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Nikolaus Harnoncourt & Concentus Musicus Wien
Gustav Leonhardt & Leonhardt-Consort

Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works
General Discussions - Part 8

Continue from Part 7

Harnoncourt Interview on WKCR

Ellisa Bright wrote (February 4, 2006):
WKCR, 89.9 FM, the radio station at Columbia University, broadcasts a Bach Festival every December. Jonathan Toren conducted a phone interview with Nikolaus Harnoncourt. The transcript is posted on his blog - "The Well-Tempered Music Lover."

The preface reads as follows:

The following interview was conducted live by phone and aired on December 29, 2005 at 11:00 AM EST on WKCR-FM in New York during our annual BachFest. Harnoncourt, of course, is Austrian, and English is not his first language. In making this transcript, I sometimes altered his syntax slightly to conform to normal English, without changing his meaning.
http://welltemperedmusic.blogspot.com/2005/12/harnoncourt-interview-transcript.html

You may also check out WKCR streaming on the web: www.wkcr.org

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 4, 2006):
[To Ellisa Bright] Thanks for posting this! I enjoyed listening to that interview live that day, and it's good to have a chance to revisit it.

 

Harnoncourt's views of tempo

Eric Bergerud wrote (April 2, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] I'm sure that Mr. Braatz doesn't want me to speak for him. However, I do read his posts and unless I've seriously misunderstood him, he is not a fan of Harnoncourt, particularly the way that conductor approaches tempo in Bach's choral works. This is an issue that I think falls squarely into the "fact" realm of the fact or discretion equation. Harnoncourt has made quite clear that he believed in the late 1960's that his treatment of tempo in Bach was true to Bach performance technique - not something chosen as aesthetically most pleasing to Harnoncourt among interpretations a reasonable person chose. Obviously I can't offer an informed opinion on the issue myself. I am a fan, however, of Harnoncourt and would like to pass on some writings of his dating from 1968 that I think touch on some of Mr. Braatz's points.

First, I have reproduced some pages from the liner notes Harnoncourt wrote for his 1968 recording of the SMP (BWV 244):

"The difference between the notation of the Evangelist's recitatives in the score and in the holograph organ part is rather striking. This discrepancy has led to a great deal of confused speculation. The score was written after 1741, and the parts, it seems, shortly afterwards. As is well known, it is standard musicological practice to regard the chronologically latest source as an expression of the composer's final will. In this case the version contained in the parts is taken to represent an emendation of the score. However, apart from the fact that it would have been most unusual if Bach had wanted to make such significant alterations after having devoted more than 15 years to this work, it is quite implausible that he would suddenly have wanted to introduce a new style of accompanying recitatives in the St. Matthew Passion. In all the sacred and secular cantatas and in the St John Passion he had notated the recitatives as in the score of the St. Matthew Passion.

In the booklet for our recording of the St John Passion we pointed out the difference between what is notated and the actual performance of the recitatives. In secco recitatives, going by rules that were repeatedly written down, each bass note was only allowed to be played briefly (by the cello and accompanying keyboard instrument). This convention was well understood by ever continuo player at the time. However, the notation had to show the correct harmonies between the vocal line and the bass, whereby in practice the bass note continued to sound only in the listener's imagination. In this way it was always possible to understand the text quite clearly. Similarly, there are differences between what is written and what is played in the case of final appoggiaturas (here, in the above example, the two c1 had to be notated on "aber" because a dissonance would be incorrect at this juncture. However, going by the rules, the singer sings d1 c1). In the continuo part Bach exceptionally notated what was actually played and not the normal and orthographically correct long bass notes, as in the score. He probably wanted to ensure that the differences between the short notes in the Evangelist's recitative and the full note values in the recitativo accompangnato of Christ's recitatives, which were hardly noticeable in the part, would not lead to confusion. There is in fact no difference between the original scores of the St Matthew Passion and the St John Passion. Differences only exist in modern reprints because the parts are incorrectly interpreted as being Bach's revisions.

Bach was clearly at pains to write down everything as precisely as possible for the musician. This ran counter to the freedom usually accorded to performers in the 18th century, when it was the practice to allow singers and instrumentalists to improvise embellishments in solos and sometimes even in accompanying parts. Bach did not want to leave such things to chance in his works, and thus wrote out all the embellishments in full. Many of Bach's melismas and coloratura passages must be understood as written-out ornaments, and these of course have to be played far more lightly than essential melody notes.

One arrives at the natural tempo by extrapolating the actual motif in its unembellished form..."

Below is a page from the liner notes from the 1968 performance of the Mass in B (BWV 232) (please excuse the lack of a few proper notation symbols):

TEMPO

The importance that the old masters attached to choosing the "correct metre" can hardly be overrated. There were repeated attempts to establish a basic metronome tempo so to speak, and there are enough sources (from all periods of musical history) for us to be able to make fairly clear statements on the tempi of all kinds of musical forms, The sign C for 4/4 and Cl for 2/2 still in use today are the remains of a complex system of signs that, in the earliest centuries of Western music, brought the various tempi into relation with an immutable basic tempo. A walking pace and the pulse played a decisive role as living references to this basic tempo, "integer valor". By means of these signs, the tempo relations could originally be calculated with almost mathematical precision. In Bach's time, parts of this system were still common musical knowledge. The tempo of a piece could be deduced without further explanation from three facts: the metric indication, the smallest occurring note value and the number of emphases per bar. The practical results gained from these traditions agree so exactly with other sources, e.g. the instructional works, that they represent an altogether credible and reliable source of information.

