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Helmuth Rilling
Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works
General Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Rilling Interview (1). The Vocal Sound Forces.

Pater Bloemendaaal wrote (July 13, 2003):
Rilling states:
Bach made music with the forces that were available to him for the people of his time. In order for us to recreate this performance situation, we must perform with the forces available to us today for the people of our time. This is because it is not this or that concept of sound that is of importance, but rather the strength of the message, the meaning of the music for which the sound is the vehicle of communication. The goal should not be to make us hear differently, but rather, to make us learn to understand better.

<<Here Rilling creates a false relation between the use of “sound forces” and the “force of the message”. He suggests on the one hand that HIP performers are more concerned with the authentic sound than with the message. How does he know that they do not care about the contents? This is simply not true. On the other hand, he suggest that the use of modern symphony instruments conveys a stronger message than when using period instruments. As Johan van Veen already pointed out, there are people who will find it very difficult to relate to Bach’s works when they are being performed “with the forces available today”. I know quite a lot of them. I even think that those preferring Rilling’s approach are outnumbered by those who favour HIP. So, you can not say that the application of either period or traditional instruments detracts from the impact of the message. It is just a matter of taste.

Rilling says:
There are three principal levels on which the interpreting musician can influence the conversion from music on paper to music in sound. The elements of this influence are performance forces, dynamics, and articulation.

Performance forces:
First the vocal ensemble. Rilling says that 18th century boys mutated several years later than today and therefore they were more secure musically and more capable of expression.

<<This is pure speculation. I’ve sung in Holland Boys Choir for over 15 years now and it is difficult to pinpoint the exact age of mutation, but I would say that most of our trebles do not change over until they are 13 or 14 because they have well-trained singing voices. I am sure that our 14-year-olds have more experience in life (considering their education and what they encounter in the media, on TV and the internet) than the 18-year-olds in Bach’s day. In our specific choir, however, it is difficult to train boys to sing all the arias in SMP because we are not part of a choir school, so our boys have rehearsals only three (sometimes four) times a week in the evenings from 7-9 or 6-8. Yet, when you have an exceptionally good treble, who is willing to put some extra effort in it, like Martinus Leusink a decade ago, this is possible. After receiving extra lessons from his father, he sang the soprano arias in our SMP performances over a period of six years. In Bach’s time, this was not uncommon. Today this can also be achieved by boys when being trained on a daily basis. Of course, it is important that the boys have a good natural voice, but dedication, if needed the sacrifice of other pastimes and the drive to become a soloist are important factors as well. Training boys for solo appearances is also demanding for the conductor when there is no private tutor or chorus master to assist him. There is quite some difference between training regular choir members and soloists. Bach also had a clear distinction between the choristers that sang the simple chorales and those who were allowed the more complicated choruses and solos.

Rilling states:
It is improper and impossible for a boy to sing arias like “Zerfließe, mein Herze” or “Erbarm es Gott” and express the appropriate emotions.

<< I disagree. Boys also have empathic qualities. Their rhetoric is certainly different from that of adult female sopranos. The danger with female voices is that some of them tend to put too much tearjerking in it. And then, how much more experience in life has the average 30- or 35-year-old female contralto or soprano? Fortunately for them, they are still relatively young, have not lost any loved ones yet. Some may have had a divorce, but this is an experience many boys have nilly-willy experienced as well. As for “virginity” and “innocence of youth”, who would not opt for the boys. As for “clarity” and “purity of voice” I would also go for the boys.

Rilling seems to imply that adult singers are better capable to express the complex ideas of our Christian faith. I have my doubts. In our choir, there are lots of boys who know these ideas much better than the average non-religious professional singer. We live in the so-called Bible belt and those kids coming from Christian families know exactly what they are singing about. The fact that conductors usually prefer female sopranos is therefore not a matter of principle but one of practicality. Although young boys learn much faster than adults, it still takes some years to prepare them for the big arias. I already mentioned how demanding this training is, both from the perspective of the boy and conductor. And when the boys are up to the heavy stuff, how long will their voices last? How many years of training has a female soprano, contralto or countertenor had before they actually sing their first SMP arias? And then, of course, boys will be boys. There are so many factors that can impair their voices. Anything can happen at the football field, the skating rink, the swimming pool, or wherever boys are frolicking about. Bach knew all about it already. So, if he had had the choice, he might have opted for adding females into his choir and soloists, too. But he would have been very selective in order to ensure that the female voices would not be detrimental to the “boyish” sound of the choir.

Rilling says:
I believe Bach wrote the alto arias for the female voice, for he did not know the phenomenon counter tenor.

<<I do not. He knew female sopranos. Anna Magdalena was said to be a very good one. Yet, he did not write his cantatas for her, although I am sure Anna should have sung many an appealing aria in the kitchen, the living room, the tub or the bathroom.

He must have known female altos, too. They did not sing in sacred works, either. Though he could not have known present-day counter-tenors, he did know adult male altos, then called falsettists. We can not know if their singing technique was much different from today’s counter tenors. I imagine that at any rate their technique must have been quite advanced. It is probable that several falsettists were involved in the performances of Bach’s music. Castratos were not allowed in Lutheran churches. They were fabulous, however. I can recommend Patrick Barbier’s “Histoire des Castrats”, in the Dutch translation featuring Sytse Buwalda (who is not emasculated, lucky for him) on the cover, which is a fascinating book. In 17th and 18th century Italy, castratos were considered to be the natural sopranos, whereas falsettos (who still possessed all tokens of masculinity) were considered artificial voices. The former were so treasured that in 1625 all sopranos in the choir of the Sistine Chapel were castratos. In Bach’s time there was already a heavy competition between the clerical courts of Venice and Rome and the local opera theatres in order to engage the best castratos. They were paid at least double wages compared to top tenors and basses. Under Pope Clemens XI, who reigned when Bach wrote his cantatas, women were forbidden to sing even in their own houses. Good female sopranos sometimes succeeded in performing in masses and operas, disguised as castratos. The castratos also travelled abroad and soon got famous all over Europe, including Vienna, Bavaria, Dresden, Berlin and Württemberg. They usually sang in Italian operas, and they grew immensely popular in Handelian London. He composed the aria “Ombra mai fu” for the famous castrato C, who played the role of Xerxes at the first performance. Handel greatly admired Guadagni. For him he composed the famous soprano aria from his “Foundling Hospital Anthem” and reworked an aria from “Messiah”. I would not be surprised if Bach himself ever heard any castratos actually singing and what he thought about it. He may have heard them at one of the ducal courts or at the opera. Although castratos played an important role in the Roman Catholic tradition of sacred music (Allegri must have said: “What would my Miserere be without castratos?”), there was certainly no place for them in Lutheran church music. Their “style galante”, their virtuosity for the sake of virtuosity, their connection with the church of Rome and their mutilated state surely made castratos “personae non grata” in Bach’s sacred music. But it is highly probable that Bach used falsettists, also called sopranisti, in his Weimar period and in Leipzig as well. I can not imagine he would ban a good 16-year-old soprano from his choir because his voice prematurely broke. If this boy was capable and willing to continue singing as a sopranisto, I am almost sure Bach would not have turned him down, since he was always short of good sopranos.

