Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
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Additional Information

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

Cantata BWV 58
Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid [II]
Discussions - Part 1

Previous Messages

Marie Jensen wrote (January 9, 2000):
What luck that the Danish radio has found out it is a BACH year! (Well I have written a little reminder to them, but I prefer to think that they found out themselves). Every Sunday morning this year at 9.10 two or three Cantatas are broadcasted! (Cable radio only, 103.9).

[7] This morning I heard a really great version of BWV 58 "Ach Gott wie manches Herzeleid" with Argenta/ Mertens and Kuijken. Liturgical it is actual right now.

It made me so happy: Every detail sound so clear, and every emotion from worry to comfort and overwhelming joy are expressed in a very moving way. Mertens sings his Recitativo with a calm authority. Argenta is fantastic in "Ich bin vergnugt in meinem Leiden". The Kuijken violin too. I'll play it next time I'm going through "eine bose Zeit", I'm sure it will help!

Can any one please tell me which CD, this wonderful BWV 58 comes from, so I can put it on my shopping list. Am I so lucky, that other dialogue Cantatas are on it?

Armagan Ekici (wrote (January 9, 2000):
[7] It comes from the "Accent" label; it has BWV 82, BWV 49 and BWV 58.

Wim Huisjes wrote (January 9, 2000):
[7] It is on Accent 9395: BWV 58, BWV 49 & BWV 82. Sigiswald Kuijken, Nancy Argenta, Klaus Mertens and La petite Bande. A wonderful CD indeed!

Simon Crouch wrote (January 10, 2000):
[7] I bought this CD a couple of months ago after the performance of BWV 82 had been chosen as best available by Radio 3's "Building a Library" feature. I'd been meaning to get it anyway for a couple of years but had never got around to it - What a mistake! This is surely one of the finest Cantata discs there is. The performance of BWV 49 might seem a little laid back compared, say, with Christoph Coin on Channel, but I found that this was easily cured by turning the volume up!

 

Discussions in the Week of March 23, 2003 (1st round)

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 23, 2003):
BWV 58 - Introduction

The subject of this week’s discussion (March 23, 2003) is the Solo Cantata [Dialogue] for Sunday after New Year [2nd Sunday after Christmas Day] ‘Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid’ [II] (Ah God, how many a heartache).

Background

The comprehensive and excellent commentary below, quoted from the liner notes to the original 2-LP album of Corboz on Erato, was written by Carl de Nys (1978).

See: Cantata BWV 58 - Commentary

Recordings

The details of the recordings of this cantata can be found at the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV58.htm

Apart from the three usual participants from complete cantata cycles (Rilling [3], Harnoncourt [4] and Leusink [10]), we have also Karl Richter (1970) [2], this time with Sheila Armstrong as the soprano soloist. The other three conductors have made only few contributions to the world of recorded Bach Cantatas. These are Michel Corboz (1978) [5], Pál Németh (1988) [6] and Sigiswald Kuijken (1993) [7].

Additional Information

In the page of recordings mentioned above you can also find links to the original German text and various translations, four of which have been contributed by members of the BCML: English (Francis Browne), French (Jean-Pierre Grivois), Hebrew (Aryeh Oron) and Portuguese (Rodrigo Maffei Libonati).
There are also links to the Score (Vocal & Piano version) and to commentary: in English by Simon Crouch (Listener’s Guide) and in Spanish by Julio Sánchez Reyes (CantatasDeBach).

I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion. There was already a short discussion of this cantata about 3 years ago, as you can see in the page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV58-D.htm

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 26, 2003):
BWV 58 - Provenance:

See: Cantata BWV 58 - Provenance

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 26, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Ahem.

It should be noted that everything in this 'lesson' between the lines "The Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory..." and "Date of Composition and Performances:" is Tom's own conjecture (about how he thinks secco recitatives should be performed, and about how he thinks the musicologists are therefore all wrong).

Also, the phrases "the Heinichen rule" and "the Sc hering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory" are Tom's own inventions, for convenience, so he can use them repeatedly as if they're established in the musicological literature, which they're not...they're only in the literature written here on the Internet by Tom himself. (Just to be clear about that, if anybody's confused where they originated.)

The rest of the details before and after that middle section are more verifiably factual.

(Nice try there, Tom, sort of an Oreo cookie of a posting....) :)

My long, long rebuttal of Tom's assertions about secco recitative can be seen starting February 22nd at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Recitatives-3.htm
and the discussion continued there for several weeks (on the BachRecordings list), onto the next pages. Some of it was probably pretty tiresome, the way the discussion wound around and around, but interested readers can at least read and weigh the evidence about recitatives there for themselves.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 27, 2003):
Brad Lehman comments:
>>Ahem.
It should be noted that everything in this 'lesson' between the lines "The Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory..." and "Date of Composition and Performances:" is Tom's own conjecture.<<
Here are facts in that section that Brad, like many others in his peer group, refuses to consider because such thoughts do not uphold the currently prevailing Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory to which he subscribes:

1) Another secco recitative (Mvt. 2 for bass) in the same cantata does not show the shortened accompaniment in the bc.

2) The appearance of the word ‘arioso’ above ms. 5 in all of the bc parts for Mvt. 4 obviates the need for clarification that the 1st 4 ms. are the secco portion of this recitative. [There is no need for Bach to take “the opportunity to clarify a mildly ambiguous situation,” as Dreyfus would have it. It is difficult even to consider that Bach would allow young children (even his own) or inexperienced players who could not tell the secco portion of a recitative from the arioso/accompagnato section, to participate in the performance of his cantatas. But this is exactly what Dreyfus would have us believe. With his extremely busy schedule, Bach did not waste his time ‘clarifying mildly ambiguous situations’ when the obvious designation ‘arioso’ appears directly at the demarcation point that separates the ‘secco’ from the ‘arioso’ sections of the recitative. There is evidence that Bach had only his best students (his sons as well as university students such as Agricola and others) perform the figured bass continuo parts (in this instance, BWV 58 Mvt. 4, with an organ holding out the bass notes for their full values, while, the other members of the continuo group (choose from among violone, violoncello, bassoon, etc.) played the shortened accompaniment so as not to overwhelm the fragile boy soprano voice. It was for the latter players/instruments under these extenuating circumstances that Bach chose personally to write out the shortened accompaniment, knowing full well that thsingle long notes played on the organ would be sufficient. Adding the other members of the continuo group would upset the balance with a voice that already was unable to cope with the original soprano aria.

Heinichen rules! and Niedt ‘ist eine Niete.’ Or do you, Brad, (along with Dreyfus and all the other members of your peer group) still consider the latter to be a viable authority on these matters? Remember all the misinformation that you brought up in regard to Niedt because you were so avidly defending Dreyfus’ explication? You have been duped and seem unable to prove otherwise. I am willing to admit to my mistakes if I can see the error in my methods of coming to an understanding. Are you truly able to do likewise? Or are you simply playacting or hiding behind a crumbling edifice?