Of course, there were and there are never rigid rules, since the proper tempo was also determined by various extramusical factors such as the size of the choral and orchestral forces, the acoustics of the room etc. It was naturally known and taught in those times too that a big orchestra must play more slowly than a small one, that one must play or sing more slowly in resonant rooms than in "dry" ones and so forth. The same tempo can indeed sound different in various interpretations; here it is not only the size of the performing body and the acoustics that play an important role, but also the articulation. An ensemble that articulates well sounds faster and livelier than one playing broadly and uniformly.In general we can deduce from the sources that the old masters chose considerably faster tempi than one ascribes to them today, particularly in the slow movements. But fast movements as well were evidently played with great virtuosity and vitality, as can be substantiated if the pulse (taken at 80 per minute) and technical possibi(that the semiquavers can still be played with single bow strokes by the strings and double tonguing by the wind) are used as a guide. Bach's son Philipp Emanuel said of him (as quoted in Forkel's Bach biography), "In the performance of his own pieces he usually chose a very lively tempo..."

The Italian tempo indications used today largely came into use in the 17th century. However, they did not determine the tempo by any means, but much more the musical expression (through which, of course, slight modifications of tempo could arise). We often find in the middle of an "Adagio" a Presto passage that is, however, only so marked in the part that plays the rapid notes, the basic tempo remaining the same. The Italian "expression" marks in the B minor Mass (BWV 232) are to be understood in the same manner: Lente (Quitollis), Largo (Kyrie f), Molto Adagio (Kyrie !), Andante (Et in unum), Alia breve (Kyrie II, Gratias), Vivace (Gloria, Cum Sancto Spiritu),Vivace e Allegro (Et expecto). Particularly revealing is the Adagio indication in bar 121 of the Confitew: the time must remain almost the same here, the change of tempo and expression having been written into the composition. A change of tempo at the Adagio will be surely payed for at the very latest in the transitional passage to the Ei expects (bar 146), since a natural transition to the Vivace e Allegro can only be attained through a slight acceleration of the crotchets, new through a violent change of tempo.The Alia breve of the Confiteor, the Adagio and the Vivace e Allegro must therefore be performed at almost the same tempo.

The following is from Malcom Sargent's liner notes to his wonderful 1959 Messiah which illustrates that Harnoncourt is not alone flunking a "strict constructionist" test on baroque scores (one will note, however, that he lacks Harnoncourt's confidence that anything like a precise determination of correct tempo is possible):

"The instructions are so inadequate in the case of Handel that no conductor can direct a performance even of the first chord of the Messiah without making at least two arbitrary decisions. Handel does not even indicate in his score whether we are to start loudly or softly. He marks the first movement 'Grave', so that we know we must proceed slowly. But how slowly? The first note is a dotted crotchet, but composers in the 18th century often wrote a dotted note to indicate a double dotted note. I belive that in this case intended a dotted note, to be played as he wrote it, but many other conductors think otherwise, and no one knows which one is being truly Handelian. In the whole of the Messiah there is no indication of rallentando, of a crescendo or diminuendo; whole movements are written without one indication of loudness of softness, and with only a very indefinite indication of pace; marks of phrasing are non-existent, and bowings very occasional. Given the original score of the Messiah a conductor must make a personal decision at almost every bar."

One more point. I certainly agree with Mr. Braatz that McCreeh's Epiphany Mass is a wonderful recording. However, despite McCreesh's attempt to recapture something of the liturgical feel in the performance, I should think that the work overflows with "mannerisms" of all type. It is OVPP. No one will accuse McCreesh of taking his time. The two cantatas are both done in their entirety, when, as I understand it, they would have been segmented. Now we are clearly dealing with "discretion" and I have no quibble whatsoever. (Indeed, I see McCreesh has come out with a new Mozart Mass: here comes another dent to the bank book.) But if one is willing to give a wonderful but aggressive artist like McCreesh latitude, why not Harnoncourt and Leonhardt? I can't think of either, even in their wild youth, of being musical cowboys shooting up the saloon for the pure joy of wrecking period movement performance standards or being so drunk that they didn't know what they were doing.

 

Leonhardt's conducting (was: What is Sght Redng?)

Continue of discussion from: Sight-Reading [General Topics]

Aryeh Oron wrote (August 1, 2006):
Tom Hens wrote:
"Leonhardt is one of the most un-dictatorial people imaginable, which is probably also why he doesn't like conducting very much. He gave up the job of conducting choruses of cantatas to Philippe Herreweghe soon after he joined the H/L cantata project, because he thought Herreweghe was better at it than he himself."
This is really amazing and a fact of which I have not been aware. IMO, the cantatas conducted by Leonhardt in the earlier part of H&L cantata cycle are among the high points of this series. His recorded performances of Cantatas BWV 7, BWV 8, BWV 13, BWV 23, etc. are my favourite renditions of these works. They are colourful, pictorial, delicate, balanced, unforceful, sensitive (to the singers) and indeed unselfish ("Let the music speaks for itself"). I find myself returning to Leonhardt's recording of Cantata BWV 7 even after hearing the fine PCP's Gardiner and the refreshing Harbison (w/ Cantata Singers). Should I also mention the first album of Bach Cantatas conducted by Leonhardt: with Cantatas BWV 54 & BWV 170 sung so marvellously by Alfred Deller, an album which should be included in any basic cantata collection?