In order to fresh up our memories, I copied some contributions from previous discussions on the issue of male and female altos, falsettists and counter-tenors from: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Altos.htm

Brian Link wrote in March 2002:
I observe two types of "alto" written for by Bach. One a mezzo-soprano ("Erbarme Dich"), the other more of an haute-contre ("Wiederstehe, doch ihr Sunden"). The current continental tradition places alto lines in the custody of boy altos. I therefore assume that the "mezzo" alto soloist Bach had in mind was a boy, and perhaps the "haute-contre" soloist a high tenor.

Tom Hens wrote in March 2002:
When Bach took up employment at the court of Weimar in 1708, he and his wife moved into an apartment in the house of Adam Immanuel Weldig, who was employed as a falsettist in the court chapel. So at least during his time in Weimar the ensemble that performed his music included at least one falsettist. During his time in Leipzig he obviously used boy altos from the Tomasschule. (There are several examples of colla parte accompaniment in soprano and alto arias in Leipzig cantatas, where an instrument simply doubles the vocal line, and none with tenor or bass arias, which points to a not-too-secure boy singer being given a bit of a helping hand.) Whether or not adult falsettists (university students, for instance) were also used isn't really known, to the best of my knowledge. My purely personal guess would be that they probably were, given Bach's frustration over the lack of singers I don't think he would have turned down any competent singer who was willing to help out.

Charles Francis wrote in March 2002:
Joshua Rifkin, a reputed scholar regarding Bach's vocal forces, notes that the churches at Leipzig used boys for the soprano, while boys and perhaps young falsettists were used for the alto. This provides a context for Bach's later religious works. Rifkin notes an important exception, however, in relation to Bach's B minor Mass (BWV 232), since the electoral chapel at Dresden appears to have had only adult singers, castratos and women as sopranos. However, it remains uncertain as to whether these women sang in church as well as in the opera.

<< Following Rilling’s thoughts, that Bach wrote the alto arias for the female voice, he would have written his soprano arias for female voices as well. Think of “Blute nur”: “Ach, ein Kind, das du erzogen, das an deiner Brust gesogen…” One should not mix up the facts that the soprano or alto voice often represents a woman but that the presentation was for boys and men exclusively. Bach wrote for boys, not for women or girls.

The rule that women have to be silent in church still exists in many Christian churches. Women have been allowed to take part in congregational singing for much longer.

About the role of women in the church against a Biblical background, an interesting article was contributed on: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Women.htm

Women and Church choirs

Boyd Pehrson wrote (December 22, 2001):
Well, I feel like I am opening Pandora's box by addressing this issue here in Bach_Cantatas, but I suppose it is very relevant to why boys are even singing Bach, ...even today! Regarding your question about using women and girls in church music, I think the reformation churches of Germany's use of girls and women in certain parts of the service such as the Antiphons (sung prayers) and the congregational singing of hymns is consistent with their position on not using women to teach, but "keep silence." Women could not very well keep completely silent during services for they would need to say confession and creed and any hymns to be sung by the congregation during the regular Deutsche Messe. Paul's words about letting women keep silence in the churches was written to Corinthian Churches who were used to the worship forms of the Delphic priestesses, a non-Christian worship practice of Greek mythological gods. Delphi priestesses used to babble incoherently in an apparent trance, and this was a worship form apparently adopted by the Christians of Corinth. So, Paul was addressing that situation in I Corinthians chapter 14, and the key verse to what Paul is writing is verse 33, where Paul writes that "God is not the author of confusion." In such a situation as Delphi and Corinth, it was indeed shameful for women to speak in the churches there as this immediately recalled Delphic Priestess roles in the minds of the congregation. Paul's only other mention of a woman keeping silent in the churches is in I Timothy chapter 2, but notice it says a woman and not women (plural). Paul is discussing the hierarchy of the family with man as household head, and this translates into the church with pastoral roles for purposes of orderliness. The role of childbearing is naturally reserved to women of course, and this is recalled in the next verses, seemingly to say that a woman will be busy with other important affairs than preaching...such as the raising of all the human beings on earth! Some women did indeed teach some disciples of Paul's time such as Priscilla, wife of Aquila (Acts 18:26) who helped teach Apollos, and Paul records these activities. Also Paul records the activities of a variety of women, such as Lydia who helped him along his way, and contrary to new popular idea that Paul was some misogynist, one should note that Paul names the wives of the rulers he was brought to! He names Felix's wife Drusilla, and King Agrippa's wife Bernice!

As far as Paul's words, some Anabaptist sects of Christianity such as Quakers have completely reconciled Paul's words so that there is no distinction of the sexes in their services. Personally I see the traditional and scriptural instances where Apostle Paul directs men to the roles of leadership and teaching in the church as symbolic in meaning, and vitally important to the church's understanding of scriptures, as are all of her symbols. If some women think this is bad news for them, then they might consider that the representation of women in the church is more than balanced by the place of Mary in the Christian church! While the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox branch of Christianity place probably the highest possible value on the virgin Mary, her place in the rest of Christendom is certainly central to the incarnation of God, and rightly viewed as such. Luther's own views on Mary were not really different from the Church of Rome. While Lutherans will not submit prayers to Mary, she is a highly valued symbol of the Church in the world, in that like Mary, Christ comes through the church and flows out to the rest of the world. Without support by churches the Gospel doesn't get very far. And, Mary is also increasingly seen in Evangelical circles as a vitally important symbol of God's truth in hisWord, and her presence and testimony support the facts of the virgin birth. So, with such a high value placed on Mary, women need not fear for representation anywhere in the church. Mary's Magnificat is even a part of the regular liturgical church services! I won't give you the histories of other great women of the Bible, but women are there in vitally important roles.

All of this to say that women are not at all "looked down on" in ANY real Christian context. In fact, Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28 that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither servant nor freeman, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Jesus Christ. " Women’s roles in Church services have changed radically since Luther and Bach's time, and in the context of history, I merely speak about these roles of women with regard to church musicological aesthetics and with regard to historical facts concerning Bach's situation in Leipzig, and in historical Lutheran church practice.

Boyd Pehrson also wrote about the difference between boys’ and girls’ voices:
As far as the difference in boys' and girls' voices, the differences are real and unique. In the same vast social experiment of the remaining U.K. boys' choirs, much was published regarding the difference of the boys' and girls' voices. Certainly the more the chest register is used, such as in German boys' choirs, the differences are even more greatly highlighted. There are differences in tone and in performance technique that are peculiar. For instance, girls naturally tend to drift flat and boys tend to drift sharp. The boys naturally tend to finish strongly on sung notes, and the girls tend to finish softly. The tone palette of girls might be considered pastel, while the boys' seem to be bright. Texts sung by girls tend to sound blended, while from boys texts tend to sound distinct. Girls' naturally seem to have a softer, string-like quality when singing and boys tend to have a wood-wind, and bell-like or brass tone. If the differences were chocolate- I'd say the girls are white chocolate and the boys are dark chocolate. Boys have larger voice boxes, and they go through a longer period of voice change. Thus there are training issues that are broadly different in 12-13 year old boys over 12-13 year old girls. Girls at 16-18 do have a richer sound than younger girls, but the differences with boys are still distinct. Girls can be trained to sing like boys, with strong ending notes, darkening of tone etc, but the effect is difficult to sustain over the course of a performance, and it is a vocal trick that is difficult on the girls. The Winchester Cathedral Choir has a CD out currently, their latest, that has both the boys' and the girls' choir performing on it. This is the best trained girls' choir I have ever heard. The difference between the choirs is immediately evident to me, but the untrained listener may not tell the difference at first. Over the course of the performance though, they will sense a difference. Some people say it "sounds lighter" or "something is missing". I think many untrained ears may not know the difference between an oboe and a clarinet, but that should not give licence to the conductor to interchange the two parts.