Most individuals reading these listings will have at least some inkling about our difference of opinion on this specific matter. What purpose is served by warning readers not to read my listings or certain parts of them? Are you afraid to allow them the liberty of making up their own minds on this matter? Talk about 'thought-police!' Just as you strongly support a romantic interpretation of Bach's music and have the freedom to express your thoughts on this matter based upon your experience, so also it should be possible for me to do likewise in other matters. The readers should be able to judge for themselves whether I am non-expert whose explications, thoughts and opinions are not worthy of consideration. These readers have the power of the delete button if they find anything here offensive (lack of critical evidence to back up one's claims, lack of logical thinking, lack of the ability to discern what sounds good and what does not and attempt to give reasons for these claims.) Do they really need you to make up their minds for them?

Does it bother you personally that I point out the shortened secco accompaniment in the recordings that are under discussion here week after week? Listeners ought to be directed toward details in the music that make one performance sound quite different from another. This Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory affects how listeners will hear Bach's music (not to mention how it will affect those who perform it.) Perhaps these listeners might even be interested in finding out how this theory came about, on what evidence it is based, why there was a shift toward this theory less than a half-century ago, and why before this time, and in some instances even after this time, performances have taken place and still do take place which do not heed this theory.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 27, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] "Thought police?" Nah. Tom, I'm simply trying to encourage you to read your own postings with the same skeptical eye that you apply to the work of musicologists. (The "Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory" that you formerly called "the Harnoncourt Doctrine")

Come, let us look at this example (Cantata 58, movement 4) together as reasonable men. You seem to want me to "prove otherwise", to refute your claims, so please listen up. Here it is, without any recourse to treatises, but simply for practical reasons.

You have offered the following extraordinarily complicated explanation, as conjecture...I quote you directly, emphasizing the parts that seem like wild conjecture, by putting [stars] around them:

"There is evidence that Bach had only his best students (his sons as well as university students such as Agricola and others) perform the figured bass continuo parts (in this instance, BWV 58 Mvt. 4, [with an organ holding out the bass notes for their full values], while, the other members of the continuo group (choose from among violone, violoncello, bassoon, etc.) played the shortened accompaniment [so as not to overwhelm the fragile boy soprano voice]. It was for the latter players/instruments under these extenuating circumstances that Bach chose personally to write out the shortened accompaniment, [knowing full well that the single long notes played on the organ would be sufficient]. Adding the other members of the continuo group would upset the balance with a voice that already was unable to cope with the original soprano aria."

Tom, for your explanation to be plausible, you need ALL the following conditions to be present:

- An incompetent boy singer with an extremely feeble voice; so feeble that Bach would have to rewrite the music, but would employ him nevertheless for some reason unknown to us.

- The fabrication of a Baroque bassoon loud enough that it would even matter much to reduce its participation by writing rests into its part. That is, a bassoon that somehow (and this is extraordinary) would drown out an organist holding a four-note chord, and yet make enough difference that its shortened notes would allow the boy to be heard...whew, just barely!

- An organist who has memorized the "Heinichen rule" (as if such a thing by such a name existed during Heinichen's lifetime), and who plays only by rules and his eyes to the exclusion of his ears, and who could determine that this is indeed not a situation where the "extenuating circumstances" say he should play short. (That is: if this boy's voice really is that feeble, maybe a "h emi-demi-semi-voice" to borrow your own terminology, should the organist not instead help the boy's voice project more clearly by getting his own part, the organ chords, out of the way, playing them lightly and releasing them early?!)

- A composer/conductor who would choose to have three or more people on different types of instruments playing a unison line together, but not releasing the notes at the same time as one another...one player sustaining the notes much longer than the others. It would help if you could provide some precedent from other Bach works where he actually, and unequivocally, uses this extraordinary technique of staggered releases in an ensemble work. That is a very fussy manner of orchestrating a unison line!...and, to my knowledge, Bach never did so. It's a 19th and 20th century concept of orchestration, out of place in Bach's world.

- A composer/conductor who would rather write out parts than simply give spoken instructions to solve a problem. (If balance were really a problem with such a weak singer, instead of writing out new parts to lighten the sound from cello and bassoon, two much more practical solutions would be to tell the cello and bassoon players to play shorter and more quietly, or simply to stop playing altogether for that passage! You're the one who says here that the organ alone would be sufficient; so, why didn't Bach himself realize that and do it?)

- Extraordinary church acoustics: a situation where the congregation below can somehow hear the distinction where the cellist and bassoonist are releasing the notes sooner than the organist is, and appreciating it. One of your own pet priorities is that Bach certainly would not have written any detail unless he expected it to be audible, right?

- You've asserted that only Bach's best students and sons performed the basso continuo parts; what direct evidence do you have that these "best" players included the cellist and bassoonist? Is it not just as likely that he had a couple of schleps there who really did need to be reminded (on paper) to keep those continuo notes short? Especially so if the situation allowed little rehearsal time?

As I noted above, you need to have ALL these conditions be true for your explanation to hold much water. (I'm thinking it could be an interesting "Twilight Zone" episode plot to assemble all these conditions together and see what happens...to see how long Bach himself, as the protagonist of the episode, would retain his sanity.)

Now, instead, consider a reading of this musical passage where the organist simply releases the continuo notes and chords along with the cellist and bassoonist...using his ears and his musical acumen, not just his eyes (with the security blanket of the hallowed written page) and a "Heinichen rule" or any other type of rule. That is, he's a musically competent keyboard player who knows how to let the singer (nomatter how weak or strong) take the lead in a recitative; a keyboard player who understands there doesn't have to be a wall-to-wall carpet of sustained harmony under every sung note; an organist who knows how to play in a church where the acoustics automatically sustain every chord somewhat, after the releases; an organist who understands that his own part (the bass line enhanced with harmonies) must also breathe.

To a reasonable man, one who shaves with Occam's Razor, is not this second explanation much more elegant and probable? It doesn't require any weird machinations, such as the long list of conditions above about the feeble singer, odd composer, odd acoustics, etc., etc.; it simply requires a competent organist who listens, and a competent composer who understands the building's acoustics (getting everybody to release the notes, clarifying the musical texture).

=====

As for Herr Niedt, whom you seem so intent on denigrating, it seems he was good enough for old J. S. Bach. Bach's own thorough-bass primer from 1738 directly paraphrases Niedt's work from 1700. [This is from John Butt's article "Bach's metaphysics of music" in The Cambridge Companion to Bach. Also, as I noted weeks ago, The Bach Reader similarly mentions that Bach taught from Niedt's treatise.]
If Niedt was good enough for Bach, as a basis for his teaching, why isn't he good enough for you? What is to be gained here by soiling Niedt's grave?

=====

And, by the way: what do you consider my "peer group" here, where you refer to it several times in this message? I hesitate to guess at this one.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 27, 2003):
Brad Lehman asked:
BL: >>And, by the way: what do you consider my "peer group" here, where you refer to it several times in this message? I hesitate to guess at this one.<<
You have just named some of these in your most current message!