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 2, 2006):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Should I also mention the first album of Bach Cantatas conducted by Leonhardt: with Cantatas BWV 54 & BWV 170 sung so marvellously by Alfred Deller, an album which should be included in any basic cantata collection? >
Good to hear from you! I will put the Leonhardt/Deller at the top of my shopping list.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (August 2, 2006):
[To Ed Myskowski] Unfortunately this superb CD is not in print and, yes, there is one seller at Amazon for a reasonable price considering how extreme the prices demanded for out of print CDs often are.

I grew up with this on LP and with The Connoisseur's Handel with the Deller Consort of which LP only a few tracks are included on this CD. Both LPs were terrific items at a time when there was little and still at our time. Alas Vanguard and Bach Guild, well, I am not sure what the status is with them. I don't think that they really exist anymore.

Julian Mincham wrote (August 2, 2006):
[To Ed Myskowski] Ed The original LP of Vanguard also contained Deller's performance of the Agnus Dei from the B minor Mass (BWV 232) which I still find brings tears to the eyes.

Not all agree about Deller however. I had a difference of opinion on list some months ago about Deller as a performer of Baroque music--I think it was with Doug Cowling.

For those who like Deller though Harmonis Mundi bought out a reasonably priced 4 CD set in 2004 to mark the 25th year of his death--no Bach---but plenty of Purcell. Also for those lucky to have them (I don't think they have been available for many years) the old LPs of the Deller consort's Catches and Glees by Purcell, Henry and William Lawes and others is also a rare (in every sense!) delight.

(I was lucky enough to hear Deller in the flesh when he was at the height of his powers).

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 2, 2006):
Deller in cantatas 170 and 54

[To Ed Myskowski] My written enthusiasm about that terrific performance is spread across at least 20 archive pages: http://tinyurl.com/o4pj5
Unimpressive German diction, but everything else apparently "clicked" in those sessions. Don't miss the heartbreaking "Agnus Dei" of the B minor mass (BWV 232), there.

Some of my favorite Deller discs, in addition to the cantatas BWV 54/BWV 170, have been the "Western Wind" disc of folksongs and the set of Couper's "Lecons des tenebres". (Listening again to the latter, right now.)

When those Deller Vanguard recordings were available on CD, three or four years ago, they were sold at Allegro and its "Cyber Music Surplus" area: http://www.allegro-music.com
Perhaps someone could inquire of the staff there about possible reruns of the series in the future?

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (August 2, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Ed The original LP of Vanguard also contained Deller's performance of the Agnus Dei from the B minor Mass (BWV 232) which I still find brings tears to the eyes. >
Julian, the CD includes cantatas BWV 170, BWV 54 & Agnus Dei. It also includes four Handel Opera and Oratorio arias from another LP "The Connoisseur's Handel". Alas the CD is only 59:20 in toto and they certainly could have put more of the Handel CD on it.

< Not all agree about Deller however. I had a difference of opinion on list some months ago about Deller as a performer of Baroque music--I think it was with Doug Cowling. >
There is always differences amongst music lovers about ANY performer. One really has to judge for himself. Brad Lehmann has always been a fanatic promoter of this CD.

The question is what is the status of Vanguard, Bach Guild. Except for some reprints, they seem as a company to be out of business.

< For those who like Deller though Harmonis Mundi bought out a reasonably priced 4 CD set in 2004 to mark the 25th year of his death--no Bach---but plenty of Purcell. Also for those lucky to have them (I don't think they have been available for many years) the old LPs of the Deller consort's Catches and Glees by Purcell, Henry and William Lawes and others is also a rare (in every sense!) delight. >
Aren't the HM CDs much later, in his final years?

Julian Mincham wrote (August 2, 2006):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< Julian, the CD includes cantatas BWV 170, BWV 54 & Agnus Dei. It also includes four Handel Opera and Oratorio arias from another LP "The Connoisseur's Handel". Alas the CD is only 59:20 in toto and they certainly could have
put more of the Handel CD on it. >

Thanks for this---very helpful JM

"There is always differences amongst music lovers about ANY performer. One really has to judge for himself. Brad Lehmann has always been a fanatic promoter of this CD."
True. I think Doug's point was that he was fine for some things but not for Bach.JM

"The question is what is the status of Vanguard, Bach Guild. Except for some reprints, they seem as a company to be out of business."
Yes--can anyone help of this one? JM

<< For those who like Deller though Harmonis Mundi bought out a reasonably priced 4 CD set in 2004 to mark the 25th year of his death--no Bach---but plenty of Purcell. Also for those lucky to have them (I don't think they have been available for many years) the old LPs of the Deller consort's Catches and Glees by Purcell, Henry and William Lawes and others is also a rare (in every sense!) delight. >>
"Aren't the HM CDs much later, in his final years?"
Yes they are. His first recording for HM was in 1968 so these recordings cover pretty much the last decade of his life. The one good thing, though is that they are still available.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (August 2, 2006):
About 4 years ago, as memory serves, I was somehow informed that the company itself was having a going out of business sale. I ordered at that time besides the Deller, whatever Rössl-Majdan items they had, not only Bach but Haydn. I recall that the Gielen cantatas were not extant nor was the C.P.E Bach Magnificat (probably never on CD). I think that I paid $5.00 a CD. In retrospect I regret not ordering other Bach non-Rössl-Majdan stuff.More recently I got one item from the Deller Edition as a ArkivCD reprint which looks from the attached label like a CD-R but I won't swear to that determination.

Even more recently I got the 2 CD Purcell Deller set as a Bach Guild reissue from Artemis Classics.

