Cantata BWV 52Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht!
Discussions - Part 3
Continue from Part 2
Discussions in the Week of September 2, 2012
Ed Myskowski wrote (September 1, 2012):
Introduction to BWV 52 -- Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht!
This week we continue Trinity season cantatas with BWV 52, the last of three works for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity. Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion for this week are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV52.htm
The commentary by Julian Mincham, music examples included, is especially recommended as an introduction to listening.
The BWV 52 page has convenient access to notes from the Gardiner, Koopman (notes by Christoph Wolff), Suzuki, and Leusink (and more!) CD issues, via link beneath the cover photo.
The chorale text and melody are accessible via links at the BWV 52 page. Francis Browne has recently added new commentary on the cantata texts to his interlinear translations, linked via [English-3I]. We can expect these to continue, not necessarily weekly. Douglas Cowling and William Hoffman are also posting relevant to chorales and other music for the Lutheran Church Year, accessible via LCY pages
I do not always take the time to check all links before posting Special thanks to the folks who provide timely corrections.
Douglas Cowling wrote (September 2, 2012):
Introduction to BWV 52 -- The False World Sinfonia?
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< This week we continue Trinity season cantatas with BWV 52, the last of three works for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity. Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion for this week are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV52.htm >
As usual, the best available commentary on the cantata is on Julian's website.
A question, Julian ... As you compared "solo" cantatas which open with instrumental movements, did you discover any examples of programmatic connections?
It has always struck me that Bach chose the courtly Brandenburg movement as an icon of the glittering blandishments of the world. When it ends, the soprano cannot contain herself any longer and crashes his/her hands down on the keyboard and rails against the worldly glitter like Savonarola at the bonfire of the vanities.
And continuing the ever-fascinating discussion of fermatas ...
The chorale which closes this cantata is a good example of a hymn where the fermata is pointless as a tempo marking. Each line closes with both a sustained half note and a lift/breath in a quarter rest. It's hard to imagine those bars being extended. I would say this is an example of a "literary" fermata.
Kim Patrick Clow wrote (September 2, 2012):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< A question, Julian ... As you compared "solo" cantatas which open with instrumental movements, did you discover any examples of programmatic connections?
It has always struck me that Bach chose the courtly Brandenburg movement as an icon of the glittering blandishments of the world. When it ends, the soprano cannot contain herself any longer and crashes his/her hands down on the keyboard and rails against the worldly glitter like Savonarola at the bonfire of the vanities. >
It's interesting that in the commentary in the Bach archives discussions, quite a few listeners were thrown by Bach's using such a piece of music for such a cantata that dealt with the evils of this world. But when you understand the device of rhetorical language for baroque music, it makes perfect sense to use this music Philip Pickett has written extensively about the musical rhetoric of the Brandenburg Concerto no 1:
I believe that the larger signalling horn was developed and introduced into the hunt in the first place because of old associations with the Roman triumphal entry - the hunt being regarded as a kind of triumphal progress. Ancient brass instruments (the curved cornu and buccina and the straight tuba) were well known from bas-reliefs of Roman military processions and triumphs. In Renaissance and Baroque art Fame's trumpet was always depicted as long and straight, so "fantastic stage-versions of the cornu or buccina often led the triumphal entries and processions which formed such an important part of 16th- and 17th-century court spectacle and celebration.
Roman reliefs and Renaissance paintings of the cornu in particular (often confused with the buccina in literary sources) show instruments which must have looked to Bach and his contemporaries remarkably similar to the large, hoop-like Baroque hunting horns with which they were familiar, so it is not surprising that horns were used to represent triumphal entries and worldly pomp and glory. Bach himself symbolises God's entry into the world as Jesus Christ in the Quoniam of the B-minor Mass (BWV 232) with a horn obliggato. Fitzpatrick also points out that the horn fanfare at the beginning of the first movement of Brandenburg I is almost the same as an early 18th-century Saxon huntsman's greeting-call (unfortunately he does not cite a source). Bach uses the same fanfare again, this time played by a trumpet, in the aria Grosser Herr und starker König from Part I of the Oratorium tempore Nativitatis Christi; and though the trumpet symbolises royalty the use of this particular fanfare figure probably represents God's entry into the world. Written low in the trumpet's range, it suggests the horn register in which the call would more normally have been heard. So the first movement of Brandenburg I probably portrays a triumphal entry with two "modern" representations of the Roman cornu blaring out fanfares at the head of the procession.
