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Brandenburg Concertos BWV 1046-1051
General Discussions - Part 1 (2002-2003)

Brandenburg 2

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 7, 2002):
Munrow

IIRC, Munrow played recorder in a set of Brandenburgs: the one conducted by Marriner where Thurston Dart contributed some interesting musicological ideas. The most memorable surprise there was hearing #2 with the "trumpet" part played an octave lower on a horn.

Michael Carter wrote (December 7, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] Looking at the score to BWV 1047, the "tromba" part is pitched in F, not in D. Perhaps Bach was thinking of the "Tromba Selvatica"? I recall an ancient LP recording with the London Baroque Ensemble conducted by Karl Haas (not the one of AIGM fame)in which a corno da caccia similar to the instrument played by Ludwig Guttler was used. It was a convincing approach, but one that seems to have dropped into the ruts somewhere along the path to the current era.

A modern instrument performance replacing the trumpet with a flugelhorn would probably be closer to the timbre Bach originally had in mind. The instrument would not overpower the orchestra or concertino as was too often the case in years past when the part was executed on a piccolo trumpet.

Joost wrote (December 8, 2002):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< The most memorable surprise there was hearing #2 "" part played an octave lower on a horn. >
If my recollection is right, La Petite Bande (on Accent) uses a natural horn as well - director Sigiswald Kuijken wanted the instrument to be played entirely clarino-wise, and at the time there was no trumpeter to be found who could...

Robert Sherman wrote (December 8, 2002):
[To Joost] When was this? Ed Tarr had recorded Brandenburg 2 with Harnoncourt on a valveless trumpet and played it quite well. I think that was in the late 1960s. Presumably he would have been available for La Petite Band.

Joost wrote (December 8, 2002):
Robert Sherman wrote:
< Ed Tarr had recorded Brandenburg 2 with Harnoncourt on a I think that was in the late 1960s. Presumably he would have been available for La Petite Band. >
The La Petite Bande recordings were made in 1993 and 1994.

By the way, are you sure Edward Tarr didn't use an instrument without valves, but with three fingerholes, as most of todays baroque trumpeters do?

Robert Sherman wrote (December 8, 2002):
[To Joost] Don''t know for sure, but since he plays in tune I assume he had fingerholes.

Santu de Silva wrote (December 8, 2002):
Michael Carter wrote:
< Looking at the score to BWV 1047, the "tromba" part is pitched in F, not in D. Perhaps Bach was thinking of the "Tromba Selvatica"? I recall an ancient LP recording with the London Baroque Ensemble conducted by Karl Haas (not the one of AIGM fame)in which a corno da caccia similar to the instrument played by Ludwig Guttler was used. It was a convincing approach, but one that seems to have dropped into the ruts somewhere along the path to the current era.
A modern instrument performance replacing the trumpet with a flugelhorn would probably be closer to the timbre Bach originally had in mind. The instrument would not overpower the orchestra or concertino as was too often the case in years past when the part was executed on a piccolo trumpet. >
I was recently watching/listening to the DVD "The German Brass does Bach". I first saw these people in "Swinging Bach", a DVD of a 24-hour Bach/Jazz event held in Leipzig.

The most prominent player in the group plays a little trumpet-like instrument that is shorter than a trumpet, but has a conical bore. It's sound is clear and cuts through the sound of the lower voices very effectively. I wonder whether this is a flugelhorn?

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 8, 2002):
The MGG does not even list a 'Flügelhorn' and the New Grove explains that this instrument was a special type of hunting & military horn that is 1st documented at the beginning of the 18th century. It was never used for serious music playing until it had been transformed (by adding keys in the 19th century) into a bugle, a valved brass instrument pitched in Bb with the same compass as a cornet. It has a conical bore and a wide bell. This is certainly not a suitable instrument for playing the 2nd Brandenburg, unless you have nothing else -- then, of course, a soprano saxophone will do just as well, if not better.

The tromba specified by Bach for the 2nd Brandenburg has no fingerholes! According to the Csibas, this instrument (or reconstructions of the Hainlein Tromba in F (1697)) only needs "ein kurzer Zug" (a slight extension of about 20 cm) for it to be played cleanly without having to 'lip' or push the tones in order to have them be properly in tune and at the same volume as the other notes. In a sense, this slight modification is an adaptation of a very important distinguishing characteristic of the Tromba da tirarsi which had a number of much larger extensions that allowed it to play all the final chorales when needed. This Tirarsi-type of extension on the Tromba in F was not considered as a real extension since it was more like a lengthening of the mouthpiece which, being half as long as a typical Tromba da tirarsi extension, provided for easier and faster playability of the notes than would be possible on a Tromba da tirarsi which was noted for its more cumbersome playability. To be sure, the modern player of this instrument will still need to make some slight corrections on certain notes, but this is common even for a valve trumpeter today. In Bach's day good tromba players frowned upon playing the Tromba da tirarsi which did not allow for rapid playing. They considered it to be more a member of the 'Posaune' (trombone) family. The privileged court trumpeters also felt it to be beneath their dignity and class to play the Tromba da tirarsi. Their instruments were also more valuable (expensive to make) than the Tromba da tirarsi.