Whereas the original CDs were issued by Omega Record Group and the ArkivCD is licensed by them, the Artemis Classics item gives a website www.vanguardclassics.com/ which I have not checked out. So one should check there.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (August 2, 2006):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< Whereas the original CDs were issued by Omega Record Group and the ArkivCD is licensed by them, the Artemis Classics item gives a website www.vanguardclassics.com/ which I have not checked out. So one should check there. >
Not very encouraging. Their e-mail contact address is dead and their two downloads of Rössl-Majdan in the Gielen cantatas which they suggest they might release are corrupt files with extraneous matter according to realplayer. UGH!

WANG, Xiaoyun [Shanghai, China] wrote (August 3, 2006):
(OT) Lecons des Tenebres


Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Some of my favorite Deller discs, in addition to the cantatas BWV 54/BWV 170, have been the "Western Wind" disc of folksongs and the set of Couperin's "Lecons des tenebres". (Listening again to the latter, right now.) >
Please forgive my going off-topic and recommend Couperin's "Lecons des tenebres" by Deller. I have the Vanguard version and like it a lot! It's such a moving piece performed by a great artist who know exactly how to reach the deepest part of our hearts.

I also have Marc-Antoine Charpentier's "Lecons des tenebres" performed and directed by Gerard Lesne and will wholeheartedly recommend the work to you all!

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 8, 2006):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Should I also mention the first album of Bach Cantatas conducted by Leonhardt: with Cantatas BWV 54 & BWV 170 sung so marvellously by Alfred Deller, an album which should be included in any basic cantata collection? >
Thanks to many enthusiastic recommendations, it is now in my collection. My first listen was sitting in the back yard, through headphones and a portable CD player. My immediate impression, even before Deller's voice, was how nice to hear analog sound accurately reproduced on a CD. I guess you had to grow up with the LP as *state of the art* to understand.

Listening again, on room speakers, and looking through the BCW archives, I find:

Pascal Bédaton wrote (June 19, 2000):
< First, the recording is not good. I do not know if it is the same for some of you, but I am not enough musician to appreciate a very old recording recorded very far with external noises. >
I presume Pascal was listening to the CD, which was remastered in 1997 using B & W Matrix Loudspeakers. Very unusual to get this kind of technical data on a CD booklet. Which tells us that the remastering was done by playing the LP, and recording it again. If you have listened to enough LP's, you will recognize those <external noises> as turntable rumble (or wow, flutter, etc. describing them was once a micro industry of its own). A bit distracting, but not present throughout, (and not at all noticeable on the portable headphones). I don't know why, exactly, but I find find analog sound a better approximation of live listening than the DDD CD, which now passes for perfection. There, I have said it, and you can all tell me why I am wrong. I wish Vanguard had used a bit more care in the remastering, but I find the overall sound warm and wonderful.

There are plenty of good words in the archives regarding musical content. I knew Deller's voice a bit, but this is my first recording. It will be my benchmark for counter tenors. It is a treat to hear Leonhardt and Harnoncourt together, with Marie Leonhardt on violin as a bonus. I agree with Aryeh's recommendation, it is an essential recording. Thanks also to everyone else who endorsed the suggestion.

I had a few off-list comments, and have lost track exactly who said what. The Handel material from the LP is on the CD, including the <mad scene> from Orlando: Ah, Stygian Monsters. Not that any of us could relate to that.

 

Leonhardt

Eric Bergerud wrote (August 27, 2006):
I just scored an ebay CD of BWV 27, BWV 34 and BWV 41 by the Baroque Orchestra and Tölzer under Leonhardt. It's a Sony issue and according to our list came out in 1996. (Used ones are available on Amazon for like $35 - I got mine for $3.00. Wonder if there's a racket to be had in out of print cds?) Around 1990 Leonhardt also did a SMP (BWV 244) with the Petit Band and the Tölzer. I am scratching my head a little here. Earlier Harnoncourt did both the SMP (BWV 244) and the respective cantatas in the original H/L Teldec series. I'd understand if Leonhardt was changing the original format. Harnoncourt has done a couple of "modern" SMP (BWV 244) without the pesky brats, so it would make sense if Leonhardt did the same. But he didn't. The cantatas have two boy soloists as does the Petit Band SMP (BWV 244). I am looking forward to the cantatas because I've always thought Leonhardt usually got more out of his boys than Harnoncourt did. The SMP (BWV 244) was widely reviewed earlier on the list and most favorably so it's no mystery to the junkies. Anway, could one take these works either as a repudiation of the Teldec versions or a reaffirmation of the HIP/male choir combination that made the Teldec series unique. Or is possible that Leonhardt simply wanted to do these works again?

Off-List BTW: Just got Harnoncourt/Chamber Orchestra of Europe rendition Schumann's piano (Martha Argerich) and violin (Gidon Kremer) concertos. Great Schumann: makes you want to wander in the hills and recite Heine or do something else romantic.

Riccardo Nughes wrote (August 28, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< Or is possible that Leonhardt simply wanted to do these works again? >
He said something like this in a couple of interviews.