BL: >>As for Herr Niedt, whom you seem so intent on denigrating, it seems he was good enough for old J. S. Bach. Bach's own thorough-bass primer from 1738 directly paraphrases Niedt's work from 1700. [This is from John Butt's article "Bach's metaphysics of music" in The Cambridge Companion to Bach. Also, as I noted weeks ago, The Bach Reader similarly mentions that Bach taught from Niedt's treatise.] If Niedt was good enough for Bach, as a basis for his teaching, why isn't he good enough for you? What is to be gained here by soiling Niedt's grave?<<
You still refuse to correct your false assumptions, based upon the work of others whose names you invoke without seriously considering the evidence that I have already presented and which completely refutes their unverifiable myths that maintain that there was some meaningful connection between Bach and Niedt.

Let me refer you to item 433 in the "Bach-Dokumente."

Here are some facts, which I hope are also correctly reported in the books you use as a reference in regard to the Bach-Niedt connection:

1) Absolutely nothing of this manuscript consisting of a title page and 21 handwritten pages is in Bach's handwriting.

2) The title page ascribes the contents to be by Bach [perhaps the two unknown individuals whose handwriting appears in this document hoped to increase the importance of the document by making it appear this way.]

3) This document was never published. Only this obscure copy exists. [Very likely this would not be in existence today, if it were not for Bach's authorship or personal direction indicated on the title page. Can you imagine some older students in Leipzig in the 1830's approaching some rich freshman greenhorns with an offer: "Hey, buddy. We've got some valuable information here that you will get nowhere else. It'll only cost you ....]

4) There is no proof that Bach ever possessed a copy of Niedt's book.

5) A comparison of Niedt's book with the passages written out here indicates that there are numerous substantial changes in the text. There is no way to confirm that the parts not traceable to Niedt were really by Bach. [Certainly some characteristic of the great master would show up in the additional passages.]

6) The musical examples given are fraught with mistakes. [How would Bach even allow such a manuscript to represent his name and his ideas?]

7) Spitta originally thought he had detected the handwriting of Johann Peter Kellner on the title page. Spitta later revised this when he made the connection of some of the passages coming from the Niedt book.

8) Other than the fact that some sections were copied from Niedt's book, the origin and provenance of this manuscript remain a complete mystery.

All of these points deal a serious blow to the credibility of this document.

In a nutshell, to establish a connection between Niedt and Bach upon this single spurious document is an action not representative of a musicological scholarship that wishes itself to be taken seriously.

And just in case you missed my other posting on Niedt which explains why he can not seriously be considered as a meaningful, believable source in this matter:

Only Niedt’s comment seems to go beyond this by suggesting that both the organ and bass player subsist from playing the full note values in the bc part. But Niedt is an ‘Unikum’ and there are many things about him that do not qualify him to be an important authority in regard to performance practice. In only one respect was he slightly noteworthy: he was against having musicians learn or write music in tablature. The MGG reports that from the limited information that we have about him, the fact is “daß die Musik nicht oder nur zeitweise sein Hauptberuf war” [“that music never was, or only temporarily was his main occupation.”] The MGG further reports that “Als Komponist ist Niedt, nach den wenigen Proben in seinen Schriften zu urteilen, über eine zum Teil recht trockene Mittelmäßigkeit nicht hinausgekommen, was sich auch schon aus Äußerungen entnehmen läßt wie z.B. daß der ganze Kontrapunkt doch nur eine »Bärenheuterey« sei und daß er aus seinen Kantaten alle Fugen und Hallelujas verbannt habe, da sie doch nur Ekel und Verdruß erweckten.“ [„As a composer Niedt, judging from some selections from his writings, never rose above mediocrity, a fact that can easily be understood from his own statements such as when he says that the whole matter of counterpoint is simply a ‘stupid’ occupation for dull, lazy people, and another statement where he admits that he had banned (removed) all fugues and hallelujahs from his cantatas, because the only effect which they had was one of repulsion and annoyance.”] And such a person as Niedt is brought into the company of Mattheson and Bach in order to prove that shortened accompaniment in secco recitatives in Bach’s time was the rule and not simply an exception!!!

And yet Niedt appears as a credible witness for Bach’s performance practices! These are examples of rather sloppy scholarship that you have supplied. You run to your sources for aid and comfort and refuse to acknowledge that they have simply been perpetuating a myth about Niedt and Bach’s high regard for his work. Where is your evidence? Just because John Butt says so, or because the ‘Bach Reader’ mentions that Bach taught from this book, does this make this a more reliable fact? Where is there evidence to counter what I have presented? Or is it beneath you or them to bother about presenting credible evidence?

Brad, why do you have difficulty admitting that something must be wrong with the opinions offered by Dreyfus, Butt, David & Mendel, etc. when they uphold Niedt as a credible witness?

BL: >>Now, instead, consider a reading of this musical passage where the organist simply releases the continuo notes and chords along with the cellist and bassoonist...using his ears and his musical acumen, not just his eyes (with the security blanket of the hallowed written page) and a "Heinichen rule" or any other type of rule. That is, he's a musically competent keyboard player who knows how to let the singer (no matter how weak or strong) the lead in a recitative; a keyboard player who understands there doesn't have to be a wall-to-wall carpet of sustained harmony under every sung note; an organist who knows how to play in a church where the acoustics automatically sustain every chord somewhat, after the releases; an organist who understands that his own part (the bass line enhanced with harmonies) must also breathe.<<
Yes, this sounds like Brad, the ‘musically competent keyboard player,’ playing the continuo part in Mvt. 4 of BWV 58 and not realizing that Bach had already resolved the problem of a ‘wall-to-wall carpet of sustained harmony’ by personally writing out the shortened accompaniment of the secco portion of the recitative (only 4 ms.) in the other bc parts (whichever instruments happened to be used along with the organ.) All that would be required is that the bass notes continue to sound as written (without the chords in the right hand being held out – Heinichen says that the right hand is lifted up after the chord has been struck, an event that is concurrent with the shortened notes in the other instruments. The single note left sounding on the organ provides the necessary support for the soprano voice, which in this case is assumed to be (a reasonable assumption because Bach had to write a simpler aria to replace the earlier more difficult one) a boy soprano with certain insecurities (possibly also intonational as well as being ‘challenged’ in the actual volume of voice.) The bass line without the harmonies does not have to ‘breathe’ with the probable frequent breaths of the boy soprano. While taking a breath, the boy soprano will find comfort and solace in knowing that the foundation upon which he relies has not disappeared. It is at this point where he can adjust his intonation if it has wandered off course. You need only listen to some (not all) of the boy sopranos in the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt series to know what I am speaking about here. Even a trained singer like Esswood loses his bearings (goes flat) at times in secco recitatives, when the support in the bc is missing due to the Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory (now a rule as applied by almost all HIP ensembles) on the shortened accompaniment of secco recitatives.)

Continue this part of the discussions, see: Recitaitives - Part 6

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 27, 2003):
And horrors! I see that I haven't yet covered the other two points that seem to worry you so. OK, those are below....

Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Brad Lehman comments:
>>Ahem.
It should be noted that everything in this 'lesson' between the lines "The Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory..." and "Date of Composition and Performances:" is Tom's own conjecture.<<
< Here are facts in that section that Brad, like many others in his peer group, refuses to consider because such thoughts do not uphold the currently prevailing Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory to which he subscribes:
1) Another secco recitative (
Mvt. 2 for bass) in the same cantata does not show the shortened accompaniment in the bc. >
Indeed; it's plain recitative for the whole movement, everybody knew it, it's as plain as the nose on anybody's face. The continuo team together played those notes as short or as long as sounded good in the acoustics, and as short or long as sounded good with the singer's declamation of the text...the same way competent musicians do anywhere. Bach didn't need to notate this movement 2 in a special way; it's plain recitative. He'd only need to notate a special situation where things suddenly changed midstream, as in movement 4. What's the problem?