Robert Sherman wrote (December 8, 2002):
[To Santu de Silva & Thomas Braatz] The flugelhorn is actually a relatively large instrument. Every one I've ever seen has been pitched in Bb, which means its tube length is the same as that of a garden-variety Bb trumpet. But the throat of the bell is much larger, which makes it look larger than the trumpet. The sound is somewhat like a cross between a trumpet and a horn, but not exactly.

The terms "conical bore" and "cylindrical bore" are imprecise and a bit confusing as applied to brasses, unlike the conical-bore saxophone which is clearly different from the cylindrical-bore clarinet of the same pitch. Both trumpets and flugelhorns are cylindrical in part (the valve slides and tuning slides) and conical in part (the leadpipe and the bell). The same is true of cornets, which are commonly described as "conical bore." The differences between "conical bore" and "cylidrical bore" in brasses are not visible to the eye -- certainly not to the eye of a non-player -- except at the throat of the bell, and even there the difference between a trumpet and a cornet can be subtle. There are large visible differences in the way the tubing is curled, but this is more a matter of convention, convenience, and appearance than of sound. For example, one company (Benge) makes a "pocket trumpet" in Bb that has many tight bends in the tubing and appears quite small, and a "herald trumpet", also in Bb, in which all the tubing except the valve slides is straight so the instrument is four feet long, but there is no clear difference in sound between the two.

Tom is correct that the instruments Bach used had no finger holes. Every trumpet performance you hear claiming to be "historically authentic" that uses finger holes -- this describes essentially all of them -- is a pretentious fake. Tom is also correct that even modern valve trumpets are imperfect instruments and require lip adjustments to bring some notes into tune; contemporary technology is gradually reducing this problem but still has a way to go.

The "slight extension" to which Tom refers appears to be a movable single-tube slide at the mouthpiece receiver. This is a primitive version of the modern trombone slide which works on two tubes in parallel. The with a slide is not just, as Tom points out, that it can't be played quickly. It also means that pressure of the instrument against the lips can only be applied weakly by the one hand holding the mouthpiece, since mouthward hand pressure on the rest of the instrument would compress the slide to the sharpest position. This means that pressure of the instrument against the lips would have to be quite low, and I know of no player who could approach the upper range of the Brandenburg under that handicap.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (December 12, 2002):
[To Santu de Silva] I'm not certain because I've never seen the DVD, but very likely its a piccolo trumpet:
http://www.selmer.com/brass/stradtrp/196.html
http://wcuvax1.wcu.edu/~ulrich/htmlpresentationfolder/piccolo/piccolo.htm
http://www.rosevillebigband.org/cgi-bin/rbb.pl?c=personnel/MoreGN/PiccTrpt.htm

hope that helps!

Robert Sherman wrote (December 12, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] If the sound strikes you as "clear", it is almost certainly a picc.. The most popular brand is the Schilke which can be recognized by a very abrupt flare at the end of the bell, although some European players (e.g. Guttler) use rotary-valve models by various mfgs.

See http://www.schilkemusic.com/ic-8.html

 

2 hpsis in Brandenburg concerto #5

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 5, 2003):
[Re the second recording described at: http://pseudo-poseidonios.net/portraits/newman/notes02.htm
where the question here was, how much did the second harpsichordist play in Brandenburg 5?]

I replied that they probably did it because they felt it sounds good, basic musical convictions, and remarked:
> I'll ask Brookshire what he played for Newman. <

His reply:

"Ya know, that recording was such a long time ago (almost a decade!), I don't remember exactly what I did. I do remember that I played continuo 4-hands with Tony on one of the non-J.S.B. concertos (I think it was the Ernst von Weimar concerto) on the record, and that very many people said that that was the most memorable thing on the recording."

"I think I recall that I played on my own Tyre in the so-called "12-foot range" (you know, breaking down the octave down to lowest note on my instrument - GG - exactly like a G-Violone would have done) for the 5th B-burg, and only during the ritornellos. Tony was interested in getting a distinct sound for the tutti textures, so that the solos would stand in greater relief. I think that might have been born of a devotion to a later kind of concerto model (say, the Mozart piano concerto model), but I hesitate to pick nits with such a fascinating, visceral, lively performer as Tony. His voice has been a breath of fresh air in a field crowded with narrow-minded revivalists looking for some permission, some 18th century imprimatur, for basic musicianship."

"As you note, anybody who thinks he has a definitive statement about what "Continuo" meant during the tumultuous, jostling, bustling, chaotic Baroque period just doesn't know enough about the complex history of the continuo tradition. Just 15 years ago, almost everybody on the major labels was happy to record anything marked "Continuo" with a 'cello and a harpsichord...no bass, no theorbo, no archlute, no baroque guitar, no lautenwerck, etc. Since the entry of Tragicomedia, Musica Antiqua Koeln, Les Arts Florissants and Cappriccio Stravagante into the "Continuo" discussion, the general sense of genre-based and expressively-based continuo choices that likely prevailed in the 17th and 18th centuries has been somewhat restored. There is still not enough experimentation, not enough variety of playing styles - especially based on well-documented national varieties - for my taste, but it may be coming (still, in this latter day of 2003, almost everybody on the big labels persists in playing their Cavalli and Bach continuo parts in basically the same style, and that is really lamentable!"