<<Summarized, I do not agree with Rilling when he says that today we have to use the forces of today, which implies female sopranos and altos, both as soloists and choir members. I know that Bach did not compose his sacred vocal works for the female voice. I think, if it comes to driving the message home, boys are certainly not less effective. Their natural tendency to drift sharp gives their voices a soaring, uplifting quality, which was appealing to the people of Bach’s day and still appeals me today, and I am not the only one. Boys are quite able to understand the message of the cantatas and they are equally capable to make the audience understand. I am sure Bach did not write for the female voice. I think it highly probable Bach had sopranisti in his choirs, probably both for the soprano and the alto parts. As long as they blended in with the other voices, there was no problem. Who could tell the difference? As for the soloists, I have my doubts. You can not tell from an 18-year-old boy’s appearance whether he is still a treble or an alto or a mutated sopranisto, but you do hear the difference. I have nothing against female voices. From my childhood on, I have been a Kathleen Ferrier fan. This year a 2-CD Tribute to her will be released to commemorate her death 50 years ago. For years our choir has employed female sopranos and sometimes female altos for the solo parts in the passions. However, with the rapidly increasing number of counter tenors, we will soon hear more and more all male performances. I think Andreas Scholl, who sang the alto in Herreweghe’s second SMP recording could equally well sing “Aus Liebe” as “Erbarme dich”. I would love to hear that !


The Rilling Interview (2). The Instrumental Sound Forces.

Pater Bloemendaaal wrote (July 13, 2003):
About the strings Rilling says:
In terms of instrumentation, the "historical" performance-practice school makes use of string instruments that correspond roughly to the instruments that are in common use today (the gamba family excepted). They are, however, strung with gut strings and played with an upward-curving bow. For me, they lack the greater dynamic spectrum and the sharp attack and brilliance of sound that are made possible by the use of wound gut and steel strings.

<< I do not deny any musician the right to play Bach on a modern instrument. I love what I have heard from Glenn Gould and Murray Perahia on the piano. But whenever I feel like listening to Bach’s keyboard works, his partitas and toccatas, Die Kunst der Fuge, Das Wohltemperierte Clavier or the Goldberg Variatonen on the instrument he performed them for and on, I have to turn to the harpsichord recordings. Are they lacking in expressive power? Do they impede my understanding of the music because they are played on authentic instruments lacking the dynamics and brilliance of modern instruments? I don’t think so. The same can be said about the use of authentic string instruments.

To Helmuth Rilling, period instruments are obviously not capable of conveying Bach’s music the way it should sound. Does he think that people in our time are such morons they can only understand Bach’s works when played on modern instruments. This view reminds me of a stage manager opinionatedly claiming that Shakespeare’s “Macbeth" can only (or better) be understood by rewriting the play in present-day English in a 21st century setting, including modern costumes.

Rilling said:
Reproductions of original wind instruments from the time of Bach are often used. These both lack playing aids that were invented at a later time, such as additional keys and valves. I find the resulting sound thoroughly charming, but for me the charm is fleeting. The sound is, on the whole, too thin, too lacking in body. I am speaking, of course, of a concert situation, not of a recording, in which most any problem can be solved by microphone placement, retakes, or editing.

<<I have taken part in the performance of more than a hundred SMP’s, more than a dozen SJP’s and all the cantatas performed under Leusink’s baton. All of them were played on period instruments. I think you wrong the woodwinds and their players by just calling them fleetingly charming. I am always deeply touched by their sound, no matter which one, the oboe, the traverso, the recorder or the bassoon.

Rilling continued:
The old wind instruments disturb me primarily because of their uneven tone quality, the difficulty of playing them, and their problems of intonation. It seems to me a shame when one cannot hear the flute's lower register; this is even true in an ensemble of old instruments. Furthermore, why should one complicate the omnipresent intonation difficulties of a wind ensemble by giving up what later instrument builders invented precision to help with this problem?

<<It seems to me a shame to speak in such a way about period instruments and the musicians playing them. That’s how you make ene. The ones I have heard produced even tones, had no problems with intonation whatsoever and were extremely capable of dealing with their instruments, without the alterations added by later inventive instrument builders. Of course, the instruments need retuning from time to time. The players, however, are highly qualified experts, specialized in baroque music and Bach’s in particular. Sometimes the music even gets an extra dimension by the sound of the valves of the bassoon tapdancing on the bass line. Not in a zillion years would I change an oboe d’ amore or da caccia for a modern variant or a clarinet.

Rilling goes on:
Finally, does one want to put up with bungled, cracking high notes from the trumpet, merely to hear old instruments?

<<I find this remark a downright insult to our natural brass players. Yes, it is more difficult to play the high notes than on a modern trumpet, but the men and women I have so often seen at work always did their homework well and the result was quite impressive. Not only on recordings but live as well.


Reply to reaction to interview

Johan van Veen wrote (July 13, 2003):
< Peter Bloemendaal wrote: The Rilling Interview (2). The Instrumental Sound Forces. >
Thanks for posting the interview. One thing is clear: the man has no clue about the relationship between instruments and music. And like you I don't recognize hardly any of the 'deficiences' he attributes to period instruments.

Why are musicians who reject the use of period instruments always using wrong or simplistic arguments? Why can't they just say: I don't like them?

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (July 14, 2003):
< Peter Bloemendaal" wrote: The danger with female voices is that some of them tend to put too much tearjerking in it. >
How do you appreciate vibrato-free, "white" voices singing disconsolate recitatives?

< As for "virginity" and "innocence of youth", who would not opt for the boys. As for "clarity" and "purity of voice" I would also go for the boys. >
What do these things have to do with singing arias?

< Sytse Buwalda (who is not emasculated, lucky for him) >
Although his voice is.

< Under Pope Clemens XI, who reigned when Bach wrote his cantatas, >
Roman Catholic edicts are relevant to a Lutheran composer?

< One should not mix up the facts that the soprano or alto voice often represents a woman but that the presentation was for boys and men exclusively. Bach wrote for boys, not for women or girls. >
You don't seem to be very open-minded.

< Their natural tendency to drift sharp gives their voices a soaring, uplifting quality, which was appealing to the people of Bach's day and still appeals me today, and I am not the only one. >
That's right: you're not the only one invoking Bach's contemporaries so that you can objectify your preferences.

< I have nothing against female voices. >
But you at least inveigh about them singing Bach.