Remember, all these players were looking only at their own parts, not the singer's part. Anything Bach could do to help them out (even if these were EXPERIENCED musicians on cello and bassoon) would be a good idea, eliminating headaches in rehearsal and performance. A quick change of character in the music could throw anybody, so it helps to have some clear hints on the page.

People who have played in orchestras (I include myself in this category: three years of playing percussion and timpani, and 20 years playing basso continuo and various obbligato keyboard parts) are grateful for any clarifications the notation can give; for an orchestral player who sees only his own part, the ONLY situations that are truly unambiguous are the ones where a whole movement is the same character, and everybody doing the same thing together (like in plain recitative, movement 2).

< 2) The appearance of the word 'arioso' above ms. 5 in all of the bc parts for Mvt. 4 obviates the need for clarification that the 1st 4 ms. are the secco portion of this recitative. [There is no need for Bach to take â?othe opportunity to clarify a mildly ambiguous situation,â?? as Dreyfus would have it. It is difficult even to consider that Bach would allow young children (even his own) or inexperienced players who could not tell the secco portion of a recitative from the arioso/accompagnato section, to participate in the performance of his cantatas. (...) >
That's not "difficult even to consider" for me; why is it difficult for you? Would not Bach more practically have to make the best of the situation, with whatever musicians were able to show up for the performance?

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 27, 2003):
BWV 58 - Commentaries: [Spitta, Voigt, Schweitzer, Dürr, Eric Chafe]

See: Cantata BWV 58 - Commentary

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 28, 2003):
Brad Lehman commented:
>> Indeed; it's [Mvt. 2] plain recitative for the whole movement, everybody knew it, it's as plain as the nose on anybody's face. The continuo team together played those notes as short or as long as sounded good in the acoustics, and as short or long as sounded good with the singer's declamation of the text...the same way competent musicians do anywhere. Bach didn't need to notate this movement 2 in a special way; it's plain recitative. He'd only need to notate a special situation where things suddenly changed midstream, as in movement 4.

What's the problem?<<
The problem is one that you fail to recognize: in Mvt. 4 Bach clearly marked each continuo part with the word ‘Arioso’ exactly where the accompagnato section begins. Now I suppose you are going to tell me that a continuo player, whether in Bach’s time or now, did or does not understand what this signifies. This is a sad situation indeed or perhaps only a very lame explanation on the part of those who need to go to these extremes to explain the existence of an esoteric tradition.

BL: >>Remember, all these players were looking only at their own parts, not the singer's part. Anything Bach could do to help them out (even if these were EXPERIENCED musicians on cello and bassoon) would be a good idea, eliminating headaches in rehearsal and performance. A quick change of character in the music could throw anybody, so it helps to have some clear hints on the page.

People who have played in orchestras (I include myself in this category: three years of playing percussion and timpani, and 20 years playing basso continuo and various obbligato keyboard parts) are grateful for any clarifications the notation can give; for an orchestral player who sees only his own part, the ONLY situations that are truly unambiguous are the ones where a whole movement is the same character, and everybody doing the same thing together (like in plain recitative, movement 2).<<
This is truly a sad situation. What have we come to here? Do you mean to tell me that performing musicians, when presented with new music for the 1st time at a rehearsal, do not even glance ahead slightly in each mvt. ‘to see what is coming up.’ The different character of the notes (a greater profusion of them) in the Arioso would be sufficient warning that a change occurs at a certain point. Come on, Brad. Don’t you even glance ahead at a mvt. which is on a single sheet of paper to assess quickly the character of the mvt.? Not enough intfor that sort of thing – simply plow ahead and hope for the best? Do you really think that Bach would have allowed such ‘musicians’ to perform cantatas under his direction, if they were that ill-prepared and disinterested in what they were doing?

BL: >>Would not Bach more practically have to make the best of the situation, with whatever musicians were able to show up for the performance?<<
You forget that the cantatas were performed by his ‘1st-string’ singers and instrumentalists. This was not a situation in which the conductor thinks “Let’s see, which performers can we drum together for this week’s performance” as if this were for a weekly jam session at the local pub.

BL: >> So, if you have issues with Niedt, I invite you to check it out in those places (Schulze, Poulin, and Butt), rather than considering that you already have all the facts.<<
Butt is simply relying on other sources, as one is prone to do when referencing a point. Poulin is a translation of the information already in the Bach-Dokumente. I do not have access to Schulze, but my guess would be that it also refers back to the Bach-Dokumente. I do not see anything new in this.

What we do know is that Bach, in the extensive inventory of his books in the estate listing, did not own a copy of the Niedt book. The document spuriously attributed to Bach is not by Bach, but it keeps getting mentioned because of this attribution. That is why we had to discuss it here.

Thus the Niedt-Bach connection is indeed spurious in itself. By relying so heavily on your authorities, you give evidence of the fact that you are allowing the authorities to PREscribe what you think and are at a loss to think and investigate the matter independently. You have indeed been brainwashed if you still believe in the Niedt-Bach connection.

BL: >>But again I ask, as yesterday: what is to be gained here by discrediting Niedt, and why is it so important to you? Are you searching desperately for any possible small flaw in Dreyfus/Mendel/Schering's reasoning (their reliance on a source which you hope is worthless), so you can yank out that tiny stone and hope the whole edifice collapses, and so you can point triumphantly at them and mock them as bad scholars? That appears to be your strategy.<<
You forget the Niedt explanation is the only one (from Bach’s time and country) that directly and specifically supports the Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory. This is not a ‘tiny stone.’ If you were to truly look at the evidence objectively rather than rely primarily on your gut feelings about how recitatives should be performed, then you could set a good example by kindly speaking to the authorities whose respect you seem bent on preserving. Say something like “Is it possible that this whole matter could be viewed differently?” “Is it possible that my gut instinct regarding this matter might have been unduly influenced by the recent scholarship that I have become a part of?” “Is my personal instinct/intuition in this matter not really entirely my own, but rather has it been influenced by the mythologies that are being perpetuated by the HIP mvt.?” “Why is it that performance of these secco recitatives, as far as we can determine, has always been realized one way since Bach’s time, but now, in this present generation, it has suddenly changed/shifted noticeably toward a different performance standard?”