(...quoting Bradley Brookshire here by permission, from a personal e-mail response.)

=====

That "12-foot" approach sounds good to me, too, and that's a decent way to describe it: play the bass an octave lower than written except where it goes off the end of the instrument, and then nick it up to notated pitch until a convenient place to go back down.

I like to do something similar in the opening of the D minor toccata BWV 913: that part that looks/sounds like an organ pedal solo, I play in both hands on harpsichord adding the lower octave as far as possible. Why? Because it sounds turbo. It's more exciting. Why not? This is basic keyboard musicianship: registering an organ piece in effective ways as it goes along, and can be done on organ or harpsichord or whatever...in the musical spirit of making the piece as vivid as possible. None of those "manualiter" toccatas go below low C on the page (and therefore they're all playable on organ), but on an instrument that has some lower notes, why not use them?

Plus, if any sort of precedent from Bach is needed, it's a technique he used himself in the fugue of the chromatic fantasy, BWV 903. The left hand plays the subject in octaves part of the time, a nice turbo effect. Additionally, his son CPE advocated bass octaves and other un-notated effects in his comprehensive treatise about keyboard continuo performance...it's more important to be imaginative and to bring out the composer's intentions (clear effects), than to give a pedantic rendition of only the written notes.

And of course, the reason to do it is not because the Bachs gave their blessing by permission and example, but because it sounds good. Musically, it speaks.

(Yes, I believe that Bach-Busoni and Bach-Godowsky and Bach-Rachmaninov are sometimes closer in spirit to the effective expression of the music, than are modern pianists who "faithfully" play only Bach's notes from an Urtext! It's just a more imaginative registration of the music, as can also be done on harpsichord and organ.)

 

Brandenburg 5 with piano
Brandenburgs

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 28, 2003):
Brandenburg 5 with piano

Uri Golomb wrote (September 23, 2003):
< I am particularly curious to see if he [Perahia] can make a convincing case for the piano in the Brandenburg 5th. So far, I only heard three piano recordings of this -- Rudolf Serkin and the Busch Chamber Players, Alfred Cortot and the ORchestra of teh Ecole Normale de Musique, Paris (both 1930s), and Wilhelm Furtwangler with the Vienna Philharmonic (early 1950s). They are all fascinating, in their ways; but the only one I found truly convincing is, somewhat to my surprise, the Cortot. His treatment of the cadenza, revealing inner lines in a way that might not be possible on a harpsichord, was especially compelling. Would be interesting to hear how Perahia approaches this... >
Two other classic performances floating around, with piano, are both conducted by Casals: Eugene Istomin in 1950, and Rudolf Serkin in c1970.

And there are several recordings of Gould playing that piece (including one on video) but they're pretty deadly. Not Gould at his best; the sparkle of that composition eluded him.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (September 29, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Interesting recordings all.

What I think, though, would be more interesting would be instead of promoting older recordings of BWV 1050, they make recordings of BWV 1050a (of which none [or very few] are out in stores or in the online stores). I think it would add to one's appreciation of the work and of Bach's genius if one could hear a recording of the original and then compare it to the later version. I feel the same is true for all four versions of the Johannespassion, the two of the Matthaeuspassion, and all other works that have had various different "lives" (that is, forms) between original version and what has been passed down unto us. Also I think it would be
interesting (especially in the case of those works near and dear to my heart [the Orgelwerke and Klavierwerke]) to have recordings of all the different variant forms of canonical and also of non-canonical works (that is to say, those works that have definitively been identified as Bach's and those that have been attributed to him), so as to show the various stages in Bach's composing process and also the viewpoints and mentality of his students (since a large majorityof his works of these types are only extant in copies by his students). What I wouldn't give, for example, to hear a recording of BWV 542a (the version of the Praeludium [Phantasie] und Fuge g-Moll ("der Grosse") of Bach's favorite Leipzig student Johann Ludwig Krebs) or of BWV 549a (the Fruehfassung entitled Praeludium [Phantasie] und Fuge d-Moll of the Praeludium und Fuge c-Moll ("Arnstadt")) or even the different variants in BWV 549 itself (in both the BGA and NBA scores of the Praeludium und Fuge c-Moll ("Arnstadt") they have two different solutions for the pedal part in measure 8, with the usually-performed one in the "oder" part). Let me know what any of you think about this.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 29, 2003):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< What I think, though, would be more interesting would be instead of promoting older recordings of BWV 1050, they make recordings of BWV 1050a (of which none [or very few] are out in stores or in the online stores). I think it would add to one's appreciation of the work and of Bach's genius if one could hear a recording of the original and then compare it to the later version. >
One can. It does. The Hogwood recording of it is still available (recorded May 1984). This set also has the 1046a version of #1.