< To Helmuth Rilling, period instruments are obviously not capable of conveying Bach's music the way it should sound. Does he think that people in our time are such morons they can only understand Bach's works when played on modern instruments. >
Like Bradley Lehman, you opinionatedly accuse anyone who disdains the practices you believe in of making personal insults.

< It seems to me a shame to speak in such a way about period instruments and the musicians playing them. That's how you make enemies. >
Flirting with tolerance won't make us swallow your ideology.

< I find this remark a downright insult to our natural brass players. Yes, it is more difficult to play the high notes than on a modern trumpet, but the men and women I have so often seen at work always did their homework well and the result was quite impressive. Not only on recordings but live as well. >
Did you forget about Leusink's trumpeters?

Johan van Veen wrote (July 14, 2003):
< Peter P. Bloemendaal wrote:
The Rilling Interview (1). The Vocal Sound Forces.

First the vocal ensemble. Rilling says that 18th century boys mutated several years later >than today and therefore they were more secure musically and more capable of expression. >
The first assumption is widely held, but has yet to be proven. There are well-known examples of boys whose voices changed at an age not or hardly different from today. I think Bach's voice changed at the age of 15 and Purcell even at the age of 14. Recently the German musicologist Martin Geck argued that the new concertante
style in German liturgical music from Michael Praetorius on was too demanding for many trebles and that thee continuous lack of trebles capable of singing the concertante parts was driving the composers to look for 'Discantisten', adult male singers who were able to sing soprano parts (no castratos).

The second assumption is another unproven one. We are not able to compare them, since the trebles of Bach's time are not alive anymore. But would Bach really have written all those highly expressive soprano parts if no treble of his time would be able to sing them properly?

< Rilling states:
It is improper and impossible for a boy to sing arias like “Zerfließe, mein Herze” or “Erbarm es Gott” and express the appropriate emotions. >
What is 'improper' about that? i don't think singing expressively has anything to do with personal experiences. I think the concept of personality and experiences in life influencing the interpretation of music is a rather romantic concept, and has nothing to do with pre-romantic music. Of course baroque music has to be played expressively, but the expression is in the music, not in the mind or the personality of the performer. Besides, can an actor only play a killer if he himself has killed someone?

<< I disagree. Boys also have empathic qualities. Their rhetoric is certainly different from that of adult female sopranos. The danger with female voices is that some of them tend to put too much tearjerking in it. And then, how much more experience in life has the average 30- or 35-year-old female contralto or soprano? Fortunately for them, they are still relatively young, have not lost any loved ones yet. Some may have had a divorce, but this is an experience many boys have nilly-willy experienced as well. As for “virginity” and “innocence of youth”, who would not opt for the boys. As for “clarity” and “purity of voice” I would also go for the boys. >>
And let's not forget that 'routine' or even 'boredom' can play a negative role in the performances of adult singers. If you have to sing the soprano part in Bach's SMP year after year, and sometimes 20 times within a month, can a singer remain fresh? Singing that part is the chance of a lifetime for a treble: no risk of routine or boredom here.

<< Rilling seems to imply that adult singers are better capable to express the complex ideas of our Christian faith. I have my doubts. In our choir, there are lots of boys who know these ideas much better than the average non-religious professional singer. We live in the so-called Bible belt and those kids coming from Christian families know exactly what they are singing about. >>
I find that view of Rilling rather insulting. You rightly state that boys can be very aware of the content of the music they sing. I have heard too many performances of Bach's music where I wondered whether the singers even remotely understood what they were singing about.

<< Following Rilling’s thoughts, that Bach wrote the alto arias for the female voice, he would have written his soprano arias for female voices as well. Think of “Blute nur”: “Ach, ein Kind, das du erzogen, das an deiner Brust gesogen…” One should not mix up the facts that the soprano or alto voice often represents a woman but that the presentation was for boys and men exclusively. Bach wrote for boys, not for women or girls. >>
Why on earth are these arias 'female'? Why can't they be sung by boys? In the pre-romantic period there is no clear relationship between the compass of the voice and the sex of the person an aria is attributed to. Besides, in his sacred works Bach never gives an aria to a specific character - like in the Passion-oratorios of his time (where sometimes even Jesus has an aria to sing).

Johan van Vee wrote (July 14, 2003):
<< Peter Bloemendaal" wrote: One should not mix up the facts that the soprano or alto voice often represents a woman but that the presentation was for boys and men exclusively. Bach wrote for boys, not for women or girls. >>
< Alex Riedlmayer wrote: You don't seem to be very open-minded. >
What is not open-minded about reminding us of a historical fact which cannot be denied? Why would Bach write music for singers he didn't have - and he knew he would never have even if he wanted - at his disposal? I don't think he would have wasted his time by composing for 'virtual voices'.

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (July 15, 2003):
< Johan van Veen wrote: What is not open-minded about reminding us of a historical fact which > cannot be denied? >
Peter was writing about intentions, not facts. The intentions behind historical legends may be heavily disputed. Invoking a will as premise is too easy.

< Why would Bach write music for singers he didn't have - and he knew he would never have even if he wanted - at his disposal? >
Rather than focus on what was possible in Bach's time, I will remind you that we have means that weren't generally available then; they are at our disposal, and whether to use them depends on personal taste.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 14, 2003):
[To Johan van Veen] For whatever it's worth, I suggest that the best thing to do with personal attacks is to not make them, and if they are made against you to ignore them.

On the substance of this dispute, we'll never know if Bach thought "Golly gumdrops, I wish I could use adult female choristers." One thing we do know is how they sound in his music.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 14, 2003):
< Johan van Veen wrote: Thanks for posting the interview. One thing is clear: the man has no clue about the relationship between instruments and music. And like you I don't recognize hardly any of the 'deficiences' he attributes to period instruments. Why are musicians who reject the use of period instruments always using wrong or simplistic arguments? Why can't they just say: I don't like them? >
I don't like them.

Uri Golomb wrote (July 14, 2003):
I agree with most of Peter Bloemendaal's and Johan van Veen's comments on Rilling's 1985 article. But, as I said in an earlier post, I am not sure that article reflects Rilling's current views.

I think many of the musicians who insult period-instrument players for their or their instruments' technical inferiority are generalising from what they heard in the 1960s and 1970s. At that time, these old instruments were new instruments as far as their players were concerned. Some recordings made them sound quite good, but these recordings involved a lot of editing -- and in making this statement, I am relying on the statements of the musicains thesmelves, not on the invectives of their rivals. Ton Koopman and Frans Brüggen, especially, made quite vivid descriptios of just how difficult it was for them and their colleagues to keep a period-instrument orchestra in tune and in good sound for any length of time. These musicians have no trouble putting on terrific concert performances of a Bach Passion or Mass today, with period instruments; they might have to re-tune at some point during the concert, but then so do symphony orchestras. But they themselves stated that, in the 60s and 70s, they would have found it extremely difficult to perform even a short cantata live. Perhaps their reports are exaggerated in the interest of a "see how far we've progressed" narrative, but I'm sure there's at least a grain of truth there. These people had no teachers or direct predecessors to learn from; they had to re-invent many wheels by themselves -- and unlearn the habits of playing on modern instruments in the process -- and that must have involved some trial-and-error.