BL: >>Who's the one here who feels he must rely on authority? It seems to be you, not me. Even if you do succeed in yanking a couple of stones out of Dreyfus et al's historical theories (good luck!...and, remember, Dreyfus himself has said he's trying to DEscribe historically verifiable practices rather than PREscribe what performers must do)….<<
Dreyfus is suffering from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice Syndrome. This does not excuse him from promulgating the Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory and thus influencing performers such as you to think that they ‘feel’ the rightness of this theory. Now many of these performers who have been thus influenced will tend to err on the side of the theory, rather than beginning seriously with Bach’s actual notation and then applying the Heinichen rule when appropriate. This is why I am concerned about this matter.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 28, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Being so fond of the 'Heinichen rule', Tom, why don't you apply it? Yesterday you came up with a conjectural situation where the (fictitious) boy singer is so feeble that Bach (supposedly) has to reduce the orchestration to accommodate him. Heinichen says "(...) If the hands are lifted from the keys immediately after striking a new chord, so that a rest takes the place of the notes, this is done according to the circumstances obtaining, the better to hear and observe either the singer or the instruments that sometimes accompany the recitative. (...)" But that's not good enough for you, apparently; you would still have the organist hold things all the way through, drowning out this poor little boy's voice. If you're going to "begin seriously with Bachâ?Ts actual notation and then apply the Heinichen rule when appropriate," why don't you do so, listening to the explicit example that Heinichen gives as a good reason to lift the notes? [Granted, you tried to dodge this problem by asserting something else in response...that the organist should lift the right hand while continuing to hold the left hand...but that's not from Heinichen. You're dodging.]

It seems to me you are simply being selective, choosing whatever reasons (no matter how tenuous) allow you to insist the organist should hold things, because that's how it looks TO YOU on the page. Everything else you say seems designed to put that point across: discarding or denigrating evidence that would contradict your interpretation, while claiming that you have the only and complete set of data that really matter. If you like Heinichen above Dreyfus and everybody else, then at least take Heinichen himself (your current champion) seriously and lift the daggone notes to let this feeble boy singer be heard; that's the logical conclusion of the situation that you set up.

You're frustratingly inconsistent; that is why I am concerned about this matter. You're trying to beat me over the head here with Heinichen, yet you're unwilling to listen to Heinichen yourself. What gives?

Rodrigo Maffei Libonati wrote (March 28, 2003):
[7] Although I only have Kuijken's recording of this week's cantata and cannot compare to the rest of the discography, I feel that it is a safe recommendation. First of all, I think the recording sound, warm and immediate, creates an irresistible atmosphere. Although I'm not able to explain anything as Mr. Lehman admirably does, it strikes me as a performance where everything makes musical sense. I particularly like that the obligato instruments are recorded in the same level as the singers. I think it is really problematic when the solo instrument gets a secondary place when it should be in direct dialogue with the soloist. Klaus Mertens is IMO a model of Bachian singing, it is unaffected, natural sounding, expressive, spontaneous and the instrumental accuracy with which he deals with ornaments is something to marvel. To many listeners, Nancy Argenta's soprano may sound a bit pale, but it is free of technical problems and stylish. I imagine that some Bachians may prefer a richer tone, but my experience with Bach music is that the main thing for a singer is to make his or her voice ductile in order to sound as clean and flexible as possible and to ensure that you'll reach the end of the very long phrases in a musicianly and pleasant way. IMO Nancy Argenta does that. However, I think she should be a bit more engaged with her text. That takes me to my opinion on Kuijken's conducting in that cantata.

I would use words similar to those I used to Ms. Argenta to give my impression on his conducting. It is stylish, pleasant and accomplished, but both soprano and conductor could be a bit more descriptive of the text in their performance. I take, for example, the aria "Ich bin vergnügt in meinem Leiden". It does sound pretty , but I don't feel that spiritual satisfaction that could resist the formidable threat from hell itself. It may sound a deadly sin to say what I am going to say - but despite the "gipsy" violin by Itzhak Perlman and the rather operatic singing from Kathleen Battle, John Nelson's recording of this aria with the Orchestra of Saint Luke's shows what lacks here - some enthusiasm, some rhythmic buoyance, more verve from the soloists. I don't mean that Nelson's performance is a model of Bachian style, but he does create the "atmosphere" this aria needs.

I take profit of this opportunity to say that I have been following the debates here about period instruments vs. traditional ones and, as I said before, I am no specialist. I have studied music - piano, voice - and I always remember my piano teacher, who was almost a period instrument herself (she was almost 90!), explaining Bach keyboard pieces to me. "Read the notes and you'll find everything - in one way or in the other". She had no idea of period practices but she always surprised me because the way she saw those pieces was far closer to an Andreas Staier than a "golden age" pianist. So it has never been a surprise for me that different musicians with different approaches have offered valid solutions for the challenges proposed by Bach in the score. I hope it does not sound silly what I am saying here, but I think that, in the end, everything that makes the structure of Bach music clearer and expressive (according to the baroque aesthetics, of course) is worth while listening.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 28, 2003):
I can't find any interest in this version (available at the David Zale site) [4].

Despite the articulation employed - strong contrast between loud and soft notes, especially evident but not restricted to the 1st violin part, detached organ chords in the continuo, strong contrast between legato and staccato phrasing, again especially in the strings, this version has a 'sameness' throughout which eventually becomes boring, and which precludes any engagement with the music.

If you look at the score of the music, available at the same site, you will find that half of it is ignored in Harnoncourt's version [4]; in the recitatives, the score is simply not played at all, and in other places, inaudibility, and the disjointed nature of the phrasing, due to the type of articulation employed (excessive staccato and legato contrasts as noted above), is the problem. (Question: where did this style of finishing a movement virtually without rallentando, but with the penultimate chord played staccato, followed by a long rest, and then the final chord ( sometimes long with crescendo and diminuendo articulation, or sometimes even staccato) come from? It sounds like fashion gone wrong to me.)

Back to BWV 58, in movement 2 (recitative for bass and continuo), which Robertson describes as a "fine example of declamation and bold harmonization", there is hardly any harmonization at all, just a few pokey, detached organ chords, which makes the music impossible to comprehend from the point of view of harmony, especially since the bass vocalist already employs a vibrato which renders the pitch, of the notes he sings, indeterminable.

In movement 3, (aria for soprano, violin solo, and continuo) the boy soprano's voice is wobbly, and the important - but here sqeaky and scratchy - violin solo, disappears from audibility half of the time. And the continuo continues with its detached, weak, staccato treatment, with minimal realization of the figured base harmonies.

Again, Robertson's description this movement, as "a flowing melody, especially eloquent in the violin solo part", is only vey slightly realized in this performance.

Movement 4 (recitative for soprano and continuo) shows little relationship to the realized score noted above, where there is a change of character in the arioso section; here we have the same boring detached or staccato organ chords, and not much else.

The two outer movements suffer similarly from minimal realisation of the continuo, inaudibility of important parts in the instrumental writing, a bass vocalist of indeterminate pitch, and a soprano of unsteady voice.

My wish - to hear a performance that plays the score as written (shown at the David Zale site), with a passionate but straightforward and audible articulation (I have an open mind on whether modern instruments are required - I have certainly heard some wonderful results on period instruments from time to time), and vocalists that can clearly enunciate the pitch of a note, BEFORE they go on to decorate the (longer) notes with vibrato.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 28, 2003):
Brad Lehman asked:
>> Being so fond of the 'Heinichen rule', Tom, why don't you apply it?<<
Let’s examine again the entire quotation:

Neu erfundene und Gründliche Anweisung zu vollkommener Erlernung des General-Basses“ von Johann David Heinichen, Hamburg, 1711.