 

Harnoncourt

Tom Dent wrote (December 19, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< A friend of mine in the UK is a "golden age" classical junkie, especially Toscanini. He finds the period instrument movement incomprehensible. But he came to baroque and Mozart era classical via the "big battalion" maestros of the 30's-60s. I guess I'm like Rick. I came to Bach choral work late in the day and pretty much started with period works. Even in the remnants of my vinyl I find a lot of Collegium Aureum instrumental recordings. So when I listen to Richter, much less Klemperer, I find the approach an interesting novelty, but wouldn't think of basing my cantata collection around music made by the older, larger ensembles. I listened to Bernstein's SMP (BWV 244) not long ago again and despite some fine moments, it would not make it to the desert island. And no apologies. The lightness and clarity of the work since Leonhardt and others has justly swept the field. >
< Might add that if one doesn't like boy singers and one doesn't have a complete collection, there are several complete Leusink sets on ebay for pretty cheap, not to mention the complete Bach works done for Brilliant. I still listen to Leusink regularly. >
This is somewhat of a generalization, since some of Harnoncourt's recordings (not necessarily Bach, but hear his first XO!) have rather slow tempi, and are hardly imbued with 'lightness'. H's Missa Solemnis is notably slower than Klemperer's (... except in the one fugue where no-one is slower than Klemps). Whereas Toscanini was generally the fastest of the "old school", if that phrase means anything, and a fanatic for clarity.

I'm not sure how one can worship Toscanini and not find anything in Brueggen, for example.

Nor am I sure what kind of virtue 'lightness' may be in & of itself in Bach vocal works - unless in contrast to the muddy and chronically lumbering, i.e. overweight ... now there is a good deal of difference between heavyweight and overweight.

I don't know of any contemporary text recommending 'lightness' in performance. In my experience focus and direction are much more decisive factors - one might say "wichtig"! - direction achieved in part by the application of weight at well-chosen points.

"Brisk without Lightness, without dulness Grave" (set by Purcell, in the ode to the organist St. Cecilia)

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (December 20, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< A friend of mine in the UK is a "golden age" classical junkie, especially Toscanini. He finds the period instrument movement incomprehensible. But he came to baroque and Mozart era classical via the "big battalion" maestros of the 30's-60s. I guess I'm like Rick. I came to Bach choral work late in the day and pretty much started with period works. Even in the remnants of my vinyl I find a lot of Collegium Aureum instrumental recordings. So when I listen to Richter, much less Klemperer, I find the approach an interesting novelty, but wouldn't think of basing my cantata collection around music made by the older, larger ensembles. >
I certainly grew up on Toscanini for Beethoven and Schubert and a lot of other things; obviously not for Bach. I don't think we can lump all conductors of an earlier period together. Toscaniní's Beethoven certainly is not Furtwängler's Beethoven or Furtwängler's anything else.

Now I am not speaking of Baroque music (Furtwängler did do his impossible Bach like his impossible Beethoven and he did it all like Bruckner).

My first MPs were Grossmann with which I was quickly unhappy (it was the cheapest as were all Vox LPs back then). I soon replaced it with Wöldike and with Klemperer and with whichever Richter was around but then I was turned on to Gillesberger's Johannes. That was a revelation. Few HIP readings meet that standard for me. It's not a matter of boys but of superb boys.

< I listened to Bernstein's SMP (BWV 244) not long ago again and despite some fine moments, it would not make it to the desert island. And no apologies. The lightness and clarity of the work since Leonhardt and others has justly swept the field. >
Bernstein's is a curiosity but quite interesting and obviously only as a 10th recording. I concur, far, far better Leonhardt than Harnoncourt, any of his three MPs.

I still care for the great voices of yore and don't find most counter-tenors to replace great contraltos. Great boys do however.

 

Personal feelings on Harnoncourt & Leonhardt

Jyrki Wahlstedt wrote (August 9, 2007):
I recently joined the list, and saw a long discussion on H&L set of Bach's cantatas. I happen to own this set, in addition during the years I have been listening other recordings also in a random fashion.

The strongest remarks I have are:

pro) AFAIK this is the only recording edited to numerical order. At least for me it makes it a lot easier to find a certain cantata. Another good thing is that in most cases Kurt Equiluz sings the tenor parts. He is delightfully quick and accurate.

con) One of the singers I can hardly listen to. I followed the discussion a bit about boys &c, but it is normal that in a project this long the level even of individual artists goes up and down. But for the life of me I can't understand, how Leonhardt can have hired van Altena, who certainly sounds like being ok in operas, operettas and such, there is sweetness in voice, but he is totally out of place here and renders some of the cantatas almost unbearable with the unevenness of his voice, almost yelling at places, and melismas are something out of reach (e.g. Vol 11, cantata 40, and Vol 33, cantatas 132-135).

On the whole, however, I wouldn't switch.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (August 9, 2007):
[To Jyrki Wahlstedt] Are you referring to the set that originally was on lp and then transfered to cd? If so and you ever decide to sell I could be interested in some of these to make my set complete.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 9, 2007):
Jyrki Wahlstedt wrote:
< pro) AFAIK this [H&L] is the only recording edited to numerical order. At least for me it makes it a lot easier tfind a certain cantata. >
The Rilling set is also in BWV numerical order. You are correct, it is the easiest way to find a certain cantata in a complete set.

The other, more recent, editions have likely faced the reality that not everyone will buy the complete set, and other arrangements, chronologic or liturgic, may have specific listening advantages.

As best I can tell, no one has perceived any system in the order of the Leusink/Brilliant Classics set. The bargain price makes it easy to forgive that sort of detail.

Good to hear a new voice

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 9, 2007):
Jyrki Wahlstedt wrote:
< As best I can tell, no one has perceived any system in the order of the Leusink/Brilliant Classics set. The bargain price makes it easy to forgive that sort of detail. >
So does a CD burner: having bought the set, resequence your own backup copy of it any way you choose....