Of course , things were already better in 1985, when Riling wrote his article; perhaps he was still generalising from earlier experiences (coupled, perhaps, with an inability or unwillingness to re-tune his inner ear). But he's showing at least some signs of openness now, more so than in 1985. Remember: he was responsible for putting together the Hänssler Bach edition. Most of the keyboard music there is played on the piano -- but he entrusted the Partitas to Trevor Pinnock on the harpsichord, and the Well-Tempered Clavier to Robert Levin on a variety of period keyboard instruments (I happen to know that it was Levin's idea -- but Rilling approved). And his own later performances suggest that he has learned something from period instruments.

It seems that, generally speaking, there is much more mutual respect between the two "camps" -- though unfortunatelty some mutual insults are thrown around occasionally.

Uri Golomb wrote (July 14, 2003):
< Johan van Veen wrote: Besides, in his sacred works Bach never gives an aria to a specific character - like in the Passion-oratorios of his time (where sometimes even Jesus has an aria to sing). >
Never? Are you sure? In the original version of the Easter Oratorio, the four parts were assigned to specific characters Mary Mother of James (soprano), Mary Magdalen (alto), St. Peter (tenor) and St. John (bass). And then there are the allegorical dialogues in some of his cantatas -- Fear and Hope, Jesus and the Soul. And yes, in those cantatas (e.g., nos.21, 57, 140), Jesus does sing arias and/or duets!

It is true that, in the passions, Bach did not assign the arias to specific characters; he even made a point of ensuring that the arias responding to Peter's remorse would not be assocaited with Peter: Peter is always a bass, but "his" arias are assigned to a tenor in SJP {"Ach, mein Sinn" -- sung originally by the Evangelist) and an alto in SMP ("Erbarme dich"). But thsi generalisation does not entirely apply to all his sacred vocal music.

Christian Panse wrote (July 14, 2003):
<< Yes, it is more difficult to play the high notes than on a modern trumpet, but the men and women I have so often seen at work always did their homework well and the result was quite impressive. Not only on recordings >>but live as well. >>
< Alex Riedlmayer wrote: Did you forget about Leusink's trumpeters? >
What about Leusink's trumpeters? Since you obviously didn't hear them so far, I hereby inform you that they play very well and perfectly blend into the whole ensemble. No comparison to that amorphous blast of compressed air you can hear with Rilling - which imperatively has to be regulated by all kinds of knob-twiddling in the studio afterwards.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 14, 2003):
< Christian Panse wrote: What about Leusink's trumpeters? Since you obviously didn't hear them so far, I hereby inform you that they play very well and perfectly blend into the whole ensemble. No comparison to that morphous blast of compressed air you can hear with Rilling - which imperatively has to be regulated by all kinds of knob-twiddling in the studio afterwards. >
Christian asserts that Rilling's trumpeters are electronically toned down, and implies that Leusink's trumpeters are not electronically beefed up to compensate for the power that valveless trumpets lack. Christian, what is your basis and documentation for these claims?

For my part, I have stopped going to Washington Bach Consort concerts that use valveless trumpets, because among other things I have invariably been frustrated and disappointed by their inability to project in climaxes. In the Dona Nobis Pacem of the b minor Mass for example, the trumpets should act as an additional voice, building a gleaming towering castle in the sky above the choir. When I hear valveless trumpets in that part in live concert, in climaxes I can hardly hear them, sometimes not hear them at all. They don't even build an outhouse behind the choir.

As Wynton Marsalis says, "Trumpets trumpet. They're the only instrument that does that. Violins don't violin and trombones don't trombone, but trumpets trumpet." At least, they should.

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (July 14, 2003):
< Christian Panse wrote: What about Leusink's trumpeters? Since you obviously didn't hear them so far, I hereby inform you that theplay very well and perfectly blend into the whole ensemble. No comparison to that amorphous blast of compressed air you can hear with Rilling - which imperatively has to be regulated by all kinds of knob-twiddling in the studio afterwards. >
You're greatly mistaken. I listened to the clips graciously provided by Leo Ditvoorst, and noticed that Leusink's trumpets were weak in volume and intonation. The other current ensembles are much better (natural trumpets or not).

Johan van Veen wrote (July 14, 2003):
[To Alex Riedlmayer] This is very interesting. We are not talking here about taste - whether you like natural trumpets or not - but about facts. Intonation is something which can be measured, I assume. So: if someone says that intonation is weak and others say there is nothing wrong with intonation, then one of them must be right and the other must be wrong. No musician can play in tune and out of tune at the same time. So: who is right?

Christian Panse wrote (July 14, 2003):
< Robert Sherman wrote: Christian asserts that Rilling's trumpeters are electronically toned down, and implies that Leusink's trumpeters are not electronically beefed up to compensate for the power that valveless trumpets lack. Christian, what is your basis and documentation for these claims? >
I usually trust my two ears, and they are not very gullible when it comes to the artistry of studio postprocessing. But okay, if Rilling's trumpets are not reduced at the mixer, then they're placed behind a curtain or in another room during the recording; so or so, in every case they're completely out of the ensemble.

< As Wynton Marsalis says, "Trumpets trumpet. They're the only instrument that does that. Violins don't violin and trombones don't trombone, but trumpets trumpet." >
Sounds to me as yet another case of USAmerican hubris. In the German language Violins do violin, Trombones do trombone, Flutes do flute etc. pp.: Geigen geigen, Posaunen posaunen, Flöten flöten, ... Such sort of "proof" by some weird "language logic" is worthless.

< At least, they should. >
And now it's my turn to ask you: What is your basis and documentation for this claim? How do you explain Bachs intention that a trumpet and a recorder are supposed to play peaceful together in the 2nd Brandenburg Concerto? I think you're looking for "climaxes" in a much too 19th-century-influenced way. You want to watch a /painting/ while Bach's music wants to /speak/. The things you expect can only be achieved by instruments which existed by no point of time in living music history, but had to be invented: the so-called "Bach trumpet". But it is obvious that the name of this instrument is everything that it shares with Bach. After all, the baroque clarino trumpet is a melody instrument, no effect register.

Christian Panse wrote (July 14, 2003):
< Alex Riedlmayer wrote: You're greatly mistaken. >
Now is this going to be a conversation in Yes!-No!-Yes!-No!-... style?

< I listened to the clips graciously provided by Leo Ditvoorst, and noticed that Leusink's trumpets were weak in volume >
Do you consider the possibility that the volume of the trumpets is not weak, but your expectations are misguided by being accustomed to valve trumpets which are louder, but alas! a nearly completely different instrument?

Perhaps you can explain how Bach came up with the idea of a recorder and a trumpet in de 2nd Brandenburg Concerto as equal partners (I asked the question in my previous post on this list)?

While doing hard work with quick, melodious clarino passages, baroque trumpets normally sound more silent than an unknowing listener would expect, but of course they *can* be very strong, normally in fanfare-like passages using only the natural tones. Baroque composers knew this and made the best of it. Just listen to BWV 248 part 6 mvt. 1 in the Harnoncourt recording and you will know what I mean.