Back in 1985, hearing this recording, I was suitably impressed with the cadenza of 1050a, and transcribed it off the recording to play it myself. It works nicely. (This variant is also available in print: in the KB of the NBA.)

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 29, 2003):
Brandenburgs - early versions

I wrote about 1050a:
< The Hogwood recording of it is still available (recorded May 1984). This set also has the 1046a version of #1. >
I see there's also a handy single CD of that: Amazon.com
That is, one can get those two experiments (the funky early versions of #1 and #5) on a reduced-price disc without splurging for the whole set of Brandenburgs.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (September 30, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< One can. It does. The Hogwood recording of it is still available (recorded May 1984). This set also has the 1046a version of #1.
Back in 1985, hearing this recording, I was suitably impressed with the cadenza of 1050a, and transcribed it off the recording to play it myself. It works nicely. (This variant is also available in print: in the KB of the NBA.) >

Unfortunately, I have never seen it in any sales source.

Santu de Silva wrote (September 30, 2003):
Brad writes about the early version of Brandenburg V (1050A) responding to "David":

[David:]
< What I think, though, would be more interesting would be instead of promoting older recordings of BWV 1050, they make recordings of BWV 1050a (of which none [or very few] are out in stores or in the online stores). I think it would add to one's appreciation of the work and of Bach's genius if one could hear a recording of the original and then compare it to the later version. >
[BPL:]
< Back in 1985, hearing this recording, I was suitably impressed with the cadenza of 1050a, and transcribed it off the recording to play it myself. It works nicely. >
[me:]
Yes; I heard it around then, too (1981, possibly) and though (of course) it is interesting from a musicological
point of view, I prefer the more common version by far. lots of folks seem to prefer the shorter cadenza, (more balanced, more in proportion, etc etc) but give me the bigger cadenza any time!

Teri Noel Towe wrote (October 1, 2003):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. writes:
< Two other classic performances floating around, with piano, are both conducted by Casals: Eugene Istomin in 1950, and Rudolf Serkin in c1970. >
Don't overlook the astonishing recordings by Alfred Cortot (1932) and Harold Samuel (recorded in concert in 1935).

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 1, 2003):
Brandenburgs

Teri Noel Towe wrote:
< Don't overlook the astonishing recordings by Alfred Cortot (1932) and Harold Samuel (recorded in concert in 1935). >
Another fan of the Cortot set here. A brilliant bonus is his solo arrangement of the Largo from the concerto 1056.

=====

Speaking of Brandenburgs, recently I've really been enjoying the 1981 recording by Harnoncourt & CMW (the digital remake, not the 1964 set). Amazon.com

The fluid tempo in #6 moves me, after I got over the initial surprise of hearing it go slower and slower and slower...and the second movement is exquisite in the independence of the parts. The first movement of #5 sounds "Furtwanglerian" with the legato bass, slowish tempo, and spread attacks (letting the music sound both lush and elastic). And all the concertos have so much detail in these performances, the players reacting to one another in a way that doesn't sound autocratically imposed.

I'm not as happy with the suites #2 and 3 included here, but hey, they're free.

Some of my comments about the 1964 recording, and some other sets, are here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/5544

=====

Some other old recordings:

In the Scherchen set from 1960 (a remainder at Berkshire Record Outlet) the recorder players have serious trouble, and Scherchen uses some of his eccentrically slow tempos. It's interesting to hear once.

The 1946 set by Klemperer is riveting. I reviewed it in more detail here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/9239

I'm still on the lookout for a CD issue of Klemperer's stereo remake; still listening to cassettes I dubbed from the LPs. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/9327
That and the rest of the Casals performances from Prades, 1950.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 10, 2003):
Last week I wrote:
< I'm still on the lookout for a CD issue of Klemperer's stereo remake; still listening to cassettes I dubbed from the LPs. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/9327
That and the rest of the Casals performances from Prades, 1950. >
And, surprisingly, the Casals 1950 set is available, as of a few weeks ago! #GEM 0200 from Pearl: http://www.pavilionrecords.com/html/pearl/pearl_frma.html
I found it this week while browsing in a Tower Records shop and could hardly believe it.

Items 201 and 202 have the rest of the Bach from that 1950 festival. Allegedly, 202 (to be released later this month) has the Stern/Schneider performance of the D minor double concerto 1043 that I remember as being terrific. http://www.pavilionrecords.com/html/pearl/pearl_frma1.html

Has anybody ever recorded Brandenburg 2's first movement at a faster tempo than this? It's 4'08" here. The trumpet part is played by soprano saxophone. By contrast, the first movement of concerto has such a laid-back swing to it....

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (October 10, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I don't know.