Concerto I existed first in a version containing only the opening movement, slow movement and minuet and trios - even the Polacca was missing. I believe that the original three- movement work may have been written as a functional accompaniment to an allegorical courtly triumphal entry (generally the Triumph of Caesar - Julius, Augustus or Trajan), possibly as part of an actual procession - in which case the orchestra would have been deployed on a pageant-wagon.
A Roman triumph started on the Campus Martius and slowly processed to the Temple of Jupiter where prayers were offered and sacrifices made. After the rowdy processional of the first movement (complete with turning chariot wheels and paeans of praise from the crowds) the second could well represent some kind of pagan religious ceremony. Bach may be symbolising pagan prayer by the use of a slow tremolo effect (bow/breath vibrato) in both the strings and oboes, a common Baroque device also used by Biber in his Pauern Kirchfahrt to suggest prayer accompanied by a soft tremulant organ. The following minuet and trios might then have been danced by the Prince and the courtiers who took part in the action.
It is of course possible that the work was conceived as a purely musical representation of the Triumph of Caesar. The minuet and trios would need some explanation, but this is easily found in the rhetorical process. Bach, considering ways of representing his locus topicus, might well have thought of Johann Melchior Caesar, court and cathedral Kapellmeister at Breslau, Würzburg and from 1683 Kapellmeister of Augsburg Cathedral. Caesar was a greatly respected composer and his music went on being popular well into the 18th century. His secular works consist mainly of dance suites, many of which contain pieces in the French style. Bach may have included the dance movements simply as a play on Caesar's name, and the minuet does provide a perfect opportunity for the horns to imitate the kind of simple parts the Roman cornu could probably play.
When Bach began to make his selection for the Brandenburg set this work would have been an obvious choice for the opening concerto - except that it could hardly be called a concerto! So Bach added a new third movement for concertato piccolo vwith horns, oboes, bassoon and strings, and extracted a solo part for the piccolo violin from the first violin part of the other movements. The new third movement seems to have existed already as a chorus (now lost, but rearranged again later as a chorus in the praise serenata BWV 207); in the Brandenburg arrangement the piccolo violin must attempt to play the vocal parts, with some difficult double-stopping. According to Malcolm Boyd the original chorus was probably written in D major but transposed up a minor third into F major to fit with the other movements. The new key would have made the necessary double-stopping more difficult on a normal violin, so Bach specified a small instrument tuned a minor third higher to make it easier.
Having constructed a three-movement concerto there was no longer any reason for Bach to retain the minuet and trios - but he did, including the piccolo violin in the minuet and adding a Polacca exactly at the centre of the dance-suite. He also rescored the second trio, replacing the tutti violins with tutti oboes. In suggesting why I must admit to some trepidation as my explanation is without doubt the most controversial and unsubstantiated part of this whole essay - but it is at least a logical argument which provides plausible answers to the many questions.
I believe that Bach, playing the rhetoric game again, came up with a different Caesar - this time Nero, who despite his many offences against humanity had the dubious merit of a passionate interest in music. He was also an easy prey for flatterers. Suetonius tells us that he had a husky voice which lacked body, and that he played the lyre and the bagpipe. Just before the end he made a vow to play the latter in a public music festival if he managed to keep his throne. He also arranged many musical victories for himself, both in Rome and Greece.
Bach would naturally have chosen a violin to represent Nero's lyre because of the symbolic tradition: Ancient lyre = Renaissance lira da braccio = Baroque violin. Is it an accident that the little fiddle sounds less refined than an ordinary one? Is it an accident that the solo part written for it always sounds difficult - even manic at times, however well-played? Is it an accident that, at the point where the soloist is given the opportunity for a cadenza, the other instruments hardly pause before interrupting? Nero was known to have employed his own claque, who would have been directed to applaud at the slightest opportunity. Having been victorious in the games in Greece Nero awarded himself a triumph, entering Rome in Augustus' triumphal chariot. His claque followed in the triumphal procession, shouting that they were "Augustus' men" celebrating his triumph.