< and intonation. >
I don't hear much of this. Have you in mind that natural trumpets use a natural scale and, just by the laws of physics, are supposed to sound a bit different from the equal temperament that came up later?

There are cantata recordings in the Leusink cycle where trumpet intonation is not flawless, mostly when there is a cantus firmus in the low octave (this is very difficult to play, and to be precise these are not only intonation, but also embouchure problems). But in general, the playing is utterly satisfying, often even brilliant. Just listen to BWV 11 mvt. 1, BWV 41 mvt. 1, or BWV 90 mvt. 3.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 14, 2003):
Peter Bright wondered:>> If Bach had access to larger forces would he choose to use them?<<
The discussion on whether Bach would have used larger instrumental and vocal forces can be found in the middle of the 1st long page devoted to the discussion of BWV 119. The answer seems to be ‘yes,’ but this is not the answer that most Baroque-music specialists are looking for. When Laurence Dreyfus, in his “Bach’s Continuo Group – Players and Practices in His Vocal Works” (Harvard U. Press, 1987), enthralled by current HIP notions, fails mention the extremely large continuo group that Bach calls for (he only refers in passing to the use of 2 bassoons in BWV 119), he reveals the common mindset of many musicians and musicologists who are afraid to venture out beyond the theory that is now rather firmly established among HIP practitioners: ‘downsizing’ to a bare minimum of instrumental and vocal forces. Assuming the instrumentation as indicated personally by Bach on the autograph score, it would now be left up to a truly pioneering conductor to assemble all the elements of this large continuo group and then attempt to determine how much doubling of the other parts, instrumental and vocal, would be necessary to achieve the optimum balance:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV119-D.htm

Robert Sherman wrote (July 14, 2003):
Christian wrote: "While doing hard work with quick, melodious clarino passages, baroque trumpets normally sound more silent than an unknowing listener would expect, but of course they can be very strong, normally in fanfare-like passages using only the natural tones. Baroque composers knew this and made the best of it."
Baroque composers wrote many quick melodious passages that are intended to be very strong. The bm and the XO, for example, are full of them. Valved trumpets have no problem playing all of these notes strongly. Historic trumpets can't do that because some of the notes, particularly F,Bb, and F#, are not in the harmonic series and must be created by lipping the note out of its natural place. That is one of the many deficiencies of valveless trumpets. It can of course be greatly helped by use of finger-holes, but then the instrument is no longer authentic.

Christian also wrote: "Have you in mind that natural trumpets use a natural scale and, just by the laws of physics, are supposed to sound a bit different from the equal temperament that came up later?"
This is incorrect. When playing baroque trumpet parts, modern trumpets play a true scale, not a tempered scale. In theory, it's the same scale historic trumpets play. In practice, no trumpet gets its theoretical scale spot-on on all notes, but modern trumpets are able to come a lot closer.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 14, 2003):
[To Chritian Panse] So Rilling's trumpets are placed behind a screen, or in another room? How do you know that?

I regret that I've never been to a live Rilling performance or to one of his recording sessions. Presumably many list members have. Can any comment on whether the trumpets sat in the orchestra like normal people?

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (July 14, 2003):
< Christian Panse wrote: Have you in mind that natural trumpets use a natural scale and, just by the laws of physics, are supposed to sound a bit different from the equal temperament that came up later? >
You might be disappointed by the natural trumpets of the Concentus Musicus Wien, who play BWV 171 in a more conventional tuning than they used in earlier years.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 17, 2003):
Peter Bloemendaal wrote, quoting Rilling:
"Finally, does one want to put up with bungled, cracking high notes from the trumpet, merely to hear old instruments?"

<<I find this remark a downright insult to our natural brass players. Yes,it is more difficult to play the high notes than on a modern trumpet, but the men and women I have so often seen at work always did their homework well and the result was quite impressive. Not only on recordings but live as well.>>

**********
There seems to be a propensity among some HIP enthusiasts to both make and perceive insults. I'll ignore both. It is no insult, neither downright nor upright, to point out that someone is forced by commercial pressures to attempt the impossible.

I find Rilling's remark to be tactfully understated. He does not point out that in addition to cracking high notes, valveless trumpets suffer from splatty low notes, restricted dynamic range, and dead foggy tone. If genuinely historic instruments (without nodal finger holes) are used, they are also horribly out of tune -- so much so that they are hardy ever used, even by the most self-conscious HIP conductors.

From the viewpoint of the performer, valveless trumpets offer three advantages:

First, they are less tiring to play because their long tube and small bore produces high resistance which improves endurance at the expense of dynamic range.

Second, you can splatter notes all over the landscape and the critics, who would slam you if you did that on a modern instrument, will gush about your authenticity.

Third, if you're having a really bad night, in the choral climaxes you can stop blowing into the horn altogether, just sit there and pretend to play, and you will be complimented on your ability to blend.

None of these is an advantage to the listener. The best that can be said about the very best valveless trumpet performances is that through heroic effort the players are at times able to sound like lower-middle-quality modern trumpets.

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (July 17, 2003):
< Robert Sherman wrote: I find Rilling's remark to be tactfully understated. He does not point out that in addition to cracking high notes, valveless trumpets suffer from splatty low notes, restricted dynamic range, and dead foggy tone. If genuinely historic instruments (without nodal finger holes) are used, they are also horribly out of tune -- so much so that they are hardy ever used, even by the most self-conscious HIP conductors. >
I suppose you speak from experience and were never successful in getting a decent melodic line out of them. If so, why don't you speak with admiration about the authentic performers who are trying so hard to make you and me hear what Bach and his contemporaries had to cope and make do with. You said, you would ignore insults. Short memory, for you just added another one. You may say your criticism was just aimed at the instrument and not the performer, but that won't do. What you are actually saying is that you have never heard a satisfying performance on a valveless trumpet. Isn't this a disqualification of all these devoted players on this instrument?! Our choir have given several concerts with valveless trumpets and , yes, playing these well is more problematic than on modern instruments. But they were not out of tune to my ears, neither in the high nor in the low notes. I do hope that conductors will go on employing them so that the expertise of these performers, who deserve a lot of praise insteads of derogaraty remarks.

< From the viewpoint of the performer, valveless trumpets offer three advantages:
First, they are less tiring to play because their long tube and small bore produces high resistance which improves endurance at the expense of dynamic range. >
<<I am not an expert, but have been told that it is tiring because of the high resistance and the tremendous lip activity required. During our recording sessions the trumpeters always had to take a break after a period of intense playing because their lips and mouth hurt and got tired.

< Second, you can splatter notes all over the landscape and the critics, who would slam you if you did that on a modern instrument, will gush about your authenticity. >
<<Sarcasm won't save you. Don't you see these guys have their professional pride. Who cares about critics who are to dumb to notice this. Every musician knows there are people in the audience with keener ears and musical interest than most critics. Who do you think they are playing for?

< Third, if you're having a really bad night, in the choral climaxes you can stop blowing into the horn altogether, just sit there and pretend to play, and you will be complimented on your ability to blend. >
<< What about responsibility towards the conductor who hired you as an expert. Wouldn't he notice? You would ruin your reputation. And what would your colleagues in the ensemble think? And again the audience? It would be the end of your self-respect and your career.