Von dem Acompagnement
§. 27.
p. 226

Die Manier und Weise aber / das Recitativ wohl zu tractiren / ist denen Instrumenten nach / worauf es tractiret wird / auch sehr unterschieden. In Kirchen=Recitativ; da man mit nachklingenden und summenden Pfeiff=Werck zu thun hat / braucht es eben keiner Weitläuffrigkeiten / denn man schläget die Noten meist nur platt nieder / und die Hände bleiben hierbey ohne weiteres Ceremoniel so lange liegen / biß ein anderer Accord folget / mit welchen es wiederum / wie zuvor / gehalten wird.

§. 28.

Hebet man aber ja die Hände so gleich wieder auf / nach Anschlagung eines neuen Accordes, und machet statt der Noten gleichsam eine Pause; so geschiehet solches nach Gelegenheit der Umstände / entweder den Sänger / oder die bißweilen zum Recitativ accompagnirende Instrumenta besser zu hören / und zu observiren. Oder man findet auch wohl andere Raison, die Hände Z. E. deswegen in etwas aufzuheben / weil etwan jezuweilen in Basse 3/4. Und mehr Tacte in einen Tone und Accord liegen bleiben / und folgbar das Gehöre durch das in einerley Tone stetig summende Pfeiff=Werck kann verdrießlich gemachet werden. Welches alles dem Judicio und Gefallen eines Accompagnisten heimgestellet bleibt.

[„A completely new and thorough instruction to bring about a complete mastery of figured bass“ by Johann David Heinichen Hamburg, 1711.

“The manner of playing a recitative properly is dependent on the type of instruments upon which it is played It can be very different depending upon the circumstances. [Heinichen later describes the use of a harpsichord in this capacity and how the harpsichordist should not play continuous arpeggios which would be distracting and draw attention away from the singer.] Since you are concerned with the sustaining notes and the vibrating stops of a church organ when playing a church recitative [Heinichen means here the secco recitative in a church cantata as opposed to the harpsichord that was usually used for operas], there is no need for special effects [the arpeggiated chords otherwise needed in harpsichord playing because the notes die out very quickly] for you simply have to press down on the keys and the hands remain there without any further ceremony holding the chord until another chord follows it. This next chord is held out the same way as before.

There are, however some extenuating circumstances where this may not apply, and it may then become necessary to interrupt the notes written in the bc by removing the fingers from the keys and creating thereby a pause. Here are some possible situations where this may occur:

1) in order to hear and observe better the singer or the accompanying instruments [which are still playing – in a secco recitative, this can only refer to the other instruments in the continuo group as violone, harpsichord, lute, theorbo, bassoon, etc. Perhaps this is an indication that the organist is also conducting the recitative, if this becomes necessary at times.]

2) in order, only occasionally, to stop the organ sound from becoming annoying musically [a malfunctioning pipe that would call attention to itself, or the has only stops that are rather loud or penetrating and where there is no single stop that will be soft enough without overwhelming the voice.]

3) there may be other situations that arise. For this the accompanist on the organ must use good musical judgment so that the end result will remain pleasant for the ear."]

The general rule of the organ ‘providing for continuous sound” applies to the situation in Mvt. 4 of BWV 58 as well. All the more so, because the organ is supplying the only support for the voice that really needs it here as the other bc parts have the indication of a shortened accompaniment (Bach does not want the bc group to be too loud - but that does not mean that he wants the shortened secco accompaniment on the organ as well.) If the other instruments in the bc group were playing along (which they are not here because they would be too loud for this fragile voice), then the organ bc player (which could also be the conductor) could lift both hands in order to determine if the balance between voice and bc group is ‘musically pleasant for the ear.’ So using ‘good musical judgment,’ the organ bc player, under the conditions we can infer for this particular cantata where Bach has already provided for the shortened accompaniment for the other members of the bc group, would continue to hold at least the long bass notes, if not also the chords that go with them, if the volume of the organ does not overwhelm the singer. Allowing the singer to go entirely unsupported and possibly for that reason lose the correct intonation would cause ‘the end result to be unpleasant for the ear.’ Allowing for the singer to be heard, as Heinichen indicates, may require a reduction in volume, but once that is accomplished (Bach has done this for the bc group by spelling out exactly what he wants,) it is not necessary for ‘the bottom to fall out entirely’ by allowing the entire bc group to fall silent for many beats. The lifting of the right hand only could fall under Heinichen’s statement of ‘good musical judgment.’

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 29, 2003):
BWV 58 - The Recordings:

This week I listened to the following:

Richter (1970) [2]; Rilling (1971) [3]; Harnoncourt (1976) [4]; Leusink (2000) [10]

The Timings from Slowest to Fastest:

Total Time:
Rilling (14:48); Richter (14:16); Leusink (13:41); Harnoncourt (12:14)

Mvt. 1 Duet (Adagio):
Richter (5:01); Rilling (4:10); Leusink (4:06); Harnoncourt (3:38)

Mvt. 2 Bass Recitative
Rilling (1:42); Richter (1:40); Leusink (1:33); Harnoncourt (1:18)

Mvt. 3 Soprano Aria
Rilling (5:01); Leusink (4:10); Richter (3 :51); Harnoncourt (3:48)

Mvt. 4 Soprano Recitative
Richter (1:19); Leusink (1:19); Rilling (1:18); Harnoncourt (1:11)

Mvt. 5 Duet Aria
Leusink (2:43); Rilling (2:33); Richter (2:25); Harnoncourt (2:19)

Comment:

Generally the distinction can be made between the non-HIP and HIP categories on the basis of tempo: the HIP versions are faster than the non-HIP versions.

Some descriptive words from the commentaries describing Mvt. 1 (marked ‘Adagio’ by Bach):

Patience, steadfastness, earnestness, lamenting but comforting, terror, horror, despair, passion, a certain degree of heaviness, quiet consolation, flaming and glowing with suppressed desire, gravely dissonant and somber.

With such an understanding of the significance of the text, is it not remarkable that the HIP versions of Mvt. 1 are the fastest (particularly Harnoncourt’s version which is c. 1 ½ minutes faster than the slowest by Richter? Aren’t these HIP versions missing a very important element in the performance of Bach cantatas by disregarding the message and converting such a mvt. as this into a ‘lite,’ dance-like production which they hope might make Bach’s music more palatable for the masses? Is it possible that HIP conductors, by adopting a primarily non-legato style of playing and singing with frequent staccato and short phrases with strongly accented notes followed by nearly inaudible ones, create many miniature hiatuses between the notes, hiatuses, which as dead moments in the music, cause the conductor to increase the tempo in order to eliminate these dead spots (nature abhors a vacuum)? In other words, when a cantabile, singing quality is sacrificed for the mannerisms of HIP, the natural recourse is to increase the tempo, even if the text would demand otherwise.