Is it an accident that Bach retained the dance suite, so was able to insert a piece of "bagpipe" music (the Polacca) near the end of the concerto? Is it an accident that the "lyre" is silent when the "bagpipe" is playing? And perhaps the rescoring of the second trio for horns and oboes is a fanciful but humorous touch representing the unlikely combination of Roman cornu and Greek aulos - the brash Roman dabbling with the arts of Ancient Greece.
In most depictions of Roman triumphs there is a small figure riding with Caesar and whispering in his ear: "Remember, you are only mortal, all this will pass." By including references to someone as despicable as Nero, Bach seems to be pointing a moral of his own: "See how power and glory can corrupt a mortal. Remember that you will die". And there are plenty of obvious Vanitas symbols in the work.
Julian Mincham wrote (September 2, 2012):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< As usual, the best available commentary on the cantata is on Julian's website.
A question, Julian ... As you compared "solo" cantatas which open with instrumental movements, did you discover any examples of programmatic connections? >
Actually less than a third of the solo cantatas have sinfonias so it is difficult to draw much in the way of conclusions except that, in general, I think that Bach always had a very good reason for choosing each sinfonia he did as the ideal piece for any particular cantata ------Other wise why would he do such things as transpose a score, re-write some of the rhythms,change the orchestration, add choral parts to an already rich instrumental score as he did in BWV 207 (all of which must have entailed a much work as writing a new piece) UNLESS he felt that this was the absolutely right movement for the composition (I address some of these point in my essay on BWV 207).
Returning to the solo cantatas, the only other one for sop which has an opening sinfonia is BWV 209 which is a less sumptuous movement that the Brandenburg used for BWV 52. Some writers have suggested it's from a lost oboe concerto.
The (sadly, there is only one of them ) solo tenor cantata 55 does not have one nor do the popular bass cantatas BWV 82, BWV 56 and BWV 158.
The four alto cantatas are a very mixed bunch, BWV 54 in the basic three movement concerto form --aria--recit--aria, 170 similar with an additional aria and recit, and BWV 169 which uses the large movement from the E maj keyboard concerto as a sinfonia of similar proportions to those used in the two sop cantatas. The odd one out is 35 which is in two parts, each of which opens with a lengthy sinfonia., the first of which gives definite vibes of another lost concerto (the second, in extended binary form, less so).
So I don't know what to make of this as regards connections, programmatic or otherwise, (particularly as we know where only two of these five sinfonia movements originated) EXCEPT to stress the point made above that I think the old man chose scrupulously just which movement would be right in its later setting.
That would seem to be pretty typical of him!
Charles Francis wrote (September 2, 2012):
BWV 52 Chorale Fermatas
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< And continuing the ever-fascinating discussion of fermatas ...
The chorale which closes this cantata is a good example of a hymn where the fermata is pointless as a tempo marking. Each line closes with both a sustained half note and a lift/breath in a quarter rest. It's hard to imagine those bars being extended. I would say this is an example of a "literary" fermata. >
I agree with Douglas Cowling's observation that the BWV 52 chorale fermatas seem redundant as tempo markings - one could improvise and extend notes but that appears unnecessary. I currently see no reason to ascribe them literary, or indeed astrological, significance, however. In the BWV 52 Cornet-Ton transpose into which the fermatas have been faithfully copied, there are no words, but only music. While their musical function may be one of synchronisation, a point alluded to by Kim Patrick Clow, even this limited role appears redundant since each phrase ending has been realised with a minim followed by a crochet rest, a sufficient visual signal for the performer. Their pro forma insertion, may nevertheless have aided the reliable work of the anonymous copyist.
The Cornet-Ton transpose is in three flats and accordingly meantone temperament is best avoided. My realisation for organ is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vs7VzFM-ZpA
Douglas Cowling wrote (September 2, 2012):
Charles Francis wrote:
< I currently see no reason to ascribe them literary, or indeed astrological, significance, however. In the BWV 52 Cornet-Ton transpose into which the fermatas have been faithfully copied, there are no words, but only music. >
Just to clarify what I mean by "literary."
I'm not proposing that the fermata has a symbolic, iconic function which creates a programmatic literary meaning -- it's not "eye music." Rather I'm suggesting that the fermatas are not tempo markings in the modern sense but simple indicators of the ends of poetic lines in the sung text.