For fun and for relaxation listening a couple of weeks ago I burned myself a set of Mozart piano concerto slow movements, all from the Ashkenazy complete set, in numerical sequence.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (August 9, 2007):
[To Jyrki Wahlstedt] I don't remember reading from you yet, if that's correct then welcome on the list!

Like you, I remain a staunch admirer of the H&L integral. I love most of Herreweghe's production, but I always come back to H&L. Equiluz is magnificent.

By the way, you mention the fact that H&L is in BWV order.

Actually, I never had the occasion of mentioning that, but I'm currently developping a php/mysql program which enables me to 'navigate' though Bach's works and also through my recordings (which are safely stowed on an external hard drive). Thus I can open a page where I have information on the work and the list of recordings I dispose of, and with a click I can listen to whatever version I feel like listening to. Later on I'll write a module wich will enable me to prepare a CD or a USB key from my autoradio by selecting whatever pieces I fancy by a click.

This isn't yet finished but when it works to 95% of my full satisfaction, I'll let it know to the list in case someone is interested.

 

Leonhardt's recording of 27, 34, and 41, etc

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 14, 2008):
Item L-7 on here: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/H&L-Rec3.htm
is now re-released inside the Sony 15CD "Gustav Leonhardt Jubilee Edition", apparently for Leonhardt's 80th birthday. It has mostly Seon and dhm albums, with a few from Sony Vivarte. I had most of them already, from their individual issues, but it's nice to have them all in one thin box.

The 15CD set is almost free: Amazon.com
The discs come in cardboard sleeves reproducing the cover art of the earlier CD releases, but with no program notes. The short booklet for the whole set has part of an interview with Leonhardt about his career.

The best of Leonhardt's three recordings of the Goldbergs is in here, too. (The dhm recording.)

The one I really wish for is a CD issue of Leonhardt's early Seon album where he played Forqueray's music. His newest EMR disc of Forqueray is fine (recorded 2006), and so was the Sony, but I still like the oldest Seon the best. None of those Forqueray solo recordings are in this box, but the C minor suite is -- from the "Music in Versailles" with both S & W Kuijken playing violas da gamba.

Any hope for a Philips boxed set, similarly repackaging their excellent series of Leonhardt recordings from the 1980s?

Martin Spaink wrote (November 15, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] It's not for me to understand the policies of record companies!

Pray tell, why do you prefer the old Seon Forqueray over the EMR on that lovely Hemsch with that impeccable timing etc. ? I have not heared this one for some time, I used to have it on record. One thing I seem to remember is that it was played on a Rubio Taskin copy that sounded kind of harsh, overvoiced.

Some recordings of those days have that and it makes it less agreeable to me. Then there is the '92 recording on the Skowroneck '1755 ' which is a bit stiff here and there in the D maj. 3rd suite, but lovely on the Carillon de Passy and that nifty la De la Tour and others. It sure sparked off renewed interest to listen to other performances, both on harpsichord and viola da gamba with continuo (the Kuijkens/Kohnen 3rd D with Ch. Dolle c-minor was my first ever and etched upon my mind). But I seem to enjoy the clarity and drive of papa Leonhardt's last the most (those ditties with walking bass as la Scainscy, la Montigny makes me want to chirp and lark, or purr for joy.
The other, even bigger, box by Das Alte Werk seems more like historic sonic documentation. 1014-19 with Lars Fryden is of lesser importance/impact than the '74 DHM with Kuijken etc. But then it has all the harpsichord concertos which I think where quite influential at the time.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 15, 2008):
< Pray tell, why do you prefer the old Seon Forqueray over the EMR on that lovely Hemsch with that impeccable timing etc. ? I have not heared this one for some time, I used to have it on record. One thing I seem to remember is that it was played on a Rubio Taskin copy that sounded kind of harsh, overvoiced. >
Before I heard that first Leonhardt recording of Forqueray (MANY years ago), I had not been aware that a harpsichord could be played with that much rhythmic verve and power. That recording really turned me on to the instrument, and made me want to play it. It also drew my attention to this important composer. I found it inspiring, all around. It helped me give up piano, in favor of harpsichord.

Listening to that album next to the remakes, I have the opinion that Leonhardt's playing on that first recording sounds fresher and more engaging. It seems more spontaneous and lively.

One of my graduate papers, on the topic of Forqueray's first suite: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/forqueray.htm

Robert Tifft wrote (November 15, 2008):
Martin Spaink wrote:
< It's not for me to understand the policies of record companies!
Pray tell, why do you prefer the old Seon Forqueray over the EMR on that lovely Hemsch with that impeccable timing etc. ? >
I'm with Brad on this one. Leonhardt's Forqueray on Seon is one of my all time favorite harpsichord recordings. If it were reissued on CD it would be at the top of my want-list. It's hard to explain why I like it so much - there just seems to be something so absolutely right about Leonhardt's interpretations. Perhaps his harpsichord was recorded a bit too closely, but that doesn't bother me in this repertoire - I like to hear a little growl from the bass. I also love the photo on the album cover - an evening shot of Leonhardt at his harpsichord. I remember thinking at the time I purchased the LP that it was the most beautiful harpsichord I had ever seen.