[4] A profusion of boy sopranos:

Rather unusual (and nonsensical) is Harnoncourt’s choice of 2 boy sopranos from different boys’ choirs to sing the soprano parts in this cantata. Is it possible that Harnoncourt was faced with a political issue here: a war between the Wienersängerknaben and the Tölz Boys’ choir? Was he forced into a situation where he tried to appease the soloists from both choirs by allowing both to sing? After hearing both boys sing in this cantata, it becomes evident that one boy is infinitely better than the other, and yet Harnoncourt has the one with the better voice (Peter Jelosits from the Wiener Sängerknaben) sing the simple chorale in the 1st and last mvts. supported colla parte by the taille, and proceeds to give the difficult aria and the following recitative to the definitely inferior voice (Seppi Kronwitter from the Tölz Boys’ Choir.) Certainly, using the most basic musical judgment, these roles should have been reversed. This left Harnoncourt with the awesome responsibility associated with allowing this recording to be released in this form. Without knowing the reasons behind this choice, the listener is left wondering, particularly in regard to the 3rd and 4th mvts.: “Is this recording worthy of Bach?”

[10] Leusink’s Demi-Voices:

The orchestra has a much fuller sound than Harnoncourt’s ensemble, despite the fact that the violins still sound rather thin and scratchy – the sound of the oboes, on the other hand, is quite good. This full sound is partly due to the strong doubling of the bc with a double bass and a rather loud chest organ. As a result the orchestra tends to overwhelm the demi-voices who do not distinguish themselves in any particular way in bringing out the qualities alluded to in the text. The range of expression is quite limited, as is also the range of the voices. In the soprano aria, both the violin and voice are extremely restrained. This undermines the strong confidence that this aria should express (“Ich habe sichern Brief und Siegel.”) Everything, as nice as it may sound, remains on a very tentative level, with the voice and solo violin simply lightly touching or tapping the notes. This is insufficient for conveying the necessary joy and confidence that is required here. The final duet is generally a repeat of the balance problems evident in the 1st mvt. All the notes are being played and sung correctly, but the strong faith and confidence along with exuberant joy remain restricted to a level that makes this sound like a miniature version of what this cantata really should be able to express.

[2] Richter’s Cantabile, Expressive (Romantic) Style:

Here Richter’s treatment of the orchestra (with larger orchestral forces using modern instruments at the higher standard pitch and using the entire array of (romantic) expression available to a conductor: diminuendi, ritardandi, a singing legato, etc.) gives this ‘Adagio’ (Mvt. 1) an entirely different aspect than anything that can be heard in the HIP versions. The qualities inherent in the text as revealed by the commentators are present to such a degree that the listener can not fail to be moved by this rendition. Add to this Fischer-Dieskau’s marvelous interpretation of the text and you have a nearly perfect recording. Ideally the melodies should have been sung by one or more boy sopranos with good intontation, but Armstrong’s singing is quite acceptable here as 2nd best to that which would have been perfect with boy sopranos singing instead. Poor Arnold Schering must have heard many a Wagnerian singer ‘over-declaiming’ the text of the recitatives with the end result that they began to sound like a Wagner opera. Unfortunately, he may not have heard Fischer-Dieskau, for then he would have to retract his negative opinion about singing a recitative the way Fischer-Dieskau does. Armstrong also conveys extremely well the emotions of a tempered joy that knows suffering, but remains absolutely confident. Listen particularly to the wonderful manner in which she sings the arioso section of Mvt. 4. This makes this mvt. truly memorable, a quality lacking in the other versions that I listened to. The continual build-up of exuberant joy in the final duet is unequaled in any of the other recordings. This brings this cantata to a true conclusion, a feeling that is lacking in the other versions (particularly the HIP versions.)

[3] Rilling’s Choice of Soloists:

Although Rilling uses an extreme legato in his treatment of the ritornello, his faster ‘adagio’ has already removed some of the profound expression with which Richter was able to endow this music. Rilling decides to use his soprano section (trained female voices with somewhat wobbly vibratos) for the chorale melody in the 1st and last mvts. Wolfgang Schöne, although possessing a full voice, lacks the full range of expressive capabilities that Fischer-Dieskau has. Rilling’s choice of Ingeborg Reichelt for the soprano aria is a poor one. Not only is this full voice rather difficult to listen to, somewhat uncontrolled as it is, because it is unable to avoid the overly tragic tone that permeates this entire mvt. (Rilling takes this mvt. at least a minute slower than the fastest version, an action which only extends the agony the listener must endure), it also lacks the ability to do much of anything with the text in order to engage the listener. There is too much of sameness in the limited range of her expression. The concluding duet, although not as exhilarating as Richter’s version, nevertheless manages to end on a rather positive note. Rilling had to make do with the voices at his disposal. Schöne, who is no match for Fischer-Dieskau, manages to hold up his end quite well. It is the soprano, Reichelt, who leaves much to be desired. It would be too much to expect absolute clarity of the chorale melody as sung by these sopranos. That will have to remain for future recordings (Koopman, Suzuki) to attempt to remedy.

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 30, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz]
< 2) in order, only occasionally, to stop the organ > sound from becoming annoying musically [a > malfunctioning pipe that would call attention to itself, or the organ has only stops that are rather loud or penetrating and where there is no single stop that will be soft enough without overwhelming the voice.] >
I repeat what I said before and the historic facts confirm that Bach did not care for any of these rules that scholars want to dictate how to play the organ: Bach did not care at all and this kind of playing confused the congragation and created complaints about his way of playing.If I play the organ at your church I will do like Bach and you will complaint against me like some of the members of the congragation did...

I do not care about rules I care about how I feel that particulat day.And even the congregation does not like it I will do as I want as far as I am in front
of the console....

Why?

Because we are MAKING music MUSIZIREN like the germans call it.We do not sit at the console to follow rules but to follow our feelings.

Good musicians like BAch do not care about what is called as good judgment and created complaints.

Also think the good choirs of today how many times they repeat a piece so it sounds well? In the CD recording of the H MOLL MESSE Herbert von Karajan notes in the CD notes that some of the choirs have been repeated over 50 times each! People admired his conducting from memory and the Berlin Philarmonic was so good that they say that Herbert von Karajan could leave the stage and the orchestra could play as well as he was there due to the number of times they repeated the music. Now could Bach had an orchestra and choir like the Berlin?Not at all. And that is why the organ needed to sound loud in the Cantatas to give entonation and suport the boys going out of tune or tempi. Also Herbert von Karajan and other conductors conduct not following the meter but by phrasing the music. The hands movments are not just marking tempi but go further on,making note on the phrasing of what is played.Other conductors I have seen did the same...