Whilst on the subject, which version are you referring to? As many (I am sure) in this forum are aware, there are actually 2 versions of this work. There is the one (very seldom recorded/performed) that Bach wrote in Köthen and there is one (the one most are familiar with) that Bach wrote in Leipzig.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 10, 2003):
Re the new issue of Brandenburgs, Casals/Prades, recorded in 1950:

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< Whilst on the subject, which version are you referring to? As many (I am sure) in this forum are aware, there are actually 2 versions of this work. There is the one (very seldom recorded/performed) that Bach wrote in Köthen and there is one (the one most are familiar with) that Bach wrote in Leipzig. >
He didn't write it in Leipzig; the autograph score was dedicated to the Margrave of Brandenburg on 3/24/1721 (yes, the day after Bach's own 36th birthday). Bach was still in Köthen at that point. Yes, he continued to tinker with and reuse some of this music later, in Leipzig, but not as a set.

A binary answer to your question can't be given. There are many more than "2" versions for the individual "Brandenburg" concertos. For example, #5 has no fewer than 13 extant manuscript sources reflecting various stages of its development. Drafts, copies of copies, revisions by Bach, performance materials from other musicians, etc, etc. There are not just two integral sets of the Brandenburgs, shazam, shazam, straight from the Zeus-head of Bach fully formed. All these pieces took shape gradually.

That is: don't be fooled by the way conflationary modern editions (or any recordings) give us two and only two readings! The ones you're probably thinking of are the "first version" that Hogwood and friends cobbled together for their 1984 recording, and the "normal" version that everybody else plays. If you read Hogwood's program notes carefully, you'll see that they did quite a bit of conjecture and reconstruction even to get as far as they did, with the forest of choices.

Furthermore, the source situation is not yet absolutely settled, as to dating and figuring out which MS are copies of what, and trying to reconstruct any possibly lost MS of Bach from their evidence. The NBA is seriously out of date (1956) for the Brandenburgs, and has some outright errors in the way Heinrich Besseler handled and ranked the sources. Some of these problems with the NBA's handling of concerto #6 are described in detail in an appendix of this book, from 1995: http://pup.princeton.edu/titles/5667.html
(That is: Marissen points out that Besseler hid some stuff, and changed some stuff, that disagreed with Besseler's theories about the piece....)

=====

The Casals set from 1950 has nothing to do with all this scholarly wrangling. They just took the familiar Bach-Gesellschaft reading, and the "standard" set of orchestral parts. Then they did a long series of instrumental substitutions, to accommodate the pickup orchestra that was available at the festival:

- All the recorder parts are played by flutes.

- The trumpeter played only at the concert, and then they used soprano saxophone in the recording.

- No harpsichord anywhere; they used piano in #5, and if they used a keyboard anywhere else (it's inaudible) it was piano. The piano especially brought in for this 1950 festival was a Pleyel grand.

- No violas da gamba in #6: they put some cellos on those lines.

- Viola sections (instead of two violas, solo) in #6. Similarly, more than ten string players in #3. That is, they treated all these concertos as orchestral music instead of chamber music.

- Valved horns in #1.

- Modern orchestral double basses wherever Bach asked for "Violone," and therefore playing an octave lower than written (which is questionable in some of these concertos).

- In addition to the trumpeter, some of the other musicians in the orchestra could play only in the concert and were replaced for the recording, due to contractual obligations with other recording companies.

This is all not a criticism of their musicianship, but simply reporting what they did at this festival in 1950. They made their conventional choices about text and instruments, and then played wonderfully. Casals drew beautiful phrasing from this orchestra.

Incidentally: Columbia Records laid out $25,000 up front to get the rights to record this, and that money also helped the festival to take place at all. (Anybody happen to know: how much is $25K in 1950 dollars worth in 2003 dollars? Big, big money.)

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 10, 2003):
I wrote:
< Furthermore, the source situation is not yet absolutely settled, as to dating and figuring out which MS are copies of what, and trying to reconstruct any possibly lost MS of Bach from their evidence. The NBA is seriously out of date (1956) for the Brandenburgs, and has some outright errors in the way Heinrich Besseler handled and ranked the sources. Some of these problems with the NBA's handling of concerto #6 are described in detail in an appendix of this book, from 1995: http://pup.princeton.edu/titles/5667.html
(That is: Marissen points out that Besseler hid some stuff, and changed some stuff, that disagreed with Besseler's theories about the piece....) >
Incidentally, the NBA [Neue Bach-Ausgabe] team have made some attempt to update their publication; they issued 1050a (an early version of #5) in 1975 as a supplement to Besseler's work.

I didn't mean to imply that the NBA people stopped thinking on a day in 1956 and never opened it back up. The point I was trying to make is: the NBA isn't automatically the most authoritative or accurate modern edition, even if it casts itself as such, and even if some people believe that's what it is.

It's a conflationary edition: that is, it fabricates a fictitious "authoritative" version by trying to guess Bach's supposedly final intentions pieced together from multiple sources, instead of reproducing any single source accurately. There are hundreds of judgment calls in such a venture, and whenever the editor makes a serious mistake (or invents a reading whose details disagree with ALL the sources!) there are scholars ready to point out the discrepancy. Marissen devotes seven pages to debunk Besseler's treatment of concerto #6....

(I, obviously, would prefer to see single sources reproduced accurately and then come to my own conclusions as an intelligent musician, preparing the performance parts for a given situation.)