If youlook at the facsimile instrumental parts of the chorales, they appear as endless strings of quarter notes, usually with no rests and never with slurs. However, if the fermatas are added, the player can see instantly the strophic layout of the music, especially in chorale verse where the lines of the verse differ in length.
What this meant in performance practice is up for debate, but the fermata makes the structure of the musical lines comprehensible.
Chris Stanley wrote (September 3, 2012):
Not sure how many of the cantatas are on youtube but someone has very kindly put this one up there so that those who don't have the Leonhardt/Kronwitter alternative to the sopranos can at least hear the contrast.
Aryeh Oron wrote (September 3, 2012):
[To Chris Stanley] Please notice that this recording can be listen to directly from the Home Page of the BCW: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/
[the center box in the last row]
Charles Francis wrote (September 4, 2012):
BWV 52 our Rosetta Stone?
As already discussed, the BWV 52 chorale fermatas are seemingly redundant, each being explicitly realised by a sustained note and rest. However, both artefacts are missing in the near identical melody in the Matthew Passion (BWV 244/38). This suggests that in the latter work, which predates BWV 52, each fermata represents a doubling of note length followed by a crotchet rest, thereby extending the related bar length to six beats.
The Cornet-Ton transpose for BWV 244/38 can be found online at the Bach Digital site and in comparison to BWV 52 is rotated one position anticlockwise on the circle of fifths, being performed a fourth higher. Traditionally, this key would have been expected to yield the most dissonant keyboard tonality.
My illustrative video can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS5rR29zIjM
Charles Francis wrote (September 6, 2012):
BWV 244/38 - BWV 52 transformation methodology applied to BWV 244/3
As mentioned in a previous contribution, interpreting each BWV 244/38 fermata as an instruction to realise a minim followed by a crotchet rest, yields the essence of the BWV 52 chorale melody. An identical transformation may be applied to the first chorale of the Matthäus-Passion, BWV 244/3, with pleasing musical results: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTMcT2iGUw0
Note that the Cornet-Ton transpose of this opening chorale has no sharps or flats, and accordingly might be expected to utilise the most pure of thirds on an organ tuned in a well-tempered system. Contrast this with the four flats in the Cornet-Ton transpose of BWV 244/38, and likewise with the four flats used for the concluding seven movements of the Matthäus-Passion (from the Cornet-Ton perspective, of course). Bach's use of key colour then becomes apparent as the tragedy unfolds and Satan apparently triumphs in Bach's most dissonant key.
PS please note there was a predates/postdates mix-up in my previous email.
Charles Francis wrote (September 8, 2012):
BWV 244 O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden
Continuing with the BWV 52 "Rosetta Stone" (i.e., the BWV 244/38 - BWV 52 fermata transformation methodology), here is a video of Bach's three Matthew Passion settings of Paul Gerhardt's chorale tune: http://youtu.be/9RGRg7YNLTE
The Cornet-Ton transposes and other parts have been prepared with unusual care: http://www.bach-digital.de/receive/BachDigitalSource_source_00002445
Douglas Cowling wrote (September 8, 2012):
BWV 244 O Fermatas & Pedals
Charles Francis wrote:
< here is a video of Bach's three MatthewPassion settings of Paul Gerhardt's chorale tune: http://youtu.be/9RGRg7YNLTE >
Lovely sound, but you would never hear that slow tempo or expansive interpretation of the fermatas in a performance today.
Modern performances almost exclusively use small portative organs usually with three ranks 8', 4' and 2' and no pedal. On a larger organ, there can be three independent divisions of the chorale harmonies: soprano line in the
right hand on one manual, alto and tenor in the left on another manual, and the bass line on the pedals.
The ability to "solo" the chorale melody on a distinct stop would be consonant with Bach's general practice in the cantatas of adding all the "treble" instruments on the chorale melody to make it especially prominent.
I have never heard a cantata performed with the bass line of any movement doubled by organ pedal. You can certainly hear it in some early recordings. Is the avoidance of a pedal 16' and 32' sound part of the general lightening of orchestral sound that has taken place over the last 30 years in cantata performances? Is there any evidence that Bach and his contemporaries used pedals?