Martin Spaink wrote (November 17, 2008):
Incidentally, I had that '74 Seon rec. in my hand today, I was at a friend's doing serious repairs on his harpsichord, and he pulled it out for me. It did not say where it was recorded, only info is that a '73 Rubio was used. The pic however shows us Leonhardt at home, at what I surmise is a large Dulcken-based model, seeing the length of the case and the style of the 13 (4/7/2) turned stile balustrade mounting. The motto would refer to 'ingenio et assiduo labore' as found in bas-relief on the front of House Bartolotti.

Still, both of you, allow me, seem mostly to have fond memories of this '74 rec. I can get into that totally, as I have the same thing in other cases. 't Is only that I totally dig his controlled drive and cornerwork and impeccable playing and the crisp, rich sound of the Hemsch.

ps thanks for the link to the Forqueray study which I already started reading but will give my full attention. It's all very intriguing, these Forquerays, the harsh treatment of the sunby the father, if not the question who actually composed them, if JB admits to having composed three 'new' pieces to fill up suite 3 that are not markedly different to the 'supposed' Antoine 'originals', in which the same forward progressions could be found that obviously more contemporary with JB's generation, as are the living persons that are referred to as the names of the individual movements. But indeed in every which way fascinating music.

 

Leonhardt

Philippe Bareille wrote (January 18, 2012):
You’ve probably heard of the death of Gustav Leonhardt yesterday. I have always been a fervent admirer of his Bach performances. He was a distinguished harpsichordist and conductor who was specialised in early music especially Bach! I was introduced to Bach through his pioneering recordings of the entire cycle of Bach cantatas with Harnoncourt. Some highlights for me among many other fine performances: Cantatas BWV 32, BWV 51, BWV 52, BWV 54, BWV 56, BWV 88, BWV 107 & BWV 132, BWV 34 (recorded in 1995) and his ST Matthew Passion (BWV 244). He will be sorely missed.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 18, 2012):
[To Philippe Bareille] His Bm Mass (BWV 232) is also excellent. I think he recorded it twice--I have a recording from around 1990. He created a tradition of which I believe Ton Koopman is very much a continuing part.

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (January 18, 2012):
[To Julian Mincham] Indeed it is very sad to see the great man go. Through his performances, teaching and recordings, Leonhardt, together with Harnoncourt, provided the necessary initial critical mass for the modern authentic-style-and-instruments approach to early music performance. In spite of the decades since Leonhardt recorded Bach's Cantatas for the first complete cycle on period instruments, and notwithstanding the excellent more recent recording by different ensembles/conductors, some of the recordings Leonhardt conucted are still, IMHO, models of how Bach cantatas should be performed. The same can be said of many of his keyboard performances.

 

Gustav Leonhardt memorial

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 20, 2012):
There's a Gustav Leonhardt memorial broadcast today from 9:30am - 9:00pm on WKCR (Columbia University's radio station); you can listen to it http://www.studentaffairs.columbia.edu/wkcr

 

Leonhardt interviewed on BBC

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 20, 2012):
Gustav Leonhardt's final BBC interview will be rerun tomorrow, and available for the week.

Early Music Show schedule: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006tn49/episodes/upcoming

Playlist: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01460gx

 

Gustav Leonhardt Interview 2009 (German)

John Charles Francis wrote (January 24, 2012):
Audio feed with musical examples available until 29th January:
Gustav Leonhardt - Sendung vom Sonntag, 22.1. | 15.05 Uhr | SWR2: Karsten Erik Ose im Gespräch mit dem Dirigenten, Cembalisten und Organisten

 

BCW: Harnoncourt & Leonhardt recorded cantata cycle revised, expanded and updated

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 20, 2012):
After about 2 months effort I am glad to inform you that I have finished revising, expanding and updating the discography of the pioneering recorded cycle of the Bach Cantatas by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the late Gustav Leonhardt (AKA: H&L).

This recorded cycle was printed at least 6 times:

a. 45 LP albums, where each album contained 2-LP's (Telefunken, 1971-1989):
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/H&L-Rec6.htm
b. 1st CD Edition - direct reissue of the LP edition, where each original 2-LP album was printed on a single or double CD (Teldec, 1985-1989):
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/H&L-Rec6.htm
c. 2nd CD Edition - 10 boxes of 6-CD's (1994):
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/H&L-Rec2.htm
d. 3rd CD Edition - included in the Bach-2000 Complete Bach Works. The same 60 CD's of the 2nd edition were grouped in 4 boxes (Vol.1-4 of the Bach-2000), each box contained 15-CD's (Teldec, 1999):
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/H&L-Rec5.htm
e. 4th CD Edition - 60 individual CD's from the 3rd Edition (Teldec, 2000):
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/H&L-Rec7.htm
f. 5th CD Edition - 60 individual CD's, identical with the 4th CD Edition (Warner, 2006-2008):
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/H&L-Rec7.htm

Some cantatas from this cycle were grouped individually or in special box sets.

I have searched and found exact recording dates & locations of many cantatas (some, especially of the later recordings, are still missing). This info has never been presented in either of the releases.

Frits Herbold from Brazil has scanned the front & back covers & the liner notes of the 1st CD Edition for the BCW.
The good commentaries in the liner notes were written by several authors: Alfred Dürr! (Vols. 1-12), Ludwig Finscher (Vols. 13-31), Gerhard Schumacher (Vols. 32-36, 38-40), Hans Christoph Worbs (Vol. 37), and Nele Anders (Vol. 41-45). In some liner notes there are very important and interesting comments on the performances by Harnoncourt himself.

All the cantata pages have been updated with the info of all the releases of this recorded cycle, including cat. nos., cover photos, liner notes and recording dates & locations.