Case in point, about conflationary editions: in grad school I was working on one of the few keyboard pieces by Gesualdo, the "Canzon francese del Principe." The Corpus of Early Keyboard Music edition reproduces a single source accurately, "mistakes" and all; that's their editorial policy for the series. There is also a scholarly edition by Glenn Watkins, where he tried to construct a "better" conflated reading for the Complete Works edition. And both of these editions were (at the time) more than 25 years old. Fortunately for me, Dr Watkins worked right there in the building, so I went to see him and asked him directly about this. I asked his advice about reconciling these two editions, so I'd have something reliable to play in my concert. Surprisingly, he told me to throw his own edition away and use the CEKM; he didn't agree anymore with the way he had changed some of the rhythms and pitches for the edition. So, that's what I did: put together my private performing edition based on the CEKM, and pulled in just a few corrective ideas from Watkins' reading and critical report. The goal is to keep the music resembling a source that really existed, while doing something that also sounds musically plausible!

I'd expected opposite reaction, of course, but Watkins was a good scholar: willing to keep learning, and willing to admit that somebody else's work is closer to the truth than his own youthful judgments were. The editor in a conflationary edition is given a task that may sometimes be impossible: to come up with a "best" single reading from wildly conflicting sources. Shouldn't that decision be up to the musician preparing a specific gig?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (October 11, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] However, there are two versions of the Konzert (one from Köthen, one from Leipzig). Therefore you did not address the question. I was referring to that particular Konzert, not the entirety of the Brandenburgs.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 11, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] David, please read my response again more closely. I "did not address the question" because the question itself was faulty (in several ways), as I pointed out.

Yes, from the variety of extant manuscripts some modern people have published odd versions that are anti-mainstream enough, they got renumbered with an "a" suffix in the BWV catalog; but that still doesn't say there are exactly two versions of any of the concertos. The "a" in the cataloguing just means, basically, "This funky version has crossed over some imaginary line where it has become recognizably a different, but still related, piece of music." If somebody published yet another funky version from the manuscript options, they could call it "b", and so on. As I pointed out, there are multiple funky versions for all these concertos.

This is all an issue of cataloguing. How many conflations and conjectural restorations can be done in an editorial process before a piece indeed becomes a different piece, one that never existed before? Isn't that a philosophical question about the nature of art? Who decides how different a version needs to be before it gets its own letter or number?

And I did answer the question, in a way, by telling you exactly what the Prades people played here! I first repaired your question, and then I answered it. So, what's the problem?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (October 11, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] There were two versions of BWV 1047. This I have from the Laserlight series featuring recordings of the different musical instruments(entitles "The Instruments of Classical Music", a 10-Volume set). In the recording featuring the Corno da Caccia, there is a version of BWV 1047 (the earlier one), and in the one featuring the Trumpet, there is one too (the Leipzig one). Implication: that there were two versions and that Bach changed the solo instrument when making the second. Nor was this the only time Bach changed instrumentation. The Johannespassion versions are riddled with instruemtnation changes. For one, the inclusion of the Flutes in the "final version" (the one from 1739-1749 that we have the notes for in the Copyist's Score). Another, in version 3, instead of the Viola da Gamba and d'Amore and the Liuto, Bach used a Violooncello and 2 muted Violins in Arien 19 and 20. A third is the addition (in the version of 1749) of the Bassono Grosso in the Continuo parts. Fourthly there is the instruction (in the 1739-1749 version) printed before Arie Nr. 13 "Tutti gli Strommenti" (for those with no Italian understanding, "for all the instruments").

Another case in point is the Matthäuspassion. In the version of 1729, the Arie in Nr. 30 (36) is set for Bass instead of Alt, the Choral Nr. 29 (35) is different ("Jesum lass' ich nicht von mir"), the Violino soli are switched in Nr. 39 (45) and Nr. 42 (48) [Violiino aus Orchester II in the former and Violino aus Orchester I for the latter], and there is a Laute in Nr. 56 (60) and Nr. 57 (61). In the version of 1736, the Choral Nr. 29 (35) is replaced with "O Mensch, bewein' dein' Suende gross'" (which was used in the so-called "Weimarer Passion" and the 2nd version of the Johannespassion and was changed from Es-Dur to E-Dur and augmented for 2 Choeren and 2 Orchester), the Arie in Nr. 30 (36) was reset for ALt, the Violino soli were switched again in Nr. 39 (45) and Nr.
42 (48), and the Laute was replaced with Viola da Gamba in Nr. 56 (60) and Nr. 57 (61). Finally in the revision of 1742, the Cantus Firmus in Nr. 1 (1) and Nr. 29 (35) was set for Ripieno Sopranstimmen.

Gene Hanson wrote (October 11, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< And, surprisingly, the Casals 1950 set is available, as of a few weeks ago! #GEM 0200 from Pearl: http://www.pavilionrecords.com/html/pearl/pearl_frma.html
I found it this week while browsing in a Tower Records shop and could hardly believe it.
Items 201 and 202 have the rest of the Bach from that 1950 festival. Allegedly, 202 (to be released later this month) has the Stern/Schneider performance of the D minor double concerto 1043 that I remember as being terrific.
http://www.pavilionrecords.com/html/pearl/pearl_frma1.html >
I saw the Casals Prades Festival recordings includiing the double violin concerto at one of the classical music stores on the net fairly recently. The set cost $75. I'm waiting to accumulate a few dollars to buy it.