< None of these is an advantage to the listener. >
<<Indeed, it would not if this were common practice. It is not. Your arguing is just rhetorical.

< The best that can be said about the very best valveless trumpet performances is that through heroic effort the players are at times able to sound like lower-middle-quality modern trumpets. >
<<If this is showing respect, why does it sound so denigrating?

Peter Bright wrote (July 17, 2003):
[To Peter Bloemendaal] Hmm, I also cannot really connect with Robert's comments. While I agree that more split notes and jarring are accepted in HIP performances than modern ones - Tafelmusik's Brandenburgs 1 & 2 are the first example which spring to mind in otherwise exemplary playing - I get great pleasure from a cohesive period instrument brass section. And I fully concur with John Eliot Gardiner that when Bach brings out the trumpets in his work it is as if the Heavens open. I am not happy when players modify their instruments (e.g., in the Suzuki Brandenburg 2, the trumpet is reshaped and altered to allow the high points to be reached - it ends up sounding like Mickey Mouse on helium) and am not too worried about the odd forced or mangled note. The warmth of period instruments and the way they cohere together is preferable (to my ears at least) to a combination of period and modern instruments which usually sounds unbalanced and plain wrong. Personally, my aim is to have an exemplary modern AND an exemplary HIP recording of all Bach's compositions as I get great sustenance from both.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 17, 2003):
[To Peter Bright] I can understand, and mostly agree with, Peter Bright's points. Regarding Peter Bloemendaal's comments, I'm not interested in an endless discussion of who is insulting whom.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 17, 2003):
Robert Sherman stated: >> I find Rilling's remark to be tactfully understated. He does not point out that in addition to cracking high notes, valveless trumpets suffer from splatty low notes, restricted dynamic range, and dead foggy tone. If genuinely historic instruments (without nodal finger holes) are used, they are also horribly out of tune -- so much so that they are hardy ever used, even by the most self-conscious HIP conductors.<<
All of these characteristics [cracking high notes, restricted dynamic range, splatty low notes, and dead foggy tone] of genuinely historic valveless trumpets (trombae) (without nodal finger holes) need not be present if the instruments are properly reconstructed according to the original instruments which do exist in museums throughout Europe and then properly played upon. I am relying upon the most recent, thorough survey of the brass instruments used in Bach’s works published by Gisela & Jozsef Csiba in 1994. These authors thoroughly debunk the HIP myth that is still being reiterated by the likes of Michael Marissen in his “The Social and Religious Designs of J. S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos” (Princeton University Press, 1995) p. 4, where he states:

“Bach’s trumpet obbligato in cantata BWV 77 – or, to be more precise, his specific treatment of the instrument there – probably did in fact have something to do with internal factors. The aria text reads, “Oh, there bides in my loving still nothing but imperfection.” What more effective way was there at the time to help express this imperfection than to have the natural (valveless) trumpet struggling through material that is exceedingly unnatural for the instrument?“

On this point the Csibas state the following:
Die landläufige Argumentation, J. S. Bach habe die Tromba-Stimme BWV 77 Nr. 5 bewußt so komponiert, daß sie auf der Tromba nur „unvollkommen“ ausführbar gewesen sei, um so dem Text dieser Arie „Ach, es bleibt in meiner Liebe lauter Unvollkommentheit“ zu entsprechen, ist ein Irrtum. J. S. Bachs musikalische Rhetorik war viel zu kunstvoll, als daß sie je solch einen barbarischen Realismus zugelassen hätte. Dieser Irrtum zeigt aber auch, daß sich die heutige Denkweise immer noch an der Tradition der Hoftrompeter mit ihrer für die Ausführung J. S. Bachscher Tromba-Stimmen nicht geeigneten Treibtechnik orientiert, so, als habe es die für J. S. Bach allein maßgeblichen Leipziger Stadtpfeifer mit ihrer eignen Tirarsi-Spielpraxis nie gegeben.

Ebenso erscheint die heute noch von Fachleuten ernsthaft vertretene Behauptung unhaltbar, J. S. Bachs Trompetenstimmen hätten zu keiner Zeit einwandfrei sauber gespielt werden können, auch nicht von J. S. Bachs berühmten Trompetern Gottfried Reiche und Ulrich Heinrich Ruhe. Gerade das Gegenteil dieser Behauptung macht Sinn: J. S. Bach hat nur komponiert, was auch auf den jeweiligen Instrumenten spielbar war, wenn auch mit höchsten Ansprüchen. So ist es nicht verwunderlich, daß er sich, was die Trompetenstimmen anbetrifft, an dem hohen Stand der Spieltechnik der Leipziger Stadtpfeifer orientierte. Warum sonst sollte er Trompetenstimmen komponieren, die jene seiner Zeitgenossen an Tonumfang und spieltechnischen Raffinement so sehr übertrafen? Gewiß, J. S. Bach hatte bei den zahlreichen Aufführungen seiner Werke immer wieder auch mit der Unzulänglichkeit seiner Musiker zu kämpfen, aber er hätte niemals in Kauf genommen, daß ausgerechnet die Trompetenstimmen generell mit nicht sauber spielbaren Tönen den musikalischen Genuß beeinträchtigt hätten.

My quick interpretative translation:
[The conventional form of argumentation which states that J. S. Bach had deliberately composed the tromba part for mvt. 5 of BWV 77 in such a way that it could only be played ‘imperfectly’ in order to correspond more directly to the aria text (“Oh, all sorts of imperfection still remain in my love”) is erroneous. J. S. Bach’s use of musical rhetoric was much too artistic (on a higher artistic level) than ever to have to resort to such a low level of barbaric realism. This error also demonstrates that the current (HIP) way of thinking about this matter is still based primarily upon the evidence that derives from the traditional playing techniques of the court trumpeters, rather than upon those of the Leipzig ‘Stadtpfeifer’ (‘City Pipers’) whom Bach used exclusively for his cantatas and who had their own, exclusive ‘tirarsi’-technique for playing the trombae. For those in the HIP camp, it is as though the tradition of the Leipzig Stadtpfeier never existed.

Just as untenable as the preceding notion is the opinion still held seriously today by the experts, that Bach’s trumpet (tromba) parts never, at any time, could be played completely free of any errors (correct intonation, without splatting or uneven dynamics – certain notes much softer or louder than others, etc.), and that not even Bach’s most famous trumpeters, Gottfried Reiche and Ulrich Heinrich Ruhe were capable of playing them that way. But it is just the opposite opinion that makes more sense: Bach composed only music for specific instruments, music that would also be playable on them, even with the greatest demands that were placed upon the players. In regard to the trumpet parts themselves, it is not at all amazing that Bach would compose music to match the high skills possessed by the Leipzig Stadtpfeifer. Why would he have composed for his contemporary musicians trumpet parts which surpassed their ability to surmount the difficulties in range and technical refinement contained in them? To be sure, during the numerous performances of his works, Bach did have to contend with the sometimes inadequate capabilities of his musicians, but he never would have found acceptable that, in particular, the trumpet parts could not be played ‘cleanly’ (could only be played with imperfections), a fact which would have impacted negatively the true enjoyment of the music.]