Aryeh Oron wrote (September 8, 2012):
BWV 244 O Fermatas & Pedals
[To Douglas Cowling] Thomas Braatz asked me to send this message:
Doug Cowling asked: Is there any evidence that Bach and his contemporaries used pedals [for cantata performances]?
Friederich Erhard Niedt: Musicalische Handleitung/Zur Variation des General-Basses.... ed. Johann Mattheson (Hamburg, 1721), pp. 121-122.
"Ist derowegen das allerbeste, daß ein Organiste, um General-Baß-Spielen dieses in Acht nehme: Wenn nur eine oder zwo Stimmen singen oder spielen, so braucht er im Manual bloß das Gedact 8 Fuß, und kein Pedal überall nicht; sind mehr Stimmen zu accompagniren, so kan er im Pedal Untersatz oder Sub-Baß 16 Fuß mit dazu anziehen; wo aber ein Tenor, Alt, oder Discant-Zeichen stehet, welches man sonst ein Bassetgen nennet, so muß er das Pedal weglassen, und die Noten eben in der Octava spielen, wo sie geschrieben stehen; hergegen, fällt ein gantzer Chor von 8/12 oder mehr Stimmen ein, (wie dann in solchem Fall der Ort meistentheils mit den Wörtern Chor, tutti, ripieno, &c. bezeichnet stehet), alsdann kan im Manual das achtfüßige Principal, und im Pedal, zum Sub-Baß, noch eine Octava von 8 Fuß gezogen werden. Ist ein Stück mit Trompeten und Paucken gesetzt, so wird im Pedal zu achtfüßigen Octava ein Posaunen-Baß von 16 Fuß gezogen; die Tone müssen aber nicht bey gantzen oder halben Täckten ausgehalten werden, sondern man darff sie nur ansprechen lassen."
"It would, for that reason, be best for an organist playing figured bass [basso continuo in figural music] to pay attention to the following: If there are only one or two vocalists singing or instrumentalists playing, then the organist will only need the 8 ft. Gedackt stop [on the manual] and no pedal whatsoever. If more voices are to be accompanied, then he [or she] can add the 16 ft. Untersatz or Sub-bass pedal stops. Wherever the figured bass has a tenor, alto, or soprano clef (this is usually called a Bassettchen), then he must use no pedal and simply play the notes in the octave in which they were written. However, if an entire choir consisting of 8 or 12 voices or more begins to sing (in such a case the continuo part usually indicates this with the words, Chor, tutti, ripieno, etc.), then a [loud] 8 ft. Principal stop can be added on the lower manual and, in the pedal, an additional 8 ft. Octava [fairly loud] along with the 16 ft. Sub-bass stop. If the composition calls for trumpets and timpani, then, in addition to the 8 ft. Octava in the pedal, a 16 ft. [very loud] Posaunen[trombone]-Bass will be used. The notes played by this latter combination of stops in the pedal should not be held out [sustained] for a half or entire measure/bar, but rather only allowed to reach their full sound and then released ['you are allowed only to let them speak']."
Douglas Cowling wrote (September 8, 2012):
** Thanks to Thomas for this remarkably detailed practical guide to registration in Baroque vocal music. This gives us an extremely varied sonic picture which we never hear today in HIP peformances.
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Friederich Erhard Niedt: Musicalische Handleitung/Zur Variation des General-Basses.... ed. Johann Mattheson (Hamburg, 1721), pp. 121-122. >
Niedt: "It would, for that reason, be best for an organist playing figured bass [basso continuo in figural music] to pay attention to the following: If there are only one or two vocalists singing or instrumentalists playing, then the organist will only need the 8 ft. Gedackt stop [on the manual] and no pedal whatsoever.
** This is the continuo sound most commonly used today on portatives: a light flute sound with no pedals.
Niedt: If more voices are to be accompanied, then he [or she] can add the 16 ft. Untersatz or Sub-bass pedal stops.
** This suggests that a light 16' pedal stop was used in solo movements and the bass sound was moderately weighty: "Christe Eleison" in the Mass in B Minor and "Et Misericordia" in the Magnificat might be examples.