 

A horn in Brandenburg II ?

Thomas Radleff wrote (November 9, 2003):
Brandenburgische Konzerte, played by Consort of London, directed by Robert Haydon Clark, recorded 1990 by Collins Classics, now part of the Brilliant Classicsī Bach Edition.

Concerto No.2 - this canīt be a trumpet! Is it a horn? If so - why? Or is there any trumpet sounding like THIS? I guess it is a modern instrument with valves, because the ornaments ad Triller are so awfully fast and precise...

Any one familiar with this recording? No special information in the booklet, no soloists.

Riccardo Nughes wrote (November 10, 2003):
[To Thomas Radleff] Concerto No.2 - this canīt be a trumpet! Is it a horn? If so - why?

I don't know this recording but the same choice has been made by Sigiswald Kuijken & La Petite Bande in their recording of the Brandenburgische Konzerte (DHM).

That's what SK says in the liner notes :
"In keeping with our efforts to achieve the most "authentic" method of playing the baroque instruments (in the narrowest sense : the playing technique) we attempted to find someone willing to play the tromba part in the second BC on a "proper" instrument using, as far as possible, the "right" playing technique(i.e with a historical mouthpiece, without auxiliary valves & with the right bore, as was usual in Bach's days). Unfortunately we were to discover that there are so many problems today with the playing and copying of the historical tromba or marine trumpet and that (IMO) so much has "gone away" in relation to baroque trumpet playing, that we eventually had to give up hope of finding a player for this recording who was willing to take the risk of braving this venture for the first time. I do hope very much though that in the few years [recordings were made in 1993-1994] we will have made the sort of progress that is long overdue...Since we are very lucky to have horn-players in the Petite Bande who (compared with the present practice of compromise when it comes to tromba playing) have really sound playing technique (including the choice ot the instrument) I decided in the end to give the tromba part in the 2nd BC to our first horn-player, who now plays it one octave deeper than the original tromba on this recording. This solution is supported as it happens from a historical viewpoint by a somewhat later manuscript of the piece from the baroque era in which the trumpet part is already noted with "Tromba overo corno da Caccia"."

Possibly these are the same motivations upon Robert Haydon Clark made his choices.

 

Brandenburgs - Marissen and Pickett [Beginners Bach]

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 4, 2003):
Wang Xiao-yun wrote:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BeginnersBach/message/77
< Thanyou for your information, and let me take this chance to thank you for a lot of posts you previously wrote in the other two mail groups, which I found very interesting and enlightening. Besides, your playing on the Sakura theme, which though a Japanese folk song is quite familiar to a lot of Chinese people including me, is a thoughtful and completely fresh rendition to me. >
You're welcome, and I'm glad you enjoy the music!

< One of the E-book interesting to me is "The Social and Religious Designs of J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos" written by Michael Marissen. Reading English should not be a big problem to me, but I'm only a Bach enthusiast without much musical knowledges. Do you think it is a good book to a musical layman like me? http://tinyurl.com/xi0b >
I have a paperback copy of that and have read about half of it so far. Very enjoyable. He does get rather technical sometimes and it is necessary to look up some of his points in a score of the concertos. But overall I would say, yes, give it a try for all the other important points he brings in outside the musical ones.

Perhaps you should first read the sample pages from: Amazon.com and then decide if you will like it.

< BTW, I have read an essay on the same work by Philip Pickett, "The Brandenburg Concerto: A New Interpretation". It took me quite some time and efforts. I found some of Pickett's decoding is not very convincing. However, the most valuable experience I got from the article is a brainstorm on the baroque music rhetorics. That helps me try to lauch a deeper thought on the baroque music and pay more attention to performaces which can bring out the nuances of the music. >
Yes, that essay is the one in the booklet for Pickett's CD set of the Brandenburgs. I agree with you, some of his connections are strange ones...but worth thinking about. And as you said, a good way to focus on the rhetoric in the music. Were you also able to listen to Pickett's recording? He has some interesting ideas about ways to handle tempo changes during the movements, bringing out the musical nuances. I especially like the way he uses organ and two archlutesin the continuo for concerto #6, a beautiful and gentle sound. Amazon.com

Wang Xiao-yun wrote (December 4, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< I have a paperback copy of that and have read about half of it so far. Very enjoyable. He does get rather technical sometimes and it is necessary to look up some of his points in a score of the concertos. But overall I would say, yes, give it a try for all the other important points he brings in outside the musical ones. Perhaps you should first read the sample pages from Amazon.com and then decide if you will like it.
Yes, that essay is the one in the booklet for Pickett's CD set of the Brandenburgs. I agree with you, some of his connections are strange ones...but worth thinking about. And as you said, a good way to focus on the rhetoric in the music. Were you also able to listen to Pickett's recording? He has some interesting ideas about ways to handle tempo changes during the movements, bringing out the musical nuances. I especially like the way he uses organ and two archlutes in the continuo for concerto #6, a beautiful and gentle sound.
Amazon.com >
Thank you for your comments on the book and I will have to look at the sample pages.