Peter Bright wrote: >> And I fully concur with John Eliot Gardiner that when Bach brings out the trumpets in his work it is as if the Heavens open.<<
Again, for this reason, Bach would not have accepted anything less than a near perfect performance from his trumpeters.

Robert Sherman also stated: >> Third, if you're having a really bad night, in the choral climaxes you can stop blowing into the horn altogether, just sit there and pretend to play, and you will be complimented on your ability to blend.<<
I have heard this and many other imperfections in the Leusink cantata series. I have reported on these previously. Perhaps this is the reason why, in some instances, as in the most recent cantata discussion (BWV 171), the trombae, in both the Harnoncourt and Leusink recordings, seem to be playing from behind a screen or even from a much greater distance. I have also noticed that certain notes are simply not played, or else, are heard as very soft, out-of-tune notes compared to others which are loud and blaring.

We do not have to accept the HIP playing tradition with all of its imperfections. It is a HIP myth that continues to be perpetuated. Excellent reconstructions of period instruments are being made and musicians are learning how to play on them properly. Let’s applaud excellent performances by such (HIP) musicians, while continuing to debunk the myth that allows for inferior performances which do not allow us to hear the trombae in such way that it seems ‘as if the Heavens open.’

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 17, 2003):
Accurate translations?

Tom Braatz wrote (ostensibly as part of a translation):
"For those in the HIP camp, it is as though the tradition of the Leipzig Stadtpfeier never existed."
The 'quick interpretative translation' (shown below) includes the above sentence; it's not in the text that is being translated here, but is rather a gratuitous potshot added by the translator, an outspoken opponent of "HIP" approaches. The authors (Gisela & Jozsef Csiba) are not writing about any "HIP camp" here.

And the part about "whom Bach used exclusively for his cantatas" is a loose paraphrase, as well; the authors are not writing about Bach's cantatas specifically, but rather Bach's works in general, according to the passage quoted.

Shouldn't a translator be responsible for delivering an ACCURATE text free of his own biases and commentary? That's what Mr Braatz demands of musicians: he wants to hear musical delivery that includes nothing beyond the printed text, and nothing taken away. He's zealously opposed to 'gesturing' or exaggerations of any sort in musical performance. For consistency within that viewpoint, should this rigor not be demanded of translators, likewise? I'd expect that of someone who has the linguistic skills to work as a professional translator, and who expects his translations to be trusted. Even in a 'quick' translation (analogous to a musician's sight-reading of a piece of music) it should be possible, should it not?

-----

Speaking of loose and irresponsible paraphrase, did you know that harpsichords are mentioned in the Bible? They are in 1 Kings 10:12, in "The Living Bible" (the early-1970s paraphrase by Kenneth Taylor). http://www.zianet.com/maxey/Ver4.htm

"Solomon used the algum wood to make pillars for the Temple and the palace, and for harps and harpsichords for his choirs. Never before or since there been such a supply of beautiful wood." Here are some other translations, for comparison: http://www.biblegateway.com/cgi-bin/bible?passage=1KGS%2B10&language=english&version=KJV

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 17, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] "die heutige Denkweise" refers to the type of thinking that predominates among those who are involved in HIP.

The fact that I neglected to include the parentheses around 'HIP' the 2nd time, should not be a problem for most musicians who are accustomed to seeing Bach (and other composers) mark the proper phrasing at the beginning of a mvt. and then omit doing so later on when similar situations prevail. It is understood that the phrasing (or intention of meaning in my case) is to be taken the same way.

"whom Bach used exclusively for his cantatas and who had their own, exclusive ‘tirarsi’-technique for playing the trombae" I had originally corrected 'exclusively' to read 'mainly' in my original Word.doc, but the change was not carried over to the e-mail as intended. Thanks for pointing this out. I certainly did not want 'exclusive' appearing here this way in short succession.

I find it very interesting, that, as usual, you have little or nothing pertinent to say regarding the crucial points that are being made here:

Why do musical scholars and quite a number of HIP conductors persist in perpetuating the brass performance myths that need to be corrected?

Why are there so few really good tromba players available for cantata recordings?

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 17, 2003):
< Thomas Braatz wrote: "die heutige Denkweise" refers to the type of thinking that
predominates among those who are involved in HIP. >
Yes, I realize that; although that part might be translated more obviously and simply as "current thinking" -- not needing the translator to point out that to the original authors it [perhaps, or perhaps not!] means "HIP".

And it still doesn't justify your interpolation of an entire sentence that is your own opinion, under the guise of translation. That's the sentence: "For those in the HIP camp, it is as though the tradition of the Leipzig Stadtpfeier never existed." That sentence is your own invention, but you've placed it to look as if the Csibas said it.

< (...) I find it very interesting, that, as usual, you have little or nothing pertinent to say regarding the crucial points that are being made here: Why do musical scholars and quite a number of HIP conductors persist in perpetuating the brass performance myths that need to be corrected? >
What's a "HIP conductor"?

As you may have noticed this morning, I sent a link to a very good CD of natural trumpet playing. Obviously it can be done well if the players have enough skill; but it's also a remarkably difficult instrument. I remember another widely-distributed record from 20 years ago (Hogwood conducting the Vivaldi concerto for two trumpets) where the playing was extremely slow and laborious, just so the players could hit the notes at all; standards are rising since then.

Why do people perpetuate myths? How should I know?! Perhaps it's lazy thinking[, such as your regular phrase "HIP conductors"]? Perhaps it's unwillingness to listen to more recent work?

< Why are there so few really good tromba players available for cantata recordings? >
You mean now, or 25 years ago when people were making the recordings you hate?

As I said here a few days ago, if they can't get natural trumpet players who can really deliver it well, maybe they should consider bringing in a cornetto instead. I like to hear things played expressively. (You and I seem to agree on this single very small point about wanting to hear trumpet parts played well.) But, on the other hand, maybe there are some places where Bach really did intend it to sound laborious or impossible; in those spots I'd rather not hear it made easy by substitution of a different instrument.

Why aren't there many really good tromba players? Because it's a difficult instrument. Clavichord and French horn and viola da gamba are some other instruments that are notoriously difficult to play really well. (Do you think the vdg solo in the SMP "Komm, suesses Kreuz" is supposed to sound easy? Or like carrying a cross up a hill to be executed?) If the composer is clever, the effect of difficulty might be part of the music...a triumph over adversity, or the deliberate failure in attempting something impossible.

How about the opening of "The Rite of Spring" with the unbelievably high bassoon solo? Stravinsky intended it to sound weird and difficult and otherworldly, from being nearly impossible to play--the "what the hell is THAT?" effect coming up from the orchestra pit before the curtain goes up. But bassoonists have spent the past century practicing that part until they can play it suavely...it's a standard excerpt any bassoonist must be able to play to get good employment...now sounding more "musical" but destroying the effect the composer originally wanted to put across. Where should that line be drawn?

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Performance of Bach’s Vocal Works – General Discussions – Part 5



Continue on Part 5


Helmuth Rilling: Short Biography | Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart | Frankfurter Kantorei | Bach-Collegium Stuttgart
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Last update: ýJanuary 23, 2004 ý22:54:31