikely that Bach himself could play the variations in the last few years of his life. Indeed, he had never composed such demanding music for keyboard and may have been influenced by the Essercizi (1739) of the Italian composer D. Scarlatti, which likewise contain many hand crossings and virtuoso figurations....

Anyone who has heard John play will hardly doubt his competency to make this last judgement, and it seems logical to wonder why JSB would write music of unprecedented virtuosity at this particular point (1741) in his career, especially given Forkel's coroboration of its being written to showcase another virtuoso.

Julian Mincham wrote (June 2, 2007):
Harry W. Crosby wrote:
< Julian, I would be unable to recognize the experimental nature of Telemann's orchestration, but I beg of you to strengthen your statement about Bach's sense of the most appropriate sounds for each occasion. >
Well the opening of the SMP which I already mentioned is a good example.

But what really interests me is his choice of obligato instrument for arias. In this context i now set you a little challenge which I have set myself over the years. Coming across a cantata which is new to you, or which you may not have heard for years, read through the texts of the arias/duets before hearing the music.

Then make a judgement about which obligato instrument (if any) Bach chooses to use.

My guess is that you will often get it wrong---Bach seldom does the obvious. So often I have found a picc cello, or oboe da caccia used where I would have expected a flute or violin. In other words Bach colours the text by the simple expedient of choosing a darker sound. Of course availability may have been an issue in some circumstances--but there are plenty of examples where an instrument is used elsewhere in the same work that you migh have expected to find in an aria, but don't.

It's just a simple little exercise--if you take it up, let me know how you get on.

You could start with cantatas coming up for discussion---the sop ten, bass arias from 74, the sop and bass arias from 68 and the alto, ten and bass arias from 175 (all three intros coming up in the next couple of weeks) are ideal for the purposes of this exercise.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 2, 2007):
Richard Mix wrote:
>>I dont think taking this remark out of context gives anyone a fair chance to judge whether Butt is being reasonable or not. Here is the preceding paragraph.... Anyone who has heard John play will hardly doubt his competency to make this last judgement, and it seems logical to wonder why JSB would write music of unprecedented virtuosity at this particular point 1741) in his career, especially given Forkel's coroboration of its being written to showcase another virtuoso.<<
So you interpret Forkel (not always a reliable source) and Butt (whose playing competency is not relevant here) inferring that this is similar to other well-known situations like Schubert who composed the "Wandererphantasie" D 760 for a piano virtuoso and about which it is reported that Schubert himself could never play the difficult parts decently himself? Based on this notion, we could easily contend (using Butt's Forkel-based report) that Bach himself was never able to play the difficult variations satisfactorily from the time when the Goldberg Variations had been composed. This, of course, stands in direct contrast to numerous first-hand reports on Bach's keyboard playing abilities which surpassed that of all other keyboard virtuosi. Even without the additional context based upon Forkel, Butt still has not explained what evidence he has that would support his claim that "it is unlikely that Bach himself could play the variations in the last few years of his life". Based upon Bach's condition of health, there seems to be a vast difference here between possibly stating "in the last year of his life (1750) and Butt's assertion: "in the last few years of his life."

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 2, 2007):
183/5: Bach's Orchestration vs. Händel

Julian Mincham wrote:
< My guess is that you will often get it wrong---Bach seldom does the obvious. >
The difference between Bach and Händel is quite arresting.

Händel has a "default" orchestra (strings with oboes occasionlly doubling) and obligato arias are quite rare. Even when a solo instrument is used, it is almost always with the string tutti in accompaniment.

Bach on the other hand can hardly be said to have a "default" orchestra. Even the big festive orchestras are unique. A third oboe is added to the BMM (BWV 232) Sanctus for symboilic reasons, "Wachet Auf" has a tenor taille so the winds can dialogue with the strings .. and so on.

And Bach has every possible combination from solo continuo to Wagnerian recitatives for full orchestra with horns and trumpets.

Richard Mix wrote (June 3, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< So you interpret Forkel (not always a reliable source) >
Oh come on, it is Butt we are talking about. I don’t see him making any 'contentions' at all about Bach's
playing in the years before his strokes, but but rather examining Forkel's account with due scepticism. It is implausible, isn't it, that Bach would write himself a vehicle only at a last point in his career? Your representation of an out of context quote as an "assertion" is hardly just, let alone any reason to disregard the rest of his work.

 

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