I don't have Pickett's CD and I read his essay from the internet (found by chance through a google search. Of course, it's not a good way to do research ;-)): http://members.iinet.net.au/%7Enickl/brandenburgs.html

The article is intriguing enough to provoke my interest to listen his performance. I will definitely get the CD when it's available in the local store.

 

Casals Brandenburgs from 1950

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 9, 2003):
<< The new recording of JSB major work does not immediately cause a 'thread' here any longer. Rather pity. >>
Let's try another one. As I mentioned/reviewed in October, at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/10831
and: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/10837
the Casals set of Brandenburgs (and much more) from 1950 is now available, after the MANY YEARS we have waited for a CD issue.

Anybody else have this yet? Comments about it?

And, is Teri Noel Towe still among us?

 

Brandenburg Concertos [Beginners Bach]

Jack Botelho wrote (December 11, 2003):
We have some very distinguished members here on this email list now, and would like to welcome everyone once again.

Earlier I had mentioned the Musica Antiqua Koln recording on the Archiv/DHM label dating from c1987 directed by Reinhard Goebel of the Brandenburg Concertos - I recently aquired two separate cds of the complete concertos for the price of one.

It is surprizing to realize that this recording was issued some 16 (!) years ago now, but is still being heard for the first time by a some late-comers (like me). (I was one of those listeners who came to collecting cds many years after their first introduction.)

I really like this Concerto Koln recording of the Brandenburgs, and the variety of period instruments employed is impressive - violino, viola, violone, violoncello, cembalo, viola da braccio(!), viola da gamba, corno da caccia, oboe, fagotto/bassoon, violino piccolo, tromba/trumpet, flauto dolce and flauto traverso - a showpiece of instrumental variety it would seem originally intended by Bach.

I like period instruments, but must say I am also one of those who appreciate the now famous Wendy Carlos/Moog synthesizer version also. These concertos seem to have adapted well to many different arrangements over time.

Does anyone have a favourite version of these concertos? Are we now in the twilight of recordings of this set? - by which I mean, are the earlier period performance recordings proving difficult to surpass?

PS Thanks very much Jeremy for the offering of music from Handel's fireworks showcasing an example of 18th century winds. Please feel free to upload as many different examples of music as you wish. Thanks again!

Donald Satz wrote (December 11, 2003):
[To Jack Botelho] The Musica Antiqua Koln is the one I favor for its exuberance and great brass. The next two would be Pinnock and Hogwood. I haven't listened much to the Brandenburgs in the last couple of years, being sort of burned out on it.

Jack Botelho wrote (December 13, 2003):
[To Donald Satz] "Listener burnout" is a big problem it seems for well-seasoned listeners. For my part, I find Vivaldi's Four Seasons concertos difficult (with many others I imagine) to appreciate afresh due to extreme over-exposure.

Imagine, if you will, a potion, which when taken by the seasoned listener, allows one the experience of listening to the most celebrated works on fine recordings for the first time.

I would imagine such a concotion would fetch very high prices indeed!

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (December 13, 2003):
[To Jack Botelho] Jack, that's a great idea. I too really never play the Brandenburgs. One reason is that my local classical station, when they do Bach at all, it is always a Brandenburg. There is so much other Bach andyet they act as though the public will not accept anything more recondite. Let's forget about the poor played-to-death Vivaldi one set of violin concerti or one-third of a set, I believe. There again is so much other Vivaldi. I recently posted on the same subject to Mahler. There was a performance on the radio that let me hear Mahler 4 with "revirginated ears" (that was the phrase I used in my post). But again I will rarely play any of the many recordings of Mahler 4 which I have.

Jack Botelho wrote (December 13, 2003):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] It is indeed unfortunate when we have cherished works of music which are left on the shelf. I appreciate your point about expanding the range of repertoire - in my opinion we desperately need a shift of listener's (and musician's) consciousness to performing works which are rarely or never heard. World-wide sales of classical music is in a dangerous decline, apparently, partly due to cd-burning but also because listeners are becoming reluctant to purchase different recordings of the same well-known piece of music. Only wealthy record collectors keep abreast of all new versions - the rest of us stay content with what versions we have with the result of the loss of the lions-share of the buyers market.

 

Continue on Part 2

Brandenburg Concertos BWV 1046-1051: Details
Recordings:
Reviews of Individual Recordings:
Güttler’s Brandenburgs | Review: Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1, 2 & 5 - conducted by Karl Richter | Review of Brandenburg Concertos by Tafelmusik
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Discussions of Individual Recordings:
Brandenburg Concertos - R. Alessandrini | Brandenburg Concertos - R. Egarr | Brandenburg Concertos - N. Harnoncourt | Brandenburg Concertos - O. Klemperer

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