That means that for most of the cantatas you can now read on the BCW liner notes of the recorded cantata cycles by H&L, Gardiner, Koopman, Suzuki, Leusink, Montreal Baroque, American Bach Soloists, Purcell Quartet and several others.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (March 20, 2012):
[To Aryeh Oron] As most of us know Mr Leonhardt died last year but he left us a great legacy of Das Kantatenwerke.

I am seeking to complete my collection of their edition of the Cantatas---I have most but the recording company shut the production down just about the time I was attempting to acquire the last part of the set and the other problem is the way that they were sold---a person who must wanted a Cantata could buy one cd out of the full set and that left the serious lover of Bach scrambling to find the missing cds from the collection that he needed. to complete his collection.

Randy Lane wrote (March 20, 2012):
[To Aryeh Oron] In about 10 days Teldec includes the entire set once again ina reissue of the complete Bach 2000 edtion on 153 CDs: Amazon.com

It is actually already available form some source (Japan, www.jpc.de)

William Hoffman wrote (March 20, 2012):
The Harnoncourt-Leonhardt "Complete" Bach Cantatas on Teldec ISN'T. Original Volume 44 (1988) has only Cantatas BWV 192, BWV 194, and BWV 195 -- it has no recordings of Cantatas BWV 190, BWV 191, and BWV 193. It must be assumed that they were omitted (dismissed) because they lack performing materials or (Cantata BWV 191) are a total contrafaction. Purists aside (and their number is diminishing), not only did Helmut Rilling record all three cantatas much earlier, but the successor "complete" performances of Koopman and Rilling include these as well as alternate Leipzig versions of movements as well as parodied movements. To its credit, Teldec's Complete Bach 2000 Volume 5 adds Koopman's secular cantata recordings, and Volume 7 has the motets, chorales, & sacred songs, including the recent BWV additions.

Non of these "complete" Bach recordings has the <St. Mark Passion>. It is found only in the Goodman-Heighes complete recording released on Brilliant Classics Box set of all four Passions, BWV 244-247, 99048-51, along with the apocryphal St. Luke Passion. The Koopman "pastiche" (with original narrative) St. Mark Passion is omitted from Teldec's Volume 6 major sacred works.

The "pioneering" label for the Harnoncourt-Leonhardt Bach Cantatas is primarily for source critical (historically informed) performances. I personally found the Leonhardt performances superior to Harnoncourt's boy sopranos and altos while I point out that Harnoncourt's later recording of the B Minor Mass has an adult choir and soloists.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 20, 2012):
William Hoffman wrote:
< The "pioneering" label for the Harnoncourt-Leonhardt Bach Cantatas is primarily for source critical (historically informed) performances. >
No other series offered the riches of a complete full scores and first rate academic articles. I still keep the scores and liner notes on a shelf as my Bach encyclopedia.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 20, 2012):
William Hoffman wrote:
<< The "pioneering" label for the Harnoncourt-Leonhardt Bach Cantatas is primarily for source critical (historically informed) performances. >>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< No other series offered the riches of a complete full scores and first rate academic articles. I still keep the scores and liner notes on a shelf as my Bach encyclopedia. >
I wish I had all the LPs, with scores, if only for historical completeness. I do agree with Wills suggestion that the Leonhardt performanceces are distinct from Harnoncourts, and preferable. Well, not exactly preferable, comnparisons are not available!

Aryeh’s efforts on the discography are state-of-the-art! I am pleased to be a footnote.

David McCay wrote (March 20, 2012):
[To Randy Lane] That's 1/5 of the price i paid for it!
Groan

Randy Lane wrote (March 20, 2012):
[To David McKay] And it is even cheaper at ImportCds.com: http://www.importcds.com/ProductRedirect/2378366

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 20, 2012):
[To Randy Lane] That set was available in the earlier part of the decade; when I worked at Warner Brothers, I should have purchased with my employee's discount (it would have been about 40 USD I think) :/

Thanks for that new link, that's a great price.

 

Gustav Leonhardt Tribute by Davitt Moroney

Evan Cortens wrote (March 26, 2012):
We were all saddened to hear of the passing of Gustav Leonhardt this past January. To that end, I want to direct your attention to a special tribute written by Davitt Moroney, available online at: http://westfield.org/publications/newsletter/

This great man, an irreplaceable figure in the early music movement, will be sorely missed.

Arthur Robinson wrote (March 27, 2012):
[To Evan Cortens] Thanks for posting this link!

 

Nikolaus Harnoncourt: Short Biography | Concentus Musicus Wien
Recordings of Vocal Works:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Discussions of Vocal Recordings:
Harnoncourt - Glorious Bach! (DVD) | Motets - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 232 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 244 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 245 - N. Harnoncourt-H. Gillesberger | BWV 248 - N. Harnoncourt
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8
Discussions of Instrumental Recordings:
Brandeburg Concertos - N. Harnoncourt
Table of recordings by BWV Number

Gustav Leonhardt: Short Biography | Leonhardt-Consort
Recordings of Vocal Works:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Discussions of Vocal Recordings:
BWV 232 - G. Leonhardt | BWV 244 - G. Leonhardt
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bach’s Inventions & Sinfonias from Leonhardt | Leonhardt’s Goldberg on Vanguard
Discussions of Instrumental Recordings:
GV BWV 988 - G. Leonhardt
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8
Table of recordings by BWV Number

Conductors of Vocal Works: A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | Singers & Instrumentalists

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Last update: ýApril 1, 2012 ý17:49:15