Niedt: However, if an entire choir consisting of 8 or 12 voices or more begins to sing (in such a case the continuo part usually indicates this with the words, Chor, tutti, ripieno, etc.), then a [loud] 8 ft. Principal stop can be added on the lower manual and, in the pedal, an additional 8 ft. Octava [fairly loud] along with the 16 ft. Sub-bass stop.
** Niedt suggestions weight the bass considerably. The realized harmonies are played on one manual with the right hand, while the bass line is played both with the left hand on a second manual and on the pedals. On modern organs it is not necessary for the left hand and feet to be playing the same line because the manual can be coupled to the pedals. This is done electronically now, but there were some mechanical couplers in the 18th century. If Niedt is factual, Bach's continuo organists were not just plunking out supporting chords but exercised in extensive pedal-work.
Niedt: If the composition calls for trumpets and timpani, then, in addition to the 8 ft. Octava in the pedal, a 16 ft. [very loud] Posaunen[trombone]-Bass will be used.
** The addition of big reed stops makes the bass line positively symphonic. One can imagine the effect in the great bass line in the "Sanctus" of the Mass in B Minor
Niedt: The notes played by this latter combination of stops in the pedal should not be held out [sustained] for a half or entire measure/bar, but rather only allowed to reach their full sound and then released ['you are allowed only to let them speak']."
** This is a very interesting technique in which sustained notes in the bass are played staccato, clearly so that the overtones of a sustained note do not overwhelm the texture. I can imagine this technique in a movement such
as the "Cum Sancto Spiritu" of the Mass in B Minor.
Fascinating document. I can't think of any conductors today who would allow their performances to be weighted so "Romantically" in the bass line.
Anne (Nessie) Russell wrote (September 8, 2012):
Guide to registration in Baroque vocal music [was: BWV 244 O Fermatas & Pedals]
I'd like to add my thanks too. Very interesting.
Aryeh Oron wrote (September 15, 2012):
Article on Playing Bach's Organo Parts
Thomas Braatz has prepared the Niedt/Mattheson quotation with an explanatory introduction for the Articles section of the BCW.
The content of the quotation seems important enough to warrant this special treatment so that it does not simply become part of a long discussion where it cannot be located as easily.
Linked from: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/index.htm
and from the Home Page of the BCW [Articles box]:
Douglas Cowling wrote (September 23, 2012):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Thomas Braatz has expanded his Niedt/Mattheson article.
Modern performances and recordings of Bach¹s figural music have used reduced forces (often only one vocalist or instrumentalist per part). This has gradually led to faster tempi and a lighter manner of singing (sotto voce) and playing instruments in a more heavily accented and non-cantabile style. The sound of a church organ with its 16¹ pedal stops would simply be too overwhelming and slow the tempi down. >
The Matheson and Niedt documents are fascinating primarily because they show how different Hamburg and Leipzig were. Bach's was a much more stable institutional status quo.
I'm not sure that the documents support the categorical generalizations above. First, we can't make a false contrast between small portative organs and large gallery instruments: it's a difference of size not type. A portative generally had three stops; a large organ might have over 100. Bach could pull one or two stops on the gallery organ and the sound would be indistinguishable from that of a portative. Nor does a large organ necessarily mean an overwhelming sound.
This video shows the Chorale-Prelude "Kommst Du Nun" played as a miniature. Note that the pedal plays the chorale in 4' register, above the left hand. The difference between the large organ and a portative is one of colour: the former player has countless options that the latter doesn't: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4qgqHw24XA
A large organ does not inhibit fast tempos. Bach's "Pedal Exercitium" gives us a good example of pedal technique. There isn't a bass line in the vocal works that Bach could not have played with his feet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMCMdm-I70Q
None of the modern singers who sing in HIP performances use "sotto voce" or "mezza voce" techniques in order to sing Baroque music. They use normal chest voice. Their voices are naturally smaller and more focused than
singers trained in Romantic bel canto technique. It is these latter singers who are probably responsible for the slowing of tempos in the 19th century to accommodate their larger voices. Many modern singers simply cannot handle (no pun intended!) the coloratura in a quick tempo. Having said that, there are some remarkable singers like Kathleen Battle and Natalie Dessay who can sing across the Baroque and Romantic repertoires with aplomb.
And Dessay looks great in a cocktail dress: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jExF36PF_A
Cantata BWV 52: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3