As you see there are no rules of conducting either.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 30, 2003):
Hugo Saldias stated:
>>And that is why the organ needed to sound loud in the Cantatas to give entonation and suport the boys going out of tune or tempi.<<
Some excellent advice from Mattheson who really knew what he was talking about in his “Der vollkommene Capellmeister” (“The Perfect Music Director”) (Hamburg, 1739):

p. 207 28
".wenn beide [Menschen=Stimmen, Instrumente] zusammen arbeiten, die Instrumente nicht hervortragen müssen. Die Meinung ist hier nicht, als ob die Instrumente sich bey so gestalten Sachen niemahls mit einiger Ausnahm hören lassen dürften; sondern nur, daß sie, wenn die Singstimmen zugleich mit ihnen gehen, eine Stuffe herunter treten, sich nicht so laut machen, jene erheben, nicht aber sich selbst empor schwingen sollen."
(".when both voices and instruments sing and play together, the instruments should not stand out over the voices. This opinion does not mean that instruments, as things are 'shaped' during a performance, should never let themselves be heard with only few exceptions, but rather that, when the instruments play colla parte (play the same notes as the voices) they should step down to a lower volume level, and not continue to play as loud as otherwise. They should support the voices, but not let themselves go above the voices in volume."

p. 417 10
"Ein Organist aber muß sich dieser Stärcke seines Instruments mit desto grösserer Bescheidenheit gebrauchen, ie mehr er Gelegenheit hat, solche wol anzuwenden. Er wird demnach dahin sehen, daß er, bey Aufführung der Musiken, sich nach der Anzahl der Singstimmen, und ihrer Begleitung so richte, damit sein Spielen keines Weges über jene hervorrage, sondern vornehmlich die Sänger iederzeit die Oberhand behalten."
("An organist, however, must use the power of the organ very modestly, perhaps he should hold back even more as the opportunity presents itself. In performance, he will have to take care to adjust the registration he uses in his accompaniment according to the number of singers present, so that his accompaniment at no time will not stand out over the voices, but rather that the voices at all times will keep the upper hand.")

Philippe Bareille wrote (March 30, 2003):
This very rich and expressive cantata puts exacting demands on the musicians and singers. The message is clear: life is an ordeal but there is joy at the end of it. Do not lose your faith and hope despite all the vicissitudes of existence.

I have listened to Harnoncourt [4] and Richter [2].

[4] Harnoncourt never forgets that the purpose of a church cantata is to put a message across. He always responds to the text remarkably even if he can sound too didactic at times.

In the first duet one can feel the torment of life. Don't expect beautiful sound! The rhythmic texture is over emphasised to elicit reactions from the listener. However, The bass van der Meer is not up the his task here, with his intrusive vibrato. A strong soprano is needed to sing the chorale. It is Peter Jelosits, one of the most admirable boy sopranos I have ever heard. He is the first "Wiener Sangerknabe" to be nam. I read somewhere on this site that the reason why he was named is that he had left the Vienna boys choir when he recorded the Bach cantata. Like Sebastian Hennig another outstanding boy soprano in this series, his voice broke late at the age of 15 years. Listening to the "feeble" voice of Seppi Kronwitter in the soprano aria is a bit of an anticlimax on the first hearing. However, Kronwitter's weaknesses (notably his short breath) are (in part at least) compensated by his great commitment, the beautiful timbre of his voice and his fantastic diction (his rendition of the second recitative of cantata BWV 52 is for me unrivalled). The second duet is clearly articulated, the tempo well-judged and its dance-like element rightly enhanced. Van der Meer is much better here. To summarise: A good but flawed performance somehow. The emotional content is well captured.

[2] Richter's good asset is the deeply expressive DFD. The soprano Sheila Armstrong is ideal (much better than E Mathis for me). I miss the authentic instruments but all in all it is an enjoyable performance, less oppressive to my ears than other Richter's performances.

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 30, 2003):
BWV 58 - Backgrond

With the comprehensive and excellent commentary by Carl de Nys, quoted in the Introduction message I sent to the BCML last week, more commentaries quoted by Thomas Braatz, and another one by Simon Crouch available on the Web, I shall allow myself skipping the background to my review of the recordings this time.

The Recordings – Short review

Last week I have been listening to 6 complete recordings of Cantata BWV 58.

[2] Karl Richter (1970)
What a good change to hear Sheila Armstrong rather than Edith Mathis singing the soprano part. She has a warm and full voice, rich in the lower part, which serves her well in the opening and the closing chorales. In the aria she uses her powers to express both the misery of her condition and the confidence in God. DFD’s singing is, as usual, beyond praise. The chemistry between the two singers and their mutual listening are hard to match. The whole rendition is deeply moving from beginning to end.

[3] Helmuth Rilling (1971)
The chorales in the opening and concluding movement are sung buy the soprano section of the choir. Although they sing with warm and homogenous tone, they cannot reach the same emotional intensity as a solo soprano does. Wolfgang Schöne sings with confidence and full voice, but his performance lacks inspiration. Maybe he needed somebody like Arleen Augér to sing these two movements with him. In the central aria we meet Ingeborg Reichelt, an intelligent singer, but with a voice that has passed its prime and unstable production.

[4] Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1976)
Ruud van der Meer sings with beautiful courtesy, serenity and sureness. His expression is less varied than DFD’s and his voice les rich, but nevertheless he is doing a competent job. Peter Jelosits, one the best boy sopranos to come out of the Wiener Sängerknaben, has a wide range, secure, strong, very accomplished in divisions, fervent in expression. He sings in the two outer movements, in each of which he sends the chorale melody shining out, singing of the Soul’s weary way, while Jesus (van der Meer) replies in comforting arioso. The two voices are a fine match in these two complicated and beautiful movements. I assume that Jelosits recorded these movements in advance, because the central aria is given to Seppi Kronwitter from the Tölzer Knabenchor. He is not in the same class as Jelosits, less even, less sure and sometimes breathy.

[6] Pál Németh (1988)
The Hungarian team give a surprisingly satisfying rendition. László Polgár, Mária Zádori and Pál Németh, all contribute to a well-tailored, balanced and enjoyable rendition. The match between the two singers and between them and the accompaniment leaves nothing to be desired. Zádori’s voice is in higher range than Armstrong’s, but has freshness and stability. Polgár’s voice is better than van der Meer’s in almost every aspect mentioned above, and a joy to the ears. I even found myself preferring Németh phrasing to that of Harnoncourt. It sounds so natural and unforced. If this rendition is lacking something it is a heavier emotional weight.

[7] Sigiswald Kuijken (1993)
Both Mertens and Argenta are in fine form in this recording, and Kuijken gives them a sensitive accompaniment, with eloquent playing and well-judged tempo. Mertens sing on the same CD BWV 82, ‘Ich habe genug’, which is among the best modern versions of this cantata. His exemplary rendition of Jesus’ part in cantata BWV 58 is another reason to buy this CD, as closer to DFD as possible, considering that DFD is in a class of his own. His expression in all the three movements in which he takes part is convincing and moving. Argenta is almost as good, if she does not reveal the depths of her part, as Armstrong, for example, does. A point to think: could the couples of Richter and Kuijken be replaced between themselves? I mean, DFD with Argenta, and Mertens with Armstrong. I believe that it would not work. The reason is not HIP vs. non-HIP, full voices vs. semi-voices, etc. The main reason is that with Richter, you got the impression that the two singers give their soul out, while Kuijken’s singers keep a lot to themselves.

[10] Pieter Jan Leusink (1980-1981)
Ruth Holton and Bas Ramselaar are well-equipped to give a satisfying rendition of the dialogue cantata. This rendition is not up to the best, but it certainly can please.

Conclusion

A recording to take away: Richter with Armstrong and DFD [2].

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 31, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Sind sie Musik Proffessor? Wo?
Herr Professor Karl Richter war KMP Kirchenmusikprofessor an der Hochschule fur Musik in Muenchen (Acistrasse) von 1950 bis 1981.

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 58: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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Last update: ýNovember 7, 2014 ý13:57:23